Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.26.21

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Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Happy Monday.

If you are gobbling up Olympics coverage — and chances are you’re not — you already know that Team USA had a pretty good weekend.

U.S. swimmer Chase Kalisz notched the nation’s first (and second) gold medal of the games. The 27-year-old landed the top spot in the men’s 400-meter individual medley. It was, of course, a major personal accomplishment for Kalisz, who had to settle for silver five years ago.

Chase Kalisz brings home the first gold for the U.S. Image via AP.

Sarasota is celebrating, too, after Riverview High School alumna Emma Weyant scored the silver in the women’s 400-meter individual medley final, coming in just seven-tenths of a second behind Japan’s Yui Ohashi.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though.

The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered another embarrassing L in their Olympic opener against France. Yes, the team with Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Bam Adebayo, Draymond Green and other stars lost to … France. Can they pull it together already or is this just something that happens every fourth Olympics? Should we start watching EuroLeague?

And then there’s the women’s gymnastics squad. It’s usually the highlight of the quadrennial games (it still is, honestly) but Team Russia finished the qualifying round in the top spot. Thankfully the results don’t carry over to the finals, so there’s still a chance.

The Associated Press’ Bobby Caina Calvan announced he was leaving the Sunshine State. Jason Delgado and Renzo Downey will miss him.

Here’s to many good weekends wherever life takes him.

Worse yet, UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon Haley, who took a leading role in the city’s COVID-19 response, died in a tragic watercraft accident while vacationing in South Florida. Our condolences to his family.

Need a palate cleanser? We do, too. Florida man to the rescue.

The world’s worst superhero popped up in Pensacola got an early start on his weekend. He sauntered into O’Riley’s Uptown Tavern on Thursday and — as he’s wont to do — showed off his gun, accidentally shot himself then carted himself to the hospital. Ta-da!

But nobody had a better weekend than Zach Taylor, a 63-year-old plumber from Ambrose, Georgia. who won the annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West. It’s the Florida man (or Georgia man) equivalent of winning an Elvis Look-Alike Contest in Las Vegas. Our condolences to David “Bat” Masterson of Daytona Beach, who was a six-toed cat’s paw away from the W.


@MicheleforFL: You (know) what my favorite thing in social media has become — is to see @michelletodd like, RT or comment. She’s a miracle and testament to God’s grace. God is amazing!

@atrupar: (Donald) Trump says the only reason he made Mark Milley chairman of the Joint Chiefs is because John Kelly and (Jim) Mattis, both of whom worked for him, didn’t like him — so he decided to do the opposite of what they wanted

@RepKinzinger: Today, I was asked to serve on the bipartisan January 6th Select Committee, and I humbly accepted. When duty calls, I will always answer.

@SenPizzo: Nobody’s pushing the vaccine to compromise your rights, or hamper your happy hour — there’s no microchip, shedding or quackery. No one in the ICU likes “I told you so” while you’re waiting for a lung transplant. Many of us care about you, even if you hate us. Get vaccinated.

@Deggans: We’re to the point that newspapers are begging people to get vaccinated. Sigh.

@NewsGuyGreg: IF this lawsuit is successful — as similar suits so far are in other states — can FL DEO even administer these retroactive benefits? I’m dealing with people waiting MONTHS for benefits and claim issues to be cleared up.

Tweet, tweet:

@JimRosicaFL: A reminder that we’ve always been up against it. From all sides. I think the difference is, social media intensifies it now.

Tweet, tweet:

@JenLux: Legitimately cried a little watching an 18-year old win the first-ever gold in taekwondo this morning. Admittedly it’s the only taekwondo match I’ve ever watched … she was awesome


The NBA Draft — 2; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 4; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 11; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 14; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 16; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 23; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 29; Boise vs. UCF — 38; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 39; Notre Dame at FSU — 41; NFL regular season begins — 45; Bucs home opener — 45; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 50; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 50; Alabama at UF — 54; Dolphins home opener — 55; Jaguars home opener — 55; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 56; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 60; ‘Dune’ premieres — 67; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 67; MLB regular season ends — 69; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 74; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 92; World Series Game 1 — 93; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 93; Georgia at UF — 96; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 99; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 99; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 103; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 105; Miami at FSU — 110; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 116; FSU vs. UF — 124; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 137; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 144; NFL season ends — 167; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 169; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 169; NFL playoffs begin — 173; Super Bowl LVI — 202; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 242; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 284; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 311; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 347; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 359; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 438; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 473.


Woman says consultant paid her to put name on PAC promoting Central Florida ‘ghost’ candidate” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Last fall, some voters in Seminole and Volusia counties received mailers promoting a mysterious, no-party candidate who had done no campaigning of her own in an important state Senate election. As it turns out, the chairperson of the political committee that paid for those mailers was a then-25-year-old community college student who knew nothing about the advertisements her committee was funding. But she had recently found out she was pregnant and was worried about money — so she agreed to let a Republican political operative put her name on the committee’s paperwork in exchange for $1,500.

Records provide more details in sham 2020 Florida candidate probe” via the Times/Herald — Between June 15 and Nov. 15, 2020, Frank Artiles was under contract to work for veteran Republican political operative Pat Bainter for $15,000 a month, court documents show. Bainter paid Artiles $90,000 and reimbursed him for his travel, a courier service, and $4,000 for “research,” according to those documents.

>>>Just as Mickey told Tommy in “Snatch” that nobody brings Gorgeous George “unless they’re trying to say something without talking, no one hires a wannabe-gangster like Artiles unless they’re trying to do something without talking.

Ethics panel gets tough on sham no-party candidate in 2020 Miami race” via Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — A state ethics panel on Friday rejected a $6,500 fine against a sham no-party candidate who ran in a 2020 Miami-Dade legislative race, a rare move that was triggered by calls for stiffer penalties in a case one Commissioner called one of the “most egregious” in Florida. The Florida Commission on Ethics also found probable cause that Alexis Pedro Rodriguez filed inaccurate campaign documents with the state and accepted money from Artiles with the understanding that he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to qualify to run in the Senate District 37 election. Rodriguez now has the option to have a full evidentiary hearing on the ethics case or can try to renegotiate a settlement agreement with an ethics commission advocate.


