Rise and Shine: Jan. 28, 2020

Good Tuesday morning, CivMixers!

I don’t know about you, but Legos played a big role in my childhood. I wasn’t fanatical about them like some people are. But I did have them, and enjoyed playing with them quite a bit.

Legos weren’t quite as elaborate in my day as they are now. I kept mine – mostly just colorful bricks and a few blocky people – all mixed together in a plastic bucket, and would dump them out onto the floor from time to time and just create. And who hasn’t experienced the unique pain of stepping barefoot on a stray Lego accidentally left behind after clean-up time? There is nothing quite like it.

I bring you this moment of nostalgia because today is National Lego Day. Did you know, by the way, that Legos were invented in 1949 and were among the first kids toys to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester? True story. The design for the plastic interlocking Legos, which originated in Denmark, was actually patented on this very day in 1958; they were initially made out of wood.

There are a number of interesting Lego projects out there. Like this one. Unfortunately for Lego lovers, New York’s highly anticipated Legoland, which is under construction on Goshen, won’t be open until July 4, but advance tickets are already on sale.

On a more serious note, on this day in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Florida, killing all seven aboard – including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who had been selected as the first American civilian to travel in space.

I remember that day very clearly. I was in middle school, and we were watching the Challenger takeoff on live TV in science class. To this day, I am terrified to fly. I wonder if there’s some connection there…

Also on this day in 1813, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” was published by Thomas Egerton in the United Kingdom.

In 1887, work began on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson refused to prohibit the immigration of people who were illiterate.

In 1934, the first ski tow rope operation in the U.S. began in Woodstock, VT.

In 1949, the New York Giants signed their first African American players: Monte Irvin and Ford Smith.

In 1969, USC’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back O.J. Simpson was a first round draft pick by Buffalo Bills.

In 1985, the charity single “We Are the World” was recorded by the supergroup “USA for Africa,” which featured Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and many other pop stars.

Actress Ariel Winter is celebrating her 22nd birthday today. Other celebrity birthdays include: Rapper Rick Ross (44), actor Elijah Wood (39), singer Nick Carter (40), track and field star Jessica Ennis-Hill (34), actor Alan Alda (84) and singer Sarah McLachlan (52).

In the headlines…

China’s top public health commission said early this morning that the death toll from an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus has passed 100. In a statement, the National Health Commission updated the death toll from the outbreak to 106, up from 81 announced just a day earlier.

Thailand reported 14 cases of infection, up from eight, the most of any country outside of China.

An outbreak originating in China and reaching beyond its borders has summoned fresh fears, sending markets into a wealth-destroying tailspin. It has provoked alarm that the world economy may be in for another shock, offsetting the benefits of the trade truce and the geopolitical easing.

Nearly half the population of the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak left town before it was put on lockdown, officials have revealed.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged American citizens to avoid nonessential travel to China.

With the coronavirus making headlines, local pharmacies can’t seem to keep surgical masks on the shelves.

A ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp at Auschwitz culminated a week of events around the world, including a commemoration in Jerusalem attended by dozens of world leaders, who urged collective vigilance against a resurgence of anti-Semitism worldwide.

The White House and Senate Republican leaders struggled yesterday to salvage their plans for a quick acquittal of President Trump after a new account by his former national security adviser John R. Bolton corroborated a central piece of the impeachment case against him.

Alan Dershowitz, the 81-year-old Harvard Law professor hired by Trump’s legal team, railed against House Democrats’ “vague and open-ended” impeachment charges.

In the impeachment trial, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s primary role has been pressuring Republicans to admit more evidence. As more details about Trump’s Ukraine dealings emerge in the press, it’s an open question whether some moderates will side with Schumer in the coming days.

Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have criticized the celebrity news outlet TMZ for being the first to report of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter on Sunday, before police were able to notify his family of the tragedy.

Sunday was a day off for the University at Albany basketball players, but many were full of emotions and thoughts following the helicopter crash that took Bryant’s life.

The pilot of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant, his teen daughter Gianna, and six others to a basketball game told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer just before the aircraft crashed, killing everyone aboard, federal investigators said.

