Big Ron Takes on Big Tech
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken on Big Tech in a very “big” way, so how long will it take before the technology “monopolies” like Twitter and Facebook canceled him for calling them out?
The countdown begins…
“Big tech has come to look more like Big Brother with each passing day,” DeSantis remarked, accusing tech companies of holding “monopoly power over a centrally important forum of public discourse.”
Gov. DeSantis has unveiled proposals to hold the Facebook’s of the world accountable for censoring Americans.
We all saw what they did to President Donald Trump and tens of thousands of Americans over the past month. Shameful.
“Silicon Valley CEOs wield extraordinary power, to the point of holistically controlling the flow of vast swaths of information in our country…a business can be dismantled, a community of friends & colleagues canceled, and even a sitting POTUS silenced.”d
Here is what DeSantis wants to see happen:
· Imposing a daily $100,000 fine on a tech company that deplatforms a candidate for elected office in Florida during an election until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored.
· If a tech company promotes one candidate for office against another, the value of that free promotion must be recorded as a political campaign contribution enforced by the Florida Elections Commission.
· If a tech company uses algorithms to suppress or prioritize the access of any content related to a political cause or candidate on the ballot, that company will face daily fines.
Expect this measure to be at the very top of the legislative agenda this year.
The line is drawn.
Rubio Backs Right to Bear Arms, Just not for Terrorists
It’s not sure if some Gun rights nuts are going to take issue with Senator Marco Rubio wanting to make gun restrictions against domestic and foreign terrorists who pose a threat to our way of life, READ MORE
Sec. I won’t support anyone who doesn’t believe immigration reform starts with securing the border. Biden wants open borders, amnesty & has halted border wall construction which will create a humanitarian crisis & threaten U.S. safety.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz @DWStweets –.@MTGreenee isn’t someone who has civil political disagreements. She’s a clout chaser & a conspiracy peddler who believes any nonsense she reads on the dark web. Her actions are irresponsible & dangerous & she must be stripped of her committee assignments.
US Rep Kathy Castor @USRepKCastor–With @POTUS we have a unique opportunity to help Puerto Rico modernize its electric grid, strengthening the island’s resilience while putting Puerto Ricans back to work.
We can also expand access to solar, boost energy efficiency, and lower energy costs.
Michael Grieco @Mike_Grieco –I thought Republicans believed in free markets….
Query: if corporate campaign donations are “free speech” how come private corporations can’t limit treason and propaganda on their own platforms with user agreements?
Our GOP Chair wouldn’t allow public questions when Dr. Rivkees appeared before our committee last week.
“Biden’s Defense Secretary Ousts Pentagon Advisory Boards To Purge Trump Appointees” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has dismissed hundreds of members of 42 Pentagon advisory boards in an effort to oust last-minute Trump administration appointees, according to a memo to senior Pentagon leadership. According to the memo dated Saturday, Austin removed all members serving on 31 defense advisory boards effective Feb. 16, including the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Business Board, and the Defense Innovation Board, and directed the immediate suspension of operations of 42 panels so the Pentagon can complete a “zero-based review.” “I am directing a zero-based review of all DoD advisory committees, to include any advisory committee that is not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA),” the memo reads. “I also direct, no later than February 16, 2021, the conclusion of service for all DoD advisory committee and subcommittee members currently serving on DoD advisory committees where the DoD approving authority is the Secretary of Defense or where a statute authorizes another DoD civilian officer or employee, or Active Duty member of the Armed Services to act as the DoD approving authority.” The ousting comes after Austin once sworn-in to the position began halting the processing of Trump’s appointees including Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deputy campaign manager David Bossie and former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller’s chief of staff Kash Patel. Both Lewandowski and Bossie who were named to the Defense Business Board were still in the security clearance process while Patel had been sworn in but his in-processing had been put on hold.
“Democrats Say FBI Director Wray contends that ANTIFA does not exist.” By The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Congressional Democrats, including former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, have used the tragic Capitol riot to label the entire Republican Party as a bunch of “white supremacists” and “Right-Wing Extremists” who have nothing constructive to contribute to society but their “racist” ideology. Yes, the individuals that stormed the Capitol on January 6th were a criminal element that supported President Donald Trump, with most of them probably having been affiliated with the Republican Party. Trump Republicans have also been called conspiracy theorists, or nutjobs, for spewing widely debunked and crazy conspiracies that have even been propagated by a few GOP members of Congress like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. But while there are conspiracy theorists within the Republican Party, the same can be said for members of the Democratic Party like Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, who also peddle in conspiracies. Mucarsel-Powell is one of many Democrats who do not believe the criminal ANTIFA element exists and recently told The Floridian that when she was a member of Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray told her and other members that ANTIFA didn’t exist. “We had a hearing with FBI director Wray and he confirmed no ANTIFA and biggest threat is white supremacy,” said Mucarsel-Powell.
