Rise and Shine: Jan. 22, 2020

Good morning, it’s Wednesday already. This week is flying by.

Today’s Google Doodle honors Anna May Wong, (born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905), an American actress who was considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition.

It’s National “Blond Brownie” Day, (weird, I always called them “blondies”), which use brown sugar in place of the cocoa powder put in traditional “brownies.” It’s also National Library Shelfie Day – apparently yes, this is indeed a thing – to be observed by rearranging the books in your collection and taking a picture of the results.

Food Network star and chef Guy Fieri is celebrating another trip around the sun today – he’s 52. Also marking birthdays today: Rapper Silento (AKA Richard Lamar Hawk, best known for his single “Watch Me” that was all the rage a few years back, 22), rapper Logic (AKA Sir Robert Bryson Hall II – 30), actress Diane Lane (55), Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice (33), and actress Linda Blair (best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in “The Exorcist” – 61).

Two notable singers who are no longer with us (because they died under tragic circumstances) were born on this day: Sam Cooke, who was born in 1931 and died in 1964 at the age of 33 when he was shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California; and Michael Hutchence, co-founder of the rock band INXS, who was born in 1960 and committed suicide in 1997.

It’s super cold at the moment – about 16 degrees – but The Weather Channel says we’re going up to the mid-30s, which is a veritable heat wave compared to the bone-chilling temperatures we’ve seen of late. It will be cloudy this morning and generally sunny in the afternoon.

In impeachment news…

The U.S. Senate early this morning approved rules for the trial of President Donald Trump on a party-line vote that delays the question of whether the chamber should subpoena witnesses and documents until later in the trial.

…The rules resolution from Senate Majority Mitch McConnell was approved 53-47 after Republicans defeated a series of amendments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the opening day of the bitterly fought impeachment trial.

Chief Justice John Roberts drew little attention to himself in the beginning 12 hours of his first impeachment trial. But it was just before 1 a.m., as tempers on the floor had started to wear thin, that he reminded senators, House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team who was in charge.

Under the rules orchestrated by McConnell, the House managers and Trump’s lawyers will each have 24 hours starting this afternoon to argue their cases for and against the articles of impeachment. Senators will have 16 hours to ask questions, submitted in writing, most likely early next week.

So, after a brief period of respite, the drama is scheduled to begin anew later today. Get your popcorn ready.

A number of Senate Democrats reportedly are privately discussing the possibility of striking a witness deal with Republicans that would pave the way for Hunter Biden’s testimony in Trump’s impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg launched a new impeachment-focused television ad urging the Senate to remove Trump from office. The ad will run in 27 states, including states represented by vulnerable Republican senators, and be Bloomberg’s only ad on television in the next few days.

Trump swept into Davos, Switzerland, full of brio and flattery, schmoozing with global business leaders as if there were no talk of removing him from office and no impeachment trial unfolding 4,000 miles away in Washington.

In state budget news…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $178 billion budget that closes a $6 billion deficit through reducing the growth in Medicaid, limiting aid to local programs and expecting tax revenue to grow by $2 billion.

Cuomo’s spending plan, which now must be negotiated with the Legislature by the April 1 budget deadline, would increase school aid, legalize recreational marijuana, expand a new child tax credit, reduce business taxes and continue an already planned tax cut for the middle class.

The governor is proposing an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee production, distribution, transportation and sales of any adult- or medical-use cannabis products. He also wants to tax adult use recreational marijuana fairly heavily.

Cuomo’s plan includes a 3 percent increase in school aid, bringing the $27.7 million pot up to $28.5 million, with over 80 percent of those funds directed to high-need school districts.

Cuomo’s budget says his plan increases charter-school tuition in alignment with public-school spending and provides New York City charter schools with a total per-pupil funding increase of 5.3 percent.

The governor is reconvening a Medicaid Redesign Team (something he did in his first budget as governor), and tasking it with cutting $2.5 billion from the publicly-funded healthcare program for the poor, which is largely responsible for the state’s current $6.1 billion budget deficit.

