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Morning Watch: Scenes from Tampa's first Cuba flight; updating Florida's constitution; boaters kill record number of manatees

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SCENES FROM TAMPA'S FIRST CUBA FLIGHT IN 50 YEARS

"I made history at 3:30 a.m. Monday," writes reporter Paul Guzzo, who was first to arrive for Southwest Airlines Flight 3952, which departed for Havana this morning, marking the first commercial service between Tampa and the island nation in more than five decades. Guzzo sets the scene from the historic flight.

REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS HAVE BIG PLANS FOR FLORIDA'S CONSTITUTION

For the first time in 20 years, Florida embarks on a constitutionally mandated update of the state Constitution next year and, if Florida's top Republican officials have their way, they will use the process to overturn the most controversial rulings of the state's high court — on education spending, private school vouchers and political redistricting. The current hand-selected panel is expected to tilt conservative and advance more ideological proposals than either of the previous two constitutional commissions.


MANATEES KILLED IN RECORD NUMBER IN 2016

The 98th manatee to die this year, the one that broke the record, was an adult female that was found dead on Dec. 2 in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan River. The record-breaking find comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering taking manatees off its endangered list and reclassifying them as merely "threatened."

[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

 

FENNELLY: BUCS SURE SOUND LIKE A PLAYOFF TEAM

"They sure sounded like a playoff team to me. When the reception was good, that is," writes sports columnist Martin Fennelly, who went old-school and listened to the Bucs on the car radio Sunday while traveling and came away with a fresh perspective.

AD CAMPAIGN AGAINST FAKE NEWS MIGHT RESTORE TRUST

Spurred by Tom Brokaw's appearance at the Poynter Institute's Bow Tie Ball on Dec. 9 and his comments on fake news and unreliable social networks, columnist Ernest Hooper imagines an ad campaign fronted by the legendary NBC anchor to help the media earn back the trust lost with so many Americans.

WHAT TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO

Check out the best of what's coming to traditional TV and what's newly streaming on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in the coming days with our weekly roundup that also includes a preview of the Lena Dunham's podcast Women of the Hour.

GIFTS FOR THE FOOD LOVER IN YOUR LIFE

There are just 11 days until Christmas. Hannukah starts even earlier, beginning the evening of Dec. 24 and ending Jan. 1. And you've probably already been to at least one holiday party. It's officially time to focus your efforts on checking off various gift lists. Food editor Michelle Stark suggests something food-related, with these ideas for food gifts you can buy or make at home.

The first commercial flight from Tampa to Cuba in decades took off this morning. 
This is the view above Cuba from aboard a plane taken by the Tampa Bay Rays to the island nation in March. [Times files]

The first commercial flight from Tampa to Cuba in decades took off this morning. This is the view above Cuba from aboard a plane taken by the Tampa Bay Rays to the island nation in March. [Times files]

Morning Watch: Scenes from Tampa's first Cuba flight; updating Florida's constitution; boaters kill record number of manatees 12/12/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 12, 2016 9:18am]
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  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.