Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.16.21 – Florida Politics

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Today marks 72 years since the start of the Groveland Four nightmare.

Surviving family members still are awaiting full justice.

It took until 2017 before the Florida Legislature officially recognized what had been revealed through several investigations: four young Black men did not commit the rape they were accused of in 1949, for which two were subsequently killed and two imprisoned.

It took until 2019 for a Florida Governor to push posthumous pardons through the Executive Clemency Board for Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas.

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The Groveland Four get posthumous pardons, but will there ever be an explanation? Image via Florida Memory.

Today, family members wait for the FDLE to report on an investigation begun in 2018 into what happened in 1949 on a dark, back road in Lake County and the chain of injustices that followed.

At stake is the prospect of full exonerations for the Groveland Four.

“It shouldn’t be two years, you know, with all the documents and everything that has been written about the case,” said Greenlee’s daughter Carol Greenlee, 72. “All my life, I’ve been waiting for justice. I mean, literally, all my life.”

The agency offered a statement to Florida Politics Monday saying the review is active and there is no time frame for its completion.

Read the complete Florida Politics story here.

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@marcorubio: The big picture on #Cuba is that the regime is still alive, but it has been fatally wounded. An irreversible breach now exists between them & the people, as evidenced by a growing list of prominent artists announcing they will no longer participate in government activities

@GovRonDeSantis: The people of Cuba are engaged in the noble cause of fighting against a communist dictatorship. One of the most effective things we can do as a country to support the Cuban people is to get internet connectivity back on the island. Time is of the essence in Cuba.

@NikkiFried: As Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, I want to make this completely clear — @FlaDems stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and against the communist regime that has oppressed them for decades.

@MarioDB: Proud to serve as a member of @GOPLeader’s Team on #Cuba. We’ll use this platform to advise House Republicans & the American people on the atrocities committed by the Cuban dictatorship & maintain solidarity with the Cuban people. Together, we’ll work for the cause of freedom.

@jeffzeleny: “Communism is a failed system — a universally failed system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute,” President [Joe] Biden says, adding that the US is considering trying to help restore internet access to Cuba in the wake of waves of protests.

@alextdaugherty: On Thursday, @ProgressiveFL released a #Cuba statement that didn’t voice support for protesters or call out violence in Cuba. @Manny_A_Diaz said he had no idea it was coming and said the state party rejects it.

@GOPLeader: I am creating a Leader’s Advisory Team on Cuba. The world has witnessed powerful images coming out of Communist Cuba over the last five days. The Cuban people are risking everything for freedom. They need our robust support, not weak rhetoric.

@RepDarrenSoto: Excited about news of 2,000 new high-paying, creative ⁦@Disney⁩ jobs relocating to Lake Nona in #FL9! This will be key to Central Florida’s long-term prosperity and boost local small businesses.

@WiltonSimpson: Great news for @WaltDisneyWorld and the State of Florida! Florida is bouncing back stronger and better than ever before as private sector leaders like Disney create the jobs that empower families and ensure thriving communities across our state.

@LindaStewartFL: The Walt Disney Co. has confirmed it will relocate roughly 2,000 jobs from its California headquarters to Lake Nona throughout the next 18 months, a master-planned community in southeast Orlando.

@MarkWilsonFL: Breaking news: #Florida is now the 15th largest economy in the world — up from 17th. While this may change as other global economies recover from the pandemic, it’s encouraging to see FL moving the needle to get to a Top 10 global economy by 2030. #FL2030Blueprint #FL2030

Tweet, tweet:

potentially the most hialeah thing you will ever see pic.twitter.com/I8bgyMwEzQ

— Abel Iraola (@miamiabel) July 15, 2021

— DAYS UNTIL —

Jeff Bezos travels into space on Blue Origin’s first passenger flight — 4; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 7; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 7; the NBA Draft — 12; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 14; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 21; Marvel’s What If …? premieres on Disney+ — 26; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 33; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 39; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 49; NFL regular season begins — 55; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 60; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 66; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 70; ‘Dune’ premieres — 77; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 77; MLB regular season ends — 79; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 84; World Series Game 1 — 103; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 103; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 109; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 109; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 113; Disney Very Merriest After Hours will debut — 115; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 126; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 133; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 147; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 154; NFL season ends — 177; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 179; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 179; NFL playoffs begin — 183; Super Bowl LVI — 212; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 252; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 294; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 321; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 357; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 448; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 483.

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—#SOSCUBA —

Stop blocking roads, Ron DeSantis tells protesters who’ve rallied in solidarity with Cuban people” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Gov. DeSantis said Thursday that Cuban Americans need to stop blocking roads in Miami to express solidarity with anti-government demonstrators in Cuba. “We can’t have that,” he said at a news conference in Miami. “It’s not something that we’re going to tolerate.” The message didn’t get out — or wasn’t heeded. About 5 p.m. Thursday, WSVN-Ch. 7 video showed demonstrators in an intersection in Hialeah. WFOR-Ch. 4 and WPLG-Ch. 10 reported that city officials said roads would be closed at the demonstration, where participants chanted “Libertad!” and carried Cuban flags and signs. The location was near the Palmetto Expressway/State Road 826.

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Ron DeSantis tells Cuban protesters in Miami to stop blocking roads. Image via AP.

Ron, Marco Rubio demand Joe Biden improve internet access in Cuba. Florida progressives call for ‘immediate end’ to embargo.” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — From the conservative right to the progressive left, Florida produced starkly different policy ideas Thursday for helping the Cuban people struggling against their repressive, authoritarian government — fully cognizant of political repercussions from a vocal Cuban American electorate in South Florida. President Biden said at the White House that “Cuba is, unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens. There are several things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba. But it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government.” Biden said he wouldn’t authorize people to send remittances back to Cuba.

The U.S. reviewing whether it can help restore internet access in Cuba” via Reuters — The White House said on Thursday it is reviewing whether the United States would be able to help Cubans internet access in the wake of Cuban government actions following the biggest anti-government protests in decades. Cuba’s government has restricted access to social media and messaging platforms amid the protests. DeSantis, a Republican, and U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat, are among those who have called on the Biden administration to try to reconnect Cuba to internet services. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the lack of internet access “a huge issue in Cuba.”

‘Band together and stand for freedom’: Elected officials express solidarity with Cuban protesters” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County elected officials spoke Thursday of their support for the people of Cuba as Cubans in the U.S. and the island nation protest an economic crisis and decades of communist rule. Their messages of solidarity, issued at a news conference called by Latinx leaders, came as activists planned a bus caravan to Washington, D.C., to demand action from the Biden Administration. The day’s loudest applause was not for any of the adults who spoke at the Box Gallery on Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach but for 15-year-old Sofia Ayala.

