Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.4.21
Good Wednesday morning.
On Monday, bookies set Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reelection odds at 81%. On Tuesday, St. Pete Polls gave them a reason to hedge their bets.
The pollster surveyed nearly 4,000 Florida voters and found that, if the election were today, the Republican incumbent would lose to U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist by a point-and-a-half, 45.3%-43.8%. DeSantis would win in a head-to-head against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, but only by a hair.
This isn’t a pro-Dem prevarication: St. Pete Polls is one of the most highly respected polling outfits in the Sunshine State and is included in Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight polling aggregations.
Ron DeSantis lags behind Charlie Crist in new polling.
The survey delivered a couple of other body blows to DeSantis, who not long ago was described as the most popular Governor in the country. Maybe that’s still the case, but he’s seemingly more popular as an export than at home à la David Hasselhoff in Deutschland.
DeSantis was on the bad side of nearly half those polled (49%), while 44% said they were still in his corner two-and-a-half years into his first term, giving him a minus-5 rating overall. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden — who many believe DeSantis will challenge in 2024 — scored a plus-3 approval rating.
The Governor’s intractability on school mask mandates probably isn’t helping, as the same poll found more than three in five voters think masking up should be a requirement when kids head back to class later this month. Just 32% want a barefaced back-to-school season. Fence-sitters account for the other 6%.
GOP voters still largely support the Governor, both in job approval and the 2022 race, but they are not a monolith. About a fifth of Republicans said they would vote for Crist, and one in six said they’re backing Fried in 2022. In both cases, fewer Democrats say they’d cross the aisle to cast a ballot for DeSantis.
As far as job approval goes, DeSantis has Republicans locked down, 71%-22%, but Independents disapprove by a 12-point margin. Among Democrats, the incumbent remains about as popular as a Zune bricked in a vat of New Coke.
The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 2-3. Of the poll’s 3,952 respondents, 39% are registered Republicans, and 37% are registered Democrats. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6%.
Meredith Brock Stanfield is the new legislative policy director at the Florida Professional Firefighters, the organization announced Tuesday.
In the new role, Stanfield will lead legislative policy development efforts for the group, which represents more than 27,000 Florida firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.
FPF President and CEO Wayne “Bernie” Bernoska said Stanfield brings the organization “a depth of knowledge” on key FPF issues, such as pensions and collective bargaining.
Congratulations to Meredith Brock Stanfield on her new gig with the Florida Professional Firefighters Association.
Stanfield comes to the Florida Professional Firefighters from the office of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, where she has served as director of legislative and cabinet affairs for the past two years.
“Meredith onboarding with the FPF is a huge win for Florida firefighters. Few are as adept at navigating the legislative process as Meredith, but she does the most important thing in this process: win,” Patronis said.
The University of Georgia alumna previously worked as the legislative affairs director at the Departments of Management Services, Juvenile Justice, and the Office of Financial Regulation. Her resume also includes a stint with the Florida League of Cities, where she worked as a legal and legislative assistant.
“In recent years, I have been proud to support protecting the health and safety of Florida’s firefighters and emergency response personnel through the passage of key legislation, and I am thrilled to be joining the team at the FPF to make that my primary focus,” she said.
Tallahassee attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman has been named General Counsel of the National Bar Association.
Pittman was selected by the incoming president of the association last week during the NBA’s annual conference. His nomination was met with unanimous approval by the NBA Board of Governors. The selection was the first official act of new NBA President Carlos Moore, a Mississippi attorney.
“I am humbled by the great honor and responsibility to help lead this prestigious organization by providing reliable legal advice and guidance to President Carlos Moore, the NBA Board of Governors, and my peer attorneys across the country,” Pittman said in a news release.
Sean Pittman takes a top role as General Counsel of the National Bar Association.
“The National Bar Association has a proud history of supporting and engaging America’s Black attorneys and significant issues impacting Black people and communities. I am excited to play a larger role with the NBA as the existence and importance of the organization is exacerbated by COVID-19, health care and wealth disparities, police brutality, voter suppression, and the impact these issues have on Black people and our communities in America.”
Founded in 1925, The National Bar Association is the largest network of predominantly Black American attorneys and judges. The Washington-based has historically been a strong voice for the rights of Black people, marginalized communities, and underserved populations across the country.
“Sean Pittman will serve the NBA well, and I look forward to working with him,” Moore said.
Pittman’s selection comes as his firm, Pittman Law Group, celebrates its 20th anniversary and enjoys continued growth with the addition of a new office in Orlando. The firm also has offices in Tallahassee, Miami and Riviera Beach.
It’s back-to-school season, and Simply Healthcare is doing its part to make it a good one for Florida students.
Last weekend, the company held an event in Tampa to deck out K-12 kids with new gear ahead of their first day back to class. Attendees had the opportunity to grab a haircut and a hot dog, courtesy of the health care company.
In all, 223 children stopped by to pick up a backpack.
Simply Healthcare is making back-to-school a little easier.
The Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway was hosted on July 31 by Haven Destiny and had NFL Alumni in attendance encouraging kids to study hard this school year. The Sheffield Family Foundation was also a sponsor of the event.
Also, Simply Healthcare on Tuesday announced another effort aimed at getting Florida students ready for school — a partnership with the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The two organizations will work together to create an online tool kit and to help families, teachers and caregivers guide children through the mental health struggles that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The company said it is just the first resource developed as part of the partnership, with more to come.
The University of Florida chomped at the opportunity to bring on government affairs pro Sara Bremer as its new assistant director of government relations.
Bremer has spent more than a decade helping the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers navigate The Process, most recently as its deputy director of legislative services, which saw her take point on legislative policy initiatives benefiting clerks and comptrollers.
Congratulations: Sara Bremer gets to represent the Gators.
When she immigrates to the Gator Nation next week, she’ll handle similar duties — the university said Bremer will help plan and implement state-level legislative and public policy strategies.
“Sara has a stellar reputation for being a skilled professional with a strong work ethic and great relationships,” said Mark Kaplan, UF’s vice president of government and community relations. “With her passion for our university and our state, I know Sara will make a great addition to our team and will help further our success.”
An enthused Samantha Greer, UF’s government relations director, said the team “could not be more excited to begin working with Sara.”
As a Gainesville-born graduate of the state’s flagship university, Bremer has the lingo down pat — in a news release, she said the opportunity to “work toward the Gator Good for all of us is a dream come true.”
