Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.9.20 – Florida Politics

9December 2020

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit opened Tuesday with policy previews from lawmakers and operational insights from C-Suite Executives.

Wednesday brings another round of discussions, talks and panels on the future of Florida infrastructure.

The back half of the two-day conference kicks off with an appearance by Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, who will lay out the “Roadmap to Florida’s Future.”

FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault will kick off the second day of the Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit.

Next up is a panel on emerging mobility solutions featuring Sen. Jeff Brandes and CoMotion CEO John Rossant. Autonomous Florida Chair Beth Kigel will moderate.

Later in the afternoon, Sen. Ben Albritton will speak on the importance of rural connectivity, followed by a panel with three of the top names in the state’s telecom industry: Florida Television Association CEO Brad Swanson, Charter Communications VP of state government affairs Marva Johnson, and AT&T Florida   VP of government affairs Casey Reed.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls will also headline a segment titled “Meeting the Challenge of Sea Level Rise,” a day after his Senate counterpart, Wilton Simpson, delivered a top-level view of his plans for the future of the state’s water quality infrastructure.

The Summit will run from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Registration is online.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@GeoRebekah: So … how was everyone else’s day?

@RepStephMurphy: This video is troubling. It is imperative that the Florida government explain to the public why a raid of this nature was considered necessary and appropriate.

@YvonneHinsonFL: Rebekah Jones was serving the state heroically when asked to shrink data to make it look as if Florida was ready to open. She refused and got fired. They raided her home at gunpoint with her family present. [Donald] Trump‘s Handbook, play by play = Florida’s Governor! Counting down!

@ShevrinJones: Even if a legitimate warrant was served, there was no need for @fdlepio to enter the home of @GeoRebekah, someone with no history or suspicion of violence with guns drawn. Not only was this irresponsible, it was dangerous.

@Annette_Taddeo: That this even happened to @GeoRebekah is completely outrageous! What is this? Cuba? I wish the @GovRonDeSantis administration would worry more about the health & welfare of Floridians and our out of control #COVID19 cases instead of having FDLE officers point guns at kids!

@EdwardNorton: Pulling weapons on someone for the act of reporting COVID death data. And her children. If you’re a serious investigative reporter in Florida and you’re not trying to get to the bottom of who ordered this grotesque intimidation/abuse of power, turn in your press card

@GeorgeTakei: Rebekah Jones was fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data for the state of FL. She began publishing her own dashboard. Then they raided her home. To support her work and to give the finger to DeSantis and his Gestapo, donate to her project here: https://floridacovidaction.com/donate/

@AttorneyCrump: Rebekah Jones outed @GovRonDeSantis for falsifying Florida #COVID19 case numbers, then state authorities raided her home!! Retaliation against whistleblowers like @GeoRebekah is a CLEAR violation of Florida law — and we must fight for JUSTICE! 

@DWUhlfelderLaw: After @GeoRebekah raid, she has now almost 250,000 Twitter followers and raised $85k in her gofundme legal fund. In other news, DeSantis is going to be with Trump today at vaccine summit. His spokesman said Governor’s office “knew nothing” of investigation of @GeoRebekah.

Tweet, tweet:

@EvanPower: What a pathetic resignation. Not sad to see someone who would support @GeoRebekah go, that shows everything we need to know

@BMeiselas: Imagine if Rebekah Jones didn’t have a security camera

— DAYS UNTIL —

The Electoral College votes — 5; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 8; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 13; “The Midnight Sky” with George Clooney premieres on Netflix — 14; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 16; Pixar’s “Soul” premiere (rescheduled for Disney+) — 16; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 22; Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association human trafficking compliance training deadline — 23; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections — 27; the 2021 Inauguration — 42; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 60; Daytona 500 — 67; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 71; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 87; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 114; Children’s Gasparilla — 122; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 129; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 205; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 212; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 226; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 234; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 258; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 328; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 332; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 334; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 366; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 430; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 483; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 664.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —

Wilton Simpson says water quality funding will remain a priority despite slimmer budget” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Simpson told attendees at the Florida Chamber’s Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit that funding water quality initiatives would be a priority during his term despite budget challenges. One of the tentpoles of his water agenda will be increased investments in water storage north of the Everglades. Simpson’s other priority is creating a robust septic to sewer program. “The single largest supplier of nutrient load going into our water systems today are septic tanks, so when you think about what you can do to really have a large impact for the next 100 years on this state, the northern Everglades is a step — a big step — but the second step would be making sure you have a very aggressive septic to sewer program.”

Despite a tighter budget, Senate President Wilton Simpson will seek to boost funding for water quality in 2021. Image via Colin Hackley.

Minor marijuana convictions could be ‘erased’ in Florida by new bill” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — People across Florida could see their misdemeanor marijuana convictions wiped away if a new bill by state Sen. Randolph Bracy becomes law. Bracy announced the legislation Tuesday at a news conference outside Curaleaf, a medical marijuana dispensary on Semoran Boulevard. He will introduce the bill during the 2021 Legislative Session. The bill will apply to misdemeanor marijuana convictions, including distribution and possession of fewer than 20 grams. While the bill would not automatically expunge records, it would make it easier for people with these convictions to get them removed. All court fees to clear records would also be waived.

