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MISSING 11-YEAR-OLD FROM BRANDON FOUND SAFE IN PASCO
Jenna Irmler, the 11-year-old with Asperger's syndrome missing from her Brandon home, has been found safe and in good condition, Sheriff David Gee said this morning. According to the sheriff, the sixth-grader was located in Pasco County but it was unclear how she got there. "Everything points to the fact that she left on her own," Gee said.
FLORIDA LAWMAKERS CONSIDER SPENDING $200 MILLION ON TEACHER INCENTIVES
The amount of money Florida spends to recruit and keep good teachers for its K-12 public schools could potentially quadruple next year, under tentative plans being crafted in private by Republican House and Senate leaders ahead of the 2017 session.
MATTIS: U.S., RUSSIAN CAN ENGAGE POLITICALLY, NOT MILITARILY
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Russia will need to "prove itself first" before the U.S. and other members of the NATO are willing to let their armed forces collaborate — a complicating factor in cooperation that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed adopting against the Islamic State in Syria.
MICHAEL CONNELLY IS HEADING BACK TO TAMPA TO FINISH HIS NEW BOOK
Internationally bestselling author Michael Connelly is a busy man these days. In addition to writing two novels this year instead of his usual one, he's deeply involved in the early stages of Season 4 of Bosch, the Amazon TV series based on his 19 novels. He'll be in Tampa this week to work on his new novel and to appear at a screening Sunday of The Lincoln Lawyer, based on his 2005 book. He recently talked with Times book editor Colette Bancroft.
ST. PETERSBURG CITY COUNCIL AGENDA: NEW POLICE HQ, RENOVATING AL LANG STADIUM
The potential price tag of St. Petersburg's new police headquarters continues to rise as City Council members today tentatively approved $4.2 million more to add energy efficient features and more parking. The council is also expected to consider an ordinance to authorize a referendum on renovating Al Lang Stadium for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Follow Times reporter Charlie Frago (@CharlieFrago) on Twitter for updates.
HENDERSON: MAKE TIME FOR KIDS TO HAVE RECESS AT SCHOOL
While society in general celebrates the active lifestyle, educators demand the youngest kids sit and absorb. To be fair, public school administrators grapple with the ever-increasing academic requirements from politicians using them as a piñata. But, writes columnist Joe Henderson, kids need time to be kids and blow off a little steam.
RAYS ADD TOMMY HUNTER, LOOKING AT BRIAN HUNTER
The Rays are set to add another experienced reliever to their spring roster as they are close to signing right-hander Tommy Hunter to a minor-league deal, the Times has learned. Tampa Bay also has an interest in Brian Wilson, 34, who is trying to make a comeback as a knuckleballer, having last pitched in the majors in 2014. The Times' Marc Topkin catches you up on the latest from Rays camp in his Heater blog.
POLK COUNTY BRUSH FIRE IS UNDER CONTROL
A brush fire that spanned across thousands of acres in Polk County and prompted the evacuation of at least 800 homes early Wednesday is under control this morning, according to state fire officials. The evacuation order was lifted for Indian Lake Estates, where the blaze burned through 1,500 acres.
LINEUP ANNOUNCED FOR GASPARILLA FILM FEST
Gasparilla International Film Festival organizers announced this year's lineup, including Jordan Roberts' Burn Your Maps in the prized opening night slot. The festival's closing night slot goes to Unleashed, a comedy directed by Finn Taylor and starring Kate Micucci of Garfunkel and Oates fame, plus Sean Astin, who has previously visited the festival. Find more details about the lineup and festival here.
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