Back in 1996, Wilton Manors was an ugly little blight of a town with terrible restaurants, a high crime rate, and two — two! — Bible stores. Then the gays came. Goodbye, violent crime! Goodbye, bad food! Hellooo, manicured lawns! Thanks to SoFla's huge and still growing local population of gays — which clusters around Wilton Manors, Poinsettia Heights, Lake Worth, and Victoria Park — SoFla has been saved from the worst ravages of the economic crisis. Gay households tend to be "DINK" — Double Income, No Kids — and queers love to spend their money. When the real estate market stabilizes, you can bet that home prices will begin climbing in our gayborhoods first.

This Week in South Florida is to local politics what NBC's Meet the Press is to national politics: a place where major figures must face tough questions from an informed, skeptical interviewer. That's Putney, an old-fashioned newsman in the tradition of PBS' Jim Lehrer. Now in his 28th year in South Florida television, Putney has no patience for the equivocation and platitudes that sneaky politicians use to duck questions. It's no use declining his invitation — Putney will tell that to his viewers, who will then wonder whether the person has something to hide. On the contentious issue of the new Marlins stadium, Putney took the hard, common-sense line: If fans aren't going to the current stadium, why would they go to the new one? And aren't there more worthy investments? The closing segment, "Putney Perspective," is devoted to an issue of immense local importance or to chastise a public servant who didn't do his duty. In one recent broadcast, Putney gave the name of the police officer who failed to show up for a court appearance, allowing a drunk driver to get back behind the wheel only to plow into a minivan and kill three children. Putney demands accountability from anyone in a position of power — from the traffic cop to the Florida governor.

Sometimes you can hear the whispers around the Broward County Courthouse, and they come in voices that tremble: Carmel Cafiero is about to come out with a new report. It was Cafiero, the orange-haired muckraker for WSVN (Channel 7), who broke stories about former Judge Robert Zack's bad debts and who once followed Judge Larry Seidlin around for a few days to discover that the guy spends more time on the tennis court than in the courtroom. In short, she loves to get down into the dirt and dig. The downside to Cafiero is that she's known to pull punches — and drop entire investigative reports — at the behest of her sometimes nervous bosses. But when it comes to hard-hitting TV news reporting, she's the best we've got by a long shot.

Behind the bland façades lining University Drive from Copans to Sunrise boulevards, a diverse and inspired bunch of shop owners and restaurateurs is doing great and sometimes even transcendent work that hardly anyone knows about. Walking this stretch, you may eat ridiculously proportioned Korean entrées at Gabose, take a mind-melting trip through Tate's Comics, giggle at the dissident art hanging upstairs in the Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery, and satisfy your spouse's annoying vegan palate at the meatless Indian joint Woodlands. Broward's pretensions to urbanity have always come off as a little derivative, but out here, this stretch of University is groping its way toward a vibrant identity of its own.

Here's what the weather will be like tomorrow, South Florida: Between 72 and 86 degrees, chance of rain or hurricane. It doesn't make for a terribly exciting weather report. So a truly great South Florida weathercaster must be well-versed in the nuances of climatology studies and be able to translate the complex, multifaceted meteorological algorithms into digestible forecasts that will keep people tuning in. Julie Durda might be able to do those things. But it doesn't matter, because Durda is hotter than the sun itself. The former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader and Bachelor contestant makes sure WSVN (Channel 7) viewers always wake up to a warm front. Her smile. Her hair. Her legs. Her adorable skirts. Julie could have a map of Pakistan behind her while she reads from Charlotte's Web and it would still give every viewer an extended forecast. So it doesn't matter what the sky will look like tomorrow. As long as Julie Durda's on the screen, there's no need to go outside.

This county is home to some of the world's richest, most famous, most jealously private people, but they're all at the mercy of any commoner with an internet connection. Basically, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's website is tax-funded voyeurism. Pop a famous name into the database and it will spit out the street address, the sale price, the current appraised value, and the dimensions of the region's most exclusive residences. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter managed to convince the county that it should unlist her address, ostensibly on the basis that her personality made her an inviting assassination victim. But curious people can still find out that she paid $1.8 million for a relatively modest 3,000-square-foot home on the island. One can find the exact location of such contemptible creatures as Rush ("R H" in the database) Limbaugh, Jeffrey Epstein, and Bernard Madoff (who listed his place under wife Ruth's name). But the best feature is the button for maps. With an aerial view of each parcel, a nosy soul can click his or her way around the neighborhood to see whether the Joneses overpaid for their home or whether the Baxters embellished their square footage at the dinner party. And who is that strange man down the block — a harmless loner or a sex offender? Pull his name from the appraiser's site, then let Google perform the background search. When it comes to snooping on the neighbors, it's a whole lot better than hiding in the hedges.

