1. News

News at noon: How pinball forced me to look up from my phone; Placido Bayou homeowners lose bid for docks; and more

Here are the top five latest headlines and updates on
Published Aug. 8

Here are the top five latest headlines and updates on

A Pinellas task force focuses on stolen cars. Why did St. Petersburg police leave it?

After a particularly bad day in his city, when drivers of two stolen cars killed a woman and injured a police sergeant, Chief Tony Holloway told reporters he was frustrated.

Officers, he said, had managed to corral some of the juvenile auto thieves plaguing St. Petersburg. But car owners and parents still needed to step up, he declared at a July 16 news conference. He challenged them to lock their vehicles, to stop leaving keys in their unlocked cars and to keep track of their children late at night.

What the chief did not say was that weeks earlier he withdrew his officers from a prominent multi-agency task force that Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has credited with helping suppress teen-fueled auto thefts.

So why did the St. Petersburg Police Department leave the Violent Crimes Task Force? And what does that mean for the city’s effort to crack down on car thefts?

Her mom needed life-saving care. Trump’s travel ban got in the way.

Damineh Oveisi’s eyes popped open at 2:30 a.m.

She hadn’t been sleeping well, especially at the beginning of the week. That was when she usually heard from the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, the faraway office that held her mother’s life in its hands.

They had been volleying emails across the Atlantic for months. Embassy officials would write with a complicated question. Oveisi would reply. With each exchange, she hoped for a resolution. But none came.

She was running out of time.

Earlier in the year, Oveisi’s 61-year-old mother had been diagnosed with advanced-stage leukemia in her home city of Tehran. Oveisi, a U.S. citizen, wanted to bring her to Florida for treatment that wasn’t available in Iran.

Oveisi knew the Trump administration banned most Iranians from entering the United States. But she also knew her mother’s condition might make her eligible for a waiver.

What she didn’t know: Few waivers had been granted. Read more.

Placido Bayou homeowners lose bid to build amidst St. Petersburg mangroves

The owners of seven Placido Bayou properties had their hopes dashed Wednesday evening when the Development Review Commission denied their request to build docks accessed by boardwalks through a mangrove preserve.

The homeowners in the gated community off 47th Avenue NE had proposed constructing pathways that would rise above the mangrove roots and lead to private docks behind their homes.

How pinball forced me to look up from my phone

During my childhood, Sundays were almost exclusively about two things — church and family.

I spent many a Sunday morning seated in the pews of my Greek Orthodox church, donning an uncomfortable taffeta dress and listening to the formal service in both Greek and English.

When those services concluded, my family performed the great caravan back to my grandparents’ house. Sunday afternoon brunches were largely mandatory affairs with spanakopita, dolmades and trays of feta — things I looked forward to — and hours of conversation — things I did not.

But there was one sliver of hope in those afternoons. The second we entered the house, my dad and I had a routine. We would say hello to everyone and then quickly descend the stairs to the basement, where my grandparents’ amateur collection of pinball machines resided. Read more of Times reporter Elizabeth Djinis’s account.

Six ways to stay safe in your house if lightning is striking outside

In addition to a direct strike, lightning can enter your home through plumbing, wiring, phone lines, even a television antenna on your roof. While the chances of being struck by lightning are remote (less than 1 in 1 million in a given year, according to National Weather Service data), a strike from as far as 10 miles away can present a real danger. Here’s how to stay safe.

Sign up for our News at Noon newsletter here.

Contact Dinorah Prevost at Follow @dprevost1.


  1. Harold Fritz, 75, was awarded the nation's highest and rarest honor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in 1969. The Army lieutenant saved his platoon during an ambush in the Vietnam war. He spoke to students at Farnell Middle School in Tampa. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times
    Harold Fritz wanted to talk about teachers’ salaries and education. The kids wanted selfies with one of the 71 living recipients of the nation’s highest honor.
  2. PDQ's new Trinity location features a self-serve sauce bar with seven signature sauces perfect for dipping chicken tenders. Courtesy of PDQ
    Both chains are expanding locally and held grand opening celebrations this month with giveaways and free food.
  3. Casey Cane has resigned as chair of Pinellas County’s Housing Finance Authority in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times story about his failure to disclose an arrest for a financial felony when he was 19. He also serves as a Palm Harbor fire commissioner. Casey Cane
    Casey Cane failed to disclose his arrest for a financial felony in 2006. He said he didn’t think he had to reveal that information.
  4. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks to about 75 people Tuesday at a city conference on innovation and collaboration. (City of Tampa photo by Janelle McGregor) Janelle McGregor
    City Hall brought together startups and the nonprofits that nurture them for a discussion of possible ideas to improve city operations and service.
  5. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView, use ground-penetrating radar to scan a portion of King High School campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Preliminary answers from the ground-penetrating radar could come as soon as next week.
  6. A federal judge gas stayed the Nov. 7 execution of death row inmate James Dailey, 73, for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: The most current photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. Tampa Bay Times
    Dailey was set to be put to death Nov. 7. A judge ordered his execution to be postponed to give his attorneys time to present their claims. But the state can appeal.
  7. Markeith Loyd, suspected of fatally shooting a Florida police officer, attends his initial court appearance Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at the Orange County Jail, in Orlando, Fla. Loyd spoke out of turn and was defiant during the appearance on charges of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. He was injured during his arrest Tuesday night following a weeklong manhunt.
    The same jury found Loyd guilty last week of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting 24-year-old Sade Dixon outside her home in 2016.
  8. The new owner of a dilapidated mobile home park on Gandy Boulevard has sued the city of Tampa over a record-setting fine levied against the property for a massive tree removal in August. [CHARLIE FRAGO | Times]
    A Gandy Boulevard mobile home park owner is suing the city of Tampa over a record $420,000 fine .
  9. Dashboard camera video shows a Tampa police cruiser pursuing Dusharn Weems through a parking lot. A second later, Weems is fatally injured when the car strikes him. Courtesy Haydee Oropesa
    The family of Dusharn Weems, 23, claims an officer intentionally struck him after he was spotted driving a stolen car.
  10. Evangeline Cummings posted a video on Twitter of what appears to be a wasp stinging a coral snake that was dangling from a branch attempting to eat a dead snake. Evangeline Cummings/Twitter
    A coral snake found that out the hard way and a Florida woman caught it all on camera.