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Morning briefing: Highs around 70 today — also, Laura Reiley's top 50 restaurants, a Pier funding vote and developments in Tallahassee

The weather should be pretty nifty today, with highs cracking 70 and lows in the 50s, according to 10Weather WTSP. There will probably be a few clouds.

• Fifty great restaurants. Ten years ago it would have required heroic effort to come up with that number in the Tampa Bay area. But we're in the midst of a remarkable boom period for restaurants. Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley has released her annual list of Tampa Bay's Top 50 Restaurants. Browse the 2016 list, divided by cuisine categories, at tampabay.com/top50restaurants. Reiley's carefully cultivated restaurant list is also in print in today's Weekend section of the Times — something you should store away in a safe place for a year's worth of date night ideas.

• The Lightning's Jonathan Drouin saga took another stunning twist last night and appears headed for an ugly ending. Drouin, the team's No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, was suspended indefinitely without pay by the team after he failed to report for AHL Syracuse's game in Toronto. Drouin, 20, has played seven games for the Crunch while he awaits a trade he requested in November. When the trade demand was made public Jan. 3, agent Allan Walsh called Drouin's situation with the Lightning "untenable." After this move, it may be irreparable. Sports columnist Tom Jones writes that it might be the dumbest thing Drouin could have done.

President Vladimir Putin probably approved a plan by Russia's FSB security service to kill a former agent-turned-Kremlin critic who died after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison, a British judge said Thursday in a strongly worded report that led Moscow to accuse Britain of souring bilateral relations.

• Drivers in the Washington area spent hours in icy gridlock ahead of heavy snowfall that's predicted to arrive by the weekend from the Appalachians to Philadelphia and maybe farther north. Treated roads were clear this morning, but some elevated roads, ramps and side streets were icy with drivers inching along.

• Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media should seek mediation instead of a trial, the Pinellas County circuit judge overseeing their case said in a hearing yesterday. Judge Pamela Campbell made her suggestion during a discussion about attorneys' upcoming review of DVDs made during an FBI sting operation. The former professional wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker for $100 million in 2012. He accused the company of violating his right to privacy by publishing part of a sex tape of him and Heather Cole, ex-wife of radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

• Tumbling financial markets are further clouding Gov. Rick Scott's push for $1 billion in tax cuts as the Legislature deals with a suddenly less rosy financial outlook and less money to divvy up. State budget forecasters said this week that they expect Florida will have nearly $400 million less for its budget than originally thought, and that the "possibility of additional adverse international developments introduces a greater than normal degree of risk to this forecast."

• Hoping to override legislation that would relax existing state law by allowing concealed-weapons permit holders to visibly carry their weapons in public, the Florida Sheriffs Association announced its own measure yesterday to protect concealed-carry permit holders from arrest if they accidentally display a firearm in public. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri — the FSA's legislative chairman — says the measure clarifies Florida laws and diminishes the call to legalize open carry. "The way we crafted this proposal is airtight and provides a fix," Gualtieri said. "It states that no law-abiding, concealed-carry holder will ever face any sanctions for inadvertently exposing their gun."

• It may not open for another two and a half years, but St. Petersburg's new Pier is already taking shape. At 3 p.m. today, the City Council will vote on spending an initial $318,030 for architectural and engineering services to design the 21-acre approach that will link the Pier to the city's waterfront. New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, working with St. Pete's Wannemacher Jensen, beat out four other design teams to get the job late last year.

• Former Tampa police officer Jeanette Hevel gets sentenced this morning for stealing tax refund checks from an evidence room. In a sentencing memo, her attorney says she was trying to pay for a divorce from an unfaithful husband.

• Michael Render, a.k.a. Killer Mike, came to the University of South Florida last night without a speech meticulously planned for the students who packed into the Oval Theater to see the rapper and social activist. But the Grammy-winning artist of Run the Jewels fame didn't need to glance down at index cards or stay stationary behind the podium to make his message clear. Fast-talking and passionate, Render paced the stage as he looked into the sea of USF students and told them: You need to get out in the community if you want to make a difference. "It is time for you to take your butt off campus and find a child that does not look like you" to mentor, he said.

• Drivers in the Washington area spent hours in icy gridlock ahead of heavy snowfall that's predicted to arrive by the weekend from the Appalachians to Philadelphia and maybe farther north.

• Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet hear presentations from some of the heads of Florida's 12 public universities, as well as Bethune-Cookman University, about plans for how they will meet the governor's "Ready, Set, Work" challenge. The Cabinet will also hear about the final report on the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Check back later today at tampabay.com/politics for updates.

• Cafe Hey and Oceanic supermarket, two trailblazers in the burgeoning Tampa Heights district, now home to Ulele and Waterworks Park, will be replaced by multiple lanes of traffic. La Segunda Bakery also will be affected. That's why Jordan Miller, owner of Seminole Heights' Vélo Champ bicycle shop, has started offering tours of the Florida Department of Transportation's proposed expansion of Interstate 275, from Seminole Heights to Ybor City. The next ride is scheduled for Saturday. Find out more later today on tampabay.com.

• Here are the top things to do in Tampa Bay today, from Broadway's Lion King to the Lightning vs. Blackhawks game to a free historical museum tour.

• Wallet a little light after the holidays? Here are five things to do under $5 this week. You can see a David Bowie movie, hear best-selling authors read their books and see a motorcycle expo, all for free.

• Tired of hibernating from the cold? We offer some ideas for indoor fun and you should keep it handy for the next cold front, which happens to be coming this weekend.

• Check out beat writer Joe Smith's latest Lightning Strikes podcast this afternoon at tampabay.com/lightning.

[10Weather WTSP]

[10Weather WTSP]

Morning briefing: Highs around 70 today — also, Laura Reiley's top 50 restaurants, a Pier funding vote and developments in Tallahassee 01/21/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 10:48am]
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