Rise and Shine: June 16, 2020

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, for those of us who are keeping of track of that sort of thing.

Today is the deadline for school election ballots to be counted – they must be either postmarked on this date or hand-delivered by 5 p.m. The governor made this change via executive order after many New York districts said they had trouble getting the ballots to voters in time.

The election, writ large, was made by absentee in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Counting of the ballots will start today, but could last a while, given the unprecedented nature of this election. There have also been reports of a surge in voter participation, which is a good thing, but could also further prolong the final results.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has also extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots in the state primary until the day of the election, which is June 23. All ballots must be postmarked June 23 or they will not be counted.

“No New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote,” the governor said when he signed the executive order that changed these deadlines. “Extending the deadline to submit absentee ballots builds on our previous Executive Orders to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote absentee in the upcoming primary election and it will help to increase voter participation as we continue to fight this virus.”

Every New Yorker who is registered to vote is supposed to receive a postage-paid absentee ballot application in the mail. Some states have been running into extreme difficulties in their respective primaries, as we noted yesterday in “5 Things.” Hopefully, election officials will get all the kinks in the pandemic-addled system worked out before the November general election.

I, for one, am not terribly optimistic. But, you know, pessimism is in my nature.

It’s very difficult to have a negative outlook when you’re considering the forecast we have on tap today: 80 degrees and sunny, with light winds. In other words, perfect.

And I don’t say that sort of thing much. It’s completely out of character. Let’s get to the news, where I’m sure I’ll find plenty of things to be disappointed by.

Oh, but wait…it’s also National Fudge Day. You’re welcome.

In the headlines…

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bedrock federal civil-rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, a decision that for the first time extends federal workplace protections to LGBT employees nationwide.

In many ways, the decision is the strongest evidence yet of how fundamentally, rapidly and, to some degree, unpredictably American views about gay and transgender people have changed across the ideological spectrum in less than 20 years.

The ruling focused on employment discrimination, but legal scholars say its language could force expanded civil rights protections in education, health care, housing and other areas of daily life.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, a profoundly conservative jurist and one of the two appointments President Trump has made the court, led the way on what is one of the most sweeping LGBT rights rulings in the court’s history. One conservative group said he betrayed the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat on the court he has held since 2017.

Around 200 LGBT advocates and supporters rallied last night to hail the landmark anti-workplace discrimination ruling by the nation’s high court — filling the streets in the West Village outside the Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement began in June 1969.

This ruling, and two others by the court, were losses for the Trump administration.

While the ruling by the Supreme Court protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace is a landmark decision, LGBTQ community leaders say there’s still more work to be done.

President Donald Trump is preparing to sign an executive order today that will create a system for tracking police misconduct, incentivize officer training and send social workers on some nonviolent police calls.

Protesters marched to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta yesterday to denounce the killing of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man who was fatally shot by police, and demand an end to police brutality.

News organizations have dealt with a host of difficult questions regarding race and diversity in the wake of the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed last month when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the department would immediately eliminate its citywide anticrime unit, which includes 600 plainclothes officers and has been involved in several high-profile events – including the death of Eric Garner, a black Staten Island man who died in 2014 after an officer placed him in a chokehold.

Officers in the unit will be reassigned to other units, such as the detective bureau and the NYPD’s neighborhood-policing program, according to the commissioner, who said the decision to do away with the unit was part of an effort to reform and modernize the department.

Shea said he personally made the decision to banish the units, which have been responsible for a “disproportionate” number of shootings and misconduct complaints made against the NYPD in their decades-long history.

Shea also announced he has suspended a young police officer for allegedly pepper spraying a group of protesters during a march protesting Floyd’s death.

A few hours after the Manhattan DA announced he would not prosecute some of the protesters who had been arrested during demonstrations against police brutality, the Police Department sent him a message: All the officers assigned to his office would be pulled off the job to help with crowd control.

Police officers will have to file a report every time they discharge their weapon under a new law approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo – one of three police accountability measures signed into law by the governor — following a slew of other proposals approved last week in response to Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.

Pressure is mounting to reinvestigate the case of a Buffalo police officer who was fired from the force in 2008 for trying to stop a colleague’s chokehold on a handcuffed suspect in 2006.

Three police officers fell ill yesterday after drinking milkshakes at a Manhattan Shake Shack, and the NYPD was investigating if they were poisoned with bleach.

