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News at noon: Russians boosted 'fake news'; haunted by fatal decision; Visit Florida; Black Friday, Small Business Saturday; school testing; and college football

Brandon Powell, a 29-year-old from Riverview, browses figurines for sale at GameStop inside the Westfield Brandon Mall during Black Friday. Powell said he had already shopped for his big-ticket items the previous day, during Thanksgiving, and was now looking for a specific video game. "Round two, still awake," he said. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

Brandon Powell, a 29-year-old from Riverview, browses figurines for sale at GameStop inside the Westfield Brandon Mall during Black Friday. Powell said he had already shopped for his big-ticket items the previous day, during Thanksgiving, and was now looking for a specific video game. "Round two, still awake," he said. [ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

The flood of "fake news" this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

STILL BURDENED BY DECISION

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Threatened with death by a stranger on the side of the road, Rob Padgett pulled a Springfield Armory .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol from its place in the cupholder of his Ford Expedition. Padgett has been cleared in the man's fatal shooting. He said he hopes to teach others now about making the right life-or-death decision.

As the furious driver shouted threats and stormed toward Rob Padgett's SUV, Padgett grabbed his handgun from a cupholder. He warned the stranger he was armed and told him to get back in his truck. Padgett didn't know that the angry driver had served prison time for killing a man in an earlier fit of road rage. He had to make a decision .

TOURISM MARKETING ARM UNDER FIRE

Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, has seen its budget grow from about $29 million to more than $78 million since 2009. Meanwhile, the number of tourists in Florida has grown from about 82 million to more than 106 million. But incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran says it's not necessarily because of Visit Florida's programs. He's questioning whether the agency is spending taxpayer money wisely.

IS THIS THE END OF BLACK FRIDAY?

Times

Lines were nearly non-existent Friday morning at Tampa Bay area shopping malls.

The days of waiting in line at crazy, early morning hours for a chance to get a flat screen TV at a good price might be behind us. Long lines and frantic shoppers were nearly nonexistent around Tampa Bay area malls over Thanksgiving weekend, continuing the deflating Black Friday shopping trend we've seen over the past couple of years.

MAYBE SATURDAY WILL BE BETTER

Independent store owners across the Tampa Bay area are banking on the Small Business Saturday movement to drive consumers into their boutiques this holiday season.

COMMUNITY SLIDING INTO HISTORY

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Latonya Wilkins posed for a portrait at her apartment in North Boulevard Homes on Tuesday November 22, 2016, in Tampa. The Tampa Housing Authority will demolish the homes soon, only a few families remain. Wilkins has lived at North Boulevard Homes for five years, but recently got approved for a new apartment in another complex. "It's been real hard, seeing people moving," she said.

The sprawling 44-acre North Boulevard Homes community once thrummed with the laughter, joy, angst and heartache of more than 2,000 residents who lived in the small military-barrack style homes with no air-conditioning. It was a life of block parties and porch conversations, a place marred by crime but blessed by community spirit. Now, just a handful of families are left in the 820-unit complex, and they too will be gone. They are making way for the Tampa Housing Authority's ambitious West River development project.

NEW TESTS TO GUIDE 'TRANSFORMATION SCHOOLS'

Pinellas County educators are noticing a startling divide this semester as results come in from new tests designed to assess how well students in struggling schools understand state standards. Younger students — those in kindergarten through second grade — are scoring higher than their older counterparts in third, fourth and fifth grades. Much higher.

WHO WAS OSWALD'S REAL TARGET?

Times (1963)

Texas Governor John B. Connally, President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, during the motorcade into Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

In the hours after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, after Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit and was identified as the president's assassin, a Secret Service officer named Mike Howard was dispatched to Oswald's apartment. Howard found a little green address book, and on its 17th page under the heading "I WILL KILL" Oswald listed four men/b>.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS

Check out the picks from the Tampa Bay Times Sports staff for Week 13.

WINNER AND LOSER OF THE WEEK

Who are this week's winners and losers in pop culture? Ellen DeGeneres had the internet in tears when she accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber was caught on tape seemingly giving a fan a quick punch to the face while in Barcelona.

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: Russians boosted 'fake news'; haunted by fatal decision; Visit Florida; Black Friday, Small Business Saturday; school testing; and college football 11/25/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 25, 2016 11:42am]
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  1. Housing starts fall in July

    Real Estate

    WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts fell 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million. Groundbreakings for multi-family buildings such as apartments slumped 17.1 percent, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent.

    On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported on U.S. home construction in July. 
[AP file photo]
  2. Pasco doubles tourist tax to finance sports complex

    Tourism

    DADE CITY — Pasco County is doubling its tourist tax to 4 percent to build an indoor sports complex in Wesley Chapel and improve its outdoor boat ramps in west Pasco.

    Pasco County's plan to double its tourist tax on overnight accommodations to 4 percent is intended to help finance a $25 million sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. It  would include a 98,000-quare-foot multipurpose gymnaisium of eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center. Shown here is the four-court fieldhouse with 50,000-square-feet of space for competitions at  Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.  Times photo by James Borchuck (2007)
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Where to see solar eclipse, Bucs training camp

    Events

    1 Solar eclipse: Turn around, bright eyes. Monday brings a total eclipse of the sun, and you'll need protective eyewear to see it. The bay area won't be plunged into darkness for a few minutes like the middle of the country, but with solar lenses you can see this rare event. The Museum of Science and Industry, …

    This photo shows a “diamond ring” shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia. For the 2017 eclipse over the United States, the National Science Foundation-funded movie project nicknamed Citizen CATE will have more than 200 volunteers trained and given special small telescopes and tripods to observe the sun at 68 locations in the exact same way.
  4. Florida man has some of Princess Di's wedding cake, plus 13,000 other royal items (w/photos)

    Human Interest

    John Hoatson recalls the day it all began with perfect clarity.

    John Hoatson poses with a photo taken in 2006 when he met Sarah "Fergie"; Ferguson, the Duchess of York, for tea at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.
  5. Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should be about'

    Blogs

    TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.