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Your DayStarter: Gunmen seize guests at a hotel in Mali; also, today's weather — and it's a big day for the gyrocopter mailman

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will release the latest snapshot of Florida employment at 10 a.m. Friday. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will release the latest snapshot of Florida employment at 10 a.m. Friday. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]

A cold front in the gulf will park just south of the Tampa Bay area today, bringing us highs in the low 80s and partly sunny skies, according to WTSP 10Weather. Another cold front sweeps through late Saturday, meaning strong thunderstorms in the evening that may continue through Sunday.

• At least three people are confirmed dead this morning after men shouting "God is great" in Arabic and armed with guns and grenades stormed a hotel in Mali's capital this morning and trapped guests inside. The company that operates the hotel said the assailants had "locked in" 140 guests and 30 employees, though Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore later said that 20 people had been released. Just after 7 a.m., CNN was reporting that at least 80 had been released. Any number of Muslim extremist groups could be behind the attack, which unfolded one week after the attacks on Paris that killed 129 people. A handful of jihadi groups seized the northern half of Mali in 2012 but were ousted from cities and towns by a French military intervention.

• By the time the United States withdrew from Iraq in 2010, it thought it had declawed the Islamic State, which had many names and incarnations but at the time was neither fearsome nor a state. Yet five years later, the Islamic State is on a very different trajectory, achieving its resurgence through two single-minded means: control of territory and, by design, unspeakable cruelty. Today, we explore the origins of ISIS.

• At 10 this morning, Gov. Rick Scott will release the latest snapshot on Florida's employment picture — including its unemployment rate and jobs created statewide. And the head of the agency overseeing efforts to drive down unemployment is coming to Safety Harbor to discuss how Tampa Bay fared. Follow @Times_Levesque and check back at for the latest.

Time to plan your weekend! Our critics have mapped out their top picks for music (Mavis Staples, George Winston and tributes to legend Allen Toussaints), on stage (the Florida Orchestra salutes Sinatra) and outdoor fun (sand sculptures on Treasure Island, a Bourbon and Brew fest in the park and more).

Thomas Bassinger provides his scouting report on the Bucs game at Philadelphia. Look for it by lunchtime at

• Doug Hughes, the Ruskin mailman who made headlines when he landed a gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn this year, plans to plead guilty in federal court at 11:30 this morning.

• Former spy Jonathan Pollard is set to be released from a federal prison in North Carolina today, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. He's expected to settle in the New York area while he spends at least the next five years on parole. He will be barred from traveling outside the country and from using the Internet.

• Follow the latest high school football playoff action tonight at our HomeTeam page.

Your DayStarter: Gunmen seize guests at a hotel in Mali; also, today's weather — and it's a big day for the gyrocopter mailman 11/20/15 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2015 9:12am]
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  1. Protectors of Confederate statue readied for a battle that never materialized

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Big Dixie flags were waving. County employees had erected a barrier around the Confederate soldier statue at Main and Broad streets. Roads and parking areas were blocked off. Uniformed local officers and federal law enforcement patrolled.

    Police tape and barricades surround the Confederate statue in Brooksville.
  2. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  4. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  5. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]