Rise and Shine: Feb. 26, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Ash Wednesday, which marks 40 days before Easter and the beginning of Lent.

According to the Catholic law of abstinence, Catholics aged 14 and older must refrain from meat today and also on on Fridays during this period.

It’s traditional to have repentance ashes placed on your forehead, (if you’re observing), to either the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Usually, the ashes are not washed off until bedtime.

(But there’s rain in the forecast today, along with temperatures in the low 40s, according to The Weather Channel, so it might be a little tougher to preserve your ashes all day long if you’re planning on being outside for any length of time).

Did you know that there’s no actual mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible? There is, however, a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus.

The Man in Black (AKA the iconic singer Johnny Cash) was born on this day in 1932. He’s one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide, and is known for signature songs like “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” “Get Rhythm,” and (of course), “Man in Black.”

In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease Shy–Drager syndrome, a form of multiple system atrophy. He lost his wife, June Carter Cash, in May 2003, but continued to record, completing 60 more songs in the last four months of his life. He died in October 2003 after suffering complications from diabetes.

Also born today in 1829 was Levi Strauss, who created the world’s first pair of denim blue jeans. (He died in 1902). Also, John Kellogg, the nutritionist and doctor who created cornflakes, was born in 1852 on this day, and died in 1943.

Birthdays of note for those notable individuals lucky enough to still be around: Singer Michael Bolton (67), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (66), and singer Erykah Badu (born Erica Abi Wright – 49).

In the news…

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave his White House bid a boost last night by turning in his strongest debate performance to date in South Carolina last night, though things rapidly devolved into a free-for-all showdown that underscored the increasingly urgent positions of several of the candidates.

The Democrats delivered a barrage of criticism against their party’s emerging front-runner, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, casting him as a divisive figure with unrealistic ideas, and continued to batter Mike Bloomberg for his extreme wealth, his record on policing and his alleged behavior toward women.

Bloomberg had a different plan for his second debate: buy it. A 60-second ad for the billionaire media mogul’s campaign played during the first and second commercial breaks of the CBS Democratic presidential debate last night — drawing the ire of pundits on Twitter.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed Bloomberg’s campaign, suggesting the billionaire’s time as mayor of New York City suggests he could be even worse than President Donald Trump if elected.

In a cringeworthy slip of the tongue, Bloomberg at the debate almost said that he “bought” 21 congressional Democrats their seats in the 2018 mid-term elections.

The Trump campaign deemed the Democrats a “hot mess” after the seven candidates hoping to take on the president in November duked it out in another contentious display.

South Korea today reported 115 new cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total to 1,261 from 1,146. It is the largest outbreak outside of China. And an American soldier in South Korea tested positive for the virus, the U.S. military said.

San Francisco declared a “state of emergency” over the coronavirus — despite not having any confirmed cases in the city.

Trump is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to prepare for the potential spread of the coronavirus nationwide, despite also stating that the United States has everything under control.

Syracuse University is suspending its study abroad program in Florence, Italy due to the coronavirus and bring 342 students home to the U.S.

As New York works to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, more advocates are calling on the state to go one step further and ban all flavored tobacco products on the market, including menthol cigarettes. (This is a step only one other state – Massachusetts – has taken).

The Trump administration has unexpectedly halted a project to protect the New York City region from flooding during dangerous storms — a decision that came six weeks after the president took to Twitter to ridicule the study’s most expensive proposal, a giant sea wall that could have cost billions of dollars.

Norlite LLC, the company that was burning toxic PFOA and PFOS compounds near a housing project, did so unbeknownst to the city of Cohoes in 2018 and most of 2019, officials said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week was hesitant to support an extension to the Child Victims Act’s one-year “look-back” window that allows child sex abuse survivors of all ages to file previously time-barred claims against their alleged abusers.

Cuomo released a list of healthcare networks that will be impacted by the federal government’s $8 billion cut to New York’s healthcare system.

A member of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Gary Lavine, continued his lashing criticism of the panel’s lack of transparency, calling it “an enabler of gratuitous opacity.”

Actor Ben Stiller joined lawmakers and advocates yesterday at the state Capitol in calling for more money for a state-funded refugee program.

The National Rifle Association can’t prevent New York investigators from seeing documents subpoenaed from its former advertising agency in a probe of the organization’s nonprofit status, a judge ruled

Albany High School students as young as 16 will this week have the chance to pre-register to vote during their lunch periods, taking advantage of a new law that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Anthony’s Italian Restaurant on Remsen Street is part of the city’s growing restaurant district.

The New York Racing Association will increase the amount of green space available to Saratoga track fans by removing the group hospitality tent alongside the paddock at the course.

Jason Lee Sellie was not there when his stepdaughter was shot and killed during a Memorial Day party last year. But he tried to avenge her death and for that he will serve the longest prison sentence of anyone connected to the case.

Frustrated with what they perceive as years of ineffectual representation and concerns about how their dues are being used, some Albany Police officers are asking the state’s Public Employee Relations Board to allow them to drop representation by Council 82.

A former state worker who had a condition that caused uncontrollable paralysis and vomiting, is suing the State Education Department, saying the agency wrongfully forced her to retire and caused her to be locked up at Albany Medical Center’s psychiatric wing for four days in 2018.

A 10-year-old girl was killed by a school bus in Brooklyn, and the driver of the bus was arrested.

Sarah Feinberg, a former Obama transportation official who has served on the MTA board since last year and a close relationship with Cuomo, will be the new interim chief of New York City’s buses and subways following the resignation of Andy Byford, the agency announced.

Lawrence Ray, the man accused of running a so-called “sex cult” out of his daughter’s dorm room, is set to appear in court today for a bail hearing.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer vowed to keep a close eye on First Lady Chirlane McCray’s embattled “ThriveNYC” mental health initiative, saying its ongoing lack of accountability and transparency raises serious questions about whether it merely exists to raise her political profile.

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard is stepping down as head of the international women’s clothing giant he founded, a spokesman for the Canadian-born multi-millionaire announced following an NYPD/FBI raid of Nygard’s Manhattan offices.

At least once a week for the past several years, Mike Masilotti, a Colonie native and professional comedian, has consumed various forms of marijuana in a quantity that he calls “a lot more than I’d normally be comfortable with” and then tries to tell jokes in front of an audience.

The Albany Police Department is urging people to make sure their dogs are up to date on their canine distemper vaccinations after several wild animals tested positive for the contagious disease

Four Saratoga County Public Works employees received a standing ovation at the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday – a recognition of their quick action that saved the life of a Mayfield snowmobiler.

A video clip of BTS, the South Korean boy band, performing at Grand Central Terminal is only six minutes long. But it took almost two months to arrange for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to film the K-pop group dancing beneath the celestial ceiling inside the iconic train station.

Alligators in the NYC sewer system – it’s one of the city’s oldest and most pervasive urban legends. Here’s how that started.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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