Caribbean vacations can seem out of reach — a yacht ride and a fortune away. But guess what, peeps? Tickets to Jamaica are going for just $149 roundtrip. Stay away from dangerous Kingston, touristy Ocho Rios, and Negril; opt instead for the eastern region around Port Antonio. At the colonial-style Bath Fountain Hotel & Spa, soak in tiled bathtubs filled with 92-degree mineral water from the adjacent natural hot springs, or wander up the dirt path on the mountainside to bathe in the hot springs themselves. Any cabdriver (one stayed with us for the whole day for $20) will double as tour guide and show you the Blue Lagoon (where the movie was filmed and entrepreneurial dudes take tourists on raft rides), Boston Beach (where teenaged boys rent out their personal surfboards), and the outdoor food stands where cooks invented jerk chicken. At night, fluorescent signs nailed to streetlights tell what sound system is playing in town. And while the Jamaican Tourist Board can set you up with locals via its "Meet the People" program (it's free, and you can specify whether you want to meet doctors, artists, kids, etc.), we found it safe to explore on our own, even at night. But if you dip into the doobage, be careful. Despite stereotypes, weed is illegal, and signs at bars warn: "No Ganja Allowed!"

In May 2008, 16-year-old Jeffrey Nadel formed a local chapter of the National Youth Rights Association. By winter, he was receiving media coverage out the wazoo for his efforts to lower Florida's voting age to 16, and his chapter sported a six-person board and a membership of 200. Nadel hopes our legislators will draft a bill lowering the voting age to 16. But if they don't, he says he'll keep dogging them — and that he'll continue to do so even if he's well over 18 by the time his efforts bear fruit.

It's difficult not to notice them. The parasailers floating through the air above Fort Lauderdale's coastline are often sandwiched uncomfortably between propeller plane advertisements like "Midget wrestling tonight! 2-4-1!" Are they enjoying themselves as they sit on their kite-elevated benches? Sadly, the answer is "Nope." Here's how parasailing actually plays out: You broker your para-deal with some dude in a faux cabana shack who's costumed a bit too much like a lifeguard. Next, you make uncomfortable chitchat with the boat's driver — a man who spends his days assuring obnoxious tourists (that's you) that they will be safe yet thrilled throughout their approaching ten-minute "experience." Then you sit on a bench, white knuckles gripping the side rails, preparing yourself for an adrenaline overload that will never arrive. You are lifted, slowly and carefully, to look out over a panoramic stretch of hideous and newly constructed high-rises, and then cautiously placed back down, with all the care of returning a baby kitten to its dresser drawer. And that, you realize, is how you blew $40. God, you're a chump.

Hey, you: Yes, you, the one whose girlfriend keeps dragging you out to see crap like Bride Wars and You Don't Mess With the Zohan. To put it bluntly, your partner's taste in movies is complete garbage. She needs a clinic on good cinema in a bad, bad way. But the expense related to running her through every must-see film of the past 50 years would require a government bailout plan. Don't worry, you tacky movie lover you. Just leave her cinematic reeducation to the folks at Undergrounds Coffeehaus. On almost every night of the week, the bohemian coffee joint screens a diverse array of classic and cult flicks that any legit fan of cinema would be deeply proud to see. Show up on Spaghetti Western night and you can sip loose-leaf teas while quoting from A Fist Full of Dollars and A Few Dollars More. Or brush up on your Ash Williams trivia during a screening of all three Evil Dead horror films. For fans of cult TV, Undergrounds has you covered too: Sink deeply into the throes of a Dune marathon, sing along with Flight of the Conchords, or kick back and watch some Invader Zim. Yep, after a couple of nights at Undergrounds, you'll never have to pay to see another Kate Hudson movie again. Feel that? The world just became a slightly better place.

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