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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

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Hernando County: 352-754-6101

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On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

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  1. International travel conference in Orlando to be a boon for Tampa Bay

    Tourism

    Writers, tour operators, airline representatives and other tourism boosters will descend upon Orlando this weekend for the start of the U.S. Travel Association's 2015 IPW conference, the industry's premier international travel confab.

    Representatives from travel destinations across the United States — including Visit St. Pete-Clearwater and Visit Tampa Bay — will be at the Orange County Convention Center hoping to lure travel writers from countries like Sweden, Germany and China to the Tampa Bay region; and to sign deals with tour operators from airlines like British Airways and travel websites like Expedia....

  2. St. Petersburg police volunteer turns old shopping bags into sleeping mats for the homeless

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Just about everyone in the police department's Volunteer Road Patrol knows not to throw away their plastic shopping bags.

    Their colleague, Karen Hansford, needs them.

    The bags make up Hansford's "plarn" — plastic yarn — which she uses to make thick sleeping mats for the homeless in St. Petersburg. She cuts the bags into strips, ties them together and joins the strings with a crochet hook. About 1,000 bags later, she has a 6-foot by 4-foot waterproof mat....

    Volunteer Road Patrol member Karen Hansford, 66, uses plastic grocery bags to make mats for the homeless. She uses about 1,000 plastic bags to crochet a 6'X4' sleeping mat. It takes her about a month to make one and they are surprisingly lightweight, cushy, and weather resistant. Hansford poses in front of a mat and a ball of "plarn," plastic yard made from grocery bags. [
JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  TIMES]
  3. Walker Stalker Con brings loads of 'Walking Dead' actors to Orlando

    Florida

    What started as a podcast episode out of a central filming site for The Walking Dead has turned into a gathering for fans of Dead and other shows, movies and art with macabre characters. Walker Stalker Con creators James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff wanted to bring the same experiences they had in Senoia, Ga., to the show's fans, so the con will bring more than 40 actors from The Walking Dead to Orlando's Orange County Convention Center on June 27-28, including Norman Reedus (Daryl), Emily Kinney (Beth), Jon Bernthal (Shane) and David Morrissey (the Governor). In addition to guest panels, pics and autographs, vendors and artists, Kinney will have a concert, IronE Singleton (T-Dog) will perform a one-man show, and Face Off winner Tate Steinsiek will show how to "bring the dead to life." VIP packages are sold out, but celebrity VIP packages and general admission tickets ($55 Saturday, $45 Sunday, $100 weekend) are still available. For more information, see walkerstalkercon.com. — Chelsea Tatham, Times staff...

    Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.
  4. Florida chooses lone bidder to sort through its school testing problems

    Testing

    Two weeks after the close of Florida's troubled spring testing season, a Utah-based firm won approval Friday to determine whether the tests are valid.

    Alpine Testing Solutions, partnering with Washington, D.C.-based edCount LLC, was the only group to bid on the project, which lawmakers mandated amid parent and educator complaints about the tests and their implementation. Their concerns included technology problems during testing, as well as the way the tests were assembled and sampled ahead of time....

  5. Utilities change their tune on solar power

    Energy

    Just two years ago, the president of Duke Energy Florida said the Sunshine State had too many clouds for solar power to be effective.

    But since early this year, Alex Glenn, the Duke Florida president, has touted one solar project after another, with promises of up to 500 megawatts over the next 10 years – more than twice the state's current solar capacity.

    This week, for instance, Duke announced plans for about 1 percent of its goal with 48,000 panels laid out in a Disney-themed design near Orlando. That followed a solar power event filled with great fanfare, including a set of Tesla electric cars, a week earlier at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. ...

  6. Tarpon Springs neighbors baffled by house, trees covered in aluminum foil

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS — Neighbors haven't quite wrapped their heads around what's going on at 402 Ashland Ave., where aluminum foil covers every inch of a house on three sides and dangles like silver earrings from trees.

    They've asked resident Piotr Janowski: Is he installing new insulation, pest control, antennas? He explains that it's an outdoor art project, inspired by Florida's beauty....

    An ear shaped sculpture on atree at Vienna artist Piotr Janowski's house. The artist has wrapped three walls of his Tarpon Springs house in aluminum foil as well as two trees. Some neighbors are upset. He's also made some ear shaped aluminum foil sculptures that are attached to some trees on his property. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  7. Tampa lawyer sues over anonymous online review in case with First Amendment overtones

    Business

    If someone online makes false statements that anonymously trash your professional reputation, should you be able to find out who posted the review?

    Yes, says Tampa divorce and family law attorney Deborah Thomson, a central figure in a precedent-setting case now on appeal in the state of Washington.

