Breaking overnight — Forecasters say Hurricane Laura has made landfall in southwestern Louisiana as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane.
The National Hurricane Center reports the storm made landfall at 1 a.m. CDT on Thursday near Cameron, a 400-person community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of the Texas border. It had maximum sustained winds of 150mph (240 kph), making it the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. so far this year.
Forecasters warned the strong winds could rip apart buildings, level trees and toss vehicles like toys.
Video and photos on social media showed torrents of rain flying sideways past street lights in Lake Charles, and streets covered with water closer to the coast. A sudden storm surge knocked over cameras meant to capture the hurricane’s effects.
Forecasters also issued a string of tornado warnings as the storm pushed on to land, but there were no immediate reports of damage. More than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas and Louisiana.
Finding and buying a new home can be complicated (and sometimes frustrating), with several crucial factors — neighborhoods, schools, and other amenities — adding up to what, for many, is the biggest purchase of their lives.
As more people enter the market, homebuyers rely on real estate websites such as Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com to learn relevant information about a prospective home. These sites have become indispensable tools for deciding which house to buy.
Yet, there had been one important piece of data missing from these sites — flood risk.
With a changing climate, damage from increasingly powerful hurricanes and other weather events can affect millions of homes, but most major real estate websites do not offer information on whether an area is (or could be) susceptible to flooding.
That is, until now. And it may signal a change in the way consumers perceive climate threats.
Realtor.com has become the first major real estate website to include information about a particular home’s flood risk, and how climate change could affect future hazards.
Harriet Festing is the co-founder of Higher Ground, an advocacy group that supports flood survivors.
“People are buying property with little knowledge of whether it’s going to flood or not,” Festing told NPR. “It ruins lives.”
Realtor.com will feature flood risk ratings on each of its listings, using data from First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group that launched an interactive website showing risk factors for more than 142 million homes and properties across the country.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency classifies nearly 9 million U.S. properties as having substantial risk, which requires flood insurance to obtain a mortgage. First Street is listing 70% more, over 14.5 million properties, at a similar risk.
Showing flood risk poses a new set of challenges: the higher the risk, the more expensive it is to insure a home, which can then reduce a home’s value. Homes with higher flood risks tend to sell less quickly than others.
But accurate information from Realtor.com — including flood risk — can lead to improved buying decisions, mortgages and insurance, and possibly lower long-term costs for homeowners.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Crimealytics: Slow news day today other than a cat 4 hurricane about to make landfall, NBA players boycotting playoff games, a 17-year-old allegedly murdering 2 protesters, the CDC revising guidelines for political purposes, and the pandemic claiming another 1,000+ American lives.
—@RealDonaldTrump: We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets. My team just got off the phone with Governor [Tony] Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance (Portland should do the same!) … TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!
—@JoeBiden: Once again, a Black man — Jacob Blake — was shot by the police. In front of his children. It makes me sick. Is this the country we want to be? Needless violence won’t heal us. We need to end the violence — and peacefully come together to demand justice.
—@KyleGriffin1: Several Republicans, including the vice president, have now made the case that the riots and protests and violence happening in Trump’s America wouldn’t be happening in Trump’s America
—@TomNamako: The Kenosha Sheriff, when asked why the shooter, after shooting 3 people and walking toward his deputies with his hands up, was not apprehended. His answer is essentially, it’s loud and police get “tunnel vision.”
—@DrAndrewThaler: I feel like the coverage of a pro-[Donald] Trump terrorist cell recruiting child soldier to murder Americans that are protesting state-sanctioned violence has yet to accurately reflect the gravity of this.
—@AndyVsTheWorld: Considering the Bucks have a player on the team that literarily got his neck knelt on and tazed by the police, I’m not shocked they the first team to boycott. Seems everyone forgot about the story too
—@KingJames: F*CK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
—@HarryLylesJr: the players did this, not the NBA. the NBA wrote Black Lives Matter on the floor and had to *approve* messages on the back of jerseys in a “hey how about this? are we cool now?” effort. sponsored protest isn’t protest. the players took it back
—@TomGara: The NBA bubble was perhaps the only fully functioning institution in America
—@ClayTravis: NBA players are now boycotting their own games. The NBA audience had already collapsed and now it will tank even more. This is get woke, go broke for all the world to see. Amazing.
—@WesleyLowery: A century of commissions and studies and reports would suggest that the best ways to stop rioting would be 1. for the police to stop killing Black people 2. for the country to address the conditions that leave millions of Black people functionally ghettoized
—@JosieTomkow: I am so proud of my mom for speaking on behalf of our industry tonight during the RNC! You are right, President Trump has not forgotten agriculture. He works every day to preserve the industry we love.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 1; U.S. Open begins — 3; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 6; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 9; Rescheduled date for French Open — 31; First presidential debate in Indiana — 33; “Wonder Woman 1984” premieres — 36; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 37; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 40; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 41; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 46; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 49; NBA draft — 50; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 50; NBA free agency — 53; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 54; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 56; 2020 General Election — 68; “Black Widow” premieres — 72; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 74; College basketball season slated to begin — 75; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 85; “No Time to Die” premieres — 85; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 98; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 164; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 176; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 309; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 330; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 337; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 435; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 533; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 575; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 617; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 770.
— SMOLDERING —
“Kenosha unrest tests political potency of Donald Trump’s ‘law and order’ convention message” via Eric Bradner of CNN — Unrest in Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha has quickly turned into a political flashpoint in one of the nation’s most important swing states. Trump and the GOP are using this week’s Republican National Convention to shine a spotlight on violence and property damage that has resulted from some of the protests over racial injustice and police brutality this summer — as fires have raged in Kenosha on consecutive nights. The way voters in Wisconsin interpret Blake’s shooting and its aftermath could be central to November’s outcome in a state Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Trump was the first Republican to carry Kenosha County in 44 years.
“Boycott: NBA playoff games called off amid player protest” via Brian Mahoney and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — All three NBA playoff games scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, with players around the league choosing to boycott in their strongest statement yet against racial injustice. Called off: Games between Milwaukee and Orlando, Houston and Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland. The NBA said all three games would be rescheduled, yet did not say when. The dramatic series of moves began when the Bucks — the NBA’s team from Wisconsin, a state rocked in recent days by the shooting by police of Blake, a Black man — didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Magic. The teams were set to begin Game 5 of their series shortly after 4 p.m., with the Bucks needing a win to advance to the second round.
“The Kenosha shooting suspect was in the front row of a Trump rally in January” via Ellie Hall, Amber Jamieson and Tasneem Nashrulla of BuzzFeed News — The law enforcement-obsessed 17-year-old who was charged with shooting and killing two people and injuring another in Kenosha during protests for Blake appeared in the front row at a Trump rally in January. Kyle Rittenhouse’s social media presence is filled with him posing with weapons, posting “Blue Lives Matter,” and supporting Trump for President. Footage from the Des Moines, Iowa, rally on Jan. 30 shows Rittenhouse feet away from the President, in the front row, to the left of the podium. He posted a TikTok video from the event. Seven months later, Rittenhouse went with his rifle to the third night of Black Lives Matter in Kenosha.
“Kenosha Police Chief blames protesters for their own deaths, defends vigilante groups” via Jeremy Stahl of Slate — On Wednesday, 17-year-old Rittenhouse was arrested in Illinois on charges of first-degree murder after allegedly shooting and killing two protesters the night before during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake earlier this week. During the Kenosha Police Department’s first news conference in response to the Blake shooting and subsequent protests, Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the unidentified victims in Tuesday night’s shooting for their own deaths, saying the violence was the result of the “persons” involved violating curfew. Miskinis would not give the names of the “persons” who were the victims of Wednesday’s murders, but did say they were “a 26-year-old Silver Lake resident and a 36-year-old Kenosha resident.”
