Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.23.21

Sunburn Orange Tally (8)
Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

OK, so it’s a year late.

And there won’t be any spectators in the stadium.

And COVID-19 is everywhere. Several athletes have already tested positive for the virus, and there will be more.

Oh, and the sentiment in the host nation is that they wish this whole thing would go away. It’s too late for that, though. Because tonight is … (drumroll, please).

The opening ceremony for the delayed, decried, and diseased Tokyo Olympics! You know you want to watch.

Yes, this will be an Olympics like none other, but for the athletes, you betcha, it’s still what they trained and sacrificed for. There will be beauty, artistry, glorious success, poignant stories, and tear-inducing failures.

That’s what the Games are about.

Florida, as always, is well-represented in the action.

Trayvon Bromell, a graduate of St. Pete’s Gibbs High, is officially the fastest man on Earth this year, running a 9.77 time in the 100-meters. His is a wonderful comeback story, having torn his Achilles tendon at the 2016 Games in Rio.

The U.S. will be counting on him to become the first American since Justin Gatlin in 2004 to win the 100 meters.

Trayvon Bromell of St. Petersburg is currently the fastest man on Earth. Image via AP.

Then there is sprinter Erriyon Knighton, 17, of Tampa’s Hillsborough High School. He has a shot at a medal in the 200-meters and is the youngest person to make the U.S. Track and Field team since Jim Ryun in 1964.

The U.S. softball team already has two victories and is the favorite for the gold medal. Their coach is Ken Eriksen, the irrepressible, fun-loving, quote machine from the University of South Florida.

The University of Florida is represented by 31 athletes on various Olympic squads. The state of Florida has more than 60 athletes overall.

Yes, it will be more than a little weird with no fans in the stands. The Tokyo Olympic organizers made that rule to help control a runaway spread of the virus. There are strict regulations about testing, and the athletes are generally confined to their living quarters.

None of that will matter when their individual sport begins, however.

It’s still the Olympics.

You know you want to watch.

___

Registration is open for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Future of Florida Forum.

The Oct. 27-28 event comes with a positive theme — “Magic is happening in Florida!” — focused on how Florida can climb from the 15th to the 10th largest economy in the world.

The Chamber promises engaging presentations, unique networking opportunities, and insight from leading voices in Florida and across the nation.

Expect the roster of speakers to include top business leaders, elected officials, and community and education advocates, who will speak on the state’s workforce needs, the current and future economy, and the future of transportation and infrastructure, trade and logistics, innovation, tourism, legislation, the brand of Florida and more.

The Future of Florida Forum will be held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Those looking to “get in on the magic” or find sponsorship information can register online

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@POTUS: I condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are the Cuban regime’s efforts to threaten the Cuban people into silence. My Administration stands with the Cuban people, and is imposing new sanctions targeting those in the Cuban regime responsible for this crackdown.

Tweet, tweet:

@MarioDB: We must do more. The Biden Administration must ramp up international pressure on the regime, and rally international solidarity for what the Cuban people are demanding: freedom.

@ChrisSpencerFL: 3 days later, no vaccine issues other than a slightly sore arm for a day. Get it done, folks!

@kkfla37: 17 months on, I still cannot comprehend why many folks think wearing a mask is some sort of imposition or curtailing of liberties. Should shoes not be required in most dining establishments? Should private industry not have the right to demand you wear shoes? Among other things …

@DeAndreHopkinsNever thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL

— DAYS UNTIL —

The NBA Draft — 5; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 7; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 14; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 17; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 19; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 26; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 32; Boise vs. UCF — 41; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 42; Notre Dame at FSU — 44; NFL regular season begins — 48; Bucs home opener — 48; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 53; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 53; Alabama at UF — 57; Dolphins home opener — 58; Jaguars home opener — 58; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 59; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 63; ‘Dune’ premieres — 70; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 70; MLB regular season ends — 72; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 77; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 95; World Series Game 1 — 96; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 96; Rolling Stones at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa — 98; Georgia at UF — 99; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 102; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 102; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 106; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 108; Miami at FSU — 113; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 119; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 126; FSU vs. UF — 127; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 140; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 147; NFL season ends — 170; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 172; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 172; NFL playoffs begin — 176; Super Bowl LVI — 205; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 245; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 287; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 314; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 350; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 441; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 476.

— BREAKING —

Hurricane center: System with increased odds is expected to approach Florida’s east coast” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — The National Hurricane Center upped the odds of development Friday morning for an area of interest off Georgia’s coast, which is forecast to travel southeast near Florida. The trough of low pressure emerged offshore of Georgia and South Carolina and is producing limited shower and thunderstorm activity Friday morning, according to the NHC’s 2 a.m. update. The low has increased odds of growing into a tropical depression or tropical storm from 10% in the next two days to 20%, the NHC said. It also has a 30% chance of developing over the next five days.

— #SOSCUBA —

Joe Biden administration imposes sanctions on Cuban officials following attacks on protesters” via Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post — The Biden administration announced new sanctions Thursday against several Cuban officials deemed directly involved in human rights abuses during a government crackdown on widespread protests earlier this month. Imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, the sanctions will initially affect what officials said were a small number of individuals from Cuba’s Interior Ministry and military forces. The measures come as President Biden faces increasing pressure from Congress, activist groups and Cuban Americans to take decisive action in support of the protesters. “This is just the beginning,” Biden said in a statement announcing the measures. 

Cuban protests lead to new U.S. sanctions. Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis waits to hear from Biden administration about Cuba internet hookup” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In Fort Pierce, DeSantis told reporters he was waiting to hear from the White House still regarding a letter he sent Biden as the “Cuban uprisings” began and the communist regime “moved to snuff out the internet.” “I wrote Biden a letter saying ‘let’s restore connectivity,’” DeSantis said, noting a number of alternatives that “all require the federal government’s approval.” “As of yet, we haven’t gotten that. We haven’t had anybody respond to me in any way about that,” DeSantis lamented, saying that circumventing the cyber-blockade is “the least you can do at this point.” “I’m still waiting for a response on that,” DeSantis added.

Nick Duran praises Biden’s ‘unwavering’ support for Cuban people” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Duran, a Miami Democrat, is backing President Biden’s move to sanction Cuban government officials after the regime clamped down on anti-government protests last week. Word of those impending sanctions began trickling out Thursday morning. Biden administration officials have now announced the sanctions will target Cuba’s Interior Ministry Special Brigade and Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader. “Human rights are not and should never be partisan,” Duran said in a statement Thursday afternoon following the sanctions announcement. “It is imperative that we as Miamians, as Floridians, and as Americans, stand in solidarity with the Cuban people as they peacefully demand liberty and freedom from over six decades of violent oppression.”