“House Impeachment Managers File Pretrial Brief Arguing Trump ‘Singularly Responsible’ For Capitol Riot” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – House impeachment managers released their written brief Tuesday, laying out their formal argument to prosecute former President Donald Trump by accusing him of being “singularly responsible” for the “vicious January 6 insurrection” on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to impede the peaceful transfer of power. “In a grievous betrayal of his Oath of Office, President Trump incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol during the Joint Session, thus impeding Congress’s confirmation of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the winner of the presidential election,” the 80-page House brief said. “The facts are compelling and the evidence is overwhelming. After months of spreading his Big Lie that he won a landslide victory in the 2020 election, leading up to and on January 6, 2021, President Trump summoned, assembled, and incited a violent mob that attacked the Capitol, cost the lives of three police officers and four other people, threatened the Vice-President and Congress, and successfully halted the counting of the Electoral College vote.” The legal brief from the nine House impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) offered a first glimpse of the main arguments they intend to make during next week’s Senate impeachment trial. It also shot down GOP’s main argument that it is unconstitutional to impeach a former president, rebutting by arguing that the Senate has jurisdiction in the case and that there is no “January Exception” for impeachment. “There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution,” the brief said. “A president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last.”
“FEMA Commits to $245M for COVID-19 Vaccinations” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Senator Stephanie Murphy (D) announced this week that FEMA had committed to providing $245 Million to the Sunshine State to assist in COVID-19 vaccination costs. The announcement comes at a time when Florida continues to experience skyrocketing cases. Informing that “after months of urging the federal government to send additional resources to our state, I’m happy to share FEMA will provide Florida with $245M to fund vaccination efforts.” The leader of the Blue Dog Coalition also commented that “this funding will help us put an end to this deadly pandemic & save lives.” Specifically, the money provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go towards “equipment and supplies needed for storing, handling, and distributing vaccines,” “personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and patients,” “leasing facilities for storying and administering vaccines,” “additional medical and support staff, including facility infection control measures,” “emergency medical care,” “equipment for the safe disposal of medical waste,” and “communications to disseminate public information.” Gracia Szczech, the regional administrator for FEMA Region IV, further expressed that “this funding will help the state distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to more Floridians,” adding that “we have been working closely with our state partners since the onset of the pandemic, and these dollars will assist with their ongoing efforts.”
“Book Files Bill to Eliminate Civil Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Senator Lauren Book (D) has announced that she has filed SB 946, which would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against children. A companion bill, HB 23, has also been introduced by Rep. Michael Gottlieb (D). In a statement, Rep. Book commented that “fear, guilt, confusion, and shame often keep victims of child sexual abuse silent for years – and the scars last a lifetime.” However, “when these survivors find their voices, they deserve to be heard – whatever the timeline.” Book, herself a survivor of sexual assault, “began advocating for survivors of sexual abuse in 2002 – long before becoming a member of the Florida Senate, following physical, emotional, and sexual abuse perpetrated by a trusted caretaker.” As a result, “she has worked to prevent abuse through education and awareness and help survivors heal with guidance and support.” As mentioned by her office, “seventy-five percent of victims of child sexual abuse don’t tell anyone for a year, 45 percent have still not disclosed after 5 years, and many stay silent for a decade or more – as seen in the highly publicized cases of the Catholic Church, USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky, and others.” Because “sexual abuse is the most under-reported violent crime,” Book is working in the Florida Senate to ensure that the voices of the assaulted are not taken away regardless of the time that has passed since the assault.
“3 Florida House Republicans called conspiracy theorists by former Democrat Congresswoman” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have denounced Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s reprehensible, offensive, and outright idiotic conspiratorial theories, but former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) doesn’t accept the Republican condemnations against Rep. Greene’s remarks and says that she is going to do everything possible to defeat 3 of conspiracy theorist House Republicans because they do not support the expulsion of the controversial freshman congresswoman. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell is referring to Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Maria Elvira Salazar (pictured), and Carlos Gimenez, who defeated her in the 2020 presidential election. “I’ll do everything I can to vote @RepCarlos, @MaElviraSalazar, @mariodb out of office,” tweeted Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, adding that Republicans have “become the party of @” and of Rep. Greene. “The issue of removing someone from Congress is a very serious one and I would be hesitant to put myself in place of the people of Georgia who elected her,” said Rep. Gimenez in an interview with WLRN. According to the Miami Herald, Diaz-Balart was appalled by Greene’s comments, “ but that she shouldn’t be kicked out of Congress.” “The House of Representatives has never expelled any member, of either political party, for what they have said no matter how reprehensible the statement,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement to the Herald. “The comments that I’ve read in the press attributed to Marjorie Taylor Greene are unacceptable, and if true, merit an apology to Parkland families.”
