Rise and Shine: Jan. 17, 2020

We made it to Friday, CivMixers. Hallelujah.

Winter is back – with a vengeance. The wind is howling and it’s 18 degrees as I write this, EIGHTEEN DAMN DEGREES! What happened to almost 70? What’s worse, we’re not expected to get much above the mid-20s today, according to The Weather Channel. Brrrr.

It will be sunny for most of the day, with clouds gathering toward evening. We’re in for some snow and rain tomorrow night, with expected accumulation of one to three inches – just enough to make driving treacherous.

It’s the 56th birthday of former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was the first African American woman ever to hold that post. (Ditto, her husband, the 44th president of the U.S., Barack Obama, minus the woman part).

Though she has been out of the White House for a while now, Michelle Obama is still very much in the news.

This week, it was reported that she and a host of other politically prominent women (like Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others) were depicted by Italian artist AleXsandro Palombo with bruises and scars on their faces for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, accompanied by the text “Just because I’m a woman.”

In a statement, Palombo says he wants “to illustrate the drama that affects millions of women throughout the world… with the aim of denouncing, raising awareness and obtaining a real response from institutions and politics.”

There’s another story this week about how Michelle Obama and her successor, FLOTUS Melania Trump, don’t get along on Twitter.

Also, for the first time since they started their foundation more than six years ago, the former president and first lady donated more than $1 million to support the development of the Obama Presidential Center and to pay for its many programs, officials said.

On, and one more thing: The first documentary released by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, has earned an Oscar nomination. “American Factory,” which was released by Netflix last year, earned a nod for best documentary feature.

So, yeah. The Obamas are doing QUITE well for themselves, thank you very much.

The former FLOTUS shares her birthday with some interesting folks, like comedian Betty White (98 – she’s NINETY-EIGHT, people!!), actress Zooey Deschanel (40), actor Jim Carrey (58), comedian and TV host Steve Harvey (63), TV host Maury Povich (81), dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy (41), and actor James Earl Jones (89).

Boxing great Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on this day in 1942. He died of septic shock in 2016 at the age of 74 after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Ali, always.

Also born on this day and no longer with us: Singer Eartha Kitt, who died of colon cancer at the age of 81 in 2008. As the New York Times put it, Kitt “purred and pounced her way across Broadway stages, recording studios and movie and television screens in a show-business career that lasted more than six decades.” MEOW.

In the headlines…

For only the third time in U.S. history, a president (that would be Donald Trump in this case) is going on trial in the Senate for impeachment.

Chief Justice Roberts was sworn in to preside over the proceedings, vowing to act “according to the Constitution and the laws.” He then administered the same, 222-year-old oath of impartiality to the senators, as new evidence was emerging about Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that is at the heart of the charges against him.

Trump said that he doesn’t know Lev Parnas, an associate of his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who alleged the president was fully aware of the former New York mayor’s efforts in Ukraine.

Americans tuning in to witness electrifying exchanges in the trial might be in for a shock themselves: Lawmakers could pull the C-Span plug and go into closed session at critical moments of debate over the conduct of the trial and the fate of the president.

Congress gave final approval to Trump’s revised North American Free Trade Agreement, handing the president his second trade victory of the week as the Senate prepared to try him for high crimes and misdemeanors.

…Both New York senators – Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand – voted against the U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement with just eight others, in large part because it doesn’t do anything, they say, to mitigate climate change.

Federal prosecutors in Washington are reportedly investigating a years-old leak of classified information about a Russian intelligence document, and they appear to be focusing on whether the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey illegally provided details to reporters.

Evelyn Yang, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, said in aa CNN interview that she was sexually assaulted by her gynecologist in 2012, when she was pregnant with her first child.

The FBI, in a change of policy, is committing to inform state officials if local election systems have been breached, federal officials said.

In anticipation of cuts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he releases his spending plan next Tuesday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a “minimalist” $95.3 billion budget proposal that called for a 2.7 percent increase — the smallest percentage increase in his six years in office.

De Blasio took swipes at MTA leadership after announcing a proposed budget that excluded funding requested by transit officials.

Weeks after Democrats curbed wealthy donors from influencing elections with the approval of the new taxpayer-funded campaign system, recent filings show they’re still raking in the big bucks from the rich.

The governor wants to change the state flag and at least one of his fellow Democrats, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, isn’t happy about it.

A year-long criminal investigation that has focused on the financial dealings of Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, a firebrand former state assemblyman, as well as his county operations director and closest political confidant, Richard W. Crist, is nearing an end and expected to result in criminal charge.

Albany County Court Judge William Carter was abruptly reassigned yesterday from handling criminal matters — a change neither Carter nor court officials would explain, though this is not considered a suspension.

Bail should not be used as punishment, and it should not benefit the wealthy. That’s the message from advocates of a New York law that took effect Jan. 1 that ends cash bail in most misdemeanor and non-violent felonies cases.

New Yorkers can expect a new round of incentives, rebates and other deals intended to boost energy efficiency through the increased use of heat pumps, high-efficiency appliances, LED light bulbs and more as part of a $2 billion, five-year plan approved by the PSC.

As housing advocates across the state have descended upon Albany to champion for a home for every New Yorker, Capital Region tenant advocates hope good-cause eviction will remain a focus.

Albany police are investigating a shooting on the north end of the city last night.

Troy Police are investigating an incident of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism in Frear Park.

The popular and historic Stockade Inn will remained closed for a while after fire damaged part of the stately restaurant and hotel in the heart of the historic neighborhood.

Suffolk County police shared a previously undisclosed piece of evidence in the unsolved Gilgo Beach murder investigation yesterday – nine years after the evidence was found and shortly before a movie about the case debuts.

Graduation rates rose incrementally in the Capital Region and across New York in 2019, according to data released by the state Education Department.

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association unveiled a new statewide crime prevention program aimed at using synthetic forensic technology to thwart crime and help with criminal investigations.

The sentencing of a Troy man who admitted to dealing drugs that caused a man’s fatal overdose has been postponed one week, after the judge expressed concern his guilty plea may have been coerced.

In 2014, Menands real estate attorney Laurie Anne Campito was suspended from practicing law because she failed to register and pay required fees. She practiced law anyway, and now has been disbarred as a result.

NYC’s Department of Homeless Services has done “little oversight” of its “failed” subway homeless-outreach contract, allowing the subway’s subterranean population to grow unchecked, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli alleged.

In the latest tumultuous twist for the Recording Academy, the embattled organization behind the Grammy Awards, the institution’s brand-new chief executive, Deborah Dugan, was removed from her position yesterday – just 10 days before this year’s ceremony.

Rapper-turned-actress, Nora Lum, who is better known as Awkwafina (a UAlbany alum!), has taken over the conductor announcements on the 7 train as part of a publicity campaign to promote her new show on Comedy Central, “Nora From Queens.”

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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