SOS Cuba protesters granted bail after held under ‘anti-riot’ law” via Tampa Bay Times — Two men arrested in a protest against the Cuban government were scheduled for release Thursday after they were held without bail for nearly two days under the state’s new anti-riot law. Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Maikel VasquezPico qualify for release on bail because they represented no danger to society and were merely advocating for individual freedoms, their attorney argued during a hearing Thursday in Hillsborough Circuit Court. The men face battery charges on a law enforcement officer, resisting law enforcement, and taking part in an unlawful assembly that blocked streets or sidewalks. Circuit Judge Catherine M. Catlin granted the request for bail pending trial, $13,500 for Rodriguez-Rodriguez and $4,000 for Vasquez-Pico.

Palmetto Expressway protesters were ‘breaking the law.’ Questions rise on enforcement.” via Ana Ceballos and Charles Rabin in the Miami Herald — A day after protests erupted throughout Miami-Dade County, blocking major thoroughfares from Homestead to Little Havana and leaving thousands of rush-hour motorists stuck in traffic for hours, the Governor’s office and the Florida Highway Patrol are calling some of the actions illegal. Yet not a single person was cited, and there were no arrests. In one case, the Florida Highway Patrol allowed close to 1,000 protesters to block the busy Palmetto Expressway in both directions for about nine hours. City of Miami police also closed down a section of Southwest Eighth Street to accommodate demonstrators.

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The Miami protests broke Florida law, and exposed a double standard. Image via AP.

Activists, lawyers see ‘double standard’ in Florida’s response to Cuba demonstrations” via Daniel Arkin of NBC News — The “anti-riot law” was introduced during last summer’s protests for racial justice when some law enforcement officers arrested Black Lives Matter protesters or sprayed them with tear gas. But as protesters rallied in Miami, Tampa and Orlando this week, officers generally appeared to exercise restraint, reportedly making only a handful of arrests. In the eyes of David Winker, a defense lawyer who has represented Black Lives Matter demonstrators, the double standard was clear. “I applaud the police for using discretion and not arresting everybody, but I want that same energy carried forward when the protesters have more melanin in their skin,” Winker said, adding that he opposes HB 1 and supports the anti-government movement in Cuba.

A divided Tampa City Council approves resolution supporting protesters in Cuba” via Spectrum Bay News 9 — The Tampa City Council spent more than an hour on Thursday debating what appeared at first glance to be a noncontroversial resolution sponsored by City Councilman Luis Viera showing support for the Cuban people in their protests against their government. They ultimately approved it on a 5-2 vote. City Councilman Bill Carlson objected even before Viera officially introduced the resolution, saying the language could be used to justify war. Carlson referred to comments made earlier this week by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who said that the U.S. government should consider military action to enact regime change in Cuba.

‘Use our platforms.’ At Gente de Zona Miami concert, artists speak out on Cuba” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Cuban artists in Miami are increasingly using their platforms to raise awareness of the plight of Cubans on the island, as social media images surfaced Wednesday showing police using violence against demonstrators. On Wednesday evening, hundreds of Miami residents waving Cuban flags attended an evening street concert featuring the Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona, near the iconic Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho. Along with several other artists, the group was featured in the protest anthem “Patria Y Vida” — Homeland and Life — a rap song that has helped place the group of all-Black Cuban artists in the spotlight of the recent uprisings on the island.

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— 2022 —

Florida progressives have growing power, but where are their candidates?” via Steve Contorno and Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Two decades of Republican dominance in elections have Florida Democrats uncertain how to win statewide. Charlie Crist, the Party’s unsuccessful nominee in 2014, and Nikki Fried, the only victorious Democratic statewide candidate in 2018, have come out of the gates swinging at DeSantis over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his fealty to former President Donald Trump. Progressive leaders inside and outside of the state party said they are already concerned Democrats are squandering an opportunity to champion ideas that could energize Floridians. They want nominees to campaign on bold changes and reject donations from corporations that more often side with Republicans.

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Progressives might need a deeper bench than Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist.

Republican Erika Benfield enters CD 7 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Benfield is announcing her candidacy for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which sets up a crowded Republican primary for a shot at Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in 2022. Benfield, a former DeBary City Commissioner, ran last year for the Florida House of Representatives, losing the House District 27 Republican primary to now-Rep. Webster Barnaby of Deltona. There are already five candidates in the CD 7 Republican primary contest, including state Rep. Anthony Sabatini. Benfield quickly sought to establish her position on the right, declaring in her candidacy announcement, “I am an unapologetic conservative who believes in the America First agenda championed by President Donald Trump.”

Michele Rayner-Goolsby raises $72K in two weeks for CD13 campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rayner-Goolsby has raised just over $72,000 in the first two weeks since announcing her entrance into the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The funding accounts for this year’s second quarterly report, which covers April, May and June. However, the $72,000 represents only fourteen days of her campaign since Rayner-Goolsby entered the race with just two weeks left until the end of the quarter. Rayner-Goolsby’s campaign provided the latest finance update. Rayner-Goolsby will have to double-down next quarter to catch up on missed time on such a high-stakes race.

Reggie Gaffney files for state Senate run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gaffney has filed to run for state Senate in 2022. Gaffney, elected in 2015 and reelected in 2019 with over 2/3 of the vote, would be the second filed candidate in the Senate District 6 Democratic primary. Incumbent Sen. Audrey Gibson is termed out. The Councilman offered a statement. “I’ve been dedicated to serving others for as long as I can remember. Whether it is working to help those with mental wellness issues at the nonprofit I founded, serving as District 7 City Council Member in Jacksonville, raising my two children as a single parent, or caring for my Mother diagnosed with dementia, I believe in service to others,” Gaffney said.

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Reggie Gaffney throws his hat in the ring for Senate.

Rick Baker endorses Nick DiCeglie for state Senate, ending speculation about his own bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Baker endorsed Rep. DiCeglie for Senate District 24, ending months of speculation that he was mulling a bid himself. “I support Nick for State Senate District 24 because I believe he will carry on the tremendous commitment to our community of my dear friend Sen. Jeff Brandes while fighting for our shared values in Tallahassee,” Baker said. Brandes, the incumbent, is leaving office due to term limits. He also offered his endorsement Thursday. The combined endorsements set DiCeglie up well in the GOP Primary, where he faces Timothy Lewis. It would also have potentially set up a race for top-level endorsements, with DiCeglie capturing the eye of now-Florida man Trump and Baker from his longtime ally, former Gov. Jeb Bush.

— DATELINE TALLY —

First in #FlaPol — “Christina Swiridowsky to succeed Nick Duran as leader of clinics association” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics just named Swiridowsky as the new interim executive director. She takes the reins on Aug. 1, when Rep. Duran steps down from the role. “I’m prepared for and humbled by the opportunity to lead our clinics with the FAFCC Board during this transition,” Swiridowsky said. “We are still on the front lines of this pandemic, so I know how important it is to keep our momentum and give our volunteers and staff the support, funding, and infrastructure they need. And that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

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Christina Swiridowsky is taking the helm of The Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.

