Florida man gets year in jail for burning girlfriend’s bunny

 A Florida man has been sentenced to a year in jail for intentionally setting a pet bunny on fire.

Local media outlets report that 23-year-old Manasseh Walker was sentenced earlier this week after a Sarasota County jury found him guilty of aggravated animal cruelty.

Authorities say Walker told deputies last June that he had burned his girlfriend’s rabbit, Thumper, but claimed it was an accident. A veterinarian who examined Thumper said the animal’s injuries weren’t consistent with Walker’s story. No one saw Walker set fire to the bunny, but witnesses say the man had claimed he was bitten by the rabbit moments earlier.

Thumper survived, but lost his ears. He now lives at a wildlife center.

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Cuba is top country for U.S. visa refusals worldwide

Cuba remains among the top countries for U.S. Visa refusals.

After the “wet foot, dry foot” policy allowing Cubans who managed to arrive to the U.S. without a visa to stay came to an end Jan. 12., the majority of Cubans who applied for a visa were denied. 

Despite the grim prospect of a nearly 82 percent rate of denial, according to the U.S. Department of State, Cubans were still vying for a chance to come to the U.S.

Ana Maria Chiroles was among dozens who were recently standing in line in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana to apply for a tourist visa.

“I have my grandchildren there and my son,” Chiroles said. She added that a “little piece” of her heart was in the U.S. 

Chiroles’ brother Juan Chiroles, said they have no intention of staying in the U.S., so the two traveled to Havana from Artemisa to test their luck. Chilores said he owns a bakery, land and cattle. He has no need to  move, he said. They risked $160 each on application fees.  

“I think there is a possibility because I am not a possible immigrant,” a hopeful Juan Chiroles said. 

Last year, travelers from Cuba faced a lower possibility of getting a visa than any other country in the world, according to data from the U.S. Department. The possibility was less likely for Cubans than it was for travelers from countries with U.S. travel warnings related to terrorism in Afghanistan and Maurtania. 

After waiting for hours, Chiroles siblings walked out of the U.S. embassy heart broken. Their visa request was denied. 

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC | A look at the numbers

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Venezuela court says it can take over Congressional powers

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ruled that it can take over responsibilities assigned to congress in what opponents of President Nicolas Maduro are decrying as the latest attempt to install a dictatorship in the South American nation.

In a decision late Wednesday night, the magistrates said that as long as lawmakers remain in contempt of past court rulings nullifying all legislation coming out of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the high court can step in and assume congressional duties itself.

Peru’s government immediately recalled its ambassador in protest and condemnations poured in from several regional governments. The head of the Organization of American States called for an emergency meeting to deal with what he called a “self-inflicted coup d’etat” by Maduro against the congress.

Julio Borges, the assembly’s president, said that while past decisions had stripped power from congress, this move allows Maduro to rule by fiat. Several opposition leaders called for a new round of demonstrations, although recent attempts to apply street pressure on the government have failed to attract a large following.

“Maduro is now the National Assembly,” Borges told The Associated Press. “It’s one thing to try and build a dictatorship and another to complete the circuit.”

It was not immediately clear, however, what practical impact the ruling will have.

Maduro has jailed scores of opponents and ridden roughshod over lawmakers’ powers ever since the opposition swept congressional elections by a landslide in 2015 and immediately set out to remove the socialist leader from office through a recall referendum. The high court a year ago issued an order automatically nullifying all legislation coming out of congress, and earlier this week it moved to limit lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution.

But foreign governments are increasingly taking notice of the shift toward authoritarian, one-party rule. Earlier this week, diplomats from the hemisphere gathered at the Organization of American States in Washington to debate whether to punish Maduro for breaking the democratic order and rule of law.

There was no consensus on a proposal by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to suspend Venezuela, but the tension-filled session, in which Venezuela’s representative hurled insults at other diplomats, ended with a pledge by 20 nations to closely watch the situation and take steps to ensure the government engages in dialogue.

A smaller group of 14 governments, including the U.S., have also called for immediate elections to resolve the stalemate. Maduro’s government last year cancelled a recall referendum seeking to remove him from office before his term ends in 2019 and suspended gubernatorial elections the opposition is heavily favored to win.

Almagro, in a statement, said the Supreme Court’s latest moves lacked even the most basic guarantees of due process and violated Venezuela’s own constitution as well the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which the late Hugo Chavez helped to promote.

“Unfortunately, what we had warned has now come to pass” he said, calling for yet another meeting of the OAS’ top-decision making body to discuss the crisis. “We have an obligation to the people of Venezuela to act without further delay. To be silent in the face of a dictatorship is the lowest indignity in politics.”

