It’s Memorial Day weekend FriYAY, CivMixers. The gateway to summer is upon us.
So, yeah, summer is shaping up to be a little…different this year. OK, A LOT different. But it’s still summer, with lots of long days full of sunshine that we can all enjoy while staying a safe six-foot distance from one another.
Today happens to be the International Day for Biological Diversity, which, according to the interwebs, was originally observed on Dec. 29. But in December 2000, the UN General Assembly changed the date to May 22.
This was done in part to commemorate the adoption of the Convention at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and also to avoid clashing with the various international holidays that occur in late December (like, say, Christmas).
It should go without saying that biodiversity is important. Maintaining a delicate balance between species in the ecosystem helps keep everything in check, and helps prevent things like viruses from getting out of control. And we all know now from intense personal experience how important that is.
Also worth noting: It’s Harvey Milk Day, honoring the life of the LGBTQ activist and civil rights pioneer who was elected to the position of city supervisor in San Francisco and held office for one year before his was assassinated, along with then-Mayor George Moscone, by a political rival (former Supervisor Dan White) in 1978.
In his memory, Harvey Milk Day was officially established as a holiday also in 2009 when Arnold Schwarzenegger, then-governor of California, signed it into law.
Interesting historical note, for those unfamiliar with the Harvey Milk story. In 1977, when he was about to be elected and become the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Nancy Pelosi – now the House speaker – became the state’s Democratic chairman for Northern California.
Heading into the three-day weekend, we’re looking at sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s. Yes, you read that right. Tomorrow, there will be some showers in the morning, and clouds in the afternoon. The rest of the weekend is looking pretty good. And NEXT week, well….we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
In the headlines…
President Trump refused to wear a face mask while touring a ventilator plant in Michigan despite warnings from local officials, sending a defiant message one day after threatening to hold up federal funding for the state over baseless voter fraud accusations.
Trump said “we are not closing our country” if the U.S. is hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.
The president called for flags at the White House, on public grounds across the country and on naval vessels to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the coronavirus – a rare acknowledgment of the lives lost from an administration that typically likes to downplay the death toll and take credit for lives it claims it saved.
The feds have ordered 300 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine from British drugmaker AstraZeneca, officials said.
Trump says Republicans are working to draft a new coronavirus bill and that he plans to pressure states to allow churches to reopen as the pandemic ebbs.
Parting with years of precedent, China abandoned an annual growth target for 2020, in an acknowledgment that restarting its economy after the coronavirus outbreak will be a slow and difficult process.
A group of 77 Nobel laureates has asked for an investigation into the cancellation of a federal grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a group that researches bat coronaviruses in China.
U.S. and global business activity and labor markets suffered a little less in May than in prior months, offering signs that damage to the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic is easing but will require an extended time to overcome.
A sophisticated fraud network targeting Washington State’s unemployment system claimed hundreds of millions of dollars before officials were able to identify and crack down on the coordinated attack, state officials said.
First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 2.44 million last week as the tail effects of the coronavirus shutdown continued to impact the U.S. jobs market. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.4 million claims.
A new analysis estimates 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the next coronavirus bill would not extend beefed-up unemployment insurance enacted as the pandemic ravaged the U.S. economy.
In New York, the state lost more than 1.7 million private-sector jobs in April, and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.5 percent. New York City dropped 885,000 private-sector jobs, and the unemployment rate there jumped to 14.2 percent. The city and state’s unemployment rate was about 4 percent a year ago.
At least four states (Arkansas, Ohio, Illinois and Colorado) are warning residents who have applied online for unemployment benefits because of the coronavirus that their personal information may have been leaked.
North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik, one of the lawmakers nominated to the new China Task Force, believes the secretive Communist nation is now among the biggest threats to the U.S.
More than 100 police officers in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 after fighting the virus on the front lines, according to a report from the Fraternal Order of Police.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the public will begin “seeing more” of him and other public health officials after weeks without making official press appearances.
