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Trump EPA head praises Great Lakes program administration plans to eliminate

Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt may not be on board with White House plans to cut programs that directly affect the Great Lakes.

Pruitt defended the program before the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, in a report from the Detroit Free Press. Pruitt said cuts to the restoration program may cripple efforts to halt the invasive Asian carp, algae blooms that have become more problematic as agriculture has grown in the state, and efforts to protect drinking water.

STAY UPDATED: DDN’s Ohio Politics Blog

The Trump administration has proposed a 30 percent cut to the agencies budget along with eliminating 3,800 jobs. The budget isn’t expected to pass. 

Congressman Mary Kaptur and David Joyce of Ohio questioned Pruitt on whether there would be room for the program with the cut the administration planned. Both parties have been critical of the budget, which in early planning would cut funding to any geographically centered projects. That would affect funding for the  Great Lakes as well as other areas in Ohio.

Pruitt said he looked forward to working with Congress to make sure the funding remains in the budget for the Great Lakes. Kaptur invited Pruitt for a tour of the lakes. 

Florida captain known to hand-feed sharks hospitalized after bite from ‘sea creature’

The captain of a Florida dive boat that specializes in shark encounters was bitten on the hand Sunday, suffering injuries severe enough that he was airlifted to St. Mary’s Medical Center

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said the sheriff’s Marine One unit picked up Randall Jordan, the captain of Emerald Charters, after a distress call that he was bitten by a “sea creature.” 

Jordan was in good condition, but still in the hospital Tuesday, according to a St. Mary’s Medical Center spokesman. His sister, Deborah Toohey, said he had to undergo “reattachment surgery.”

>> Read more trending news

“He tries to teach people to not be afraid of sharks,” Toohey said. “He’s an avid environmentalist when it comes to sharks.” 

Jordan did not return calls Tuesday.

In 2015, Jordan was sentenced to a year of probation, a $1,500 fine and 100 hours of community service after he was convicted of three misdemeanor charges stemming from illegally feeding sharks in Florida waters. 

Florida banned feeding sharks in state waters in 2001, but it is still legal in federal waters, said Amanda Nalley, public information specialist for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management

George Burgess, who investigates bites for the International Shark Attack file at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said a bite that occurs when someone is feeding a shark is considered a “provoked” incident. 

Burgess said he will investigate the bite. 

“The impression that shark diving operations give is that it’s a perfectly safe operation,” Burgess said. “It’s generally safe, but not perfectly safe.” 

Jordan isn’t the first charter operator bitten while on a shark excursion. 

In 2011, Jim Abernethy was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center after being bitten on the arm. The bite happened about 18 miles north of West End, the Bahamas.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley booked into jail, resigns

Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned today after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges, ending two years of scandal and intrigue that resulted from an affair with one of his top political advisors. 

As part of the plea deal, Bentley will submit to 12 months of unsupervised probation, surrender more than $36,000 in campaign funds and will serve 100 hours of public service. He can never run for office. 

Montgomery County Judge Troy Massey sentenced Bentley to 30-day suspended jail sentence – meaning he will spend no time in jail. 

Jail records show that Bentley posted $600 bond. 

He spent Sunday “negotiating terms of a resignation with state lawmakers and law enforcement,” according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

>> Read more trending news

Bentley, 74, has battled to outlast a scandal involving recordings that surfaced in 2016 of him making sexually explicit comments to his former aide. 

Bentley’s wife of 50 years, Dianne, divorced him in 2015.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, WHNT reported that Bentley will resign Monday.

Last week, the Alabama Ethics Commission said they had found reason to believe he committed four crimes, all of them felonies, in his attempt to cover up the relationship with aide Rebekah Mason. 

“Gov. Bentley directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation,” Sharman wrote in a report released Friday.

According to the Alabama Reporter article, talk of Bentley’s resignation began on Friday with legislators set to begin impeachment hearings Monday.

The Alabama Republican Party on Sunday called for Bentley to step down. 