Is Cuba’s Communist Party finally losing its hold on the country?” via Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker — Joe Garcia, a Cuban American and a former Democratic congressman from Miami who was recently in Cuba and often served as an informal intermediary between the U.S. and Cuban governments, said that Díaz-Canel, a protégé of Raul Castro, had stumbled in his first big test since becoming President, in 2018. “For the first time in six decades, the Cubans have seen a leader blink,” Garcia said. “This problem isn’t going away.” For the first time in living memory, Cubans on and off the island need to find a spirit of democratic compromise to find a common way forward.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis derides ‘ramifications’ of border crossings as ‘deliberate choice’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is pinning the rise of immigrants crossing the southern border and any consequences of it on the Biden administration. During a news conference Thursday, DeSantis continued blaming the “influx” of migrants on Biden for reversing many of former President Donald Trump‘s immigration policies. That leads to increased crime, the Governor said, and he predicted the “sheer volume of people” would put stress on schools, health care and other services. “It’s frustrating because the ramifications of that are a deliberate choice that’s being made right now. And you know, it’s not a choice that’s going to be beneficial,” DeSantis said.

The immigration crisis boils down to ‘poor choices,’ says Ron DeSantis.

Cash for Jovenel Moïse killing came from Weston man, cops claim. He did nothing wrong, lawyer says” via Jay Weaver, Kevin G. Hall, Jacqueline Charles and Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — The rule of thumb in any good investigation is to follow the money. For Haitian police investigating the July 7 assassination of their President, the money trail partially runs through a little-known Ecuadorian émigré and private lender who lives in Broward County. In the two weeks since the shocking murder of President Moïse, police in Haiti have repeatedly, during news conferences, flashed the image of Walter Veintemilla and the name of his company, Worldwide Capital Lending Group. They’ve alleged that the money for the assassination plot ran through Veintemilla, a Weston resident, and his Miramar-based firm. The company’s name sounds like it has a global reach. But it basically operates as a private party lender.

Homebuyers should rent and wait out the housing boom, experts say; high prices set a record in June” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Researchers are urging Florida homebuyers to consider renting while they wait for the state’s overheated market to cool as soaring prices in South Florida hit records in June. Statewide, they say, homes are overvalued by 21.76%. creating a risk that buyers could get stuck with overpriced homes for significant periods of time until prices eventually ease. “The across-the-board increase in the premiums paid for housing throughout the state is very worrisome,” Ken H. Johnson, real estate economist and associate dean at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business, said in a report released Thursday. “Trees do not grow to the sky, and neither do home prices.

I think you will never see a Florida county so hostile to a tree” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — In a move that sounds exactly like something out of Florida of the 1960s, the Santa Rosa County commissioners voted down a recommendation to ban the widespread practice of clearcutting by developers. Reading the story made me feel as if I’d just hopped in a Hot Tub Time Machine and blasted back to the days when developers could do anything they wanted, no matter what the consequences to everyone else. Back in the Swinging-Ax Sixties, they could chop down anything in their path, drain wetlands with impunity, and even dump fill dirt in a bay to create land where none had existed.

Ready for a lobster dinner? What to know about hitting the water and grabbing your own” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — South Florida and the Florida Keys are preparing for the annual two-day lobster miniseason. It’s a time when scores of boaters, divers and snorkelers take to the water in search of spiny lobster — a delicacy not only craved locally, but by seafood aficionados and restaurateurs as far away as China. It’s called miniseason because of its short duration ahead of the regular commercial and recreational spiny lobster season that runs Aug. 6 through March 31. Miniseason is next week, July 28-29. Every year, the miniseason begins at 12:01 a.m. on the last Wednesday of July and ends at midnight as Thursday ends.

It’s spiny lobster time again!

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis hints at Special Session to fight school mask mandates” via The News Service of Florida — DeSantis doubled down Thursday on his opposition to mask mandates for public-school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he would call for a Special Session if the federal government moves toward requiring masks in schools. “There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said. “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe.” DeSantis made the remarks while in Fort Pierce for a ceremonial bill signing with House Speaker Chris Sprowls. DeSantis said he and Sprowls would back a special session if the federal government requires masks in schools, adding that Florida districts will keep masks optional for students.

DeSantis in Fort Pierce to celebrate bill helping young students catch up to reading levels” via Olivia McKelvey of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Gov. DeSantis was here to celebrate the passing of a bill that will help children in kindergarten through fifth grade who are reading below grade level. HB 3, dubbed the New Worlds Reading Initiative, was introduced by Rep. Dana Trabulsy of Fort Pierce, and passed in this year’s session of the Legislature. DeSantis signed the bill on June 29 and gathered with local lawmakers Thursday for a ceremony at Indian River State College. The state has earmarked $200 million for the program — which will be funded by offering tax credits to businesses that contribute money to the initiative — to send books of various genres once a month for nine months to students at no cost, Trabulsy said.

Ron DeSantis finalizes a major child literacy push.

Jimmy Patronis threatens action against Ben & Jerry’s over decision to cut ties with Israel” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — CFO Patronis sent Thursday to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy. He blasted the company’s decision and defended Israel as the “most free, democratic and prosperous nation in the region.” Citing state law, Patronis vowed to prevent business contracts between Florida and municipal governments with Ben & Jerry’s if the decision isn’t reversed. “Florida law prohibits the state from investing in companies that discriminate against Israel by refusing to deal with or terminate business activities in a discriminatory matter,” Patronis wrote. “Thus … it is my belief that Ben & Jerry’s brazen refusal to do business in Israel will result in your placement on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.”

Tracie Davis says vaccine has kept her COVID-19 symptoms in check” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Davis confirmed she had a case of coronavirus, despite having been vaccinated. But she says the shot spared her serious consequences. “I am vaccinated but started feeling COVID-like symptoms on Sunday,” Davis asserted. “My first test was negative. I had a second test done on Tuesday and the results came back today; I tested positive for COVID-19.” “I experienced a severe headache, body pain, and now bouts of weakness … the vaccination worked as it should … it mitigated my symptoms allowing me to feel better within two days vs. being hospitalized or worse,” Davis added.

Get vaccinated against COVID, Florida State President John Thrasher tells employees, students” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat —  Thrasher issued an appeal for students and employees to get vaccinated, one day after local hospitals warned of a “dramatic increase” in COVID hospitalizations. In that joint statement, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare and Capital Regional Medical Center officials said the increase is in those under 50 and not vaccinated, “including many individuals in their 20s and 30s.” “As you know, communities around the nation are seeing a considerable rise in COVID-19 cases, sparked by the highly contagious Delta variant. Tallahassee and Florida State University are no different,” Thrasher said in his afternoon memo to campus.

— 2022 —

Nearly half of DeSantis’ PAC money coming from outside Florida” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Fundraising amounts from Jan. 1 to July 15 posted to the Friends of Ron DeSantis site total $36.7 million, of which 47%, around $17 million, come from out-of-state. That money is spread across 6,929 out-of-state donors. Compare that to 4,700 Florida donors who gave the Governor $19.7 million over the same time period. The fundraising scales first tipped in April when out-of-state donors usurped Florida donors, assisting DeSantis in his highest fundraising month to date in 2021. Friends of Ron DeSantis pulled in $9.3 million from out-of-state donors and just shy of $4.68 million from Florida donors in April. But June reflected the growing national trend again, with $3.4 million coming from out-of-state donors and $2.1 million from Florida donors. 

