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DARPA
3:43 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Simple Tasks, Heavy Burdens: Robot Engineers Compete To 'Save Humanity'

THOR OP competes in the terrain task.
Credit Maria Murriel / WLRN

The Pentagon hosted a robotics competition at the Homestead Miami Speedway over the weekend. It’s being called the "Robot Olympics."

Teams from all over the world came to prove their robots’ agility at the Robotics Challenge trials. The teams whose robots earn the top scores would get a shot at winning $2 million in the finals next year.

But the games are about much more than the cash:

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Americas
2:54 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Latin America's Small Businesses Come To Miami To Thrive

Liliana Arevalo helps run a small company in El Salvador that makes artisanal wines. She has received technical assistance from SBNA-related groups.
Credit YouTube / U.S. State Department / SBNA

Six years ago I visited an indigenous village in southern Mexico called Santa Cruz Mixtepec. It was, or used to be, one of those impoverished rural hamlets that sent most of its population over the U.S. border to find living-wage work.

Until somebody got the bright idea to start promoting small businesses there. Through micro-lending and other assistance, Santa Cruz Mixtepec began sprouting small but viable enterprises. A carpentry shop. An irrigated tomato greenhouse. A window-frame maker.

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Football
2:52 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Dakota Dreams: Liberty City Football Players A Long Way From Home

Credit Miami Herald

It was the kind of cold they could feel in their bones, made worse by 30-mph winds that barreled across the North Dakota plains and whipped between the goal posts.

“At some point, you are going to walk out there, and your body is going to say ‘I’m cold,’” their coach had warned before kickoff. “Your body is going to try to say, ‘I can’t do this right now.’ You ignore that. You ignore that, understood?”

“Yes, sir!” they replied in chorus with their teammates.

But what did four kids from Liberty City know about playing football in freezing temperatures?

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The King's Meat
8:00 am
Sat December 21, 2013

A Word On Food: Roast Beef

Click the play button above to hear the radio version of this post by Norman Van Aken.

The very words themselves call up ancient things. I imagine it on the menu that day in the year 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede or something Shakespeare’s own mother would have served.

When I fantasize about the words being read in a perfect movie, I hear a voice like Sir Alec Guinness intoning them.

“Roast Beef.”

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Science
2:11 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Robots Are Invading Homestead

Yong Lin works on RoboSimian, the entry of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs, before the Robotics Challenge Trials begin at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Credit CAMMY CLARK / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The qualifying trials for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge start Friday. The robot races are sponsored by the Pentagon’s research unit.

Teams of engineers from all over the world are vying for a chance to compete for a $2 million prize. But sponsors hope much more will come of the event.

Here’s the challenge: Create a robot that can walk on rocky terrain, open doors, remove debris, close a valve. Basically, do all the things a first responder would do.

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News
1:53 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

MIAMI HERALD: Miami-Dade Plans To Stop Paying For Federal Immigration Detentions

Lucia Quiej, holding one of her daughters, relates the story of how her husband was deported after being detained for driving with an expired license. He was in the country illegally after being denied political asylum.
Credit Gaston De Cardenas / El Nuevo Herald staff

Fed up with underwriting the nation’s broken federal immigration system, Miami-Dade County plans to stop paying the cost of temporarily housing undocumented immigrants in its jails.

The dramatic shift in policy comes at a time when the cash-strapped county is coping with a tight budget, but some county commissioners say they are also calling attention to what they say is a serious human-rights issue.

“Not only is it about saving money,” said County Commissioner Sally Heyman, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post. “It’s about saving people.”

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The Florida Roundup
12:02 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Florida High Court Approves Of New Drug Mix Used For Executions

Florida was second only to Texas in the number of people executed.
Credit Florida Department of Corrections/Doug Smith

On The Florida Roundup: The state Supreme Court approves a controversial new drug mix used in executions of Death Row inmates. Plus we look at the latest reports cards on South Florida public schools.

Join Tom Hudson as he speaks with Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times, Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida, Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press, Sammy Mack of WLRN-Miami Herald News and Patricia Mazzei and Melissa Sanchez of the Miami Herald.