‘Not out of the woods’: CDC issues warning to the unvaccinated” via Michael D. Shear, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg via The New York Times — The director of the CDC warned on Thursday that the United States was “not out of the woods yet” on the pandemic and was once again at a “pivotal point” as the highly infectious Delta variant ripped through unvaccinated communities. Just weeks after President Joe Biden threw a Fourth of July party on the South Lawn of the White House to declare independence from the virus, the director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, called the now dominant variant “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses” known to scientists. The renewed sense of urgency inside the administration was aimed at tens of millions of people who have not yet been vaccinated and therefore are most likely to be infected and become sick.

The CDC has bad news for the unvaccinated.

Most unvaccinated Americans don’t want shots” via Tammy Webber and Emily Swanson of The Associated Press — Most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are unlikely to get the shots and doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant despite evidence they do. Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will. Moreover, 64% of unvaccinated Americans have little to no confidence that the shots are effective against variants.

‘Patience has worn thin’: Frustration mounts over vaccine holdouts” via Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Seven months after the first coronavirus shots were rolled out, vaccinated Americans are growing frustrated that tens of millions of people are still refusing to get them, endangering themselves and their communities and fueling the virus’s spread. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey lashed out amid a surge of cases in her state, telling a reporter it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.” The NFL this week imposed new rules that put pressure on unvaccinated players, warning their teams could face fines or be forced to forfeit games if those players were linked to outbreaks. Meanwhile, exhausted health providers say they are bracing for case spikes that are largely preventable, driven by the hyper-transmissible delta variant.

As COVID-19 cases rise, some conservatives make surprising course correction on vaccine ahead of 2022 midterms” via Maeve Reston and Lauren Fox of CNN — Ivey‘s deliverance of hard truth followed a week of troubling COVID-19 headlines, when some other Republican Governors also redoubled their efforts to get their constituents vaccinated, including Missouri’s Mike Parson, West Virginia’s Jim Justice and Ron DeSantis. At the same time, while speaking the gospel of “personal responsibility,” many GOP Governors have resisted calls for mask mandates or future shutdowns.


Florida becomes COVID-19’s U.S. epicenter, reports wrong death count” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Florida recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined. The state logged 73,199 more infections in this week’s report. That’s the biggest one-week surge since Jan. 27. California, Texas, New York and Illinois altogether logged 73,116 new infections. The state took hours longer than usual on Friday to publish its weekly update to inform the public about pandemic statistics. California, Texas, New York and Illinois and Pennsylvania together logged 362 more COVID-19 fatalities in the same period, lower than Florida’s 387, the CDC’s website said. But Florida’s Friday report states it logged only 78 more deaths this week. Yet the difference between the state report’s total statewide death toll of 38,670 and the 38,388 reported the week prior is 282.

—“‘We’re exhausted’: As case numbers increase, Jacksonville homeless shelters restart 2020 COVID-19 program” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union 

—“COVID-19 hospitalizations double and infections surge in Sarasota-Manatee, Florida” via Brian Ries of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

—”Tampa Bay continues to report sharp rise in COVID-19 cases” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—”Florida tops the nation in new COVID-19 cases. As they spike in its rural Big Bend, many still fear the vaccine more.” via Nada Hassanein of USA Today

—”COVID-19 in Okaloosa County has become ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated’” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News

—”‘Trying to live normally again’: As COVID-19 cases spike, Polk officials have been quiet” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger

When does Florida’s coronavirus surge become a problem for Ron DeSantis?” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — More than 640,000 more Americans have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus this month. About 1 in 5 of those new infections were recorded in Florida. The spike in cases over the past month has been as dramatic as the top-line numbers would suggest. Only two states are now seeing more new cases per 100,000 residents than Florida. But since Florida’s population is three times that of those two states combined, that means a lot more cases. There are still millions of residents who haven’t been vaccinated and only 2.4 million who are known to have already had it. That’s a lot of Floridians who are still at risk.

Will the COVID-19 spike come back to bite Ron DeSantis? Image via AP.

Federal court lifts CDC rules for Florida-based cruise ships” via The Associated Press — Pandemic restrictions on Florida-based cruise ships are no longer in place under a ruling Friday by a federal appeals court, while the CDC seeks to fight a Florida lawsuit challenging the regulations. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had temporarily blocked a previous ruling last Saturday that sided with Florida officials, but the court reversed that decision on Friday. Last weekend’s temporary stay had kept the CDC regulations regarding Florida-based cruise ships in place while the CDC appeals the June decision by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday. Those regulations can no longer be enforced but can still be used as guidelines.

Miami-Dade opens five new COVID-19 vaccine, testing sites as cases continue to surge” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County is escalating coronavirus prevention, opening five new mobile vaccine and testing sites as COVID-19 case numbers reach levels not seen since the height of the pandemic. With virus positivity and hospitalizations increasing along with the growing threat of new variants, especially the Delta, Miami-Dade and Nomi Health are working to expand vaccination and testing, the county said. “We are extremely concerned about this new wave of COVID cases in Miami-Dade,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement. “The numbers are very clear: the vast majority of those who end up in the hospital due to COVID are unvaccinated.”

COVID-19 case counts continue spiking in Brevard County, with 2,166 new cases last week” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — New state data shows that COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike in Brevard County and statewide. In Brevard County, there were 2,166 new COVID-19 cases reported for the seven-day period that ended Thursday, according to a report released late Friday by the Florida Department of Health. That’s an average of 309 new cases a day for the week of July 16-22. The weekly total compares with 1,443 new cases in Brevard a week ago, 693 two weeks ago and 495 three weeks ago. In the latest weekly report, the percentage of COVID-19 tests in Brevard that were positive for the virus was 20.3%.

Through vaccination or infection, doctors predict Florida will hit herd immunity to COVID-19” via Catherine Hawley of Fox 13 — The coronavirus is sweeping through unvaccinated populations across the globe, and especially in Florida. Bay Area experts believe this will be the final wave of the pandemic because, after this spike, we should hit herd immunity because the majority of people will have either been vaccinated or infected. Modeling done by University of South Florida researchers shows our region could be headed for a record-breaking spike in COVID-19 cases, with a peak likely in mid-September. “The numbers that I’m seeing in terms of daily infection rates are doubling every seven days. And that’s the fastest that I’ve seen since I started doing the calculations back in July of last year,” explained Dr. Thomas Unnasch, USF College of Public Health Distinguished Professor.

