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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. What you need to know for Thursday, Oct. 19


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    White nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida tonight and the school is on high alert for tensions. [Associated Press]
  2. Bowen: Park land deal raises Penny for Pasco questions


    The Penny for Pasco is unambiguous.

    At least it is supposed to be.

    There was no equivocating in 2004 when Penny for Pasco supporters detailed how the sales tax proceeds would be spent: schools, transportation, public safety and environmental lands. No money for parks. No money for recreation.

    Pasco County is considering a loan from its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Mangement Program to buy land for a park in the Villages of Pasadena Hills in east-central Pasco. Shown here is the Jumping Gully Preserve in Spring Hil, acquired by ELAMP in 2009 and 2011.
[Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  3. Another Tampa Bay agency loses tax credits worth millions in dispute over application error


    LARGO — Another Tampa Bay housing agency has lost out on a multi-million dollar tax credit award because of problems with its application.

    A duplex in Rainbow Village, a public housing complex in Largo. The Pinellas County Housing Authority is planning to build new affordable-housing in the complex but was recently disqualified from a state tax credit award because of an issue with its application.
  4. Live blog: Many unknowns as Richard Spencer speaks in Gainesville today


    GAINESVILLE — A small army of law enforcement officers, many of them from cities and counties around the state, have converged on the University of Florida in preparation for today's speaking appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

    Florida Highway Patrol cruisers jammed the parking lot Wednesday at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville, part of a big show of force by law enforcement ahead of Thursday's appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
  5. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help


    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times