Tough choices for CD 20 candidates as congressional qualifying looms” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Sen. Perry Thurston and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy — as well as two popular Broward County Commissioners — are in the running. Thurston reported an underwhelming $182,000 in contributions in his first report. If he continues in the race and loses, his odds of winning another term in the Senate would be irreversibly wounded. DuBose appears most likely to stick it out, having been encouraged by his strong fundraising. However, his challenge lies in name recognition. Hardy is in a vastly different predicament. There’s no sugarcoating it: his fundraising is abysmal. The middling numbers are coupled with a shocking lack of support in Palm Beach County. All three sitting lawmakers should spend the next two weeks thinking about whether they’re making a foolish bet.

Perry Thurston, Bobby DuBose, and Omari Hardy make the CD 20 race a tough choice.

Lake County GOP House candidate gets boost from Richard Corcoran” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — In the first four months of his campaign for the House District 32 seat in Lake County, Taylor Yarkosky has raised nearly $125,000, far more than most incumbents and powerful committee chairs. He’s had help from a powerful ally: former House Speaker Corcoran. In May, Corcoran’s political committee, Watchdog PAC, donated $10,000 to Yarkosky’s committee, Leon County Conservatives. The committee also received $15,000 from Corcoran’s brother, Michael, an influential lobbyist, and his firm, Corcoran Partners. Another $3,000 from Watchdog, Michael Corcoran, and Corcoran Partners was donated to Yarkosky’s main campaign account.

After six weeks, Bruno Barreiro drops bid to challenge Joe Carollo for Miami Commission seat” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Barreiro has withdrawn from the race for Miami’s District 3 seat, abandoning his bid just six weeks after he filed to run against incumbent Commissioner Carollo. Barreiro submitted his withdrawal letter on Friday. On Wednesday evening, Barreiro said his decision was due to “a combination of things,” without giving specifics. “Just time, the environment,” he said. “It wasn’t the right time.” Campaign finance reports show Barreiro had raised little more than $20,000 since he opened his campaign account in early June. 

— CORONA FLORIDA —

‘Our kids need to breathe:’ DeSantis opposes federal mask mandate in Florida schools” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Gov. DeSantis said Thursday he opposes any attempt from the federal government to mandate masks among schoolchildren in the upcoming school year. Speaking at a news conference in Fort Pierce, DeSantis also threatened to call back the Legislature if necessary to block the idea in Florida. “We look forward to this upcoming year [being] a normal year, to be in person and learn like normal kids,” he said. “There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids. We’re not doing that in Florida. We need our kids to breathe.” The sentiment reiterates views DeSantis expressed last month while now saying he would actively oppose any attempts from the federal government to mandate masks.

Ron DeSantis says Florida students ‘need to breathe.’ Image via AP.

Doctors blast DeSantis over COVID-19” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist and leader of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care, said DeSantis should spend more time talking to people about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and less time attacking federal infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci. “While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about ‘Freedom over Faucism,’” said Ashby. “If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position.” Ashby said DeSantis has bragged about Florida’s approach to handling the pandemic, but he accused the Governor of being reactive and not having a plan to protect residents.

Coronavirus is surging in Florida. Is the state doing enough to fight vaccine hesitancy?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In the first month of 2021 alone, Gov. Ron DeSantis made at least 27 vaccine-related public appearances. He visited vaccination sites, held news conferences and released videos touting the state’s progress in vaccinating seniors. In those early days, Florida ranked consistently as one of the 10 best states at vaccinating its residents. Since then, the state’s vaccination rates have lagged considerably. As of Thursday, Florida had inoculated enough residents to rank just 22nd among states in vaccination rate, even though the shots are free and now widely available.

Florida not sharing which nursing homes have COVID-19 as overall cases rise” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Cheryl Flaherty celebrated the Fourth of July weekend inside her brother’s nursing home and thought she had little to fear. She was fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, and Ed Monterose, 78, had a private room inside Orchid Cove at Dade City. He could not get a shot for health reasons, she said. A few days later, the facility called to say her brother had tested positive for COVID-19. He died Tuesday. “Were all of the employees vaccinated? Were they tested daily, if not vaccinated?” she asked in a letter.

All systems yellow: AdventHealth limits visitors, ponders staff vaccine mandate” via Carol Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth is shifting from green to yellow status. All seven Central Florida hospital locations will add additional visitor restrictions, limit elective inpatient cases, and require masks hospital-wide, the system announced Thursday on a Facebook livestream. The hospital system is also deliberating whether to require its team members to get vaccinated but doesn’t know when that decision will be made. The status change comes after the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at AdventHealth hospitals more than doubled in the last two weeks, from 310 on July 8 to 720 on Thursday.

Palm Beach County COVID-19 hospitalizations double; disease surges among the unvaccinated” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Florida cut the public off last month from daily coronavirus updates, but medical experts and data collected from other agencies confirm one thing: The airborne pathogen is surging through Palm Beach County. And most people in its warpath are not vaccinated. Hospitals countywide treated nearly twice as many adult COVID-19 patients as two weeks before, the facilities reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some hospitals’ patient counts have doubled in a week. Medical staff and the county’s top health expert says nearly all newly infected people lack immunization. Palm Beach County hospitals reported having 1,391 adult coronavirus patients last week, more than double the tally in the week of June 25 to July 2, HHS statistics show.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare reopens COVID-19 wing amid rising cases” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — As infections in Leon County surge, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare reopened its dedicated COVID-19 wing Thursday. “Reopening this unit allows us to provide the best care for more COVID-positive patients in a centralized, negative-pressure unit versus individual negative-pressure rooms,” said a statement from Stephanie Derzypolski, a TMH spokesperson. Additionally, from Thursday to Friday, July 30, the hospital will not accept any new nonemergency surgery cases that require an inpatient bed stay. All pre-scheduled elective surgeries will continue as normal. As of Wednesday, TMH reported 23 inpatients tested positive for the virus, up four from Monday’s count of 19. 

Tallahassee Memorial restarts its COVID-19 wing.

Parents continue mask wars, but PBC board committed to mask-optional start to school” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — Even as parents on both sides of the issue continued to pelt Palm Beach County school board members with threats and pleas regarding a promised mask-optional policy when school resumes next month, the elected officials made clear Wednesday that they are sticking to plans made weeks ago. Face coverings will be voluntary. Three feet of space at desks will be optimal. And efforts to improve air filtering in classes will be ramped up, beginning with portable filters in clinics and elementary classrooms. District leaders rehashed these points at a board meeting Wednesday and were expected to share more back-to-school details in an email to parents in the coming days.

FAMU puts up $1 million in cash, prizes to incentivize campus community to get vaccinated” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University is serious about urging its students and employees to get vaccinated. Like, $1 million serious. Beginning this week and continuing through the end of the year, FAMU will be offering the chance to win cash prizes, laptops and iPads, and gift cards. The $1 million pot comes from a portion of the money the university received in CARES funding from the federal government. FAMU received millions of dollars, with a portion of the money earmarked specifically for students to cover COVID-19-related expenses.