“George Floyd’s death sparks new activism among communities of color” via Felicia Fonseca, Deepti Hajela, and Janie Har of The Associated Press — When Washington, D.C.’s NFL team dropped the offensive reference to Native Americans from its name last month after decades of resistance, activist Frances Danger knew why: the Black Lives Matter movement. Danger said the change would never have happened without the massive marches to protest the death of an African American man under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis. “Unfortunately, George Floyd had to lose his life for this to happen,” Danger said. “That is too big a price, but I will forever be thankful to him because my grandkids are going to wake up in a world and maybe never hear the word ‘redskin’ in their life.” Kenosha, Wisconsin became the latest flashpoint this week with the police shooting of Jacob Blake, apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat in the vehicle.
“Facebook chose not to act on militia complaints before Kenosha shooting” via Russell Brandom of The Verge — In the wake of an apparent double murder in Kenosha, Facebook has faced a wave of scrutiny over posts by a self-proclaimed militia group called Kenosha Guard, which issued a “call to arms” to in advance of the protest. Facebook took down Kenosha Guard’s Facebook page Wednesday morning, identifying the posts as violating community standards. But while the accounts were ultimately removed, new evidence suggests the platform had ample warning about the account before the shooting brought the group to prominence. At least two separate Facebook users reported the account for inciting violence before the shooting, The Verge has learned. In each case, the group and its counterprotest event were examined by Facebook moderators and found not to be in violation of the platform’s policies.
“ACLU sues over federal action in Portland, Oregon, protests” via Gillian Flaccus of The Associated Press — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging agents sent by Trump to protect a federal courthouse targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters used excessive force and illegal detentions to rob protesters of their freedom of speech and assembly. The lawsuit also alleges that the acting director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, did not have the authority to send more than 100 agents to Portland because he was improperly appointed. The federal agents exceeded the limits of their authority, making illegal arrests and using tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and other tactics to squelch the protests, the lawsuit alleges.
“SPD: Rioters tried to trap officers inside burning precinct using rebar and concrete” via Gary Horcher of KIRO 7 News — Seattle police officers were forced to kick their way out of an East Precinct exit door Monday night, after rioters jammed it with boards and rebar, and attempted to seal the door closed with quick-dry cement. As the door was being jammed, surveillance video shows several other people building a fire outside the building near the exit door, in an attempt to set the building on fire. “I think what this shows you is that these people are intent on killing police officers,” said Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Guild, who called the act ‘”clear domestic terrorism.'” Solan said a short time later, the Guild headquarters also became the target of three firebombs.
“Fires set, windows broken as Oakland protest turns violent” via The Associated Press — The Oakland Police Department tweeted that 600 to 700 people took part in the protests where “numerous fires (were) set, dozens of windows broken, (and) multiple businesses vandalized.” Protesters threw objects at officers but none were injured, the department said. Several people were arrested, the tweet said. Calling them “violent protesters,” police say they vandalized and set a fire at the Alameda County Superior Court. Police said some within the crowd were chanting ”burn it down” as they lit fireworks and set trash cans on fire.
— “Putnam County votes to move Confederate monument” via The Associated Press
— “Police: White Florida woman slapped Black child, used racist slur” via The Associated Press
“Jaguars create executive position to push for social justice” via the Associated Press — The Jacksonville Jaguars have created an executive position to lead the organization’s social responsibility mission. The small-market franchise named T-Neisha Tate its vice president of social responsibility and impact. She is responsible for directing the team’s desire to emphasize respect and to inspire and unify players, staff and fans to make a positive, meaningful impact on the community. Team president Mark Lamping says the Jaguars “have placed strong emphasis on social responsibility and racial equality, and the creation of this position is taking that commitment to an entirely new and appropriate level.”
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Hurricane Laura crashes Donald Trump’s convention” via Steven Shepard of Politico — Once again, a Louisiana hurricane is crashing Republicans’ national party convention. In 2008, the GOP scrapped most of the first night of their convention in Minnesota as Hurricane Gustav made landfall in Louisiana. Four years later, Tropical Storm Isaac wiped out the first night of Republicans’ Tampa convention, as it skirted the city on the way to a landfall as a hurricane in Louisiana. Now, one of the 10 strongest hurricanes ever to landfall in the Lower 48 states has come on shore in the hours before President Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday.
“Pence defends police at convention amid rising race tension” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Wednesday evening’s featured speaker, Pence argued that Democratic leaders are allowing lawlessness to prevail from coast to coast. He and others described cities wracked by violence, though protests in most locations have been largely peaceful. “The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” he said. He assailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for saying there is an “implicit bias” against people of color and “systemic racism” in the U.S. Against a backdrop of patriotism, Trump will describe America as a work in progress, one that is not perfect but has achieved much. It’s an argument meant to offer a contrast with Democrats whom the president has described as not loving their country. In a similar vein, aides said, Trump would speak to progress made on combating the coronavirus, which has been treated as something of an afterthought during much of the convention although it is still killing 1,000 Americans a day.
“Trump’s big night: Expect talk of GOP progress, Dem anarchy” via Jonathan Lemire and Kevin Freking of the Associated Press — Aides have closely guarded details of the address, which was being revised the night before Trump was to speak from the White House South Lawn. While Trump has centered his recent stump speech on anarchists that he depicts overrunning city streets, aides signaled that Thursday’s speech will not be as dark as his infamous “American carnage” inaugural address.
“Trump goes dark on TV as early voting looms” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Trump is getting pummeled on the TV airwaves, alarming Republicans and prompting the president’s allies to plead for outside help. August has been a blowout: Trump has been outspent on TV more than 2-to-1 over the past month, according to the media tracking firm Advertising Analytics. And in the last two weeks, Joe Biden is outpacing the president more than 5-to-1. The shortfall comes at a pivotal moment in the campaign, with Biden essentially monopolizing TV advertising in key battlegrounds before the start of early voting. The president is not slated to be on the airwaves anywhere during the final week of the month, as Republicans hold their convention.
“Targeting Joe Biden on faith, Republicans move to salvage religious voters for Trump” via Francesca Chambers and Michael Wilner of Impact 2020 — Amid signs that white Catholic voters in the Rust Belt, Jewish voters in Florida and evangelical voters across key battleground states could be souring on Trump, conservatives plan to spend almost $135 million to shore up support among the critical faith-based voting blocs. Democratic and Republican operatives increasingly view Trump’s ability to hold on to his evangelical base as a key to the outcome of the November election. A practicing Catholic, Biden has been chipping away at Republicans’ advantage with religious voters that propelled Trump into the White House four years ago. The Democratic presidential nominee is actively appealing to faith-motivated voters with pledges to advance racial equality and prevent mass coronavirus deaths. And he has made morality a centerpiece of his bid to defeat Trump.