Bremer graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in French. She also holds a master’s in international affairs from the school out west.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MarcoRubio: If at this time last year someone had told us there was a medicine that made COVID no worse than the flu we would have been very happy. Well, now we do. Use it.
—@StevenTDennis: >1 out of every 1,900 people in Florida is in a hospital bed right now with COVID.
—@Dan_Sweeney: As usual, it’s not the higher hospital admissions that are the problem in Florida — it’s the media reporting on the higher hospital admissions.
now this is what we call keeping our eye on the ball pic.twitter.com/wZUSXHIfI1
— Nate Monroe (@NateMonroeTU) August 3, 2021
—@MatthewDowd: Cuomo must be held accountable. Whether that be impeachment or resignation. As I have said for years, we must not tolerate this behavior. I said this for (Bill) Clinton, (Donald) Trump (Bill) Cosby, Justices (Clarence) Thomas/(Brett) Kavanaugh, etc. Those who only want accountability through partisan lens are hypocrites.
—@Jenn_Bradley: Rewatching #TedLasso and reminded of the perfection of the darts scene when Ted shuts down Rupert. “Be curious, not judgmental.”— Walt Whitman
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 2; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 5; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 7; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 14; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 20; Boise vs. UCF — 29; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 30; Notre Dame at FSU — 32; NFL regular season begins — 36; Bucs home opener — 36; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 41; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 41; Alabama at UF — 45; Dolphins home opener — 46; Jaguars home opener — 46; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 47; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 51; ‘Dune’ premieres — 58; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 58; MLB regular season ends — 60; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 65; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 83; World Series Game 1 — 84; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 84; Georgia at UF — 87; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 90; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 90; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 94; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 96; Miami at FSU — 101; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 107; FSU vs. UF — 115; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 128; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 135; NFL season ends — 158; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 160; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 160; NFL playoffs begin — 161; Super Bowl LVI — 193; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 233; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 277; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 302; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 338; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 350; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 429; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 464.
— TOP STORY —
“In many ways, Florida’s current COVID-19 crisis is the worst in the nation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — At his news conference in Miami Tuesday morning, DeSantis sounded frustrated at how much attention the news media are paying to Florida’s COVID-19 case numbers and hospital admissions. Yet, in many ways, Florida’s summer COVID-19 surge appears to be the worst in the country by far and certainly the worst public health crisis Florida has suffered throughout the 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis’ latest frustration was expressed on a day that federal data cited by the Florida Hospital Association showed Florida with 11,515 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in one day. His administration has challenged whether that figure represents a record day for Florida in the COVID-19 pandemic era.
Ron DeSantis is frustrated by the media coverage of Florida’s COVID-19 rates.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida again breaks record for COVID-19 hospitalizations” via The Associated Press — The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida rose to an all-time high of 11,515 patients in one day. The data is used by the Florida Hospital Association to track admissions and staffing shortages. The figures also show 2,400 of those patients are in ICU beds. The previous day, the data showed there were 10,389 COVID-19-hospitalizations in the state. The new number breaks a previous record for current hospitalizations set more than a year ago before vaccines were available. Last year, Florida hit its previous peak on July 23, with 10,170 hospitalizations. Hospitals around the state report having to put emergency room visitors in beds in hallways, and others document a noticeable drop in the age of patients.
Florida breaks another COVID-19 record. Image via Reuters.
“Florida will remain without state-operated COVID-19 testing sites” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis said Florida will not reopen state-operated COVID-19 test sites and will instead look to local governments to continue testing operations throughout the state. Under the CARES Act, DeSantis said local governments are well-funded and can maintain testing operations despite the summer surge of COVID-19 cases. What’s more, he highlighted the availability of at-home coronavirus tests that are available for purchase. “Our view is that this is so available throughout society right now,” DeSantis said, adding that municipalities are welcome to expand testing operations if they wish. The question of additional testing sites comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach an all-time high in the Sunshine State.
“Younger, sicker, unvaccinated: Today’s COVID-19 patients in Florida are different” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The newest wave of COVID-19 patients into Florida’s hospitals hit hard and fast, bringing mostly people between ages 25 and 55 who are unvaccinated and often have no underlying health conditions. As of Tuesday, more than 11,377 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida, a record. While little data on who fills hospital beds in Florida is published regularly, some information is collected and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aharon Sareli, chief of critical care medicine for Memorial Healthcare System, said patients reflect the community’s demographics surrounding each hospital district in the state — particularly the unvaccinated residents.
“Central Florida doctors concerned over growing number of children hospitalized with COVID-19” via Lauren Seabrook and Sarah Wilson of WFTV — One week before school starts in Orange County, more than 30 children in the area are hospitalized, and many more are very sick with COVID-19. “Compared to the last prior two or three months, we’re seeing a tremendous increase in the number of kids coming in for medical care,” said Dr. Federico Laham, the medical director for pediatric infectious diseases at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Overall in Orange County, 37 kids ages zero to 4 years old are positive for COVID-19; 113 kids ages 5 to 14 are infected, and 193 have the virus in the 15 to 24 age group. Of those, Orlando Health has five kids admitted to the hospital, including one in the ICU.
“COVID-19 surge in Pinellas is delaying emergency hospital care, officials warn” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Residents choosing to remain unvaccinated for the coronavirus are having a disproportionate impact on local hospitals and government resources, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton warned on Tuesday. Daily counts of new cases are up to 660 on average, “the highest we’ve ever been,” Burton said, and hospitals are overwhelmed by patients, delaying help to those arriving for emergencies. The time from ambulance drop-off to when patients are seen for medical care has risen dramatically to about an hour on average, and to three hours in one instance, he said. That period typically averages about 15 minutes.
“Manatee hospitals have more COVID-19 patients now than when they hit capacity July 2020” via Jessica de Leon of the Bradenton Herald — Hospitals in Manatee County are treating more patients for COVID-19 now than they were just over a year ago when they were at capacity. Across the state and country, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also spiked, a surge driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus. According to data collected by the Manatee County Department of Public Safety, the county’s three general hospitals had 131 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 on Monday. Among those patients, 28 patients were being treated in an ICU. Confirmed hospitalizations for COVID-19 totaled 11,863 in Florida on Tuesdays. Across the state, 2,406 patients are in an ICU being treated for COVID-19.