One way or another, Florida will reach herd immunity. Image via AP.

Bucs tailback Leonard Fournette won’t rule out vaccine, wants to learn more” via Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times — Fournette, who posted (then quickly deleted) a tweet Thursday expressing his unwillingness to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, reiterated his stance Sunday, but didn’t rule out receiving it upon learning more about its potential long-term impacts. “I don’t know too much about it,” said Fournette, who signed another one-year deal with the Bucs after a sparkling postseason in which he ran for 300 yards and had 18 receptions.


Charlie Crist urges DeSantis to request federal aid for red tide” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Crist is making another ask of DeSantis to request federal aid to combat Tampa Bay’s red tide outbreak. Crist wrote a letter to DeSantis urging him to request that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designate the outbreak a “Harmful Algal Bloom Event of National Significance” under a 2019 federal law. That designation, which Governors can request, would open the door to federal dollars to address the outbreak, impacting the environment and public health. “Red Tide is ravaging our shores — killing marine life, hurting our businesses, and threatening our way of life,” Crist said in a statement. In his letter, Crist said the local officials cleared 1,400 tons of dead marine debris from the water and coastline at an unsustainable pace for workers.

Charlie Crist urges a federal disaster declaration for Tampa Bay’s red tide crisis.

Overhaul of Florida program to aid brain-damaged kids now in hands of powerful politician” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Jimmy Patronis, whose office oversees the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, initiated an audit and an investigation of the program after the Miami Herald and the journalism nonprofit ProPublica published a series of stories this year showing how NICA had amassed nearly $1.5 billion in assets while frequently denying care to children it serves. Patronis, who demanded that NICA “do better” the day the series began publishing, is expected to name at least five board members to oversee the program, three to replace members who resigned last month and two new ones authorized by a law passed in the most recent legislative session.

First on #FlaPol — “Former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein joins American Flood Coalition as senior adviser” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Valenstein is bringing his eco-expertise to the national level as a new senior adviser to the American Flood Coalition. Valenstein, who in May resigned from his post as the state’s top environmental official after four years, joins “a growing team” at the nationwide alliance of cities, elected officials, military leaders, businesses and civic groups working on sea level rise, an AFC press note said. “We are pleased to welcome to AFC Noah Valenstein, a Florida leader I have enjoyed working with over the past years,” AFC Executive Director Melissa Roberts said in a statement.

Assignment editors — Rep. Kelly Skidmore is hosting a virtual roundtable to discuss education issues, 6 p.m. Zoom link here.

Too many aspiring Florida teachers struggle to pass certification exams, new study says” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — More than half Florida’s aspiring elementary school teachers fail their professional certification exams on their first try. The 60% failure rate highlights “potential gaps” in the education offered at Florida’s teacher training programs and means too many would-be teachers face the stress and expense of retaking tests required to be public school teachers, the report from the National Council on Teacher Quality shows. Across Florida, only 40% of the students in teacher preparation programs passed all four sections on their first try, with the rates often lower for Black and Hispanic teacher candidates.

Randy Fine calls Ben & Jerry’s West Bank boycott ‘stupid’” via Gordon Byrd of WFLA — Ben and Jerry’s announced that its ice cream would not be sold in areas it described as the “Occupied Territories,” the areas Israel captured in the Six-Day War of 1967. Activists have pushed for various boycotts of Israel. Florida passed a law prohibiting the state from buying from or investing in any business that boycotts Israel. “You boycott Israel, and we boycott you,” Fine, who wrote the law, explains. Fine says, “we have a zero-tolerance policy against these types of bigots.” But he sees the Ben & Jerry’s situation as more “stupid” than anything else; the company’s executives are hypocrites as “by their definition, (they operate) on occupied territory that we took from the Indians hundreds of years ago.”

Randy Fine is no fan of Ben & Jerry’s. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida unemployment lawsuit filed” via Greg Angel of Bay News 9 — A group of attorneys filed a lawsuit Sunday in an effort to force the State of Florida to restore $300 weekly extended federal unemployment benefits. Attorneys Scott Behren, Gautier Kitchen, and Marie Mattox are leading the suit. The suit is expected to be registered with the Clerk of Court’s Office Monday morning. The suit names several Broward County individuals as plaintiffs, who say they’ve suffered financial hardship due to the state shutting off federal benefits. The suit, however, aims to get benefits restores for all Floridians impacted. In March Congress approved $300 weekly extended federal unemployment benefits until early September. 

Need a break on back-to-school shopping? What to know about a tax holiday starting soon” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Florida is poised to enter its second fall semester of school under the cloud of a pandemic. And while there is renewed discussion and some confusion as to exactly how classrooms may look and function in terms of masking, social distancing and other precautions as COVID-19 once again surges in the state, there is one thing we know solid: The familiar back-to-school tax free week is happening again this year — pandemic or not. The savings applies from July 31 to Aug. 9. Yes, it’s slightly longer than a week. Be grateful for the generous math.

— 2022 —

Assignment editors — Rep. Crist will attend a virtual meeting of the Democratic Women’s Club of East Broward, 6:30 p.m. Zoom link here.

Orlando attorney and stroke survivor Coleman Watson makes bid for U.S. Senate in Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — When Watson was just 41, he experienced a sudden stroke, impairing his ability to speak. At 43, he’s running for the U.S. Senate. “To me, disability is a matter of perception,” Watson wrote in an email. Watson, an Orlando attorney, faces a tough battle in the Democratic primary, where high-profile candidate and U.S. Rep. Val Demings has already raised $4.6 million since entering the race in June. Watson’s campaign, meanwhile, so far had only a $2,525 loan from himself as of the June 30 second-quarter deadline.

