Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

DayStarter: Expect stormy weather; Tallahassee votes today on making computer code a foreign language; NFL scouting combine updates, too

The National Weather Service extended a tornado watch into Pinellas and Hillsborough counties this morning as severe storms moved into the area. The watch was initially set to expire at 10 a.m. Storms should be strongest around noon and wrap up before you drive home from work, according to 10Weather WTSP.

The storms were part of a deadly system that spawned tornadoes across the Gulf Coast last night mangling trailers at an RV park, ripping roofs from buildings and killing at least three people in Louisiana and Mississippi, authorities said. One of the hardest-hit areas in the Gulf Coast appeared to be a recreational vehicle park in the town of Convent, in southern Louisiana. Two people were killed there, said St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin, speaking on local television. Authorities were working into the early morning to look for people possibly trapped under the debris. Thirty-one people were taken to area hospitals and seven of them were in critical condition.

• In Nevada, Donald Trump claimed a third straight commanding victory in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. A tight race for second between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz offered little evidence that Republicans were ready to coalesce around one strong alternative to the businessman billionaire. With victories now under his belt in the West, the South and Northeast, a gleeful Trump was oozing even more confidence than usual Tuesday night that the GOP nomination is within reach. "It's going to be an amazing two months," he told a raucous crowd at a Las Vegas casino. Meanwhile, Cruz, Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are all facing enormous pressure in their home state primaries, which account for about a fourth of the delegates up for grabs in the next three weeks — although most of Florida's elected leaders remain loyal to Jeb Bush or connected to Rubio.

• Ramon Castro, a lifelong rancher and farmer who bore a strong physical resemblance to younger brother Fidel Castro, has died, Cuban state media announced Tuesday. He was 91.

• Hablas HTML? Florida senators are poised to pass a bill today that will allow high school students to count computer coding courses as foreign language credits. Follow Kristen M. Clark on Twitter (@ByKristenMClark) for the latest.

• The Senate passed a change to divorce law yesterday that would require judges to presume that it is best for children to split time equally with both parents and to issue a detailed order if they deviate from that standard. Under current law, judges are supposed to consider 20 criteria, the child's best interests and "frequent and continuing contact with both parents" when they write an order. But Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who sponsored the legislation (SB 250), says the child's well-being is an end goal and that to accomplish that, it's in the best interests of kids to split time evenly with both parents whenever possible.

• Also on tap in Tallahassee: Cabinet aides will meet this morning while Senate committees plan to discuss policies for police body cameras and issuing civil citations to juvenile offenders in some cases. Check out developments all day long in our Florida politics blog, The Buzz.

• Health authorities said they were investigating 14 new reports in the United States of the Zika virus possibly being transmitted by sex, including to pregnant women. If confirmed, the unexpectedly high number would have major implications for controlling the virus, which is usually spread by mosquito bites.

• Two weeks after the National Rifle Association's top state lobbyist demanded that the governor and Legislature abolish the Southwest Florida Water Management District over its treatment of a Pinellas Park gun club, the agency quietly dropped a lawsuit against the club. The matter was added to a Tuesday meeting agenda at the last minute and passed unanimously without discussion. In fact, it was not clear when — if ever — board members discussed the topic. The Times questioned an agency spokeswoman about whether Swiftmud board members discussed the topic with each other outside of public view, which would be a violation of Florida's Sunshine Law. "We do not believe our board members would communicate on this issue outside the sunshine," she said.

• No hearing. No vote. Don't even bother knocking on our door. That's the message Senate Republicans delivered to President Barack Obama and his sometime-soon nominee for the Supreme Court, an extraordinary election-year rebuff as the GOP insists that replacing Justice Antonin Scalia rests with voters in November's election and the next president. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that his 54-member GOP caucus was united against taking any step in the Senate's "advise and consent" process. The Judiciary Committee will not hold confirmation hearings for the nominee. The panel and the full Senate will not vote. And a handful of Republicans, including McConnell, said they would not even meet with the nominee when the individual makes introductions on Capitol Hill.

• A federal judge could allow a conservative legal group to question top aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about whether she deliberately sought to subvert open records laws by using a private email server.

• The Lightning beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 last night behind goals from Steven Stamkos and Cedric Paquette. Paquette's goal came on what he said might have been the first penalty shot of his life. "Didn't look like it," Bolts coach Jon Cooper quipped after the game.

• The NFL Scouting Combine is this week in Indianapolis. Look for updates from Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud on the Bucs Beat blog, and make sure you're following Rick on Twitter (@NFLStroud).

• Before tonight's show in Clearwater by Darlene Love, the singer chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom, she talked with our film critic Steve Persall. They discussed Phil Spector, classic songs and how E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt made it a mission for her to reclaim the spotlight.

• Here are the top things to do today around Tampa Bay, including country star Travis Tritt at the Mahaffey and comedian Jeff Dunham — the only ventriloquist with a rock star following — at Amalie Arena.

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