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Florida offers to host 2021 Olympics if Tokyo backs out

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Amid speculation that Tokyo might back out of its 2021 Olympics hosting gig because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Florida has put itself forward as a back-up host.

Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, on Monday pitched Florida as a host for the 2021 Olympic Games in a letter to the International Olympic Committee.

“Today, I am writing to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida,” Patronis wrote.

“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State,” Patronis continued. “I would welcome the opportunity to pitch Florida and help you make the right contacts to get this done.”

Patronis also made a point of mentioning the Sunshine State’s growing population and praising its distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Unlike other states, when the COVID-19 vaccine comes to Florida it doesn’t just sit on the shelf wrapped in government red tape; it moves fast to protect our communities,” Patronis wrote, also touting Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) battle to keep the state’s economy open while combatting the spread of the coronavirus.

Florida, the country’s third-biggest state, right now is ranked number four for coronavirus deaths so far during the pandemic with over 25,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While California had far stricter restrictions than Florida, the former has the second-most deaths so far. New York has the most deaths of any U.S. state, while Texas has the third-most.

Patronis took a moment to promote that Florida “successfully allowed sports to take place during the pandemic,” such as NFL, NBA, and college football games and UFC events. He also bragged about Disney World being open, saying that it is “an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19.”

Due to Florida being a massive tourist destination, Patronis argued that the Sunshine State is well-suited to handle a massive influx of people, listing off the state’s statistics for transportation infrastructure, lodging, already existing sports facilities, and world-renown health facilities in each of the state’s regions.

On January 13, a state of emergency was issued in Japan after the nation surpassed 300,000 COVID-19 cases, according to The Hill.

The upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are set to start in July, were originally supposed to happen last July but were pushed back.

Last Friday, parties responsible for putting together the Tokyo Games emphasized they would be continuing with the scheduled dates of July 23 to August 8, according to The Japan Times.

“I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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VP Kamala Harris publicly mourns Palestinians killed in hostage rescue operation

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Vice President Kamala Harris mourned the Palestinians in Gaza who were killed in the successful Israeli hostage rescue operation this weekend during an address delivered over the weekend.

Israeli forces say Hamas intentionally kept the hostages in a “civilian environment.” They also said even the Palestinians who were holding the hostages were also “civilians.”

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari of the IDF said Hamas has been holding hostages inside civilian buildings, including the locations where Israeli forces rescued Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27.

“Before I begin, I just say a few words about the morning which I know weighs heavily on all of our hearts,” she said.

“On Oct. 7, Hamas committed a brutal massacre of 1,200 innocent people and abducted 250 hostages,” she continued. “Thankfully, four of those hostages were reunited with their families tonight. And we mourn all of the innocent lives that have been lost in Gaza, including those tragically killed today.”

The Israeli operation retrieved four hostages who were taken into Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7. Harris, speaking before the Michigan Democratic Party, celebrated their retrieval but spent more time lamenting the deaths of Palestinians killed in the operation, many of whom Israel has described as terrorists.

“We have been working every day to bring an end to this conflict in a way that ensures Israel is secure, brings home all hostages, ends ongoing suffering for Palestinian people and ensures that Palestinians can enjoy their right to self-determination, dignity and freedom,” Harris added. “As President Biden said last week, it is time for this war to end.”

Fox News reports that Hamas-run authorities in Gaza claim over 270 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli operation, though they make no distinction between militants and innocents. Israeli forces claim the number was fewer than 100.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also confirmed reports on Sunday that some number of innocents appeared to have been killed in the operation.

“We the United States are not in a position today to make a definitive statement about [the death toll],” Sullivan said in a Sunday interview with CNN. “But we do know this: innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed.”

“Every day that we see more innocent people lost is another horrible, awful, tragic day,” he added.

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