“Treasure Coast hospitals coping with influx of COVID-19 patients; modifying policies day-to-day” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — As the four Cleveland Clinic Treasure Coast hospitals experience the greatest totals of hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients since the pandemic began, all major area hospitals appear to have modified some day-to-day policies as COVID-19 cases across the state surge. Florida Tuesday reported an all-time daily high of 11,515 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For the third day in a row, the number was over 10,000 and the highest daily total since the pandemic. Last year, Florida hit its previous peak on July 23, with 10,170 hospitalizations.
“Record COVID-19 outbreak infects 21 Martin County Sheriff’s Office employees, 11 incarcerated people” via Mauricio La Plante of Treasure Coast Newspapers — At least 21 employees of the Sheriff’s Office are infected with COVID-19, the highest number of cases they’ve had since the beginning of the pandemic, said Chief Deputy John Budensiek. An additional 17 employees, who have not tested positive, are in quarantine, he said. “This is the worst it’s been since the pandemic began at the Sheriff’s Office,” Budensiek said. The most recent numbers available from the state Department of Health are from July 23 to July 29. That week there were 557 cases in Martin County and a new case positivity of 17.8%.
“Baptist Health to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff at Jacksonville hospitals” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Baptist Health announced Tuesday that it will require all 12,500 of its employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 15. The hospital system cited the increasing number of cases and its “ethical responsibility” as an impetus for the mandate, as well as the expected full federal approval of the vaccines that are currently being distributed on an emergency basis. Baptist Health, which has five hospitals, will grant exemptions for “medical contraindications and sincerely held religious beliefs,” as it does in its flu shot policy.
“Gary Farmer implores Scott Rivkees to rebuke Governor’s ban on school mask mandates” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Farmer is seeking answers from Surgeon General Rivkees, as Farmer argues the Governor’s recent executive order banning school mask mandates is filled with a “proliferation of myths.” Farmer authored a letter to Rivkees, asking him to respond to and clarify DeSantis’ argument for blocking school boards from instituting such a mandate. “As you are also aware, in support of his order, DeSantis cited a Brown University Study, other unnamed ‘studies’ and a public health advisory issued by yourself,” Farmer writes in the letter to Rivkees. Farmer represents portions of Broward County, which is currently experiencing a COVID-19 surge like most of the state.
Gary Farmer calls for Ron DeSantis to reconsider his ban on school mask mandates. Image via Colin Hackley.
“Miami, Broward schools push to get students back on track after pandemic learning losses” via Madeleine Romance of the Miami Herald — After a year when many students had significant learning losses due to remote learning amid the pandemic, Miami-Dade and Broward public schools are ramping up, hiring teachers and tutors, academic and mental health counselors and getting families more engaged to get their students back on track for the school year. Miami-Dade and Broward educators are deeply concerned about how far students had fallen behind during the past school year, when they went to school one day and pivoted to online learning the next, contending with balky computers, quarantines, parents not always home to guide them and not being able to chat with a teacher, coach or a friend in the hallway.
Pandemic powered a spike in home schooling — Florida Department of Education data shows the number of Florida children in home-school jumped by more than a third during the pandemic. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, the increase marks a record for Florida, with DOE saying it “is believed to be a direct result of families opting out of face-to-face instruction in a classroom due to the ongoing pandemic.” Arithmetically, home-school enrollment increased by 37,000 to 143,431 overall. Over the past five years, DOE data shows home-school enrollment is up by 55,969 students (or 64%).
— CORONA NATION —
“Joe Biden chides Republican Governors who resist vaccine rules” via Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — Speaking from the White House, Biden sharply criticized Florida Gov. DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates to slow the delta strain of the virus. The strain is surging in their states and other parts of the country with large numbers of unvaccinated people. “If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said. Biden endorsed New York City’s move to require vaccinations to dine indoors or go to the gym, as well as corporate moves to require vaccines to return to work. Such policies have been barred to varying degrees in at least seven GOP-led states.
Joe Biden tells Ron DeSantis to ‘get out of the way.’
“FDA aims to give final approval to Pfizer vaccine by early next month” via Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland of The New York Times — With a new surge of COVID-19 infections ripping through much of the United States, the FDA has accelerated its timetable to fully approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, aiming to complete the process by the start of next month. Biden said last week that he expected a fully approved vaccine in early fall. But the F.D.A.’s unofficial deadline is Labor Day or sooner. The agency said its leaders recognized that approval might inspire more public confidence and had “taken an all-hands-on-deck approach” to the work. Giving final approval to the Pfizer vaccine could help increase inoculation rates at a moment when the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is sharply driving up the number of new cases.
“CDC’s COVID-19 mask guidance clouded by flawed data” via Robbie Whelan and Jared S. Hopkins of The Wall Street Journal — The CDC is fighting COVID-19 without a full arsenal of data that some public-health experts said it would need to persuade more people to take steps to contain the pandemic. When CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week that people should wear masks again indoors in areas with “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission, for instance, she said evidence shows the Delta variant might be spread as easily by vaccinated people who become infected as by the unvaccinated. The CDC pointed to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where large gatherings in July at bars, nightclubs and house parties led to hundreds of COVID-19 infections. The CDC said that nearly three-quarters of infected people were fully vaccinated, and samples showed the amount of virus that infected people carried.
Rochelle Walensky faces accusations that the CDC is working off flawed data. Image via AP.
“CDC extends Donald Trump-era policy that allows migrants to be expelled over COVID-19 concerns” via Rebecca Moorin of USA Today — The Biden administration extended a Trump-era policy that allows migrants to be expelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities. The CDC said in a statement that Title 42 “shall remain in effect until the CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered noncitizens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health, and the Order is no longer necessary to protect the public health.” Title 42 allows Customs and Border Protection officials to expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities. Children and some families are exempt from the policy.
“New congressional report says COVID-19 likely emerged in Wuhan months earlier than originally thought” via Josh Rogin of The Washington Post — The Chinese government continues to actively thwart a real investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Now, a new GOP congressional report alleges that Beijing was covering up the outbreak for months longer than previously assumed. The House Foreign Affairs Committee minority staff, led by ranking Republican Michael McCaul, released Monday an 84-page addendum to their previously issued report on the origins of COVID-19. Their new research focuses on whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the world’s leading bat coronavirus research center, as well as other labs in Wuhan, could have been the source of the outbreak. The report also presents extensive evidence that the international community may need to revise its outbreak timeline.
