• A wave of airstrikes and shelling killed more than 60 people in less than 24 hours in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, monitors and activists said Thursday. The contested city is now one of the main battlegrounds of Syria's devastating civil war, with a cease-fire that has collapsed and peace talks in Geneva stalled.
• Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad today at a moment of intense political turmoil for Iraq and its prime minister, who is fighting to hold onto his office amid a paralyzing political crisis, a weakened economy, and a grinding war against the Islamic State.
• Members of Florida's Congressional delegation will meet this morning to address a major concern at home: A heroin epidemic. Delegation co-chairs Verb Buchanan and Alcee Hastings convened the meeting that will feature a number of panelists.
• State Rep. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, is scolding the Florida Department of Corrections for "the very abrupt change-of-course" when it decided last week to close an inmate transition center in Pompano Beach and wants the decision delayed or reversed.
• After three years of planning, debate and controversy, Hillsborough County is right back where it started: with no idea how to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transportation needs. Read how the commission voted to reject transportation sales tax 4-3 last night and look to hear more from local transportation activists, commissioners, the Florida Department of Transportion and the commissioners themselves later today.
• Victor Crist is over it. The chair of the Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough county such as taxis and limos, wants out. Listen to him call for a dismantling of his own agency.
• A coalition of activist groups is calling for an outside investigation of the events leading up to the drowning deaths last month of three teenage girls who were fleeing from Pinellas sheriff's deputies. And some critics of the Sheriff's Office are stepping up their rhetoric.
• The body of a 2-year-old boy was found in a creek behind his Hudson home after he wandered away Wednesday, Pasco sheriff's officials said. The body of Clayton Foskey was found in Buckhorn Creek shortly before 11 p.m. last night.
• Florida has a lot of symbols: a state animal (the panther), a state reptile (the alligator), even a state sand (Myakka fine) and a state pie (key lime, of course). Columnist Craig Pittman has long believed we could come up with a better slogan, one that is more distinctly Florida. For example, a 911 call out of Plant City saying, "I live in a mobile home and I've got an alligator at my door!" would be a great start.
• Two businesses that have operated in the city for more than a half-century are being forced to move or close their doors to make room for a parking garage planned by the Postcard Inn.
• Next year the Spaghetti Warehouse will shutter for good in Ybor City and relaunch at a new location somewhere else in Tampa Bay. The exposed bricks, the hearty pasta dishes and the family-friendly atmosphere will carry over, but with a revamped menu and a fresh image.
• A top executive at Publix will retire next week nearly 50 years after he started at the company as a 17-year-old bag boy, where co-workers helped turn his life around.
• Whether you're a fan of the Bucs, Gators, Seminoles or Bulls, you'll want to follow our live coverage of the 2016 NFL draft April 28-30, from the discussions at One Buc Place to the stage at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. We'll have live news, photos, stories, columns, videos and more, so come check back for the latest updates. April 28 (Round 1, 8 p.m.); April 29 (Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m.); April 30 (Rounds 4-7), noon.
•Welcome to Beyoncé Week on the Soundcheck blog! Oh, who are we kidding. Here in Tampa, we're in Beyonce MONTH. The singer has been rehearsing for her Formation World Tour at Raymond James Stadium since earlier this month, mostly in secrecy. But that hasn't stopped us from paying attention.
• Giving audiences only a few days to process the wonderment of music that is her new album Lemonade, Beyoncé kicked off her Formation World Tour in Miami last night with a gargantuan, career-spanning setlist that saw the live debuts of many of her new tracks.
• Now, for some history: In 2000, Destiny's Child stole the show from Christina Aguilera in Tampa. Then, a year later in 2001, Destiny's Child outshone the rest of the MTV's Total Request Live Tour in Tampa.
• She is pop culture's superwoman, a force who won't be reckoned, able to do whatever she wishes better than anyone else dares to dream. Except one thing, according to our movie critic Steve Persall. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter can't carry a movie.
• On with the tour: For fashion, don't even try to imitate. When you dress like Beyoncé while actively still breathing the same air, you will suffer by comparison. Here are some ideas. You've got the concert ticket, the outfit, the diva attitude. Now, in order to properly usher in the biggest concert of the year on Friday, you need flawless tailgate food Bey would approve of.
• The usual knock on TV sketch comedians moving into movies is that hilarious five-minute ideas get stretched to lousy feature length. Not Keanu, a new film with Key and Peele from Comedy Central. The title character is an aww-dorable tabby, introduced while leaping and sliding for its life in slo-mo through a bloody gunpowder ballet. If the action seems familiar, it's supposed to, and Persall gives it a B-.
• Here are the top things to do today around Tampa Bay, including MadTV's Bon Qui Qui, the comic alter ego of comic Anjelah Johnson-Reyes; and Dan and Phil, the YouTube stars of BBC radio at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Also, a guide to help plan your weekend.
• Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. made a spectacular running/diving/flying through the air catch in Wednesday's game against the Orioles, earning high praises from his teammates. Here's that amazing catch by Rays OF Steven Souza Jr.
• As midnight heralded the New Year of 1960 atop the 25th floor of the Habana Hilton Hotel, Fidel Castro rose from behind a large dish of radishes and the band played the Cuban national anthem. The anthem was followed immediately by the Star Spangled Banner. Castro did not budge and remained at attention. Read this story from the Times archive titled "Cuba likes Americans but dislikes America."
BEN CATE | Times
BEN CATE | Times
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