- In a “60 Minutes” segment that aired Sunday night, CBS reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave an exclusive COVID-19 vaccine deal to Publix grocery stores in Palm Beach County weeks before announcing that the chain had donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
- DeSantis and Publix have denied any form of “pay for play” deal, but this is not the first time DeSantis has been accused of engaging in a form of “vaccine favoritism” that had the effect of disproportionately benefiting wealthy, white communities.
- While some have defended Publix’s exclusive distribution deal, many others have noted that Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are much more abundant in the state and also more common in less wealthy communities.
“60 Minutes” Report on DeSantis’ Vaccine Favoritism
A Sunday night “60 Minutes” report on CBS found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced a distribution partnership with Publix grocery store only weeks after the company donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
While both DeSantis and Publix have denied any wrongdoing attached to the deal, this news comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that DeSantis was acting as a vaccine gatekeeper by directing doses to wealthy communities — with some vaccination pop-up sites being affiliated with his PAC donors.
It also comes after state Democratic leaders asked the U.S. Department of Justice in February to investigate whether or not DeSantis violated federal law by opening up a vaccination site that was only accessible to residents in two of Manatee County’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
Sunday night’s coverage on “60 Minutes” echoed those concerns, describing Florida’s vaccine rollout as “deteriorat[ing] into a virtual free for all” as “wealthy and well-connected residents cut the line, leaving other Floridians without a fair shot.”
“I imagine Governor DeSantis’s office would say, ‘Look, we privatized the rollout because it’s more efficient and it works better,’” reporter Sharyn Alfonsi said during the segment.
“It hasn’t worked better for people of color,” State Rep. Omari Hardy (R) replied. “Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense. They’re not accountable to the public.”
Hardy’s statement is notable because, as “60 Minutes” pointed out during the segment, poorer communities in Palm Beach County — where Publix was granted exclusive rights to distribute COVID-19 vaccines — do not have a Publix. In fact, for some in the county, the nearest Publix is around 30 miles away.
The segment also aired a confrontation between Alfonsi and DeSantis from last month in which DeSantis called the donation report “wrong” and “a fake narrative.”
“I met with the county mayor,” DeSantis told Alfonsi. “I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County, and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.’”
“The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor,” Alfonsi said.
In a voiceover, Alfonsi then said Melissa McKinlay, the county commissioner in the Glades, never met with DeSantis about the Publix deal.
“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” Publix said in a statement to CBS.
This is not the first controversial donation to be connected to Publix. Earlier this year, it was learned that Heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated $300,000 to fund the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
DeSantis Condemned Online
On Monday, “DeSantis,” “Publix,” and “Walgreens and CVS” all became top-trending U.S. topics on Twitter.
Many condemned DeSantis for the Publix deal while arguing that it would have made more sense for other pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, to lead the charge in vaccine distributions.
Others like Jesse Hunt, communications director for the Republican Governors Association, said, “60 Minutes makes the same mistake the dozens of national outlets have made when it comes to Ron DeSantis and Florida.”
“Publix was the first retail pharmacy ready to handle this massive undertaking & it’s objectively one of the most trusted & respected companies in America.”
Still, many were quick to argue Hunt’s claim, including Rep. Hardy.
“But they are typically not located in communities of color. So when he tried to make Publix the sole distributor in PBC, he was trying an approach that he knew would leave out people of color in Palm Beach County. This was a textbook example of systemic racism at work.”
But they are typically not located in communities of color. So when he tried to make Publix the sole distributor in PBC, he was trying an approach that he knew would leave out people of color in Palm Beach County. This was a textbook example of systemic racism at work.— Rep. Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) April 5, 2021
Initial Unemployment Claims See First Rise Since April as Fed Estimates Faster Inflation Growth Than Previously Predicted
The Fed also announced that it expects to raise interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than its previous prediction.
Unemployment Claims Rise
The Labor Department reported Thursday that, for the first time in nearly two months, weekly initial unemployment claims increased.
For the week ending on June 12, 412,000 people filed first-time claims. That’s an increase of 37,000 from the previous week’s estimate of 375,000. It’s also the highest that new claims have been in a month.
Still, there are positive signs that the labor market is improving. For example, while last week’s continuing claims were largely unchanged from the previous week, the four-week moving average for continuing claims fell to its lowest level since March 2020.
The Federal Reserve is also optimistic about the labor market eventually returning to form despite the country still being short 7 million jobs. Following a two-day meeting, the central bank predicted that the unemployment rate could fall back to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
It also expects economic growth to hit 7% this year, up from the 6.5% it predicted in March.
Inflation Will Grow Faster Than Expected
At its meeting, the Fed said it now believes inflation will climb higher than it had previously estimated just three months ago. In March, it predicted inflation would rise about 2.4% this year. As of Wednesday, it’s expecting a 3.4% jump.
That comes on the heels of a report from the Labor Department last week that indicated consumer prices climbed at their fastest rate since 2008 year-over-year in May. Like economists explained then, the Fed said it expects this rise in consumer prices to be temporary.
While the Fed expects the prices for some goods and services to continue to increase over the next few months because of issues such as supply bottlenecks, it also said it believes the labor market will continue to grow since the economy is finally coming out of its massive, pandemic-induced downturn in spending.
