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News at noon: Tiny the terrier, Hillary Clinton's ties to a St. Pete company and what the bay area's rental market means for poor families

Tiny the terrier is up for adoption after his former owners, a homeless couple, were killed last month. [Save A Boxer]

Tiny the terrier is up for adoption after his former owners, a homeless couple, were killed last month. [Save A Boxer]

We heard this morning about Tiny the Terrier, the dog owned by the homeless couple, Tommy Skeens and Lara Kuchar, who were found dead at a vacant Tampa gas station last month. Tiny had already been without a home. Suddenly, he was without a family, too. But Tiny's life may soon see a turnaround.

We're also learning more this morning about Hillary Clinton's 2012 intervention in a request forwarded by her son-in-law on behalf of St. Petersburg-based Neptune Minerals Inc. The company was seeking help setting up contacts in the State Department; Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, ordered a senior government official to look into the request.

More than a fourth of all Tampa Bay renters are "severely burdened'' by rent payments that consume at least half of their income and leave little money for health care and other necessities. That's among the startling findings of a report on America's rental crisis released today by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. It shows that a record number of renters in the bay area and nationwide face serious affordability problems at a time when rents are growing faster than incomes and the supply of moderately priced rental housing fails to meet the surging demand.

With 10 days remaining, the final countdown to the Dec. 18 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has begun. We've got your daily fix, with our movie critic Steve Persall points out that the coolest Christmas present Star Wars fans opened in 1977 was a nearly empty box. In the new economics of movie merchandise, will kids will ever have that experience again? And just as importantly: If you're going to binge-watch the entire series before the new premiere, what order should you put them in?

Remember Sunday? Sunday was crazy — especially if you spent some of it watching Jameis Winston's mind-bending scramble on a key play in the Bucs-Falcons game. Even more so if you also saw Marcus Mariota's 87-yard touchdown run in the Titans-Jaguars matchup. Who's the better quarterback, now that we're three-quarters of the way through their rookie seasons? Our Thomas Bassinger digs deep into the numbers.

Carrot Top might be known as a punch line as much as a comedian, but he says he can not bomb on stage. "I've done it too long, and I think I've got too many ways to get out of it," he said during a recent phone call from his home in Las Vegas. As he comes to Clearwater's Capitol Theatre on Sunday, he's become one of comedy's most bankable acts — even if his act these days might not be quite what you're expecting. But if Carrot Top's not your cup of tea, check out our guides to this weekend's stage, movie, dining and other events at tbtim.es/weekend.

Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart issued a 2014–15 school grades simulation this morning as the State Board of Education nears its January decision on cut scores and grading guidelines, presenting a picture that's not nearly as negative as many observers anticipated.

You've heard plenty about travel visas as they pertain to the terrorism and national security debate. Have you heard the discussion that involves Disney? The theme park sparked controversy by laying off 250 workers — but requiring that they first train their replacements from an outsourcing company in India, if they wanted their severance pay. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson introduced legislation this morning to slash the number of H-1B visas to keep that from happening again.

The two San Bernardino shooters were radicalized at least two years ago and had discussed jihad and martyrdom as early as 2013, FBI Director James Comey tells a congressional panel.

With an overwhelming show of support, the Senate passed and sent to President Barack Obama a massive education bill this morning that would return to the states significant control over school accountability and testing. Obama was expected to sign it.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was named Time's Person of the Year this morning. Why? Mostly because of the role she's played in Europe's Syrian refugee controversy and that Greek debt crisis you'd forgotten about.

Finally, if you're wondering what the perfect present would be for Tampa 9-year-old Julius Pfau, help him recover the stolen baseball glove that was a special gift from his ailing grandfather.

News at noon: Tiny the terrier, Hillary Clinton's ties to a St. Pete company and what the bay area's rental market means for poor families 12/09/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 1:02pm]
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[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

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    Local Government

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