“Immigrants in Trump-led ceremony didn’t know they would appear at RNC” via Tarini Parti and Michael C. Bender of The Wall Street Journal — Sudha Narayanan and Neimat Awadelseid looked forward to Tuesday, the day, after a yearslong process, they would become U.S. citizens. They found out only minutes before the ceremony that Trump would attend, and they didn’t know it would be aired during the Republican convention that night. Narayanan and Awadelseid said they didn’t mind being featured in the convention, saying in interviews Wednesday that they were still celebrating their newly granted citizenship. But the video, in which the two women and three others received citizenship, has been faulted by Democrats and other administration critics who say Trump’s team politicized government functions by showing the naturalization ceremony, as well as another video in which he issued a pardon during the second night of the GOP convention. Several critics said in interviews that it was inappropriate not to tell the participants that they would be part of a political event, and noted that the Trump administration had sought to curb illegal and legal immigration.
“Former Trump campaign manager traveled to Cuba to meet ‘Castro’s son’, Senate report says” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — In early January 2017, when the Cuban government was looking for insights into the newly elected Trump, his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, traveled to the island to meet with “Castro’s son,” according to a U.S. Senate report. The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election states that Manafort claimed the meeting was arranged by Brad Zackson, the former exclusive broker for the properties of Trump’s late father, Fred Trump. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016, mired in scandal over his undisclosed work as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Manafort was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for tax and bank fraud. He is currently serving his sentence under house arrest.
Assignment editors — Florida Trump Victory will host a MAGA Meet-Up at its field office in Miami, featuring Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., 12:45 p.m. Eastern time, 1313 West 49th Street, Hialeah.
“Don Jr. robocall urges supporters to vote by mail” via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Trump Jr. is urging voters to cast absentee ballots in robocalls detected across the nation Wednesday — even as his father continues to rail against widespread mail-in voting. The robocalls, which reference this week’s Republican National Convention have been deployed in 13 states — Arizona, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Texas and Maine — all states the Trump campaign is targeting. They indicate that either the Trump campaign or Republican National Committee has already mailed absentee-ballot requests to those being called.
“Fox News pulls teacher union ad criticizing Trump, Mitch McConnell on reopening schools” via Danielle J. Brown of Florida Phoenix — A 30-second political ad criticizing Trump and McConnell on the reopening of schools was supposed to air on the Fox News Channel during the Republican National Convention. But the ad by the American Federation of Teachers was pulled from its slot, according to a news release from the AFT. Fox News, at least in the past, had been a Trump favorite, though it has soured recently and described Fox as “fake news,” according to the Mediaite outlet. The AFT, a national teacher union, submitted the ad to both FOX News and CNN, to run prime time on Wednesday and Thursday of the convention.
“Nikki Fried slams RNC speakers for describing pandemic in past tense” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “If you watched the RNC Convention last night, you may have thought that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. It’s not,” Fried tweeted. She also took a swipe at Ron DeSantis, signaling that rivalry won’t let up any time soon. “Nearly 5,000 Floridians have died in the last month alone because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ and Donald Trump’s disastrous policies,” she wrote. A speech by Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow has drawn particularly scathing reviews. “Health and economic impacts were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere,” Kudlow said. “But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively with an extraordinary rescue for health and safety to successfully fight the COVID virus.”
— 2020 —
“U.S. officials: No signs of foreign targeting of mail-in vote” via Eric Tucker and Christina Cassidy of The Associated Press — U.S. officials said Wednesday there has been no intelligence to suggest that foreign countries are working to undermine mail-in voting and no signs of any coordinated effort to commit widespread fraud through the vote-by-mail process, despite numerous claims made by Trump in recent months. The officials at multiple federal agencies stopped short of directly contradicting Trump, but their comments made it clear they had not seen evidence to support the president’s statements that voter fraud will be rampant in the upcoming election and that the expected surge in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic leaves November’s presidential election especially vulnerable to foreign interference.
“GOP has high hopes of taking down Stephanie Murphy” via Mike Synan of Florida Daily — If Republicans want to take back the U.S. House in November, they will likely need more than one Florida congressional seat to do it. One seat they hope to gain is the one currently held by U.S. Rep. Murphy, which includes all of Seminole County and the northern and eastern portion of Orange County. To win the seat, Republican voters picked Dr. Leo Valentin in a close primary earlier this month. “We’re really energized, and I think the sentiment that comes to mind is grateful for everyone that put their time and effort into achieving this victory,” Valentin said.
“Murphy accuses Republicans of giving socialism a good name” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Every time Republicans accuse mainstream Democrats or their basic economic plans of being socialist, Republicans actually make socialism look good, Murphy charged Monday. And that’s bad, she said. Murphy, the Winter Park congresswoman whose family endured failed socialist and communist programs in Vietnam, contended she knows firsthand there is a world of difference between socialism and the mainstream capitalism that she and most Democrats embrace. “To be clear, Democrats who accept the socialist label are few and far between,” she said. By calling popular Democratic initiatives socialist, Republicans are “normalizing” the notion of socialism for Americans when socialism actually is a harsh reality, she said.
“Charlie Crist is favored in CD 13 but Anna Paulina Luna plans a surprise” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — With the General Election just two months and odd days away, Crist has a lot of things in his favor as he tries to hold his CD 13 seat. But he also has a Republican challenger, Air Force veteran Luna, who overcame long odds to win her primary and is planning a repeat performance in November. Can it happen again? My initial reaction is that it won’t. But I’m not going to crawl out too far on that limb. Crist remains as affable as ever. He has money, name recognition, and the power of incumbency in a district that is at least a light shade of blue. Traditionally, that is enough to win — especially given the blue wave Democrats rode in 2018 to take control of the U.S. House. But Republicans think they can flip this district, and in Luna, they have an anti-establishment flag-bearer straight out of “Drain The Swamp.”
Crist announces women senior staff hires on Women’s Equality Day — U.S. Rep. Crist’s reelection campaign announced new hires Wednesday, rounding out a team of all women senior staff members on Women’s Equality Day. Amina Spahic is joining the campaign as the campaign’s press secretary. She most recently served as the campaign manager for Michele Rayner’s successful primary race in House District 70. Mhariel Summers is the new Black Engagement Coordinator and will focus on turning out the African American vote in Pinellas. “Congressman Crist is an ally to women; it’s reflected in how he votes, the issues he champions, and in his team,” Summers said. “I am excited to be joining the campaign, there’s never been a more important time to get out and vote.”
“Margaret Good says vote against child sex doll ban an accident” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Voting to keep sex dolls that resemble children legal is the kind of thing that’s certain to raise questions. Sarasota state Rep. Good said the answer is simple — it was an accident. Last year Florida lawmakers passed Senate Bill 160, which outlawed childlike sex dolls. Sen. Lauren Book sponsored the legislation, saying in a statement that “The impetus for this legislation comes from research that has found that use of child pornography increases the risk of recidivism” among people who prey on children. Good initially voted in favor of the sex doll ban, which passed the Florida House and Senate unanimously. But she later changed her vote to oppose the bill, a move that went unnoticed at the time but recently was reported by the Florida Politics website.
“Child advocates, political enemies pile on Good over sex doll vote” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “Experts all agree that when sexual deviants use these replicas of young boys and girls, it normalizes the act of pedophilia and encourages these deviants to move from dolls to real victims,” said Kim Githler, a longtime child protection advocate in Sarasota. “Ms. Good now claims she made a mistake in her vote and didn’t intend to vote against the bill, but if that’s the case why has she not come out since last May to publicly denounce these insidious child sex dolls? This is a critical moral issue and she needs to acknowledge that pedophilia is a heinous and unacceptable crime.”