A bloody four-week stretch has helped drive murders up by more than 25 percent across New York compared to a year ago, according to NYPD statistics.

The death of Dominique Alexander, 27, of Kingsbridge Terrace in the Bronx, who was found hanged from a tree in a Manhattan park, has been ruled a suicide, officials said.

The Nassau County Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the arrests of Black Lives Matter protesters last week in East Meadow, police said.

Travel plans evaporated, parents kept children home and anxiety returned as China’s capital Beijing came to terms with a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus after many in the city had started to relax the habits adopted during the height of the pandemic.

A retired Manhattan surgeon reportedly spread the coronavirus on a flight to Los Angeles in mid-March — but no one bothered to warn the passengers or crew they were at risk of catching the illness.

The FDA has revoked its emergency-use authorization for two malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, for the treatment of the Covid-19 disease. The two drugs were widely touted by Trump as useful to help patients afflicted by Covid-19, which some say contributed to panic-buying and shortages.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar announced that her father has died from complications of COVID-19.

A House subcommittee investigating billions of dollars in coronavirus aid is demanding that the Trump administration and some of the nation’s largest banks turn over detailed information about companies that applied for and received federal loans intended for small businesses.

Banks and other private lenders that are making Paycheck Protection Program loans can now accept applications from people who’ve been convicted, pleaded guilty or been placed on parole for felony crimes that occurred more than one year ago, according to new federal regulations.

Major League Baseball revealed several players on big league rosters have tested positive for COVID-19.

NFL player Ezekiel Elliott was among “several” Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans who have tested positive for the virus.

Football is the country’s most popular sport—the richest one at the professional level and the one that drives budgets in high school and college—and it also faces the most complexities for a return to action.

Ohio State football players and their parents were asked to sign an acknowledgment of risk waiver regarding the coronavirus pandemic before returning to campus for voluntary workouts on June 8, athletic director Gene Smith confirmed.

Michael Strahan told ABC staff he felt he couldn’t “speak up and raise his voice” behind the scenes on “Live with Kelly” — fearing reprisals as a black man.

Cuomo told local governments, particularly New York City, to “do your job” in stopping large gatherings outside bars and restaurants to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

“If they don’t enforce compliance, you will see the numbers start to go up,” Cuomo said, referring to coronavirus cases. “If the numbers start to go up, you’re going to have to see that area take a step back.”

Cuomo’s warning came as state officials touted the minuscule rate of new positive virus cases in New York — just over 1 percent of more than 56,000 tests conducted on Sunday, according to the governor — and as other states grappled with surges in infections.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone acknowledged some backsliding in compliance with state regulations requiring masks and social distancing, deploying his Health Department to issue reminders to outdoor restaurants after Cuomo threatened to crack down on noncompliant businesses by targeting their liquor licenses.

The NY Post editorializes: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat to shut Gotham back down is garbage, and he knows it. How can he, or Mayor Bill de Blasio, justify penalizing anyone for drinking or dining in the streets, when they all but cheer people protesting?”

Gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed in regions that enter phase three of reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, including the Capital Region, which is scheduled to enter the third phase tomorrow, Cuomo said.

Workers for the de Blasio administration’s contact tracing program are told not to ask those who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 whether they’ve taken part in the demonstrations, instead relying on them to provide the information themselves, officials said.

The block bearing Bedford-Stuyvesant’s massive Black Lives Matter mural will become a pedestrian-only plaza for the duration of the summer, de Blasio said.

A teenager who admitted taking part in a mugging that preceded the stabbing death of Tessa Majors, a Barnard College student, was sentenced to up to 18 months in a juvenile detention center, where he will undergo mental health counseling and be able to continue his education.

…Under the sentence imposed by a Family Court judge, the teenager, a 14-year-old boy must serve at least six months and will be credited for the time he has already spent in juvenile detention since being arrested.

Majors’ parents blasted the teen involved in her murder for his “complete lack of remorse or contrition” in a statement read as he was sentenced.

In a stunning about-face, former Gov. David Paterson suddenly walked back his criticism from a day earlier of successor Cuomo’s nursing home policy during the coronavirus pandemic, saying he “misspoke.”

There is little chance the Big Apple will be able to open its outdoor public pools this summer due to staffing shortages and training snafus — despite de Blasio publicly floating the notion in recent days — according to the head of the union representing city lifeguards.