“GOP Senators Says No Deal Reached With Biden On COVID Stimulus Package” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – A group of 10 “centralist” Republican senators took their COVID stimulus counterproposal to the White House Monday evening for a meeting with President Biden with no deal being reached after he told them he is not willing to settle on an insufficient aid package. The coalition of centrist Republican senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine included Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. The group sent a joint letter to Biden over the weekend requesting a meeting with the President “to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic,” adding that they “want to work in good faith.” “I wouldn’t say that we came together on a package tonight,” Collins told reporters following the meeting. “No one expected that in a two-hour meeting, but what we did agree to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level and amongst ourselves, and with the President and Vice President on how we can continue to work together on this very important issue.” Collins said the GOP senators are “very appreciative” that Biden chose the group for his “first official meeting in the Oval Office” where they had a “very productive” meeting in discussing the “next steps on the Covid relief package.”
“Eskamani: Past Democratic Party Leaders “Left us a Mess”” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – With tension increasing within the Republican party regarding President Donald Trump’s (R) impeachment trial next week, Democrats have been poised to take the upper hand in the political arena. They have control of the House, the Senate and they also have the Presidency in both President Joe Biden (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris (D), but now it appears that tension is growing within the Democratic party. The party that has positioned itself as the “Medicare-for-all” appears to be facing scrutiny over its “mess” concerning the handling of health insurance with employees. In a newly released report, the Florida Democratic Party was accused of allowing health insurance for its employees to lapse at the end of 2020, and this left staff unable to pay medical bills. The newly elected party chair, Manny Diaz, was interviewed on the matter, and he commented that the policy would be reinstated this week so that staffers would have any issues pertaining to their medical bills resolved. “The claims will be paid,” Diaz commented, adding that “everyone will be paid.” This announcement has drawn ire from many prominent Democrats. Florida Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D), who has hinted at the idea that she will be running against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in 2022, was furious at past leaders of the party, saying that they “have left us a mess & it’s absolutely shameful.” She also questioned, “how do you not prioritize the health & well-being of party staff & allow their health coverage to drop? How much $ was spent on consultants that could have been spent on our people?”
“Florida City Proclaims ” Donald Trump Week”” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Democrats appear poised to push back against the show of public support for former President Donald Trump by any local or state government, especially if it involves name a bridge, street, public building, or highway after the 45th President of the United States. Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who recently introduced legislation to have U.S. Hwy 27 rename “President Donald J. Trump Highway,” addressed the city government of Frostproof, Florida after they proclaimed that Feb 1-6 would be “Donald Trump Week” from now on. The city’s mayor, Jon Albert, made the proclamation and noted that 76% of its residents supported Trump while highlighted several of President Trump’s major accomplishments, including unprecedented job creation during his term in office. “Great to be in the City of Frostproof FL tonight to speak in favor of a Proclamation declaring this week “Donald Trump Week,” tweeted Sabatini. “First city in the nation to do this!”
“House Democrats Move To Expel GOP Congresswoman” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – Newly elected Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a big name for herself after she contended that the infamous Parkland school shooting in 2018 was staged. Since last week, rhetoric has spread of House Democrats making a push to expel Greene from Congress. This prompted Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) to co-sponsor a bill to expel Greene from the committees she sits on (House Education & Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee). If the resolution goes to a vote, it is unlikely Republicans will back the cause. Fellow Representative, Schultz, who resides very close to Parkland stated that Greene, “cannot be entrusted to make education and budget policy.” Deutch who represents Parkland defined this as a “line-in-the-sand moment” for the Republican Party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is expected to speak with Greene, but the party is not expected to inflict any repercussions. Greene’s presence does raise an important question of, where will the post-Trump Republican Party go? Will it be won over by those among the likes of Greene, or go back to the Liz Cheney (R) establishment?
“Cruz Attacks Biden’s “Radical, Extreme, and Divisive Policies”” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Since President Joe Biden took power last month after failed attempts to overturn election results, Senator Ted Cruz (TX-R) has publicly levied frequent criticisms of the new President. On Friday, he joined ‘The Michael Berry Show,’ ‘The Lars Larson Show,’ ‘The Sean Hannity Show,’ and ‘The Rick Roberts Show’ to discuss Biden’s policy agenda. As the U.S. Senate continues swearing in Biden’s new Cabinet, Cruz commented on the attitudes among senior Democratic leadership towards China. “I think it is more of an ideological commitment. Today’s Democratic Party is a party that loves communist China,” Cruz stated. “What we’ve been seeing the last two weeks is a really disturbing pattern among Joe Biden nominees—that one after the other after the other is telegraphing an embrace of China.” He further argued that Biden’s executive actions on climate change would only serve to benefit China: “Joe Biden knows about China. […] We’re seeing with the Biden administration, a major, major pivot towards an embrace of communist China. It’s one of the reasons why in the very first week in office, Joe Biden signed an executive order reentering the Paris Climate Deal. What does that do? That threatens millions of jobs here in the United States and it benefits China.” State Department seniors Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have not echoed the ideological tone of the Trump administration on the ruling Chinese Communist Party. They have, however, backed the previous administration’s assertion that Beijing was committing “genocide” of Uighurs in Xinjian, and released a hardline statement on Taiwan.
