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WGCU Staff

  • Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers reported the second-best October in the 41-year history of the airport.During October, nearly three-quarter of a million passengers traveled through the airport. This was a significant increase of 70 percent when compared to the post-Hurricane Ian passenger decreases in October 2022.
  • For small-scale farmers in underdeveloped countries around the world, who often have no access to capital or most of the technologies and amenities we take for granted, the idea of being more sustainable isn’t something to strive for but a true necessity. Located in North Fort Myers on a 57-acre campus, the nonprofit ECHO has been working to disseminate information to help these farmers since 1981. They grow different varieties of plants, and test different growing techniques, in order to provide proven techniques and even seeds to small-scale farmers. They distribute more than 300 varieties of ECHO seeds. This information is sent out through their massive, global network of farmers and agriculturalists in more than 190 countries. We get an update on the work they do with their CEO, Dr. Abram Bicksler.
  • Only one lane will be open for specified time periods on the Sanibel Causeway during weekends in the first half of December to accommodate restortation work on the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
  • In March of this year, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB1 into law — expanding the voucher program and significantly increasing taxpayer funding for private schools. The new law eliminates the current financial eligibility restrictions and allows any student who is a resident of Florida and eligible to enroll in K-12 public schools to participate. The new universal voucher program is estimated to cost $4 billion in the first year of implementation alone, according to a cost analysis by Florida Policy Institute and the Education Law Center. We get some context on the new law, and the history of how vouchers work in Florida, with Dr. Norín Dollard, Senior Policy Analyst and KIDS COUNT Director at the Florida Policy Institute; and Damaris Allen, Executive director of Coral Gables-based Families for Strong Public Schools.
  • Former Cape Coral resident Devin Ryan Maresca will serve a three-year federal prison sentence for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.Maresca, 33, was sentenced Tuesday by Senior U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington. As part of his sentence, the court also entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $74,700, which were the proceeds of Maresca’s mail fraud scheme.
  • According to a recent report from PEN America — it’s a century-old nonprofit that works to protect free expression through literature — Florida overtook Texas during the last school year for the number one spot when it comes to the number of books banned in public schools. There’s been a 33% spike in book bans nationally, and Florida now accounts for more than 40% of all documented bans. In response to these trends, PEN America just named its first-ever Florida Director, Katie Blankenship. She’ll be overseeing advocacy in defense of free expression across the state. Her office is being funded by a group of bestselling writers who have come together to fight censorship in Florida.We meet Ms. Blankenship, and learn about the work being done by what’s called The Purple Group to push back against issues like book bans. It’s a nonpartisan group of Lee County residents who believe high quality public schools that welcome all students and their families are the bedrock of our multicultural, multi-ethnic democracy.
  • Back in the mid-1960s Bill Strickland was a directionless public school student in Pittsburgh who didn’t really see a path for success for him or his fellow lower class, minority student friends. Then, one day he walked past a classroom and saw a teacher sitting at a pottery wheel — and that moment, and how he responded to it, changed his life. And since then has changed the lives of countless young people not only in Pittsburgh, but around the country and beyond. Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) takes seemingly disparate elements — adult career training, youth arts education, jazz presentation and botanical sales (they grow orchids) — and combines them into a program with a proven record of positively changing the lives of underserved populations. Bill has helped start an additional 13 centers, including five in Pennsylvania, 6 in other US states, 1 in Puerto Rico, and 1 in Israel.
  • A Cape Coral councilmember who was arrested earlier in the week on several felony charges stemming from alleged false information and other activities related to her election was suspended by executive order of the governor.
  • Maribel Perez Wadsworth, former president of Gannett Media, publisher of USA Today and an editor at The News-Press in Fort Myers, has been appointed president and CEO of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.The appointment was announced by the $2.6 billion Miami-based media organization on Tuesday.
  • Kirsten Hines started out as a wildlife biologist, but pretty early on found herself drawn to telling stories with images and words about the natural world, rather than collecting data about it. Her photographs and writings have since appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications, including eight books — the latest of which is “Wild Florida: An Animal Odyssey.” It’s like a conversational field guide that explores ecological concepts like the “why” behind Florida’s animal diversity, and its blending of critters from the tropics with those from North America.