Rise and Shine: June 22, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

It seems worth noting that we are officially in summer, as the solstice occurred over the weekend – Saturday at 5:43 p.m., to be exact. It was about a day earlier than usual this year, too, if it seemed a little on the early side to you.

The solstice, as you’ll recall, is the point during the Earth’s orbit around the sun at which the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator.

The slightly melancholy news is that we have already passed the longest day of the year, with about 15.5 hours or so of daylight, and technically speaking, it’s all downhill toward winter from here.

We have solstices, and also seasons, because the Earth doesn’t orbit the sun completely upright, but rather is tilted on its axis about 23.5 degrees. This means one hemisphere receives more direct sunlight than the other at different times of year.

This year, the solstice also happened to coincide with a rare celestial event: An annular “ring of fire” solar eclipse that darkened the sun on the first day of summer across parts of Africa and Asia. This phenomenon was not visible here in North America, though a few sites streamed it live.

Generally speaking, the hottest days of summer tend to occur after the summer solstice, thanks to something called seasonal lag.

If that’s in fact the case, we’re in for a brutally hot rest of the summer, because the very warm weather we have been experiencing is going to continue this week. In fact, the forecast today is calling for temperatures in the mid-90s, with partly cloudy skies and a chance of a stray thunderstorm.

So, you know the drill: If you have to spend an extended amount of time outside, wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing and stay hydrated. It’s probably wise to keep pets indoors, or, at the very least, limit exercise to the cooler parts of the day, and provide them with ample access to fresh, cool water.

In the news…

About 120,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus and daily counts of new cases in the U.S. are the highest they’ve been in more than a month, driven by alarming recent increases in the South and West. Experts say, however, this is not a “second wave” – not yet.

The World Health Organization yesterday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours.

Internationally, Germany’s infection rate rose for a third day, lifted by local outbreaks including at a slaughterhouse. Brazil’s death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 50,000, while cases across the U.S. Sun Belt surged.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said that the Trump administration is preparing for the possibility that a second wave of Covid-19 could hit the United States in the fall.

President Donald Trump said at his weekend rally that he had told his staff to slow down testing for the disease, which has now killed nearly 120,000 Americans, to hide the discovery of more cases. Claims by his advisers that he was joking hardly lessen the questionable motives behind the remark.

Health experts are worried about whether coronavirus vaccines under development will adequately protect the elderly, sparking efforts to make sure there are shots that can help the vulnerable group.

An Italian infectious disease specialist said coronavirus was losing its strength and may die out before a vaccine is developed, but fellow epidemiologists disagree.

Medical experts are worried that Americans’ resistance to getting a coronavirus vaccine could stymie efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence canceled plans at the last minute to speak at an outdoor overflow rally that was almost entirely empty, despite claims of nearly one million people registering for tickets to attend the event in Tulsa, Okla., and the president’s false boast of never having an empty seat at one of his events.

…when the arena didn’t even reach its 19,000-person capacity, many people online were quick to give K-pop fans and TikTok users at least partial credit for the low turnout.

In the hours after the event, advisers and Republican strategists admitted the night was a flop and a missed opportunity to shift the momentum into Trump’s direction — and said it was unclear when there might be another rally.

Six members of Trump’s campaign staff who are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to set up for the president’s first campaign rally in months tested positive for the coronavirus, the campaign announced Saturday.

Trump was reportedly “furious” at the “underwhelming” crowd at his rally, which was a major disappointment for what had been expected to be a raucous return to the campaign trail after three months off because of the pandemic.

Trump used Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” at his sparsely attended rally in Tulsa, which didn’t sit well with the relatives of the rocker, who died in 2017.

Could North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was in Tulsa with Trump, be a vice presidential candidate-in-waiting?

Trump poses a “danger for the republic” and would be an even greater threat if he wins a second term this fall because he would be unconstrained by future electoral considerations, John Bolton, his former national security adviser, said in an interview aired last night.

Trump says he’s willing to meet with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, a strongman who the U.S. accuses of being a brutal drug-trafficking dictator.

An extraordinary standoff between the Justice Department and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman ended Saturday when the prosecutor agreed to leave his job with an assurance that his investigations into allies of President Donald Trump would not be disturbed.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed ignorance over reports that he was being investigated by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, as he defended Trump’s decision to remove its top prosecutor.

Audrey Strauss, a 72-year-old former defense lawyer known for her understated style, has been forced into the spotlight, taking over as the acting U. S. attorney in the storied prosecutor’s office, which continues to find itself in the president’s cross hairs.

Following a “swift” investigation by the New York Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a “disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens” has been suspended without pay, according to New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.

A number of cities across the U.S. are experiencing an uptick in violence, including Chicago, New York, Albany, Syracuse, and also Minneapolis, which was the site of the police killing of George Floyd.

…Some officials are saying the pandemic is to blame for the surge in violence, as the lockdown prevented police from fully engaging in fighting crime.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins stressed it wasn’t just the change in interactions with the police department that could have caused the rise in violence, but, like others point out, the lack of connection to resources critical to the community such as education and recreational activities.

NYC shootings piled up at a rate of one per hour on Saturday — with more gunplay yesterday — as an NYPD chief warned that hundreds of gun-possession defendants have been allowed to prowl the streets thanks to coronavirus-closed courts.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams addressed the skyrocketing use of illegal fireworks in the city — and urged New Yorkers not to report the blasts so as to avoid “heavy-handed policing.”

At least one person was shot on last night inside Seattle’s autonomous protest zone, where demonstrators have settled during the civil unrest sparked by the Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers.

