Rise and Shine: Dec. 20, 2019

Happy Friday, CivMixers! As mentioned yesterday, it’s National Ugly Sweater Day, so break out those twinkly, clashing, light-up, obnoxious knitted monstrosities and wear them with pride!

On a more serious note, it’s International Human Solidarity Day, which, according to the UN, is a day to celebrate our unity in diversity and also a day of action to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication.

That’s a nice message in this season of giving.

Another holiday moment: The Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” film premiered on this day in 1964 in New York. It was directed by Frank Capra and starred James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore

Also on this day in 1860, a decidedly non-unified event took place. South Carolina seceded from the Union in protest to the election of anti-slavery campaigner Abraham Lincoln to the White House, triggering the five-year Civil War.

Actor Jonah Hill is celebrating his 35th birthday today. Other Capricorns who are marking another turn around the sun: Baseball player David Wright (36), TV producer Dick Wolf (72), and drummer Peter Criss (72).

The cold snap continues. It’s a balmy 12 degrees as I write this, and temperatures are only forecast to go up into the 20s (again). Skies will be clear, and there will be plenty of (not warm) sunshine. But don’t worry, by Christmas Day, we should be back into the….40s, according to The Weather Channel. Ah, upstate life.

First responders have some tips for staying warm and safe during extreme cold temperatures: Tip No. 1: Stay inside.

In the news…

Congress has headed home for the holidays leaving plans and a possible timeline for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in disarray.

The day after the House cast historic votes to impeach Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi put an abrupt halt on the proceedings, holding back from sending the charges to the Republican-led Senate in a politically risky bid to exert influence over the contours of an election-year trial.

Barring the unforeseen, Trump will be the first impeached president to face re-election, setting up a 320-day campaign to convince voters that he was right and his accusers were wrong.

The House narrowly passed legislation designed to repeal a cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that blue, high-tax states including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been decrying since it was instated in the 2017 Republican tax law.

…New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted “no” on the SALT cap measure. (She did not comment on why).

Democratic presidential candidates sounded off on impeachment early during last night’s sixth debate in Los Angeles — and billionaire Tom Steyer’s response drew jeers from the Trump campaign.

Buttigieg was repeatedly pushed onto the defensive as several of his rivals challenged his political ascent by bluntly questioning his fund-raising practices and credentials for the presidency in a contentious and deeply substantive forum.

Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, mocked former Vice President Joe Biden for stuttering during the debate — drawing swift rebuke across Twitter.

The candidates jousted cordially over the economy, climate change and foreign policy. But it was a wine cave – where Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, recently held a big-dollar Napa Valley fundraiser – that opened up the fault lines in the 2020 field.

Christianity Today, a magazine founded by Billy Graham that serves the evangelical audience, is calling for the President’s removal from office due to his “grossly immoral character.”

The U.S. Senate approved a bill to crack down on robocalls, sending to Trump a measure meant to combat a persistent and costly problem for Americans.

The nation’s biggest states – California, Texas and Florida – have yet to legalize sports betting and they are watching how New York’s foray into the sportsbook plays out.

Portions of the Uncle Sam Garage in Troy will be shut off from use today following a review of engineering plans for the facility after a beam collapsed there Sunday, city officials told the City Council.

The state Attorney General’s Office says it has found no evidence of wrongdoing in the death of Gerard Roldan III, who was struck and killed by a Cobleskill police car last November that was traveling well above the speed limit.

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan added his name to a growing list of Republicans calling on legislators to return to Albany for a special session and delay the implementation of a sweeping set of bail reforms set to take effect in January.

With a total of $84.1 million, the Capitol Region may not be the state’s biggest beneficiary of this year’s Regional Economic Development Council awards — that honor goes to the Southern Tier, which is getting $88.9 million. But the local region’s plumbing, specifically its water and sewer systems, will get a big boost.

The state awarded a $3.5 million capital grant to help build the first museum in the world dedicated to hip-hop music and culture. The $80 million Universal Hip Hop Museum is scheduled to open in the South Bronx in 2023.

Drivers who don’t have E-ZPass may be paying significantly more under a proposal approved by the state Thruway Authority. The change would start in 2021, after the entire system has been converted to cashless tolls.

Currently, the toll hikes are limited to downstate bridges, including the new Mario Cuomo Bridge. There are multiple rates for the bridge, but generally, the rate would jump from $4.75 to $5.75 by 2022.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a crackdown on predatory and abusive debt collectors in the latest rollout of his 2020 legislative agenda.

Lawyers working for the estates of seven people killed in last year’s catastrophic limousine crash in Schoharie filed two lawsuits yesterday against New York as well as the owners of the limo company and an auto repair company that worked on the vehicle.

New York would not issue violations against certain water suppliers who notify the public that they have too-high levels of certain industrial and synthetic chemicals under the latest plan proposed by state regulators.

Faster internet speed could be on the horizon for Niskayuna residents, but so can higher sewer and water rates.

A fire broke out at an abandoned home in Castleton-on-Hudson last night. The incident is under investigation.

Albany’s Madison Theatre held its official grand opening last night after being shuttered for two years. It’s the second movie theater in the state to take advantage of new changes that allow alcohol to be served.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is winding down her term in office and reflecting back on her years of public service after losing her re-election bid in November to Adam Bello.

The inquiry into the murder if Barnard freshman Tessa Majors is occurring in the shadow of an investigation from a different time: the Central Park Five case, also known as the Central Park jogger case, from April 1989.

NYC City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is calling for an investigation into the death Tuesday of prominent architect Erica Tishman, who was killed by a chunk of a facade that fell from a Midtown building.

The Council voted 38-3 with two abstentions to favor of a bill guaranteeing homeless households receive 15 percent of rental apartments at new housing developments with more than 40 units — provided the developers received city funding or other assistance.

Last week, organizers of First Night Saratoga announced they’re not doing fireworks this year because of costs and concerns for the environment. Organizers of the big Fourth of July festival are wondering what that decision means for them.

Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars — a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed. Yet, an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.

Scientists have unearthed evidence in New York of the world’s oldest forest, dating back nearly 400 million years.

Virginia biochemist Camille Schrier won the 99th Miss American pageant crown just minutes after wowing the crowd with science.

J.K. Rowling, the creator of the “Harry Potter” series, was criticized by gay and transgender rights groups after she expressed support for a British researcher whose views on transgender people were described by a court as “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

The holidays are not terribly environmentally friendly.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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