Florida ports, travel agencies and passengers await the return of cruises” via Elisabell Velazquez of WUFT — Cruise enthusiasts are ready to set sail after a year of uncertainty as cruises return to the ports in Florida. Port officials and travel agents in Tampa Bay are also ready for the ports to reopen to cruise traffic. “Florida has long been the global headquarters for the cruise industry — not only for their actual corporate headquarters but for cruise homeports and cruise transit ports,” Florida Ports Council President Michael Rubin said. Rubin said before the pandemic, close to 20 million cruise passengers transited Florida Port Council seaports. Port Tampa Bay is one of the 14 member seaports of the Florida Ports Council. Port Tampa Bay Director of Communications Lisa Wolf-Chason said pre-pandemic cruise revenue made up 17% of Port Tampa Bay’s budget.

The lines are back at COVID testing sites in Miami-Dade. Here’s how to navigate them” via Michelle Marchante and Ariana Aspuru of the Miami Herald — Some are getting tested to travel, others because they were exposed to the disease or are experiencing symptoms. At Tropical Park, which serves as a drive-through COVID testing and vaccine site, the line of cars twisted and turned through a path of orange cones on Thursday morning. They headed from the park’s entrance at Southwest 79th Avenue and Bird Road to the COVID site, an area of the park next to the Palmetto Expressway. “I’ve never seen the cars at the entrance before. It was a long winding thing,” Michelle Prats said.

— CORONA NATION —

White House officials debate masking push as COVID-19 infections spike” via Annie Linskey, Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager and Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Top White House aides and the Biden administration officials are debating whether they should urge vaccinated Americans to wear masks in more settings as the delta variant causes spikes in coronavirus infections across the country, according to six people familiar with the discussions. The talks are in a preliminary phase and their result could be as simple as new messaging from top White House officials. But some of the talks include officials at the CDC who are separately examining whether to update their masking guidance. Officials cautioned that any new formal guidance would have to come from the CDC.

Are mask mandates poised to make a comeback? Image via AP.

Delta variant sweeps through states that dialed back health powers” via Alice Miranda Olstein and Dan Goldberg of POLITICO — The Delta strain of the coronavirus is racing across the country, driving a surge of new cases and hospitalizations. But local and state officials this time have fewer options to slow the spread. In Texas, where COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 30% and deaths up 10% over the past week, Gov. Greg Abbott recently barred counties, cities and school districts from requiring masks. Montana did the same for vaccine and mask mandates, while letting local officials overrule health department orders. And DeSantis, whose state accounts for one in five of new U.S. infections, asserted power to nix local health orders if he concludes they infringe on individual rights.

Rare ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases are causing alarm, confusion” via Lauran Neergard of The Associated Press — Reports of athletes, lawmakers and others getting the coronavirus despite vaccination may sound alarming, but top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death. The best indicator: U.S. hospitalizations and deaths are nearly all among the unvaccinated, and real-world data from Britain and Israel support that protection against the worst cases remains strong. Scientists call “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people make up a small fraction of cases.

Vaccinations rise in some states with soaring infections” via Heather Hollingsworth and Richardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that several states with the highest proportions of new infections have seen residents get vaccinated at higher rates than the nation as a whole. Officials cited Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada as examples. Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency physician with Tampa General Hospital, has watched the rise in cases with frustration. Unlike earlier in the pandemic, when many patients were in their 70s, he has seen the median patient age fall to the mid-40s. Hospitals initially were hopeful as cases declined. But then, he said, “Things just fell flat.”

Trust in health agencies and Anthony Fauci remains strong, a poll finds, but personal doctors score higher.” via Nadav Gavrielov of The New York Times — In a telephone poll of 1,719 adults, 76% reported being somewhat or very confident in the trustworthiness of information about COVID-19 from the CDC, and 77% expressed the same confidence about the Food and Drug Administration. From a survey conducted from June 2 to 22, both results were largely unchanged from an April poll. Respondents’ highest confidence, at 83%, was reserved for their primary health care provider. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. The survey also found that 68% of participants believed that Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease specialist, provided trustworthy advice on the pandemic.

Anthony Fauci is regaining America’s trust. Image via AP.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

U.S. jobless claims rise to 419,000 from a pandemic low” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week from the lowest point of the pandemic, even as the job market appears to be rebounding on the strength of a reopened economy. The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims increased last week to 419,000, the most in two months, from 368,000 the previous week. The number of first-time applications, which generally tracks layoffs, has fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January. Economists characterized last week’s increase as most likely a blip caused by some one-time factors and partly due to the inevitable bumpiness in the week-to-week data. 

Jobless claims rise, even as the economy rebounds. Image via AP.

The pandemic drove women out of the workforce. Will they come back?” via Megan Cassella of POLITICO — Returning to work after so many months at home also means, for many mothers, finding a new form of child care and giving up the additional time spent with families and kids that the pandemic provided. Considering how the labor force was growing pre-pandemic, 2.3 million fewer women are working now than would have been without the disruption. Overall, 57.5% of women aged 20 and older were participating in the U.S. labor force in June — down from 59.2% in February 2020 and a level that is the lowest in more than 30 years. Economists caution that women’s workforce participation in the U.S. has been stagnant for decades, a phenomenon experts say shows that even before the pandemic, working women needed more societal supports than were available. But the pandemic still dealt a resounding blow.

Coronavirus variant imperils federal government’s back-to-the-office plans” via Lisa Rein of The Washington Post — The Biden administration’s effort to bring much of the massive federal workforce back to the office this fall is facing a new disruption just as the government was firming up detailed plans to move past the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of agencies submitted their return-to-office plans to the White House budget office to meet last Monday’s deadline, with a full return to federal offices planned by the end of the year. But with the more contagious delta variant surging and sending tens of thousands of unvaccinated people to hospitals across the nation, trepidation over the reentry plans has risen among some Biden administration officials and unions representing federal employees voicing concerns about their members’ safety through collective bargaining. 

Rising rents threaten to prop up inflation” via Coral Murphy Marcos, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — When the pandemic hit, many people who lost their jobs discontinued their apartment leases to live with parents or roommates temporarily. Now, as people move out on their own again or return to cities and office jobs, and as existing renters find they can’t afford to buy a home in a booming housing market, demand for apartments and single-family rentals is rebounding and even looking hot in some places. Rents last month rose 7% nationally from a year earlier. If rents continue to take off, it could be bad news both for those seeking housing and for the nation’s inflation outlook.

How much more will your Oreos cost? Companies test price increases” via Theo Francis, Thomas Gryta and Gwynn Guilford of The Wall Street Journal — Faced with rising costs for materials, transportation and workers, companies are charging more for products from metal fasteners to Oreo cookies, helping fuel inflation like the U.S. hasn’t seen in more than a decade. As customers accept the price hikes, some big companies said they expect to raise prices even more. Others are more cautious, unsure if U.S. consumers have the appetite to absorb additional increases. What companies decide will go a long way to answering a question that has surged to the top of executives’ and economists’ agendas this year: Is the recent jump in inflation transitory, as the Federal Reserve predicts, or persistent, as some executives warn?