“A Florida CEO Posted His Selfie in Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, Some Longtime Customers Are Boycotting His Company.” By WSJ’S Patrick Thomas – Bartenders have long ordered cocktail shakers, strainers and stainless-steel jiggers from BarProducts.com. Some stopped after Jan. 6, when the company’s chief executive posted a photo of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol while rioters stormed Congress. The since-deleted selfie of BarProducts founder and CEO Mark Hastings, accompanied by the caption “Stop the Steal!,” has led to a fight with some of its once-loyal customers. The dust-up is the latest example of CEOs taking public stances and the backlash that can follow. “After 16 years of buying my bar tools from his company I, for one, will never spend another cent with them,” Brad Kaplan, 46, posted on Facebook alongside a screenshot of Mr. Hastings’s selfie in a Trump hat. Mr. Kaplan, who bartends at the Denver International Airport, was among the dozens of bartenders and owners who took to social media to denounce Mr. Hastings or call for a boycott of his company, generating hundreds of comments in support and thousands of “likes” across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Some commenters defended Mr. Hastings’s right to protest and decried what they described as the cancel-culture nature of a boycott. Jabriel Donohue, bar manager at the Mountaineering Club cocktail bar inside the Graduate Hotel in Seattle, wrote on Facebook that he is done with BarProducts after buying from the site for more than a decade. “This is a person I’ve given money to and in some way, I feel a little responsible for funding him to be there,” he said.
“Charlie Crist considers run for Florida governor again” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser – Is Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida playing political “musical chairs?” That’s what the Republican Party of Florida says, after the former GOP governor turned Democratic congressman acknowledged that he’s considering a gubernatorial run next year. Crist said over the weekend in an interview with a local TV station that he “would be open to” a third run for governor. “If you ask me, have some people suggested that I should contemplate potentially running for Governor next year? Yes, they have. While it doesn’t get much of my attention in my brain right now, it is something that I would be open to,” Crist told the CBS TV station in Miami. In the interview, Crist distanced himself from the push last year by some Democrats to defund the police, saying “law enforcement is something we have to fight for.” He also emphasized that “I love the environment; we need to protect it. If we don’t, it hurts us economically” and noted that “I fought for teachers as governor before.” “These are the kind of things I think Floridians want. That’s why I’m opening my brain to the idea a little bit more,” Crist stressed as he contemplated a gubernatorial run. Asked by Fox News to respond the flirtations by Crist, the Florida GOP said “Charlie Crist is still playing musical chairs with Florida political seats. He’s lost as a Republican, Independent and Democrat.”
“Two FBI Agents Dead, Three Hurt Serving Warrant in South Florida” by WSJ’s Sadie Gurman and Arian Campo-Flores – Two FBI agents were killed and three others wounded while serving a warrant in South Florida Tuesday morning, in one of the deadliest shootings in the bureau’s history. The agents were part of a team of law-enforcement officers executing a federal-search warrant in a crimes-against-children case in the city of Sunrise. Officials said they were aiming to seize evidence in a child-pornography investigation. As they executed the warrant just after 6 a.m. at an apartment complex, the suspect began shooting and then barricaded himself inside the complex, a Sunrise city spokeswoman said. Officials said the gunman is also dead. FBI Director Christopher Wray identified the agents who were fatally shot as Special Agent Daniel Alfin and Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger, whom he said “exemplified heroism today in defense of their country.” “The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery,” Mr. Wray said. Two other agents, who were shot multiple times, were hospitalized in stable condition, the FBI said. A third agent was treated at the scene. Law enforcement shut down a main thoroughfare in the area and, as the incident was unfolding, advised nearby residents to remain in their homes, according to the Sunrise Police Department. Local TV footage showed a heavy police presence in the area. Sunrise, a city of about 94,000 people with expansive subdivisions, is west of Fort Lauderdale at the edge of the Everglades. “Collectively, our law enforcement community across the nation hangs their heads in sadness and sorrow today,” Sunrise Mayor Michael J. Ryan said in an email to residents, adding that some apartment dwellers would be displaced for a few days while investigators process the crime scene.
“Florida dispatch audio reveals chilling moment two FBI agents are fatally shot” by Fox News’ Paul Best – Dispatch audio from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office reveals the moments that two FBI agents were fatally shot and three more were injured while serving a search warrant at a South Florida residence in a child pornography case early Tuesday morning. “Five officers shot… we are treating them,” an officer can be heard saying frantically at the beginning of the clip. Minutes later, officers were discussing securing the area in Sunrise, Florida. An officer then says “They have somebody watching the open gate, correct?” Another officer then appears to announce officers are converging on the suspect’s residence. “Do not fire towards the front porch. Do not fire towards the front porch,” he appears to say. “We’re going to be moving up.” Around 6:00 a.m. ET, FBI agents from the Miami field office and other law enforcement agencies served a search warrant at a home in Sunrise, Fla., as part of a violent crimes against children investigation. “The operation this morning in Sunrise ended tragically with the suspect opening fire on members of the search team,” FBI Miami Special Agent in Charge George Piro said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The suspect fired on the officers with an assault-style rifle through an unopened door as they approached the residence, according to the Miami Herald. “There are several huge holes in the door going outward,” a law enforcement official told the newspaper.
