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News at Noon: Florida's death penalty; TIA ranks high; Yotels; Alex's xmas for the kids; Redistricting trial; Bucs preview

Alex Cooks Jr., right, loads a bike on the back of a truck for Tom McDonnell, left, whose wife works as a social worker at Cypress Creek Elementary School during the annual Alex's Xmas for Kids bike giveaway at the Walmart Supercenter on Gunn Highway in Carrollwood on Wednesday, December 16, 2015y. Alex Cooks, who was founder of the charity drive, died six months ago in a motorcycle accident. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]

Alex Cooks Jr., right, loads a bike on the back of a truck for Tom McDonnell, left, whose wife works as a social worker at Cypress Creek Elementary School during the annual Alex's Xmas for Kids bike giveaway at the Walmart Supercenter on Gunn Highway in Carrollwood on Wednesday, December 16, 2015y. Alex Cooks, who was founder of the charity drive, died six months ago in a motorcycle accident. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Jeb called Donald a "chaos candidate," Ben Carson took a pass on foreign affairs questions and Fiorna zinged Rubio on being a "first term-senator." All of these highlights and more can be found in our GOP Debate Recap from last night.

Although there has been an overall drop in the number of death-row inmates in Florida, findings from a national non-profit research organization show the Sunshine State continues to be an "outlier" in its administration of capital punishment. Where does Florida stand on the death penalty nationwide?

At the Aloft Tampa Downtown hotel, guests can bypass the check-in desk in the lobby and go straight to their room — if they've downloaded the Starwood Preferred Guest app on their smartphone. How are hotels adapting to the smart phone generation?

Tampa International Airport was just named No. 2 airport in customer satisfaction. Learn how TIA's easy layout and quick security check points helped it rise toward the top. Oh, and the Cigar City Brewing on tap probably doesn't hurt Tampa's airline travel rep either.

Alex's Xmas for Kids foundation, created by Alex Cooks, is in the 16th year of passing out bikes for kids in need of a Christmas. But it's the first year without Alex. A tradition continues without its generous namesake.

Roman Dominic Izzo, a U.S. Army officer accused of murder of his wife's former husband in 2011, was injured in a motorcycle crash Monday night and remains hospitalized in critical condition. It took police two years to arrest Izzo; there's no physical evidence to link him to the crime, but detectives uncovered suspicious cyber tracks that could implicate him.

Today is another crucial day in the redistricting trial. State Senator Bill Galvano is testifying this morning. Among other revelations, Galvano indicated there were maps submitted during the process by the plaintiffs that don't pair incumbents. But it's not clear how he knew that. Follow Mary Ellen Klas for this developing story.

A Sulphur Springs nonprofit that helps at-risk youth learn through art is reeling after thousands of dollars worth of technology was stolen from its office and classroom space on E River Coast Street. The program's students have painted murals across the city and gone on to college, and Chair Karen Frashier said this setback won't stop them from helping children.

Our movie critic Steve Persall saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday, and he's written a spoiler-free review. He says that the film delivers from its opening blast of John Williams' theme music, to the familiar faces of Ford, Fisher and Hamill.

Thomas Bassinger takes a look at Bucs players Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota from this past week. Also, apparently four interesting things happened in last Sunday's game against the Saints, and all but one of the them occurred on a single play.

On the visual side of things, Times Photographer Monica Herndon shares her top 9 photos from 2015.

News at Noon: Florida's death penalty; TIA ranks high; Yotels; Alex's xmas for the kids; Redistricting trial; Bucs preview 12/16/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 1:37pm]
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