Connect with us

Latest

DeSantis shifts from provocateur to crisis manager after Ian

Avatar photo

Published

on

DeSantis shifts from provocateur to crisis manager after Ian

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has whipsawed his way through the national conversation this month, first by putting migrants on planes or buses to Democratic strongholds and then shifting to a more traditional role of crisis manager as one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. barreled into his state.

Facing a reelection in November that could be a precursor to a presidential campaign, the approach has been awkward at points. Navigating one of his state’s darkest moments, DeSantis, a Republican, must partner with a Democratic president he has spent the better part of two years demeaning. He’s also gladly accepting the type of federal disaster aid and assistance he rejected as wasteful while he was a member of Congress.

But together, the developments over the past two weeks offer insight into how DeSantis might govern if he wins another term as governor or advances in a 2024 presidential contest. He’s willing to use — and potentially exceed — the raw executive power of his office to pick at America’s most sensitive divides on issues like immigration. In a sudden moment of disaster, however, he’s capable of striking a more unifying tone in a way that former President Donald Trump — once a close ally and now a potential 2024 rival — rarely demonstrated.

“At the end of the day, I view this as something that you’ve got folks that are in need, and local, federal and state, we have a need to work together,” DeSantis said at a briefing late Thursday, taking a far more conciliatory tone toward an administration he bitterly criticized just days earlier. He expressed appreciation that FEMA has approved every request for aid he has made, and said he welcomed the agency’s director to travel with him to view destruction.

The shift in tone is almost certainly temporary. When a 12-story condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed last year and killed 98 people, DeSantis appeared with local officials, including Democrats who praised his assistance. He sat next to President Joe Biden during a briefing with first responders and local officials in Miami. Within months, however, he returned to partisan brawls.

Facing another tragedy, DeSantis didn’t answer questions this week about whether he would meet with Biden, saying he wasn’t sure about the president’s travel plans. At a FEMA briefing on Thursday, Biden also aimed to set aside hostilities, saying he would visit Florida when conditions allow and meet with DeSantis “if he wants to meet.”

Biden and DeSantis both said they have spoken more than once. And at DeSantis’ request, Biden on Thursday declared a major disaster in parts of Florida, freeing up additional federal assistance to state and local governments and individuals.

“We’re going to build it back with the state and local government,” Biden said.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre tweeted that Biden and DeSantis spoke again by phone on Friday, as the FEMA administrator is on the ground in Florida.

DeSantis’ embrace of federal help is a shift from his early days as a congressman, when he voted against a federal relief package for New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. That drew criticism this week from some New York-area officials and other Democrats who described the turnaround as a move from cruel to hypocritical.

Richard Conley, a University of Florida political science professor, said DeSantis is doing what he needs to do, pragmatically and politically. While DeSantis is popular in the reliably Republican area of southwest Florida that was hardest hit by Hurricane Ian, he said people will inevitably become frustrated if it takes too long to get help, and will look for someone to blame.

“He’s just got to get the job done,” said Conley. “The question will be: Going forward, does he look very statesmanlike? Does this help him with an eventual 2024 run? I don’t know, it remains to be seen.”

Since his early years running for governor, DeSantis has been linked to Trump. DeSantis was a relatively obscure third-term congressman when he announced his 2018 bid for governor — and a Trump endorsement — on Fox News. He echoed some of Trump’s favorite lines as he campaigned, pledging, for example, to “drain the swamp” in Tallahassee. Trump took credit for the victory, though their relationship is said to have chilled amid the 2024 talk.

As governor, DeSantis has elevated issues that excite the conservative base and used his resources and the power of his office to get things done his way, even if it pushed the limits of his legal authority.

During the COVID pandemic, DeSantis insisted Florida would remain open. He shunned guidance from federal health experts and once said of Dr. Anthony Fauci that someone should “chuck him across the Potomac.” He also stripped funding from school districts that implemented mask mandates.

This spring, DeSantis signed legislation stripping Disney of a special agreement that allowed the theme park to govern itself, after the company criticized a new state law that critics called “Don’t Say Gay. ”

DeSantis also suspended an elected Democratic prosecutor in Tampa from office over statements about not pursuing criminal charges in abortion, transgender rights and certain low-level cases. The prosecutor has since filed a federal free speech lawsuit against the governor.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

In recent weeks, Florida under DeSantis’ direction paid for two flights of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis was the latest GOP governor, frustrated over the federal government’s response to policing the southern border, to transport the migrants to Democratic cities.

DeSantis defended the move as a way to make immigration a “front-burner issue” ahead of the midterms. Critics questioned the legality, and his Democratic opponent for governor said it represented a new low level of shrewdness.

