Rejoice, South Florida! 2015 is finally over. We somehow managed to survive a questionable bear hunt, invasive pythons, and flakka. Through it all, you stuck by us and read along as we churned out story after story of all the craziness happening in the area we call home. And with a presidential election looming and Gov. Rick Scott still avoiding the phrase "climate change," rest assured 2016 will be just as insane and weird in that special way only Florida knows how to do.
In the meantime, take a look back at all the longform stories you couldn't get enough of in 2015. And with the advent of Snapchat and ordering pizzas via emoji, we are glad you could spare the time to read these beheamoth stories.
10. As Florida's Bear Hunt Opens, Critics Complain Wildlife Agency Is Beholden to Hunters
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (commonly shortened to FWC), a body of seven commissioners appointed by the governor, has decided to reopen hunting of the state's estimated 3,000 Florida black bears for the week of October 24 to 30 — the first wide-scale hunting of bears in the state since 1974.
9. Should a Juvenile Serve 23 Years for Shooting a Retired Police Dog?
Although killing a police dog would be a third-degree felony, it would not count as murder, and besides, 5-year-old Drake was no longer on the force, having recently retired from the PBSO K9 unit due to a burned-out nose from too much drug-sniffing. But DiMola gave an ultimatum anyway: Confess to the shooting and face an animal cruelty charge or don't confess and face charges of shooting a cop, he told the teen.
8. Rock Band Candlebox Says the Seminole Tribe Reneged on a Business Deal and Got a Free Pass
For months, the band had been looking forward to a partnership that their manager had sketched out: The tribe — which owns the Hard Rock brand of resorts and casinos — would front $400,000 to finance Candlebox's 33-date 20th-anniversary tour, which would include shows at Hard Rock venues, for the coming summer. But the tribe had yet to hand over the money even though a deadline had come and gone.
7. Military-Style Raids for Minimal Drugs Turn Deadly in Hallandale Beach
"When police deploy resources in predominantly black or poor neighborhoods yet their investigations yield little or no results... it begs the question, why the continued police scrutiny in those communities over all others?" says Broward County Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes.
6. Valerie Bozeman Is Pardoned by Obama as America Wrestles With Fallout From the War on Drugs
on March 21, President Barack Obama granted Bozeman a sentence commutation — the result of years of nudging from reformist lawyers and policymakers who say America's War on Drugs went too far. Now, 30 years after the crack scare started, experts were seeing that harsh policies — including use of a legal maneuver called an "851 enhancement" — had turned law and order into cruel and unusual, especially for small-time drug criminals.
5. Floridians Are Heading to Syria and Iraq to Fight ISIS
Western governments remain reluctant to send troops to fight the Islamic State, leaving the ground fight to Iraqi and Syrian government forces and smaller Kurdish and Christian militias. But in the past year, a trickle of rogue actors from the United States, independent of the military, have traveled to join anti-ISIS combatants. These individuals include military veterans, private security operators, and some with no related experience at all — even housewives and surf instructors.
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4. With Lax Supervision at State-Contracted Group Homes, Teen Prostitution and Drug Use Are Rampant
Lawyers at the Broward Public Defender's Office have repeatedly heard from their juvenile clients that because of lax supervision, shocking behaviors like drug-dealing and prostitution routinely take place at group homes. Little is being done to remedy the problem, but administrators insist they are doing the best they can with the resources they have for some of the state's most troubled and tough-to-manage kids.
3. Circumcised Men in South Florida Try to Regrow Their Foreskins
Regenerating an inch of skin is an almost superhuman feat. A foreskin can't simply grow back like a lizard's tail; it takes one to five years of grueling stretching and a slew of strange devices. It's physically torturous and also isolating, because most men take on restoring without talking to loved ones or doctors. Many turn to online forums for guidance and support. And most quit before reaching their goal.
2. The Rise and Fall of Haitian Drug Lord Jacques Ketant
The trafficker ascended the drug game like a rocket in the 1990s, when Haiti was sandbagged by one corrupt government after another. At the height of his power, Ketant was making $13 million a year in illegal drug runs and amassing "Midas-like quantities of material assets," in the words of prosecutors. Although his name won't make it into the country's official history books, Ketant arguably shaped contemporary Haiti as much as any other public figure.
1. Jason Genova: The Saga of a YouTube Bodybuilding Broscience Celebrity
Genova kicked down the door of the YouTube world in July 2009 with a nine-minute-and-seven-second clip that would serve as his protein-shake-encrusted raison d'être: "My Story Part 1." Featuring all the production value of a kidnap victim's proof-of-life footage, the clip showed baby-faced Genova punching out bench presses to a soundtrack of chipmunk-screeching hair metal.