W. Rebecca Brown named interim chief financial officer at FAMU” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Brown, whose career spans 22 years at Florida A&M University, has been named interim chief financial officer and vice president for finance and administration at the university. Brown, who currently serves as assistant vice president for finance and administration in charge of business and auxiliary services, assumes her new role at the end of the month. She replaces Alan Robertson, who resigned earlier this week. Robertson joined FAMU on Jan. 1, 2020. He previously served as senior vice president and CFO of Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was not immediately available Wednesday for comment.

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— STATEWIDE —

Tropics watch: System in Atlantic continues to show low chance for development” via Cheryl McCloud of the St. Augustine Record — The National Hurricane Center continues to monitor a system in the Atlantic that’s showing a small chance for development. According to AccuWeather meteorologists, the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season is expected to be active, with a forecast of up to 20 named storms and three to five direct impacts on the U.S. So far, there have been five named storms. The next storm will be Fred. Environmental conditions are marginally conducive for development.

Four more victims of Champlain Towers condo collapse identified as recovery nears end” via Alex Harris and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The recovery effort at Champlain Towers South may be coming to a close, three weeks to the day after the building collapsed. Miami-Dade Police identified four more victims Thursday. The death toll now stands at 97, with 90 bodies identified and 90 families notified, said Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade Police. Zabaleta said the department only had 97 open missing person reports, although he cautioned it didn’t mean the recovery effort was over. “The numbers line up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re done. We don’t know. That’s why we can’t claim victory yet. On an incident like this, it is very rare to get 100%,” he said.

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With the search winding down, a clearer idea of the Surfside death toll.

He rushed to Surfside to host his daughter, son-in-law. They were all found in the rubble.” via Ariana Aspuru and Marie-Rose Sheinerman of the Miami Herald — Harry Rosenberg purchased his second-floor condo just last month after a difficult period in his life. He lost his wife, Anna, to cancer last summer and his parents to COVID-19 earlier this year. The asset manager had rented smaller apartments in Florida before settling on the Champlain Towers South apartment in Surfside. The unit was large enough so his family could visit. Hours before the building collapsed early Thursday morning on June 24, the 52-year-old Rosenberg (Hebrew name Chaim ben Sara) returned from a trip to New York.

Surfside engineer may be shut out because town is part of investigation” via Jeff Weinsier of WPLG — A source says there may be a good reason why Surfside’s forensic engineer has been denied access to the site to investigate. That’s because the town could be part of the investigation into what went wrong at the Champlain Towers South. And “it may be better to keep any investigators associated with the town away,” the source said. Local 10 News reported Wednesday that Allyn Kilsheimer, a renowned engineer of 63 years hired by Surfside, is “pissed off” about a lack of access to the debris from the tragic June 24 collapse. Kilsheimer says he has not been granted access to get concrete samples from the site or from the debris that’s been moved off-site.

What happened to Surfside’s condo market after the collapse? Here’s how sellers reacted” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — In the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South collapse, the number of new condo listings dropped by about half compared to early June. Surfside saw 17 new condo listings added from June 7 through June 23 immediately before the collapse and seven new listings from June 24 — the day part of the building fell — through July 11, according to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty CEO Ron Shuffield, who pulled data from the Multiple Listing Service. Shuffield said the drop says little about the collapse’s impact on the market. “We are in the summer, which is typically when we don’t have a lot of buyers,” Shuffield said.

Safe or unsafe? Residents worry at Miami Beach condo facing unsafe structure violation” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Days after a nearby condo tower collapsed in the middle of the night, Marash Markaj lay in bed with his 9-year-old daughter, holding her close as nerves kept her awake and her mind raced about the implications of the unsafe structure violation Miami Beach inspectors had just placed on their own condo tower. Markaj had seen cracks in the Port Royale Condominium basement garage, where he has owned an eighth-floor unit for five years. But management had recently told residents the building was safe. So, though he wasn’t sure what exactly to make of the July 6 warning that his building could be demolished if repairs weren’t forthcoming, he soothed his little girl.

Partial roof collapse of Miami-Dade apartment building causes evacuation, firefighters say” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — The roof of a three-story apartment building has partially collapsed in northwest Miami-Dade County, authorities say. Firefighters are conducting evacuations. Around 4 p.m., Miami-Dade police received calls about the collapse at the apartment building at 17500 NW 68th Avenue. Police say no injuries have been reported during or after the collapse. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said it is evacuating the building. Little information is yet known about the collapse as first responders are actively working the scene. A WSVN Channel 7 News live broadcast shows firefighters on the roof near the collapsed area. The building has been cordoned off with police tape, as a row of more than five firetrucks is parked nearby.

Colombian President says commandos knew they were on mission to murder Haiti’s Jovenel Moïse” via Kevin G. Hall, Jacqueline Charles, Antonio Maria Delgado and Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — A small group of Colombian commandos-for-hire knew of the plot to assassinate the President of Haiti, Colombian President Iván Duque said Thursday, while his top police official identified two of the alleged leaders. Eighteen Colombians are among 23 people who have been apprehended in the dragnet that followed the July 7 murder of Haitian President Moïse. Several have said they were hired through a Doral, Florida-based firm, CTU Security, led by a Venezuelan émigré Antonio Intriago, who appears to have gone into hiding. Breaking a relative silence on the events in Haiti, President Duque told La FM radio in Colombia that his administration is providing good leads in the investigation to the middle-of-the-night assassination inside Moïse’s private residence.

Man facing patient-brokering charges arrested aboard catamaran in the Bahamas” via Julius Whigman II of the Palm Beach Post — A 54-year-old Stuart man wanted on patient-brokering charges is facing extradition to Palm Beach County after being arrested again this month in the Bahamas. Thomas Stanley was taken into custody July 2 after authorities in the Bahamas found him and an acquaintance on board a 45-foot Catamaran vessel anchored off Pig Beach in the Exumas and decorated with the words “Chillin Like A Villain.” The Bahamian government deported Stanley to Atlanta two days later. “Mr. Stanley tried to flee the long arm of justice, but our partnership with local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies prevented his escape,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said Thursday in prepared remarks.

Down under Wakulla County, flirting with disaster with our biggest spring” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Not only is Wakulla Springs part of our award-winning state park system, but it’s been proclaimed “the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs.” Hollywood once came calling to film such cinematic masterworks as “Tarzan’s Secret Treasure” (1941) and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954). Speaking of black lagoons, though, Wakulla Springs has suffered some of the same pollution problems as springs in other parts of the state. Water there used to be so clear you could ride around in a glass-bottom boat and see fish swimming along as clearly as if the water were air. These days, the water is often too dark for the glass bottom boats to bother leaving the dock, and the nitrogen pollution levels have been discouraging.

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Wakula Springs is flirting with disaster. Image via Creative Commons.

After Elsa, dozens of sea turtle nests disappeared in Southwest Florida. What does it mean for nesting season?” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — Tropical Storm Elsa brushed by Southwest Florida following the July Fourth weekend without doing much more than dropping several inches of rain throughout the area, but it did affect nesting sea turtles. After combing the beaches in the days following the storm, Collier County’s environmental specialist Maura Kraus could determine the damage to nests. Out of the 1,365 nests documented across the county beaches, 144 were completely washed away, and another 394 were washed over by tides, Kraus wrote in an email. “So we will be watching the inundated nests, which may have little impact on the hatching or drowned the nest entirely,” she wrote.