— STATEWIDE —
“With peak hurricane season fast approaching, National Hurricane Center tracks new disturbance in far east” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Just ahead of peak hurricane season, the NHC is tracking a new disturbance in the far eastern Atlantic. As of the 8 a.m. Tuesday update, the surface trough of low pressure had a slight chance of future development — 10% in the next 48 hours and 10% in the next five days, a small drop from the 20% called for earlier Tuesday morning. The hurricane center said it could strengthen slightly over the next few days, but it’s on track to head over cooler waters on Thursday, which could weaken or destroy it.
“DeSantis starts food fight with Ben & Jerry’s over ice cream in Israel” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Ben & Jerry’s may not be available at Florida high school and college football games this season now that DeSantis has escalated his fight with the ice cream maker over an Israeli-Palestinian dispute. This week, the state placed Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, on Florida’s list of “Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel.” Unilever now has 90 days to “cease and desist” what DeSantis calls its “boycott” of Israel or face a Florida government snubbing of its more than 400 brands, including Lipton Tea, Hellmann’s and Dove soap.
Ron DeSantis has a beef with Ben & Jerry’s. Image via AP.
Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine transportation revenue, 2 p.m., 117 Knott Building.
“Suspects in murder of Haiti President sent to prison amid concerns of rights violations” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — Haiti has started transferring more than three dozen suspects implicated in the murder of its President, Jovenel Moïse, into the country’s overcrowded prison system amid questions about whether authorities here are violating their own due process and concerns about detention conditions. “There hasn’t been any legal process yet; just disorder,” said Stanley Gaston, a defense attorney who represents four of the accused. “Everything is being done outside of the law.” The Miami Herald and McClatchy’s Washington Bureau confirmed Monday that at least three of the 44 individuals under arrest by Haiti National Police were moved Sunday from police holding cells to the crowded National Penitentiary near downtown Port-au-Prince.
“Spirit Airlines slammed for third straight day, canceling more than half its flights” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Spirit Airlines’ cancellations increased for the third straight day at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Tuesday, frustrating hundreds of travelers. And, for the first time, those cancellations represented a majority of all of Spirit’s scheduled flights in Fort Lauderdale: 102 flights, or 52%. The Miramar-based airline has canceled more than 200 flights at the airport since Sunday and over 690 nationwide since Monday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The airline has already canceled at least 16 flights for Wednesday, three of which are out of Fort Lauderdale. A Spirit spokesman on Sunday blamed weather and “other operational challenges.” The airline did not respond to multiple emails and phone requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: 211 Tampa Bay Cares
Steve Crisafulli, Crisafulli Consulting: The Washington Consulting Group
— 2022 —
“Charlie Crist to DeSantis: Require Florida state employees to get vaccinated” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Speaking from South Florida, DeSantis downplayed the recent spike in cases as “media hysteria” and maintained that Florida will remain open and masks will not be required in schools when they open later this month. DeSantis isn’t considering a vaccine mandate of any kind, spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said, noting that some people have medical or religious reasons for choosing to forgo the shot. She also said that people who have natural immunity from prior infection are already protected. “If Disney, Walmart, and our military can do it, our state government can as well,” Crist said in a statement.
Charlie Crist demands that Ron DeSantis mandate that all state employees are vaccinated.
Assignment editors — Crist will join a group of Floridians — parents, a teacher, a pediatrician and a student — for a virtual roundtable about safety as the school year begins amid COVID-19 cases in Florida, 11:30 a.m. Livestream on Facebook.
“House Dem campaign chief warns the majority at risk without message reboot” via Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle of POLITICO — During a closed-door lunch last week with some of his most vulnerable incumbents, House Democrats’ campaign chief delivered a blunt warning: If the midterms were held now, they would lose the majority. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney followed that bleak forecast, which was confirmed by multiple people familiar with the conversation, with new polling that showed Democrats falling behind Republicans by a half-dozen points on a generic ballot in battleground districts. Maloney advised the party to course-correct ahead of 2022 by promoting Biden’s agenda, which remains popular with swing voters.
“Kanika Tomalin to join Eckerd College, dimming speculation of congressional run” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Tomalin will join Eckerd College as the school’s vice president for strategy and chief operating officer at the start of next year, dimming speculation around a potential congressional run. Tomalin, who has served in Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration since his initial election in 2014, will take on the role upon completion of this term, as Kriseman faces term limits. Tomalin, a Democrat, said she was considering entering the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District back in June. The district is one of the most hotly contested seats in the state, and it will be an open election, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Crist vacating the seat to run for Governor.
— MORE CORONA —
“New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for certain indoor activities” via Robert Towey of CNBC — de Blasio mandated inoculations for a range of indoor venues at a news conference Tuesday morning, requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations from employees and customers of indoor eateries, gyms and entertainment centers. The order goes into effect on Aug. 16, with full enforcement beginning Sept. 13. De Blasio said the mandate, known as the Key to NYC Pass, would encourage increased immunizations to combat the spread of the delta coronavirus variant. “When you hear those words, I want you to imagine the notion that, because someone’s vaccinated, they can do all the amazing things that are available in this city,” de Blasio said of the Key to NYC Pass.
Want to hang out in NYC? Bill de Blasio says you gotta get your shots.
“Puerto Rico cautiously welcomes first cruise since COVID-19, Carnival’s biggest ship yet” via The Associated Press — The Carnival Mardi Gras docked Tuesday in Puerto Rico, the first time a cruise ship has visited the U.S. territory since the pandemic began. Some cautiously celebrated the arrival. It comes as Puerto Rico has reported an increase in COVID-19 cases blamed on the delta variant and seeks to restart its crucial tourism sector, which depended largely on record numbers of cruise ship passengers in recent years. Carlos Mercado, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, said the government took several precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including allowing only those who are fully vaccinated to disembark.
“CDC says travelers should avoid Greece, Ireland and other destinations, regardless of vaccination status” via Bailey Schultz of USA Today — The CDC is advising travelers to stay away from Greece, Ireland, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other destinations, regardless of vaccination status. On Monday, the agency bumped more than a dozen destinations to its highest travel advisory category, “level 4: very high level of COVID-19,” on Monday. The agency asks travelers to avoid those destinations and says those who must travel should be fully vaccinated before arrival. The change comes as countries around the globe grapple with the highly contagious delta variant.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Big economic challenges await Biden and the Fed this fall” via Jim Tankersley and Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times — The widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the reopening of schools and the expiration of enhanced jobless benefits have been seen as a potent cocktail that should prod workers off the sidelines and into the millions of jobs that employers say they are having trouble filling. But that optimistic outlook might be imperiled by the resurgent virus and policymakers’ response to it. Big companies are already delaying return-to-office plans, an early and visible sign that life may not return to normal as rapidly as expected. At the same time, long-running federal supports for people hurt by the pandemic are going away, including a moratorium on evictions and an extra $300 per week for unemployed workers.