IBM is cutting an unspecified number of jobs in the first major workforce reduction under new Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna, who is trying to revive growth at the tech company.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted that 50 percent of the company’s employees could be working remotely within the next five to 10 years.
With large tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft extending their work-from-home policies until the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economists are predicting that real estate trends might shift and cause a “suburban boom” in the housing market.
Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them, fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk.
Netflix will start asking customers who haven’t used its platform in the past year if they want to keep their subscriptions, the company announced. If a customer doesn’t respond, Netflix will automatically cancel the subscription.
The University of California (UC) system regents unanimously voted to waive their standardized test requirement for their incoming freshman until 2024, meaning that high school students will no longer need to take the ACT or SAT to gain admission to one of the expansive system’s universities.
Trump announced that $298 million in relief funding allocated in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act is on its way to New York City’s transportation system.
After months of lockdowns, all states have now eased restrictions in some capacity, and many are relying on data to tell them when it is safe to move to the next phase of reopening. But each state has its own idea of what that data should be.
As restrictions continue to loosen and people start to go out more, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned New Yorkers not to get “arrogant and casual about this pandemic” and cause the infection rate to spike.
With New York City beaches closed for Memorial Day amid coronavirus restrictions, and Long Island beaches limited to local residents, the Jersey Shore is bracing for an influx from its New York neighbors eager to break the bonds of cabin fever and get out and soak in some sun.
“The beaches are open, but the water is not for swimming,” said Brian Conroy, assistant chief of the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, in a press briefing at the Abe Stark Sports Center in Coney Island. (Surfing, which requires some swimming, is for some reason OK).
As New York City’s outdoor season begins with Memorial Day, police are shifting the focus of their enforcement of social-distancing rules, limiting an emphasis on punitive measures and concentrating on breaking up large groups.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city is on track to overcome its remaining roadblocks to reopening by early-to-mid June; Cuomo’s office agrees. Parts of the city are already starting to spring back to life, perhaps too quickly for some.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio deflected blame in the wake of a bombshell study from Columbia University confirming that New York’s elected leaders stalled when it was time to take action on battling the spread of the coronavirus.
A trouble spot: Cuomo said that the number of countries reporting a mysterious illness in children believed to be connected to COVID-19 has nearly doubled in just one week. Only seven countries had reported the illness last Thursday, but now six more are investigating cases.
“It’s something we’re very concerned about,” Cuomo told reporters in his Midtown Manhattan office of the now 157 suspected cases being probed by the state Department of Health. “The more they look, I believe, the more they will find.”
No decision has been made on whether New York’s summer day camps can reopen, but schools will be given guidelines in June to begin planning for a potential reopening in September, Cuomo said.
Summer school isn’t happening in New York as Cuomo warned it’s “still too early” to say if students will be allowed back into their classrooms in the fall amid an uptick in cases of children developing the potentially deadly inflammatory symptoms from coronavirus.
Many sleep-over summer camps have already cancelled, but some day camps were awaiting the go-ahead from the state before finalizing plans.
Cuomo has about 10 days before he has to make some big decisions about New York state’s estimated $14 billion budget deficit. He’s hoping that Congress will pass a bailout measure to avert some of the financial pain, but some Republican senators are resisting.
State lawmakers are making a fresh push to legalize pot and expand sports betting, saying tax income from the vices can help fill a gaping budget hole widened by the coronavirus.
Manhattan Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman authored a bill green lighting bars, restaurants and other brewhouses to continue wine, beer and cocktail take-out and deliveries an extra two years after Cuomo’s COVID-19 emergency powers sunset.
With state lawmakers talking about convening in Albany next week, legislators may soon hear from a task force charged with developing pandemic-related housing relief proposals.
The state’s highest court knocked three-term Upper East Side Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright off the Democratic and WFP ballot lines amid the pandemic for failing to file cover sheets with her paperwork – opening the door for Republican candidate and residential doorman Louis Puliafito to secure the seat.
