The caustic Miami Herald columnist (and New Times alumnus) has been relentless in his pursuit of adults responsible for the injustices suffered by South Florida's discarded children. When authorities at all levels were ducking for cover following the pitiful and needless death of juvenile jail inmate Omar Paisley (who slowly, painfully succumbed to a ruptured appendix), DeFede wrote column after column demanding that someone pay for the boy's untimely demise. Finally the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office convened a grand jury that eventually indicted two nurses. More heads have rolled since then. DeFede also assailed the U.S. government's cavalier attitude toward Haitian children, telling individual stories of Haitian kids stuck in immigration limbo, detained in hotel rooms, separated from family, and with little hope of receiving political asylum.

The caustic Miami Herald columnist (and New Times alumnus) has been relentless in his pursuit of adults responsible for the injustices suffered by South Florida's discarded children. When authorities at all levels were ducking for cover following the pitiful and needless death of juvenile jail inmate Omar Paisley (who slowly, painfully succumbed to a ruptured appendix), DeFede wrote column after column demanding that someone pay for the boy's untimely demise. Finally the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office convened a grand jury that eventually indicted two nurses. More heads have rolled since then. DeFede also assailed the U.S. government's cavalier attitude toward Haitian children, telling individual stories of Haitian kids stuck in immigration limbo, detained in hotel rooms, separated from family, and with little hope of receiving political asylum.

Filling the oxfords of late local broadcast legend Ann Bishop of WPLG-TV was a challenge accepted by Kristi Krueger, who has proved herself up to the job at 5:00, 6:00, and 11:00 p.m. Maybe her eleven-year tenure as a health reporter helped her become sufficiently inured to calmly deal with Miami's demoralizing daily news cycle, which brims with shootings, child-abuse cases, and bloody hit-and-run tales. Maybe her good humor and refusal to take herself too seriously have allowed her to endure smug Dwight Lauderdale's condescending remarks aimed at her (on the air) all these years. Maybe her class and composure have prevented her from falling apart even as she was allegedly being stalked by a soccer mom. Whatever the special combination of qualities that Miami's best anchor needs, Krueger has. For that we say, "Brava!"

When the preacher begins laying his hands on foreheads, the energy in this storefront church surges. Thursday night is divine drama, eons beyond must-see TV. From below the pulpit a drummer keeps a lively beat and an organist accents the preacher's righteous words from an old Casio. The pews are full of women who, with gusto, shout the devil down. Soon you're shouting with them, clapping and dancing as the spirit takes hold. Now the preacher is moving about, laying hands on worshippers and speaking in tongues. High blood sugar is neutralized, a bloody nose is fixed, a path to the Lord is cleared, and ladies tumble to the ground. Everyone is welcome, no velvet ropes, no social hierarchy whatsoever. It's strictly come as you are. The spirit is infectious and the thrill ride goes on till late. Plus there's never a cover charge, though a modest donation is always welcome. The only real cost is that of not saving your sorry soul.

When the preacher begins laying his hands on foreheads, the energy in this storefront church surges. Thursday night is divine drama, eons beyond must-see TV. From below the pulpit a drummer keeps a lively beat and an organist accents the preacher's righteous words from an old Casio. The pews are full of women who, with gusto, shout the devil down. Soon you're shouting with them, clapping and dancing as the spirit takes hold. Now the preacher is moving about, laying hands on worshippers and speaking in tongues. High blood sugar is neutralized, a bloody nose is fixed, a path to the Lord is cleared, and ladies tumble to the ground. Everyone is welcome, no velvet ropes, no social hierarchy whatsoever. It's strictly come as you are. The spirit is infectious and the thrill ride goes on till late. Plus there's never a cover charge, though a modest donation is always welcome. The only real cost is that of not saving your sorry soul.

