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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 tampabay.com.
Published Aug. 8

Here are the top five latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

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.


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Contact Dinorah Prevost at dprevost1@tampabay.com. Follow @dprevost1.

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