Challenge to Leon County mask mandate dismissed” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — An appeals court has tossed out a challenge by the Leon County Republican Party chairman to a county requirement that people wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday dismissed an appeal filed by Leon County GOP Chairman Evan Power after a circuit judge rejected the challenge in July. The dismissal did not address underlying constitutional issues in the case but stemmed from Power’s attorney, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini not filing an initial brief at the appeals court. The Leon County Commission passed its ordinance June 23 amid a surge of coronavirus cases. The ordinance requires people to wear masks inside businesses, with some exceptions, and threatened fines for noncompliance.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida adds 7,985 coronavirus cases, 98 deaths Tuesday” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Department of Health reported 7,985 coronavirus cases and 98 deaths Tuesday, raising the total number of deaths to 19,627. There have been 1,073,770 people infected with the virus in Florida since March. The state has reported roughly 9,372 cases and 102 deaths per day this week. The number of deaths added each day does not necessarily reflect the number of people who died the previous day, as it can take officials up to two weeks to confirm and report coronavirus-related deaths. Florida has reported the third-highest number of cases during the pandemic, behind Texas, which has had more than 1.2 million cases and California, which has recorded over 1.3 million cases.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says all long-term care residents could receive COVID-19 vaccinations this month” via David Fleshler and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Every resident of long-term care facilities in Florida could receive a COVID-19 vaccination by the end of this month, DeSantis said Tuesday at a White House vaccines summit. The Governor’s ambitious schedule would mean that about 145,000 residents of 4,000 facilities would receive the vaccinations within the next few weeks, if they want them. Vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are expected to receive approval this week and next. “We could have every resident of nursing homes and long-term care facilities vaccinated in the month of December,” DeSantis said at a White House panel discussion with three other Governors. “That’s within our grasp right now.”

Ron DeSantis has an ambitious schedule for vaccinating all long-term care residents this month.

Florida investigation into COVID-19 whistleblower draws rebuke from Charlie Crist, others” via Ana Ceballos, Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — Florida’s law enforcement chief and state officials with DOH said their internal emergency communication system was “hacked” on Nov. 10, conjuring images of a nefarious digital break-in. With a search warrant in hand and guns drawn, police raided Jones’ Tallahassee home on Monday morning, seizing her computers and cellphone. U.S. Rep. Crist criticized the appearance of the raid. “Unless we get more information showing otherwise, it looks like an act of retaliation or an attempt to silence Ms. Jones for her critiques of the state’s COVID-19 response,” Crist said in a Tuesday statement. Jones has not been charged and denies sending the message, saying she doesn’t have the technical skills to be a “hacker.”

COVID-19 data whistleblower could face up to 5 years in prison if charged with cybercrime” via Skyler Swisher and Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The state law used to justify a police raid at the home of a COVID-19 whistleblower suspected of accessing a Florida emergency messaging system without permission carries a stiff penalty: Up to five years in prison. That means Jones, the DOH data scientist fired in May for alleged insubordination, may be in significant legal peril if prosecutors press third-degree felony charges. Aldo Leiva, an attorney with Baker Donelson who specializes in cybersecurity and data privacy law, said that Jones could face a much longer penalty — up to 15 years — if prosecutors proved she somehow disrupted the state’s systems or committed other aggravating offenses. But some legal experts think the state would be hard-pressed going after her in the courts.

Hundreds of Florida renters evicted during pandemic despite CDC order” via Emily L. Mahoney and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The nationwide moratorium ordered by the CDC was supposed to protect renters who have lost work from the pandemic. After it was announced, DeSantis allowed Florida’s eviction moratorium to lapse at the end of September, saying it would avoid confusion over which order was in force. But court records show that the federal order has failed to protect renters in Florida, including hundreds of Tampa Bay families, from losing their housing. By contrast, no writs were issued in April and May in Pinellas; fewer than 25 were issued in Hillsborough in May and June when DeSantis’ moratorium largely stayed courts from completing evictions. 

Scott Rivkees: ‘Pfizer 5’ will have COVID-19 vaccine next week” via The News Service of Florida — Florida’s top public health official said five Florida hospitals could receive COVID-19 vaccinations as early as next week. According to executives on the phone call, Department of Health Secretary Rivkees, who also serves as the state’s Surgeon General, gave the update during a statewide call with hospital administrators. Referred to as the “Pfizer 5,” Broward Memorial, UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health in Orlando, and Jackson Memorial in Miami will be the first Florida hospitals to receive the vaccine. Pfizer Inc.’s vaccination will be sent after it receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee, which meets on Dec. 10.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees says the Pfizer vaccine will soon arrive at five key Florida hospitals.

Federal judge postpones NRA case, other trials” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Saying he is acting “out of an abundance of caution,” Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker is postponing all of his civil trials until the coronavirus pandemic is under control and the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Florida has dropped. Walker’s order came in a lawsuit involving the National Rifle Association. The gun-rights group is challenging a Florida law, passed in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland high school, that prevents people under age 21 from buying guns. The NRA lawsuit was scheduled for a Jan. 11 trial in Tallahassee, but Walker’s order indefinitely postponed that trial and all other civil trials over which he presides.

— CORONA LOCAL — 

DeSantis said no more virtual meetings. Some South Florida cities are doing it anyway” via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — More than a half-dozen cities in South Florida have continued to hold government meetings entirely online as COVID-19 cases surge, even after DeSantis let his executive order allowing virtual meetings expire Nov. 1 and suggested they were no longer permitted. Many cities in Miami-Dade have adopted hybrid meeting models to try to comply with state law. For example, Miami Beach moved its meetings to the city’s convention center, where commissioners are separated by drapes and piping and communicate with each other via teleconference. That way, there’s an in-person quorum but still plenty of social distancing.