It's no coincidence that the benches at Domino Park (as this landmark is known) face toward Cuba. The old Cuban men from the surrounding neighborhood of Little Havana know the reason, and value it. As each takes a turn sitting on the benches playing dominoes (or fichas), they are reminded that though they sit in the middle of Miami, they will never turn their backs on La Patria. The park, named for a Cuban revolutionary of the late Nineteenth Century, is the hub of eastern Little Havana. People of all ages meet to play chess, throw down some bones, and sip coladas while smoking (Dominican) Monte Cristos to the tunes of El Sol radio. First-generation Cuban immigrants won't live forever, so the next time you have out-of-town visitors, take them down to Domino Park. Sit and talk with an old Cuban about the way it was. Have a cigar and some café, ponder the possibilities ... wait, who needs out-of-town visitors?

BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Willie and Sal trial jurors

Gloria Alba and Maria del Carmen Peñalver were in their midtwenties when they sat on the jury that acquitted Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta in February 1996. Falcon and Magluta had been charged with importing 75 tons of cocaine, worth some two billion dollars. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, who prosecuted the case with colleague Chris Clarke, knew something wasn't right about that acquittal, which not only set free the two biggest drug dealers in Miami's history, but which cost taxpayers millions of dollars and U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey his job. Sullivan was right about something not being right, a fact affirmed this past January by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, who sentenced Alba and Peñalver to five years in prison for accepting bribes to spring Willie and Sal. Peñalver finally admitted to taking $20,000 from jury foreman Miguel Moya, who is now doing seventeen and a half years in prison. Alba was convicted of raking in some $260,000 in bribes. Her husband got nearly five years for participating in the scheme. Meanwhile, Falcon is serving 20 years for money laundering and Magluta was sentenced to 205 years on a host of charges related to the fixed jury. It was a happy ending for Sullivan's prosecutorial nightmare.

BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Willie and Sal trial jurors

Gloria Alba and Maria del Carmen Peñalver were in their midtwenties when they sat on the jury that acquitted Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta in February 1996. Falcon and Magluta had been charged with importing 75 tons of cocaine, worth some two billion dollars. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, who prosecuted the case with colleague Chris Clarke, knew something wasn't right about that acquittal, which not only set free the two biggest drug dealers in Miami's history, but which cost taxpayers millions of dollars and U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey his job. Sullivan was right about something not being right, a fact affirmed this past January by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, who sentenced Alba and Peñalver to five years in prison for accepting bribes to spring Willie and Sal. Peñalver finally admitted to taking $20,000 from jury foreman Miguel Moya, who is now doing seventeen and a half years in prison. Alba was convicted of raking in some $260,000 in bribes. Her husband got nearly five years for participating in the scheme. Meanwhile, Falcon is serving 20 years for money laundering and Magluta was sentenced to 205 years on a host of charges related to the fixed jury. It was a happy ending for Sullivan's prosecutorial nightmare.

During the overheated, slightly premature media frenzy that accompanied the fall of Saddam, CBS affiliate WFOR journalist and cameraman Mike Kirsch was our man in Iraq. As an embedded reporter with the British Army, he reported on the invasion of Basra, winning a 2003 Suncoast Emmy for his efforts. His past wartime adventures include sojourns in Bosnia (where he was attacked by ten Serbian police officers) and Afghanistan. "Mike," marvels his bosses at CBS in a press release, "has a reputation for living his stories." "Surviving" might be a better description.

Miami's Only Daily has piranha-ed its writing and editing staff into a skeleton for the sake of profit margin. Still with the likes of Raul Rubiera, Peter Andrew Bosch, and others out shooting photographs, the pictures remain first rate. But with his stylish black-rim eyeglasses, raspy voice, and bandanna covering his baby dreads, Carl Juste is more than just another pretty photojournalist. From the war in Afghanistan (where he spent four months) to the recent revolt in Haiti, from the vapid (South Beach models strutting) to the brutal (back-alley junkies shooting heroin), Juste's first draft of history is strong enough to endure as art. He's that good. The Herald doesn't deserve him.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®