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News at noon: Report shows VA staff left veteran's body in shower nine hours; Cruises from Tampa to Cuba coming; National Weather Service may reduce services in Ruskin office; and is Charlie Strong on a plane en route to Tampa?

Brilliance of the Seas, shown docked here in March, is one of two Royal Caribbean International cruise ships operating out of Port Tampa Bay. This summer, the cruise line will add Empress of the Seas, which will port in Tampa for cruises to Cuba.
[LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Dec. 9, 2016

Staff members at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System left the body of a veteran in a shower room for more than nine hours then tried to cover up the mistake, a hospital investigation shows. A report of the investigation's findings provides no information about the veteran, who died in February at the hospice unit of the Bay Pines center, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd. Some hospice staff violated hospital and Veterans Administration policies by "failing to provide appropriate post mortem care," including proper transportation of a body to the morgue, according to the report by the hospital's Administrative Investigation Board.

PORT TAMPA BAY TO OFFER CRUISES TO CUBA ON ROYAL CARIBBEAN NEXT YEAR

A Royal Caribbean cruise will begin sailing to Cuba from Port Tampa Bay beginning April 30. The recently updated Empress of the Seas will port in Tampa for the 2017 summer season and offer a series of four and five-night sailings to ports in Cuba. More details of the summer itineraries will be released at a later date, according to a press release.

WEATHER SERVICE DISMISSES UNION CONCERNS ABOUT POSSIBLE CUTS IN SERVICE

For months, the National Weather Service's labor union has been gearing up to fight potential changes in how the agency operates, such as cutting back operating hours of weather field offices like the one in Ruskin. The National Weather Service Employees Organization says it is worried that some ideas will compromise the quality of local forecasts and endanger communities when severe weather threatens.

REPORT: USF'S COURTSHIP OF CHARLIE STRONG TO INCLUDE VISIT TO TAMPA TODAY

[Chris Covatta | Getty Images]

Charlie Strong, then-coach at Texas, sings "The Eyes of Texas" with his daughters after losing to TCU 31-9 in November.

[Chris Covatta | Getty Images]

Charlie Strong, then-coach at Texas, sings "The Eyes of Texas" with his daughters after losing to TCU 31-9 in November.

A private plane owned by a prominent University of Texas athletics booster was scheduled to arrive at Tampa International Airport around lunchtime. Glaring question: Is Charlie Strong, the man USF is pursuing as its future football coach, aboard? The plane's owner, Gary H. Martin, is the father of a former Longhorns catcher. Martin reportedly sat in on at least one interview when Texas was pursuing a new baseball coach this past summer.

USF CAN'T LOSE CHARLIE STRONG TO TEMPLE, CINCINNATI

Martin Fennelly writes that USF needs to hire Charlie Strong or all that stuff he said about Willie Taggart's departure for Oregon making USF look like a better job is a bunch of hooey. USF athletic director Mark Harlan needs to land his first choice if Strong is his man. You don't lose Strong to Temple or Cincinnati. Meanwhile, a report surfaced that Taggart is trying to hire Strong as his defensive coordinator at Oregon.

DYING ON THE VINE? FLORIDA'S SHRIVELING AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY CAN'T SHAKE THE FALL OF CITRUS, LOSS OF LAND

Florida has a long and rich agricultural history, a bond so ingrained in the state's identity that the venerated orange emblazons the state's license plate. But decades of an accelerated decline have taken a toll, and agriculture has now shriveled to the point that it's no longer a major part of the state's economy. Meanwhile, as agriculture's economic footprint on Florida continues to erode, some questions have emerged. Such as: Should the Florida Department of Agriculture change its name? Or should agriculture commissioner be eliminated as one of just three Cabinet-level positions?

GOV. SCOTT LIFTS ZIKA INFECTION ZONE IN MIAMI BEACH

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says South Beach is no longer an active infection zone for the Zika virus. South Beach is the last of three other neighboring Zika infection zones to be cleared. Florida health officials said Thursday that 249 people had contracted Zika in the state.

CUBA'S SURGE IN TOURISM KEEPS FOOD OFF RESIDENTS' PLATES

[Mauricio Lima | New York Times]

Workers clean up some vegetables at a food market in central Havana. Consumption by visitors, nearly 3.5 million last year, is overwhelming supplies and raising prices, forcing families to make do with even less than usual.

[Mauricio Lima | New York Times]

Workers clean up some vegetables at a food market in central Havana. Consumption by visitors, nearly 3.5 million last year, is overwhelming supplies and raising prices, forcing families to make do with even less than usual.

For Lisset Felipe, privation is a standard facet of Cuban life, a struggle shared by nearly all, whether they're enduring blackouts or hunting for toilet paper. But this year has been different, in an even more fundamental way, she said. She has not bought a single onion this year, nor a green pepper, both staples of the Cuban diet. The record arrival of nearly 3.5 million visitors to Cuba last year has caused a surging demand for food, causing ripple effects that are upsetting the very promise of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

HUGO'S RESTAURANT IN SOHO CLOSING FRIDAY; PLANS ARE TO REOPEN UNDER NEW OWNERS

The management of Hugo's Spanish Restaurant told an assembled group that it was the restaurant's last day of business under the current ownership. One of Tampa's iconic Spanish-Cuban restaurants since 1975, it will close today, undergo a transfer of ownership and reopen "as soon as possible," according to general manager Don Johnston.

POLICE IDENTIFY WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT CLEARWATER HOMICIDE

[SAMANTHA PUTTERMAN | Times]

Police are investigating the death of a woman in Clearwater. She was found dead in her apartment.

[SAMANTHA PUTTERMAN | Times]

Police are investigating the death of a woman in Clearwater. She was found dead in her apartment.

Clearwater police continue to investigate the death of a woman from apparent gunshot wounds. Police and rescue crews responding to Oakbrook Village Condominium at 2225 Nursery Road just after 3:30 a.m. found the woman, identified as 22-year-old Saniye Salahutdin. She lived in that apartment with her mother, police said. Detectives continue to investigate the case, and it is not believed to be a random event.

MARCH COLUMN: WINNER VIERA CREDITS NEW TAMPA VOTE IN NARROW COUNCIL WIN

The Dec. 6 City Council District 7 runoff was roiled late in the campaign when candidate Jim Davison said he wouldn't rule out using the threat of secession from the city to draw attention to the unmet needs of New Tampa, William March writes. As result, Mayor Bob Buckhorn dropped his previously neutral public stance to endorse Davison's opponent, Luis Viera, who won by a razor-thin margin. But how did the voters of New Tampa feel? In the election, Davison won in the nine precincts that make up New Tampa by 1,817-1,684, or 52-48 percent, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. Nonetheless, Viera believes the controversy helped him.

12 BLOGS OF CHRISTMAS: HUNTER S. THOMPSON SETS HIS TREE ON FIRE

Maybe you're feeling down on Christmas, or maybe you just want to see a famous writer start a giant fire in their living room. All of these are good reasons to watch this 1990 video of Hunter S. Thompson setting his Christmas tree on fire at his Colorado cabin known as the Owl Ranch, Christopher Spata writes. Check out the video on The Feed.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS-NEW ORLEANS SAINTS PREDICTIONS FROM THE TAMPA BAY TIMES STAFF

Our Bucs reporters offer their predictions for Tampa Bay's game against New Orleans at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

News at noon is a weekday feature from tampabay.com. Check in Monday through Friday for updates and information on the biggest stories of the day.

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    A judge issued an order Thursday to begin jury selection on Jan. 27 in a trial involving the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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