Oreos are just one of the consumer items that could be more expensive.

What John Lux is reading — “Georgia’s film industry explodes: Hollywood spends record-breaking $4 billion in Peach State” via CNN — The Georgia Department of Economic Development announced the film industry recorded a blockbuster year in Georgia. During the fiscal year 2021, the film and television industry set a record with $4 billion in direct spending on productions in the state. The Georgia Film Office, a division of GDEcD, reported that these numbers are due to a variety of factors in addition to the state’s overall attractiveness to the film industry, including an earlier safe return to production, pent-up demand from the COVID-19 hiatus, and the associated expenses to mitigate risk. New safety protocols were also added to production costs and timelines.

— MORE CORONA —

What happens when we run out of Greek letters for variants?” via Grace Woodruff of Slate — Delta surges, alpha remains a concern. Gamma is less transmissible, while beta is more contagious. A few weeks ago, scientists were concerned about epsilon, which is potentially able to evade antibodies from vaccines; On Monday, Texas saw its first case of lambda. These are all variants of the coronavirus, of course, though some have received less time in the spotlight than others. Anyone familiar with the Greek alphabet might wonder how we got to “lambda” already, the 11th letter, since scientists assign variants nicknames in order of the Greek alphabet. 

NFL: COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players could mean forfeits” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — The country’s leading professional sports league announced Thursday that COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players could force teams to have to forfeit games that cannot be rescheduled. Multiple news organizations reported Thursday that the NFL sent a memo to its 32 teams that any game postponed due to the coronavirus will not be granted time to be rescheduled outside of the designated 18-week season, and teams affected by an outbreak will be forced to forfeit if the calendar doesn’t line up. The prospect of cancellations stands out as one of the most forceful steps taken by a high-profile company to nudge workers to get vaccinated, shy of an outright requirement.

Unvaccinated players could cause havoc in the NFL schedule. Image via AP.

Why everyone has the worst summer cold ever” via Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times — Infectious disease experts say several factors are fueling this hot, sneezy summer. While pandemic lockdowns protected many people from COVID-19, our immune systems missed the daily workout of being exposed to a multitude of microbes. Although your immune system is likely as strong as it always was, if it hasn’t been alerted to a microbial intruder in a while, it may take a bit longer to get revved up when challenged by a pathogen again, experts say. And while some viral exposures in our past have conferred lasting immunity, other illnesses may have given us only transient immunity that waned as we were isolating at home.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Why Biden’s approval rating has barely budged in his first six months” via Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight — Biden’s job approval rating over his first six months in office was the steadiest such rating of any recent President during that period. His approval has ranged from a high of 55.1% on March 22 to a low of 51.1% on July 15 — a difference of just 4 percentage points. Biden’s fairly static numbers are at least in part a reflection of the lack of major scandals in his administration as well as its avoidance, for now, of deeply unpopular policies — developments that have tripped up some of his predecessors. For instance, Trump’s approval rating dipped in March and April 2017 as the GOP began its push to pass health care legislation that was very unpopular in the polls.

The needle on Joe Biden barely moves. Image via AP.

Biden’s obsession with scoring a bipartisan deal suddenly looks quite doable” via Laura Barron-Lopez and Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Despite a failed vote on Wednesday to advance the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, White House negotiators have been working aggressively to settle disagreements with GOP senators. The White House supported Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer‘s move to force that vote, viewing it as necessary for kicking negotiations into a higher gear. The move angered Republican negotiators. But it didn’t drive them away. By Wednesday afternoon, 10 GOP Senators had signed onto a bipartisan statement saying they were prepared to vote to break a filibuster in a matter of days. If a deal materializes next week, as several Senators involved in talks suggest, it will represent the most significant validation to date of Biden’s commitment to bipartisanship.

Biden predicts restaurants and businesses will be ‘in a bind’ for some time due to labor shortages” via Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak of CNN — Biden conceded during a CNN town hall that certain businesses will remain “in a bind for a little while” with labor shortages, part of a major set of problems that are unfurling as his six-month-old presidency reaches a critical juncture. Asked by a restaurateur about how the federal government will incentivize returns to work among industries with labor shortages, Biden said, “I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things.” … “And there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and … to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while,” the President continued.

More than a laugh: Kamala Harris’ is a soundcheck for a divided country” via Noah Biermanstaff of The Los Angeles Times — Seriously, to weigh how the first woman and first woman of color to become Vice President is perceived, Harris’ laugh may provide the ultimate gauge. While many people just hear levity in her laugh, those on the right react with heckles and attacks, a difference that says as much about the divisive, personally vicious state of politics as any debates over policies. Trump made fun of “the laugh” at a late October rally in Pennsylvania. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” he bellowed mockingly, and mirthlessly, adding his own snicker as he otherwise savaged Harris for being “more liberal than ‘crazy Bernie.’” Harris’ supporters and some outside observers say the attention to her mirth is not funny. Instead, they say, it reflects the double standard she faces. 

— EPILOGUE TRUMP — 

Donald Trump says he spoke to a ‘loving crowd’ at Jan. 6 rally” via Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker of The Washington Post — When Trump sat down for an interview in late March at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, he described the events of Jan. 6 as largely peaceful and his supporters as friendly, saying the audience he addressed at a rally on the Ellipse before the attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “loving crowd.” Five people later died after thousands of his supporters beat back police to storm through barricades and charge inside the Capitol, and hundreds of lawmakers and their staffers were forced to scramble for safety. But Trump, speaking in an exclusive interview for the new book “I Alone Can Fix It,” said the mob was “ushered in” by police.

A ‘loving’ crowd. Image via AP.

Trump’s PAC collected $75 million this year, but so far the group has not put money into pushing for the 2020 ballot reviews he touts” via Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — Trump’s political PAC raised roughly $75 million in the first half of this year as he trumpeted the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen from him, but the group has not devoted funds to help finance the ongoing ballot review in Arizona or to push for similar endeavors in other states, according to people familiar with the finances. Instead, the Save America leadership PAC has paid for some of the former President’s travel, legal costs and staff, along with other expenses, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the group’s inner workings. The PAC has held onto much of its cash.

The guy who spent $30 million building Trump’s wall is looking for buyers” via Simon van Zuylen-Wood of Bloomberg — Two private-sector border walls are attempting to separate Mexico from the U.S., and Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. has built them both. The first, erected in the summer of 2019, is nestled in a mountainous half-mile stretch of New Mexico. The second is more ambitious. Completed last year, it’s about a 90-minute drive from the Gulf of Mexico, under the low, heavy skies of South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The structure is 3 miles long, hugging a severe bend in the river, and consists of roughly 15,000 18-foot-tall gray steel bollards, spaced 5 inches apart and set in a wide concrete foundation. Ideally, Tommy Fisher wouldn’t just sell off his wall — he’d expand it, charging $20 million per additional mile.

Michael Cohen thinks Jared Kushner already flipped on Trump” via Thomas Colson of Business Insider — Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, said he thought Kushner had already flipped on his father-in-law as the criminal investigation into Trump’s business empire intensifies. Cohen did not offer any evidence but said he thought that was the case because of how little Kushner had been mentioned. Cohen tweeted that Kushner’s name had been absent from “all the controversy, indictments and arrests” related to the investigation. He speculated that this was because Kushner was already cooperating with prosecutors.