With options limited, Miami-Dade tries a PR campaign to combat latest COVID spike” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade has a new slogan for its COVID-19 fight as the county government faces a third spike in cases without the enforcement tools it wielded during the prior two. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava unveiled the “We Can We Will” campaign at a news conference Tuesday where she also acknowledged the county could use some stronger measures to combat a surge in cases overlapping with the higher risks from indoor gatherings during the holiday season. Levine Cava said Miami-Dade is reviving its mask enforcement this month but is also emphasizing the power of public relations in the county’s latest COVID measure. Using county communications staff, her administration unveiled a public-service campaign revolving around the motto “We Can Adapt. We Will Thrive.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is launching a new PR campaign to address the third spike in coronavirus cases.

We’re dealing with ‘3 whammos,’ health director says” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County’s top health official Tuesday painted a grim picture of the coronavirus pandemic, calling recent increases in the county’s positivity rate “alarming” and describing further spikes in cases as “inevitable.” County Health Director Dr. Alina Alonso said the recent uptick in cases is coming at the worst possible moment. “We have three whammos happening at the same time,” she said, ticking off the coming holiday season, the arrival of snowbirds and case counts that are already disturbingly high. The three factors combined means even more people will become infected, she said of the virus that has already stricken 69,855 people in the county.

Vaccine distribution about to ‘get ugly’” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — To the dismay of Palm Beach County commissioners, at-risk elderly who don’t live in nursing homes and first responders aren’t among the first wave of people who will get the coronavirus vaccine that is expected to be approved on Thursday. In addition to criticizing the priority system that has been tentatively established that would allow nursing home residents and hospital workers to be the first to get vaccinated, they voiced concern that no hospital in the county will receive the initial shipments of the vaccine. Adding to the unease, county Health Director Alonso said she hadn’t been told whether the five hospitals in the state that will get initial batches will share it.

A South Florida state Representative and her family have tested positive for COVID-19” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — The latest South Florida elected official to test positive for COVID-19 is Hollywood Democrat Marie Woodson, just elected to the Florida House of Representatives from Broward County’s District 101. Woodson announced Tuesday morning that she tested positive for COVID-19 after tests revealed her husband, Bob Woodson, and adult children, Bradley Woodson and Kelly Woodson, had the novel coronavirus. “Consequently, we are quarantining at home,” read a statement from Woodson’s office. “I am asking that you keep us in your prayers and continue to follow all CDC guidelines, while dealing with this pandemic. I will continue to work from home and serve the residents of District 101. Take care and be safe!”

Newly elected Rep. Marie Woodson and her family test positive for COVID-19.

How many new COVID-19 cases in Central Florida? Who knows?” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The numbers of new cases for COVID-19 took dramatic twists Tuesday for Central Florida counties — some exploding upward, some actually falling precipitously — in the latest data released by the Florida Department of Health. Is the state reclassifying the county of residence for people with COVID-19 throughout Central Florida? Are the numbers being corrected due to some dramatic new findings? Or was there some sort of glitch that caused faulty numbers to be reported Tuesday? There was no immediate explanation from authorities. A DOH spokesperson said he would look into it. An Orange County spokesperson said county health officials also were asking the state for an explanation but had not yet received one by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Tampa International Airport CEO talks health safety efforts amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano talked Tuesday about the strategies he’s used to protect travelers and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at the Florida Chamber Foundation‘s Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit, the 30-year airport veteran said he searched for ways to convert the situation into an opportunity for reinvention. Lopano, who sat on DeSantis‘ Reopen Florida Task Force as the only airport CEO, employed what he called the “TPA Ready” program. The program incorporated several strategies, many of which he learned from theme parks and hotels. In April, the airport was among the first in the nation to implement a mask mandate and install acrylic barriers, blocked off seating, social distancing signs and modern, touchless technology.

Florida man coughed, sneezed, spit throughout a Best Buy after refusing mask, deputies say” via Tiffini Thiesen of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida man who didn’t want to wear a mask in a Best Buy on Saturday was booked on a disorderly conduct charge after he coughed, spit and sneezed throughout the store, deputies said. Employees at a Vero Beach location of the chain told the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office that they asked Alton George Ashby multiple times to wear a mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, per store policy. Ashby, 51, of Palm Bay “was going to Geek Squad to get help” but walked up with no mask, the store manager told deputies. Ashby then proceeded to “walk around the connected department to do the same thing,” according to the arrest affidavit.

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. virus deaths hit record levels with the holidays ahead” via Lisa Marie Pane and Rachel La Corte of The Associated Press — Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S. “What we do now literally will be a matter of life and death for many of our citizens,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday as he extended restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, including a ban on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars.

Deaths from COVID-19 are hitting a frightening peak, just as the holidays are underway. Image via AP.

Donald Trump hails vaccine ‘miracle,’ with millions of doses soon” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Trump celebrated the expected approval of the first U.S. vaccine for the coronavirus Tuesday as the White House worked to instill confidence in the massive distribution effort that will largely be executed by President-elect Joe Biden. Trump said the expected approvals are coming before most people thought possible. “They say it’s somewhat of a miracle and I think that’s true,” he declared. Trump led Tuesday’s White House event celebrating “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to produce and distribute safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. The first vaccine, from drugmaker Pfizer, is expected to receive endorsement by a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers as soon as this week.

‘I literally don’t know’: Operation Warp Speed scientist can’t explain Trump’s vaccine order” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries. Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the President’s order. “Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,” Slaoui said. “I literally don’t know.” It remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries.

FDA review confirms safety and efficacy of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine” via Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley, Chris Alcantara and Aaron Steckelberg of The Washington Post — Pfizer enrolled approximately 44,000 people in its late-stage clinical study in the United States, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. So far, there have been 170 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in people who were not previously infected. Only eight of those cases were among people who received two shots of the vaccine, a strong signal of efficacy. Of all those participants who became sick with COVID-19, 10 became seriously ill — all but one in the group that received the placebo test.

