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News at noon: Consult the experts for Valentine weekend plans; Democratic debate preview; State budgets approved; Prescribed burn in Florida; Why homes sit vacant in Tampa Bay

Florida Forest Service Ranger Blake Hunter lights a baseline for the prescribed fire in the Withlacoochee Forest on Wednesday, making it easier for the pilot to see the perimeter and the fire lines. [Photo courtesy of Judith Tear, Withlacoochee Forestry Center]


Florida Forest Service Ranger Blake Hunter lights a baseline for the prescribed fire in the Withlacoochee Forest on Wednesday, making it easier for the pilot to see the perimeter and the fire lines. [Photo courtesy of Judith Tear, Withlacoochee Forestry Center]

• Trying to plan your Valentine's Day weekend? Want to plan the perfect date to impress your significant other? Tune in at 3:30 p.m. for a Facebook Live chat with arts and entertainment editor Stephanie Hayes and food editor Michelle Stark. facebook.com/tampabaycom/

• There is a Democratic debate is tonight at 9 p.m. on PBS, so check back to politifact.com for a preview and live fact-checking. Meanwhile, here are four things to watch as Clinton and Sanders duke it out in Milwaukee.

• As the 2016 session reached the midway point yesterday, the Florida Senate and House tentatively approved separate budgets in advance of floor votes today and the start of marathon budget negotiations by next week.

• A look back on an historic presidency, coming to an end: In a free-wheeling exchange, President Obama said he doesn't think his race explains the Republican fortress against his agenda, or that having lawmakers over for drinks or to watch football every weekend would have made a difference over the last seven years. But he also admitted that he was partly to blame for the hyperpartisan environment by failing to reach out more to Republicans.

• The last four armed occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon said they would turn themselves in this morning after law officers surrounded them in a tense standoff.

• Today, 52 inmates were killed and 12 injured in a brutal fight between two rival factions at a prison near Monterrey, Mexico. The fight involved a faction led by a member of the infamous Zetas drug cartel.

• Nearly three dozen fire experts, nine fire engines, six bulldozers and a single helicopter — that's the sum of what it took to operate a prescribed burn through 3,600 acres of Florida forest this week.

• Even as realtors complain that homes for sale are few and far between, Tampa Bay has a higher-than-average percentage of houses and condos sitting empty. Either because the owners aren't inhabiting them or because they're "zombies'' that have been foreclosed but not yet put on the market, why Tampa Bay has so many vacant homes.

• The University of South Florida's 90,000-square-foot medical training center in downtown is undergoing significant changes to its operations and leadership. According to USF Health CEO, the CEO of the CAMLS center, Deborah Sutherland, is no longer with the facility.

• A new Lightning Strikes podcast comes out today. Hear what beat writer Joe Smith has to say about the Tampa Bay hockey team's upcoming games.

• Who's behind the lens? This week, it's staff photographer Zack Wittman. We ask what makes him tick, which past photos have been most meaningful, and what formative, sometimes zany experiences have made him the photojournalist he is today.

• This rare video of a manatee munching on Spanish moss dangling from a branch at Three Sisters Springs is lighting up social media today. The feeding was filmed by a volunteer at the springs.

• With Valentine's Day around the corner, nothing says "I love you" like a well-selected place to dine. Refer to Food Critic Laura Reiley's Top 50 Restaurants of Tampa Bay to pick the cuisine and style that suits your and your sweetie's tastes.

• Have you recently met someone you really like, who actually likes you back? Are you in a healthy, vital relationship? Good for you! If not, here's a guide to Valentine's Day for the consciously uncoupled or bitter.

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.

News at noon: Consult the experts for Valentine weekend plans; Democratic debate preview; State budgets approved; Prescribed burn in Florida; Why homes sit vacant in Tampa Bay 02/11/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 1:28pm]
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