AL.com columnist John Archibald wrote on Monday that, “Sources in Montgomery say his lawyers have been involved in negotiations to step down from the governorship and plead to lesser charges, allowing Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey to step up as governor. Sources believe he will resign the governorship by Wednesday.”

Archibald added, “It is possible that Bentley, who has changed his mind often during his term, could change his mind.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Avoid Christmas tree fires with simple safety measures, three-pronged plugs

Just days before Christmas, a family in Yulee, Florida has almost everything after a fire destroyed part of their home.

Fire investigators blamed an electrical cord for starting the fire that caused the family's Christmas tree to goup in flames.

>> Read more trending stories 

While the Sheffield's home is still standing with no exterior  damage, the interior is coated in soot and filled with melted belongings.

"Pretty much within 10 minutes it was done. Yes, everything gone," homeowner Thomas Sheffield said. Sheffield said he was home with his son on Tuesday evening when he heard a loud noise in the living room. "I opened up the door to the house and just saw black smoke and heat. All I could think about was just trying to get the animals out of there." 

What's left of a Yulee family's Christmas tree after it caught fire and destroyed their home days before Christmas @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/yB1XpbEvL3— KatieMcKee (@KatieMcKeeANjax) December 21, 2016

Sheffield and his wife Carina have five children. What's left of their Christmas presents were scattered throughout the living room.

The state fire marshal determined the fire started in the living room where their Christmas tree stood.

"He concluded that it was the extension cord to plug to our Christmas tree that caused it. We have probably 10 of them in our house," Sheffield said.

He and his wife said they fear others do as well.

"I don't want to see other families suffer. It hurts to see your kids hurt. It's not just Christmas, but every memory they have is gone," Carina said.

Couple says state fire marshal determined the fire was caused by an extension cord plugged into their Christmas tree lights @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/FW7Rzs9Lsm— KatieMcKee (@KatieMcKeeANjax) December 22, 2016

She said firefighters had finished putting out the fire when she came home from the pharmacy. She sobbed after walking inside the house to see what was left.

"Pictures of our family vacations, everything just gone, and all because I bought a cheap cord instead of spending a few extra dollars to get a three-pronged one," Carina said.

Investigators said the type of cheap two-pronged extension cord the family used was unsafe. 

A spokesperson with the state fire marshall's office said he couldn't comment about what types of extension cords homeowners should buy, but he did say you get what you pay for.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, it's recommended people use extension cords with polarized and/or three-pronged plugs.

The National Fire Prevention Association reports there is an average of 210 fires annually involving a Christmas tree or decorations. Christmas trees and any decorations need to be 3 feet from any heat source, and people should water their tree daily.

Memorial planned for astronaut, U.S. Sen. John Glenn

UPDATE @ 2:54 p.m. (Dec. 9):

President Barack Obama has ordered flags at half-staff through the burial of John Glenn on all public buildings and grounds.

UPDATE @ 12:36 p.m. (Dec. 9):

Late space hero and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn will lie in state in the Ohio Statehouse and a memorial service is being planned at Ohio State University, the Associated Press reports.

Hank Wilson of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs in Columbus said the date and time are still being worked out but the public viewing and other services are expected to take place early next week. A “celebration of life” will be at OSU’s Mershon Auditorium.

Burial is being planned at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

UPDATE @ 3:20 p.m. (Dec. 8):

John Glenn has died at the age of 95 at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

RELATED: John Glenn, the ‘last true national hero,’ dead at 95

Photos: John Glenn through the years

INITIAL REPORT:

John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth and who later became a U.S. senator for Ohio, has been a patient at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University for a little more than a week, according to several reports.

According to those same media reports, the reason for his being admitted has not been made clear, but Hank Wilson, a spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State, said it does not necessarily mean Glenn has cancer.

“Anybody who’s 95, any illness is always bad, Wilson said.

According to Cleveland.com, Glenn’s health has declined the last few years and he had heart valve replacement surgery in 2014.

