Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

News at Noon: Video may show driver going 115 mph before fatal crash; election-fraud arrests in Miami-Dade; Jolly, Outback parent continues to struggle; driverless buses headed to downtown Tampa

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a 0-second video posted on SnapChat 1 that appears to show a driver traveling at 115 mph on the night of a traffic crash that killed five people. The video, apparently shot by a passenger, shows the driver flipping through the gears of his manual transmission while "115.6 mph" is superimposed on the screen. SnapChat features a filter that tracks the speed of the user.

TWO FACE ELECTION FRAUD CHARGES IN MIAMI-DADE

A woman tasked with inserting voters' completed mail ballots into a counting machine was arrested today after co-workers allegedly caught her illegally marking ballots, resulting in an unknown — but small — number of fraudulent votes being cast for mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado. In a separate case, authorities have arrested a woman accused of unlawfully filling out voter-registration forms on behalf of United for Care, the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. The Miami-Dade state attorney's office says the woman filled out forms for five people without their consent, submitted at least 17 forms for people who apparently don't exist and several forms for people who are dead.

INTERSTATE 4 RANKED MOST DANGEROUS IN ANALYSIS

Interstate 4, which stretches from Tampa to Daytona Beach, tops the list of most dangerous U.S. highways since 2010, according to an analysis. The road recorded 1.41 fatalities per mile over the past six years, the study found.

PARENT COMPANY OF OUTBACK, CARRABBA'S, CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE

After posting another rough financial quarter as a major casual dining company, Tampa's Bloomin' Brands is beginning to look more like Bleedin' Brands. Economic headwinds are all making it tougher for Bloomin' and its peers to make a buck. The parent of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's on Friday morning again reported hefty declines in U.S. customer traffic at most of its chains. Business columnist Robert Trigaux examines some factors behind the decline.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit

HART will be launch driverless shuttle service in downtown Tampa in 2017. Here is an example of the type of vehicle HART may use, now used in Europe.

DRIVERLESS MARION STREET SHUTTLE WILL SERVE BUS RIDERS STARTING NEXT YEAR

Plans are underway for driverless shuttles or "autonomous vehicles" running up and down the Marion Street Transitway in eastern downtown Tampa — a route restricted to buses and other public transit. Two boxy electric vehicles holding six to 12 passengers will run from the Marion Transit Center south to Whiting Street, an 0.6-mile stretch with 11 intersections. HART is developing the program with the state Department of Transportation, which has allocated up to $1 million over the next two years. If its succeeds, there may be money for a third year.

USF HOSTS NAVY TONIGHT AT RAYJAY

It's Salute to Service Night at Raymond James Stadium as USF faces Navy in an important American Athletic Conference game. Kickoff is at 7 with ESPN2 televising nationally. Follow the Times' coverage of the game in our live college football blog.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE DIPS IN FLORIDA IN LAST READING BEFORE ELECTION

Heading into the elections — and the gradual ramp-up of the holiday spending season — consumer confidence among Floridians has taken a dip. Consumer sentiment fell 1.5 points in October to a reading of 90, according to the monthly University of Florida survey released Friday.

AS RESTAURANTS SHIFT FOCUS TO BURGERS AND BISCUITS, FINE DINING DWINDLES

For the past 18 months, industry analysts have been predicting a national restaurant recession, something that historically presages worse economic news. Restaurants, they say, are the economy's canaries in the coal mine. For the past 18 months, Laura Reiley writes, industry analysts have been predicting a national restaurant recession, something that historically presages worse economic news. Restaurants, they say, are the economy's canaries in the coal mine. In places like the Tampa Bay area, he said, there may be too much competition. So the whole pie is shrinking, and we've cut it into too many slices.

JOLLY, CRIST, OTHER CANDIDATES TALK ISSUES AT FORUM

Several candidates appearing on the Gulfport general ballot took to the podium for a few minutes Thursday night to talk about their past experiences and future aspirations. Topics included local sewage issues, the Tampa Bay Rays and education. Among the speakers were David Jolly and Charlie Crist, opponents in the 13th Congressional District race.

'BIRDMAN' COMPOSER ANTONIO SANCHEZ BRINGS MOVIE'S DRUM SOUNDTRACK TO TAMPA

Antonio Sanchez's improvised percussion was the heartbeat of Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a meta show biz character study. The movie won four Oscars including best picture and director. Next stop, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, where Iñárritu's movie will be shown Thursday night with Sanchez accompanying on drums. Sanchez, 44, recently spoke with the Times about working with Iñárritu, and how his one-man show operates. Here are excerpts.

IT'S TIME TO PLAN YOUR WEEKEND

Have you made your weekend plans yet? From MegaCon, the U.S. gymnastics team on tour and all sorts of ways to prepare for Halloween, we've got you covered. Check out our weekend planners for all sorts of fun stuff coming up.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Shay Johnson, 26, grew up near Brooker Creek and knew the legend of the Mini Lights. "I thought it was a story that my mom made up because she didn't want us to go down to Brooker Creek. So she told us there were Mini Lights ... small people that will kill you if you go down there."

HAVE YOU SEEN THE MINI LIGHTS HAUNTING ST. PETE? THESE PEOPLE HAVE

Everyone grows up hearing urban legends. They're global, like Bloody Mary. They're regional, like the Florida Skunk Ape. Sometimes they're internet-created, like Slender Man. They can be a device for keeping children out of danger, are sometimes fact-based and tend to have a mix of the believable with the unbelievable. Experts say they're important in popular culture, acting as a mirror to society. n St. Petersburg, one piece of folklore I is part of the fabric and culture of the city: the Mini Lights.

News at noon is a weekday feature from tampabay.com. Check in Monday through Friday for updates and information on the biggest stories of the day.

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