— CRISIS —

Biden’s DHS Secretary says Trump helps ‘create a space’ for domestic terrorism” via Liz Landers and Simone Perez of Vice — Trump‘s rhetoric has helped “create a space” for extremism to bloom in America, the kind that led to the violent riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said. His agency now considers domestic extremism a top threat. Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor whose family brought him to the U.S. from Cuba as an infant, is the first immigrant and Latino to lead DHS. He was also one of the first Cabinet members confirmed in the nascent Biden administration.

Alejandro Mayorkas says Donald Trump found a gap in the American public and drove a truck through it. Image via YouTube.

Proud Boys got photo ops with Miami police chief. He says he didn’t know who they were.” via Charles Rabin and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo — who prides himself on working the street with beat cops — had recent back-to-back encounters with members of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys during the first demonstrations in the city in support of protesters in Cuba. One led to losing his temper in a July 11 exchange caught on video by an independent journalist. In the clip posted on social media, Acevedo swears at a man who asked the chief why he hangs out with Marxists and communists and supports the Black Lives Matter movement. In another photo taken the next day, a smiling Acevedo posed with his left arm around Gabriel Garcia, a prominent Proud Boys member.

‘Constitutional Sheriff’ Wayne Ivey says he’s a patriot. Others see something more menacing.” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — On Jan. 18, 2021, just days before Biden was sworn in as President and less than two weeks after the Capitol riot, Sheriff Ivey penned a column for Space Coast Daily in which he declared: “Serving as a Constitutional Sheriff means standing strong in defense of our citizens, our cops, and our Constitution.” Ivey’s declaration harkens back to something far darker and more menacing than just a lawman asserting his noble intention to defend the supreme law of the United States. They see the rise of self-declared “Constitutional Sheriffs” and the organizations which recruit and purport to represent them as a potential threat to American democracy and the very document they claim to protect.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Nancy Pelosi says ‘deadly serious’ Jan. 6 probe to go without GOP” via Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — The Republicans’ House leader, Kevin McCarthy, called the committee a “sham process” and suggested that GOP lawmakers who take part could face the consequences. McCarthy said Pelosi’s rejection of two of the Republicans he had attempted to appoint was an “egregious abuse of power.” The escalating tension between the two parties — before the investigation has even started — is emblematic of the raw partisan anger that has only worsened since Trump’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory. With most Republicans still loyal to Trump, and many downplaying the severity of the violent attack, there is little bipartisan unity to be found. Pelosi made clear she won’t relent, and Democrats mulled filling the empty seats themselves.

Nancy Pelosi is not playing around. Image via AP.

Assignment editors — Congressman Charlie Crist will speak with medical staff at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Community Health Center, talk about the rise in COVID-19 cases in Pinellas and ongoing efforts to vaccinate residents as the delta variant spreads. Then, Crist will speak on the escalating rate of HIV/AIDS transmission in Tampa Bay at a ribbon-cutting for the EPIC Sexual Health Center; 12:45 p.m., Johnnie Ruth Clarke Community Health Center, 1344 22nd St, South, St. Petersburg; 1:30 p.m., EPIC Sexual Health Center, 3050 1st Ave. South, St. Petersburg.

Barack Obama-Bruce Springsteen book ‘Renegades’ coming in October” via The Associated Press — Penguin Random House and Obama’s Higher Ground company announced Thursday that “Renegades” will come out October 26. The $50 book will include rare photographs, handwritten Springsteen lyrics and annotated Obama speeches. “Over the years, what we’ve found is that we’ve got a shared sensibility,” Obama said in a statement. In an introduction for the book, Springsteen wrote that he and Obama had raised serious issues about the “fate of the country, the fortune of its citizens, and the destructive, ugly, corrupt forces at play that would like to take it all down.”

— LOCAL NOTES —

Surfside condo asked residents to evacuate, but some stayed. Town supports evacuation” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — It’s been two weeks since residents of the Regent Palace Condo buildings in Surfside were encouraged to evacuate, but not everyone has left. The condo association for the three-story oceanfront property — a two-building complex located six blocks from the June 24 building collapse — issued a voluntary evacuation request earlier this month after an engineer found unsafe conditions on the roof of the property, said association President Joerg Dogondke. He said emergency shoring was then installed to reinforce 15 “compromised” columns in the garage. “If someone tells you the hurricane is coming, some people believe and leave right away, and some people wait for it to show up,” he said Wednesday.

Coral Springs condo ruled unsafe, residents must leave” via David Selig of WPLG — Residents of a Coral Springs condominium have two weeks to vacate after the building was deemed unsafe by the city and a special magistrate. The Villa Bianca Condominium, a 16-unit building at 3990 Woodside Drive, has multiple violations of the city’s building code, officials say. “The condominium failed to complete its 40 Year Building Inspection, which was required in 2016. At that time, failure to meet inspection requirements were brought before the Special Magistrate and a lien placed on the building,” the city said in a news release. On Thursday, Special Magistrate Mitch Kraft followed the city’s recommendations and deemed the condo unsafe. Tenants must leave by Aug. 5.

Another South Florida condo complex is ruled unsafe. Image via AP.

Canes safety Avantae Williams accused of attacking pregnant ex-girlfriend at Kendall apartment” Amanda Batchelor of WPLG — Williams has been suspended from all team activities and faces multiple charges after he was arrested, Wednesday night, on a charge of aggravated battery of a pregnant victim, a UM spokesperson confirmed to Local 10 News in an email. Williams, 20, was taken into custody by officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department and was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. According to his arrest report, Williams is the victim’s ex-boyfriend and father of her unborn child. The victim is 21 weeks pregnant. Miami-Dade police said the former couple lived together for four months at an apartment on Hammocks Boulevard in Kendall and got into an argument Wednesday about Williams being involved with another woman.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson promised to approve police shooting videos’ release within 30 days. So why is the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office taking months?” via Emily Wilder of The Tributary — Despite a lauded policy announced last fall that outlined steps the state would take to hasten the release of body-worn camera footage following police shootings, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has failed to follow through in most cases since then. The Sheriff’s Office now says the promise to complete assessments of the footage and approve its release within weeks of shootings was one only the Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office had made and that the Sheriff’s Office still has no exact deadline to meet. Even after prosecutors tell the Sheriff’s Office it can release the videos, the Sheriff’s Office waits before doing so. 

UF, Scripps Research announce talks to integrate” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The University of Florida and Scripps Research announced Thursday that they are in negotiations to integrate the Florida-based branch of Scripps with the research arm of UF’s academic health center. UF and Scripps described the partnership as “a move designed to marry the clinical and educational expertise of the state’s flagship university with one of the world’s premier biomedical research enterprises.” A news release said that discussions had proceeded swiftly because UF is well-positioned to expand on Scripps Florida’s successful research track record to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that improve patient outcomes.