Wednesday’s surprise ruling stemmed from congress’ refusal to authorize a joint venture with private companies by Venezuela’s state-run oil company.

State media on Thursday took a far different tone, saying the court’s ruling was not seeking to supplant congress but rather guarantee the rule of law so long as congress remains obstructionist, refusing to sign off on a budget and key economic decisions Maduro says are needed to overcome widespread shortages and triple-digit inflation.

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Giant alligator found tied to tree in Kendall neighborhood

A large alligator was found tied to a tree in a Kendall neighborhood this morning.

The 9-foot, 2-inch gator was bound to the tree by rope near Sunset Drive and 117th Avenue.

The alligator’s mouth was shut improperly with duct tape.

Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said the improper taping of the alligator injured the animal.

The FWC was able to remove the alligator and relocate it to a gator farm where it will be released into the wild after it recovers from its injuries.

Witnesses told Local 10 News that the gator was aggressive and fearful of humans from the start.

“You got to be aware of them because they will get you, and this one is pretty big,” a man, identified only as Barry, said.

Officials are investigating who may have trapped the alligator. The illegal trapping of an alligator is a crime and violators may be prosecuted if caught.

“That one really surprised me because either he was out here sunbathing or they actually went inside the lake and caught him, and you got to be crazy for that,” Barry said.

Residents in the area have complained about alligators before, but the FWC claims they can only catch them once they become a nuisance.

“It’s crazy. They should’ve left the gator alone,” Eric Alonso, who lives in the area, said. “The gator wasn’t doing anything crazy. It was just living its life in the lake.”

The FWC advises residents to stay away from handling an alligator without permission. Those with concerns about an alligator are urged to call the commission’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR.

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Giant alligator found tied to tree in Kendall neighborhood

A large alligator was found tied to a tree in a Kendall neighborhood this morning.

The 9-foot, 2-inch gator was bound to the tree by rope near Sunset Drive and 117th Avenue.

The alligator’s mouth was shut improperly with duct tape.

Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said the improper taping of the alligator injured the animal.

The FWC was able to remove the alligator and relocate it to a gator farm where it will be released into the wild after it recovers from its injuries.

Witnesses told Local 10 News that the gator was aggressive and fearful of humans from the start.

“You got to be aware of them because they will get you, and this one is pretty big,” a man, identified only as Barry, said.

Officials are investigating who may have trapped the alligator. The illegal trapping of an alligator is a crime and violators may be prosecuted if caught.

“That one really surprised me because either he was out here sunbathing or they actually went inside the lake and caught him, and you got to be crazy for that,” Barry said.

Residents in the area have complained about alligators before, but the FWC claims they can only catch them once they become a nuisance.

“It’s crazy. They should’ve left the gator alone,” Eric Alonso, who lives in the area, said. “The gator wasn’t doing anything crazy. It was just living its life in the lake.”

The FWC advises residents to stay away from handling an alligator without permission. Those with concerns about an alligator are urged to call the commission’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR.

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Families of victims killed in unsolved cases feel Miami-Dade police prioritize their own

Several residents of the Annie Coleman housing complex where two Miami-Dade police officers were shot Monday night told Local 10 News that they don’t understand how detectives were able to arrest a suspect so soon, but have yet to solve the cases in which their loved ones were killed.

Spray paint, broken glass and police tape remained Thursday at the Annie Coleman housing complex, where authorities said the undercover officers were ambushed by four people.

Police said tips helped officers zero in on Damian Thompson, 19, at a hotel less than 12 hours after the shooting.

Families at the northwest Miami-Dade complex who have lost loved ones to violence are raising questions about the speed and intensity of the arrest, and why their cases are unsolved.

“I’m used to it. They never found the killers,” Antquanya Williams said.   

Williams’ 18-year-old sister was shot to death in a drive-by shooting that happened blocks away from the scene of Monday’s shooting. Her case remains unsolved, despite officers canvassing the area and pleading for tips from the public.

“It doesn’t mean that an officer’s life is any more valuable,” Dade County Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera said.

Rivera said a lack of cooperation is a major issue in certain investigations.

“We have thousands of leads on open homicide cases (and) we don’t have enough detectives to follow each and every lead,” he added.

Since both officers survived, authorities said Detective Terence White was able to identify Thompson as one of the gunmen.

Police said White had arrested Thompson in January.

Authorities said it’s more difficult to rely solely on witnesses, since many people fear retaliation.

Another concern for police is repeat offenders who are released from jail while awaiting trial, as was the case with Thompson.

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