Pfizer’s vaccine offers strong protection after first dose” via Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — The coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech provides strong protection against COVID-19 within about 10 days of the first dose, according to documents published by the FDA before a meeting of its vaccine advisory group. The finding is one of several significant new results featured in the briefing materials, including more than 100 pages of data analyses from the agency and Pfizer. Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their two-dose vaccine had an efficacy rate of 95% after two doses administered three weeks apart. The new analyses show that the protection starts kicking in far earlier. What’s more, the vaccine worked well regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age. 

Pfizer’s vaccine stood up to peer review, which will hasten its approval in the U.S. Image via USA Today.

Pfizer tells U.S. officials it cannot supply substantial additional vaccine until late June or July” via Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply, according to multiple individuals familiar with the situation. That means the U.S. government may not be able to ramp up as rapidly as it had expected from the 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it purchased earlier this year, raising questions about whether it can keep to its aggressive schedule to vaccinate most Americans by late spring or early summer. Trump administration officials denied there would be availability issues in the second quarter, citing other vaccines in the pipeline.

Kristi Noem hails South Dakota as a coronavirus success story — using badly cherry-picked numbers” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — South Dakota Gov. Noem clearly harbors national political ambitions, keeping up a packed travel schedule even as her state deals with one of the worst, if not the worst, coronavirus outbreaks in the country. As cases in South Dakota began to rise in September, Noem posted a video making light of social distancing. But to hear Noem tell it in her new op-ed in the Journal, her state is some kind of a success story. It’s the avoidance of strong mitigation measures, according to Noem, that has benefited its economy, and its problem isn’t all that bad, relative to other states.

First signs of Thanksgiving COVID-19 wave emerge” via Reid Wilson of The Hill — The first signs of a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases are beginning to show up in data released by states across the country in a troubling prelude of what may become the deadliest month of the pandemic so far. Those hints of an uptick in case counts come as the country faces an already substantial wave of infections that began in the Upper Midwest and spread to every corner of the map as summer turned to fall and the weather cooled. The United States has averaged nearly 200,000 new confirmed cases a day over the last week. Cases have risen over the last week in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Even with a COVID vaccine, U.S. economy will likely get worse before it gets better” via Lizzy Gurdus of CNBC — We still haven’t seen “the storm before the calm.” So says Alejandra Grindal, senior international economist at Ned Davis Research, despite the market’s run to record highs, reignited by positive announcements around a COVID-19 vaccine. While a U.S. vaccine rollout would likely spark a bigger turnaround, the key will be getting through the next three months, Grindal said. “Mass deployment of some sort of vaccine early on in Q2 or throughout Q2 of 2021 … could fuel a pretty sharp recovery not only in U.S. economic activity, but also global economic activity due to pent-up demand,” she said. The “million-dollar question” is how U.S. policy toward China might change when President-elect Biden takes office, but Grindal didn’t expect a huge overhaul.

Experts say the economy will take a while to recover, despite the imminent arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine. Image via Getty.

Will there be second stimulus check before end of 2020?” Via Kristina Peterson and Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — It’s not out of the question yet. Democrats and a few Republicans are still pushing to add a second round of stimulus checks into any agreement this year. And before the election, Trump urged Congress to send him additional coronavirus aid that included another round of direct checks. “Direct checks are an excellent way to get money into the hands of people who desperately need it,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. President-elect Biden has said that any aid Congress passes this year will just be a down payment on additional help he hopes to pass in 2021, which could include another round of direct checks. But any package would still have to clear the Senate.

— MORE CORONA —

In Britain, a simple ‘jab’ opens a new front in the coronavirus battle” via Megan Specia of The New York Times — It was a simple thing. A swipe with an alcohol pad, a tiny needle prick in the upper arm and the application of a small Band-Aid. But the health care workers receiving a new coronavirus vaccine here on Tuesday, among the first in Britain, know it’s more than that. It had been just six days since regulators in Britain announced emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first country to release a tested vaccine to the public. The start of the vaccination program — for a virus that has infected tens of millions globally and claimed more than 1.5 million lives — signals a new phase in battling the coronavirus in Britain, which has been hard hit by the illness.

England’s administration of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the Western World was a simple, low-key affair. Image via AP.

COVID infections, and blame, rise along Southeast Asian borders” via Hannah Beech of The New York Times — The border between Thailand and Myanmar is more than 1,500 miles long, much of it thickly forested. Myanmar has suffered runaway transmission of the coronavirus. Thailand, so far, has not. But over the past couple of weeks, at least 19 COVID-19 cases in Thailand have been linked to migrant workers who slipped between the two countries undetected. The infections have spooked Thai officials, who have managed one of the world’s most successful coronavirus containment strategies. They are now racing to trace the contacts of hundreds of people who may have been exposed. And the events have cast a spotlight on how regions like Southeast Asia that depend on porous borders are fighting to keep the virus out while allowing economic activity to continue.

Plastic surgeons say business is up, partly because clients don’t like how they look on Zoom” via Danielle Braff of The Washington Post — Plastic surgeons across the globe are anecdotally reporting an unprecedented number of requests for procedures. “It is unknown if this is pent-up demand from the months of shutdown when patients were not able to get their procedures, or increased interest because of other potential factors,” said Adam Ross, spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, adding that the organization would not have estimates for the number of procedures done this year until spring 2021. Jon Mendelsohn, medical director of Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center in Cincinnati, said injectable procedures such as Botox and fillers were up 90% compared with the same period last year.