“Florida lawmakers challenge Silicon Valley over ‘censorship’” by Associated Press – Florida lawmakers, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, intensified their battle with Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley when they announced new proposals Tuesday aimed at reigning in platforms they accuse of squelching the free speech of conservatives. “Over the years, these platforms have changed from neutral platforms that provide Americans with the freedom to speak to enforcers of preferred narratives,” the governor said Tuesday during a news conference at the Florida Capitol. Social media companies have been simultaneously praised and condemned in recent weeks as they cracked down on inciteful posts they said could foment further violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Conservatives have long accused social media companies and other tech giants of harboring bias against them. Republicans in other states are considering similar bills that push back against social media giants they deem unfriendly. “Florida is taking back the virtual public square as a place where information and ideas can flow freely. We’re demanding transparency from the big tech giants,” state House Speaker Chris Sprowls said. About four in every five Americans — some 250 million people — have profiles on social media. Th ose with substantial followings, including elected officials, celebrities and other public figures, have platforms they can readily deploy to amplify their messaging.
“What’s your Florida COVID vaccine eligibility if you’re ‘high-risk’ but not 65?” by WFLA’s Mahsa Saeidi – Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida’s COVID-19 vaccination policy is seniors first. But what if you’re living with a condition that puts you at an even greater risk of death? 8 On Your Side is looking into the eligibility of this group. If you’re under 65 with a comorbidity, you currently qualify to get the vaccine in Florida. But people in this high-risk group tell 8 On Your Side that sign-up is nearly impossible. Florida’s new COVID-19 vaccine registration system states that currently eligible residents like health care workers, seniors and individuals deemed extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 can pre-register for the shot. But as 62-year-old James Stevens discovered, if you’re in the latter group, despite the words on the computer screen, you actually can’t register on the site. “What happens when you try to register with the state system?” asked investigator Mahsa Saeidi. “It won’t allow me. It only looks at the age,” said Mr. Stevens. “I wish they weren’t telling me I’m eligible but then not allow me to register.” Mr. Stevens says his doctor has determined he is highly vulnerable to COVID-19. “She says I’m at high risk of having heart disease and high-blood pressure and COPD,” said Mr. Stevens. “She’s written a letter for me to provide to get the vaccine.”
“Struggling Northwest Florida businesses take another hit from reemployment tax” by WEAR TV’s Rebekah Castor – Northwest Florida businesses have struggled to sustain profitable income through the pandemic over the last 10 months. Now they face a new challenge — a surge in taxes linked to unemployment. Pensacola businesses are starting to see the impacts of the higher reemployment taxes that went into effect in January. Many business owners see this as just another financial hit after an already difficult year. “We were just looking at numbers the other day and we’ll probably end the year about 50% down in revenue at all the restaurants,” restaurant owner Collier Merrill says. Merrill owns several popular downtown Pensacola restaurants including the Fish House, 5 Sisters Café, and Jackson’s Steakhouse. Merrill says based on his tax rate, he expects to pay an additional $50,000 in reemployment taxes this year — on top of losing about 50% of his business. The money will be used to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund. “I think the state has done a fabulous job overall with COVID,” he said. “But this extra penalty, so to speak, to replenish that when it’s not the employees fault — if they were mandated to shut down, and then they had to lay off their employees, now they have to pay a higher tax because of it.” To break it down, a business that was paying the minimum reemployment tax rate of $7 per employee last year is now paying $20.30 per employee.
“Florida adds another 10,533 COVID-19 cases” by News4Jax – The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 10,533 new cases of the coronavirus. Since March, 1,737,640 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 and 27,269 deaths have been connected to the virus. Duval County has recorded 82,738 total cases during that time, including 522 cases that were reported Tuesday. On Tuesday, the state Department of Health also reported 140 additional coronavirus-related deaths. Of those deaths, 14 were recorded in Northeast Florida: four in Bradford County (44 total deaths), three in St. Johns (170), three in Baker (51), two in Duval (929), one in Flagler (71) and one in Nassau (95). Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,094 people in Northeast Florida have died related to the virus. As of Tuesday afternoon, 6,022 people were hospitalized in Florida with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.