The coming economy should be robust, but the delta variant could pose challenges.
“Law school loses luster as debts mount and salaries stagnate” via Andrea Fuller, Josh Mitchell and Sara Randazzo of The Wall Street Journal — Law school was once considered a surefire ticket to a comfortable life. Years of tuition increases have made it a fast way to get buried in debt. Recent graduates of the University of Miami School of Law who used federal loans borrowed a median of $163,000. Two years later, half were earning $59,000 or less. That’s the biggest gap between debt and earnings among the top 100 law schools, ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Only a dozen of the nation’s law schools leave students earning annual salaries two years after graduation that exceed their debts, according to the Education Department data covering roughly 200 programs. Among them are Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania.
“Wall Street is underestimating the economic recovery” via Conor Sen of Bloomberg — The U.S. remains in a deep employment hole, with 6.7 million fewer jobs in June than there were in February 2020. But that overstates the weakness in the economy. The elegant way to show this numerically is to look at the change in real GDP, employment, and wages and salaries received by workers between December 2019 and June 2021. Real GDP has increased by 0.8%. Employment is down by 4.1%. And wages and salaries received by workers are up by 6.7%. Employment and wages aren’t apples to apples, but it still shows that real output and real wages are at new highs while employment remains well below its high.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Landlords, tenants fill courts as eviction moratorium ends” via The Associated Press — The Biden administration allowed the federal moratorium on evictions to expire over the weekend, and Congress was unable to extend it. Historic amounts of rental assistance allocated by Congress had been expected to avert a crisis. But the distribution has been painfully slow: Only about $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion had been distributed through June by states and localities. The second amount of $21.5 billion will go to the states. More than 15 million people live in households that owe as much as $20 billion to their landlords. For some tenants, getting assistance has proved impossible. While the moratorium was enforced in much of the country, there were states like Idaho where judges ignored it.
Evictions start up again, briefly, filling courts across America. Image via AP.
“Biden administration issues new eviction moratorium” via Andrew Ackerman and Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration Tuesday announced a new federal moratorium on evictions, bowing to pressure from progressive Democrats to revive lapsed tenant protections despite White House officials saying they lacked the legal authority to do so. The CDC ban targets areas that have experienced “substantial or high” levels of COVID-19 transmission and is expected to cover more than 80% of U.S. counties. The action aims to buy states and localities more time to distribute about $47 billion in rental assistance designed to help tenants harmed by the pandemic who have fallen behind on their rent. As of June 30, just $3 billion of that money had reached tenants and landlords.
“Biden approval ratings on COVID-19 and economy fall in new CNBC All-America survey” via Steve Liesman of CNBC — Biden held on to his overall approval rating in the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey but showed weakness in two key areas as the public’s views on the economy and the outlook for the virus soured. In the poll of 802 American adults nationwide, 48% approved of Biden’s job as President, up a point from the first quarter. But his disapproval numbers grew to 45% from 41%. The biggest change came in views on his handling of the coronavirus, where approval dropped 9 points to 53%; Biden’s economic approval fell to 42%, a decline of 4 points, or just beyond the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Trump remains the key to 2022” via Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call — With Trump not nearly as much in the limelight as he once was, Democrats are spending more time complaining about a handful of Republican elected officials who spend most of their time defending the former President and portraying Democrats as communists, socialists, Marxists and any other “ist” they can find. But while the Washington echo chamber sometimes seems obsessed with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, the 2022 midterm elections will almost certainly be a referendum on either Biden or Trump. Republicans want to make the midterms about Biden. Democrats need to give Trump enough rope so that he can hang himself. That means they still need him to get plenty of attention between now and next November.
Donald Trump is the 800-pound gorilla in 2022. Image via AP.
“Trump raised millions but spent none of it on audits and GOP candidates” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Six months since leaving office, Trump is sitting on a $102 million war chest. But having whipped his supporters into a frenzy with pledges to overturn the election and promises to support Republican candidates in the midterms, he is not spending his campaign money on either. A review of election filings from Make America Great Again PAC, Save America PAC, and the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee shows that not a penny was transferred or contributed from those Trump-affiliated entities to GOP candidates or committees involved in the midterm elections. The one expenditure Trump did make — a $1 million contribution to America First Policy Institute, the think tank a handful of his former aides launched when he lost the White House.
“Trump says he will not try to stop former Justice Dept. officials from testifying to Congress.” via Katie Benner of The New York Times — Trump said this week that he would not move to stop former Justice Department officials from testifying before two committees that are investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election, according to letters from his lawyer, Douglas A. Collins. Collins said Trump might take some undisclosed legal action if congressional investigators sought “privileged information” from “any other Trump administration officials or advisers,” including “all necessary and appropriate steps, on President Trump’s behalf, to defend the office of the presidency.” The letters were not sent to the congressional committees, but rather to the potential witnesses, who cannot control whom Congress contacts for testimony or what information it seeks.
“Trump New Jersey golf club can’t use presidential seal now that he’s out of office, complaint says” via Jonathan D. Salant of NJ.com — A criminal complaint has been filed against Trump’s Bedminster golf club, charging the facility with misusing the presidential seal. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group and frequent critic of the former President, filed the complaint with the U.S. Justice Department after an Instagram photo showed the seal on a tee marker at the golf course. Federal law prohibits the use of the seal to give “a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States,” CREW said in its complaint. Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve declined to comment on the complaint.
— CRISIS —
“Two more police officers who responded to Jan. 6 Capitol attack died by suicide” via Alexa Corse of The Wall Street Journal — Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said that two more officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have died by suicide. That raises to four the known number of suicides by police officers who defended the complex after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The toll comprises three officers from the Metropolitan Police Department and one officer from the Capitol Police. MPD Officer Gunther Hashida was found dead on July 29, and Officer Kyle DeFreytag was found dead on July 10. MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith and Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood also guarded the Capitol on Jan. 6 and subsequently died by suicide.
Jan. 6 takes two more lives.