    Thomson, 44, is a partner at The Women's Law Group in Carrollwood. Last year she filed a defamation suit against an anonymous reviewer on the attorney ratings web site Avvo.com. She has asked courts in Seattle, where Avvo is based, to enforce a subpoena for information that would unmask her anonymous critic....

    Tampa attorney Deborah Thomson is trying to unmask an anonymous online critic she said made false, misleading and defamatory statements about her.
  8. Find A Friend: Milley the hound

    Pets

    Her foster mom calls this shelter hound named Milley "the perfect mix." At age 7, she's a calm companion that's also got plenty of pep in her step. Milley is fully vaccinated, spayed, microchipped, housetrained, good in the car and great with kids. But Milley's temporary family must move north and find her a forever home rather than return her to the crowded shelter. To meet and adopt deserving Milley, ID No. A25006148, call the Hillsborough Pet Resource Center at (813) 744-5660, go to hillsboroughcounty.org/pets or visit the center at 440 Falkenburg Road, open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily....

    Milley, who will be featured in the May 29 Pet of the Week feature in the Hillsborough regional editions. Milley's photos are courtesy of the Hillsborough Pet Resource Center.
  9. Storylines for the 2015 Women's World Cup

    Soccer

    Storylines heading into the Women's World Cup, June 6-July 5 in Canada.

    It has been a long time

    The United States is a serious contender in every major competition it enters, and has been ever since winning the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991. Four Olympic gold medals in five attempts, and 10 titles at the prestigious annual Algarve Cup, attest to that.

    But except for Christie Rampone, this generation of American players is missing something: a World Cup title....

    In this Oct. 24, 2014 file photo, United States' Christie Rampone heads the ball against Mexico during the second half of a CONCACAF semifinal soccer match in Chester, Pa. With each match the Americans play and through every rigorous training session, they become more comfortable together on a new-look back line ahead of their World Cup opener 2 1/2 weeks from now against Australia in Winnipeg.  Especially with veteran defender and captain Rampone helping lead this young group in her fifth World Cup. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Daily News via AP)
  10. 29-story towers, possible grocery store proposed between Channel District and Ybor

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — A company recently created by Tampa developer Donald Phillips has applied for city zoning to build a mixed-use project with two 29-story residential towers and space for a grocery store on what is now a Peoples Gas equipment yard between the Channel District and Ybor City.

    The proposed Gas Worx project would have three buildings, with 1,432 apartments or condominiums in the towers, according to a rezoning application filed with City Hall last week....

    The proposed Gas Worx project would bring 1,432 apartments or condominiums and potentially a grocery store to 7.6 acres between Ybor City and the Channel District. It is being proposed by a new company formed by Tampa developer Donald Phillips. This rendering was included with a rezoning application filed with City Hall last week.
  11. Favorite moments from 'Outlander' before the season 1 finale

    Blog

    Outlander has managed quite an achievement. It somehow exceeded this obsessive book fan’s high expectations.

    Saying “the books are always better” is a pretty easy argument to win in most cases. And, yes, Outlander, the book, is better. But with some crafty editing and great casting, executive producer Ronald D. Moore gives fans a satisfying retelling of Diana Gabaldon’s epic tale of romance, history and feminism....

    Awww, Claire and Jamie!
  12. Man tries, fails to rob bank in Tampa

    Crime

    TAMPA — Tampa police are searching for a man who attempted to rob the Bank of America at 15301 Amberly Drive on Friday morning, officials said.

    Officials said the man approached the teller at about 10:15 a.m. He gave the teller a note demanding money but did not get any and fled.

  13. Friday's sports on TV/radio

    TV and Radio

  14. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sunday May 31

    Events

    Monet to Matisse Exhibit: This the last day to see the exhibit of Impressionist and Modernist visions including Boudin, Renoir and Picasso in addition to the headliners Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. The museum will open at 11 a.m. instead of noon, Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. $17, $15 seniors and military, $10 students with college ID, kids 6 and younger free. ...

    Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)  The Customs House at Varengeville (1897)  Oil on canvas
  15. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Saturday May 30

    Events

    Clearwater Centennial Parade and Block Party: Clearwater celebrates its 100th birthday with a parade followed by a community bock party and fireworks. Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who played Hazel in the Dolphin Tale movies, will serve as the parade grand marshal and will attend the block party. 6:30 p.m., Drew Street and Fort Harrison to Coachman Park. Free.

    Hurricane Expo: It's free admission today at MOSI while the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County present this annual expo to help residents get ready for hurricane season. Anyone attending the expo can view IMAX films for $4. 10 a.m., Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. Free....

    Cozi Zuehlsdorff narrates the new documentary about Winter the Dolphin.
STEVE PERSALL - Times