Latest Florida news, sports, business and entertainment


Miss Colombia crowned Miss Universe in Miami

MIAMI (AP) — Miss Colombia Paulina Vega has been crowned Miss Universe in pageant in Miami, beating out contestants from 88 other countries.

Miss USA Nia Sanchez of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Miss Ukraine Diana Harkusha were the runners-up during Sunday's competition in Miami.

Vega is from Barranquilla, Colombia and is studying business administration. She said the contests leading to MIss Universe were the first she'd participated in and will be her last as she's eager to return to her studies in business administration.

The 22-year-old is the granddaughter of a legendary tenor, Gastón Vega.

Earlier this week she said, "It will be a dream come true to represent the woman of today. A woman that not only care about being beautiful and being glamorous, but also cares about being a professional, intelligent, hard-working person."


Millions of GMO insects could be set loose in Florida Keys

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow them to run an experiment in Key West to see if the modified bugs can suppress the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue and chikungunya.

Mosquito controllers say they're running out of options because most approved insecticides are no longer effective against Aedes aegypti.

The British company Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes this spring if approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But some residents are frightened at the thought of being bitten by genetically modified organisms.


Koch event drawing 2016 hopefuls Rubio, Paul, Cruz, Walker

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's another clear sign that the White House is on Marco Rubio's mind.

The first-term Florida senator is getting together again with the conservative billionaire and politically active Koch (kohk) brothers.

The setting is a California gathering late Sunday that's organized by Freedom Partners. That's the hub for the political machine backed by wealthy industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Among the other possible 2016 Republican candidates expecting to attend are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Rubio's trip West is another sign he's seriously thinking about getting into the 2016 race.

He met with his core group of 300 supporters on Friday and Saturday on Miami's South Beach.

And he's ditching his Senate schedule this week to raise money for a potential campaign.


Florida couple gets wedding surprise from Backstreet Boy

(Information in the following story is from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.),

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida couple got the wedding crasher of their dreams: A visit from a member of the Backstreet Boys.

Florida Today reports Ryan and A'riel Kastovich were married Saturday in Melbourne. A few months back, the lifelong fans of the group posted a video inviting them to their wedding.

After their first wedding dance, they were surprised by an appearance by the band member known as Howie D, who congratulated the couple and then sang "All I Have to Give."

The couple says the Backstreet Boys played and integral part in their childhoods and ignited the spark that drew them together.


Uber drivers fined more than $44K in series of Fla. stings

(Information in the following story is from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post,

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Palm Beach County officials have fined the ride-hailing service Uber and six of its drivers more than $44,000.

The Palm Beach Post reports the county conducted stings this week in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, issuing citations to Uber and its drivers for operating without proper permits, ID badges, decals and liability insurance.

A spokesman for San Francisco-based Uber derided the citations as "an abuse of power and a deliberate attempt to protect an entrenched industry."


Limited Coca-Cola bottles mark 100 years in Miami Beach

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Coca-Cola has released a limited-edition bottle commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Miami Beach.

The bottles were unveiled Jan. 16. Each bottle displays the city's neon-colored centennial logo.

Mayor Philip Levine says the island city's future depends on efforts to boost its sustainability. Coca-Cola is the city's recycling partner, and Levine says he looks forward to "continued promising opportunities" with the company.

Beach cleanups, rain barrel programs and the placement of recycling bins along the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall are among the sustainability programs supported by Coca-Cola.

Six-packs of the commemorative bottles are available at Miami Beach retailers.

The city of Miami Beach officially marks its 100th anniversary March 26.


Central Florida church makes 100,000 meals to ship to Africa

(Information in the following story is from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.),

INDIALANTIC, Fla. (AP) — Hundreds of volunteers at a central Florida church have pulled off an impressive act of charity: They're sending 100,000 meals to Africa.

The youth ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic spearheaded an effort to raise $50,000 for the project.

That money funded meals of dehydrated vegetables, rice and soy protein that are being shipped to the West African nation of Burkina Faso, which has been plagued by famine and food shortages.

Florida Today reports some 900 volunteers helped pack the meals Sunday. They doubled their output from last year, when 50,000 meals were prepared.


Man dies after being struck by train in Pensacola

(Information in the following story is from: Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal,

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A Pensacola man has died after being hit by a train.

Pensacola Police say 29-year-old Blake Austin Doyle was walking beside the train tracks when he was struck at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

He was rushed to a hospital, where he died less than four hours later.

The Pensacola News Journal reports officers are investigating whether a car parked nearby the train strike might be connected to the victim.


Parents charged after 6 children found in squalid Fla. home

(Information in the following story is from: Orlando Sentinel,

OCOEE, Fla. (AP) — The parents of six central Florida children have been arrested after police discovered them squatting in a house with no electricity or running water and filled with roaches and animal feces.

Thirty-five-year-old DaQuan Smith and 32-year-old Eboni Tucker-Smith were taken into custody along with the children's grandmother, 50-year-old Delthy Graham.

Police were called to the Ocoee home after Duke Energy cut off power to the house for thousands of dollars in unpaid bills. They found squalid conditions throughout the home.

The Orlando Sentinel reports three suspects have bonded out of jail. It's not known if they have attorneys.

The children have been turned over to a family member. The Department of Children and Family is investigating.