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Times staff,

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

You can also call one of our county news bureaus directly:

Hernando County: 352-754-6101

Hillsborough County/Tampa: 813-226-3303

North Pinellas County: 727-445-4221

Pasco County: 727-869-6235

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

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. 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....

    Jillian Kalman, 10, of Largo holds a pile of dreidels. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Thursday's sports on TV/radio

    TV and Radio

    TODAY

    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
    NBA
    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
    ...

  5. FSU's Dalvin Cook involved in assault investigation

    Sports

    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.
  6. UCF breaks down memorable Hail Mary play

    College

    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.
  7. Tampa Theatre third local venue showing Seth Rogen's 'The Interview' (w/video)

    Movies

    TAMPA — If watching the now-controversial movie The Interview on the small screens of the online world didn't grab you, Tampa Theatre has delivered a last-minute Christmas gift.

    The downtown theater, at 711 North Franklin Street, joins a lineup of independent movies house that will put The Interview on the big screen. Show times are 10:45 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Jan. 2 and 3....

  8. Stolen guns, like one used to kill Tarpon Springs officer, routine at crime scenes

    Crime

    The gun investigators say was used to kill Officer Charles Kondek in Tarpon Springs early Sunday was stolen four months earlier from an unlocked Honda Accord on the outskirts of Jacksonville.

    That detail is not surprising to those in law enforcement.

    "Rarely if ever do you see people who have bought a gun responsibly killing a cop," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "That never happens."...

    It’s not known how Marco Antonio Parilla Jr. got the gun police say killed Kondek.
  9. Police recover gun they say was fired after fatal Tarpon Springs officer shooting

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — Authorities have located the 9mm handgun used in the second shooting that transpired early Sunday morning after a Tarpon Springs police officer was fatally gunned down, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    Detectives served a second search warrant Wednesday at the Glen's Eureka Apartments at 199 Grand Blvd. for apartment No. 5, where 24-year-old Jareem Roach lives. The gun was found in the attic. ...

  10. Largo to consider banning e-cigarettes in city buildings

    Local Government

    LARGO — When city library patrons recently complained about people using electronic cigarettes inside the building, officials couldn't do much. There were no city rules against it.

    That could be changing. Largo commissioners have told their city attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the smoking of e-cigarettes in city-owned buildings. If they approve it, Largo could be one of the first local governments in the Tampa Bay area — and one of only a handful nationwide — to impose such a ban....

    Largo Commissioner Jamie Robinson proposed the ban on use of e-cigarettes inside city property.
  11. Hillsborough's controversial sex offender court is disbanded

    Courts

    TAMPA — For 14 years, criminal cases involving accused rapists, molesters and child abusers in Hillsborough County have been heard by a single judge in the sex offender division.

    Advocates of this highly specialized court for pedophiles and predators call it a smart, efficient way to handle difficult cases with unique sensitivities. But critics say no judge can hear the horrifying details of rape and abuse day after day without becoming biased — particularly when children are victims....

    Judge Chet Tharpe, who presided over the sex crimes court for 14 years, is known for dramatic pronouncements and sometimes lengthy sentences.
  12. The Cuban question unites and divides Tampa residents

    National

    TAMPA — They come every Saturday morning, miles from their suburban homes to a Cuban-owned coffee shop in West Tampa. Men sit at one end of the table, women at the other.

    They discuss baseball, food and politics. At their last gathering, they pondered President Barack Obama's decision to end more than 50 years of Cold War policies toward Cuba.

    "I'm confused with Obama," said Jesus Esposito, who left Cuba in 1962. Cubans on the island today lack food, clothing, even toilet paper, he said. "And we're going to make relations because Obama thinks Raul Castro is going to give it to them? I don't believe it."...

    Jose Marti Park in Tampa features a statue of the revolutionary poet revered by both Communist and anti-Castro Cubans.
  13. Mason Foster hopes to remain with Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Bucs LB Mason Foster has started 54 games in his four years in Tampa, but as unrestricted free agent, he doesn't know how he'll fit into the team's future plans at a key position in the middle of the defense.

    "I had some great years, met a lot of good people," Foster said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday's season finale against the Saints. "Free agency's coming up and I'm at the end of my contract year, so we'll see what happens. I definitely want to stay in Tampa. Both of my sons were born in Tampa, right across the street. I have a lot of ties down here. I love Tampa. It would be great, would be amazing to stay here, but it's a business. You know there's a chance you won't be here."...

    Bucs middle linebacker Mason Foster, at the end of his contract year, says “I definitely want to stay in Tampa. … I love Tampa.’’
  14. Police union sets up memorial fund, sells T-shirts to honor slain Tarpon Springs officer

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — Before his death early Sunday, Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek had just been elected by his fellow officers to be their union representative. His position with the Police Benevolent Association made him the voice of his co-workers in their contract negotiations.

    Now the PBA has established a memorial fund and is selling T-shirts in Kondek's honor. Donations may be made for Kondek's family at any Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to Sun Coast PBA, 14141 46th St. N., Suite 1205, Clearwater, FL 33762. Checks should be made out to Sun Coast Law Enforcement Charities/Officer Charles Kondek Memorial Fund....

    Flowers are placed on a police car near the scene of the shooting of Officer Charles Kondek in Tarpon Springs, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. Kondek, a 17-year veteran of the local police department and originally from New York, was shot and killed in Tarpon Springs early Sunday responding to a call shortly after 2 a.m. [Monica Herndon   |   Times]
  15. Pasco clerk adds whistle-blower program for county employees

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller Paula S. O'Neil is making it easier for government employees to become whistle-blowers and report suspicions of financial abuse in the workplace.

    A new toll-free iLook4Pasco Hotline — 1-855-456-6547 — is scheduled to become operational in January to allow employees working for the county and for O'Neil's office to report waste, fraud and abuse within their agencies....