Rise and Shine, June 26, 2020

It’s Friday, CivMixers. We made it through another week. Hallelujah.

It’s also the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which was established by the UN in 1987 “as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.”

The theme for this year is “Better Knowledge for Better Care,” which basically makes the case that the more we know about the international drug problem, the better chance we have at fostering communication and coordination across borders to counter its impact on health, governance and security.

Before we had the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opioid epidemic, as you may recall. And many substance abuse treatment experts expressed deep concern at the beginning of the former that the latter would worsen as a result of prolonged isolation and lack of access to treatment.

There have been reports of overdose deaths increasing in some areas, and also an uptick in so-called “deaths of despair” (suicide, drinking-related deaths etc.)

How to count these deaths has been something of a debate during the pandemic – should they be considered part of the COVID-19 casualty list, which, as we know, is a moving target in and of itself.

It will probably be some time before we the get the full picture.

Meanwhile, I’d like to end on a bit of a happier note, so consider this: It’s also National Take Your Dog to Work Day. While many of us have been unhappy to be cooped up at home, the nation’s dog population is having a field day. People! Home all the time! Amazing! (Or maybe exhausting?)

Of course, there’s some indication that dogs and cats can get COVID-19, which is definitely a concern. And the recent spate of fireworks usage is freaking out dogs statewide. So, being a dog during the pandemic isn’t all fun and belly rubs.

But maybe you could reach down under the makeshift work desk today and give yours an extra pat or two. I know I will.

We’re going to have a mix of sun and clouds today, with temperatures in the mid-80s. Very nice dog walking weather. The weekend, unfortunately, looks crummy. But let’s focus on now.

In the headlines…

The Trump administration last night argued in a legal brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be invalidated.

…if this effort is successful, it would bring a permanent end to the health insurance program popularly known as Obamacare and wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans.

President Donald Trump keeps spinning a tale about COVID-19 that is at odds with his own administration’s disease experts and data compiled by his own coronavirus task force.

A government estimate showed more than 20 million Americans may have contracted the virus, far exceeding diagnosed infections.

People in their 20s, 30s and 40s account for a growing proportion of the cases in many places, raising fears that asymptomatic young people are helping to fuel the virus’s spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to have recently added three new symptoms of the novel coronavirus – congestion, a runny nose and diarrhea – to its ongoing list.

The number of workers seeking jobless benefits has held steady at about 1.5 million each week so far in June, signaling a slow recovery for the U.S. economy as states face new infections that could impede hiring and consumer spending.

The Federal Reserve said a prolonged economic downturn could saddle the nation’s biggest banks with up to $700 billion in losses on soured loans and ordered them to cap dividends and suspend share buybacks to conserve funds.

The U.S. Treasury sent about 1.1 million stimulus checks to people who were deceased, a government watchdog reported.

The threat of racially and ethnically motivated terrorism from white supremacists is “on the rise and spreading geographically” across the country and world, according to a new State Department report.

Trump suggested that unruly protesters who deface or topple monuments and statues will likely face “retribution,” likening them to “terrorists.”

The president said that the “fabled” stretch of Fifth Avenue in front of his Midtown skyscraper would be ruined if the de Blasio administration moves forward with a plan to install a massive “Black Lives Matter” mural there.

A Queens County Surrogate’s Court judge rejected a request to bar Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump, from publishing a tell-all book about the family because the court lacked jurisdiction in the case. The family plans to file a new suit in state Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling with sweeping, immediate implications for the immigration enforcement system, potentially allowing the Trump administration to move forward in deporting tens of thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. with little oversight.

Canadians will be exempt from Trump’s sweeping ban on foreign workers after Republican North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik lobbied the administration over the move, which would hamstring her upstate district.

The White House is considering broad federal interventions to secure the future of 5G development in the U.S.

The House voted on party lines to advance a sweeping police reform bill, with Republicans accusing Democrats of a cynical stunt and some denying racism is the problem.

Law enforcement groups, which have donated generously to members of both political parties, have dictated the terms of the debate on police reform efforts in D.C., prodding lawmakers to reject the toughest measures.

Minnesota police officers who are fired for misconduct or charged with criminal behavior often end up back on the force.

Officials in Philadelphia announced a moratorium on the use of tear gas in the city and apologized for their response to a June 1 protest against police brutality.

New York State will make random checks on people to enforce a 14-day quarantine on travelers coming from states that are infection hot spots for the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The quarantine order by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is “not a blockade” or a political decision, but a practical policy to ensure COVID-19 infection rates don’t jump again as they have been soaring in other states, Cuomo insisted.

Travelers from coronavirus hotspots arriving at LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports were confronted yesterday with signs hinting that they shouldn’t be in the New York area.

It’s unclear how the mandatory quarantines will be enforced, or whether police or other enforcement agencies will track travelers or set up checkpoints at terminals, including airports and bus stations, or along highways — as Florida did in late March.

Cuomo criticized other state leaders’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying some states who rushed to reopen their economies were playing politics.

“You played politics with this virus, and you lost,” Cuomo said of governors of conservative states. “You told the people of this state, you told the people of this country, the White House, ‘Don’t worry about it. Go about your business. This is all Democratic hyperbole.’”

The sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in states such as Florida and Texas illustrate the dangers of letting people pack together in places such as bars and movie theaters, and the need to take a cautious approach to reopening, health experts said.

