BC-FL--Florida News Digest,1st Ld, FL

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News,Science and Technology

The news editor is Terry Spencer. The supervisor in Miami is David Fischer. If there are questions about stories, photos or photo contributions please call the Miami bureau at 1-800-824-5498 or 305-594-5825. If you have other statewide stories or breaking news of interest to AP members in Florida, send them via e-mail to Miami(at)ap.org; or fax to (305) 594-9265. The AP's general website is http://www.ap.org. The Florida AP's website is http://www.ap.org/Florida/. AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616) or from the Miami bureau.

Adds TEACHER EVALUATIONS and XGR-DOMESTIC SECURITY.

XGR-EDUCATION

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Monday a sweeping education bill that rolls back graduation standards adopted just three years ago. Scott gave his approval to the comprehensive bill which would also let the University of Florida take the lead in online education in the state. The state's most prestigious university would gain the right to offer bachelor degrees completely online. Scott predicted the measure would transform education. Three years ago legislators raised the state's graduation requirements, adding tougher courses in math such as Algebra II and science courses such as chemistry and physics. But the new bill would remove those requirements and instead students would be allowed to take career education courses. By Gary Fineout.

XGR-MANUFACTURING TAX BREAK

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers supporting a tax break for manufacturers say Gov. Rick Scott is making a strong push for an issue that represents one of his top priorities for the legislative session. Sen. Dorothy Hukill said Monday the Republican governor is meeting one-on-one with lawmakers to pitch his idea of giving manufacturers a blanket exemption from paying the 6 percent sales tax on equipment purchases. Hukill and Rep. Ritch Workman say the main challenge is persuading lawmakers the exemption is worth the estimated $115 million in lost tax revenue if the proposal passes. Workman says the governor's proposal is competing with other ideas to spur economic growth. By Bruce Schreiner.

FAA-FLIGHT DELAYS

NEW YORK — It was a tough start to the week for many air travelers as federal budget cuts led to cascading delays along the East Coast Monday morning. Some flights out of New York and Washington were delayed by more than two hours as the Federal Aviation Administration kept planes on the ground. The federal agency has said furloughs of air traffic controllers could lead to delays if there weren't enough people to monitor busy air corridors. Delta Air Lines said it was "disappointed" in the furloughs and warned travelers Monday to expect delays in the following cities: New York, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The flight tracking service FlightAware says flights heading to Florida are seeing delays of up to an hour. MOVED.

GULF OIL SPILL-HALLIBURTON

NEW ORLEANS — BP's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 announced Monday that it is trying to negotiate a settlement over its role in the disaster, a focus of trial testimony that ended last week. Halliburton Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum said during a conference call that talks were at an "advanced stage." The Houston-based company says it hopes court-facilitated negotiations will resolve a substantial portion of private claims it has faced since the Deepwater Horizon rig blast spawned the nation's worst offshore oil spill. "We are working hard to come to a reasonable settlement that would be in the best interest of our shareholders," Halliburton president and CEO Dave Lesar said on the same call. Testimony ended last Wednesday for the first phase of a trial over BP's Macondo well blowout. The April 20, 2010, blowout triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. By Michael Kunzelman. MOVED.

FLORIDA-ALLIGATOR ATTACK

BOYNTON BEACH — A 6-year-old South Florida boy suffered minor injuries after being attacked by an alligator, federal wildlife officials said Monday. The alligator attacked Friday afternoon when Joey Welch of Pompano Beach fell into shallow water at the edge of a boat ramp in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "I went in it and there was a splash. The alligator just swam into me and clamped my arm," the boy told WPLG-TV. Joey's father and other bystanders punched and kicked the alligator until it released the child. MOVED.

HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER-LAWSUIT

MIAMI — Haiti's prime minister is pursuing his defamation case against a Haitian-American journalist. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and South Florida businessman Patrice Baker originally sued Leo Joseph in September over his reporting in the New York-based Haiti-Observateur. A federal judge in Miami initially sided with them, but she reversed course earlier this month and ordered them to be more specific in their allegations. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro also backtracked on an order banning Joseph from writing about either man. MOVED.

TEACHER OF THE YEAR

SEATTLE — A science teacher from Zillah High School who helped transform his small school into a place where nearly every student graduates with some college credit was named as national teacher of the year. Jeff Charbonneau is state teacher of the year and was announced as the national winner Monday by the Council of Chief State School Officers. He was one of four finalists for the honor. The others were Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship, an English teacher from Maryland; Alex S. Lopes, a special education teacher from Florida; and Heidi Welch, a music teacher from New Hampshire. By Donna Gordon Blakenship.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

MIAMI — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says where there are problems with Florida's teacher evaluation system they should be addressed and corrected quickly. Teachers unions have sued Florida and three local school boards over evaluations that grade some of the state's instructors on subjects and students they don't teach. In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said he can understand the rationale behind creating incentives for every adult in a school to work together in ensuring a child's success. But he's not convinced 50 percent is the right measure. By Christine Armario.

XGR-DOMESTIC SECURITY

TALLAHASSEE — Top emergency management and law-enforcement officials with the state are raising alarms about a legislative proposal to shift money away from domestic security programs. The Florida Senate is proposing to use more than $10 million in federal money to help improve security at schools instead of using it for first response teams or on data mining used to identify potential terrorist threats. Bryan Koon, Florida's emergency management chief, warned that the grants are needed to sustain the state's current domestic security efforts. He also questioned the idea of setting aside all the money to help schools. The Senate has defended the proposal but in comes on the heels of a deadly attack in Boston. By Gary Fineout.

Also:

ROADSIDE ATTRACTION CLOSED — One of the last Old Florida-style roadside animal attractions in the state has closed its doors to the public.

MACHETE ATTACK-GRANDMOTHER — Deputies arrested a man who is accused of attacking his 75-year-old grandmother with a machete during a dispute at her home near Tampa.

MISSING CHILD-STRONG CURRENT — The search for a 6-year-old boy who went missing in the waters off southwest Florida has turned into a recovery mission.

FORT MYERS SHOOTING — A 17-year-old football player and a 20-year-old were fatally shot in a Fort Myers public housing development.

WOMAN SHOT IN FACE — Authorities are investigating after a deputy found an 18-year-old woman lying on the side of the road suffering from a gunshot wound to her face.

COCAINE ENVELOPE-MOTEL — Authorities have quarantined two employees of a central Florida motel after finding a suspicious package containing a white substance.

FLASH FREEZE-ANTI-BULLYING — The Anti-Defamation League is taking a unique approach to get its anti-bullying message out in South Florida.

SPORTS:

BKN--BUCKS-HEAT

MIAMI — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks all the time about the need for his team to avoid "the human condition" and relax when things are going well. LeBron James seems to have gotten the message, and Miami will look to go up 2-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks when their series resumes Tuesday night. By Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds.

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The AP, Miami

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