“Palm Beach Commissioner Melissa McKinlay calls for Brian Mast to resign over offensive Facebook posts” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — McKinlay is pushing for Republican Rep. Brian Mast to resign after old Facebook posts were uncovered where Mast joked about having sex with 15-year-olds and rape. The Mast campaign is also clarifying the timeline of those posts described in an apology by Mast late Tuesday. In a 2009 post uncovered by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, long-time Mast friend Rocco LeDonni uploaded a picture of himself at a bar during a trip to South Africa. In a comment on Ledonni’s photo, Mast wrote, “im so proud of you… i hope you hook up with at least fifteen 15 year olds over there…. its legel there right.” … “Not. Cool. Downright awful, actually. Joking about sexual assault of a child [and] rape? Because in Florida what he describes [with 15-year-olds] is rape. No apology can ever suffice for these comments. He should resign.”
>>>In 2017, Congressman Mast told TCPalm that Roy Moore should end his candidacy, “There is no room for pedophiles in the U.S. Congress.”
“How GOP House candidate Laura Loomer explains her history of hate-speech, Islamophobia” via Christine Stapleton of The Palm Beach Post — Six days after hundreds of supporters celebrated Loomer’s win in the District 21 GOP primary at the Airport Hilton Hotel in West Palm Beach, the 27-year-old Islamophobic internet provocateur returned to the same stage amid a standing ovation. For Loomer, Monday evening’s event sponsored by the Palm Beach County Chapter of Club 45 offered an opportunity to display a sophisticated, well-spoken, even-keeled demeanor. That side of Loomer is a stark contrast to her record of extremist anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim statements.
“Bob Cortes touts bipartisan appeal in bid to reclaim HD 30” via Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist — Cortes continued to build momentum for his campaign to retake House District 30, announcing the endorsement from a former colleague from across the aisle. The latest endorsement to Cortes’ campaign comes from former Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole. A Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, Edwards-Walpole represented the 98th District, which includes parts of Davie, Plantation, and Sunrise in southern Broward County, from 2012 to 2018. “During these uncertain times, we need strong, unwavering leaders who know how to achieve bipartisan solutions that put people first,” said Edwards-Walpole. “I endorse Bob Cortes because he is passionate about his community and will take pains to keep us safe while also working in smart ways to reboot our economy and increase access to better health care for all.”
— DOWN BALLOT —
“Daniella Levine Cava launches Spanish-language radio ad in bid for Miami-Dade Mayor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Levine Cava is launching her first Spanish-language radio ad of the General Election campaign. Levine Cava is facing fellow Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo. The two secured spots in the runoff election after placing in the top two during last week’s Primary Election. “Daniella Levine Cava: Our community voice, our leader ready to serve as our next Miami-Dade Mayor,” the ad’s narrator begins in Spanish. “Levine Cava is prepared to confront the challenges we face: Better health care, support our small businesses, grow our economy and put people back to work.” The ad then transitions to the candidate herself.
To hear the ad, click on the image below:
“Leader of Orange County’s Split Oak election to Osceola County’s opponents: ‘Get ready’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The man who drove efforts to place a proposal for Split Oak Forest protections onto the Orange County ballot in November issued a political warning Wednesday to the Osceola County Commissioners who voted Monday to sue to block that initiative. “Get ready,” Orlando lawyer James Auffant said Wednesday. A political war between the counties might be brewing over the Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Conservation Area that straddles the two counties over the road Osceola wants to extend through that preserve, the countywide election now planned in Orange County to block it, and the elections of Osceola County commissioners. Auffant suggested environmental activists who have been fighting to stop the road could join the battle. He said until now they’ve left Osceola County alone in the battles over the Split Oak road. But not anymore.
“Judge faces discipline for trying to sway candidate” via The News Service of Florida — A Citrus County circuit judge could face a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court after an investigation into his attempt to dissuade an attorney from running against a fellow judge in this year’s elections. An investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended discipline for Judge Richard Howard. The panel said Howard last year tried to dissuade attorney Pamela Vergara from running against Circuit Judge George Angeliadis. Among other things, Howard tried to convince Vergara to run instead against Circuit Judge Mary Hatcher, who hears cases in Marion County, another part of the circuit.
“Florida Elections Commission: Eric Robinson’s political committee didn’t break the law” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Elections Commission ruled Wednesday that a political committee chaired by outgoing Sarasota County School Board member Robinson did not violate Florida law, dismissing a complaint alleging the committee aided in a scheme to circumvent the prohibition on partisan campaigning in Sarasota city races. “I was going to win because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” said Robinson, who lost his reelection bid last week. “The problem is people are able to just attack, attack, attack with impunity … and then I have to spend all this time and energy defending myself.”
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports another 155 people died from COVID-19; infections continue on downward trend” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s coronavirus pandemic report for Wednesday shows another 155 people died from COVID-19, and the state confirmed 3,220 newly infected people. Both totals are in line with recent trends of declining cases and fatalities, after a surge in June and July. The daily report from the Department of Health reflects COVID-19 deaths in recent weeks but just confirmed in the past 24 hours. The cases reported on a single day follow a lag between the collection of swabs over several days and the confirmation of positive results.
“Medical examiners no longer required to certify COVID-19 deaths in Florida” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — From the start of the pandemic Florida’s medical examiners were tasked with tracking all coronavirus fatalities. A signature from a medical examiner’s office and their verification of a positive test were required for a death certificate that listed COVID-19 as a cause or contributory cause of death. But as deaths began to skyrocket through the month of July, medical examiners, especially in south Florida counties, found themselves overwhelmed and couldn’t certify deaths fast enough. As a result, the Medical Examiners Commission resolved to make reporting of COVID-19 deaths by medical examiners discretionary.
“Florida nursing homes can have visitors with no COVID-19 testing, task force recommends” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida task force agreed Wednesday to support reopening long-term care facilities to visitors after nearly six months but visitors will have to follow a list of rules before going in. “This visitation is long overdue,” DeSantis said at a briefing held minutes after the decision. “At this point, we’ve got to get it done. We’ve got to get it done safely. But you can’t keep doing a half-measure to say you can see someone through a window only.” The task force will formalize its recommendations to the governor, likely in the coming days, after which he is expected to revise the mid-March emergency order that prompted the lockdown at more than 4,000 nursing homes, assisted living centers and group homes. The move was an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19 to a most vulnerable population.
“Convincing guests theme parks are safe is resorts’ next hurdle” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — While theme parks make the case that they are safe for visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis traveled to Orlando to highlight the theme park reopening “success story.” Tourism makes up the backbone of much of Florida’s economy, particularly Central Florida’s, but pandemic fears have forced parks to close. Even as resorts reopened earlier this summer, they aren’t operating at full capacity, impacting local businesses and the state’s tourism tax dollars. “You have a ripple effect that can be very positive, obviously, when things are going well,” DeSantis said. “But when things slow down, when they stopped and then slowed down, the ripple effect went in the other direction, so that had a huge impact on employment in the area and on people’s small businesses.” During his visit to Universal Studios, Universal and Disney executives flanked the Governor, each hoping to share what precautions they have taken to make their parks safe for visitors.
— SURVEY SAYS —
After Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dobson granted a temporary injunction to block the state from forcing districts to reopen schools, Florida Watch and Progress Florida released a new poll showing Floridians agree it isn’t safe to reopen brick-and-mortar schools.
Conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs on behalf of the Florida Communications and Research Hub, the poll of 2,310 likely Florida voters shows 59% believe the risks of opening schools outweigh the benefits of in-person classes. Only 33% of respondents felt the need to reopen schools should override public health concerns. The online poll was taken Aug. 12-16.