To view Watson’s first campaign video, click on the image below:

Click just for the quote from Ben Pollara — “Florida Democrats anxious over stalled Miami congressional races” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Two Miami-area congressional races are likely to be some of the nation’s most expensive and competitive midterm contests. But Democrats so far are missing one thing: candidates. Then-Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost the seats in surprise upsets in 2020. Democrats now see both races as winnable, Hillary Clinton won both districts in 2016 by double digits, and the seats tend to sway between Republican and Democratic control. But some Florida Democrats are blaming the poor recruitment drive on the party, which they say isn’t doing enough to recruit and assist strong candidates, a sign of larger problems in the nation’s biggest swing state. The unsettled field has left Florida Democrats anxious that two potential opportunities are slipping away from them.

Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters says he’s ‘moving forward’ after ‘false’ harassment claim” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After initially saying little about sexual harassment allegations that were investigated and deemed unsubstantiated, Gruters offered a more forceful statement Friday, explicitly declaring for the first time that the allegations are false. “An independent investigation into these false allegations was conducted and cleared me of any wrongdoing,” Gruters said in a statement. “I am moving forward and focusing on my work on behalf of the great people of Florida.” Gruters was embroiled in controversy Tuesday when it came out that a sexual harassment complaint had been filed against him with the Republican Party of Florida. The RPOF later issued a statement saying it hired an independent law firm that spent three months investigating the complaint.

—”The failed political assassination of Gruters” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

After past ‘mockery,’ Florida GOP to begin new high-stakes redistricting effort” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The last time Florida’s ruling Republicans were tasked with redrawing the state’s political districts, a judge concluded they turned it into a “mockery” by secretly and illegally working to enhance their command of the state. Fast-forward to this summer and an even more powerful GOP-led Legislature is again getting ready to begin the once-a-decade recasting of state House, Senate and congressional boundaries. Republicans say they learned a lesson last time. Democrats, though, aren’t convinced. The Democratic committee has placed Florida among nine states it is tracking closely.


Surge of COVID-19 delta variant poses new political threat to Joe Biden and his agenda” via Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — The rapid increase in coronavirus infections driven by the delta variant over the past month is turning the country’s attention back to the pandemic and threatening to subsume President Biden’s agenda, just as the White House and its allies hoped to move on from the virus and focus on promoting the administration’s other accomplishments. Inside the White House, top officials are growing increasingly anxious about the state of the pandemic and are gravely concerned about the situation spiraling out of control in some areas of the country with low vaccination rates. Biden’s team had always expected to see additional coronavirus outbreaks, but the White House assumed the increases in infections would be “mounds” and not “peaks.”

The delta variant is causing Joe Biden much political grief. Image via AP.

Biden administration purchases extra Pfizer doses to prepare for possibility of children vaccine needs and booster shots” via Betsy Klein of CNN — The Biden administration purchased an additional 200 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to prepare for potential additional vaccine needs in the US. Despite the slowing demand for COVID-19 vaccines, the administration official said the additional shots would be needed for children under 12, pending approval from the FDA, and the possibility of booster shots for vaccinated individuals. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still conducting clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in children under 12.

Why some experts recommend upgrading to N95 masks to help fight the delta variant” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — The debate over masks is heating up again, with increasing calls for all Americans, regardless of coronavirus vaccination status, to return to wearing face coverings in indoor public places to help thwart the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. But some experts say the recommendations should specify the kind of masks people should be using. “Delta is so contagious that when we talk about masks, I don’t think we should just talk about masks,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, said. “I think we should be talking about high-quality masks,” such as N95 respirators. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at the University of California at San Francisco, expressed a similar sentiment: “We can’t say we’re going back to masks without discussing type of mask.”

—”Disney executives won’t attend CinemaCon in-person as delta COVID-19 variant rages in Las Vegas” via Sarah Whitten of CNBC


Virus resurgence menaces economy just as rescue programs unravel” via Megan Cassella and Ben White of POLITICO — The resurgence of the coronavirus is threatening to undercut the U.S. economic recovery and upend Americans’ plans to return to work just as the sweeping social safety net that Congress built during the pandemic is unraveling. That one-two punch is sparking concern among lawmakers and economists who say that while widespread business shutdowns are unlikely, renewed fears of the virus alone can slow the economy just as it’s getting back on track. That could dampen hiring and keep some workers on the sidelines of the job market, stalling or even reversing the labor recovery. New unemployment claims jumped last week to 419,000, well above expectations and the highest since mid-May.

Will the delta variant tank the economy, again? Image via AP.

The delta variant could make the American shopper go back into lockdown, BofA says” via Ayelet Sheffey of Business Insider — The American shopper emerged from lockdown to lead the recovery, but that’s now at stake. BofA economists Stephen Juneau and Anna Zhou wrote in a Friday note that the variant is likely to lead to a shift in consumer behavior going forward, citing a 351% surge in the moving average of daily cases since July 21. Accompanied by slowing vaccination rates, they said they “believe the current surge in cases could lead to a sharp pullback in services spending.”

End of eviction moratorium puts many tenants at risk of losing their homes” via Andrew Ackerman of The Wall Street Journal — State and local governments are struggling to distribute $47 billion in federal money aimed at helping tenants who can’t pay rent because of the COVID-19 crisis, leaving many people at risk of being thrown out of their homes when an eviction moratorium expires on July 31. Meanwhile, many landlords have been squeezed because they have been unable to collect rent but remain on the hook for taxes, maintenance and other bills. Problems distributing the funds often stem from bureaucratic bottlenecks. Some states are having trouble keeping up with requests for aid. A key sticking point: verifying an applicant’s income with either last year’s tax return or two months’ worth of paycheck documentation.


Vaccine boosters are increasingly likely” via Caitlyn Owens of Axios — As the delta variant continues to drive a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., Biden officials see a booster shot among at least some vaccinated Americans as increasingly likely. Another round of shots, beginning as early as late fall, could boost the level of protection against the virus among the vaccinated and help curb its spread throughout the population. The amount of neutralizing antibodies a person has following their first two doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines appears to drop over time, which is a very normal thing to happen with vaccines.

Expect a booster shot soon. Image via Bloomberg.