Since the pandemic has largely cleared the New York’s streets, few motorcyclists have been able to ignore the singular, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: speeding through the city free of the annoyances that can make riding here such a frustrating and dangerous experience.
NYC parents are livid after the Department of Education lost the entry tests of 61 kids applying to advanced academic programs and schools.
Worker absences at the height of New York City’s coronavirus crisis forced the MTA to cancel 41 percent of subway trains in one day.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer warned the Big Apple’s budget crunch will get worse as state officials slash spending amid the coronavirus pandemic, likely costing City Hall another $3 billion in expected funding — and pushing the deficit to at least $11 billion.
Across New York City, commercial tenants are falling behind in rent at unprecedented rates as the coronavirus outbreak has caused a nearly complete lockdown of the city for two months.
After weeks of being ravaged by coronavirus, the number of NYPD cops out sick is back to under 3 percent of the force, a similar rate as before the pandemic.
Broadway’s reopening could come as late as next year — but other entertainment venues may return earlier, insiders say.
Public space for social distancing is hard to find in many of New York City’s low-income neighborhoods, a map published by the advocacy group Trust for Public Land shows.
Seagrams’ heiress and longtime NXIVM executive Clare Bronfman has asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to adjourn her June 25 sentencing in Brooklyn in part because the COVID-19 pandemic will keep her family from attending.
The gates to the state’s Lake George Beach, also known as Million Dollar Beach will open officially this weekend, though people have been flocking there already.
Albany Medical Center warned this week that a new state directive forbidding hospitals from discharging COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes until they test negative could cause financial strain and capacity issues for hospitals across the Capital Region.
Albany Police Department beefed up staffing to a unit charged with dealing with violent crimes earlier this year to deal with an unexpected rash of shootings in the city.
The seven newest members of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will have to wait before they can have their induction moment. Due to the pandemic, the Hall of Fame canceled the formal ceremony that was scheduled to take place Friday, Aug. 7, at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.
The new operators of Albany’s Madison Theater say its locally unique practice of serving meals continued after the movies ended due to the pandemic, keeping some money coming in. And, they say, the curtain will rise again too.
Blue Ribbon Family Restaurant & Bakery, a Schenectady dining destination since 1977, has reopened for takeout after having been closed since March 16, when Cuomo banned restaurants from offering table service due the coronavirus pandemic.
Prepare for an era of socially distanced workouts when gyms are finally allowed to reopen.
In non-virus news…
Trump will inform Russia that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure that they are not preparing for military action.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, has been asked by former VP Joe Biden to undergo a formal vetting to be considered as his vice presidential running mate, one of several potential contenders now being scrutinized by his aides ahead of a final decision, according to people familiar with the moves.
A shooting at a Texas naval air station that wounded a sailor and left the gunman dead early yesterday was being investigated as “terrorism-related,” the FBI said, but divulged few details as to why.
The Georgia man whose cellphone video of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting helped reignite the case was charged with murder, making him the third person arrested more than two months after the slaying.
Actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars as part of her plea deal in the college admissions scandal — while her hubby Mossimo Giannulli is expected to serve five months.
Lawsuits stemming from water pollution in the Hoosick Falls area recently saw a precedent of sorts when a federal appeals court upheld the plaintiffs’ request for ongoing medical monitoring of residents – if they ultimately prevail in court.
The city’s campaign finance watchdog hit de Blasio’s Big Apple campaign account with a $16,000 fine for violating a slew of regulations, including failing to promptly return excessive contributions from individuals with business before City Hall.
NY CREATES, the entity that controls real estate and economic development at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, approved two new agreements with North Carolina-based Cree, the power-electronics chip maker that is building a new $1 billion factory in Oneida County.
A former State Police senior investigator who retired last year amid an investigation of his on-duty activities — and those of his fellow members assigned to a federal drug task force in New York City — died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Photo credit: George Fazio.