“It’s amazing to me what he’s willing to do for sheer political gain,” Charlie Crist, his gubernatorial challenger, said.

Conley, who wrote a book about Trump and populism, said he understands the comparisons between the two men, both often provocative Republicans. But he noted key differences, including that DeSantis is more disciplined and restrained with statements on social media.

“He may say controversial things, but I don’t think he’s going to sit around at 3 or 4 in the morning and contemplate how to get back at (Senate GOP Leader) Mitch McConnell or something” as Trump would do, Conley said.

Trump also drew criticism for his responses to natural disasters, which often failed to convey empathy.

After Puerto Rico was flattened by Hurricane Maria, he flew to San Juan and threw paper towels into the crowd, withheld aid and questioned whether a death toll in the thousands was contrived by Democrats to make him look bad. On a trip to Houston after Hurricane Harvey, he was criticized for not meeting with storm victims. When he returned days later, Trump urged those at a shelter to “have a good time.”

Natural disasters have historically put U.S. political leaders in predicaments.

Years earlier, President George W. Bush left the impression of overlooking Hurricane Karina’s devastation in New Orleans when he flew over the city while returning to Washington from vacation. He later praised FEMA Director Michael Brown as doing “a heck of a job.”

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic President Barack Obama felt political effects of a friendly greeting after Hurricane Sandy. The image may have helped Obama project a moderate, bipartisan front days before his election for a second term but conservatives derided Christie for what they called a “hug.”

At Thursday’s afternoon briefing, DeSantis spoke of surveying the damage, from a wiped out causeway between the mainland and Sanibel Island off Fort Myers to destroyed homes and hundreds of people rescued.

“These are resilient folks,” he said. “They will bounce back, but we just want to make sure that we can kind of pave the way for them.”

Read More

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Latest

Beryl forecast to become ‘dangerous’ Category 4 hurricane

Avatar photo

Published

on

Beryl forecast to become ‘dangerous’ Category 4 hurricane

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Beryl was closing in on the southeastern Caribbean, and government officials late Sunday pleaded with people to take shelter from the dangerous Category 3 storm.

The storm was expected to make landfall in the Windward Islands on Monday morning. Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” warned the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, saying Beryl was “forecast to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge.”

Beryl was centered about 110 miles (175 kilometers) south-southeast of Barbados early Monday. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) and was moving west at 20 mph (31 kph). It is a compact storm, with hurricane-force winds extending 30 miles (45 kilometers) from its center.

It had gained Category 4 strength Sunday before weakening slightly, and further fluctuations in strength were forecast.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Martinique and Trinidad. A tropical storm watch was issued for Dominica, Haiti’s entire southern coast, and from Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic west to the border with Haiti.

Beryl was expected to pass just south of Barbados early Monday and then head into the Caribbean Sea as a major hurricane on a path toward Jamaica. It was forecast to weaken by midweek, but still remain a hurricane while heading toward Mexico.

Historic hurricane

Beryl initially strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane Sunday morning, becoming the first major hurricane east of the Lesser Antilles on record for June, according to Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University hurricane researcher.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

It took Beryl only 42 hours to strengthen from a tropical depression to a major hurricane — a feat accomplished only six other times in Atlantic hurricane history, and with Sept. 1 as the previous earliest date, hurricane expert Sam Lillo said.

 

 

People disassemble a beach bar's awning in preparation for Hurricane Beryl, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

 

People disassemble a beach bar’s awning in preparation for Hurricane Beryl, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

 

Beryl then gained more power, becoming the earliest Category 4 Atlantic hurricane on record, besting Hurricane Dennis, which became a Category 4 storm on July 8, 2005, hurricane specialist and storm surge expert Michael Lowry said.

“Beryl is an extremely dangerous and rare hurricane for this time of year in this area,” Lowry said in a phone interview. “Unusual is an understatement. Beryl is already a historic hurricane and it hasn’t struck yet.”

Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was the last strong hurricane to hit the southeastern Caribbean, causing catastrophic damage in Grenada as a Category 3 storm.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

“So this is a serious threat, a very serious threat,” Lowry said of Beryl.

Reecia Marshall, who lives in Grenada, was working a Sunday shift at a local hotel, preparing guests and urging them to stay away from windows as she stored enough food and water for everyone.

She said that she was a child when Hurricane Ivan struck and that she doesn’t fear Beryl.

“I know it’s part of nature. I’m OK with it,” she said. “We just have to live with it.”