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— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 summer surge: Is the virus seasonal in Florida?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Researchers believe the novel coronavirus follows a seasonal cycle, spiking in the winter months when people’s immunity is low, and the climate is cold. Why, then, has the number of new COVID-19 cases risen in Florida during the summer months, resulting in more hospitalizations and even more deaths in late June and July? “What’s going on in Florida is all related to behavior,” said Dr. Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, professor of bioinformatics at the University of Chicago, who has published research on the seasonality of COVID-19 after studying global patterns. “You have a range of states that opened early, where people are not wearing masks and where there are lower vaccination rates, making the risk for the spread of a variant high.”

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Will COVID-19 become a seasonal thing? Image via AP.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations up while vaccinations stall in Alachua County” via Cindy Swirko of The Gainesville Sun — Alachua County’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is stalling, more cases are occurring, and hospitals are admitting more patients as the virus continues to frustrate health officials. “Patients are younger this time around than the first time, so that’s a little different,” UF Health CEO Ed Jimenez said. “The other thing is we’re seeing a number of people who are not vaccinated getting sick.” North Florida Regional Medical Center is also experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases but not to the level it was earlier this year, said spokeswoman Lauren Lettelier. Alachua County Health Department Administrator Paul Myers said the rise in cases and curtailing of vaccinations reflects the situation in Florida.

As cases of Delta variant rise in Jacksonville, there are fewer places to get tested” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — With an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 connected to the rise of the Delta variant, there is also an increase in the number of people who want to be tested. The problem is, there are now fewer government testing sites available. Finding a place to get tested can be tricky. The Legends Center in north Jacksonville used to be where many showed up to get tested and vaccinated, and some showed Thursday only to be greeted by a large sign: No testing, No vaccines. The Florida Department of Health in Duval County does offer testing and vaccinations off and on at its sites like the one in Springfield. The list of times and locations is on its website under events.

Top Central Florida doctors: Get eligible school kids vaccinated now” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — With Florida’s COVID-19 cases climbing over 200% in the past two weeks and hospitalization rates rising, leading health officials said Thursday the time is now to get middle- and high school students vaccinated before classes start. “School starts in early August. If you were to get a Pfizer vaccine [today], you’d have to wait two weeks for your second dose,” said Dr. Michael Keating, chief medical officer for AdventHealth for Children. School starts Aug. 10 in Orange, Lake and Seminole public schools, Aug. 12 in Osceola and Aug. 16 in Volusia. All have made mask-wearing optional for the upcoming school year.

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— CORONA NATION —

Surgeon General urges U.S. fight against COVID-19 misinformation” via David Klepper of The Associated Press — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday called for a national effort to fight misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, urging tech companies, health care workers, journalists and everyday Americans to do more to address an “urgent threat” to public health. In a 22-page advisory, his first as Biden’s surgeon general, Murthy wrote that bogus claims had led people to reject vaccines and public health advice on masks and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk. The warning comes as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the U.S., in part because of vaccine opposition fueled by unsubstantiated claims about the safety of immunizations and despite the U.S. death toll recently passing 600,000.

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Vivek Murthy has to battle COVID-19 and misinformation. Image via AP.

As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.” via Mitch Smith of The New York Times — Reports of new coronavirus cases are rising again across the U.S., a discouraging trend fueled by the spread of the Delta variant and the sputtering vaccination campaign. The country’s outlook remains far better than at previous points in the pandemic: Nearly half all Americans are fully vaccinated, cases and hospitalizations remain at a fraction of their peak, and deaths occur at some of the lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic. Yet infections are rising in almost every state. Daily case numbers have increased at least 15% over the last two weeks in 49 states, including 19 states reporting at least twice as many new cases a day.

Vaccine hesitancy morphs into hostility, as opposition to shots hardens” via Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — On July Fourth, Biden celebrated dramatic progress in the war on the coronavirus, with more than 150 million adults fully vaccinated and infections plunging 93% since Inauguration Day. But at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, attendees celebrated a different — essentially opposite — milestone: that Biden had missed his goal of vaccinating 70% of adults. The crowd clapped and cheered at that failure. What began as “vaccine hesitancy” has morphed into outright vaccine hostility. The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among Trump supporters, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Jerome Powell concedes anxiety about higher inflation but resists policy shift” via Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal — Fed Chair Powell said recent inflation was uncomfortably above the levels the central bank seeks, concluding two days of testimony in which he sounded somewhat less confident about the economic outlook — and the Fed’s policy path — than earlier this year. More broad-based price pressures or a weak rebound in the workforce could lead the Fed to conclude it needs to reverse the easy money policies it deployed during the pandemic more rapidly than officials expected a few months ago. “This is a shock going through the system associated with reopening of the economy, and it has driven inflation well above 2%. And of course, we’re not comfortable with that,” Powell told the Senate Banking Committee.

Many jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic just aren’t coming back” via Lauren Weber of The Wall Street Journal — As with past economic shocks, the pandemic-induced recession was a catalyst for employers to invest in automation and implement other changes designed to curb hiring. Economic data show that companies have learned to do more with less over the last 16 months or so. Output nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021, even though U.S. workers put in 4.3% fewer hours than they did before the health crisis. Though the job market is strong right now for highly paid professionals and low-wage service workers alike, not everyone can find a match for their skills, experience or location, creating a paradox of relatively high unemployment combined with record job openings.

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Some jobs are just not coming back. Image via AP.

As travel rebounds, airlines are figuring it out on the fly” via Aarian Marshall of WIRED — Business destinations are out, tourist spots are in. The old rules governing fares and flight schedules have been thrown out the window. More than 2.1 million people traveled through U.S. airport security checkpoints on July 5, nearly twice as many as last year, but that was still 20% fewer than in 2019. That doesn’t mean that the pictures created by airlines’ algorithms have gotten any clearer. Airlines are operating with less data, and more uncertainty, than usual, creating a complicated math problem. It’s not just figuring out where people want to go, and how much they’ll pay. It’s also ensuring that the right-sized aircraft and full, rested crew are in the right place for takeoff.

Inflation? Not in Japan. and that could hold a warning for the U.S.” via Ben Dooley of The New York Times — In the U.S., everyone is talking about inflation. Japan, however, is having the opposite problem. While in the U.S., average prices have jumped 5.4% in the past year, prices dipped 0.1% in Japan. To some extent, the situation in Japan can be explained by its continued struggles with the coronavirus, which have kept shoppers at home. But deeper forces are also at play. Before the pandemic, prices outside the volatile energy and food sectors had barely budged for years, as Japan never came close to meeting its longtime goal of 2% inflation. As Japan has learned the hard way, low inflation can be an economic quagmire. That experience carries a warning for the U.S. if its current bout of inflation eases.