—“SF bars now requiring proof of vaccination” via Ginger Conejero Saab of NBC Bay Area 

—“COVID-19 vaccine holdouts face restrictions in Europe as delta variant spreads” via Eric Sylvers, Sam Schechner and Ann M. Simmons of The Wall Street Journal


Biden attacks Donald Trump at Virginia rally, tying Terry McAuliffe’s opponent to ex-President” via Sean Sullivan and Karina Elwood of The Washington Post — President Biden on Friday launched a frontal attack on Trump at a campaign rally for McAuliffe, leading a concerted effort to tie the Democrat’s opponent in the Virginia Governor’s race to the former President. “I ran against Donald Trump, and so is Terry,” said Biden, speaking in Arlington as the sun set during his first appearance on the campaign trail since taking office. Later, he mentioned the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Saying, ‘I was told there were a lot of peaceful, wonderful people?’” Biden said incredulously. Biden’s comments amounted to some of his sharpest attacks on Trump since being sworn in.

Joe Biden hits Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Image via Reuters.

Day-to-day, Biden’s agenda looks rocky. But congressional Democrats say things are far rosier if you take the long view.” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — A hallmark of Biden’s agenda on Capitol Hill is that, viewed inside a given six-day window, it usually looks like choppy waters. But take the long view, over the past six months, and things appear a bit more smooth. Biden has been slowly but steadily notching accomplishments that have solid support from voters. Over the previous six days, Biden’s push for a brand-defining bipartisan infrastructure deal, worth roughly $1 trillion, has careened back and forth between grand success and epic failure. Voting rights legislation, designated the top issue by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, remains deadlocked in the Senate.

‘Communism is a failed system.’ In Florida, Democrats promote Biden’s stance on Cuba.” via Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — Since the protests in Cuba began earlier this month, Florida Republicans have made the demonstrations a matter of urgent importance to their messaging. Not to be outdone, the Democratic Party will launch an online ad campaign next week that will highlight the President’s words and actions on Cuba. The weeklong campaign will cost “five figures” and reach nearly one million Floridians. In one of the ads, the words “communism is a universally failed system” accompany a picture of Biden.

— “DNC launches ad promoting Biden support for Cuban liberty” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics 


Trump is relentless in election fabrications” via The Associated Press — In mid-May, partisan investigators hired by Arizona state lawmakers backed off their allegation that the state’s most populous county had destroyed its 2020 election database. Confronted with proof that the data still existed, they admitted everything was there. Two months later, the tale lives on. At an event Saturday, Trump presented the debunked allegation as a key piece of evidence that the state’s electoral votes were stolen from him in 2020. It was one of a number of fabricated and familiar stories Trump told the crowd in his relentless effort to deny the well-established legitimacy of his defeat at the hands of Biden. He spoke of untold thousands of dead people voting; no such phenomenon surfaced in postelection audits. He alleged 168,000 Arizona ballots were fraudulent; there is no support for that.

At this point, Donald Trump simply can’t help himself. Image via AP.

Mar-a-Lago primary: Trump wields power with endorsements, but some in GOP fear midterm damage” via Janet Hookstaff of The Los Angeles Times — Trump, again upending American political norms, is moving to remake Congress and the Republican Party in his own image. Since leaving the White House, he has issued a spate of endorsements of House and Senate candidates for next year’s crucial midterm election, including an array of political outsiders, conspiracy theorists, and others who break the traditional mold. Targeting one of his most prominent Republican critics, Rep. Liz Cheney, Trump plans to meet this week at his New Jersey golf club with Wyoming Republicans who are running against her. His goal: to endorse one, clear the field of others and set up a head-to-head contest.

Why I’m sure Trump will run for President in 2024” via Michael Wolff of The New York Times — To write three books in four years about Trump has been an immersion into his obsessions and fixations. This is why I know the obvious: Trump will run for President again. It is an existential predicament: He can’t be Trump without a claim on the presidency. He can’t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king. In 2022, with his draw, the Republicans, he is certain, will retake the House with his chosen slate of candidates. And indeed, this actually might be true.


Unlikely partners Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney team up for Jan. 6 probe” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — When Pelosi raised a glass to Cheney, it was the most unlikely of toasts. Democratic lawmakers and the Republican congresswoman were gathered in the House speaker’s office as the group prepared for the first session of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Pelosi spoke of the “solemn responsibility” before them and raised her water glass to Cheney, a daughter of the former Vice President and the sole Republican in the room. “Let us salute Liz for her courage,” she said, according to a person familiar with the gathering who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Nancy Pelosi is tipping a glass to Liz Cheney. Image via AP.

Jan. 6 select committee will include former CIA inspector general found to have retaliated against whistleblower” via Jenna McLaughlin of Yahoo! News — As the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot prepares to get underway next week, it will include former CIA Inspector General David Buckley in the role of staff director. However, the selection of Buckley to serve in that capacity could come back to haunt the Democrats on the committee who selected him. A previously unpublished 2019 report compiled by the Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog office showed that investigators urged the CIA to take action against Buckley for his alleged retaliation against a whistleblower, a conclusion that would likely be troubling to potential witnesses who might testify in the Jan. 6 inquiry.

‘Some are still suffering’: Months after Capitol riot, police who fought the mob contend with physical, psychological pain” via Peter Hermann of The Washington Post — More than six months after Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell battled the mob that stormed the Capitol, he remains hobbled, a hand scarred, a shoulder aching, recovering from surgery to an injured foot that swelled so large it no longer fit his shoe. The 42-year-old Capitol Police officer and Army reservist, who is also seeing a therapist, said bouts of anxiety returned after his battle on American soil in the Jan. 6 riot. “I can be fine now and see or hear something, and next thing I get tears and get emotional,” said Gonell, who was hurt when rioters tried to yank away his ballistic shield. “I tried to be strong,” he said of the months following the riot. But once he retreated to a quiet space at his home in Virginia, away from his wife and 9-year-old son: “I completely broke down.”

Dating app trips up another Capitol riot suspect, one accused of hitting police with whip” via María Luisa Paúl of The Washington Post — The phrase “all is fair in love and war” took on a new meaning Friday, when a Texas man was arrested after boasting to a match in a dating app about participating in the Jan. 6 riot “from the very beginning.” Andrew Taake of Houston was charged with assaulting police and storming the Capitol building. His arrest follows a monthslong investigation spurred by a tip and a FedEx delivery driver who confirmed his identity to the FBI. Taake made his initial court appearance in the Southern District of Texas. His public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Similar to another arrested rioter, it all started with a conversation on Bumble, a dating app. The unnamed Bumble user asked if he had been “near all the action.”


