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News at noon: Russian space capsule; Closed Los Angeles school district; GOP debate preview; Tampa Bay borrowers gain home equity; Tom Jones column; Reader's Digest version of Star Wars

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-19M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off Tuesday at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian rocket carries British astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. astronaut Tim Kopra. [Associated Press]

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-19M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off Tuesday at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian rocket carries British astronaut Tim Peake, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. astronaut Tim Kopra. [Associated Press]

A Russian space capsule carrying three astronauts from the United States, Britain and Russia has blasted off for the International Space Station. The Soyuz capsule is scheduled to dock with the station today at 12:23 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Aboard are Russian Yuri Malenchenko, Timothy Kopra of NASA and Briton Timothy Peake, representing the European Space Agency.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools have been ordered closed Tuesday due to an unspecified threat, school district officials said at a news conference Tuesday morning. Follow here for updates.

In BaltimoreOfficer William Porter's lawyers say he's not to blame for Gray's death.On the other side, prosecutors say it would have taken just two clicks for Officer William Porter to save Freddie Gray's life: one click to buckle him into the back of a transport van and another click of his police radio to call for medical help.

Coverage of tonight's early Republican presidential debate begins at 6 p.m. on CNN. Here's what you need to know: Five things to watch in tonight's GOP debate

The Federal Reserve begins its final meeting of 2015 Tuesday, and it's poised to raise interest rates Wednesday for the first time in 9.5 years. It may not take so long to know whether its decision was correct.

More Tampa Bay borrowers are gaining equity in their homes. Read why the increase in positive equity is good news for both the real estate market and the overall economy.

The bodies of a man and woman were found in the apartment attached to a Town 'n Country home. Read the story: Authorities: Couple dead in Tampa apartment Late Monday, a pedestrian was found dead in a Pinellas Park ditch after hit-and-run.

Who do you think will win this week's NFL games? Now readers of the chance to chime in with their picks each week, as well as throwing their names in the hat to win a $20 dining gift certificate.

Later this afternoon: Tom Jones takes a look at this year's cover of Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year. While Serena Williams deserved the cover, it would have been nice to see her in a more powerful, less provocative pose.

So you bought your weekend Star Wars tickets but don't totally remember all of the previous movies? Today we've got the reader's digest version of the series. With the seventh part in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, arriving in theaters this week, we're celebrating all things geeky from a galaxy far, far away.

Six weeks after joining Taylor Swift onstage in front of the biggest crowd she's ever seen, Alessia Cara still sounds dazed by the experience. Read her interview here

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: Russian space capsule; Closed Los Angeles school district; GOP debate preview; Tampa Bay borrowers gain home equity; Tom Jones column; Reader's Digest version of Star Wars 12/15/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 12:00pm]
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  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers

    Crime

    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.