— MORE CORONA —

COVID-19 takes toll on Catholic clergy in hard-hit countries” via Luis Andres Henao and Jessie Wardarski of The Associated Press — The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll among Roman Catholic priests and nuns around the world, killing hundreds of them in a handful of the hardest-hit countries. In some countries, most of those lost were older and lived in nursing or retirement homes where they didn’t regularly engage in person-to-person pastoral work. Other places saw a bigger hit to active clergy, accelerating a decades-old decline in the ranks that Pope Francis has called a “hemorrhage.” Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem. But the impact is particularly acute for a church experiencing a “perennial priest shortage” in most countries, according to Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Several Catholic parishes have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Image via AP. 

We’re not virus police, French cafes say of new COVID-19 pass” via Constantin Gouvy of The Associated Press — Starting next month, all diners in France must show a pass proving they’re fully vaccinated or recently tested negative or recovered from the virus. For restaurants — seen as the lifeblood of France — the new rule presents yet another headache after a punishing pandemic. “Our job used to be to make sure that our guests had a great time while they were with us. Now, we spend our time reprimanding them. We weren’t trained for this,” said the manager of Parisian restaurant Les Bancs Publics. Like other restaurants in the bustling area, Le Bancs Publics is already struggling to respect France’s oft-changing virus rules. Cafe and bar owners worry they’ll face more such trouble when the COVID-19 pass becomes obligatory.

Vaccine deliveries rising as delta virus variant slams Asia” via David Rising and Victoria Milko of The Associated Press — Some 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived Thursday afternoon in Indonesia, which has become a dominant hot spot with record-high infections and deaths. The U.S. shipment follows 3 million other American doses that arrived Sunday, and 11.7 million doses of AstraZeneca that have come in batches since March through the U.N.-backed COVAX mechanism, the last earlier this week. “It’s quite encouraging,” said Sowmya Kadandale, health chief in Indonesia of UNICEF, which is in charge of the distribution of vaccines provided through COVAX. “It seems now to be, and not just in Indonesia, a race between the vaccines and the variants, and I hope we win that race.”

In boost for Jair Bolsonaro, most Brazilians say pandemic is under control, poll shows” via Reuters — For the first time, a clear majority of Brazilians think the country’s coronavirus pandemic is no longer “out of control,” a Datafolha poll published on Thursday showed, in what could be a boost for President Bolsonaro, who is almost certain to seek reelection next year. Bolsonaro has seen his polls numbers sag due to his handling of the world’s second-deadliest outbreak, in which over half a million Brazilians have died from the virus. According to the poll, 53% of Brazilians now think the pandemic is “partly under control,” while an additional 5% think it is “totally under control.” Meanwhile, 41% of Brazilians polled think the pandemic is still “out of control,” down from a high of 79% in mid-March.

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— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden hosts Angela Merkel at White House to renew U.S.-German ties frayed under Donald Trump” via Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason of Reuters — Biden and Merkel have known and worked with each other for years. But their two governments are at odds over a host of tough issues, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, which Washington fears will hurt Ukraine and increase European reliance on Russian gas. They also disagree over the wisdom of partnering with China on business projects, temporary patent waivers aimed at speeding global COVID-19 vaccine production, and ongoing restrictions on Europeans traveling to the U.S. Biden and Merkel see eye to eye on a string of broader matters, and both want to strengthen the trans-Atlantic relationship that suffered from Trump’s frequent criticism of U.S. allies.

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Angela Merkel and Joe Biden patch up a long-term relationship strained by Donald Trump. Image via AP.

Biden celebrates ‘life-changing’ monthly Child Tax Credit payments as first checks go out” via Sarah Ewall-Wice of CBS News — Biden hailed the moment as historic as the families of nearly 60 million children are receiving roughly $15 billion in the first monthly payments of the advanced Child Tax Credit. Biden and Democratic lawmakers hope the money, part of the latest round of COVID-19 pandemic relief passed earlier this year, is just the beginning. “This can be life-changing for so many families,” Biden said. He argued the expanded monthly Child Tax Credit has the ability to cut poverty in the way Social Security reduced poverty among the elderly. He claimed the expanded Child Tax Credit will be one of the things he and Vice President Kamala Harris will be most proud of when their time in office is up.

Biden administration proposes sweeping protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest” via Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post — The Biden administration announced sweeping protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest on Thursday, including an end to large-scale old-growth logging and a proposal to bar road development on more than 9 million acres. The 16.7 million-acre forest has been a political flashpoint for two decades. While Democrats have sought to scale back logging in the forest over time, the administration’s moves go further than any previous President’s efforts. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the proposal would provide $25 million for community development and allow Alaska Natives and small-scale operators to continue harvesting some old-growth trees. But Vilsack said it’s time to focus on other economic activities, such as fishing, recreation and tourism.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP — 

Kremlin papers appear to show Vladimir Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House” via Luke Harding, Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh of The Guardian — Putin personally authorized a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s National Security Council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents. On Jan. 22, 2016, the key meeting took place with the Russian President, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present. They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the U.S. and a weakening of the American President’s negotiating position. Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for months and carefully examined them. They represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.

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Newly discovered Russian documents show Vladimir Putin worked to get Donald Trump elected. Image via AP.

‘Reichstag moment’: Joint Chiefs chairman feared Trump was laying groundwork for coup” via Matthew Brown of USA TODAY — The highest-ranking U.S. officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and other top military leaders made informal plans to stop a coup by Trump and his allies in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, according to excerpts from “I Alone Can Fix It,” a new book written by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. The top brass was so disturbed by Trump’s rhetoric casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election before it was held that the leaders discussed contingency plans for thwarting any illegal power grabs by the President, including how and when to resign in protest over his actions. The alarm only increased after the election.

Trump rages over post-presidential books he did interviews for” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — As the deluge of Trump-related books has hit the shelves, the already tenuous alliances that bind aides and associates of the former President have been strained further. Ex-aides have publicly attacked one-time allies while others have sought distance from a presidency they once dutifully served. Fear is mounting, too, about the tea-spilling to come. In particular, Trump officials anxiously await the books set to be published by actual colleagues, including Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner. Privately, former administration officials and top campaign aides have shared concerns about Conway’s upcoming tell-all in particular. The ex-President’s loyal former counselor is expected to give a hold-no-punches account of her time in the White House and those she worked alongside.

— CRISIS —

U.S. seeks prison term for first felony defendant to be sentenced in Capitol breach, citing domestic terror threat” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday urged a federal judge to impose an 18-month prison term on Tampa crane operator Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, who carried a Trump flag into the well of the Senate. “The need to deter others is especially strong in cases involving domestic terrorism, which the breach of the Capitol certainly was,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said in a government sentencing request for The court filing marked one of the Justice Department’s bluntest statements to date of its view of the Capitol breach. Hodgkins’s sentencing, scheduled for Monday, could set the bar for what punishment 100 or more defendants might expect to face as they weigh whether to accept plea offers or take their chances in a trial.

