- U.S.Los Angeles Times Opinion
Students will start the new school year they way the ended the last one — online and at home.
Naya Rivera's 4-year-old son Josey "told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub told reporters
- U.S.The Guardian
‘America’s weirdest state’ offers an extreme case of the country’s broader failure to take the pandemic seriouslyI have spent the past three months in my home state of Florida, during which time I’ve watched it become the hottest of coronavirus hotspots on the planet. This week began with the announcement that the state registered over 15,000 new infections in a single day, which was almost 3,000 more daily cases than any state previously had recorded since the pandemic began. If Florida was a country, according to Reuters, it would have the world’s fourth-highest tally of new Covid-19 cases over that 24-hour span, trailing only the US, Brazil and India.Florida has a well-deserved reputation as America’s weirdest state, so perhaps the pandemic punishment being meted out to us right now shouldn’t come as a shock. A 1948 Fortune magazine study observed: “Florida is a study in abnormal psychology, useful in signaling the … hidden derangements of the national mood.” A lot of bad trends in American life find their most bizarre and refined forms in the Sunshine state, which is why “Florida Man” has become shorthand for the bad behavior of too many state residents. As far as the present pandemic is concerned, the simplest and most convincing explanation for why Florida is experiencing an explosion of Covid-19 cases it that it is an extreme case of the broader American failure to take the pandemic seriously.Considerable blame rests with the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. A former member of the House Freedom Caucus, the most slavishly pro-Trump faction in Congress, he won election as governor in 2018 largely on the strength of the president’s endorsement as well as campaign ads that showed him teaching his children how to build walls and recite “Make America Great Again”.Unsurprisingly, he followed Trump’s lead in minimizing the seriousness of the pandemic. Florida was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order, in early April, and began reopening little more than a month later. A state data scientist responsible for tracking the spread of the virus was fired when, she claimed, she wouldn’t manipulate the data to show sufficient recovery from the pandemic to justify further easing of restrictions.Even now, DeSantis is aggressively pushing for schools to reopen next month, on the grounds that if big-box stores like Walmart and Home Depot can resume operations successfully, then so can schools. Teachers object that schools are smaller and more crowded spaces, and that few customers spend eight hours a day in the stores. But perhaps DeSantis is channeling the dystopian future vision of the film Idiocracy, in which higher education has been taken over by stores like Costco.DeSantis, to his credit, allowed some of the hardest-hit cities and counties to delay reopening and require masks in some public settings – unlike the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona, who blocked any pandemic restrictions more stringent than those imposed by the state (both governors have backtracked). He also seems, in hindsight, to have been unfairly pilloried by the media for allowing beaches to stay open, in view of current opinions on the lower risk of outdoor transmission. Florida’s subtropical climate is an irresistible inducement to hedonismIt’s also clear that Florida, like the country as a whole, failed to shut down to the extent and duration necessary to contain the spread of the virus, or to wear masks and practice social distancing to the extent that was routine in most societies where the virus was successfully brought under control. During the first two months I was down here, I rarely saw as many as half of the customers (and in some cases staff) in supermarkets and drugstores wearing masks. Groups of teenagers thronged the shopping malls as if the pandemic was a thing of the past.Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, gyms, massage parlors, nail salons and a host of other transmission-friendly environments reopened in early June, with distancing restrictions more or less ignored. Floridians who chafed at weeks of restrictions made up for lost time by partying down with a kind of feral intensity, to judge by local social media, at any rate. Florida’s subtropical climate is an irresistible inducement to hedonism, and many of the young people who crowded into bars and nightclubs believed that they had nothing to fear from the virus. Health officials have linked more than 150 Covid-19 cases to a single bar in Orlando. (DeSantis subsequently banned on-premise alcohol consumption at establishments that derive more than half of their income from alcohol sales.)There could be some other factors peculiar to Florida that explain the virulence of the pandemic’s spread here. Partisanship is hard-edged here, and not wearing a mask has become a mark of Republican tribal identity. Many conservatives I know (particularly men) consider mask-wearing to be an infringement upon their constitutional freedom. Skepticism of science and experts, along with ingrained contrarianism – some otherwise sane Floridians I know resolutely maintain that the virus is a hoax, or no worse than seasonal flu – surely plays a role in some cases as well.The state government’s