Respondents were also broadly critical of DeSantis’ leadership:
— DeSantis’ disapproval is underwater 50 to 47%, with more than half of Floridians disapproving of his handling of coronavirus 52 to 45%.
— Florida voters list controlling the virus as more important than restarting economy by a 20-point margin, 56 to 36%.
— Floridians support a statewide mask mandate by 76 to 22%.
— And even more Floridians support an eviction moratorium, 80 to 12%.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran should listen to Judge Dobson — and a solid majority of Floridians — and abandon their reckless school reopening plan that endangers our children, teachers, school workers and their families,” said Josh Weierbach, Executive Director of Florida Watch.
“In light of Judge Dobson’s ruling, and the overwhelming public sentiment against the risky reopening plan being pushed by DeSantis and Corcoran, we call on state leaders to drop their appeal, quit playing politics with the lives of our teachers and students, and make health and safety the No. 1 priority so our kids can return to school safely,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo.
— BACK TO SCHOOL? —
“Schools can reopen, Germany finds, but expect a ‘roller coaster’” via Katrin Bennhold of The New York Times — On the Monday after summer vacation, Dirk Kwee was as nervous as he had ever been in 31 years of teaching. For the first time since the pandemic hit, all 900 students at his Berlin school were back, bursting with excitement. The dreaded call came just two days later: A girl in sixth grade had the coronavirus. Mr. Kwee hurried over to the gym where the other 31 students in her class were enjoying their first physical education session in five months. They were sent home — immediately. On Thursday, the whole class got tested. On Friday, all the tests came back negative. That may be what returning to school looks like for the foreseeable future.
“Hundreds in quarantine after Central Florida schools report dozens of COVID cases” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Less than two weeks into the new school year, at least 175 students and staff at Seminole County public schools are in quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus, officials said. Cases of coronavirus also have been reported at six Lake County public schools, which started classes Monday; 19 Orange County public schools, which began in-person classes Friday; and at several schools in Osceola County, which also opened for face-to-face lessons Monday. The Osceola cases occurred mostly during teachers’ planning week and have not led to student quarantines. Orange County is the only school district in Central Florida that would not say how many people are in quarantine as a result of the positive cases.
“Department of Health orders Duval Schools to pause publishing COVID-19 numbers” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Just five days into the new school year, Duval County Public Schools announced it will stop publishing school-related COVID-19 cases and district personnel say the health department is to blame. Going into a school year taking place during a global health pandemic, Duval County Public Schools touted transparency. Superintendent Diana Greene said the district was going the extra mile, working on its own dashboard with updated COVID-19 case numbers, that was expected to launch the first day of school. Instead, a static webpage the district started updating with confirmed cases Monday has been untouched for two days. District spokesman Tracy Pierce said that’s because on Tuesday, the Duval County Department of Health told the district it cannot publish “school-specific data related to COVID-19” without the state health department’s permission.
“Hillsborough Schools superintendent being questioned for 1-week online learning plan” via Jeff Patterson of WFLA — The actions of Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis are being questioned after he worked out a plan to bring students back to class after one week of online learning. The Hillsborough County School Board voted on Aug. 6 to have students spend the first four weeks of school with online learning. The board decided at that time to bring the health care professionals back a second time before taking another vote to bring the students back to class for face to face learning with teachers. However, some Hillsborough County School Board members are questioning if Davis had the authority to offer other plans to the state without approval from the elected members of the school board.
“Miami-Dade’s public schools start Monday. How ready is the new online platform?” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Less than a week out from a new school year, the new online platform adopted as the centerpiece of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ teaching and learning experience has racked up complaints from educators. Education officials are questioning how ready the school district will be when 275,000 students log on Monday. “My opinion is that they’re not ready. They haven’t been ready,” said School Board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman. “I just feel that there’s too many complaints. Too many teachers complaining that it’s a new thing that they have to learn in a short amount of time.”
“Okaloosa School Board votes against mandating masks for students and employees” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Students returning to Okaloosa County schools Aug. 31 will not be required to wear face masks, though doing so will be “highly recommended.” The decision to back off Superintendent Marcus Chambers’ recommendation to make masks mandatory, albeit with an option to allow any student to “opt out” of doing so, and return to a formerly stated policy of making wearing a face cover ultimately a personal decision, passed by a 4-1 vote.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“As Miami-Dade restaurants reopen amid COVID-19, diners shouldn’t be dying to eat out” via the Miami Herald — On Tuesday, County Mayor Carlos Giménez, under pressure from financially strained restaurant owners, announced that limited indoor seating will be allowed at eateries starting Monday. The last time Miami-Dade reopened, a spike in COVID cases followed, as happened statewide. What will be different this time? It’s true that in the past few days, coronavirus infection numbers have been dropping. Hospitalizations are down; so is the number of new cases. The county’s infection rate hovered near the redline level of 10 percent.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Orlando man charged with hitting a Disney security guard during fight over COVID-19 mask rule” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando man struck an Epcot security guard when he was reminded to follow the theme park’s mask rules, an Orange County sheriff’s report says, the first known crime report involving such a confrontation at Disney World. Enrico Toro is accused of hitting the guard in the head and threatening to kill him, which led to Toro’s arrest Aug. 14, the arrest affidavit said. He is charged with misdemeanor battery and doesn’t have an attorney listed, Orange Circuit Court records show. “We expect guests to treat our cast members with courtesy and respect, and while the vast majority of guests have adapted to our new measures, this unfortunate case required law enforcement,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said in a statement.
“Data shows spike of COVID-19 in children aged 10 and younger in Southwest Florida” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Twenty-three children aged 10 and younger have reported positive for COVID-19 in Southwest Florida over two days, according to state data. Thirteen cases are in Collier County and 10 are in Lee; all are residents. Three of the cases in Collier involve infants and two in Lee are infants, according to the state Department of Health. The cases were reported Sunday and Monday. Officials at county health departments in both communities were not readily available for comment. State data shows 98 children aged 10 and younger in Collier have had positive tests for the disease since Aug. 1. That’s out of all 610 cases in Collier in that age group since March when the pandemic began.
“Largo man slaps, coughs on Ace Hardware employee when asked to wear mask, police say” via WFLA staff reports — A 51-year-old Largo man was charged with battery after coughing on and assaulting an Ace Hardware employee and customer over a face mask dispute. The Largo Police Department said Russell Wood entered an Ace Hardware Store in Largo without wearing a mask. While he was being asked to leave, witnesses said he turned around and coughed directly in the face of an employee. Police said Wood then took a small step back and slapped the employee with the backside of his hand. As the employee attempted to push Wood out of the store, officers said Wood struck a customer in the face. During the incident, police said Wood threatened to burn down the business. Wood fled the scene but was caught and arrested by police shortly after. Wood is charged with battery. The incident was captured on the store’s surveillance video.
“Lakeland cancels Christmas Parade amid COVID worries” via Gary White of The Ledger — For the first time in 40 years, Lakeland will not have a parade this December. The city announced Wednesday afternoon that it has canceled plans for the Lakeland Christmas Parade. The decision was made along with the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, which organizes the parade, the city said in a news release. The release said the organizing committee had “obvious concerns” about the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty it presents. Those fears had reduced potential participation, Parks and Recreation Director Bob Donahay said in the release.