Windermere police officer arrested in Capitol riot along with ex-Apopka cop son” via Jeff Weiner and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — After federal prosecutors announced the arrests of Officer Kevin Tuck and his son Nathaniel Tuck, a former Apopka police officer, they both appeared before a judge at the federal courthouse in downtown Orlando. Prosecutors said the younger Tuck was inside the Capitol when an officer tried to stop him. He used his open palm to strike the officer and, when the officer grabbed him again, used his elbow to strike the officer’s hand before walking further into the building. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Harrington said both men sent messages to family in a group chat during the riot. “We stormed the Capitol, fought the police,” Kevin Tuck allegedly wrote to his family. “ … We took the flag. It’s our flag.”

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For Kevin and Nathaniel Tuck, insurrection is a family affair. Image via Fox 35 Orlando.

Pensacola, Milton White supremacist gang members indicted on racketeering charges” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Three local men, two from Pensacola and one from Milton, have been accused of participating in a White supremacist gang called “Unforgiven” that allegedly spread Aryan philosophies and engaged in acts and threats involving murder, kidnapping, robbery and drug dealing. A federal indictment that was unsealed this week by U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Middle District of Florida lists the three local men among 16 alleged members of Unforgiven who have been charged with violating federal law. Maverick “Saxon” Maher; George “Shrek” Andrews II, and Brandon “Scumbag” Welch are each charged with committing crimes in association with the criminal enterprise.

FBI raids home of Netflix actor seen inside Capitol on Jan. 6 with far-right activists” via Cammy Pedroja of Newsweek — The home of Siaka Massaquoi, 35, who has appeared in the Netflix series Ratched, was raided by FBI agents in the early hours of the morning last Thursday, although no arrests were made, authorities say. Monday, it was not yet clear why the raid was conducted, but the FBI declined to comment further, stating that the warrant and its affidavit remain sealed. Massaquoi described “twenty-some FBI agents with assault rifles” in a video posted to Instagram shortly after the raid on his North Hollywood home. Massaquoi can be seen participating in the Jan. 6 riots in videos posted to social media by Tim Gionet, the alt-right activist known online as “Baked Alaska,” who livestreamed much of the riots.

Artist repaints Miami George Floyd mural that was vandalized” via Annaliese Garcia of WPLG — Kyle Holbrook said he was working on a mural about the Surfside tragedy Wednesday when a reporter told him his Floyd mural in Overtown had been vandalized. The artist was out Thursday morning to restore his painting at Northwest 1st Avenue and 16th Street. “We live in America, and the great thing about it is, you can have different views,” Holbrook said. “But if your view is hate, you never win.” Holbrook first painted the mural in memory of Floyd shortly after he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, which set off a powerful movement against systemic racism. He touched up his work this May on the anniversary of Floyd’s death.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Top Intel Senators urge Biden to move faster on Afghans in peril” via Alexander Ward of POLITICO — Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Mark Warner and Vice-Chair Sen. Rubio sent a letter to Biden on Thursday urging him to more swiftly help Afghans who assisted the U.S. government during the 20-year war — before it’s too late. A source familiar with the letter said committee members recently received a classified briefing on the deteriorating state of the war, deepening Warner and Rubio’s concerns about the Afghans and their families waiting to leave Afghanistan. As the Taliban is now in control of over 50% of the territory in Afghanistan, by some estimates, the panel’s top senators feel time is running out to ensure the safety of those who helped the U.S.

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Marco Rubio joined with Democrat Mark Warner to call for faster work on protecting Afghan interpreters. Image via AP.

Merrick Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases” via Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill — Attorney General Garland on Thursday overturned an immigration court decision from predecessor Jeff Sessions that barred judges from essentially pausing low priority cases and removing them from a docket amid a crushing backlog of cases. The immigration court system, housed within the DOJ, saw its backlog more than double under the Trump administration to 1.3 million as immigration officials forwarded a deluge of cases seeking deportation. Garland wrote that other court cases found “that administrative closure is plainly within an immigration judge’s authority under Department of Justice regulations” and said Sessions’ ruling “departed from long-standing practice.” Garland’s post gives him the power to review decisions made in the immigration court system, a power attorneys general frequently used under Trump.

Biden urged to focus on long-neglected Latin America as chaos erupts” via Lara Seligman of POLITICO — The Pentagon has made clear it has no appetite for a new military entanglement in Latin America, following dual crises in Haiti and Cuba this week. Yet lawmakers, former officials and experts are calling on Biden to devote more resources to a region they say has been long neglected by the U.S. Top military officials at U.S. Southern Command have warned for years that Russia, China and others are rushing to fill the power vacuum left by Washington’s deprioritization of Central and South America. The assassination of the Haitian President and Cuban protests are a stark reminder of how quickly tumult can erupt in America’s own backyard — and the potential security ramifications for the entire region.

Matt Gaetz hired legal firm used by Jeffrey Epstein and El Chapo, campaign report shows” via Tampa Bay Times — With his legal troubles still looming over him, Gaetz’s campaign paid $25,000 last month to a law firm that represented convicted sex offender Epstein, Mexican drug lord El Chapo and former mobsters, according to his most recent campaign finance report. In all, Gaetz’s campaign paid $50,000 in legal expenses in June, pushing the Florida Republican’s total campaign legal costs in the past year to over $135,000. The mounting bills coincide with the reported timeline of an ongoing federal investigation into sex trafficking that involves Gaetz and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

Jason Pirozzolo touted access to Gaetz before Bahamas trip that became part of corruption probe” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — In 2018, about a week before Pirozzolo took a weekend trip to The Bahamas with U.S. Rep. Gaetz and then-state Rep. Halsey Beshears, Pirozzolo offered another marijuana investor the chance to join them. “ … [W]hat if I could get you on a private trip to the Bahamas next week with congressman Gaetz and rep Halsey beshears [sic],” Pirozzolo wrote in a message. Pirozzolo went on to underscore the influence the two men wielded, noting Beshears was expected to soon become the chairperson of the state House committee in charge of health care spending and would have a “direct connect” to the Florida Department of Health.

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— LOCAL NOTES —

Broward Sheriff’s costs and services under fire, as cities discuss pulling out” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Several Broward cities are unhappy with the law enforcement service from the Sheriff’s Office that’s costing them huge chunks of their budgets. The cities with a contract with the Sheriff’s Office met Wednesday, hoping to discuss their concerns with Sheriff Gregory Tony. But a few hours before the meeting, the Sheriff backed out, Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross said. A sheriff’s spokeswoman said the Sheriff never agreed personally to attend and never backed out. The city did send an email invitation, which was accepted, but an assistant later emailed that Tony wouldn’t be there. No one attended in his place.