“In email to Amazon employees, Bezos details reasons for stepping down as CEO” by Fox Business’ Thomas Barrabi – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who revealed plans Tuesday to step down as CEO of the e-commerce giant later in 2021, explained the reasoning behind his decision in an email to company employees. In the lengthy message, Bezos said his transition to the role of executive chairman “isn’t about retiring.” While the billionaire plans to maintain an active role in Amazon’s leadership, he cited a desire to spend more time working on his other projects. “Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” Bezos wrote. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.” Bezos will officially step down as CEO in the third quarter of Amazon’s fiscal year 2021. As executive chairman, Bezos said he intends to “focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.” Andy Jassy, a longtime Amazon executive who currently heads its lucrative web services division, will replace Bezos as CEO. “Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have,” Bezos wrote. “He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”
“Biden immigration orders raise COVID-19 concerns at the border” by Fox News’ Michael Ruiz – With President Biden relaxing Tuesday some immigration policies bolstered under the Trump administration, U.S. health and immigration officials have been vague about coronavirus testing for people caught crossing the southern border illegally. Customs and Border Patrol has reported an uptick in migrant apprehensions in the wake of some of Biden’s new policies, especially near the Rio Grande Valley and Tucson, Arizona. CBP said it began taking COVID-19 precautions back in March 2020, around the beginning of the pandemic. “By processing in the field and quickly expelling individuals who cross the border illegally, we protect them, our agents, and the American public from potential exposure to COVID-19,” CBP said in a statement Tuesday. “These measures will remain in place until the CDC Director determines that the danger of the further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health.” The procedures include COVID-19 screenings upon apprehension, according to CBP. “CBP personnel conduct initial inspections for symptoms or risk factors associated with COVID-19 and consult with onsite medical personnel, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or local health systems as appropriate,” the agency said in a statement. “Onsite medical personnel can provide basic assessment and supportive treatment, but suspected COVID-19 cases are referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis, and treatment.”
“Manchin’s misgivings about $1.9T relief plan include $15 minimum wage, $350B state and local aid” by Fox Business’ Brittany De Lea – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Tuesday committed to bipartisan work on a COVID-19 relief package as Democrats and Republicans disagree over what to include in legislation and how it should be passed. Manchin, who is considered a key swing vote in the chamber where the partisan balance hangs at an even 50-50, promised that Republicans would have input in passing additional relief legislation. “We’re going to make this work in a bipartisan way, my friends on the other side are going to have input and we’re going to do something that we agree on,” Manchin told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Tuesday night. “I’m not going to do it just down the lines of … just party line vote. It has to make sense … We’re not going to blow it down the line.” Earlier in the day, Manchin said he would vote to move forward with a budget resolution brought forward by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., allowing senators to draft parts of a reconciliation bill that could theoretically pass without any Republican support – so long as all Democrats sign on. Manchin stopped short of directly telling Baier he would not approve legislation through budget reconciliation. He has not committed to signing onto any drafted legislation, which would presumably require his vote. He said he made fellow Democrats aware that he planned to advance relief in a bipartisan way. One of the major differences in the relief packages is the value of potential economic impact payments. Democrats are seeking $1,400 payments, while Republicans are proposing $1,000 payments that would be targeted to low-income households.
“Republican senators distance themselves from Marjorie Taylor Greene as she meets with McCarthy” by CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Lauren Fox, and Manu Raju – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is in an hours-long meeting with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an incendiary freshman lawmaker, who has come under fire from GOP senators who say her extremist views should not be welcome in the Republican Party. McCarthy has been silent amid the controversy but has been under growing pressure to act, summoning the powerful Steering Committee for a late-night meeting amid pressure to remove the Georgia Republican from her committee assignments. The GOP steering panel can remove Republican House members from their committee posts. From comments questioning whether the Parkland school shooting was a “false flag” to her doubts that a plane really hit a Pentagon on September 11, 2001, to CNN’s reporting last week on her indicated support for executing prominent Democrats before running for Congress, many Republican senators are saying enough is enough. Republicans are at a crossroad in the House with Greene as Democrats threaten to act, and GOP members of Congress “are going to have to decide who they want to be,” a top GOP senator said on Tuesday. “Do they want to be the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility, free markets, peace through strength and pro-life or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon,” Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota and a member of GOP leadership said. “I think that is the decision they’ve got to face. It’s a big distraction for them right now and not in a good way.”
“Georgia secretary of state investigating whether pro-Trump attorney voted illegally” by CNN’s Jason Morris and Paul LeBlanc – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched an investigation into whether attorney Lin Wood voted as a legal resident in the November election, a source with Raffensperger’s office confirmed to CNN. Wood, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, was one of the lawyers who unsuccessfully pushed a handful of lawsuits to block Georgia’s election results after alleging fraud. The cases were rapidly dismissed by the courts and described as disinformation by state election officials.
Wood said in a statement to CNN, “I have been a resident of the State of Georgia since 1955. I have changed my residency to South Carolina yesterday.” “This is pure harassment by the Georgia Secretary of State,” he added before pushing more baseless voter fraud allegations. Earlier Tuesday, Wood told Justin Gray of WSB-TV that he had moved out of Georgia and “been domiciled in South Carolina for several months after purchasing property in the state in April.” Gray tweeted that those comments “caught the eye of investigators.” Wood said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday night that he has not been “domiciled” in South Carolina. “I have not been ‘domiciled’ in South Carolina for several months,” Wood told CNN. “I have spent time at my homes in Georgia and South Carolina. I considered myself to be domiciled and a resident of Georgia until yesterday when I made the decision to become a resident of South Carolina. Now I expect to be domiciled in South Carolina too. I will still frequently visit Georgia.”