Orlando’s Sharon Smoley joining national chambers’ board” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Smoley of the Orlando Economic Partnership has been elected to the national board of directors for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. Smoley, vice president of advocacy and public policy for the Orlando Economic Partnership, which includes the Orlando regional Chamber of Commerce, becomes one of 50 representatives of chambers throughout the country on the ACCE board, including many of the world’s largest and most influential regional chambers of commerce. ACCE is a Virginia-based association of more than 9,000 professionals who work for and with more than 1,600 chambers of commerce.

Taxes will go up in Boca Raton if beach and parks plan passes” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Boca Raton residents could soon be paying more in taxes if a proposed millage increase passes. The new rate proposed by the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District — an independent taxing district separate from the City Council — would be 1.05%, up from the current rate of 0.8818%. That would mean the tax owed to the district on a home assessed at $300,000 would go up to $315 a year from about $265. For a home assessed at $500,000, taxes would go to $525 from about $440. These amounts do not take homestead exemptions into account.

Palm Beach County median home prices hit $500,000, while condos take a dip; Broward prices spike.” via Wendy Rhodes of the Palm Beach Post — It might be time to ask for that raise you’ve wanted because the median price of a single-family residence in Palm Beach County just hit $500,000, according to a report released Thursday by Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors. That number is 33% higher than the same time last year and 5% higher than last month. The time from listing to contract is now 11 days. Inventory increased slightly over last month to 3,185 from 3,075, which still represents a 1.8 month supply of homes — well below the 5.5-month supply indicated for a healthy market.

Palm Beach County School District CFO Mike Burke to be interim Superintendent; Donald Fennoy’s tenure to close upon vote next week” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County School Board members will tap the District Chief Financial Officer Burke to helm the county’s public schools while they seek to permanently replace the outgoing Superintendent, who announced his resignation last week. Board members, who voted unanimously on the matter Wednesday night, said Burke has the experience and demeanor necessary to pilot the state’s fifth-largest district through what promises to be a publicly contentious return to full in-person learning next month and a likely monthslong Superintendent search. In what could’ve been a fraught choice between more than one qualified insider, one of the District’s other top administrators appeared to seal the deal by throwing his support to Burke in an email to board members.

Broward schools pick Orange County administrator as interim Superintendent” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Vickie Cartwright, a longtime Orange County administrator and recent Superintendent in Wisconsin, was selected Thursday as the interim Superintendent for Broward schools. A divided School Board chose Cartwright 5-4 over a second candidate interviewed, Robert Schiller, an administrator who has led numerous school districts over the past 40 years, often for a short duration. “I’m feeling very grateful. I’m so humbled for the opportunity to work alongside some wonderful individuals,” Cartwright said after the meeting. “This is just an exciting time for me. Coming to Florida is important to me.” Before becoming Superintendent in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2018, Cartwright, 50, worked 17 years with the Orange County school district, rising to an Associate Superintendent.

Lake Worth Beach now has an educational task force — who is on it and how does it work?” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — The Lake Worth Beach City Commission has created an educational task force it hopes will help address some of the issues faced by schools in the city. The initiative was led by Commissioner Kim Stokes, a former Lake Worth High School math teacher who defeated incumbent Andy Amoroso for the District 3 seat in March. On Tuesday, Stokes and her colleagues voted 18 people — many of them current or former Palm Beach County teachers — to serve on the volunteer board. The idea is to embed the task force members among the city’s six public schools and one private school to collect information on the challenges facing those schools and report it back to the Commission.

Six years ago Saturday, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen went missing. A statue will honor all those lost at sea.” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Stephanos was 14 years old when he disappeared at sea while boating with his friend, Cohen, six years ago this Saturday. The boat the teens took out of the Jupiter Inlet was recovered, but they never were. Now, Stephanos’ family is installing a statue at the inlet — the place where Austin and Perry may have last seen land — to stand as a memorial for the lives lost at sea. The statue will be unveiled at 6:30 p.m. today at Jupiter Beach Park. It will be placed at the far northern tip of the park where boaters and people fishing will see it as they pass through the inlet.

Spurred by talks with Elon Musk, Miami-Dade officials OK study of underground transit tunnels” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The county’s transportation planning board approved a six-month, $88,000 study of tunneling technology created by Musk’s company, as well as similar technology designed by other companies, as a way to provide faster, cheaper travel options to residents. The move comes just weeks after Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis announced that his city had accepted a proposal from the Boring Co. to build an underground transit system between its downtown and beach, barring a better proposal from another firm by Aug. 30. Officials already have some projects in mind, including key routes across Miami-Dade identified in the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan. Four of those routes have neither full funding nor a transit upgrade selected.

Elon Musk inches closer to a Miami-Dade tunnel. Image via AP.

First Miami-Dubai flight touches down at MIA, start of four weekly Emirates trips” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The first direct flight between Dubai and Miami arrived at Miami International Airport on Thursday. The arrival marks Emirates’ launch of four weekly flights between the two cities. The company canceled the same service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last year. Passengers on the new route of about 15-16 hours in the air will travel on Emirates’ Boeing 777 jets, which feature eight private suites in first class, and operate on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Bigger cargo opportunities and more international connections lured the United Arab Emirates airline to Miami, said Essa Ahmad, Emirates divisional vice president for the U.S. and Canada.

Gordon Ramsay to open a Lucky Cat outpost in Miami Beach” via Laine Doss of the Miami New Times — Now, Miamians will be able to get up close and gustational with Ramsay‘s food with the opening of his first Miami endeavor, Lucky Cat, which will open in 2022 in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood. The restaurant is an outpost of the original Lucky Cat, which opened in 2019 in London’s Mayfair district. The restaurant, which harkens back to the Tokyo drinking dens of the 1930s, offers dishes inspired by various regions throughout Asia.

— TOP OPINION —

Listen to the people. Their protests are about Cuba’s repression, not the U.S. embargo” via Manny Diaz for the Miami Herald — Last week, the Cuban communist regime once again showed the world that it is nothing more than a repressive dictatorship. The Cuban regime continues to commit crimes against its people, beating, imprisoning, torturing and even murdering them. It continues to control every aspect of their lives, including cutting access to each other and the world by shutting down the internet and social media. It has been the ineptitude, mismanagement, corruption, and catastrophic blunders of the Cuban communist regime that have led to poverty and misery. The embargo that needs to end is the regime’s embargo against its own people. 

— OPINIONS —

Flat-footed Democrats let Florida Republicans steal the spotlight on Cuba. Part 1“ via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida’s top-ranking Republicans were center stage Wednesday night during a live town hall broadcast nationwide on Fox News. DeSantis, Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar all spoke in unison about what to do next about Cuba as local protesters, in solidarity with those on the island, gathered for a second week outside Versailles restaurant in Little Havana. Clearly, Republicans grasp the historical significance of the street demonstrations in Cuba, a crack in the armor of the Castro-inspired government. Real change can come of it. The Republican plan is to show support for the Cuban people, keep the pressure on the island government and find a way to get internet service to the 11 million Cubans on the island, so they know the international community supports them.