Cuomo said New York counties should have to pick up a bigger share of the state’s soaring Medicaid costs if they don’t curb increases in local property taxes and Medicaid spending.

The governor pledged to seek changes to a three-week-old law that ends bail for misdemeanors and the lowest-level felonies, but which has been criticized for releasing some suspects who were arrested again on felonies including burglary, bank robbery and drunken driving in a fatal crash upstate.

Robert Mujica, the governor’s budget director, said there were no new taxes proposed in part because the top 5 percent of taxpayers already account for about 62 percent of the state’s personal income tax revenue.

Cuomo also called for: prohibiting higher prices for products geared toward women, legalizing gestational surrogacy, a task force to consider expanding labor protections for so-called “gig economy” workers, stricter gun policies and adding “e pluribus unum” to New York’s coat of arms.

The New York State Fair would be extended by five days thanks to an additional $4.9 million proposed by Cuomo as part of his budget.

Cuomo’s budget stops short of allowing New Yorkers to place mobile bets on sporting events. But he is proposing an expansion of how people can gamble on sports in casinos. Currently, bettors are limited to placing wagers in sports parlors. Cuomo’s plan would allow sports bets to placed anywhere in the casino.

In other news…

In an abrupt about-face, Hillary Clinton said last night that she would endorse her 2016 rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, if he wins the Democratic nomination to face President Donald Trump in November.

A day after former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders appeared to have brokered a truce after weeks of tension, Biden released a video suggesting the Sanders campaign was engaging in “dishonest attacks” and Sanders responded with a video of his own criticizing Biden over his Social Security record.

The U.S. reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak’s epicenter was hospitalized near Seattle.

Opening statements and the first witness testimony are expected today in Harvey Weinstein’s New York City rape trial, where the possibility of life in prison looms for the once-celebrated “Pulp Fiction” producer now vilified as a predator by scores of women.

A federal appeals court upheld former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction but ordered a resentencing after reversing the conviction on some charges.

The state Department of Health has launched an investigation into “cancer occurrence” in the Northport-East Northport school district on Long Island after several students from a recent graduating class were “reported as having been diagnosed” with cancer, officials said.

After a relatively dry and partly sunny week, Upstate New York could see another weekend snowstorm with wet, heavy snow and possibly rain.

Sentencing for Nxivm’s longtime accountant, Kathy Russell, has been pushed back indefinitely, a judge ruled.

A fire destroyed a home at 59 Vadney Road yesterday afternoon, Bethlehem police spokesman Commander Adam Hornick said.

Be it a cold, the flu, stress from exams, or a routine physical, for the first time in more than a decade, students at UAlbany can now get treatment and counseling right on campus with the opening of a new health facility.

Beginning today at SUNY Albany, students are not allowed to use any kind of tobacco product on campus property, including all dorms, classrooms, and outdoor common spaces such as walkways and sports areas.

In his first year of eligibility for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Derek Jeter was on 396 of 397 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, thus easily surpassing the 75-percent minimum for immortality in the form of a bronze plaque in a museum in Cooperstown.

Three-time BNA champion LeBron James made a surprise visit to the Harlem YMCA to share his love of bikes with local teens.

Legendary Big Apple grocer Fairway Market, known for its wide selection of cheeses and cheap produce, is getting ready to call it quits.

Robberies surged on New York’s subway system in 2019 — for the second straight year, police said.

“Star Trek: Picard” is beaming to the NYC subway. For three weeks starting tomorrow, when the show premieres on CBS All Access, the series will be promoted on special MetroCards available at six MTA stations in Manhattan.

Deborah Dugan, the suspended chief of the organization behind the Grammy Awards, said in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she was removed as retaliation for uncovering a range of misconduct – including sexual harassment, improper voting procedures and conflicts of interest among academy board members.

If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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