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News at noon: Violence and distrust in the Syrian capital; Obama's climate change plan update; Rubio on his debate gaffes; New death penalty law in the Florida legislature; Jones on Cam Newton post-loss

Weird Florida: Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials say Joshua James, 24, threw this 3.5-foot alligator through a Palm Beach County Wendy's drive-thru window in October. [WPTV-West Palm]

Weird Florida: Fish and Wildlife Conservation officials say Joshua James, 24, threw this 3.5-foot alligator through a Palm Beach County Wendy's drive-thru window in October. [WPTV-West Palm]

Today in the Syrian capital, an ISIS-credited car bomb struck an area that had been quiet for about two years under a local agreement between the Syrian government and insurgents. The citizens who benefited from the U.S. and allies' financial and military assistance to Syrian opposition fighters now say that investment risks are going down the drain, and they see little urgency from Washington to save it.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has canceled an event in South Carolina on the heels of his disappointing finish in the New Hampshire GOP primary.

President Barack Obama's administration is vowing to press ahead with efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions after yesterday, when a divided Supreme Court put the president's climate change plan on hold until after legal challenges are resolved.

Marco Rubio appeared on television earlier this morning, attributing his poor showing in New Hampshire to his debate meltdown and the media attention that followed.

After hearing emotional testimony from families of murder victims, Florida House members stood firm Wednesday on a new death penalty law that does not require juries to be unanimous in recommending death sentences.

Miami-Dade County is one step closer to a needle exchange program aimed at curbing the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Today's bill allows the University of Miami to start a five-year pilot program through which people can exchange used needles for clean ones.

It's gotten even tougher for jobless Floridians to get unemployment benefits as they try to get back to work. How Florida stacks up against other states in terms of benefits for the unemployed.

A sculpture that has prompted police calls in other cities, is now installed at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. Why a figure on the bench in the courtyard is turning heads and making passersby think twice during the Lenten season.

It's Ash Wednesday, and at on Tampa Catholic church, Rev. Len Plazewski is putting a playful spin to the beginning of Lent with a choose-your-own-sacrifice spinning wheel, meant to nudge parishioners to make Lent a little unconventional this year.

Fries with that? A man was accused of tossing an alligator at a drive-thru in West Palm Beach. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Read the Florida man story here.

Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird — and its now-somewhat sullied hero Atticus Finch — are heading to Broadway in a new adaptation written by Aaron Sorkin.

How do we want our fallen athletes to act? We want them to hurt. We want them to be upset. We want them to be angry. But we also want them to be gracious and humble. How does Cam Newton's performance make him a polarizing figure in sports today?

Plant High has retired a class of 2008 player's jersey number. Houston Astros LF Preston Tucker's, who made his Major League debut last season with the Houston Astros on May 7, finished 2015 with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs.

News at noon: Violence and distrust in the Syrian capital; Obama's climate change plan update; Rubio on his debate gaffes; New death penalty law in the Florida legislature; Jones on Cam Newton post-loss 02/10/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 2:10pm]
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  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]