“Pentagon police officer is fatally stabbed” via Nancy A. Youssef and Sadie Gurman of The Wall Street Journal — At 10:37 a.m. “a Pentagon police officer was attacked on the Metro bus platform, gunfire was exchanged, and there were several casualties,” Pentagon Force Protection Agency Police Chief Woodrow Kusse said during a Tuesday press briefing, but declined to say how many were injured. Law-enforcement officials briefed on the investigation identified the suspect as 27-year-old Austin William Lanz. Authorities didn’t provide any additional information about the suspect. The FBI is leading the investigation, Chief Kusse said, but he didn’t specify why that agency was in charge. The bureau said that “it would be premature to speculate on motive” and that there is no longer a public threat.
“Church group reports suspected Capitol rioter to FBI” via Graig Graziosi of The Independent — Glen Allen Brook of California was arrested on Thursday by the FBI after his church group tipped off the agency. Brooks “boasted of his active participation” in the insurrection and “sent photos of his attendance” to a text chat group full of members from his church group, according to a criminal complaint. The text reportedly included a photo of himself inside the Capitol. Several weeks later, he was turned in by a member of the group. Allen’s arrest came just before it was announced that two more officers who fought Trump supporters during the insurrection had died by suicide. In the wake of a House select committee hearing, officers recounted the various injuries incurred during the attack.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“‘This attack happened’: Medals to honor Jan. 6 responders” via Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — The Senate has voted to award Medals of Honor to the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department for protecting Congress during the Jan. 6 insurrection, sending the legislation to Biden for his signature. Under the bill, which passed by voice vote with no objections, four medals will be displayed at the Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian Institution. The medals are “a recognition that will be on display for people to understand and remember what these officers did,” Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar said. Senate passage comes after 21 House Republicans voted against the measure in June, some of them objecting to the language in the bill that referred to a “mob of insurrectionists.”
Responders to The Capitol riots get their due. Image via AP.
“Senators behind $1T infrastructure plan show off their work” via Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — The Senators who spent months stitching together a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure package are now trying to sell it to the American people before a key vote expected this week. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday that the $65 billion for broadband means that some people in her state would get access to the internet for the first time. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke of how the bill would lead to more rural and Native Alaskans having access to a sink to wash their hands in. And Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy noted there is about $16 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would help fund projects designed to curb coastal erosion. “
“Congress is slashing a $30 billion plan to fight the next pandemic” via Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic — Biden proposed $30 billion to address the issue, which advocates say could permanently mitigate the risks of future outbreaks. The investment would replenish medical stockpiles, proactively develop vaccines for major types of viruses, and ensure that the United States has a permanent production base of face masks and respirators. In effect, it would amount to an Apollo program — like push to guarantee that a pandemic could never shut down the country again. Yet, those funds have been slashed in the current negotiations over the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package as part of a push to slim it down.
“Why Marco Rubio’s criticisms of the Pentagon chief are so misplaced” via Steve Benen of NBC News — What the Republican Senator didn’t seem to realize is what the U.S. embassy quickly made clear: “The Philippine government has mandated that everyone must wear full-coverage face shields together with face masks while in public places. Local governments continue to implement additional requirements to slow the virus’ spread.” It was an unfortunate error for Rubio — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who probably should’ve thought this through before taking a public shot at the Pentagon chief. But instead of walking it back and/or deleting the tweet, the Florida Republican pressed on a day later, pointing to images of Austin with a mask but no face shield.
“Rubio presses DNI to investigate alleged unmasking of Tucker Carlson” via Dominick Mastrangelo of The Hill — The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling on the director of national intelligence to investigate allegations that the federal government “unmasked” Carlson. In a letter to Avril Haines, Rubio said that recent media reports that “Mr. Carlson was unmasked by a government agency” have “only fueled the perception that unmasking is being used as a political hammer or to satisfy curiosity.” “Unmasking” is a process by which senior intelligence officials can learn the identity of subjects under government surveillance who are otherwise listed anonymously if they believe there is a national security rationale for doing so.
“Vern Buchanan says existing water quality rules need to be enforced, not pass more regulations” via Earle Kimmel and Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Buchanan said Monday following a roundtable discussion on red tide that more must be done to keep nutrients that feed harmful algae blooms out of waterways, but he favors stricter enforcement of existing rules over new regulations. “Let’s enforce the ones we’ve got first, and then we’ll go from there,” Buchanan said of Florida’s environmental regulations. Buchanan convened the roundtable at Sarasota’s Selby Gardens as red tide continues to foul waterways and kill sea life along coastal Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as in the Tampa Bay area. Environmental advocates have long criticized Florida’s water quality rules as inadequate.
Vern Buchanan says no more new regs, just enforce the ones already on the books.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz discloses personal investment in tech company months after deadline” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rep. Wasserman Schultz filed disclosures reporting she and her children bought stock in a technology company but waited months after the deadline to make the purchases public. Reports filed last week by the Broward/Miami-Dade County Democrat show four stock buys, on Oct. 13, in Westell Technologies Inc., which provides what the company calls “high-performance wireless infrastructure solutions.” The deadline for reporting the transactions was the end of November, making her disclosure eight months late. “This was an oversight and corrected once it was recognized,” a Wasserman Schultz spokesman said via email.
“White House officials open to tightening law authorizing war on terrorist groups” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, favorably cited ideas to give Congress some role in any future decisions to expand counterterrorism operations to additional terrorist groups or new countries, as well as to require periodic reviews of such groups and countries. Sherman made her comments at a hearing officially devoted to pending legislation to repeal two other aging war-powers laws: the 1991 law that authorized the Persian Gulf War and the 2002 law that authorized George W. Bush to invade Iraq. The House voted in June to repeal them, and the Biden administration said it supported that effort, saying they were obsolete.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“First police videos released in Surfside condo collapse: Scenes of shock, confusion, chaos” via Charles Rabin and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Body camera video from three of the first Surfside officers on the scene of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse captured scenes of almost unthinkable chaos: Thick clouds of dust, a landscape strewn with wreckage and cries of help from unseen, seemingly unreachable victims. The town released the footage on Tuesday. The images are difficult to watch, reviving the shock and horror that faced the very first responders to the catastrophe early in the morning of June 24. Officer Ariol Lage, whose body camera started filming about 1:24 a.m. — minutes after the collapse — scurried past debris and down a walkway, dust floating overhead and bright lights in front of him.
“Why a residential building has spent 13 years on Miami-Dade’s unsafe structures radar” via Marie-Rose Sheinerman of the Miami Herald — Following the Surfside condo collapse that left 98 dead this summer, Miami-Dade County has faced mounting pressure to address the hundreds of unsafe structure cases in its jurisdiction, including aging residential complexes that have failed to meet a key safety benchmark for buildings aged 40 years and older. One stands out among the rest: Jade Winds, a sprawling North Miami Beach complex where one building is 13 years past due on its 40-year recertification — the longest-standing unresolved recertification case among buildings flagged by the county in a post-Surfside audit. More than a decade after the case was opened with the county, the building remains occupied.