J. Alexander Kueng, one of the fired Minneapolis police officers facing murder charges for his involvement in Floyd’s death, was confronted by an angry shopper at a grocery store in Minnesota after he was released on bail, according to video posted on social media.

Staff members working at the jail that held Derek Chauvin, the white officer charged with murder in the killing of Floyd, say that only white employees were allowed to guard him when he was first brought to the facility last month.

Police cars have been removed from the hit video game “Fortnite,” a change that comes amid a national debate over law-enforcement practices in response to the Floyd’s killing.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempt to quell ­Floyd-related protests this month with a citywide curfew came only after a contentious call with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

An unprecedented expansion of federal aid has prevented the rise in poverty that experts predicted this year when the coronavirus sent unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression, two new studies suggest. The assistance could even cause official measures of poverty to fall, but there are caveats.

High-flying technology companies have helped the U.S. stock market claw back most of its losses for the year. Now, other stocks are helping to carry the load.

The statue of President Teddy Roosevelt at the entrance to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan will be removed amid widespread protests over racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.

As protesters tear down confederate statues across the country amid mass demonstrations against systemic racism, a group of Long Island residents is calling for the removal of a Robert Moses statue in the Village of Babylon.

Two Paris statues related to France’s colonial era were daubed with red paint today amid a global movement to take down monuments to figures tied to slavery or colonialism.

Protesters in San Francisco late last week toppled the statue of former President Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War, in Golden Gate Park.

Monmouth University in New Jersey said it would remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its marquee building after administrators, professors and students said that the former president held abhorrent views on race and reinstituted segregation in the federal work force.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hit back Saturday at Cuomo over a possible coronavirus quarantine for visitors, asking that he “not quarantine any Floridians in nursing homes.”

…Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo senior advisor, fired back at DeSantis, retorting, “said the guy who can’t even put on a mask on the right way!”

With New York City enters Phase II of the reopening process today, as the number of COVID-19 cases statewide continued to decline, with less than 1 percent of new tests coming back positive.

New York City’s ambitious contact-tracing program, a crucial initiative in the effort to curb the coronavirus, has gotten off to a worrisome start just as the city’s reopening enters a new phase, with outdoor dining, in-store shopping and office work resuming.

Parking garages are hoping for a surge in business as tens of thousands of office workers return to Manhattan during New York City’s reopening.

Crowded subway cars raise the risk of infection, but keeping a distance between commuters could make it much harder to get to work on time.

Discussing Trump’s previous push to reopen the country by Easter, Cuomo said on “CBS Sunday Morning”: “You know where we are now? Dow Jones tumbles again, fear of second wave. That’s what happens when you reopen and you don’t do it intelligently (and) you do it politically.”

The NY Post’s Michael Goodwin: “there’s another old saying that also applies here — appearances can be deceiving. In this case, they certainly were because the off-camera reality is that ­Cuomo’s management of the pandemic response was disastrous beyond measure.

“We are finalizing dates for two hearings on nursing homes and Covid and will be announcing them shortly,” Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Friday afternoon.

By Friday, Central New York could enter the fourth and final phase of reopening after the coronavirus shutdown. It sounds like the end of a painful 118 days without work, school and fun. But, unfortunately, entering the last phase does not mean the shutdown is over.

Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman plans on introducing a new bill today that would ban all banks selected by the state to dole out unemployment benefits from charging ATM fees when cash-strapped New Yorkers use their debit card to draw out the funds.

A bill introduced in the state Senate last week by Sen. Chris Jacobs, a Buffalo Republican, would bar state employees from downloading the popular video-sharing app TikTok on their work phones.

A determined Rikers Island inmate escaped to a jail roof yesterday morning, just three days after he was caught trying to swim away.

The family of a Texas woman who once portrayed Aunt Jemima has called on the breakfast brand to reconsider its decision to scrap the ubiquitous fixture from its products.

The state DOT is going to continue to fight efforts by the family of one of the 20 victims in the 2018 Schoharie limo crash to uncover documents related to the DOT’s efforts to investigate and punish the Wilton limousine service whose stretch Ford Excursion was involved in the disaster.

A U.S. House of Representatives transportation committee approved stricter regulations for limousines championed by members of the New York delegation after a deadly crash in Schoharie in 2018.

Long Island taxpayers are saddled with paying an estimated $2.1 billion to cover severance costs accumulated by police officers, teachers and other public employees, a Newsday analysis has found.

Primaries will take place across New York tomorrow, here are four things to watch as voters head to the polls – or don’t, due to the pandemic.

An unprecedented surge in absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic will likely delay primary election results for at least a week, election officials and experts said.

Trump predicted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would win in a primary election against Chuck Schumer for his long-standing New York Senate seat.

Heavily favored Tiz the Law won an unprecedented Belmont Stakes, claiming victory Saturday at the first race of a rejiggered Triple Crown schedule in front of eerily empty grandstands.

The New York-bred 3-year-old colt owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by the 82-year-old Barclay Tagg charged to the lead, turning for home and now can set his sights on the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby and Oct. 3 Preakness.

Tagg – whose 2003 horse Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes but was denied Triple Crown glory at the Belmont – said he was glad to have “lived long enough to have another horse like this.”

Tiz the Law gave New York a hometown champion in its first major sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic seized the area. He’s the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont since Forester in 1882.

Cuomo called for “riders up” prior to the race in a pre-taped appearance applauding the resiliency of New York, which was hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

NASCAR has launched an investigation after a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the elite Cup Series who just two weeks ago successfully pushed the stock car series to ban the Confederate flag at its venues.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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