Still, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Wednesday, “Shifts in demand can be large and rapid. Inflation could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expect.”
Powell added that the central bank will keep a close eye on inflation and that it would respond quickly if inflation becomes broader or more persistent than current estimates.
Interest Rates Stay at Historic Lows… For Now
Among other key points from the Fed’s meeting was its decision to move up a projection for an initial interest rate hike from 2024 to 2023. Notably, it also said there could be two rate hikes in 2023.
That then caused some major stock indices like the Dow Jones to initially stumble, though the markets were more mixed Thursday. That’s likely at least partially because the Fed kept internet rates near a historically low zero for the time being, as expected.
Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fl.), have argued that the 2023 projection is too slow, saying interest rates need to go up sooner to prevent inflation from rising too much.
In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the inflation situation is being monitored “very, very carefully” and that while prices are rising, they’re also moving back toward “normal” levels.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (ABC News)
Coca-Cola Lost $4 Billion in Market Value After Cristiano Ronaldo Hid Two Bottles During a Press Conference
After the snub by Ronaldo, another soccer player hid a bottle of Heineken during a separate press conference Wednesday.
Ronaldo Pushes Away Coke Bottles
Coca-Cola’s market value fell by $4 billion after famed soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo moved two bottles of the soda off-camera during a press conference Monday.
The incident happened just before his team’s match against Hungary at the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. After hiding the Coke bottles, Ronaldo held up an unlabeled water bottle and said “Agua,” which is Portuguese for water.
The whole moment was likely very awkward for Coke as a company considering that it’s sponsoring the tournament; however, the situation was made tangibly worse for Coke when investors reacted by selling-off stock. That move caused its market value to fall from $242 billion to $238 billion.
Alongside that $4 billion loss, its individual share value fell 1.6%, which isn’t huge but is somewhat more notable given the fact that it was seemingly caused by one person in one moment. Ronaldo doesn’t exactly have the same level of stock market influence as that of Elon Musk on the cryptocurrency markets, and on top of that, minus several blips over the last 40 years, Coke’s stock has continued to climb overall.
Still, it’s not a great look to have one of the world’s top athletes at a major sports tournament criticizing your sugary drink. That’s likely why a Coke spokesperson later said, “Everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” and everyone has different “tastes and needs.”
“Players are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, on arrival at our press conferences,” the spokesperson added.
In the long run, this isn’t the end of Coke by any means. As Yahoo Finance noted, “It’s unlikely Coke’s stock will stay in the penalty box for too long as the business begins to partake in the global economic recovery.”
Ronaldo’s Healthy Diet
Ronaldo is known for basically being a machine in human form. He reportedly eats up to six very-calculated and clean meals a day and will also nap up to five times a day.
In the past, Ronaldo has indicated that he avoids alcohol and carbonated drinks in order to stay in shape. Earlier this year, he even directly spoke out against Coca-Cola when talking about his 10-year-old son.
“I’m hard with him sometimes because he drinks Coca-Cola and Fanta sometimes and no… And no, I’m pissed with him. And [I fight] with him when he eats chips and fries and everything. You know, I don’t like it.”
Besides his fame on the field, Ronaldo is also the most-followed individual on Instagram, with 299 million followers.
Pogba Seemingly Takes a Note from Ronaldo
It’s possible Ronaldo could have started a trend among athletes of speaking out more against unhealthy drinks, even if they are sponsors of games or tournaments.
In fact, on Wednesday, French player Paul Pogba removed a bottle of Heineken from the camera’s view at the start of a separate press conference.
While it was later learned that the specific Heineken was non-alcoholic, many believe Pogba, who is a devout Muslim, didn’t know that at the time or still didn’t want to promote the brand.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Yahoo Finance) (The Athletic)
Woman From Viral Gorilla Glue Incident Launches Hair Care Line
While some applauded the woman for making use of her newfound attention, others said they would not trust hair products from someone who put superglue in their own hair.
Tessica Brown Launches “Forever Hair”
Tessica Brown, the woman who got Gorilla Glue spray stuck in her hair for more than a month earlier this year, has now launched her own hair care line called “Forever Hair.”
Brown was inspired to create the line after the viral incident, which came to an end when a plastic surgeon removed the adhesive during a four-hour procedure at no cost.
The line includes an $18 growth stimulating oil formulated to help with the hair loss and scalp damage she was left with, as well as a $14 hair spray and a soon-to-be-released $13 product for sleek edge control.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Brown raved about how the hair growth oil, in particular, helped her over the last two months.
“I needed this oil to one, heal my scalp. I needed it to grow my hair back. I needed it to stimulated my hair follicles, and on top of that, I needed everything to be all-natural. And in this oil, it has just that,’ she claimed.
Mixed Reactions Online
The move might not come as too much of a surprise given that Brown has likely spent the last few months focusing on her hair’s health.
Still, the reactions on social media have been mixed.
Some have applauded Brown for making use of her viral attention and turning lemons into lemonade.
Meanwhile, others have noted that they are not about to trust a hair product line from someone who put superglue in their own hair. Plus, there is a chuck of people pointing to a typo on her packaging.
It’s spelled “nourishes”… siiiiigh.— Caitlin Dineen (@CaitlinDineen) June 16, 2021