3:02 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Vinik's Billion Dollar Plan By the Numbers (video)

A "Tampa Live" retail corridor will connect the Amalie Arena to a new hotel and the Tampa Convention Center
Strategic Property Partners LLC

Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik admitted that he formed his group "Strategic Property Partners" so he could slowly and quietly buy up property surrounding the Amelie Arena in downtown Tampa.

That silence was shattered Wednesday when he finally unveiled his "vision plan" for the Channelside District.

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Health News Florida
8:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Senate President 'Intrigued" By Proposal to Expand Health Coverage

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, left open the possibility Wednesday that his chamber will consider an expansion of health coverage for low-income Floridians.

Gardiner described as "intriguing" a proposal that would accept billions of dollars available under the federal Affordable Care Act and provide coverage through private insurers.

A coalition that includes business groups and hospitals is pushing the proposal, and Gardiner was asked about it at a meeting with reporters.

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World Affairs
8:28 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Complicated Relationship

Fidel Castro looks up at the Jefferson Memorial on April 16, 1959. The Cuban leader visited Washington several months after seizing power. But U.S.-Cuban relations quickly frayed, and the U.S. imposed an embargo of the island in 1960.

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:49 pm

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959. He placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

For U.S.-Cuba relations, it was all downhill after that.

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World Affairs
8:28 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Alan Gross' Release: How It Went Down

Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, in Washington on Wednesday after his release from a Cuban prison.
Algerina Perna Baltimore Sun/TNS /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:31 pm

American Alan Gross had spent more than five years in a Cuban prison where he lost five teeth, 100 pounds and much of the sight in his right eye. He could barely walk because of chronic pain and was, his wife Judy Gross said in June, "despondent and very hopeless" because he had 10 years to go in his sentence for crimes against the Cuban state. Then, on Tuesday, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told him in a phone call that he was going home.

There was a long pause, his spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said today in Washington, and then Gross said, "I'll believe it when I see it."

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6:37 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

'Handle With Care' at Stageworks in Tampa

Handle With Care at Stageworks

Sometimes, against all odds, relationships grow between two people who don't even speak the same language.

Actress Midge Mamatas knows something about falling in love without a common language. Her first husband was Japanese, and until she reached the conclusion that she was a better teacher than a student, and decided he should learn English--they used dictionaries when other forms of communication failed. 

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World Affairs
1:26 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Polls Show Cuban-American Views On U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Nuanced

Men play chess at the Maximo Gomez Domino park in Little Havana in Miami, where political opinions are shifting.
Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:49 pm

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

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12:33 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Florida's U.S. Senators Differ on Reaction to Easing of Cuba Embargo

There are differing reactions from Florida's two U.S. Senators on President Obama's announcement that he will ease the longtime U.S. embargo on Cuba.

Here's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's reaction:

“The success of this monumental development depends on Castro’s willingness to grant basic democratic freedoms for the Cuban people,” Nelson said. 

Two years ago, Nelson met with Haitian President Michel Martelly just prior to Martelly visiting with Cuban President Raul Castro.  Nelson asked Martelly to urge Castro to release Gross.  

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12:22 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Vinik Unveils Billion-Dollar Vision for Downtown Tampa

Jeff Vinik on Wednesday unveiled plans to build nearly 3 million square feet of commercial space on the 25 acres between Amalie Arena and the Selmon Expressway that he has assembled over the last several years. The development plans, which total $1.07 billion, are backed by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates' Cascade Investment LLC. Vinik's team estimates the project will generate $35 million in annual tax revenue for Hillsborough County.
Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik's billion-dollar development plan is one that could transform a desolate corner of downtown Tampa into a thriving urban neighborhood anchored by a major corporate campus. Vinik on Wednesday unveiled plans to build nearly 3 million square feet of commercial space on the 25 acres between Amalie Arena and the Selmon Expressway that he has assembled over the last several years.
World Affairs
12:18 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

White House Statement on "Charting New Course on Cuba"


Office of the Press Secretary


December 17, 2014

Fact Sheet:  Charting a New Course on Cuba


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World Affairs
12:03 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Obama Unveils 'New Approach' On Cuba As Former Foes Chart New Course

President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. will work with Cuba to normalize diplomatic ties.
Doug Mills UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:41 pm

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

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Health News Florida
9:19 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Elders Trapped By Guardianship Law

Marie Winkelman, 89, had her rights removed a year ago at the request of her stepson-in-law, and is bewildered by the idea that she no longer has access to her own finances.
Thomas Bender Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:43 am

 Florida's elder guardianship program is meant to help vulnerable elders.

But Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Barbara Peters Smith recently published a series that shows the rapidly expanding system run in Florida’s probate court system ignores the rights of some. She spoke with Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden about the year-long investigation.

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Florida Matters
8:38 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Florida Matters: Year 2 of Enrollment on (LISTEN)

It's the second year of enrollment for health insurance plans under the federal health law on, the website that Floridians, and people in dozens of other states, use to shop for health insurance.

As of Dec. 15, we have passed a key deadline, the deadline to buy a plan to have coverage that starts Jan. 1. But open enrollment runs through Feb. 15, 2015, and we have gathered a panel to talk about what consumers be doing now if they still need to get health insurance coverage to comply with the federal health law known as Obamacare.

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University Beat
5:38 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Getting People Moving with A High-Tech Simulator

Dr. Stephanie Carey (right) of the USF Dept. of Mechanical Engineering monitors veteran Gordon "Skip" Beadle as he tries out the CAREN (Computer-Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) system.

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 5:48 pm

Gordon "Skip" Beadle has a prosthetic right leg, the tenth such device he’s depended on since the retired U.S. Marine was wounded during the Vietnam War 50 years ago.

"It’s a symbiotic leg. It has a microprocessor in the knee and also the ankle," he said. "This leg in particular gives me a huge amount of balance. Before this leg, I pretty much had to use a cane cause I’d lose my balance. (Now) I can walk without a cane; I can walk uphill, downhill."

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5:01 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Jeb Bush: I'll ‘Actively Explore’ Presidential Run

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday he will “actively explore” a campaign for president, an early move that could pre-empt some other Republicans with White House aspirations in the bidding for big donations and public support.

In a holiday message posted on his Facebook page, the son and brother of Republican presidents said he had discussed the “future of our nation” and his own prospective bid for the White House with members of his family over the Thanksgiving holiday.

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4:44 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Boat Springs Purchased for Preservation

Map of Boat Spring

The Southwest Florida Water Management District announced today it has closed on the purchase of Boat Spring. It's part of the headwaters of Hammock Creek spring system, located in Aripeka, on the Gulf of Mexico at the Hernando and Pasco County line.

Here's more information from the Southwest Florida Water Management District:

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