The helicopter was not carrying a cockpit voice recorder, and investigators have been searching a debris field of 500 to 600 feet, trying to recover perishable evidence. Federal officials are not expected to reach a conclusion about the cause of the accident for months.

The NBA has had many stars but few global icons on the scale of Bryant, whose career coincided with the league’s international expansion.

A witness to Bryant’s deadly chopper crash believes the nine victims aboard likely “didn’t suffer” because the chopper was destroyed instantaneously.

In the wake of Bryant’s death, Nike has decided to pull all Kobe-related items from its Nike.com webstore, company sources confirmed to ESPN. For now, searches for Bryant’s products provide one result: a purple and yellow Nike gift card bearing the Los Angeles Lakers’ logo.

Creating a statewide registry of properties with code violations as well as designating a state ombudsman to address lackluster local code enforcement programs are among 11 bills lawmakers have introduced to enhance code enforcement throughout New York.

With sweeping statewide climate change promises and an increasingly strained group of forest rangers in the Adirondacks and Catskills, a number of lawmakers at a public hearing asked the leader of the state DEC if he had enough staff to carry it all out in the 2021 budget. His response: “Absolutely.”

Last year’s collapse of MyPayrollHR left thousands of workers looking for recourse with reversed paychecks and nowhere to turn, exposing pitfalls in the lightly regulated payroll-processing industry. A package of four bills introduced by state Senate Democrats seeks to address those shortcomings.

New York’s statewide plastic bag ban takes effect on March 1, and environmentalists and industry experts alike are worried about confusion and loopholes that could cause problems.

There are few things Republicans and Democrats in Albany can agree on these days – but as budget hearings begin in Albany this week, state lawmakers across the aisle are calling to reform the budget process.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest marijuana legalization plan seeks to set rules on everything from taxing sales to banning alcohol inside lounges and dispensaries. Absent were guidelines for spending specific amounts of cannabis tax revenue on communities hit hardest by decades of racially biased marijuana arrests – a sticking point for civil rights groups, lawmakers and pot legalization supporters.

State Attorney General Letitia James has launched a new online complaint portal for New Yorkers to report instances of housing discrimination based on the source of their incomes.

James has filed a lawsuit against imprisoned “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli attempting to block him from working in the pharmaceutical industry ever again.

Chris Churchill: “Bail reform has done nothing new; the rights it grants to everybody have always existed for the rich and powerful. When men like Sheldon Silver or Harvey Weinstein are accused of crimes, they post bail or large bonds and remain free unless convicted at trial…Where’s the outrage? Why aren’t prosecutors and Republican lawmakers holding press conferences about that?”

A Washington County high school principal was placed on administrative leave for what Whitehall Central School District Superintendent Patrick M. Dee described as “serious concerns about a situation.”

Stewart’s Shops said it has acquired the Polsinello Fuels gasoline and diesel distribution business and five gas stations. Terms of the acquisition weren’t revealed.

The city of Troy has failed for the fourth time in a row to stop an arbitration by one of its unions in a contract dispute.

The driver who died in a two-car, head-on collision in Schaghticoke on Friday sped up after another car tried to pass, left the road and hit a mailbox, veered back onto State Route 67 and collided with an oncoming car, according to State Police.

An early morning fire has heavily damaged a popular Cobleskill restaurant: Justine’s on West Main Street.

The MTA unveiled a new ad campaign encouraging riders to report hate crimes and other “bias-motivated” threats or graffiti.

Staten Island Democratic Rep. Max Rose said that if NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t get more proactive about curbing the deer population in his district he’s going to grab his rifle and take care of the hoofed menaces himself.

The NYC Buildings Department is installing emergency protective sidewalk sheds in front of dozens of Big Apple structures with crumbling facades — and slapping their property owners with the bill.

Richard Esposito, a former New York Post reporter, will take the helm of the NYPD’s press office as the new deputy commissioner for public information, Commissioner Dermot Shea announced.

The State Department will not allow NPR’s diplomatic correspondent Michele Keleman on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s government airplane for an upcoming trip, which includes a stop in Ukraine, following the secretary’s extraordinary outburst last week over being questioned about Ukraine during an interview with the network.

Drag queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will be featured in a Sabra Hummus ad set to air during the Super Bowl, the first time drag queens will appear in a commercial during the football event.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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