Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

News at noon: Pinellas construction board leader retires; Democrats boycott Trump confirmation hearings; Gov. Scott proposes $83.5 billion state budget; and a Ph.D. candidate at USF is stuck in Iran

Here's what's happening today.

PINELLAS CONSTRUCTION BOARD LEADER RODNEY FISCHER RETIRES

Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board executive director Rodney Fischer retired on Tuesday after 20 years leading the agency. "The issue with the PCCLB should not be about me," Fischer told a meeting of the Pinellas County legislative delegation, where he announced his retirement. "The PCCLB is not in the business of making friends." The 72-year-old former builder came under fire after a Tampa Bay Times investigation detailed how board members failed to properly disclose conflicts of interest while disciplining contractors and failed to obey Florida's public records laws.

DEMOCRATS BOYCOTT CONFIRMATION HEARINGS FOR PRICE AND MNUCHIN, BLOCKING VOTES

Democrats intensified their opposition to President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries on Tuesday by further delaying the confirmation of several of his Cabinet nominees amid strong Republican objections. Hours after Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his executive order banning certain immigrants and refugees, Democrats lashed out during hearings held to approve Trump's choices to lead the departments of Justice and Treasury - or didn't show up at all.

GOV. RICK SCOTT PROPOSES $83.5 BILLION STATE BUDGET

Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $83.5 billion state budget proposal on Tuesday that would cut $618 million in taxes mostly for businesses, boost education funding and would revive his cherished job incentive program the Legislature eviscerated last year. Scott said decreasing taxes, even though mostly for businesses, helps all Floridians. A week after threatening Florida ports with retaliation if they do business with Cuba, Scott is using his proposed budget to further make the point. It includes a line prohibiting money from a pot of $176 million for various port improvements from going to any facilities the does business with the communist nation.

PH.D. CANDIDATE AT USF WENT TO CARE FOR MOTHER, NOW STUCK IN IRAN

[Courtesy of Mehdi Zeyghami]

Mehdi Zeyghami, photographed here at a solar power plant operated by the University of South Florida, learned Monday he may lose his shot at a Ph.D. from USF because he traveled back to Iran to care for his mother. An executive order from President Donald Trump bars Iranians from entering the United States for 90 days.

For eight months, 34-year-old Iranian Mehdi Zeyghami had waited for his visa so he could return to Tampa to defend his dissertation on solar energy technology at the University of South Florida. He'd put his life on hold to return to Tehran last May to care for his mother after she had open heart surgery. On Thursday, his case number popped up on the U.S. Consulate's web site. His visa was ready, and it looked like he would make it back to Tampa in time for the spring semester. He booked a flight to pick it up at the U.S. embassy in Armenia. Then came President Donald Trump's executive order. His dreams have been deferred again, indefinitely.

POLICE: NEW PORT RICHEY MAN, RECENTLY RELEASED FROM PRISON, CONFESSES TO BOOST MOBILE ARMED ROBBERY

A New Port Richey man faces charges after he walked into a Boost Mobile store Sunday evening and pulled a knife on a clerk, holding it up to her throat and demanding money, according to the New Port Richey Police Department. The man, later identified as John McCarthy, 27, of New Port Richey, was just released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for a sex offense, police said.

FLORIDA CONSUMER CONFIDENCE AT 15-YEAR HIGH AMID GROWING PESSIMISM ABOUT THE FUTURE

Consumer confidence among Floridians has reached the highest point in nearly 15 years, though there is growing gloominess about what the future holds, according to a University of Florida report released Tuesday morning. A UF survey found consumer sentiment in the state ticked up another one-half point to 97.8, up from a revised 97.3 in December. That's the highest reading since March 2002.

USF RELEASES RENDERINGS OF NEW MORSANI COLLEGE OF MEDICINE BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN TAMPA

[Courtesy of USF]

The University of South Florida unveiled preliminary renderings of the future home of its USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa.

The University of South Florida on Tuesday morning unveiled renderings of the Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute buildings set to begin construction in downtown Tampa at South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive this summer. The renderings offer an early look at USF's future facility, which will house a medical school and a cardiovascular research institute. The $152.6-million building is part of the 50-plus acre redevelopment of downtown Tampa, spearheaded by Strategic Property Partners, a real estate firm backed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment.