handling of the pandemic has proved shockingly inadequate, largely because the previous Republican administration sabotaged its institutional capacities. It took weeks and even months for laid-off Floridians to get unemployment relief, largely because the online system was designed to make it harder for workers to receive benefits so that the previous governor (now a senator), Rick Scott, could claim lower jobless numbers.Floridians historically have shown a ferocious individualism and an unwillingness to abide by state government restrictions. In addition, the severe economic damage inflicted by the shutdown surely has made people more willing to engage in magical thinking about how the dangers of the virus have been inflated by the media and the establishment, including the mistaken belief that hot weather prevents virus spread. The inability of too many Floridians to distinguish between reality and fantasy is part of what’s frustrating about this placeTwo-thirds of Florida’s residents (and nearly all of its tourists) come here from somewhere else, which may cut against the collective sense of social responsibility that’s more widespread in more settled communities and societies. And masks are indeed uncomfortable in Florida’s heat and humidity, as visitors to a reopened Disney World are finding out.The pandemic laid bare the incompetence of the Trump administration, which took much too long to put widespread testing in place and has yet to implement contact tracing on the scale that’s needed. But the pandemic has also shown the weakness of America’s federal structure and its insufficient state capacity relative to other developed countries, where governments have implemented more uniform and effective national responses. Perhaps one of the pandemic’s legacies will be greater citizen insistence on competent government.I’ve spent most of my adult life outside Florida, but I share the affectionate exasperation that many Floridians feel for their state. It’s not like anywhere else, for both good and ill. The New York Times recently interviewed a couple who visited the reopened Disney World and shared their belief that the park’s reopening “was the first thing that made us feel like we could leave our house and still feel safe”. Why? Because “it’s Disney”. The inability of too many Floridians to distinguish between reality and fantasy is part of what’s frustrating about this place, but their irrepressible optimism makes me hope we will get through this pandemic without losing too many more of them.
- EntertainmentThe Wrap
“Dancing With the Stars” is moving on without its longtime co-hosts, Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews, ABC announced on Monday.The news comes after Bergeron tweeted that he had been informed that the show “will be continuing without me” on Monday. “It’s been an incredible 15 year run and the most unexpected gift of my career,” he wrote. “I’m grateful for that and for the lifelong friendships made. That said, now what am I supposed to do with all of these glitter masks?”In a joint statement in response to Bergeron’s tweet, ABC and “Dancing With the Stars” producers BBC Studios attributed the decision to a “new creative direction” for the long-running dancing competition show. No replacements for the duo were announced.Also Read: Here's the Complete Fall 2020 TV Schedule for All 5 Broadcast Networks“Tom Bergeron will forever be part of the Dancing with the Stars family,” the two companies said. “As we embark on a new creative direction, he departs the show with our sincerest thanks and gratitude for his trademark wit and charm that helped make this show a success. Erin will also not be returning, and we appreciate all that she brought to the ballroom. Fans have been rooting for her since she originally competed as a contestant back in 2010, and her signature sense of humor has become a hallmark of the show.”Bergeron has been with the dancing competition show since its premiere in 2005, serving as host of all 28 seasons thus far. Andrews joined as Bergeron as his co-host for the show’s 18th season. Season 29 is slated to air this fall.Just informed @DancingABC will be continuing without me. It's been an incredible 15 year run and the most unexpected gift of my career. I'm grateful for that and for the lifelong friendships made. That said, now what am I supposed to do with all of these glitter masks?— Tom Bergeron (@Tom_Bergeron) July 13, 2020Read original story Tom Bergeron, Erin Andrews Out as Hosts of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ At TheWrap
- U.S.The Daily Beast
In the July 10 court filing protesting her confinement to jail for alleged sex trafficking offenses and perjury in relation to Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell’s attorneys claimed “she’d had no contact with Epstein for more than a decade.” However, court filings from a prior civil case (Giuffre vs. Maxwell, 2015), unsealed last August on the day before Epstein’s death, include a log of email communications between Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein showing they contacted each other between January 6 and January 27, 2015. Six of these seven email correspondences between Epstein and Maxwell were shielded from disclosure in the case by “common interest” and in one case, when Epstein attorney Alan Dershowitz was included on an email, it was shielded by attorney-client privilege. The email log appears to contradict Maxwell’s claim that she has not been in contact with Epstein for more