American and Spirit Airlines launch COVID-19 tests for flyers” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — American Airlines and Spirit Airlines are starting COVID-19 testing programs on Wednesday for passengers who are traveling from U.S. airports. The American initiative is a home-testing program to be operated with a company called LetsGetChecked, a direct-to-consumer, at-home health testing firm. Test results can be used for flights on or after Dec. 12, the airline said Tuesday. The offer comes less than a week after Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Spirit announced they are partnering to make available coronavirus tests to all travelers who use the Broward County airport. The airline said testing is also available at other airports it serves including Boston, Hartford, LaGuardia in New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Tampa.


— PRESIDENTIAL —

Supreme Court rejects bid to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania” via Josh Gerstein, Zach Montellaro, and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — The Supreme Court has rejected a bid by a Republican member of Congress and other GOP activists to overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania. In a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon, the justices turned down the emergency request from Rep. Mike Kelly and two other House candidates to decertify the results of last month’s election in the Keystone State. The high court acted without comment or noted dissent in the matter on the last day under federal law for states to submit their slates of presidential electors without being subject to potential contest in Congress.

Trump is likely to return to Florida and remain the most powerful Republican in the U.S.” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — As Trump’s last-ditch efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election fail, his actions and words are increasingly pointing to one likelihood: When his presidency ends, Trump will return to South Florida and remain a force in Republican politics. “If I lost, I would say, ‘I lost.’ And I’d go to Florida,” Trump told a crowd of thousands Saturday in Georgia during a political rally on behalf of two Republican U.S. Senate candidates. “And I’d take it easy, and I’d go around and I’d say, ‘I did a good job.’” Though Trump continues to assail the validity of the presidential election and claim falsely that he, and not Biden, won, he is also teasing a 2024 campaign. 

Donald Trump takes his exit to Mar-a-Lago as the most powerful Republican politician in America. Image via AP.

Greg Steube appears to acknowledge Biden victory in fundraising appeal” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Steube seemingly acknowledged Biden’s victory in a new fundraising letter for Georgia’s Republican Senators. As Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face January runoffs, the political world has turned its attention to Georgia. Steube, almost immediately after the election, began raising money for the Republican incumbents. But his most recent email more explicitly calls to “Save The Senate” and contains language explicitly discussing what Vice President-elect Kamala Harris might do when she presides over the Senate. “We all have to if we’re going to hold the Senate and stop Kamala Harris from pushing through the most progressive legislative agenda in history to come before Congress,” Steube wrote.

Christopher Krebs, election security official fired by Trump, sues over threatening remarks made by a lawyer for the President” via Ben Fox of The Associated Press — The U.S. election and cybersecurity official who was fired last month by Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday over threatening remarks by a lawyer for the President that prompted a wave of death threats. Krebs says in the suit that he has been “bombarded” with threats since Joseph diGenova appeared on Newsmax and called for Krebs to be killed. Amid the threats, Krebs, a Republican and Trump appointee, was forced to move out of his home in Virginia for several days and hire private security. He keeps his children from playing in their front yard out of fear, attorney Jim Walden said. “It has fundamentally uprooted their lives,” Walden said. “He and his family feel terribly threatened.”

— TRANSITION —

Safe harbor law locks Congress into accepting electoral votes cast for President-elect Biden” via Mark Sherman of The Associated Press — Happy Safe Harbor Day, America. Other than Wisconsin, every state appears to have met a deadline in federal law that essentially means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week. Those votes will elect Biden as the country’s next President. It’s called a safe harbor provision because it’s a kind of insurance policy by which a state can lock in its electoral votes by finishing up certification of the results and any state court legal challenges by a congressionally imposed deadline, which this year is Tuesday. In 2020, that date is Dec. 14. But Congress also set another deadline, six days before electors meet, to insulate state results from being challenged in Congress.

The 2020 election passes an important milestone, virtually guaranteeing that Joe Biden will assume the presidency in January.

Key lines from the unveiling of Biden’s health team” via Kate Sullivan of CNN Politics — Biden introduced top members of his health team on Tuesday and announced the team’s key objectives when he takes office. “It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis-tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism. Already ready to jump in. They’ve been advising me, many of them, for a long time. And they’re going to get ready on day one to spare not a single effort to get this pandemic under control,” he said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden said that in consultation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, his newly announced chief medical adviser, he has outlined three objectives for the team. First, for his initial 100 days in office, he will ask every American to wear a mask. 

Biden selects Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge for housing and Tom Vilsack for agriculture, sources say” via Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden has selected Ohio Rep. Fudge as his housing and urban development secretary and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in his administration, according to five people familiar with the decisions. Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was just elected to a seventh term representing a majority Black district that includes parts of Cleveland and Akron. Vilsack spent eight years as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration and served two terms as Iowa Governor. Biden sees Fudge as a leading voice for working families and a longtime champion of affordable housing, infrastructure and other priorities, according to one of the people familiar with the President-elect’s decision.

Joe Biden taps Ohio’s Marcia Fudge as HUD Secretary.

Pete Buttigieg may get China post” via Hans Nichols of Axios — Biden is considering a high-profile ambassadorship for Buttigieg, possibly sending him to China. The 38-year-old former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, whom Biden has compared to his late son, Beau, played a key role in Biden’s nomination. Letting him deepen his foreign policy chops could boost Buttigieg’s future, since many inside the Democratic Party believe his return as a presidential candidate is a matter of when, not if. The Beijing post has often gone to experienced politicians, toward the middle or end of their careers, as a way to confer respect to the Chinese. A Buttigieg nomination would invert that model and give the Chinese an opportunity to get to know a potential future President.