‘Critical to the Panhandle’: Rick Scott says defense plan prioritizes Tyndall, F-35s” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Scott says the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed military spending and policy bill for the upcoming fiscal year prioritizes “the next-generation technology and capability of Florida’s F-35 squadrons, which are critical to Tyndall Air Force Base and Florida’s Panhandle communities.” Scott made the claim in a Thursday news release from his office marking the committee’s approval of a $778 billion defense spending proposal for the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Scott, a Republican, notes the committee-approved spending plan is “a $25 billion increase over President Joe Biden‘s inadequate budget request.”

Rick Scott promises Tyndall AFB will hold a prominent place in the defense budget. Image via AP.

Matt Gaetz case takes bizarre tabloid turn” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — A sugar daddy website linked to the sex-trafficking investigation of Gaetz publicly weighed in on the scandal, saying the lawmaker has never been registered on the site in search of young women. The unusual move by the website SeekingArrangement puts some distance between Gaetz and the accusation against him. The site had been caught up in the Gaetz case because it had reportedly been used by the GOP lawmaker and another key player in the case to connect with an underage girl for sex.


Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby endorses Ken Welch for St. Pete Mayor — “Welch is the leader that St. Petersburg families can count on to fight for them and with them. That’s because Ken’s story is the story of so many families in our community. He’s a third-generation St. Pete resident, who’s worked hard all his life to get where he is,” Rayner said. “Ken’s integrity and track record in service to our community speak for itself.” “Michele’s endorsement means the world to me,” Welch responded. “Her passion for St. Pete, the Sunshine State, and the country is the true embodiment of the current and future generations of leadership — she’s a proven trailblazer.”

To watch Rayner’s endorsement, click on the image below:

Search for bodies concludes at Surfside condo collapse site” via David Fischer and Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Firefighters on Friday declared the end of their search for bodies at the site of a collapsed Florida condo building, concluding a month of painstaking work removing layers of dangerous debris that were once piled several stories high. The June 24 collapse at the oceanside Champlain Towers South killed 97 people, with at least one more missing person yet to be identified. The site has been mostly swept flat, and the rubble moved to a Miami warehouse. Although forensic scientists are still at work, including examining the debris at the warehouse, there are no more bodies to be found where the building once stood.

Condo law, insurance, oversight, engineering. Surfside collapse could change a lot” via Joey Flechas and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The ripples of the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside have only begun to move from the center of a disaster that has taken weeks to triage. Families endured the waiting to confirm the loss of their loved ones so they can properly mourn the dozens of people lost. Search crews painstakingly pursued any sign of life, until it became clear they would only be recovering the dead. Investigators began a long process of studying a literal mountain of physical evidence to understand how this could have happened. 

Residents of Coral Gables building given 72 hours to vacate over structural concerns” via Bobeth Yates of CBS Miami — A Coral Gables building is being evacuated as a result of structural concerns. Notices were placed at the front entrance to let residents know they have until Monday to get out. The president of the homeowners association at 730 Coral Way said they have been working with an engineer to fix whatever structural concerns the city has. “The engineer recommended that we do three things. The first one is to install these shoring poles. The second one is to empty the pool and the pool deck,” said the association president. 

Pasco Sheriff’s Office letter targets residents for ‘increased accountability’” via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times — It starts like an offer of admission from a prestigious university. “We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected …” it says. But the four-page letter from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office goes on to tell recipients they will be facing enhanced police scrutiny under the agency’s controversial intelligence program. The Sheriff’s Office creates lists of people it considers likely to break the law based on criminal histories, social networks and other unspecified intelligence. The agency sends deputies to their homes repeatedly. National policing experts drew comparisons to child abuse and surveillance that could be expected under an authoritarian regime.

Red tide uptick spurs respiratory warning at Tampa Bay beaches” via The Associated Press — People may experience respiratory problems because of a persistent bloom of toxic red tide off Florida’s Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service said Friday. The service issued a “beach hazards statement” affecting the oceanfront and bayside shores in Pinellas County from 11:30 a.m. Friday through at least 10 p.m. Saturday. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. “People with asthma, emphysema, or any chronic lung disease may be more sensitive,” the NWS statement said. “Irritation may vary by beach and throughout the day.” Red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico but can be made worse by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen, which is often found in fertilizers.

Estuary programs blame Piney Point for worsening red tide conditions” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Local experts link wastewater releases from the former Piney Point fertilizer plant in northern Manatee County to an ongoing red tide bloom that has devastated marine life. During a public forum on Friday, Tampa Bay Estuary Program Director Ed Sherwood and David Tomasko, who heads the Sarasota Bay program, both attributed the severity of the region’s red tide to the 215 million gallons of wastewater dumped from Piney Point in April. The incident accounts for about 200 tons of nitrogen pumped into Tampa Bay in just 10 days. Sherwood said the bay typically gets that much nitrogen over the course of an entire year.

Piney Point gets much of the blame for Tampa Bay’s worsening red tide problems. Image via AP.

J.T. Burnette Trial Day 8: FBI agent Sweets recounts when Scott Maddox became ‘wise to us’” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — “Mike Sweet,” the long-haired undercover FBI agent who posed as a former illegal drug dealer turned legit medical marijuana entrepreneur, wrapped his testimony in the Burnette extortion trial. Sweet finished his testimony Friday under direct questioning by federal prosecutors before one of Burnette’s defense attorneys, Greg Kehoe, cross-examined him for hours. It was the eighth day of testimony in the trial and the second day on the stand for the man nicknamed “Sweets.” Late in the day, Kehoe focused on a trip in early December 2016 that Burnette and one of his two co-defendants, then-City Commissioner Scott Maddox, made to Las Vegas. The two flew out on a private plane arranged by the FBI and spent a couple of days partying and talking business with Sweet and four other undercover FBI agents.

