Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
• Expect a cool morning with temperatures in the low 40s, according to the National Weather Service. It should reach the 60s by the afternoons, but with clear skies, light winds and no chance of rain we can probably live with that. At night it’ll drop down to the low 40s. Expect the same on Friday before it starts to warm back up by the weekend.
• Here are the top things to do in Tampa Bay.
• The best journalism in the bay area is all in one place. Check out all the Tampa Bay Times investigations and special reports.
• The Red Tide algae bloom that floated away from shore around Thanksgiving has popped back up near the beaches of Sarasota and Manatee counties. But Craig Pittman reports that scientists say the federal government shutdown is making it harder to track where the toxic algae is and where it might go next.
• That didn’t take long. Former governor-turned-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and new Gov. Ron DeSantis are already at odds. As Scott departed, he announced 84 new appointments on Monday in his last hours in office. DeSantis told reporters Monday that he will “definitely rescind” some of the “lame duck appointments,” and that he’s “going to look at all of them.” Emily Mahoney and Steve Contorno write that insiders see this as political arm-wrestling as both men jockey for the spot as Florida’s top Republican. Meanwhile, Political Editor Adam C. Smith urges DeSantis to stand his ground and rescind those appointments.
• As signs build that Florida's new governor may suspend Broward County's elected sheriff from office, a federal judge has ruled that the state's former governor overstepped when he effectively fired Broward County's elections supervisor. In a Wednesday evening order, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker found that Rick Scott exceeded his authority when, on the heels of a controversial election recount, he suspended Brenda Snipes from office.
• Former police chief Jane Castor has led the mayor’s race in the early polling and skated through early forums without much static from her opponents. That all changed in Wednesday night’s televised debate on Spectrum Bay News 9 when the presumed front-runner came under fire. Her rivals focused on the disproportionate ticketing of black bicyclists while she ran the Tampa Police Department from 2009 to 2015, which became the subject of a Tampa Bay Times investigation. Charlie Frago has the details.
• Tampan, Tampeño or Tampanian? Is it time to pick one? The debate over what to call a Tampa resident is not new. But Mario Nunez is determined to make 2019 the year that Tampa City Council makes an official decision, Paul Guzzo reports.
• Three people were wounded Wednesday night in a shooting at a strip club in unincorporated Clearwater. According to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the shooting occurred around 10:15 p.m. at Baby Dolls, 13383 U.S. 19 N.
• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.
• The Johns Hopkins Medicine Board of Trustees has appointed a former federal prosecutor to lead its investigation into the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s heart surgery unit. F. Joseph Warin, of the global law firm Gibson Dunn, and his team will review the high mortality rates and other problems at the hospital’s Heart Institute and report back to a special committee of the board of trustees by May, the health system said. Read the Tampa Bay Times investigation into those high mortality rates that prompted John Hopkins to make drastic changes at All Children’s and the entire series here.
• James Piper’s 35-year career as a deputy ended Tuesday when the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said he sent a toy bomb to a colleague that resulted in a sheriff’s building being evacuated and the bomb squad being called in. Piper resigned after the incident, and on Wednesday his troubles really started: The 59-year-old former deputy now faces a charge of planting a hoax bomb, reports McKenna Oxenden.
• After months of back-and-forth, the Pinellas County’s teachers union tentatively agreed Wednesday to a 2.55 percent pay raise for the district’s 7,000 instructors plus a small bump in salary for new teachers. Megan Reeves reports on the new deal, which the union said makes “significant strides” for better working conditions for teachers.
• In the months after she was charged with murdering her mother and stepfather, Nicole Nachtman recounted her childhood and teen years for a psychologist. What emerged from the more than 30 hours of interviews was a portrait of a depressed and anxious 21-year-old who had the maturity of a child. Read about the latest developments in the case against the 24-year-old former college student from Dan Sullivan.
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How much convincing Bruce Arians needed to be lured out of retirement to become the Bucs’ next head coach will be a subject of conversation when Arians is formally introduced in Tampa at 2:30 p.m. But fellow Pennsylvanian and free-thinker Joe Maddon was part of the local recruiting party, writes Rick Stroud. Meanwhile, as the national media continues to weigh in on the hire, here’s how you can sound off on the Bucs’ new coach.
• Stroud provides more insight on the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay. The Times will provide additional stories this morning leading up to the Arians hire on its new online Sports page as well as full and immediate coverage of the 2:30 p.m. media conference after its conclusion.
• The Lightning, which plays the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Amalie Arena, is a runaway success at the halfway mark of the NHL season, and that’s with first-half injuries to Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy and others. Now comes the hard part, writes Martin Fennelly.
• In college news, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois chooses from three options: transferring, entering the NFL draft or playing another seasons with the Seminoles. And FSU coach Willie Taggart finds himself the target of a lawsuit.
• In hindsight, how good were Matt Baker's preseason college football predictions? Well, not good, he admits.
• Though nothing has been finalized, it's appearing USF is close to naming Valdosta (Ga.) State coach and former Gators quarterback Kerwin Bell as its new offensive coordinator.
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The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.
• The humble chickpea is one of those ingredients that can work in lots of different ways. So here are five recipes for chickpeas that will come in handy this time of year, when we’re trying to eat less and eat healthier than we have the past few months, but still don’t want to skimp on flavor.
• Many new attractions are coming to Central Florida’s theme parks in the next 12 months. Here’s a quick roundup — perhaps a cheat sheet for your next cocktail party — of what to expect and when.
• Listen to our new podcast, Life of the Party, that keeps you caught up just enough to get by in small talk. Times staffers Stephanie Hayes and Brittany Volk will discuss what’s going on, from celebrity news to movies and music, plus offbeat info that will make you the most interesting person in the room.
• Don’t just write the right way — write the Lane way. Keep up with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lane DeGregory’s podcast, WriteLane, and learn about her approach to the craft of storytelling.
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Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.