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News at noon: Obama Cuba trip; Florida tourism numbers; Jane Castor; pot citations; Jesse Owens; and Carly Rae Jepsen

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will travel to Cuba on March 21-22. [Associated Press]

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will travel to Cuba on March 21-22. [Associated Press]

President Barack Obama says his history-making visit to Cuba next month is part of an effort to "improve the lives of the Cuban people." He vowed to press the communist government on human rights and other policy differences during the visit planned for March 21-22. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio weighed in with their criticisms of the president's plan.

Gov. Rick Scott says 105 million tourists made their way to Florida last year. That beats the previous high of 98.5 million. And it's the fifth year in a row a record number of tourists came to Florida.

Public records advocates have won support for an amendment that defuses their concerns over a controversial bill targeting people who attempt to misuse the state's public records laws to extort money from government.

Retired Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has been tapped to serve as an independent monitor of the city of Miami's compliance with a civil rights settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice over a 2011 federal investigation into 33 police shootings.

The Tampa City Council is discussing the idea of giving out civil citations rather than arresting people who are caught with marijuana. Mayor Bob Buckhorn's staff has drawn up an ordinance that would institute fines starting at $75 for possessing up to 20 grams, or about three-quarters of an ounce, of marijuana. The fine would rise to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third offense and $450 for the fourth offense.

Authorities today will announce the results of a four-month investigation into firearms and narcotics traffickers in Hillsborough County. Sheriff's Office officials will be joined by representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office at a 1 p.m. news conference.

Pasco deputies have arrested a man who targeted the home of one of their own, the Sheriff's Office says. At 12:30 p.m., Sheriff Chris Nocco will provide more details about the man "who used arson in his attack."

Florida senators confirmed nearly a dozen agency heads, endorsing appointments made by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and giving the executives job security going forward.

Reviewer Steve Persall writes that like a struggling sprinter, Race, the Stephen Hopkins' film about Olympic runner Jesse Owens, suffers from wasted motion, too much going on. Find it and other reviews here.

Despite a sparse crowd, Jay Cridlin writes, Carly Rae Jepsen beamed from start to finish and delivered the gleeful dance party Emotion fanatics so desired at her concert Wednesday night at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa.

The Miami Hurricanes recently extended their first scholarship offer for the class of 2020. Yes, that's a current eighth grader.

In need of a cornerback, the Bucs are taking a look today at veteran Brice McCain, who was released by the Dolphins last week.

Manager Kevin Cash and baseball operations president Matt Silverman have a news conference at noon to mark the opening of spring training as they prepare for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training Sunday. Check our Rays blog, The Heater, and follow Marc Topkin on Twitter (@TBTimes_Rays) for updates.

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

News at noon: Obama Cuba trip; Florida tourism numbers; Jane Castor; pot citations; Jesse Owens; and Carly Rae Jepsen 02/18/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2016 3:02pm]
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