Associated Press

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The Florida Keys' wacky and often-decadent costuming and masking festival is kicking off with a coronation ball to crown the 10-day festival's king and queen.

Fantasy Fest begins Friday in Key West. The celebration started in 1979 when a small group of Key Westers dreamt up the event to bolster business between summer and winter.

In Florida, a grim task is unwinding slowly: Finding out how many people were killed in Hurricane Michael.

The storm that ravaged Florida's Panhandle left incredible destruction stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the state border, but getting a firm grasp on how many died is proving somewhat elusive.

The state has officially acknowledged just two deaths so far — and one death was in northeast Florida, far from the ground-zero fury of the Category 4 storm.

Florida’s next governor and not incumbent Gov. Rick Scott will get to pick three new justices to the state Supreme Court, the court ruled Monday in a decision with major implications in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

In a major rebuke to Scott, the Supreme Court concluded that the Republican governor exceeded his authority when he started the process to find replacements for the three justices.

Upon touring the damage in several towns along Florida's Panhandle, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long called the destruction left by Hurricane Michael some of the worst he's ever seen.

Updated 11:30 p.m.

Fast and furious Hurricane Michael barreled toward the Florida Panhandle late Tuesday night with 125 mph winds and a potentially catastrophic storm surge of 13 feet, giving tens of thousands of people precious little time to board up and get out.

Updated at 2:12 a.m. Tuesday

Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid fears it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal dwellers are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the dangerous storm heading their way.

Marty Balin, a patron of the 1960s “San Francisco Sound” both as founder and lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane and co-owner of the club where the Airplane and other bands performed, has died. He was 76.

Balin died Thursday in Tampa,  on the way to the hospital, spokesman Ryan Romenesko said. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Balin, who underwent emergency heart surgery in 2016, sued a New York hospital earlier this year, saying a tracheotomy he had at the time paralyzed a vocal cord and caused other damage.

Eight boaters were rescued in two separate accidents after their boats overturned along Florida's Gulf Coast.

An Uber driver in Winter Haven claimed self-defense after he fatally shot a man who trailed his car and tried run him off the road, authorities said Wednesday.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary for Florida governor Tuesday, pulling off an upset against better funded and better known candidates on his quest to become the state's first black governor.

With the backing of President Donald Trump and more than 100 appearances on Fox News under his belt, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis sailed to victory in Florida's Republican primary for governor Tuesday, defeating a longtime favorite of the GOP establishment with a campaign based largely around the president.

DeSantis beat out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who had seemingly built up the run for governor his entire adult life after being elected to office as a 22-year-old.

A powerful earthquake shook Venezuela's northeastern coast on Tuesday, forcing residents in the capital to evacuate buildings and interrupting a pro-government rally in support of controversial economic reforms.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans had fled the crisis-wracked country as of June, mainly to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, the United Nations said Tuesday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that those fleeing — about 7 percent of Venezuela’s 32.8 million people — cite lack of food as the main reason for leaving. U.N. humanitarian officials report that 1.3 million of those who fled were “suffering from malnourishment,” he said.

 Florida Gov. Rick Scott is traveling to Colombia to attend the inauguration of the nation's next president.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro abruptly cut short a televised speech and soldiers present broke ranks and scattered after hearing several explosions Saturday in what the government called an attempted attack on the socialist leader.

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