IMMIGRATION ORDER PLAYING WELL TO TRUMP'S FANS AROUND NATION

President Donald Trump's order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries is playing well in Trump Country, those places that propelled him to the White House. The New York businessman and reality TV star promised to put America first during the campaign, his supporters say, and he's doing it. That includes securing the nation's borders and doing everything possible to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. In their view, Trump is being Trump. They add that Democrats and liberal snowflakes and soft-hearted do-gooders just need to calm down.

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA'S DAVID BOWIE TRIBUTE EVOKES AWE, NOSTALGIA FOR SINGER TONY VINCENT

[Courtesy of the Florida Orchestra]

Singer Tony Vincent, welcomed the opportunity to lead the Florida Orchestra concert, The Music of David Bowie at the Mahaffey Theater.

Tony Vincent will pay tribute to the legend whose music defied genre, just as his androgynous persona evaded labels. The singer who has performed alongside Paul McCartney before Queen Elizabeth II, will headline this weekend's Florida Orchestra concert at the Mahaffey Theater, The Music of David Bowie. Brent Havens, who has led the orchestra's previous tributes to bands including the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Police, will conduct.

USL EXECS SUPPORT ROWDIES' MLS BID, THINK TAMPA BAY WILL REMAIN SECOND-TIER FOR NOW

Bill Edwards, former Mayor Rick Baker and a swarm of Ralph's Mob, the fervent fans of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, delivered the team's Major League Soccer application Monday to league executives in New York. Considering the Rowdies haven't played their first game in their current league, the newly-ordained second-tier United Soccer League, how do USL officials feel about being a stepping stone before the Rowdies have even placed a toe in the league? Surprisingly good, Charlie Frago writes.

MCKAY: COMMUNICATION, DRIVE ARE KEY TO JOHN LYNCH AS 49ERS' GM

John Lynch should make a seamless transition from player and broadcaster to the 49ers general manager because of his competitiveness and ability to communicate. That's according to Falcons president Rich McKay, who went from the Bucs general counsel to GM in 1994 before leaving for the same position in Atlanta in 2003. "The trait I like about John for this is his competitiveness," McKay told Rick Stroud on Monday at Super Bowl LI.

ENTERTAINMENT IS EXPENSIVE! HERE'S HOW TO GET TICKETS CHEAPER

Entertainment has gotten really expensive, everywhere, all the time, from concerts to live theater. Local professional theater can routinely reach $50 a seat, features editor Stephanie Hayes writes. And she can't even talk about Hamilton. But the reality is, you have to pick your artistic shots if you're on any kind of budget. She offers a few hints.

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Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 2 hours ago

nationResearchers work to avoid another 1918 super-flu The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after on...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 3 hours ago
‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

‘Three Billboards’ sweeps female-focused SAG Awards

LOS ANGELES — The Western-inspired revenge tale Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri swept the female-focused and led Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday with wins for best ensemble, best actress for Frances McDormand and best supporting actor for...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Shutdown opens week

Shutdown opens week

Associated PressWASHINGTON — The government shutdown will extend into the workweek as the Senate appeared to inch closer to ending a partisan stalemate late Sunday but fell short of agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Oxfam highlights sharp inequality as Davos elite gather

DAVOS, Switzerland — A CEO from one of the world’s top five global fashion brands has to work for just four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in an entire lifetime, campaigning group Oxfam International said Monday. In advanc...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Amazon opens cashier-less store in Seattle

SEATTLE — Amazon employees have been testing it, but is the public ready for a cashier-less store? More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon is opening its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store today in downtown Seattle. The ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on

At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on "what we can do"

ST. PETERSBURGNear Mirror Lake, as protesters posed for pictures, hung signs on their dogs and distributed chant scripts just after noon Sunday, Linda Pair and her friend Beth Gavin arrived to march.Asked why she came out, Pair, 72, of Largo put it b...
Updated: 5 hours ago
USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

WICHITA — USF led by eight points in the fourth quarter but went cold, and Wichita State pulled off the upset 64-56 Sunday afternoon in a potentially costly loss for the Bulls.USF (15-5, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) missed 14 of its last 15 fiel...
Updated: 6 hours ago