Why has Jade Winds spent 13 years on the list of unsafe Miami Beach condos?
“Man slammed by Miami Beach cop followed orders, arrest report and video show” via Terrell Forney of WPLG Local 10 News — Khalid Vaughn was a witness, recording an arrest on his cellphone when an officer tackled him to the ground and unleashed a series of punches. According to arrest reports for the five Miami Beach officers being charged in last week’s rough arrest, one cop exclaimed “my man,” to which Vaughn replied: “I’m minding my business, but I’m just recording. Y’all got him already. He handcuffed.” The officer shouted for Vaughn to back up. Video shows the witness complied. An arrest report says he was “five feet away from the nearest officer but upward of 15 feet away from the spot where Mr. (Dalonta) Crudup is being detained. Mr. Vaughn complies with the commands and backs up.”
“Francis Suarez’s veto means debate over how Miami should hire its top cop will have to wait” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Suarez has moved to block Miami voters from deciding whether the city should change the way it selects its top two public safety officers, a referendum on the way Police Chief Art Acevedo was quietly recruited by Suarez and hired this spring by City Manager Art Noriega in a pursuit kept quiet from the public and commissioners. On Friday, Suarez vetoed a city commission resolution to hold a referendum that could give commissioners a larger role in deciding who leads the city of Miami’s police and fire departments. The city manager has the sole discretion to hire and fire the police chief, but some commissioners want the power to name a search committee that would narrow and control the manager’s list of candidates.
“Will new Miami Beach law help officers arrested in rough arrests?” via Andrea Torres of WPLG Local 10 News — Before city commissioners passed a new law meant to help protect officers from civilian interference, Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements nodded his head in agreement when Rafael Paz, the acting City Attorney, assured commissioners it would not make the recording of officers an arrestable offense. Paz’s legal opinion during the public meeting in late June prompted Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson to become the third Commissioner to co-sponsor the ordinance. Richardson had expressed concern about witnesses like those who recorded George Floyd’s murder. The witnesses’ videos and testimony were key in the murder conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
“For the first time, Cuba approves Cuban-owned Miami company to do business on the island” via Sarah Moreno of the Miami Herald — The Cuban government has authorized a company owned by Miami businessman Hugo Cancio to operate on the island, an unusual ruling on a request that Cancio submitted more than a year ago that was initially rejected. A decree signed by Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca allows Cancio’s Miami-based Fuego Enterprises to sell food as well as artisanal and other consumer goods in Cuba. It was published July 28 in the island’s Official Gazette. Fuego will have a branch office in Havana to handle the operations by the parent company in Miami, such as imports and exports.
Group releases names of police shooters after JSO scrubs records — The Tributary, a journalist group, added its voice to the chorus of organizations criticizing police departments for using Marsy’s Law to shield the names of police officers involved in shootings. The group said that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office started shielding names earlier this year and has scrubbed the officer names for incidents as far back as January 2019, and more redactions could be forthcoming. “In effect, due in large part to Marsy’s Law, Jacksonville police shootings are less transparent than ever,” the organization said. In response, The Tributary has made a public database naming the JSO officers who have shot someone from 2007 through 2020. The database can be found here.
“Should jurors walk through site of horror? Stoneman Douglas crime scene is next legal battleground” via Rafael Olmeda and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Knowing 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, won’t be enough. Seeing pictures of their bodies, hearing testimony from the doctors who performed their autopsies, even seeing surveillance video of the final moments of the terrified teenagers and faculty members won’t be enough. To truly understand why Nikolas Cruz needs to be convicted of murder and sentenced to death, prosecutors say that jurors need to follow his steps into the staircases, hallways, and classrooms where the crimes were committed. And that, defense lawyers argue, would overwhelm the jury with a flood of emotions that will make it impossible for them to return a fair and impartial verdict.
Will the court move proceedings to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High? Can jurors handle it?
“Sunny Isles Mayor resigns to focus on job leading blood bank. Special Election to be held” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl is leaving office with more than a year left on his term, submitting a resignation letter Monday explaining how he will leave to focus on his full-time job as president and CEO of the OneBlood blood bank. Scholl, whose last day is Sept. 1, said he had been overwhelmed at times over the past year leading both the city and the blood-donation company during the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases, and the emergence of the delta variant, convinced him he could not continue performing both roles.
— TOP OPINION —
“Tough-talking Ron DeSantis lacks courage to confront COVID-19” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — This is what Florida has in Ron DeSantis: A tough-talking Governor who is paralyzed by inaction in the face of the latest COVID-19 outbreak. He’s terrified that taking decisive action might anger the vaccine-hesitant base he’s increasingly reliant on to propel him to a presidential nomination in 2024. DeSantis appears to have learned a political lesson after making an innocuous comment on July 21 that the shots were “saving lives.” After a conservative backlash — they called him a “sellout” for promoting vaccines — DeSantis got right back to what he does best: ignoring the outbreak, the suffering, the deaths, and instead jetting around the state and roaring about how uncomfortable masks are.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis’ latest power grab goes too far and must be challenged” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis has gone too far with an order that prevents school districts and their elected leaders from imposing any mask requirements on students, and threatens to punish them if they do by taking away state money. That’s our money that’s spent mostly to teach our kids. Who is DeSantis punishing? Any executive order should be narrowly tailored to achieve a result that’s clearly in the public interest, such as protecting public health. That should be achieved without violating individual rights or using the power of the state to trample on the home rule authority of local government. Small-government conservatives should be appalled by such a heavy-handed use of state power to punish another layer of government.
“The eviction ban has to end sometime” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — As Democrats push to renew the nationwide ban on evictions that expired Saturday, they’re squabbling — er, screaming — over who’s failing the party’s progressive base. Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts the onus on Biden, urging him to act unilaterally. The White House says it lacks legal authority, as the Supreme Court recently made clear. Biden is correct: The CDC’s public-health powers do not extend to an interminable blanket prohibition of evictions across the entire nation. Any ban also may be an unconstitutional “taking” of property under the Fifth Amendment, though that’s an argument for another day. The point is that for 11 months, Trump and Biden stretched their authority, but now Biden must heed the Supreme Court’s warning.