Stop insulting Trump voters and their concerns. Talk to them.” via Gary Abernathy of The Washington Post — When supporters of former President Trump hear media pundits analyze them with the usual collection of belittling observations, they must be tempted to respond, “Hey, we’re right here! We can hear you!” They’re fed up not just with the overt insults, but also with more subtle digs. The media should return to the non-accusatory style that worked for decades. Don’t assume you understand each other because you’ve read some think-tank analysis. Reach out, be curious and start a dialogue.

U.S. surgeon general is alarmed at Florida’s soaring COVID cases. But is Ron DeSantis?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — “This has got to be another all-in moment for our country, where even though we’re moving to more of a regional and local phenomenon when it comes to this spread of COVID-19 cases, we’ve still got to be there as one country,” Vivek Murthy said. The solution is at hand: more widespread vaccinations, which are free, easy to get and now have been administered to millions. But too many in this state have drunk the Fox News Kool-Aid. And now, we’re all paying the price.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

DeSantis draws a line in the sand — masks will not be mandated in schools. And if the feds try to force the issue, the Governor says he’ll call the Legislature back into Session to do something about it.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Meanwhile, a group of doctors in Miami says DeSantis should less time attacking Dr. Fauci and more time talking up the vaccines

— A ceremonial signing for House Bill 3, the $200 million plan to provide free books to kids from kindergarten to the fifth grade who are having trouble reading at their grade level.

— A conversation with two lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle. First up is Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland of Tampa, followed by Democrat Sen. Shevrin Jones of Miami Gardens

— And finally, a Florida Man beat up his Uber driver and carjacked his SUV.

To listen, click on the image below:

— WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Preempted this weekend by the Tokyo Olympics on NBC.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Captain Daniel Andrews, executive director, Captains for Clean Water; Dr. Donna Petersen, Senior Associate V.P., USF Health, Dean, College of Public Health and Tampa Bay Times political editor Steve Contorno.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A closer look at the red tide response in Tampa Bay; a one-on-one interview with the newest candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, Republican Amanda Makki, and insight into how Congress is getting involved in the Free Britney movement.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual speaks with Rep. Geraldine Thompson. Topics include the Florida budget, housing growth in West Orange County and education and critical race theory.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney Sean Pittman and Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Pastor John Allen Newman of the Sanctuary at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church (Jacksonville); Dr. Nancy Staats on COVID-19 vaccine efforts and Dr. Ron Salem, chair of the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Rep. Carlos Giménez.

— OLYMPICS —

Sarasota Olympic shooter Mary Tucker ‘plans to bring home 3 golds’ from Tokyo” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — Women are outnumbering men in the sport of shooting at the Olympics this year, and for the first time, they will be competing against each other. Sarasota’s Tucker is one of the youngest members on Team USA, and she’s already making a name for herself. “This sport is actually a female-dominated sport. Women are typically better at it,” Tucker said. And she is hoping to prove that in Tokyo. Tucker only started professionally shooting a few years ago. At age 20, Tucker is the top-ranked female shooter in the country — No. 2 in the world.

Mary Tucker is aiming for the gold.

Tokyo’s Olympics have become the ‘Anger Games’” via Matt Alt of The New Yorker — Once again, Japan finds its quarantine broken, not by a foreign fleet but by the arrival of thousands of foreign Olympians and their entourages. Now the city’s mood ricochets between fury and resignation, fueled by a toxic mix of unpopular policies and scandals: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s unalloyed boosterism for a sporting event that few citizens seem to truly want; a restriction of the operating hours of eateries and the sale of alcohol, measures intended to blunt the spread of COVID-19; and, perhaps most grating, promises of safety that ring hollow. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of people in Japan would prefer that the Games be postponed again or abandoned altogether, and approval ratings of Suga’s cabinet are at an all-time low.

How the no-spectator Olympics could affect the athletes” via Erin Doherty of Axios — They’ve endured a delayed Olympic Games, rigorous COVID-19 testing requirements and logistical hurdles. But the next biggest test for Olympians may be competing without anyone in the stands. Psychologists don’t know for sure how a spectator-less Olympics will impact athletes’ performance, but Olympians are already expressing concern about what it will be like to compete without hearing the cheers of their families and fans. Past research suggests that the presence of other people tends to enhance an athlete’s performance, but because the Olympics are unlike any other sporting event, psychologists say it’s hard to conclude how this year’s spectator-less Games may or may not affect athletes in competition.

Rare loss by U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team reveals its weaknesses” via Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal — It wasn’t simply that the U.S. women lost, although they hadn’t done that since dropping a friendly 3-1 to France in France on Jan. 19, 2019. It was that they were so thoroughly beaten despite coming into the Olympic tournament as reigning World Cup champions and boasting an intimidation factor everywhere they went. The U.S. is still likely to move on in the Olympic tournament, where eight of the 12 teams advance to the knockout stage. The Americans will be heavily favored against New Zealand on Saturday. But the loss to Sweden exposed vulnerabilities in the U.S. team that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

— ALOE —

Why FSU legend Bobby Bowden still means so much to Jimbo Fisher” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — When Texas A&M coach Fisher spoke passionately about Florida State legend Bowden’s terminal illness, he wasn’t speaking as one of Bowden’s former assistants, or as his Seminoles successor. He was speaking as a longtime family friend. “People don’t realize he and I are very close,” Fisher said during SEC media days. They’re very close because they go back long before Fisher joined Bowden’s FSU staff, and long before the Seminoles forced Bowden out and replaced him with Fisher.

Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Bowden were a lot closer than people realized. Image via AP.

Tom Brady, Bucs eager to get to work, defend Super Bowl title” via The Associated Press — Coach Bruce Arians felt it took 12 games for Brady to become totally comfortable with the Bucs’ offense, which flourished after a Week 13 bye. The defense, led by linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, peaked at the right time, too, capping an impressive postseason run with victories over Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Arians believes both units will be better with the team have a full training camp to prepare to defend its title.

FSU’s Milton ready to return 2 years after gruesome injury” via Steve Reed of The Associated Press — Milton said he feels completely recovered from a gruesome knee injury that kept him out college football the last two years and is ready to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2021. Milton has not played in a game since dislocating his right knee and suffering ligament, nerve and artery damage while playing for Central Florida in November of 2018. He worked with the UCF scout team last year before entering the transfer portal and played the spring ball with the Seminoles. “I feel like I can make all of the throws, I can run, I can jump. Physically, I feel fine.” Milton was a budding star in college football before the injury, going 27-6 in three seasons at Central Florida.

The inside story of how a ‘band of misfits’ saved Lego” via Daryl Austin for National Geographic — When executives at toymaker Lego first learned that adults were buying large quantities of their interlocking plastic bricks and getting together to build Lego creations of their own, “they thought it was very strange,” says Paal Smith-Meyer. Thanks to a handful of employees who worked to change attitudes inside the company, Lego is no longer embarrassed by its adult fans. Gone are the days when labels on Lego boxes stated that the contents were appropriate only for boys ages 7 to 12. 

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Rep. Matt WillhiteFritz BroganMichael Hoffman, Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice and Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



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