“Remains of US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lie in honor at Capitol” by CNN’s Caroline Kelly – The remains of the late US Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick arrived at the US Capitol on Tuesday night to lie in honor in the building’s famous Rotunda, less than four weeks since he died after responding to the riot that erupted in the building. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday that Sicknick would lie in honor under the historic dome. The ceremonial arrival began at 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday at the East Front of the Capitol, and a viewing period will begin at 10 p.m. for members of the US Capitol Police and continue overnight. Lying in state is typically reserved for leaders of American government, but two US Capitol Police officers shot to death in 1998 were the first private citizens to lie in honor at the Capitol. Sicknick’s family released a statement on Saturday thanking “congressional leadership for bestowing this historic honor on our fallen American hero.” “We also wish to express our appreciation to the millions of people who have offered their support and sympathies during this difficult time. Knowing our personal tragedy and loss is shared by our nation brings hope for healing,” the statement said. Multiple lawmakers had called for Sicknick to be honored at the Capitol, and two Republicans from South Carolina had introduced a bill that would allow him to lie in the Rotunda before his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Sicknick, a New Jersey native who had served in the National Guard, died the day after the riot “due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” the Capitol Police said in a statement at the time. He was one of five people who died in the violence.
“Biden Presses Case for Large Covid Aid Package” by WSJ’s Andrew Duehren – President Biden rallied Senate Democrats to pass a large Covid-19 relief package as party lawmakers pushed forward with a legislative process that would allow them to pass a $1.9 trillion package without Republican votes. During a virtual meeting Tuesday with Senate Democrats, which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined, Mr. Biden argued that providing too little aid presents a greater risk to the economy than offering too much, according to people familiar with the call. Mr. Biden told Democrats that the U.S. hasn’t provided enough support to the economy during previous recessions. Democrats on Capitol Hill are working on translating Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan, which bolsters unemployment aid, provides funds for vaccine distribution, and sends $1,400 checks to many Americans, among other measures, into legislation. “President Biden spoke about the need for the Congress to respond boldly and quickly,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Tuesday after the meeting. Mr. Biden’s meeting with Democrats comes a day after a group of 10 Republicans pitched Mr. Biden on a $618 billion proposal during a White House meeting, calling for the administration to quickly pass a bipartisan package. Mr. Biden, who didn’t take questions during Tuesday’s meeting, told Democrats that he thinks the GOP proposal is too small. On Tuesday, Democrats took early procedural steps in a process called reconciliation, which will allow the Democrats to skirt the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and pass the package instead with a simple majority. In the Senate, all 50 Democrats voted to proceed to the budget resolution necessary to reconciliation, overcoming 49 Republican votes with one GOP absence, and the House approved a procedural step later Tuesday.
“GameStop Mania Hits a Wall of Tighter Trading Terms” by WSJ’s Joe Wallace, Amrith Ramkumar and Gunjan Banerji – A weekslong mania centering on GameStop Corp. and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. suffered its sharpest reversal yet on Tuesday, following an exchange operator’s decision to rein in the use of borrowed money in another hot market, silver. GameStop shares suffered their largest-ever decline, dropping 60% and surrendering more than $9 billion in market value, despite a flurry of posts on online forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets exhorting traders to hold on to the shares. AMC dropped 41%. The rout in WallStreetBets favorites came after CME Group Inc. raised margin requirements for silver futures, which on Monday had posted their largest one-day rise in more than a decade—a move many traders attributed to posts on social media calling for traders to buy silver. On Tuesday, silver futures fell 10% and the largest silver exchange-traded fund fell 8.3%. Tuesday’s selloff came as popular trading app Robinhood Markets continued easing the restrictions it adopted during last week’s heavy trading. The firm reduced the number of stocks that face trading curbs to five, and further loosened restrictions on how many shares users can buy of GameStop, though the stock continues to carry the most stringent limitations. Robinhood earlier raised billions of dollars from investors to ride out the continuing trading frenzy. U.S. lawmakers said they plan to hold hearings on short selling, online trading and the role of social media. Major indexes posted a second day of strong advances, extending a recent pattern in which assets favored by online traders move in one direction and U.S. blue-chips the other. The Dow industrials rose 476 points, or 1.6%, to 30687. The broad market’s general health contrasts with the volatility and extreme behaviors exemplified by the WallStreetBets episode, traders said, noting that GameStop and others remain up sharply for the year despite Tuesday’s declines.