— 2020 —

Bevy of Mayors backing Manny Diaz’s bid for FDP chair” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava are among a bevy of municipal executives declaring endorsements for former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to be the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Diaz’s campaign is announcing the baker’s dozen of endorsements from current and former Florida Mayors as he works to lock up support from much of the party’s establishment. Last Friday, he announced he has the backings of 26 current and former state lawmakers and local officials. Diaz is running to replace Terrie Rizzo, the Florida Democratic Party’s current chair, who announced last week that she would not seek reelection to another term.

In his bid for FDP chair, Manny Diaz racks up major endorsements from several Florida Mayors.

Oscar Puig wins Doral City Council seat in runoff election” via Joey Flechas and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Puig will be the next Doral Council member after he defeated Juan Carlos Esquivel in Tuesday’s runoff election to fill Seat 3 on the city council. Puig, a 53-year-old real estate agent and longtime civic activist, carried the endorsement of the entire Doral council, led by Mayor Juan Carlos “JC” Bermudez. Bermudez won reelection himself in November. Esquivel, 54, a logistics professional, cast himself as an independent voice who would balance a commission. Puig and Esquivel won the most votes in the Novthree. 3 election, but neither captured the 50% plus one to win outright. Puig led the three-person race with about 44% while Esquivel won about 33%. On Tuesday, Puig won office with about 68% of the vote.

— D.C. MATTERS —

House passes defense spending bill with veto-proof majority despite Trump opposition” via Orion Rummler of Axios — The House voted 335-78 on Tuesday to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes a must-pass $740 million budget for defense spending. The vote was a veto-proof majority. But it remains unclear whether the same number of Republicans would vote to override a presidential veto. The large number of GOP votes shows how strong the bipartisan support is for this legislation, which has passed every year without fail for more than half a century. Trump has repeatedly foreshadowed a veto of the bill this year, demanding that Congress repeal a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Judge dismisses Mike Flynn case following pardon from Trump” via Eric Tucker of The Associated Press — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the criminal case against former Trump administration national security adviser Flynn but pointedly noted that a pardon Flynn received from the President last month does not mean that he is innocent. The order from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was expected in light of the pardon from Trump that wiped away Flynn’s conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. Sullivan acknowledged in his 43-page order that the President’s broad pardon powers required dismissal and that the decision to pardon him is a political, rather than legal, one.

Michael Flynn may have been pardoned, but a federal judge points out that it doesn’t mean he’s innocent. Image via AP.

Florida launches ‘strong case’ for Space Force Command” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello told the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors that Florida made a “very strong case” for the Patrick Air Force Base south of Cape Canaveral, which is one of six finalists for U.S. Space Command headquarters. “We’re already part of a support network for three combatant commands,” DiBello said. “We’re one of the most military-friendly communities and a very military-friendly state. We have a very large number of active-duty reserve and guard personnel and military dependents and more than 68,000 veterans, which is a good 11% of our population. And that’s indicative of the fact that this is a great place for a military facility to locate and to operate.”

— STATEWIDE —

Nikki Fried: Hemp lighting up Florida agriculture” via News Service of Florida — Hemp is blazing among Florida’s agriculture inventory since it was first allowed to be legally grown in the Sunshine State in April, Agriculture Commissioner Fried said Tuesday. Fried said 22,078 acres are currently licensed for hemp, nearly equal to the acreage in Florida of tomatoes, watermelon and snap peas. “I have projected that we are going to have seen, within the next three to five years, nearly 300,000 acres, which is about half what citrus is,” Fried told members of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors in a virtual call Tuesday morning. “So, imagine all the citrus industry here in the state of Florida — about 700,000 acres — and so we’re going to be getting close to half that.”

Florida’s hemp industry is turning heads, says Nikki Fried. Image via Twitter.

GOP lawyer resigns over treatment of Florida data analyst” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — A Sarasota lawyer resigned his appointment to the panel that picks judges on Tuesday to call attention to the way DeSantis has handled “public access to truthful data” and the raiding of a data analyst’s home. Ron Filipkowski, a Marine veteran, former state and federal prosecutor, and a lifelong Republican who was appointed to the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission by DeSantis resigned Tuesday morning after reviewing the search warrant affidavit the state used to seize computers and phones from Jones. Filipkowski, 52, who has served on the Judicial Nominating Commission for 10 years and was twice appointed to the role by former Gov. Rick Scott and once by DeSantis, called the Governor’s handling of the pandemic “reckless and irresponsible.”

Personnel note: Tiffany Vause named Deputy Chief of Staff at AHCA” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Vause is leaving the Department of Economic Opportunity to take the Deputy Chief of Staff position at the Agency for Health Care Administration. Vause is currently the Director of Communications and External Affairs at DEO. “We are excited to welcome Tiffany Vause to AHCA as a Deputy Chief of Staff,” said Acting Secretary Shevaun Harris. “In this role, Tiffany will be part of our all hands-on-deck effort to support the agency’s mission as we continue to make additions to our leadership team.” She previously served as the outreach director at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and as Communications Director at the Office of Financial Regulation. She also has private sector experience, having worked as the director of marketing operations at HealthSouth and as the director of marketing at Capitol Regional Medical Center. 

Tiffany Vause

Congratulations to Tiffany Vause, the newly named deputy chief of staff at the Agency for Health Care Administration.

This little community prevented parched Everglades areas from getting much-needed water: Why that’s about to change” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — An 8.5 square-mile community in South Florida has stymied Everglades restoration for years by blocking water flow to parched areas at the tip of the state, but new plans ranging in cost from $11 million to $100 million may soon change that. The South Florida Water Management District is looking at three potential projects that will allow water to sidle past the low-lying Las Palmas community in western Miami-Dade County to Everglades National Park without flooding homes and farms. With a new spillway completed in October that will double the flow of water released from an area north of the Tamiami Trail, the fix for Las Palmas is a top priority, district officials said.

