News at noon: Spending gets flagged for reading program run by wife of Pinellas County Commissioner; chat live with Times baseball writer Marc Topkin; and more

Here are the top five latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published December 7

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

STATE, FEDERAL OFFICIALS MISSED WARNINGS AT ALL CHILDREN'S HEART UNIT

At least four times this year, government regulators were alerted to serious problems in the heart surgery program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. In April, the hospital’s CEO publicly acknowledged that the program had “challenges” that led to more children dying. State investigators then found the hospital hadn’t properly reported two serious medical errors. Both state and federal officials promised thorough investigations after the earliest warnings. Instead, they have done virtually nothing.

SPENDING GETS FLAGGED FOR READING PROGRAM RUN BY WIFE OF PINELLAS COUNTY COMMISSIONER

The director of a taxpayer-funded reading program to help poor children in south Pinellas County spent $2.6 million in the past five years with scant documentation, minimal oversight and no tracking mechanism, the Tampa Bay Times has found. Donna Welch, wife of Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch, spent thousands of dollars on food, photos, shirts and a disc jockey for year-end parties for the Faith-Based Literacy & Technology Program. In one year, she spent $16,000 to shuttle kids to field trips, but only $62 on books.

CONTROVERSIAL ZOOTAMPA VET HAD NO FEDERAL PERMIT FOR EXPERIMENTAL MANATEE TREATMENT

The ZooTampa veterinarian under investigation for medical malpractice that may have killed manatees did not have federal permission to conduct experimental treatments of injured marine mammals, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today marks the deadline for ZooTampa, formerly the Lowry Park Zoo, to respond to an October letter from the federal agency that said it had received "credible reports" that veterinarian Ray Ball was mistreating injured and ill manatees at the zoo and at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

THESE WOMEN NEVER GOT TO BE ATHLETES. THEN CAME THE SENIOR GAMES

This week's 2018 Florida Senior Games brought out nearly 2,600 senior athletes ranging in age from 50 to 97 to compete across Pinellas County. About 350 of them will play pickleball, a fast-growing, hugely popular sport in senior communities. For some of the men, the tournament is a chance to channel the competitive edge they honed on basketball courts and baseball diamonds as young athletes so many years ago. But for many of the female athletes here, the Florida Senior Games and similar tournaments offer a competitive outlet they didn't have access to growing up.

NOON: CHAT LIVE WITH TIMES BASEBALL WRITER MARC TOPKIN

Wondering what the Rays plans are for next season? Who they are looking to add or trade as they seek to build on their solid 2018 season and make to the playoffs next year? What about the moves they've made so far, such as adding catcher Mike Zunino while letting go of Mallex Smith and C.J. Cron? Where are the big-name free agents, such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado likely to end up? In advance of the winter meetings that open Sunday in Las Vegas, Times baseball writer Marc Topkin will take your questions today, starting at noon, on the newly redesigned tampabay.com.

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