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  1. War hero James Harvey Jr., 99, cheated death three times


    CLEARWATER -- That day in 1942, pulling back the joystick on his fighter plane, Lt. James Martin must have thought he didn't have a chance.

    An incoming squadron of Japanese Zero planes had just let loose. Lt. Martin's P-40 Kittyhawk, which had taken off from Canberra, Australia, began falling toward the southern Pacific Ocean.

    On the way down, Lt. Martin tried to stay calm and focus only on his actions moment by moment. He emptied all six of his 50-caliber machine guns, three on each wing....

  2. Homeless across Tampa Bay get Christmas meal

    Human Interest

    TAMPA -- The city streets were quiet on Christmas day, except for a block of Palm Ave., where under a large white tent, several hundred of Tampa's poorest residents enjoyed plates of ham and sweet potatoes.

    Above them, a televised Yule Log crackled. Men in the room talked of switching it to sports.

    The Christmas meal came courtesy of Metropolitan Ministries and dozens of volunteers, some of whom arrived as early as 5 a.m. to sort gifts and begin preparing food. Organizers estimated this year's charitable effort — by now, a familiar tradition — would feed 2,400 people in Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties. ...

  3. Clearwater Beach mini golf course to make way for high-rise hotel

    Real Estate


    It's a winding maze of wooden walkways, shady grottoes, cascading waterfalls and green-carpeted fairways. Heck, there's even a pirate ship.

    For a quarter-century, families visiting Clearwater Beach and seeking a break from the sand and sun have been stopping by to play 18 holes at a miniature golf course called Captain Bligh's Landing.

    Now Captain Bligh and his pet parrot will have to walk the plank. The course's owners have plans to replace it with a nine-story, 159-room hotel, possibly a Marriott....

    Sonny Atwell, from left, Cheryl Atwell and Jordan Atwell, all of Louisville, Ky., play a round of miniature golf recently amid the waterfalls, caves and a pirate ship at Captain Bligh’s Landing at Clearwater Beach.
  4. No end in sight for Island Estates eyesore

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Situated among the well-kept waterfront homes of Island Estates, there's an unfinished house that looks like it got hit by a hurricane. All that's left are crumbling tile floors, rotting carpet, strands of rebar, chunks of concrete-block wall, "No Trespassing" signs, overgrown weeds and a swimming pool filled with scum.

    The property, at the south end of one of the fingers of land that make up Island Estates, has a lovely view of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Memorial Causeway bridge. Yet this apocalyptic landscape has sat untouched for three years now....

  5. Businesses facing rent increase and change in popular Art Block

    Real Estate


    The 600 block of Central Avenue, also known as the Art Block, has reached a level of success that is prompting changes and mixed reviews.

    Five years after a major effort started to revive the empty north side of the block with artists paying as little as $5 a square foot, the original terms on those leases expire Dec. 31 and rents are rising. At least three of the early tenants are moving, and could be replaced with more traditional retailers....

    Anil Albaglar, 28, of Turkey, Anya Solovyeva, 23, of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Heather Lee, 21, of Sarasota explore the Art Block of 600 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. Rent is going up on the block, and some folks are leaving, others not.
  6. Law enforcement agencies warn of phone scams


    The man who claimed to be a Duke Energy representative told Weronika Giadla, owner of the Ritz Resort Motel on Clearwater Beach, she owed roughly $1,800.

    If she didn't pay within hours, he said, the power to her business, where she was hosting 20 guests at the time, would be shut off. Panicked, Giadla rushed to her office, reviewed her latest bill and realized her account was up to date. She called Duke Energy directly, which confirmed she didn't miss any payments. Giadla called police....

  7. Fanciful bird sculptures arrive on the St. Petersburg art scene

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Nestled on perches in and around the downtown waterfront, eight whimsical yellow-throated warblers wait to be found.

    There's Brian, wielding a paint brush in his beak near the Museum of Fine Arts' columned entrance.

    Beatrice peeks inquisitively down on shoppers crossing the threshold to Bruce Watters Jewelers.

    And spot the rest of the bronze flock outside the Dalí Museum, at Straub Park, the Vinoy, the St. Petersburg Museum of History and the Birchwood. ...

    Molly Doyle, 17, poses with "Brian", one of the Birds on Beach, a series of sculptures that tell a story about downtown St. Pete. Doyle came up with the idea of a scavenger-style hunt that involves a family of birds. St. Petersburg artist Donna Gordon made the bird sculptures that can be seen around Beach Drive and include ones in Straub Park and in front of the Dali, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Vinoy. 
  8. Two die in wrong-way crash in Seminole


    SEMINOLE -- Two people were killed Christmas Day in a wrong-way crash, and another woman is in critical condition.