— LOBBYING REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Ralph Criss, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Advanced Plumbing Technology, Florida Partnership to End Domestic Violence

Sara Clements, McGuireWoods Consulting: Center for Teaching Quality

Keyna Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: EZ Event Ride INC

Peter Dunbar, Dean Mead: Gaggle Net

Justin Strachan: Ygrene Energy Fund Florida

— LOCAL NOTES —

Cops seek killers who kidnapped, tortured and executed two truckers in Opa-locka” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Investigators are trying to find who kidnapped, tied up, tortured and fatally shot two truckers execution-style in Opa-locka over the weekend. Osmar Oliva and Johan Gonzalez Quesada and another man were beaten, shot point-blank, and dumped on Rutland Street’s 1800 block on Saturday evening. The third man, whose name has not been released, remains hospitalized at Ryder Trauma Center in critical condition. A father of three, Oliva owned Oliva Delivery Corp., headquartered in Opa-locka. Multiple law enforcement sources say masked men kidnapped the trio, bound them by the hands, and tortured them for hours in the back of a moving-type truck. One by one, each was shot in the head, and then dumped in the yard of a home.

School district seeks social media posts of Parkland victims’ families” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — They lost their children and their loved ones to violence when a disgruntled former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018, and now the Broward School District wants to know what these traumatized parents had to say on Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning is being asked to order the victims’ families to turn over their social media posts as part of multiple lawsuits accusing the school district of negligence in the Parkland massacre. The district cited multiple lawsuits in which social media postings were considered relevant to civil claims, including lawsuits against cities, malpractice cases and foreclosures.

As part of ongoing lawsuits, a Broward judge is ordering Parkland victims’ families to turn over their social media activity.

Sea-level rise could flood thousands of Miami’s affordable housing spots, research shows” via Alex Harris and Yadira Lopez of the Miami Herald — On Tuesday, the University of Miami debuted a new tool, funded by $500,000 in grants from JPMorgan Chase, to help community groups and politicians figure out how to keep affordable housing dry. It shows where all of Miami-Dade affordable housing (defined for this effort as paid for or subsidized by the government) is on a map, then layers on the expected flooding from sea level rise later in the century. In Miami-Dade, that’s a little over two feet of sea rise by 2060. By that point, the research found, more than 2,300 affordable housing units will be at risk of flooding driven by sea-level rise. By 2070, that number jumps to nearly 4,000.

Snubbed after two presidential searches, Miami Dade College’s top academic leader resigns” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Lenore Rodicio, Miami Dade College’s executive vice president and provost who was twice in the running to be the next president of the college, has resigned, the college confirmed Tuesday. Rodicio has been named a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said former Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón. “She’s very excited,” he said. “I’m not surprised. For the last two years, I’ve had to contend with people trying to steal her from here. It was the right moment, the right opportunity, so it’s good for her.” 

Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney takes over as Chairman of the North Florida Land Trust” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Delaney will take over as chairman of the board of the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT). Delaney was first elected mayor in 1995 and won a second term in 1999, making him the first Republican elected to that post since Reconstruction. After leaving office in 2003, he served as president of the University of North Florida (UNF) until 2018. During his tenure as mayor, Delaney helped create Preservation Project Jacksonville which is now the Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF). Delaney joined the board of TPF last week but the chairmanship of NFLT is a step up as he had previously been on the board.

John Delaney is taking the reins at the North Florida Land Trust.

A Florida painting company shorted workers $55,000 in pay through overtime violations” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — A Lakeland company has paid $55,439 in earned overtime pay it hadn’t paid employees before a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, the federal agency announced Monday. The back pay went to 71 workers at Universal Painting Corp., $780.83 per worker. Labor said a Wage and Hour Division investigation found that the company run since the 1990s by John Aldrich and Theresa Aldrich didn’t count the time workers spent getting from job site to job site as work time. That exclusion sometimes kept hours worked under 40 per week, depriving workers of overtime pay they should have received.

FDOT awards $67.3M for TECO Line Streetcar expansion and modernization project in Tampa” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa will receive $67.3 million to financially support the long-anticipated project to extend the service line into the Tampa Heights neighborhood and upgrade the fleet. The Florida Department of Transportation funding, which was granted through the New Starts transit funding program, is the largest to be awarded to a Tampa Bay transit project. The current streetcar route runs along a 2.7-mile path from Ybor City to the Channel District. Transit funding has been the Tampa Bay area’s Achilles’ heel, and Tampa Mayor Castor said this is a positive step for her “Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow” initiative to get more people where they need to be using mass transit.

— TOP OPINION —

Two scenarios could derail trust in the vaccines. Here’s how we must prepare for them.” via Leana Wen of The Washington Post — Here’s one that will almost certainly occur: A large number of people will experience side effects. In Phase 3 trials of both vaccines, 10 to 15% of participants reported significant noticeable symptoms. Some were self-reported to be severe and included fatigue, pain and swelling at the injection site, headache and muscle aches. Having side effects isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it signifies that the body is mounting an appropriate immune response. Then there’s my second nightmare situation: People will die of other causes, and the deaths will be wrongly attributed to the vaccine. There are ways to anticipate and mitigate this concern. In advance of mass vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide baseline numbers for expected illness and death among nursing home residents. Vaccines must be trusted, and trust can be quickly eroded.

