The Daystarter: Harrowing 911 call of a woman trapped in a sinking car; watch a McDonald's fight over plastic straws; are the Bucs looking at hotshot assistant coaches?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Published Jan. 3, 2019

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• It'll stay warm with highs in the low 80s and it'll stay dry, too, according to the National Weather Service. Expect cooler weather, in the mid to upper 70s, by Friday as well as some afternoon showers.

• 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 first viral video of 2019 was sparked by the city's ban on plastic straws, escalated into violence and ended with a forceful display of self-defense. It started at about 6:50 p.m. Monday, when Daniel Willis Taylor was looking for a plastic straw at the McDonald's at 4595 34th St. S. on New Year's Eve. Taylor, 40, was irate there were no straws available in the dining room. Then the punches started flying.

• Three additional senior administrators have left Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times investigation into high mortality rates at the hospital's Heart Institute, the hospital announced. A total of six senior officials have left since the Times report, including the hospital's CEO, three vice presidents and two surgeons who held leadership roles at the Heart Institute. A seventh official stepped down as chairman of the surgery department but remained employed at the hospital as a doctor.

• Read the previous installments of the Times investigation into the problems at All Children's Heart Institute and even more problems with the way John Hopkins practices the safety practices it preaches.

• The University of South Florida has closed its Confucius Institute, a language and culture teaching center sponsored by the Chinese government that some had labeled a potential a threat to the United States' national security. Megan Reeves and Howard Altman report that the university says it was closed because of declining enrollment, not concerns over the Chinese government using it to gather intelligence.

• Trapped in an upside down car sinking into the mud, the cold water rising up to her chin, her location shrouded in fog, Amanda Nicole Antonio called 911 for help. "My car is flipped and I can't see anything and there's water getting in the car," the 20-year-old Seffner woman said. Listen to the recording of her harrowing call to 911, the one that helped save her life, and the read the story by Anastasia Dawson.

• Neighbors knew for a week that something was wrong at the home in Meadows Mobile Home Park. But it wasn't until Tarpon Springs police showed up on New Year's Day that they learned there were three people dead inside — and three dogs — for a whole week. Now police are treating the deaths as homicides. Kathryn Varn has the latest details on this still-mysterious incident.

• The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission has released its long-awaited findings and recommendations in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 Parkland high school shooting — including a call to allow some teachers to carry weapons on campus. Jeffrey Solochek writes about the report, and what the 458-page report says.

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• Not once have Americans nominated a Floridian for president or vice president, but in the past half century every governor except one-term Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles, who died in office, actively campaigned for president or vice president. Political Editor Adam C. Smith writes that if Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis are anything like their predecessors in the governor's mansion, they will strongly consider a presidential run.

• A complaint over Andrew Gillum's trips with a lobbyist in 2016 will get a hearing later this month, when state officials will decide whether there is probable cause that the former Tallahassee mayor violated state ethics laws.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• The historic 2018 election is barely in the rear-view mirror, but now it's time to start looking ahead to the big political stories of 2019. Emily Mahoney has a list of the top 10 political stories to watch (in no particular order) in the new year.

• Scores of aspiring or sitting presidents, governors, senators, and congressmen from across America for decades have made pilgrimages to offices of Mel and Betty Sembler on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg to seek his advice and support. The Semblers have slept in the White House. But, as much as they may not care to acknowledge it, Mel is a dinosaur in today's Trumpian political world, Adam C. Smith writes.

• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.

• Check out the Tampa Bay Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.

• • •

Read the Tampa Bay Times new online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

• The Lightning's strong start to the season has landed All-Star honors for two of the team's stars: Steven Stamkos was selected for the Atlantic Division team for this month's All-Star Game along with teammate Nikita Kucherov, reports Diana C. Nearhos. And Brayden Point is among the players up for a "Last Men In" spot, which fans vote on, for the Jan. 25-26 All-Star event in San Jose.

• The Lightning offense is also scoring at an almost absurd rate, Nearhos reports, leading the league with 168 goals, 24 more than the No. 2 Maple Leafs going into Wednesday's games.

• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning's quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season. For the latest updates on @Twitter, follow Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.

• Rick Stroud has an idea of who the Glazers are targeting in their search for the Bucs' new head coach: hotshot assistants. Stroud reports that the team has scheduled an interview with Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard (pronounced Ri-shard), has already interviewed Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and is scheduled to interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards.

• Also what's this about the Bucs maybe looking at Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly? Stroud doesn't think the Galzers are looking at Kelly, but Matt Baker explains why maybe that hire could make sense for the Bucs.

• The Lightning reaches the season's midpoint tonight against the Kings atop the league by 10 points. That's five full games. The Lightning is scoring at an almost absurd rate, leading the league with 168 goals, 24 more than the No. 2 Maple Leafs going into Wednesday's games. Overall, things are going well. Diana C. Nearhos looks at how the Lightning got here and the road ahead.

• Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were named to the Atlantic team for the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25-26 in San Jose.

What should the Bucs look for in their next head coach? Here are the thoughts of the Times' Bucs coverage team, including John Romano's take on the four philosophies the Bucs could take to hiring their next coach.

• The latest Times coverage of the Bucs is just a click away at For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow beat writers Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• To get the latest Rays' news from the Times this offseason, click here and follow baseball writer Marc Topkin on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

• Check out the Times coverage of Gator football all season long and keep up with college football beat writer Matt Baker on Twitter at @MBakerTBTimes.

• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.

• Check out the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay led by veteran sportswriter Rick Stroud.

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The Tampa Bay Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• 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.

• • •

Check out the Tampa Bay Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

• Some of Tampa Bay's cutest pastries are off the market. Sara DiNatale reports that's because of a legal battle raging in Hillsborough County Circuit Court over the future of the Mini Doughnut Factory.