— CORONA NATION —
“COVID-19 lockdowns blocked flu in some places but fall looms” via Andrew Meldrum, Magomatsi Magome, and Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press — Winter is ending in the Southern Hemisphere and country after country — South Africa, Australia, Argentina — had a surprise: Their steps against COVID-19 also apparently blocked the flu. But there’s no guarantee the Northern Hemisphere will avoid twin epidemics as its own flu season looms while the coronavirus still rages. “This could be one of the worst seasons we’ve had from a public health perspective with COVID and flu coming together. But it also could be one of the best flu seasons we’ve had,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu in record numbers this fall, so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with a dueling “twindemic.”
“DOJ may investigate blue states over COVID deaths at nursing homes” via Shannon Young of POLITICO — The Justice Department on Wednesday said it’s weighing whether to investigate if four Democratic-led states violated nursing home residents’ civil rights by admitting COVID-19 patients to the facilities — a policy critics say resulted in thousands of deaths. Federal officials are seeking coronavirus data from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which each issued contentious orders to admit patients who had tested positive, as long as they were medically stable, while hospitalizations spiked early in the pandemic. The DOJ request appears focused on state-run nursing homes. An industry source said it excludes privately run nursing homes, even if they are licensed by the state and accept payments under Medicaid.
“Anthony Fauci says he was in surgery when task force discussed CDC testing guidelines” via Sanjay Gupta of CNN — White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Fauci said he was undergoing surgery and not part of the discussion during the Aug. 20 task force meeting when updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were discussed. “I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is,” he added.
“Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far” via Stephen Groves of The Associated Press — The hundreds of thousands of bikers who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have departed western South Dakota, but public health departments in multiple states are trying to measure how much and how quickly the coronavirus spread in bars, tattoo shops and gatherings before people traveled home to nearly every state in the country. From the city of Sturgis, which is conducting mass testing for its roughly 7,000 residents, to health departments in at least eight states, health officials are trying to track outbreaks from the 10-day rally which ended on Aug. 16. They face the task of tracking an invisible virus that spread among bar-hoppers and rallygoers, who then traveled to over half the counties in the United States.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Mark Meadows predicts no COVID-19 relief bill until after September” via Matthew Choi of POLITICO — White House Chief of Staff Meadows is not optimistic about reaching a new coronavirus relief deal before the end of September, predicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will use the government funding cliff at the end of next month as leverage to strike a deal on pandemic aid. Meadows said his staff had reached out to Pelosi’s office but added that he does not anticipate a response. The chief of staff said lawmakers from both parties have privately expressed to him a desire to make progress on coronavirus relief. The holdup, Meadows said he suspects, is that Pelosi is holding back her party’s rank and file in order to secure more Democratic priorities in any legislation.
“U.S. commercial-property prices fall with worst yet to come” via John Gittelsohn of Bloomberg — U.S. commercial real estate prices are falling as the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and the decline is just getting started. Indexes for office, retail and lodging properties all slipped year-over-year in July, data from industry tracker Real Capital Analytics Inc. show. Transaction volume plummeted to $14 billion across all sectors, down 69% from July 2019. “The worst is yet to come,” Real Capital Senior Vice President Jim Costello said in a telephone interview. “We’re not seeing the fallout yet of owners selling properties and taking a loss.” Hotel prices dropped 4.4% in the year through July, while retail declined 2.8% and offices fell 0.9%, according to Real Capital. Apartment building prices climbed 6.9%, and industrial values rose 8.3%, leading to a 1.5% gain for all property types in the period.
“Sales taxes remain down in July as tourism suffers” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — State general revenues came in just above a forecast amount in July, but the coronavirus pandemic continued to hammer sales-tax collections. Numbers released Wednesday by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research showed general revenues topping an earlier projection by $2.5 million, driven in part by the end of state-approved delays for corporate income tax payments. Meanwhile, sales-tax collections were $165.2 million below a January forecast. While down, that was an improvement over sales-tax collections that plummeted in April, May and June. “Nearly all of the sales-tax related loss is attributed to declines in the tourism and hospitality-related industries, dropping receipts 37.1 percent below estimate for the tourism sales tax category,” the July report said.
“Experts warn Florida tourism recovery after COVID-19 will be ‘slower than 9/11’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Several experts, including a former Barack Obama administration official, warned that Florida’s tourism industry has a long road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic even as the hardest-hit parts of the state begin to reopen. “It’ll be slower than 9/11,” said Stacy Ritter, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Let’s remember 9/11 was a one-day event and as tragic as it was, people wanted to get back to travel as a sign of patriotism. That’s not the case here. This is a completely different animal.” Ritter and other experts were focused on South Florida during a Wednesday Zoom meeting with members of the region’s congressional delegation. At times, however, their warnings applied to the rest of the state as travelers weigh whether Florida is safe to visit as it attempts to keep coronavirus infections down.
— MORE CORONA —
“Moderna coronavirus vaccine shows strong immune response in older adults” via Zachary Brennan and Sarah Wheaton of POLITICO — Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate appears to be safe and produce a strong immune response in older adults, according to new data from an early trial presented by the company at a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meeting today. The study of 20 adults over the age of 55 found that almost two months after receiving the second of two vaccine doses, participants had antibody levels higher than those of people who have recovered from COVID-19. How well a coronavirus vaccine might work for older adults has been an open question, because the immune system’s ability to respond to threats declines with age. A vaccine that protects younger adults and children might not work for older adults.
“Why does the coronavirus hit men harder? A new clue” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — The coronavirus may infect anyone, young or old, but older men are up to twice as likely to become severely sick and to die as women of the same age. Why? The first study to look at the immune response by sex has turned up a clue: Men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than do women, the researchers concluded. The findings, published in Nature, suggest that men, particularly those over age 60, may need to depend more on vaccines to protect against the infection. “Natural infection is clearly failing” to spark adequate immune responses in men, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who led the work. Women mount faster and stronger immune responses, perhaps because their bodies are rigged to fight pathogens that threaten unborn or newborn children.
“As summer wanes in N.Y.C., anxiety rises over what fall may bring” via Michael Wilson of The New York Times — In March and April, as ambulances raced through neighborhoods and refrigerated trucks sat humming behind hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic’s dead, summer seemed a distant fantasy. Then it arrived as promised: The city unveiled in a series of phases that brought its streets back to something closer to life. The coronavirus infections dropped, the curve flattened, dinner and drinks were served beneath the stars, and friends reunited in parks and on beaches as if home from war. But throughout the city, between the elbow bumps and happy hours, lurked deep and intense anxiety over what might lie ahead, as summer gave way to autumn and a new rash of frightening unknowns.
“Marco Rubio touts a new COVID technology in press release about his child’s school” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — A press release pitching a “catch and kill” air filtration system to help schools reduce COVID-19 infection risk quoted Sen. Rubio praising the technology and said the Republican lawmaker would be on hand to celebrate the system’s installation at True North Classical Academy, a charter school one of his children attends. But Rubio’s office said he won’t attend the event. And the sitting senator isn’t endorsing the product, Rubio spokesperson Nick Iacovella said in an email: “Senator Rubio cannot comment on any specific product, but he strongly supports schools using new technologies, strategies and routines to help them reopen safely.”
“Matt Gaetz builds national profile, but says focus is on Trump election” via Lindsey McPherson and Stephanie Akin of Roll Call — He recently starred in an HBO documentary, backed candidates in Florida primaries that beat the GOP leadership’s picks and used his signature snark to draw a contrast between Trump and Democratic nominee Biden on the opening night of the Republican National Convention. But Gaetz does not see the national profile he’s building as a steppingstone to higher office or a shot at the House Republican leadership, he said. Rather, he said his political moves are aimed at one thing: helping Trump win a second term.