than 10 years. (An attorney for Maxwell did not respond to requests for comment.)Meet the Media’s Go-To Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Friend’ Who Critics Say Is ‘Full of Shit’Why Is the Public Corruption Unit Prosecuting Ghislaine Maxwell?The first date of these exchanges, January 6, 2015, was three days after the publication of an explosive article in the Daily Mail picturing Prince Andrew with his arm around Epstein victim/survivor Virginia Roberts Giuffre and a smiling Ghislaine Maxwell (labeled as “the madame”) in the background. Maxwell is alleged in various civil suits to have been an integral part, if not the principal organizer, of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking enterprise. While Maxwell’s recent arrest cites allegations of sex-trafficking activity occurring between 1994 and 1997, there are indications that she was present at Epstein’s Palm Beach estate during the 2002-2005 time frame of the alleged criminal activities outlined in his 2019 arrest and indictment—such as Maxwell receiving and leaving phone messages there, as well as the discovery of stationary paper with her name on it, and testimony from a butler that she had an office in the house.According to Brad Edwards and Brittany Henderson, attorneys for numerous alleged victims of Epstein and Maxwell, when the 2005-06 Palm Beach police investigation of Epstein began, “she [Maxwell] became a ghost. She completely distanced herself from Epstein.” But prior to this, as Edwards and Henderson note in their new book on Epstein, the pair “slept in the same bed and traveled the world together in private planes... they were inseparable for almost two decades.” For her part, Maxwell claimed to have broken off her romantic relationship with Epstein much earlier, in 2000. (In a recent court filing in the Virgin Islands against his estate, Maxwell claimed she worked for Epstein and/or his companies until 2006). In a 2007 character reference, sent by Epstein’s lawyers to support his bid in getting what one Florida prosecutor called “the deal of the century,” Epstein’s attorneys claimed that Epstein’s relationship with Maxwell “ended amicably around 2000.” They explained in the letter that Epstein’s need for frequent travel and his work arrangements “precluded a good married life with children” to explain why Maxwell and Epstein ended their relationship.When Epstein’s Florida criminal case was hanging in the balance, Ghislaine wrote the following about Jeffrey Epstein: My experience of Jeffrey, is of a thoughtful, kind, generous loving man, with a keen sense of humour and ready smile—a man of principles and values and a man of his word. If he made a promise, he would always follow through. In fact, I never saw him break a promise. He is disciplined in business and conscientious. A man always quick to help someone who is down, or to offer an opportunity to someone to pursue a dream or goal. After their breakup, Maxwell claims to have continued on in 2001 as an employee of Epstein’s—she is listed aboard 84 flights on Epstein’s aircraft in 2001, and aboard 67 flights in 2002, but this dropped to 14 flights by 2006. One particular flight included Epstein, Maxwell, Emmy Tayler, and Virginia Giuffre (then Roberts) on March 9, 2001. This flight landed at London’s Luton airport the night before Giuffre, then a 17-year-old girl from Florida, was allegedly trafficked to Prince Andrew. (Andrew and Maxwell have denied these claims.) Flight logs kept by Epstein pilot David Rodgers show Maxwell regularly traveled on Epstein’s planes all the way through 2007 when Epstein’s pilots stopped writing down the names of his passengers in February of that year. This past weekend the Mail on Sunday published an article citing Maxwell’s claim she did not see Epstein in person after 2005. However, logs from Epstein’s pilots indicate Maxwell flew to Paris on Epstein’s Boeing 727 on his 54th birthday in 2007. In a 2016 deposition, Sigrid McCawley, an attorney for Epstein and Maxwell’s alleged victims, asked Maxwell if she ever saw a girl under age 18 at Jeffrey Epstein’s home that was not the child of a friend. Maxwell said, “Again, I can’t testify to that because I have no idea what you are talking about.” When asked if Maxwell hired girls to perform sexual massages, Maxwell said, “I don’t hire girls like that,” and McCawley asked Maxwell to specify what she meant by “girls like that.” Maxwell responded, in part, “You are asking if I hired somebody to do what, I don’t know what you are talking about.” Later in the deposition, in an apparent moment of frustration, Maxwell began banging on the table for which she later apologized. Yet the current charges in her July 2020 indictment appear to begin with Maxwell recruiting a 14-year-old Jane Doe from Michigan’s Interlochen music camp in 1994, once attended by Epstein when he was a teenager. In the years to follow, according to one victim/survivor, Maxwell would even prowl Central Park looking for young girls to recruit for Epstein’s abuse.Maxwell has filed that she “vigorously denies the charges, intends to fight them, and is entitled to the presumption of innocence” and her attorneys have stated on the record that they believe the government’s criminal case is “meritless.” Maxwell’s bail hearing is set for Tuesday, July 14. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- U.S.Reuters Videos
As of Monday there were nearly 270,000 recorded coronavirus cases and over 4,300 deaths in Florida, according to a Reuters tally.