Miami-Dade Mayor’s first budget includes flat tax rates, $3M more for her staff” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — In her first budget proposal, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava keeps the county’s main property-tax rates flat, boosts spending on parks, police and environmental regulation, and wants about $3 million more for her staff of aides and deputies than her predecessor received. The $9 billion budget holds spending flat across all departments, as cuts at PortMiami and Miami International Airport from the COVID-19 travel downturn balanced out some increases funded with growing tax revenue and federal COVID-19 relief. Made public Wednesday during the third week of the response to the fatal Surfside condominium collapse, the budget beefs up staffing at the county agency that performs building inspections and oversees 40-year recertifications for structures outside of city limits.

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Daniella Levine Cava’s first budget includes a flat tax, pay raises.

Alberto Carvalho once again refutes Miami-Dade teaching critical race theory, requiring masks” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — For the second time this summer, about 20 people used the public comment period during Wednesday’s Miami-Dade County School Board meeting to lambaste the district for teaching critical race theory and requiring students and teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to class next month and to wear a mask while on campus. And, for the second time, Superintendent Carvalho told the speakers that none of this is happening nor is in the works. The School District on May 18 announced that masks would be optional for students, teachers and other staff when schools reopen for the fall semester.

J.T. Burnette trial: Scott Maddox co-conspirator Paige Carter-Smith takes witness stand” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Carter-Smith, one of three people charged in the FBI’s public corruption probe in Tallahassee, told jurors Thursday that in 2013, KaiserKane, a construction management business controlled by Burnette, sent her consulting firm $100,000 after Maddox instructed her to invoice the company for that amount. She said Maddox told her the money involved his abstaining on a vote involving the McKibbon Hotel Group, whose proposal for a downtown hotel that would have competed with Burnette’s interests died as a result. Carter-Smith and Maddox pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2019. She testified as part of a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors to allow for a lesser sentence for her crimes. Maddox is expected to testify under a similar arrangement.

Jacksonville homicide rate is well-below last year; ‘fed-up’ residents have helped” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Violence struck with deadly force in Jacksonville’s Arlington community in recent days, leaving three people dead in two separate shootings only 4 miles and just under 46 hours apart, police said. The shootings ratcheted the city’s homicide total so far this year to 71. That is still 34 less than the 105 homicides reported as of this time last year when the city reached the century mark on July 9 and ended with 178 total, by far the most documented in two decades. Last year broke 2019’s mark of 160. Though still on pace for well over a hundred killings, there are several reasons for the drop, Sheriff’s Office Chief T.K. Waters said.

Chinese CEO gets prison in Jacksonville export ploy to ‘reverse engineer’ U.S. military gear” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A Chinese business executive who wanted to copy American-made boat engines to sell to China’s Navy was sentenced Wednesday evening to 42 months in prison by a federal judge in Jacksonville. Ge Songtao, who was indicted in 2019 along with a Jacksonville-based U.S. Navy officer and two people working for his company, pleaded guilty in November to two export reporting crimes authorities turned up during a three-year investigation that used foreign-intelligence surveillance warrants. The sentence was more than federal guidelines prescribe but well short of the seven years prosecutors requested from Senior U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger. The maximum possible sentence was 15 years.

Officials plan to expand Bay County Courthouse, house all court services under one roof” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News-Herald — The Bay County Courthouse Committee recently voted unanimously to consolidate area court services in the Bay County Courthouse by building a new facility on campus. After the long-planned project to turn the Juvenile Justice Courthouse into a federal courthouse fell through, there were talks of using the facility to conduct court proceedings. Now, the committee has decided to keep everyone under one roof and build another facility by the county courthouse. The plans to build additional facilities at the Bay County Courthouse predates Hurricane Michael. The storm slowed the process, and there were some funding issues.

Tiny homebuilder wants to be annexed into Pensacola after Escambia County takes too long” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — After the Escambia County Commission in May rejected the language of an ordinance that would have allowed “tiny homes” to be built in the county, AMR at Pensacola is asking for its property to be annexed into the city of Pensacola where tiny homes are allowed. Pensacola attorney Jim Reeves, founder of AMR at Pensacola Inc., said he requested that the city annex the 0.44-acre property because it is taking the county too long to adopt an ordinance that would allow AMR’s project to move forward. Reeves said AMR plans to build eight tiny homes at 2000 W. Blount St. that will serve the Lakeview Center’s FamiliesFirst Network and provide affordable homes for former foster children who have turned 18 and “aged out” of the foster care system.

Seminole moves to protect natural lands from development after Chris Dorworth tried for swap” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — When Dorworth pitched a plan in early 2020 to swap hundreds of acres of the River Cross development property for Seminole County’s Econ Wilderness Area, Commissioners rejected the idea, saying the natural preserve was purchased with tax dollars for conservation and was not for trade. But county leaders and residents realized that any part of Seminole’s 6,630 acres of natural lands could easily be swapped away with the approval of a majority of commissioners, even though the lands were purchased with money raised from two voter-approved property tax increases.

New Disney regional hub at Lake Nona in Orlando will house 2,000+ jobs relocating from California” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — A new Disney regional hub in Orlando’s Lake Nona community will be home to more than 2,000 professional jobs relocating from California, the company revealed Thursday afternoon. The average wage for the positions is $120,000 annually, according to Tim Giuliani, Orlando Economic Partnership president and CEO. “It’s a big day for Disney,” Giuliani said. “It’s a big day for Lake Nona. It’s a big day for Orlando.” Most of the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products professional roles based in southern California that are not fully dedicated to Disneyland Resort, or in some cases the international parks business, will be asked to relocate to Orlando, said Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

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Disney’s move from California to Orlando will be a tremendous boost to the housing market.

Head-on collision: Universal moves to derail Brightline’s high-speed rail route to Disney, Tampa” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal’s opposition to proposed service by Brightline Trains from Orlando’s airport to Walt Disney World and Tampa echoes the region’s history of missteps and failures in launching passenger rail. Universal wants Brightline to construct what looks to be a vastly more costly route from the airport to the tourist strip that spans International Drive, Universal’s attractions and Orange County’s convention center before continuing to Disney and Tampa. Brightline’s plan to make Orlando the Florida hub of upscale, higher-speed passenger rail is widely regarded with enthusiasm to boost the region. But Universal’s intervention could break Brightline’s budget, its officials say, and bring upheaval to other transportation, including the SunRail commuter system.

Illuminate Coral Gables show is off after city criticizes artists’ communist sympathies” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — After a fiery debate in which Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago claimed that two artists from one of the city’s premier public art exhibits are communist sympathizers, the popular “Illuminate Coral Gables” art show has canceled its 2022 display and its top curator has resigned. The decision came after the Coral Gables Commission Tuesday voted at around midnight to fund part of the show, but only if the exhibit dropped Cuban-born artist Sandra Ramos and world-renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang from its list of 20 participants. “I will continue to support the arts, but not at the expense of democracy and liberty,” Lago said.