Late Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged the public to send love to the Glenn family while also respecting the family’s request for privacy.

“Connie and I ask Ohioans to join us in sending our love to John and Annie Glenn and their children and to respect their family’s privacy at this difficult time.”

According to the Associated Press, when Glenn spoke at the renaming ceremony for the Columbus, Ohio, airport, he said some of his eyesight had been lost because of macular degeneration and a small stroke.

Glenn, born July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, enlisted in the Navy as an aviation cadet in March 1942 following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

On April 6, 1943, he married the former Anna Margaret Castor, his childhood playmate and high school sweetheart. They went on to have two children, Carolyn Ann Glenn and John David Glenn, and have two grandchildren.

Before making history in space, Glenn set the transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York in July 1957: Three hours and 23 minutes.

Glenn received orders for combat duty in Korean War in 1953, flying 63 missions with Marines and 27 missions as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force.

He became a Marine test pilot in 1954. In 1965, Glenn retired from the Marine Corps as a colonel.

Glenn made history as the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, piloting the Mercury-Atlas 6 “Friendship 7” spacecraft and completing three orbits during the five-hour flight.

Initially running for the U.S. Senate in 1964, he was forced to bow out of the running in the primaries when he suffered a head injury in an accident. Once he recovered, he became a vice president then president at Royal Crown Cola.

He became a Democratic senator representing Ohio in 1974 and served until 1998, completing four terms. He became the oldest man to fly in space when he served as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998. That 9-day mission was accomplished in 134 Earth orbits.

Reported by Kelcie Willis, Cox Media National Content Desk. Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Laura A. Bischoff contributed.

College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

>> Read more trending stories

Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Here's how to endorse a political candidate on Facebook

For those who use Facebook as an outlet to voice their political opinions, one feature makes the boldest statement: officially endorsing the candidate of your choice on the social media platform.

>> Read more trending stories 

To endorse a candidate, users only have to complete five steps: 

  1. Click the Endorsement tab on the political figure's Facebook page
  2. Click Endorse
  3. Choose the audience you want to see your endorsement post
  4. Write something to go along with your post
  5. Click Post

According to Facebook, users who post their endorsements to a public audience can be featured on candidates' pages if the candidates decide to repost any specific endorsement status.

Only pages that mark a figure as a politician, political candidate or government official can have the endorsement option.

Among those who can be endorsed are presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Duke, a Great Pyrenees that won a third one-year term as honorary mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, in August, and Mayor Stubbs, a cat that has been the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, since the 1990s.

Police: Homeless man bitten on shoulder by gator near Melbourne bridge

Police: Homeless man bitten on shoulder by gator near Melbourne bridge

Gator snatches family dog at Florida park

A family dog was snatched and killed by an alligator during the weekend when it ran from its owner to chase a rabbit.

Sue Fortenbery told WFTS she was walking with her grandson and her 1-year-old Jack Russell, named Bolt, over the weekend in Pinellas County when Bolt ran off to chase a rabbit. The next thing she could hear was his yelping after he went through a hole in the fence and into the waterway at the preserve.

“The screams is what you can't stop hearing, the yelping," she told WFTS.

There are several openings on the trail, and Fortenbery said those openings are what led to Bolt being taken away by the alligator.

"If the fence wasn't open like this, he couldn't have gone through and the gator couldn't have got him," she said.

Fortenbery told WFTS that she is upset with Pinellas County officials after they told her they wouldn’t remove the gator but would keep an eye on the area. At the moment, the gator is not considered a nuisance “because they had no other complaints” and a better description of the animal would be needed.

WFTS reports the county has yet to survey the area and is asking the public to contact the Parks Department if the gator shows up again.

Gator attacks have been in the news recently with the incident at the Disney resort in Orlando when a child was dragged into the water and killed. A gator was found in Florida with a body in its mouth, and a 10-foot gator had to be put down after it attacked a woman.

Read more at WFTS.

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