Forecasters warned of a life-threatening storm surge of up to 9 feet (3 meters) in areas where Beryl makes landfall, with 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 centimeters) of rain for Barbados and nearby islands and possibly 10 inches in some areas (25 centimeters).

Warm waters are fueling Beryl, with ocean heat content in the deep Atlantic the highest on record for this time of year, said Brian McNoldy, a tropical meteorology researcher at the University of Miami.

Lowry said the waters are now warmer than they would be at the peak of the hurricane season in September.

Beryl marks the farthest east that a hurricane has formed in the tropical Atlantic in June, breaking a record set in 1933, according to Klotzbach.

“Please take this very seriously and prepare yourselves,” said Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “This is a terrible hurricane.”

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Bracing for the storm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costumers purchase groceries ahead of Hurricane Beryl in Arnos Vale, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucanus Ollivierre)

 

Costumers purchase groceries ahead of Hurricane Beryl in Arnos Vale, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucanus Ollivierre)
Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

 

Long lines formed at gas stations and grocery stores in Barbados and other islands as people rushed to prepare for a storm that rapidly intensified.

Thousands of people were in Barbados for Saturday’s Twenty20 World Cup final, cricket’s biggest event, with Prime Minister Mia Mottley noting that not all fans were able to leave Sunday despite many rushing to change their flights.

“Some of them have never gone through a storm before,” she said. “We have plans to take care of them.”

Mottley said all businesses should close by Sunday evening and warned that the airport would close by nighttime.

Across Barbados, people prepared, including Peter Corbin, 71, who helped his son put up plywood to protect his home’s glass doors. He said by phone that he worried about Beryl’s impact on islands just east of Barbados.

“That’s like a butcher cutting up a pig,” he said. “They’ve got to make a bunker somewhere. It’s going to be tough.”

In St. Lucia, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre announced a national shutdown for Sunday evening and said schools and businesses would remain closed Monday.

“Preservation and protection of life is a priority,” he said.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Looking ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Beryl's winds batter Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown, Barbados, Monday, July 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

 

Hurricane Beryl’s winds batter Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown, Barbados, Monday, July 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

 

Caribbean leaders were preparing not only for Beryl, but for a cluster of thunderstorms trailing the hurricane that had a 70% chance of becoming a tropical depression.

“Do not let your guard down,” Mottley said.

Beryl is the second named storm in what is forecast to be an above-average hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 in the Atlantic. Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Alberto came ashore in northeastern Mexico with heavy rains that resulted in four deaths.

On Sunday evening, a tropical depression formed near the eastern Mexico coastal city of Veracruz, with the National Hurricane Center warning of flooding and mudslides.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts the 2024 hurricane season is likely to be well above average, with between 17 and 25 named storms. The forecast calls for as many as 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading

Latest

Judge acquits 28 people accused in Panama Papers case, including law firm co-founder

Avatar photo

Published

on

Judge acquits 28 people accused in Panama Papers case, including law firm co-founder

PANAMA CITY (AP) — A judge has acquitted 28 people accused of money laundering in an international case known as the Panama Papers, including the co-founder of a law firm that authorities say was at the center of a conspiracy to hide money linked to illegal activities.

Jürgen Mossack founded Mossack & Fonseca with then associate Ramón Fonseca, who died in May. Mossack was acquitted on Friday along with others after a Panamanian judge found that the evidence against Mossack didn’t comply with the chain of custody after authorities raided the office of the now defunct firm.

Prosecutors had accused Mossack, Fonseca and others of creating offshore companies and using complex transactions to hide money from illegal activities related to the so-called car wash corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to a charge related to using shell companies to hide millions of dollars in bribes paid worldwide to win public contracts.

The judge noted that other evidence in the Panama Papers case “was not sufficient and conclusive to determine the criminal responsibility of the accused.”

In addition, the judge lifted personal and property precautionary measures against all the defendants, according to a judicial statement.

“We feel satisfied in the midst of mixed emotions, because many lives were affected along the way,” Guillermina Mc Donald, who was the defense attorney for Mossack and Fonseca, told The Associated Press. Her firm also represented 80% of the accused firm’s collaborators.

Judge Balaoisa Marquínez had decided to combine the Panama Papers case with another known as “Operation Car Wash,” a major anti-corruption investigation that began in Brazil.

On Friday, she ruled that in the car wash case, “it was not possible to determine the entry of money from illicit sources, coming from Brazil, into the Panamanian financial system with the purpose of hiding, concealing, disguising or helping to evade the legal consequences of the preceding crime.”

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

In June 2022, Mossack, Fonseca and 37 other people were acquitted in a separate money laundering case.

The investigation in Brazil began in 2014, with the Mossack & Fonseca firm later coming under scrutiny after 11 million financial documents tied to the company were leaked.