— STATEWIDE —
“State legal fees pile up to defend felons voting law” via Dara Kam of The News Service Of Florida — Florida taxpayers have spent more than $1.7 million — and are on the hook for hundreds of thousands more — in the state’s defense of a 2019 law requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” to be eligible to vote. DeSantis’ administration has authorized more than $2.3 million in contracts with private lawyers, including a $265,000 agreement with Washington, D.C.-based Cooper & Kirk PLLC law firm, to represent the state in a federal appeals court, records show. “It’s a complete waste to defend such an unconstitutional system and, frankly, they knew going into the (2019) Legislative Session that they were going to be sued for it,” said Leah Aden, NAACP Legal Defense Fund deputy director of litigation.
“Mishaps with Florida’s unemployment system discounted before officials awarded $135m contract, transcripts show” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — During one of the final meetings before deciding which company to choose for a potential $135 million state contract, Florida’s assistant deputy secretary for Medicaid asked her colleagues for a show of hands. Who wanted to ask one of the finalists, Deloitte Consulting, about the company’s previous job building CONNECT, the state’s online unemployment system? By the time of the July 10 meeting, CONNECT had already earned weeks of national scorn for being unable to handle a record number of pandemic-related jobless claims, which left millions of Floridians without benefits. It got so bad, DeSantis ordered an investigation into what went wrong.
“Amid Florida’s budget shortfall, corporations lobby for more tax cuts” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — In a new report issued this month, a “COVID-19 Taxpayer Task Force” — which is led in part by lobbyists representing Publix Supermarkets Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Walmart Inc. — called on state leaders to avert what it called a looming “tax increase” for corporations. “This tax increase would be a blow to companies trying to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the task force wrote in its report. … Florida’s corporate tax rate is set to return to 5.5 percent in 2022. Corporations are now calling on lawmakers to keep it at 4.458 percent instead. But that’s not all they want. In addition to keeping the lower rate, corporations are also pushing state lawmakers to break with the federal government and allow them to continue claiming the much larger tax deductions that they were allowed to take before the federal government overhauled corporate taxes in 2017. “We’re recommending both of them,” said Kurt Wenner, the vice president of Florida TaxWatch, the business-funded think tank that organized the COVID-19 “taxpayer task force.”
DOH approves edible medical marijuana — The state Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana issued rules authorizing the production and sale of edible medical marijuana. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, the rules go into effect immediately and apply to cannabis producers that are already licensed by the state. Medical marijuana industry lawyer John Lockwood said he was satisfied with the new policy. “It looks like the department was very thoughtful and deliberate with these rules,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of people who are pleased.”
“Florida OKs $4.65 million payout for beating by staff that paralyzed inmate Cheryl Weimar’” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Weimar’s name is known in prison circles as an example of the few rights and little dignity inmates have in the Florida prison system. Weimar, 51, was brutally attacked by guards at Lowell Correctional Institution and paralyzed as a result. For the past year, Weimar has remained in prison, bound to a special hospital bed and dependent on catheters, mechanical breathing assistance, a tracheostomy and feeding tubes. Meanwhile, her attorneys were building a federal civil rights lawsuit on her behalf. On Tuesday, Weimar’s case was ordered closed. According to a settlement agreement provided to the Miami Herald by the Department of Financial Services, she will be paid $4.65 million, possibly the largest such settlement from the state of Florida. The family of Darren Rainey, the 50-year-old inmate with schizophrenia whose death in a rigged shower at Dade Correctional Institution led to sweeping reform, settled for $4.5 million.
“Accidents on Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay waterslides bring 73 injury claims, court documents say” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — An insurance company argues that it shouldn’t owe money for injuries at Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay, revealing in court documents there are 73 injury claims involving several slides since the water park opened three years ago. Out of those claims, at least nine people have sued Universal, including New York tourist James Bowen, who was paralyzed on a waterslide last year, and a South Florida man who needed a penile implant after he suffered a pelvis injury in 2017, according to an Orlando Sentinel review of Orange Circuit Court records. Volcano Bay is one of the busiest water parks in the world with an estimated more than 5 million visits since its grand opening on May 25, 2017, through 2019.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Miami Postal Workers union chief: Yes, your mail is being delayed. Here’s why” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Brian Dixon is part of South Florida’s vast Amazon and eBay online retailer community. As a third-party seller of books and diet tea, Dixon sources his products from wholesalers, then sells them through the two tech giants’ digital marketplaces to earn a living. To ship his goods, Dixon relies on the U.S. Postal Service. But In the past month or two, Dixon — who says he had nearly perfect reviews on both websites — began receiving complaints from customers about late shipments. The complaints, he said, seemed to coincide with the appointment of a new U.S. Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, in mid-June. “Within two weeks [of the appointment], I saw a significant slowdown in postage service,” Dixon said.
“American Bar Association selects Harvey Ruvin for prestigious award” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The American Bar Association has selected Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin for its Robert B. Yegge Award. The Robert B. Yegge Award, given annually by the ABA’s Judicial Division Lawyers Conference, recognizes a current or former ABA member for exceptional and noteworthy work through legal, scholarly or civic avenues. It is named in honor of Robert B. Yegge, former Dean Emeritus of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and former Chair of the Lawyers Conference. Ruvin was selected for the award for his trailblazing and transformative work in the field of judicial administration. “I am deeply honored by this national recognition, and I proudly accept it on behalf of my 1,147 colleagues who come to work every day in the spirit of public service and innovation. They revel in being on the cutting edge of technology and are dedicated to maintaining the people’s access to the courts, even in these pandemic days,” Ruvin said. In selecting Ruvin as its 2020 Robert B. Yegge Award honoree, the ABA noted that Ruvin made history by literally transforming an antiquated, cumbersome, paper-driven system into the nation’s first paperless court system.
“Lobbyist Ron Book files suit over birdnapping: ‘I will chase you till I die’” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — Blue, the 6-year-old parrot belonging to powerful, high-profile political lobbyist Book has been “birdnapped.” But according to the caretaker Book accuses of stealing the valuable macaw, the bird is now dead. In a civil suit filed Aug. 20 in Broward County, Book accused former pet store owner Nathan Kalichman of stealing his hyacinth macaw. According to the complaint, Book purchased the macaw from Kalichman more than six years ago. Kalichman subsequently helped Book “care” for his birds.
— POWER PLAY —
“NextEra offered $11 billion to buy JEA during last year’s sales negotiations” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — NextEra Energy offered $11.05 billion to buy JEA during last year’s sales negotiations, a bid that was far and away the largest offer on the table for the “crown jewel” of city government when the JEA board ended sales talks last December. The net proceeds to Jacksonville City Hall from NextEra’s offer would have been $6.452 billion, the biggest one-time infusion of cash in city history, dwarfing the $2.2 billion Better Jacksonville Plan after voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2000. The amount of NextEra’s offer also would have meant a huge payday for JEA employees if JEA had continued its controversial incentive plan, according to the City Council Auditor’s Office.
The Florida Times-Union proved its worth during the JEA saga, exposing former CEO Aaron Zahn’s get-rich-quick-scheme for what it was — one of the worst public policy corruption schemes in decades.
Zahn was a tornado of trouble and had questionable judgment from the start. On that, the Times-Union and I agree.
But their stellar coverage seems to have clouded their vision, causing them to assume the bidding process for JEA was just as corrupt.
Regardless of Zahn’s antics, a dozen credible companies entered the JEA bid process in good faith, including Florida Power & Light.