As New York City enters a third month of economic turmoil and unprecedented job losses because of the coronavirus outbreak, the city today will roll out an overhauled and much more modern method to apply for affordable housing.

Two Catholic priests and a trio of Orthodox Jews are suing de Blasio and Cuomo, accusing them of an “unprecedented abuse of power” in shuttering houses of worship while supporting mass protests.

The MTA is warehousing its newest subway cars indefinitely while officials pursue a probe into a series of dangerous malfunctions, the agency said.

While the coronavirus slowed most of the city to a crawl, commuting in the Mount Hope neighborhood of the Bronx increased because of all the essential workers living there.

Coronavirus locked-down New Yorkers aren’t waiting until Independence Day to light up the skies, according to city data that shows a massive 4,000-percent surge in firecracker complaints during the first two weeks of June.

In Albany, calls to the city’s 911 system for fireworks are up 700 percent – 232 as of yesterday – compared to just 29 calls at this point last year. Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the sound of fireworks has been constant in her neighborhood, too.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden is getting some help from his “former boss,” former President Barack Obama, as he looks to fill his campaign coffers and unify the Democratic Party ahead of the November election.

Embattled Bronx/Westchester Rep. Eliot Engel landed a big endorsement in his tough Democratic primary re-election fight from former Democratic presidential candidate and ex-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.

New Yorkers have requested more than 15 times as many ballots for this month’s Democratic primary as they did for the presidential primary in 2016, according to the Board of Elections in the City of New York, meaning the upcoming vote could contain plenty of surprises.

City officials say they would like to open the South Troy pool sometime this summer – even though the renovation of it is still not done, and the city’s ability to hire lifeguards at this point is questionable.

City of Troy officials are warning residents and visitors yet again about the dangers of swimming in the Poestenkill Gorge after a man drowned there on Sunday.

More than 50 Child Victims Act lawsuits were filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany yesterday, alleging abuse by dozens of clerics as far back as 1957.

As domestic violence cases have climbed across New York during the coronavirus pandemic, federal legislation that would increase protections for abuse victims and set aside funding for shelters remains stalled in the U.S. Senate.

A Central Avenue wig store employee was attacked by a customer Friday after trying to enforce COVID-19 safety regulations, according to Albany police.

The American Red Cross announced that – for a limited and undetermined period of time – it will test all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies.

Saratoga Hospital is joining a growing number of providers who are now offering antibody tests to determine if an individual was exposed to coronavirus.

A Diamond Point woman was charged last week for allegedly falsifying Warren County Health’s COVID-19 quarantine documents so that she could stay home from work, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said.

Film’s biggest night is being rescheduled for the first time in 40 years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the 93rd Oscars will no longer take place on February 28 as planned. Instead, the board of governors said the show will take place on April 25, 2021.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged six former workers at eBay with leading a cyberstalking campaign against a Massachusetts couple who publish an e-commerce blog, EcommerceBytes, that criticized the company.

The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration violated the agency’s code of ethics in the fall when he rebuked employees for contradicting Trump’s inaccurate claim that a hurricane would hit Alabama, NOAA said in a report.

The New York Racing Association announced that owners would not be allowed into Belmont Park to watch their horses run in the $1 million Belmont this Sunday, which is the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown.

A security guard at Aqueduct Racetrack was charged as the “inside man” in the armed heist of more than $280,000 there — with the feds saying he committed another robbery with one of the crooks more than 20 years ago.

Suffolk OTB and the operator of Jake’s 58 video lottery casino in Islandia said they settled their legal differences and will continue running the successful betting operation together.

About 1,500 purses, gowns, necklaces, hats and scarves, as well as a Jaguar sedan, belonging to the late Marylou Whitney are going up for auction. Proceeds from the sale will help fund construction of a health clinic for backstretch workers at the Saratoga Race Course.

Cellino & Barnes — the personal-injury law firm with the famous, annoyingly catchy “Don’t wait! Call 8!” jingle — is officially kaput after a three-year, knock-down, drag-out legal battle, a source close to the case said.

North Country Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik has condemned the decision by Mayor Sheehan, a Democrat, to take down a statue of Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler located in front of city hall, and said the village of Schuylerville, where she lives, would be happy to take the statue.

The TU’s Chris Churchill suggests that when the statue is removed, the area where it now stands be turned into a pedestrian plaza.

For the third time, the pride flag was swiped from the town’s Veteran’s Memorial Park. This time it was found missing on Flag Day.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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