Hundreds watch Polk County forum on Critical Race Theory” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — About two dozen people gathered in an east Lakeland church Thursday night, with about 300 others watching online, to hear a discussion about Critical Race Theory, its history and how it doesn’t pertain to Polk County Public Schools. They also learned about the new Florida Department of Education rule that prohibits teaching in public schools CRT, including the concept “that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

Santa Rosa public meetings hijacked by personal laments” via the Pensacola News Journal editorial board — What is becoming of local government in Santa Rosa County? County Commission meetings have devolved into rabid complaint sessions where the basic business of county government has been hijacked by a small number of residents who express almost no knowledge, concern or interest in Santa Rosa. The County Administrator, Dan Schebler, is resigning after months of the meeting chaos punctuated by a manufactured attempt to oust him on dishonest grounds by one County Commissioner. And the rest of the Commission recently voted 4-1 to ignore the votes of their own zoning board to allow the clear-cutting of trees in new developments and reduce the protection of wetlands, two issues that are overwhelmingly against the wishes of most citizens in the county.

Delray Beach Police Officer accused of setting his SUV on fire turned himself in” via WPBF — A Delray Beach Police Officer wanted for arson and perjury turned himself in at the Palm Beach County Jail Saturday night. Dallas Richardson reported his 2017 Chevy Tahoe stolen on March 29, 2020. Earlier that day, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy found the SUV engulfed in flames on Lake Ida Road near Military Trail. The license plate and vehicle identification number had been removed. An arson investigator evaluated the scene and concluded that an accelerant was used to set the car on fire. Delray Beach police spokesperson Ted White said the investigator noticed multiple inconsistencies after interviewing Richardson twice.

Rest in peace — “UF Health Jacksonville CEO dies: Dr. Leon Haley Jr. led area’s COVID-19 response” via Beth Reese Cravy of The Florida Times-Union — Dr. Haley Jr., CEO of UF Health Jacksonville since 2018 and leader of the local medical community’s COVID-19 response, died Saturday. “It is with great sadness that we confirm the death of UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon L. Haley Jr. Dr. Haley was a strong, inspirational leader and beloved son, father, friend and colleague,” according to a hospital statement. “We do not have specific details of his passing at this time. We ask that you respect the privacy of Dr. Haley’s family, friends and colleagues at UF Health,” according to the statement.


Vaccinated America has had enough” via David Frum of The Atlantic — Maybe some unvaccinated people have trouble getting time off work to deal with side effects, maybe they are disorganized, maybe they are just irrationally anxious. But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of unvaccinated people are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Reading about the fates of people who refused the vaccine is sorrowful. But as summer camp and travel plans are disrupted, many in the vaccinated majority must be thinking: Yes, I’m very sorry that so many of the unvaccinated are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions. I’m also very sorry that the responsible rest of us are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions.


China is stepping up its deception and denial in investigations of COVID-19” via The Washington Post editorial board — In proposing a Phase 2 investigation into the pandemic origins on July 16, the director-general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attempted to navigate a fraught and contested topic. Then, China slammed the door in his face. China has refused to allow further investigation into these and other unresolved questions, while pointing instead to potential virus origins beyond its borders, and spreading disinformation that it came from a U.S. military laboratory.

Anti-vaxxers deserve blame for Florida’s ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’” via Fred Grimm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — COVID-19 admissions rose 57% statewide, thanks to the 52% of Floridians not fully vaccinated. A similar phenomenon has surged through other states afflicted with “vaccine hesitancy.” CDC Director Walensky reported, “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” she said. Biden despaired that “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

Another missed opportunity for meaningful juvenile justice reform in Florida” via Tachana Joseph-Marc of The Florida Times-Union — Despite bipartisan support in the Legislature, DeSantis vetoed two bills, SB 274 and SB 166, that would’ve fostered much-needed changes to Florida’s juvenile justice system. SB 274 aimed to expunge the records of justice-involved youth who have completed a diversion program for any offense, and SB 166 would’ve ensured that those expunctions are exempt from public records and only available for specified purposes to some criminal justice agencies. The Governor’s veto denies thousands of youths the opportunity to move forward without a label that can potentially taint the quality of their lives for years, if not their whole lives. 

For 27 years, Florida Democrats have done a great job helping Republicans get elected” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Florida Democrats can’t stop losing. Florida might still be considered a “purple” state, but Democrats’ inability to pull off more than one statewide win in almost a decade tells a different story. While Republicans have been forcefully pushing an agenda full of red-meat issues that appeal to their growing base, Florida’s Democrats are playing catch-up, crying foul every time DeSantis ignores the COVID-19 pandemic or signs an egregious law in a made-for-Fox-News ceremony. Unless Democrats get their act together, we will see worse legislation every year.

Pretrial hearings in Parkland shooting case must remain open” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The case of State vs. Nikolas Cruz is approaching a trial date, and it’s increasingly clear that the community will be forced to relive a horror that never should have happened. As traumatic as that will be, especially for the Parkland shooting survivors, it would be worse if pretrial proceedings were completely closed to the news media and, by extension, to the public, as Cruz’s attorneys are seeking. Cruz faces 17 counts of first-degree murder for the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Legal experts anticipate that it could take up to a year to try the case.

Shaken baby’s family longed for justice. Now, after 37 years, babysitter is charged with murder.” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun Sentinel —Benjamin Dowling — left helpless with abusive head trauma after violent shaking by his babysitter in Hollywood in 1984 when he was an infant — would smile when he recognized a familiar voice, or kick his legs at the soothing sound of a particular song. At least, that’s what his family and those close to him liked to think. But life for Dowling, who died at the age of 35, was untenable. Now, 37 years after the violent tragedy, his family and the state are seeking justice. His former babysitter Terry McKirchy, 59, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge.

Sarasota chiropractor stormed Capitol, and there was no turning back” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — There’s no question, a hard day of rioting can do quite the number on even the strongest insurrectionist’s back. But Joseph Hackett, a Sarasota chiropractor, was not at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to perform lumbar adjustments. He was there to “stop, delay and hinder the certification of the Electoral College vote,” according to charges filed by the U.S. government, and his wife still does not understand why he remains in jail. Deena Hackett appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast to complain of the injustices thrust upon her husband, such as being in jail with “murderers and gang members.”


Florida’s Department of Health has disturbing news about COVID-19: The number of new cases went up by 60% last week, but don’t worry. DeSantis says those counts don’t count.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— The number of fatalities was also up by almost 44%. Those numbers do count.

