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Topher Forhecz

Topher is a reporter at WGCU News. 

He formerly freelanced for WNYC in New York City. He holds a master's degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Email: tforhecz@wgcu.org

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is expanding its services for transgender people.

It will now offer hormone replacement therapy for those who want to transition genders. This will start in early October.   

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is expanding its services for transgender people.

It will now offer hormone replacement therapy for those who want to transition genders. This will start in early October.   

Coffee-colored water gurgles near the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam. It flows down the Caloosahatchee River, roughly 30 miles from Fort Myers.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hosted a brownfields symposium this week in Sarasota.

Brownfields are sites considered to be “environmentally contaminated.”

The state wants to spread awareness about its brownfield redevelopment program to local cities and businesses.

Researchers are looking into a new way to fight cancer. Their source weighs thousands of pounds, has four legs and a trunk.

They’re elephants, and they rarely get cancer.  

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ elephant retirement facility in Central Florida teamed up with the researchers to figure out why. They hope they can use their research to help people.

A state lawmaker wants to stop what he calls “snitching culture.” This is when community members are discouraged from talking to the police. But, one Sunshine Law group is concerned because the bill would block a witness’ information from the public.

UPDATE: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the final count for the hunt was 298 bears.  

Florida ended its first black bear hunt in more than two decades this weekend. State wildlife officials said the goal was to control a bear population that has been rebounding after more than 40 years of conservation efforts.

The Florida Department of Health laid out how much a new medical marijuana program could cost Monday. The agency would oversee the program if voters approve it under a possible 2016 ballot measure.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Sarasota Chapter sued the city and its police department recently. The suit is on behalf of six homeless men. It alleges local ordinances discriminate against the homeless. 

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday it will equip its deputies with a drug called naloxone. It stops people from overdosing on opioids like heroin.

It’s a first for Florida law enforcement agencies.

The Argentine black and white tegu is one of the newest, biggest threats to Florida’s natural wildlife. The large, invasive lizard was first noticed in the wild roughly 10 years ago. Now, it has two main breeding populations and biologists are trying to contain them. They want to stop tegus from becoming established throughout the state.

The State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors is asking state lawmakers to give them funding for more law enforcement and mental health counseling positions.

Proponents said the roughly $20 million would make state campuses safer.

Florida doctors can soon order medical marijuana for their patients. The law goes into effect at the start of next year.

But so far, only a few dozen doctors have signed up.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner is seeking a permit that would give her and other landowners legal coverage if they were to kill or harass endangered animals while developing thousands of acres in eastern Collier County.

The land includes habitat for the Florida panther. The commission helps oversee the species’ rebound.

This comes as the agency rethinks its role in the panther’s recovery plan. Some environmental organizations worry about the state’s timing.

When Tampa was announced as the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, law enforcement expected thousands of protestors to arrive with it.

The Tampa Bay Times recently reported part of law enforcement’s preparation included undercover officers infiltrating protest groups and working their way up into leadership roles.

Staff writer Richard Danielson wrote that story for the Times.  Danielson spoke with WGCU about how he found out about the story and what he learned about the operation.  


An annual report by an government watchdog group said the state’s environmental regulatory agency is doing very little when it comes to regulating.

The group said there’s a dramatic shift in how the Florida Department of Environmental Protection operates under Gov. Rick Scott.

Note: Audio to come.

Update:

WGCU asked for comment about how enforceable the present moratorium on saw palmetto berry picking might be in light of the black market that exists around the berry. A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Agriculture wrote in an email "The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is partnering with our department to help enforce the moratorium on palmetto berry harvests on state forest land." 

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The Florida Department of Agriculture recently put a moratorium on picking saw palmetto berries in state forests. The berries are a major part of the state’s black bear diet. They’re also collected and sold for medicines.

Environmental groups said the lack of available berries for bears is one of the likely causes behind the recent incidents between humans and bears.

Now that berry pickers are being put on hold, they want the state to also hold off on its recently approved bear hunt.

Gov. Rick Scott and the cabinet have worked out a pending settlement agreement in a Sunshine Law lawsuit.

The suit was sparked over the firing of former Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

 

Primate Products, a primate breeding facility in Hendry County, was recently inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The inspection comes in the wake of undercover photos and videos taken at the company’s facility.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA “witness” worked at Primate Products for eight months until late May.

There’s yet another citrus disease out there. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a sobering estimate for Florida’s citrus production this year. And the state is expected to produce about 8 million boxes less than last year. This is because the state’s citrus suffers from ailments like citrus greening and citrus canker.  Now, the new disease is spreading. It’s called citrus black spot.

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