“Florida is way too slow in getting federal aid to needy renters” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida has received more than $870 million from the federal government to make landlords whole and keep renters in their homes during the pandemic. But the state’s only paid out about 2% of what it has received so far. Florida is not the only laggard; nationally, only about 6.5% of the $46.5 billion set aside for the program had been distributed by the end of June. But Florida is at one-third the pace of the national average. That’s a major red flag that must be corrected. It’s essential that Florida push out this money more quickly in the coming weeks. Doing so will help stabilize housing, public health, and the state’s recovery in an uncertain time.
— OLYMPICS —
“Simone Biles says Tokyo bronze means more than all her golds” via Elisha Fieldstadt of NBC News — Biles said Tuesday her bronze medal win on the balance beam in Tokyo means more than her gold medals because it represents her focus on mental health and her perseverance. “It means more than all of the golds because I pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here,” she said. Biles, 24, said she was nervous while competing and “shocked” that she medaled, but “I didn’t really care about the outcome. I was just happy that I made the routine and that I got to compete one more time.”
Simone Biles says bronze is the sweetest medal of all.
“Meet Erriyon Knighton, the 17-year-old U.S. sprinter who broke a Usain Bolt record and is aiming for Olympic history” via Greg Auman of The Athletic — For Knighton, the record-breaking speed isn’t as incredible as his acceleration to the track world’s elite. On Sunday night in Oregon, he earned a spot in next month’s Olympics in Tokyo in the 200 meters, and at 17 years old, the rising senior at Hillsborough High School in Tampa became the youngest male U.S. Olympic track athlete in 57 years since Jim Ryun in the 1964 games, also in Tokyo. Six times in the past year and three times over the weekend, he reset the under-18 world record in the 200, along with the world under-20 record held by three-time Olympic 200-meter gold medalist Usain Bolt.
“U.S. men overcome slow start, beat Spain to advance to basketball semifinals” via NBC News — Consistency has been Team USA’s Achilles heel throughout these Olympics. That trend continued once more in their quarterfinal matchup against Spain. Luckily, they still managed to pull out the massive victory against one of the top men’s teams competing in Tokyo. Kevin Durant and company were lucky to enter halftime with the game knotted up at 43. After making just 38% of their shots through the game’s first 20 minutes. It seemed unlikely early on, but Team USA pulled out the 95-81 victory to move on to the men’s basketball semifinals, guaranteeing a chance to play for a medal. The U.S. will next take on the winner of Australia vs. Argentina.
“Tamyra Mensah-Stock brought her karaoke machine to the Olympics. She’s leaving with a gold medal.” via Les Carpenter of The Washington Post — American wrestler Mensah-Stock walked down a red carpet inside Makuhari Messe Hall as the first Black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold for the United States and the second woman ever. She touched her dangling American flag earrings and laughed and shouted and screamed all at once. She talked about the young Black girls who will watch her win Tuesday and want to be wrestlers themselves, maybe even Olympians. She said they were going to “see themselves,” just as she saw herself in Randi Miller, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2008, and Iris Smith, a former American team member. She said they are going to think, “I can do that.”
“Mao pins worn by Chinese athletes may test Olympic rules” via Graham Dunbar and Joe McDonald of The Associated Press — The image of Communist China’s founding leader, Mao Zedong, made an unscheduled appearance at the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday it is “looking into the matter.” The gesture risks being judged a breach of Olympic Charter Rule 50, which prohibits political statements on the podium at the Tokyo Games. After winning the women’s sprint in track cycling Monday, Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi wore pin badges of Mao. Badges showing Mao’s profile were worn by hundreds of millions of people in the 1960s to show their loyalty to the Communist Party chairman and the ultraradical Cultural Revolution he launched in 1966.
Team China’s Mao pins are causing a stir. Image via AP.
“Cut off from restaurants, Tokyo’s visitors find culinary delights at 24-hour convenience stores.” via Andrew Keh of The New York Times — Enter the saving grace of these Olympics, the glue holding the whole thing together: Tokyo’s 24-hour convenience stores, or “conbini,” as they are known in Japan. They have quickly become a primary source of sustenance and, more surprisingly, culinary enjoyment for many visitors navigating one of the strangest Games in history. All of us, athletes, team staff members, officials and journalists, are largely prohibited from venturing anywhere but our hotels and the Olympic venues. Trips outside this so-called bubble cannot exceed 15 minutes. We can’t traverse the galaxy of food outside the Olympic limits, but a conbini contains a culinary world unto itself, a bounty of bento boxes, fried meats, sushi, noodles galore, and all manner of elaborate plastic-wrapped meals and rare snacks.
— ALOE —
“Disney reopens Hall of Presidents, debuts Biden animatronic” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The Hall of Presidents has reopened at Walt Disney World with Biden front and center of the Magic Kingdom attraction. Biden’s animatronic is seen reciting the presidential oath of office as his predecessors look on. “I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. …” the spiel begins. Biden recorded the words in the White House for the Disney attraction. The likeness of his immediate predecessor Trump now stands behind and over Biden’s right shoulder.
Joe Biden makes his debut in the Hall of Presidents. Image via Disney.
“The first Star Wars Tamagotchi makes you protect R2-D2 from Jawas” via Andrew Liszewski of Gizmodo — A long time ago, a digital pet called the Tamagotchi took the world by storm. Twenty-five years later, it’s still around, but now in competition with tablets and smartphones. So how do you make a near antique technology still worthy of attention and sales? You mash it up with Star Wars, of course. Instead of raising the droid from an egg (as far as we know, all robots come from factories no matter what galaxy they’re created), players will train their captive animated Artoo to master 19 different skills by keeping him charged, cleaned, and entertained through two initial games — firefighting and holo-chess — as well as seven other minigames that can be eventually unlocked as long as Artoo is kept happy.
“Inside Netflix’s ‘Army of the Dead’ virtual reality experience: ‘It’s a massive undertaking’” via Chris Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter — The 30-minute experience offers participants a chance to select an avatar and firepower before boarding one of two tactical taco trucks on site. Each group (up to six at a time) is then presented with a brief virtual introduction to the mission. After that, it’s time to take a position in the motorized truck, put on a VR headset, grab a gun and try to survive the ride. After the game ends, participants can browse merch, pose in a photo booth and refuel at a concession stand. Viva Las Vengeance remains in Century City through Sept. 12, with New York, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and London opening in the weeks to come. “Future cities to be rescued” include Miami.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Reps. Andrew Learned and Tom Leek and our friends, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Baskette, Marty Fiorentino, and Herbie Thiele.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.