The narrative at The Florida Times-Union is that FPL’s bid was a mere formality — it was destined for success from the moment the sale was pitched.
But, as it turns out, that’s not the case.
The Florida Times-Union’s David Bauerlein reported Wednesday that FPL offered to pay $11.05 billion for JEA during the bidding process.
In his words, it was “far and away the largest offer on the table before the JEA board ended sales talks in December.”
As the bid amounts show, the cold, hard truth is FPL offered the City of Jacksonville the best possible deal. Since when is that bad for taxpayers?
And with that, the “fix is in” story arc is wobbly.
— TOP OPINION —
“Ashley Moody: Women’s Equality Day — inspiration and honoring those who blazed trails, shattered ceilings” via Florida Politics — While we celebrate today, the anniversary of women’s suffrage taking place during the Republican National Convention, Florida and the Florida Republican Party has much to celebrate with respect to the women leaders it has fostered. I am honored to serve with Lt. Gov. Núñez and numerous other strong Florida women leaders. While there is much to celebrate on this historic anniversary, there is much more to do. Our responsibility is to lead by example, to offer inspiration for future generations, and to push young girls to reach higher.
— OPINIONS —
“Voting is the best way to honor generations of women who paved the way for me” via Kamala Harris for The Washington Post — One hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was formally adopted. Courageous American women had been organizing and protesting for seven decades to be treated as equal participants in our democracy, and their hard work finally paid off. We cannot mark this day, now known as Women’s Equality Day, without remembering all the American women who were not included in that voting rights victory a century ago. Black activists such as Ida B. Wells had dealt with discrimination and rejection from White suffragists in their work to secure the vote. And when the 19th Amendment was ratified at last, Black women were again left behind: Poll taxes, literacy tests and other Jim Crow voter suppression tactics effectively prohibited most people of color from voting.
“To honor suffrage fight, exercise your right to vote” via Sen. Linda Stewart for the Orlando Sentinel — This month marks many important milestones in the long history of suffrage in the United States. Our right to vote is what makes this month so important. Aug. 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the constitution in 1920. This amendment guaranteed the right to vote for women by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. It would be another long 45 years before women of color would gain full protection. I know that things may feel uncertain right now, but we must reflect on the lives and struggles of those who fought for this right we hold today. We must honor their legacies by casting our ballot no matter how uncertain or tumultuous our lives may seem.
“Republicans stage a norm-busting convention” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg — If political parties tell you who they are in their conventions, then the biggest message from Republicans on Tuesday night was that they have little respect for democratic norms. I’m willing to give Trump some leeway for using the White House as a backdrop for his appearances, given the pandemic and that he lives and works there. If it had just been the First Lady’s speech and the President’s own address on Thursday, I’d probably defend the idea. But Tuesday night Trump went way too far, staging first a pardon and then a naturalization ceremony. As for the rest of the night? The party offered almost nothing on the stuff most voters presumably have on their minds: the pandemic and ensuing recession.
“‘I fear that we are witnessing the end of American democracy’” via Thomas Edsall of The New York Times — The center-right political coalition in America — the Republican Party as it stands today — can be described as holding two overarching goals: First, deregulation and reductions in corporate and other tax liabilities and second the preservation of the status quo by stemming the erosion of the privileged status of white Christian America. The most important issue driving Trump’s ascendance, however, has not been the economy but race. Last week, I argued that for Democrats the importance of ethnicity and race has grown, not diminished, since the mid-1960s. The same thing is true for Republicans — and many of the least obvious, or least comprehensible, aspects of Republican political strategy have to do with the party’s desire to cloak or veil the frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda.
“What Jerry Falwell Jr. taught me at Liberty University” via Kaitlyn Schiess of The New York Times — When I was a student at Liberty University, from 2012 to 2016, I had to take two semesters of a “Christian worldview” class. Yet the more powerful education we received was through thrice-weekly “convocations” — gatherings that frequently featured Republican pundits and politicians. All on-campus students were required to attend an hourlong meeting that included worship and a guest speaker. We sang songs about the power of the gospel, often followed by moving speeches about saving our country from socialists or protecting our borders from invading masses. What does all this have to do with the strange, sordid saga of Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife and a much younger man? A great deal.
“How neck gaiters became a metaphor for scientific discovery in coronavirus” via Elizabeth Dijinis of the Tampa Bay Times — When it comes to science, most laypeople prefer to deal in absolutes. But indisputable scientific laws can take years or decades to become, well, indisputable. The coronavirus isn’t offering that type of timeline. Important decisions must be made in a fog of conjecture and speculation. Enter what we’ll call the Neck Gaiter Debate. First, a Duke University study indicated that neck gaiters could be counterproductive. Then a New York Times article emerged a week later to announce that neck gaiters are probably safe. We saw the guidance change on wearing masks, too. First, the U.S. Surgeon General begged us not to buy masks. Now, masks are considered one of the most potent defenses against the virus.
“Hey, lawyer hopefuls: Florida Bar exam is rescheduled online for Oct. 13” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawyer hopefuls can plan on taking the Florida Bar exam online Oct. 13, the Florida Supreme Court said in a news release. It’s been a bumpy road. Administering the test that is required to practice law in Florida has been complicated by coronavirus concerns, computer glitches and rescheduling. Before the pandemic hit, the exams were scheduled for July in Orlando and in Tampa, where thousands typically would sit for as long as two days of testing at the Tampa Convention Center. But health concerns about all those test-takers in close quarters for long hours got the exam moved online.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida politicians (on both sides of the aisle) are trying to figure out how to lure tourists back to the Sunshine State. With that in mind, Gov. DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion in Orlando about the theme parks of central Florida. The Governor says it’s safe to visit Disney, Universal or SeaWorld because of their emphasis on safety.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— DeSantis is also teasing a new PR campaign, teaming up with airlines to get more people to fly to Florida. He insists air travel is safe.
— Officials in South Florida are also grappling with the collapse of their tourism market, and unlike the Governor, they believe mandatory masking is a big part of the solution.
— The winter tourist season in South Florida usually starts in October, but many are worried 2020 could be a lost cause.
— Happy belated birthday to the 19th Amendment. Wednesday was Women’s Equality Day, but members of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women say the work is not done.
— A conversation with Mike Czin at the Congressional Integrity Project about their report on the finances of Florida’s junior Sen. Rick Scott, who refused to put his assets in a blind trust and increased his net worth by $55 million during his first year in Congress.
— Checking-in with the Florida Man in a Mohawk who stole a $6,000 Pomapoo, but left his ID at the pet store.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
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— ALOE —
“‘West Wing’ reunion special set at HBO Max to promote voting in 2020 election” via Joe Otterson of Variety — The cast and creators of “The West Wing” are reuniting to perform together for the first time in nearly two decades in a special set at HBO Max, Variety has learned. “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote” will debut on the streamer this fall. It will feature a theatrical staging of the “Hartsfield’s Landing” episode from the show’s third season and will be shot at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles in early October. The special is meant to raise awareness for When We All Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization co-chaired by Michelle Obama which was founded to increase participation in every election in America.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Belated birthday wishes to Christian Camara, Joy Friedman, John Lux of Film Florida, Jonathan Rees of Anheuser-Busch, and Phillip Singleton. Celebrating today are former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Charlie Dailey, Nicole Gomez of LSN Partners, smart guy Albie Kaminsky, state Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton and Melissa Stone of Cavalry Strategies.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.