The repercussions of the leak were widespread: it led to the resignation of a prime minister in Iceland and brought scrutiny to now former leaders of Argentina and Ukraine, Chinese politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others.

Read More

Continue Reading

Latest

A San Francisco store is shipping LGBTQ+ books to states where they are banned

Avatar photo

Published

on

A San Francisco store is shipping LGBTQ+ books to states where they are banned

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In an increasingly divisive political sphere, Becka Robbins focuses on what she knows best — books.

Operating out of a tiny room in Fabulosa Books in San Francisco’s Castro District, one of the oldest gay neighborhoods in the United States, Robbins uses donations from customers to ship boxes of books across the country to groups that want them.

In an effort she calls “Books Not Bans,” she sends titles about queer history, sexuality, romance and more — many of which are increasingly hard to come by in the face of a rapidly growing movement by conservative advocacy groups and lawmakers to ban them from public schools and libraries.

“The book bans are awful, the attempt at erasure,” Robbins said. She asked herself how she could get these books into the hands of the people who need them the most.

Beginning last May, she started raising money and looking for recipients. Her books have gone to places like a pride center in west Texas and an LGBTQ-friendly high school in Alabama.

Customers are especially enthusiastic about helping Robbins send books to places in states like Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, often writing notes of support to include in the packages. Over 40% of all book bans from July 2022 to June 2023 were in Florida, more than any other state. Behind Florida are Texas and Missouri, according to a report by PEN America, a nonprofit literature advocacy group.

Book bans and attempted bans have been hitting record highs, according to the American Library Association. And the efforts now extend as much to public libraries as school libraries. Because the totals are based on media accounts and reports submitted by librarians, the association regards its numbers as snapshots, with many bans left unrecorded.

PEN America’s report said 30% of the bans include characters of color or discuss race and racism, and 30% have LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The most sweeping challenges often originate with conservative organizations, such as Moms for Liberty, which has organized banning efforts nationwide and called for more parental control over books available to children.

Moms for Liberty is not anti-LGBTQ+, co-founder Tiffany Justice has told The Associated Press. But about 38% of book challenges that “directly originated” from the group have LGBTQ+ themes, according to the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Justice said Moms for Liberty challenges books that are sexually explicit, not because they cover LGBTQ+ topics.

Among those topping banned lists have been Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” George Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

 

An LGBTQ+ related book is seen on display at Fabulosa Books, in the Castro District of San Francisco on Thursday, June 27, 2024.

 

An LGBTQ+ related book is seen on display at Fabulosa Books, in the Castro District of San Francisco on Thursday, June 27, 2024. “Books Not Bans” is a program initiated and sponsored by the store that sends boxes of LGBTQ+ books to LGBTQ+ organizations in conservative parts of America where politicians are demonizing and banning books with LGBTQ+ affirming content. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

 

Robbins said it’s more important than ever to makes these kinds of books available to everyone.

“Fiction teaches us how to dream,” Robbins said. “It teaches us how to connect with people who are not like ourselves, it teaches us how to listen and emphasize.”

She’s sent 740 books so far, with each box worth $300 to $400, depending on the titles.

At the new Rose Dynasty Center in Lakeland, Florida, the books donated by Fabulosa are already on the shelves, said Jason DeShazo, a drag queen known as Momma Ashley Rose who runs the LGBTQ+ community center.

 
Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becka Robbins, events manager and founder of the

 

Becka Robbins, events manager and founder of the “Books Not Bans” program at Fabulosa Books, packs up LGBTQ+ books to be sent to parts of the country where they are censored on Thursday, June 27, 2024 at the Castro District of San Francisco. The bookstore is sending LGBTQ+ books to where they are censored to counter the rapidly growing effort by anti-LGBTQ+ activists and lawmakers to ban queer-friendly books from public schools and libraries. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

 

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

DeShazo is a family-friendly drag performer and has long hosted drag story times to promote literacy. He uses puppets to address themes of being kind, dealing with bullies and giving back to the community.

DeShazo hopes to provide a safe space for events, support groups and health clinics, and to build a library of banned books.

“I don’t think a person of color should have to search so hard for an amazing book about history of what our Black community has gone through,” DeShazo said. “Or for someone who is queer to find a book that represents them.”

Robbins’ favorite books to send are youth adult queer romances, a rapidly growing genre as conversations about LGBTQ+ issues have become much more mainstream than a decade ago.

“The characters are just like regular kids — regular people who are also queer, but they also get to fall in love and be happy,” Robbins said.

_____

Ding reported from Los Angeles.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading