Rise and Shine, June 19, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers, it’s Friday.

Happy Juneteenth. This day has been in the news a lot lately. But for those still not in the know, Juneteenth commemorates the day that Union army general Gordon Granger announced federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were now free.

The Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed the slaves almost two-and-a-half years earlier, but Texas, the most remote of the slave states in the now-defeated Confederacy, had been slow and inconsistent to enforce it.

This day does not mark the complete end of slavery in this country. That did not actually occur until the ratification of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 6, 1865, which abolished slavery entirely in all of the U.S. states and territories.

Still, this is a day widely recognized and embraced by African Americans as a celebration of freedom across the U.S. Juneteenth is an official state holiday in Texas. Activists have been pushing for Congress to recognize it as a national holiday, but thus far that has not occurred. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 49 of the 50 U.S. states.

Just this week, the governors of New York and Virginia signed executive orders recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to propose legislation to make it an official state holiday next year “so New Yorkers can use this day to reflect on all the changes we still need to make to create a more fair, just and equal society.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he would support legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday in his state, too. He was joined for this announcement by musician Pharrell Williams, who is from Virginia Beach.

Also, this week, the National Archives located what appears to be the original handwritten “Juneteenth” military order informing thousands of people held in bondage in Texas they were free.

Twitter and Square this month designated Juneteenth as a company holiday. Vox Media, Nike, the NFL, Best Buy and Target have also made similar announcements, joining the movement to make this day of celebration a paid day off. Capital One has said its offices and bank branches will close early today.

There are many protests, rallies, marches and other events scheduled to take place today – both in New York and across the nation – as the unrest over policy brutality against African Americans and subsequent calls for reform continue.

President Donald Trump originally scheduled a campaign rally in Tulsa, OK today, but changed the date to tomorrow after being met with widespread opposition. The event remains controversial, as concerns about coronavirus transmission remain high.

If you’re headed out to attend a Juneteenth event, be sure to dress appropriately and stay hydrated, as it’s going to be very warm – close to 90 degrees – with a mix of sun and clouds, according to The Weather Channel. There’s also a chance of a stray afternoon thundershower.

In other news…

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against President Donald Trump in a set of cases over his effort to end the Obama-era immigration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that protects some 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four more liberal members in upholding DACA, but also made clear that the decision was based on procedural issues and that the Trump administration could try to redress them.

The court’s action highlighted the need for Congress to pass legislation offering permanent protections for these immigrants, who remain vulnerable should the Trump administration, or a future administration, launch a new effort to scrap DACA.

The president and his hard-line immigration advisers must now decide whether to give up on ending DACA or try again — an effort that would almost certainly extend beyond the election in the fall. (The president seems inclined to continue the fight).

The portraits of four House Speakers who served in the Confederacy were pulled from the halls of the U.S. Capitol at the behest of Nancy Pelosi.

Facebook removed advertisements posted on its platform by the Trump campaign that prominently featured a symbol used by Nazis to classify political prisoners during World War II, saying the imagery violated company policy.

A senior State Department official who has served in the Trump administration since its first day is resigning over the president’s recent handling of racial tensions across the country — saying that the president’s actions “cut sharply against my core values and convictions.”

Twitter added a warning to a post from Trump about a racist baby, saying it contained manipulated media designed to mislead people.

In a wide-ranging Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said that there was some systemic racism in the U.S. and that removing Confederate names from military bases would further divide the country, and took credit for popularizing Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery.

AMC Theatres, America’s largest cineplex chain, announced that it will not force moviegoers to don masks, saying it did not want to be “drawn into political controversy.”

Trump, who often forgoes a mask himself, said some Americans might wear face masks not as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus but as a way to “signal disapproval of him.”

The number of workers applying for and receiving unemployment benefits has stabilized at historically high levels, signs that while the labor market is healing hundreds of thousands of workers are still losing their jobs each week.

T-Mobile is cutting jobs faster than initially planned after its April merger with rival Sprint Corp. created a company with about 80,000 employees. Rival AT&T has also detailed plans to lay off thousands of workers as it moves through a cost-cutting effort launched late last year.

Early coronavirus testing data from a handful of U.S. cities and states suggest that recent protests against racial injustices haven’t yet led to a marked uptick in new cases. Public-health officials warn that the data is still preliminary, however, and protest-related cases could still rise.

Coronavirus antibodies may last only two to three months after a person becomes infected with Covid-19, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s considering imposing a quarantine on travelers arriving in the state from places like Florida where coronavirus cases have spiked. He hasn’t made a final decision yet.

Cuomo also slammed the federal government’s response to the pandemic, calling its attitude on dealing with the virus “an undeniable mistake,” and adding: “You now have a tale of two countries going on,” with “two very different situations” playing out nationwide.

The governor said he will issue an order allowing the state to shut down any business that violates COVID-19 reopening guidelines, including immediate revocation of liquor licenses for bars and restaurants that break the rules.

Cuomo has refused a request by Congressional Republicans to provide documents and a staff briefing regarding the state’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in New York State nursing homes, calling the issue “pure politics.”

Cuomo’s daily press briefings, held throughout the coronavirus crisis, will end today. Going forward, briefings will be held “as necessary,” the governor said.

Some local government officials are concerned that with the governor’s briefings coming to an end, they will have no means of understanding the administration’s trajectory as New York continues to gradually reopen.

Cuomo said he intends to release guidance for colleges as they prepare to reopen in the fall. He said schools will have to attest to meeting that guidance and file plans with the state to reopen for in-person classes in the fall.

A group of parents and the Association of Jewish Camp Operators are suing Cuomo over his closure of sleepaway camps this summer, arguing his order violates their constitutional rights of the free exercise of religion and “the fundamental rights of parents to control the religious education and upbringing of their children.”

New York’s richest residents should see their taxes increased to help close a significant budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to statement backed by 99 members of the state Assembly and Senate.

Tax revenues that hotels generate for New York’s state and local governments will crater by $1.3 billion this year due to the pandemic-forced lockdown, according to an analysis conducted by Oxford Economics for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

After months of eating meals in and growing hair out, New Yorkers may be able to dine outdoors and visit a barbershop as early as next week, as the city is on track to enter Phase II of the reopening process on Monday.

Playgrounds geared toward younger children will be the first to open in NYC next week.

Brooklyn Democratic Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, unveiled two separate resolutions calling on Cuomo to remove Mayor Bill de Blasio from office for failing to maintain public safety and order in New York City.

The NYC City Council passed a bill that for the first time will require the police to reveal information about their arsenal of surveillance tools, some of which may have been used in recent days at protests in New York.

Despite a last-minute effort to insert exceptions into a measure to ban the use of chokeholds by the NYPD, de Blasio said he is prepared to sign the legislation as written.

The new policy makes it a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in prison, for officers to restrict “the flow of air or blood by compressing the windpipe or the carotid arteries on each side of the neck, or sitting, kneeling, or standing on the chest or back in a manner that compresses the diaphragm.”

Advocates for less punitive discipline are intensifying efforts to get NYPD-supervised “safety agents” out of New York City schools, saying they often exacerbate tensions and make schools feel like prisons.

Amid harrowing testimony about New York City police officers slamming peaceful protesters to the ground, kicking a woman in the face and beating people with batons, the state’s attorney general blasted the NYPD and the mayor for ignoring repeated invitations to testify.

Dozens of activists called on Long Island’s Democratic state senators to reinvest years of campaign contributions from law enforcement into bail funds and groups protesting police brutality.

A group of Council members formally asked de Blasio to remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall as the fallout from the George Floyd killing continued to mount.

A federal judge rejected a Long Island strip club owner’s request to reopen in spite of Cuomo’s coronavirus shutdown, which he claims has stripped him of his constitutional rights and battered his business.

The New York City Ballet canceled popular Christmas performances, along with its entire fall season, over pandemic concerns, the company said.

…The cancellation of “The Nutcracker” eliminates a major source of funding for the company as well as an annual event that for many has become emblematic of Christmastime in New York.

Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center also announced they would cancel their fall seasons, which means all of New York City’s major classical music institutions will be closed at least until the end of 2020.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar withdrew her name from the list of possible VP running mates, reasoning that Democratic nominee Joe Biden should use the “moment to put a woman of color” on his ticket.

The coronavirus outbreak has hurt on-the-ground organizing tactics that legislative challengers usually rely on when they take on incumbents.

Voters have the opportunity to change their minds after casting a blot this year. Under state election law, a voter who has mailed in an absentee ballot can still show up to an in-person polling place — either next Tuesday or before that at an early-voting site — and vote, no questions asked.

Read more about what’s on tap in next Tuesday’s primaries here, here and here.

In a hand-written letter to the judge who could send him to die in prison, disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he is “ruined,” and that he regrets the “sense of entitlement” that led him to leverage his high office for personal profit.

Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey, one of Trump’s earliest New York supporters, has said he won’t seek reelection when his term leading the local party expires in September.

Megabus will be resuming limited service from Albany to New York City, which had been suspended due to the pandemic.

Employees of the Diamond Hill nursing home in Schaghticoke held a silent vigil outside the facility yesterday to highlight the “grief and concern” they feel over the home’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The Albany Police Department swore in 30 new recruits yesterday morning during a private ceremony at police headquarters that was not announced publicly.

Gunfire on a block in the northern part of the city of Albany sent seven people to the hospital early yesterday, police said. It was the second shooting of the morning in the city. An earlier shooting left two men with wounds.

Two Rensselaer County men believed to be linked to a regional militia group and who wore body armor and carried police batons as they walked through the city’s peaceful Black Lives Matter protest surrendered to city police yesterday to face weapons charges, authorities said.

Two days after the town began investigating allegations that Niskayuna Comptroller Paul Sebesta posted a blackface photo, he has announced plans to retire effective immediately.

A joint police probe led by the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offices is being conducted into the firebombing of an SUV in Schenectady, police confirmed.

The Rensselaer City School District is facing layoffs and cuts after its budget failed to pass.

In a stunning development as restaurants emerge from the coronavirus-related shutdown, the main building of Clark House Hospitality, a company at the center of the Collar City’s dining renaissance over the past eight years, was deemed unsafe by City of Troy code and fire officials and ordered closed yesterday.

In a pair of developments that appears to dim or seriously delay the possibility that Norlite will once again start burning toxic firefighting foam, the state Department of Environmental Conservation imposed new restrictions on the activity.

A major new hemp extract/CBD processing and distribution business opened this week near Binghamton. Empire Standard is billed as the state’s first large-scale facility that will convert bulk hemp extracts into health, beauty and wellness products and then market and distribute them to retail businesses.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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