“Trump, House Democrats Lay Out Impeachment Trial Strategies” by WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus and Siobhan Hughes – House impeachment managers said they were on solid constitutional ground in seeking to convict Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, while the former president’s lawyers denied that he sparked the deadly riot and argued that it is unconstitutional for the Senate to convict an impeached former officeholder. Ahead of next week’s trial, the House Democrats in charge of taking the impeachment case to the Senate submitted a brief Tuesday, and Mr. Trump formally responded to a summons issued by the Senate. Mr. Trump’s own brief is due Monday, one day before the trial begins in earnest. In their trial brief arguing that the constitution’s framers anticipated the threat of presidential abuse, the impeachment managers wrote that “it is unthinkable that those same Framers left us virtually defenseless against a president’s treachery in his final days, allowing him to misuse power, violate his Oath, and incite insurrection against Congress and our electoral institutions simply because he is a lame duck. There is no ‘January Exception’ to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution.” Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued in their 14-page filing that the aim of convicting a president in the Senate is removal, making it unconstitutional to hold such a trial for one who has left office, and called for the case to be dismissed. His lawyers also argued that Mr. Trump didn’t engage in insurrection or rebellion, saying that he had “exercised his First Amendment right under the Constitution to express his belief that the election results were suspect” and that he hadn’t incited violence.
“Pentagon Clears Out Advisory Boards to Oust Last-Minute Trump Picks” by WSJ’s Nancy A. Youssef – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed hundreds of members of the Pentagon’s policy advisory boards Monday, ousting last-minute Trump administration nominees as well as officials appointed by previous administrations. By removing members, effective Feb. 16, Mr. Austin avoided selectively firing those appointed by the Trump administration. The defense chief also ordered a review of at least 42 boards to be completed by June, defense officials said. “Advisory boards have and will continue to provide an important role in shaping public policy within [the Department of Defense],” Mr. Austin wrote in a memo to the Pentagon’s leadership. “That said, our stewardship responsibilities require that we continually assess to ensure each advisory committee provides appropriate value today.” Mr. Austin believed “this was the most fair, most equitable way” to address questions about the boards, a defense official said in a briefing with reporters. The move was foreshadowed last week when Mr. Austin suspended the onboarding process for Trump administration nominees to Pentagon advisory boards, effectively preventing them from being seated. Mr. Austin’s directive last week applied to Trump nominees who were still in the security clearance process. Among those who were affected then were Corey Lewandowski, former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, both of whom had been named to the Defense Business Board, an unpaid group that advises the defense secretary and other leaders on business practices.
“House Dems move to yoke GOP to QAnon” by Politico’s Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris – House Democrats are preparing to center their strategy for the far-off midterm elections on a simple, aggressive message: Republicans are the party of QAnon. Making an unusually early move to protect their narrow majority, House Democrats’ campaign arm on Tuesday launched its first TV ad campaign, spotlighting supporters of the fringe conspiracy theory — including those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. It is the first step in a larger plan, orchestrated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s new chairman, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, to exploit the growing friction between Trump hardliners and establishment Republicans in the GOP base, which Maloney sees as a major weak point for the party. “If Kevin McCarthy wants to take his party to ‘crazy town’ and follow these dangerous ideas, he shouldn’t expect to do well in the next election,” Maloney told POLITICO in an interview previewing the party’s strategy, referring to the House minority leader. “And it’s important to the country that the Democratic Party continues to be the responsible adult.” Maloney said the campaign message crystallized after the pro-Trump siege on Jan. 6, which was fueled, in part, by false Internet theories. “It was at the heart of the violent attack on the Capitol, but it had its roots going back years,” he said. The new chairman has the uneviable task of shielding a razor-thin Democratic majority during a redistricting cycle and a midterm, when the president’s party typically loses seats. But he’s betting Democrats can mount a successful offensive using the kind of culture-war attacks that the GOP ruthlessly deployed against Democrats last cycle — including the barrage of “defund the police” ads that forced moderates to run away from their party’s far left.
“‘I thought I was going to die’: AOC personalizes insurrection, bringing up past sexual assault” by Politico’s Matthew Choi – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday offered a deeply personal account of the Capitol insurrection, denouncing Republican calls to move on from the event as akin to tactics used by abusers and opening up about her own history with sexual assault. Via Instagram Live, the New York Democrat excoriated Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, saying they had encouraged the rioters by supporting former President Donald Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election, and accusing them of failing to take responsibility for their role. She said members of Congress were aware of the risks days before the attack, adding that some of her colleagues had warned her to be careful on Jan. 6. “These folks that tell us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, that we should forget what’s happened or even telling us to apologize, these are the same tactics as abusers,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This is not about a difference of political opinion. This is about basic humanity.” During the social media event, which attracted more than 160,000 viewers, Ocasio-Cortez also disclosed that she was a survivor of sexual assault — an experience that, she said, made her “struggle with the idea of being believed.” “How I felt was: Not again,” she said. “I’m not going to let this happen again.” Republicans have been deeply divided in the wake of the Capitol attack, and mistrust across the aisle has been at near unprecedented highs in modern history. Democrats have openly expressed fear for their safety around some members of the GOP, and Republicans continue to battle out the future direction of their party after 10 of their House members voted to impeach Trump following the insurrection.”