— Yet, DeSantis is still pursuing his strategy of downplaying the threat and inviting tourists to come on down because Florida is open for business. Except, of course, for those 38,670 Floridians who have been killed by COVID-19.

— So, how do you encourage people to get vaccinated? FAMU President Larry Robinson is making a video appeal to students who are returning to campus. Just in case that doesn’t work, FAMU will also be giving away a million dollars’ worth of merchandise for staff and students who get the shot.

— In the aftermath of the Surfside tragedy, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wants the Legislature to update condo regs and create a statewide commission to hear complaints.

— Florida’s Chief Financial Officer gets down to the business of reforming NICO (the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association). His appointment to the new board is a good sign.

— And finally, two Florida Men: One is going to the federal pen for child pornography; the other went to the hospital after showing off with a gun.

To listen, click on the image below:


Silver for Sarasota! Emma Weyant finishes second in 400 IM final” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Weyant is bringing home some hardware from Tokyo. The Sarasota native won the silver medal in the women’s 400-meter individual medley final at the Olympics, setting a personal best by finishing in 4:32.76. The 19-year-old American finished behind Japan’s Ohashi, who ran away with the gold. Weyant made up ground in the breast-stroke, pulling away for a comfortable second-place finish. “This is crazier than anything I could have dreamed of,” Weyant said on NBC after the race.

Miami sailor Pedro Pascual off to strong start after first three races at Tokyo Olympics” via Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald — Pascual got off to a promising start at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, coming in ninth place overall through the first three of 12 races in the RS:X sailboard class. Pascual had a career-best day of Olympic racing, finishing sixth, 12th and seventh in his three races. He finished 28th in the 2016 Rio Olympics and said he learned from the experience. “Well, being transparent, at my first Olympics I wasn’t sleeping. I was too excited,” Pascual, 25, said. “I was 20 years old. And that definitely took a toll on me. This time around, I know what to expect. I’ve experienced these feelings before and I’m just looking forward to racing.”

Pedro Pascual is bringing home some hardware to Miami.

U.S. swimmers win six medals in their best Olympic start ever” via Laine Higgins of The Wall Street Journal — Team USA swimmers on Sunday raced to their best-ever start at an Olympics, winning medals in every event of the first finals session, including the first U.S. gold medal of the games in any sport. Team USA’s six medals, one gold, two silver and three bronze, are the most it’s ever won on the first day of the Olympic swimming finals. It’s even more impressive considering that before 1984, countries could send three swimmers per event instead of two, allowing possible podium sweeps. The team made the podium in events in which it wasn’t supposed to medal, said U.S. men’s team assistant coach Jack Bauerle. “It’s obviously a really proud moment,” he said. “I can’t really feel anything, I’m so happy.” 

Caeleb Dressel isn’t just the next Michael Phelps. He might be even better.” via Josh Planos of FiveThirtyEight — Dressel has been dubbed the “next American Aquaman” and “heir to Michael Phelps.” With the former king of the pool retired and Olympic swimming set to start Saturday, the 24-year-old Floridian is ready to take on those mantles. In a number of disciplines, the 6-foot-2 Dressel is the fastest swimmer on the planet entering the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Oddsmakers are aware: He is favored in all three of his individual events, with Pinnacle and DraftKings giving him implied odds of greater than 90% in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, events that he holds world records in.

Positive virus tests knock Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau out of Olympics” via The Associated Press — Positive COVID-19 tests knocked Rahm and DeChambeau out of the Olympic golf tournament Sunday, in a pair of surprises that reinforced the tenuous nature of holding a massive sports event during a pandemic. Word of Rahm’s positive test came from the Spanish Olympic committee about four hours after USA Golf delivered the same news about DeChambeau. They are among the best-known of the some 11,000 athletes descending on Japan for the 17-day sports festival at which negative COVID-19 tests, but not vaccinations, are required to participate.

COVID-19 knocks Bryson DeChambeau off Team USA. Image via AP.

This may be the lowest-rated Olympics ever. NBC shouldn’t sweat it” via Frank Pallotta of CNN — The Summer Olympics, one of the most-watched events worldwide, officially kicks off in Tokyo this weekend. After being delayed a year because of the pandemic, NBC hopes pent-up demand will drive sports fans to their TVs, laptops, and phones to tune in. But traditional TV viewership of this year’s games faces a set of challenges that could land the Tokyo Olympics in a ratings hole. “This is probably going to be the lowest-rated Summer Olympics of all time,” said Patrick Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive turned media consultant. “They can’t avoid the increased media fractionalization that’s enabling everyone to spend more time with all sorts of content.” The good news for NBC is it doesn’t need to rely exclusively on old-fashioned TV ratings to make money on the Olympics.

— ALOE —

What David Johnson is reading — “Thank God for Ted Lasso, the man America needs right now” via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post — When the Apple TV Plus comedy about an American college football coach moving to England to head a Premier League soccer team debuted last summer as the pandemic raged, it gave viewers the empathetic, uproarious company they badly needed. While that accident of timing certainly helped make “Ted Lasso” a cultural phenomenon, the specific nature of the show’s kindness is as important as its fundamental decency. Men in pop culture just don’t seem to be doing very well right now. But Lasso, both the show and the character, represents something different: a boundless faith that men in general, and in particular the men he coaches, can be “the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”

Ted Lasso is the hero America needs right now.

Man running on water inside ‘bubble’ for charity washes up on Florida beach” via Fox 35 — The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said a strange vessel washed ashore on Saturday morning. It turned out to be a Central Florida man who was ‘walking on water’ for charity. “I will show people anything you want to do, do it. Don’t listen to anyone. Chase your dreams.” Reza Baluchi says he is no stranger to the water. He calls his floating contraption his bubble. But his bubble washed ashore in Flagler County early Saturday morning. “My goal is to not only raise money for homeless people, raise money for the Coast Guard, raise money for the police department, raise money for the fire department. They are in public service, they do it for safety and they help other people.”


Happy birthday to former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, state Rep. Richard StarkCarol Bowen of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Andrew Gillum,  Pete Murray, and Jason Steele. Belated happy 40th birthday to Melissa Francisco Dempsey. Belated best wishes to Dave Shepp of The Southern Group.


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.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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