    It happened about 12:30 a.m., when a car traveling west on Park Boulevard's eastbound lanes crashed head-on with two cars at 131st Street N in Seminole, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

    The FHP said Paul E. Pulkownik, 51, of Largo, was driving a Fold Explorer the wrong way when his vehicle slammed into a Hyundai Sonata and then struck another car behind the Sonata....

  9. Driver crashes into Dover home Christmas morning


    DOVER — Christmas morning began with a crash on a quiet street in East Hillsborough when a driver plowed her car into a house.

    According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the crash occurred just before 3 am at a house on Moores Lake Rd. Paramedics who responded to the scene found the driver, Charity D. Burke, 30, trapped in her 2000 Ford SUV. She was the only person injured — residents inside the home at the time were unharmed — and officials said her injuries were non-life threatening. She was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she is currently being treated....

  10. One last spin for Hanukkah

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — Children searched for dreidels while attending Chabad of Clearwater's Family Hanukkah Party on Wednesday, the last day of Hanukkah.

    The event featured a meal and Hanukkah games, including the dreidel hunt, where the children were divided into two teams, team Tel Aviv and team Jerusalem, to search for dreidels and earn points.

    The four-sided tops bear a Hebrew letter on each side to represent the phrase "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham," or, "A Great Miracle Happened There," a reference to the oil that lit the ancient temple for eight nights....

    Children searched for dreidels while attending Chabad of Clearwater’s Family Hanukkah Party on Wednesday, the last day of Hanukkah. The event featured a meal and Hanukkah games, including the dreidel hunt, where the children were divided into two teams, team Tel Aviv and team Jerusalem, to search for dreidels and earn points.
  11. Special delivery

    Human Interest

    Madison Hauquitz, 10 holds her new kitten that the Humane Society of Tampa Bay staff member Nancy McCall delivered for Christmas on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 in Tampa. McCall was dressed like an elf when she delivered the kitten to Hauquitz.
  12. For boys whose home burned, Christmas gifts to the rescue

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Eight children and two adults were living in a home that burned on Dec. 5. Now, these five boys live with their uncle David McDermott, and the other children are with other relatives.

    On Wednesday, Fire Rescue personnel and Santa Claus, arriving on a fire truck, brought gifts to their new home.

    McDermott and the kids didn't know that Santa and the fire truck would arrive in a procession with sirens blaring and a police escort. ...

    Michael Blanck of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, dressed as Santa, hands Ethen McDermott, 7, a Christmas gift Wednesday.
  13. Thursday's sports on TV/radio

    TV and Radio


    College basketball
    Diamond Head Classic, Ohio vs. Nebraska4 p.m.ESPNU
    Diamond Head Classic third place, Colorado vs. Hawaii6:30 p.m.ESPN2
    Diamond Head Classic final, G. Washington vs. Wichita State8:30 p.m.ESPN2
    Wizards at KnicksnoonESPN, ESPND
    Thunder at Spurs2:30 p.m.Ch. 28, ESPND; 620-AM
    Cavaliers at Heat5 p.m.Ch. 28, ESPND; 620-AM
    Lakers at Bulls8 p.m.TNT
    Warriors at Clippers10:30 p.m.TNT

  14. FSU's Dalvin Cook involved in assault investigation


    Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook is listed as an associate in an open aggravated assault investigation, the Tallahassee Police Department said Wednesday.

    It's unclear what involvement, if any, Cook had in the case because the investigation is ongoing. According to Tallahassee police, the case involves two men who allegedly waved a firearm at a neighbor in July.

    Tallahassee police released the information Wednesday, months after ESPN requested documents related to any department investigations involving a list of several hundred FSU athletes....

    A police investigation is unlikely to affect FSU leading rusher Dalvin Cook’s eligibility for the Rose Bowl.
  15. UCF breaks down memorable Hail Mary play


    ORLANDO — A regular season that began in Dublin ended in delirium.

    Three weeks ago tonight, UCF was down to its final gasp at East Carolina when Knights quarterback Justin Holman and wideout Breshad Perriman decided to leave everyone else breathless. Holman's 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Perriman on the last play catapulted UCF to a 32-30 victory, stupefying a Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium audience of 41,259....

    East Carolina defensive back DaShaun Amos sits in shock as UCF players mill about after a last-second Hail Mary gives the Knights a share of the American Athletic Conference title.