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— TOP OPINION —

Afro-Cuban lives don’t matter to the shameful leaders of Black Lives Matter” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — Now I have the answer to the question I’ve been asking for months. Why doesn’t the Black Lives Matter movement care that Afro-Cubans are being beaten, arrested, jailed and also killed for the “crime” of demanding the basic human right to free expression? The regrettable, shameful answer came Wednesday night on the organization’s official Instagram page: Because the organization’s leadership stands solidly behind Cuba’s oppressive, White-led Communist regime. Simply put, Black Cuban lives don’t matter to BLM. Using the same tactic and the same words as the Cuban regime, BLM blames all the regime’s failures on the U.S. Instead of condemning the treatment of Afro-Cubans, they condemn the U.S. embargo as the cause of what’s happening in Cuba.

— OPINIONS —

Cuba’s counterrevolution will be televised if Biden makes it so” via Hugh Hewitt of The Washington Post — When the phrase “the revolution will not be televised” was first heard widely, it was used by poet and jazzman Gil Scott-Heron in his 1970 album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox.” Scott-Heron’s notion was, in part, you can’t trust mass media to convey what’s really going on in the country. That remains the case about the counterrevolution that broke out in Cuba over the weekend. I am amazed, alarmed and not a little disgusted by the lack of attention to the uprising of an oppressed people in the communist dictatorship. Biden must act. Go to Miami and have your [Ronald] Reagan-at-the-Berlin-Wall moment. Push the corrupt Cuban regime, and it will fall. Use the bully pulpit and build a genuine legacy.

Scandal-ridden NRA should make itself useful: Butt out of Florida age limit on rifles” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The NRA is appealing a court ruling upholding the Florida law that prevents people under 21 from buying long guns, including assault-style weapons. The NRA almost immediately challenged the ban, claiming it’s “a categorical burden on the fundamental right [of young adults] to keep and bear arms.” What nonsense. After Parkland, Florida lawmakers used their heads by passing sensible laws. Polls show clear public support for such measures and clear opposition to less strict gun laws, like open carry. At the same time, anti-gun activists need to recognize that gun ownership is and will remain a reality in the U.S. Without compromise and cooperation, the NRA might get its wish of arming everyone. What an America that would be.

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— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s COVID-19 spike continues. The latest report from the CDC says we’ve got one of the highest transmission rates in the country; it’s so bad that folks in Los Angeles are being advised not to vacation in Florida.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis is calling on Floridians who are protesting on behalf of the people of Cuba to get out of the street.

— The Governor is also facing some tough questions about selective enforcement of the state’s new anti-protest law. Sen. Shevrin Jones tells Sunrise that DeSantis doesn’t seem to mind a protest as long as he agrees.

— Speaking of Cuba, the Governor is calling on the President to find some way to get the internet restored in Cuba so the protesters there can get their stories and pictures out to the rest of the world. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr says we have a way — all it takes is the will.

— Two central Florida cops, a father and son, are now facing federal charges for their alleged involvement in the coup at The Capitol.

— And finally, a Florida Man triple feature: One hired a hit man to kill his ex and blame it on Black Lives Matter, another is a former deputy going to prison for planting drugs on innocent drivers. The third left his kid in the car while he went drinking in a strip club.

To listen, click on the image below:

— WEEKEND TV —

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 St. Peterburg Mayor Rick Kriseman; Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation Founder Al Fox; Gemini Industries Business Development Manager E.J. Otero, Jr. Colonel (ret) U. S. Air Force; USF-Tampa Assistant Professor of International Relations & Political Science Arturo Jimenez-Bacardi Ph.D.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: Hurricane Elsa and the resurgence of red tide in the state with Pinellas County Commission Chair Dave Eggers, Heather Post of the Volusia County Council District 4, and Amber Boulding from St. Petersburg’s Office of Emergency Management.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A closer look at the political unrest in Cuba with reaction from Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Ybeth Bruzual speaks to Reps. Sabatini and Joy Goff-Marcil about House Bill 233, “Postsecondary Education,” which calls for annual evaluations of university viewpoints inclusion.

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: U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Al Lawson on the Cuba crisis, federal spending, and child tax credit; Dr. Sunil Joshi of the Family Allergy & Asthma Consultants to talk about the delta variant and spread of COVID-19.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Allyn Kilsheimer, the engineer investigating the Surfside collapse. Also, while protesters are calling for a change in Cuba, a discussion about the difference between the treatment of BLM and Cuba protesters.

— ALOE —

‘Oh boy, oh dear’: Jacksonville newlyweds’ doorbell camera footage goes viral” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Brandon and Stephanie Jacobs got married in Green Cove Springs a year ago. They danced the night away before being driven back to their Westside home. That’s when Brandon, 37, decided to get traditional. Despite multiple back surgeries, he was determined to carry his bride across the threshold. Stephanie, 31, was skeptical. “You good?” she asked, bracing herself before saying, “oh boy, oh dear.” The whole episode was captured by the couple’s Ring doorbell camera. He shared it with the doorbell surveillance. A re-share from Ring’s social media accounts has resulted in a windfall of new views and fans. Earthquake, the popular comedian, shared the video on his social media platforms, too. “Some wedding traditions are still alive,” he wrote.

Coca-Cola Is changing the flavor of a soda. Again” via New York Times —Coca-Cola changed the flavor of its soda in 1985 and enraged a nation. Now, the company is doing it again, risking another outcry. This time, it is changing the taste and look of one of its most popular soft drinks: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, better known as Coke Zero, the diet spinoff that is supposed to closely resemble the sugary version of “classic” Coke. On Tuesday, company officials said that the plan was to change the drink so that it would “deliver an even more iconic Coke taste.” Anxious Americans, or at least the ones who regularly quaff Coke Zero, will be the judge.

Subway has launched a website laying out the ‘truth’ about its tunavia Business Insider — Subway has once again hit back at claims that its tuna isn’t real tuna by launching a website called subwaytunafacts.com. Subway CEO John Chidsey referred to the website during an interview with CNN Tuesday where he defended the chain’s tuna and said he “absolutely” eats Subway’s tuna sandwiches. A January class-action lawsuit claimed that Subway made false claims about its tuna meat. The class-action complaint said that the company made its tuna products using “a mixture of various concoctions” rather than actual tuna — though the plaintiffs amended their claims in June to focus on the type of tuna that Subway serves.

Manatee mama, calf released near Blue Spring after successful rehab at SeaWorld Orlando” via Mary Helen Moore of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — During a heartbreaking year for the manatee, a small crowd near Blue Springs State Park got a glimpse of hope Wednesday when a pair of manatees was released after months of successful rehabilitation. A Sea World employee comfort an adult manatee named Mandy as teams from FWC, Sea World, Save the Manatee Club and the Volusia County mammal stranding team prepare to release Mandy and her calf Manilow back into the wild, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at the French Landing boat ramp near Blue Springs State Park. The mother and baby disappeared into the St. John’s River with a few great ripples after spending four months at SeaWorld Orlando, gaining weight under the careful watch of staff. 

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, former state Sen. J.D. AlexanderBob GabordiAlexis Lambert, former Hillsborough Commission candidate Todd MarksAlix Miller of the Florida Trucking Association, the still handsome Ben Stuart, and Victoria Zepp.

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

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