— OPINIONS —

Why won’t DeSantis do more to promote COVID-19 vaccination?” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Ohio’s plan to promote and distribute COVID-19 vaccines is 52 pages long. It includes such details as follow-up reminders for the second dose. Maryland’s plan also is ambitious. According to the Baltimore Sun, the state may use celebrities, faith leaders, and “community messengers” to encourage vaccinations. The state will use different approaches based on demographics. Meanwhile, in Florida, DeSantis plans … mostly nothing. Compared to other Republican Governors, DeSantis remains a dangerous and frustrating outlier on the virus. He opposes restrictions on businesses, but widespread vaccinations will make more people comfortable with going to restaurants, movie theaters and theme parks. DeSantis also faces major challenges with the rollout. Not only is Florida the third-largest state, vaccination compliance already is low.

How wary should Florida be of COVID-related lawsuit immunity?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Businesses cannot be expected to be instant experts on how to handle a new pandemic. COVID-19 was unfamiliar, and the protocols for containing the spread changed. Businesses that act in good faith should not be held to an unreasonable standard of conduct. No one wants a rash of frivolous lawsuits from diners suing restaurants that acted responsibly and followed state rules. Nothing is risk-free and each of us needs to take personal responsibility for our actions, which includes choosing to eat out during a pandemic. But businesses should not get a free pass. Some will put profits before people, defying even basic protocols and common sense. The courts should be left to resolve those cases.

Florida candidates increasingly skip debates, forums. A tactic for the cowardly and unprepared … that sometimes works” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Have you noticed it’s getting harder to find politicians willing to give you straight answers, or sometimes any kind of answers at all? Well, that’s not by accident. The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that a political consultant in that region advises his clients to avoid candidate forums, knowing they might screw up if asked to think and speak for themselves in public. I agree that debate-ducking is a good strategy for certain kinds of candidates … particularly stupid ones. Forum-skipping is also a smart idea for cowards. And anyone who’s been recently arrested. Also, those who’ve reneged on past campaign promises, served as puppets for special interests, or have generally cruddy voting records.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis is back from the White House Summit on COVID-19 where he got a shoutout from Trump.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— While the Governor was acting as a cheerleader for Trump, the Florida Department of Health reported 98 more deaths and almost 8,000 new cases of COVID-19.

— Now that COVID-19 tanked the tourism trade, agriculture is the biggest economic driver in Florida and Agriculture Commissioner Fried says our new hemp crop is turning heads.

— Florida TaxWatch and the environmental group One Thousand Friends of Florida are looking to tackle M-CORES — the controversial plan to build three new toll roads through some of the last undeveloped areas of the state.

— Rep. Sabatini keeps pushing hot buttons in the Florida Legislature. The Howey-in-the-Hills Republican is now sponsoring a bill to ban red-light cameras. It would abolish the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Law. On Sunrise Flashback, you’ll hear from Mark’s widow Melissa.

— Repealing the red-light camera law is only one of the controversial bills Sabatini filed for the upcoming Session.

— And finally, meet a Florida Man who lets snakes bite him — for educational purposes.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Christopher Nolan rips HBO Max as “worst streaming service,” denounces Warner Bros.’ plan” via Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter — On Dec. 3, Warner Bros. was about to smash the theatrical window, sweeping its entire 17-picture 2021 film slate onto its faltering HBO Max streaming service, debuting them on the same day they would open in whatever theaters could admit customers. The instant response in Hollywood was outrage and a massive girding for battle. “Warners has made a grave mistake,” says one top talent agent. “Never have this many people been this upset with one entity.” Like others, he had spent much of the day dealing with calls from stunned and angry clients.

Christopher Nolan joins many in the film industry to blast Warner Bros’ decision to release movies on ‘fledgling’ HBO Max. Image via AP.

A ‘Christmas star’ will light up the sky this month for the first time in 800 years” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A rare Christmas star will light up the sky at the start of this month’s winter solstice, a shiny beacon that will be visible from South Florida without a telescope. It’s a planetary alignment that last happened in the year 1226, according to Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan. As they make their orbit around the sun, Jupiter and Saturn will slowly grow closer together over the next two weeks until they are almost completely aligned, according to NASA. When they align this closely, the two planets will appear to form a single bright star, also known as the “Christmas Star.”

Splash Mountain designer actually has a different Walt Disney World ride he wants to update“ via Dirk Libbey of Cinema Blend — While Disney World is currently seeing several new rides and concepts under construction, with major plans for Epcot in the next couple of years, the ride that everybody is really curious about is one that’s over 20-years-old: Splash Mountain. Tony Baxter, the Walt Disney Imagineer who originally conceived Splash Mountain will be an adviser on the redesign, but Baxter himself recently said there’s another attraction he would actually love to give a major update, Journey Into Imagination with Figment. Baxter said he would come out of retirement in order to work on a major update to the Epcot attraction. Baxter would also like to see even more come out of the attraction. He floated the idea of an animated film with Figment as the main character.

Pringles unveils full-body mascot after challenge from Last Week Tonight host John Oliver with $20K going to charity” via Rachel McGrath of Daily Mail — As the host of This Week Tonight, Oliver is not one to mince words or give up on a pet peeve lightly. So when he took Pringles to task over the brand’s mascot, it’s perhaps no surprise that the potato chip purveyor took notice. On Sunday, the HBO host said his show would donate $10,000 to Feeding America for the official new image. He didn’t have long to wait. The company also pledged to match Oliver’s $10,000 donation to the charity that seeks to provide support to families facing hunger via food banks, soup kitchens, and other community-based initiatives.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to raconteur Richard Reeves, as well as state Rep. Webster BarnabyGarrett Blanton, top legislative aide Beth LernerKim Siomkos, and Ben Weaver.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Source: floridapolitics.com

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