Share your thoughts on the week’s news below in a live chat  curated by our digital editor Maria Murriel.

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Money
8:34 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

South Florida Can Buy With Bitcoin This Christmas

Charles Evans talking to members of Miami International Bitcoin at Planet Linux Caffe in Coral Gables.
Credit Planet Linux Caffe

Contribution from the Miami Herald

In the past year, the electronic payment system called Bitcoin has reached a certain level of ubiquity in national and international conversation.

 

Its intersection in the tech and finance worlds has piqued the interest of various groups and governments, but the “crypto-currency” remains somewhat mysterious.

 

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Transportation
8:23 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Express-Lane Congestion Elicits Toll Hikes On I-95

Credit Xemenendura / Wikimedia Commons

Life in the fast lane is more popular, more expensive and more congested than ever.

The Florida Department of Transportation says entry into the 95 Express lanes ranges from $0.25 to a $7.00 maximum, meaning drivers can only be charged up to that amount depending on how many tolls they pass on one trip. The system’s "dynamic tolling" increases prices as the lanes get more congested. By driving up prices, traffic is driven back into the general-purpose lanes, easing congestion on the express lanes.

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Books
6:27 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Literary Youth: Collection Highlights The Work Of Teenage Writers

Dylan's story, Alaska, in the book published by the Miami-Dade Public Library. Listen to him read from his story, above.
Richard Etienne

Dylan Etienne was in Publix with his mom when a random woman came up and asked if he likes to write. "Yeahhhh," he said, in a tone that indicated he really, really does. You gotta listen to the audio to hear him in his own words.

The woman in the store handed him a flyer for the Miami-Dade Public Library's young adult writers-in-residence program. 

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Politics
4:43 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Scott Faces Tough Decision On Next DCF Secretary

Credit FrauSchütze / Flickr CC

Gov. Rick Scott faces a difficult decision in naming a permanent secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, given the demands of the job, the lateness in his term and the scrutiny of lawmakers moving to respond to a rash of child deaths.

Scott has some breathing room after announcing last week that Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo will stay on the job through the end of the 2014 legislative session. He tapped the Miami-based attorney to lead the agency in mid-July, for 90 days, after David Wilkins resigned under fire.

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News
3:57 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Homestead Aims High With Observation-Tower Plan

A rendering of the kind of observation tower Homestead officials are considering building to lure tourists to the city's downtown.
Credit LARC, Inc.

Imagine this: You’re heading down the Florida Turnpike on your way to the Keys and spot this interesting-looking steel tower.  It’s got an observation deck that corkscrews from the ground all the way to a height of about 560 feet.

You’re gonna stop the car, right?

That’s what Homestead officials are counting on.  The city is considering building such a tower to attract tourists to its downtown.

Homestead director of community redevelopment Rick Ammirato says the city is perfectly situated to offer visitors an extraordinary view.

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StateImpact Florida
3:03 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

As The GED Goes Online, Companies Develop Print Alternatives

Two companies have designed alternatives to the GED. Those new tests still allow students to take a pencil and paper version.
Credit albertogp123 / Flickr

As the GED prepares for a major overhaul in January, a growing number of states are trying a new class of tests designed as alternatives to the GED.

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PolitiFact
12:33 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Pam Bondi's Claim That Florida's Medical Marijuana Amendment Too Lenient Is 'Mostly True'

USE ONLY AS DIRECTED: Florida's attorney general says Florida's proposed medical marijuana amendment is too lenient, and PolitiFact says she's mostly right.
Credit thagrdnr on flickr

The organization trying to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is baffled and annoyed by a PolitiFact conclusion that their proposal would create one of the least regulated environments for medical marijuana in the country.

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Arts
6:02 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Artists Need Healthcare Too -- And This Is How They Learn To Get It

Credit Lisbett Castillo / WLRN

While most artists were preparing for Art Week this month, Pamela Palma, a textile designer and fabric artist, attended an Affordable Care Act seminar.

“You have to have a Master’s Degree in insurance lingo to understand how this works,” said Palma, 63, adding that the new healthcare act is just another quagmire we have to figure out.

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