Just 55 days after reopening Texas restaurants and other businesses, Gov. Greg Abbott stopped additional phases of the state’s reopening as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared and as the governor struggled to pull off the seemingly impossible task of keeping both the state open and the virus under control

New York water park owners say it’s not fair that they can’t open for business anytime soon under the Cuomo administration’s coronavirus reopening plan, yet their counterparts in neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut — the state’s “regional partners” — have been given the green light.

Connecticut officials said K-12 public schools in the state would reopen for full-time, in-person instruction this fall.

An experiment in Norway provides hope for gym rates everywhere that a safe reopening of their beloved workout spots could be done.

Phase three of New York City’s reopening is on track to arrive with a bang on July 6 — just after the July 4 weekend.

A cadre of Democratic state senators is urging Cuomo to enact a sweeping overhaul of nursing home oversight — amid criticism that his administration’s COVID-19 policies contributed to deaths of elderly residents during the pandemic’s peak.

House Republicans are turning up the heat on Cuomo’s controversial coronavirus nursing home policy, calling on Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James to back an independent investigation of the matter.

New York restaurants may continue to sell cocktails and wine for takeout and delivery for at least another 30 days.

Most of the locks on the Champlain Canal between Waterford and Whitehall will be open today.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown will reopen its doors today – at a reduced capacity – for the first time since mid-March.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo was mocked after lauding his governor brother, during an interview that one media publication called “a close approximation of a campaign endorsement,” with the anchor declaring he was “wowed” by Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite his increased popularity and visibility during the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Cuomo said “no one has asked me for a date.” (He’s too busy right now, anyway).

The city’s top cop said the criminal-justice system was “imploding,” as he highlighted a rise in shootings and killings on the city’s streets and slammed pols for refusing to support the Finest at an invite-only press conference at NYPD headquarters this week.

A Bronx NYPD precinct commander is quitting to protest the department’s handling of police reform and anti-brutality protests.

Several NYC lawmakers revolted during a routine meeting yesterday — refusing to support bills that would hit property owners with interest rates on late tax payments of up to 18 percent, arguing that the “usurious” fees would cause the middle class to flee the city.

Washington Square Park’s famed fountain has been turned into a private crash pad by a homeless man, whose makeshift home now includes comforts such as a table, six chairs, a pink recliner, a box of clothes and a beach umbrella.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council are at a stalemate in budget negotiations — just five days before a deal must be reached by law — over $1 billion in NYPD cuts proposed by Speaker Corey Johnson and the 22,000 municipal layoffs threatened by City Hall.

The occupation of City Hall Park by activists has been growing — as 400 demonstrators slept there overnight Wednesday into Thursday, organizers said. That’s roughly four times the number of people there on Tuesday night.

Drastic cuts to the NYPD would set the city back 30 years, undermining public safety and hurting the city’s efforts to diversify the department, according to top police officials.

Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres says allegations of police perjury, faulty interrogation tactics and other “evidentiary misconduct” should be probed by the city Department of Investigation, because he doesn’t trust the NYPD to police itself.

Brooklyn state Sen. Zellnor Myrie wants to remove a long-standing barrier legal shield that protects police officers from civil suits for on-the-job misconduct.

A New York City police officer was arrested yesterday morning and charged with illegally using a chokehold to subdue a man on the boardwalk at a Queens beach, becoming the first city officer to be charged under a new state law making it a felony for the police to use such holds.

The vote-counting to decide the nail-biting Democratic primary for the 12th Congressional District pitting insurgent Suraj Patel against veteran Rep. Carolyn Maloney is already in court.

Assemblyman Michael Blake yesterday refused to concede the closely-watched Democratic primary race to replace retiring South Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, alleging that the election was hampered by “intentional black voter suppression.”

The Democratic primary between Albany County District Attorney David Soares and challenger Matthew Toporowski may not be decided until mid-July, due to an estimated 19,000 absentee ballots left to count.

The Colonie Police Department is working with the South Colonie School District to look into incidents of discrimination and sexual assault alleged to have occurred on and off school grounds, detailed in four video posts on an anonymous Instagram account that surfaced over the weekend.

Citing proximity to the water and the industry that already exists in the city, Hudson Riverkeeper will oppose a proposed waste-to-fuel plant at the site of the old BASF chemical factory in Rensselaer.

A small group of violent criminals took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on law enforcement to unleash an unprecedented level of gun violence in Albany, Police Chief Eric Hawkins said.

A new license plate design has come to nearly two dozen New York counties, including Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.

The owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, a popular ice cream shop in the Woodlawn neighborhood, is racking up daily fines of $2,000 for ignoring a Schenectady County health department shutdown order over a minor violation, according to County Attorney Chris Gardner.

State Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti, a former senator, and his wife are under police investigation for allegedly assaulting their neighbors during a fight on their North Buffalo street Monday night.

Attorney General William Barr has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month amid threats from Chairman Jerrold Nadler of subpoenas and a possible impeachment inquiry, his spokesperson announced.

NASCAR released a photo of the noose that was found last weekend in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall assigned to Darrell Wallace Jr., the lone black driver in NASCAR’s premier series, following criticism that racing officials had overreacted.

Amid calls to change the Splash Mountain theme park ride over its ties to “Song of the South,” the 1946 movie many view as racist, Disney officials said it was recasting the ride based on “The Princess and the Frog,” a 2009 Disney film with an African American female lead.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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