Rise and Shine, June 29, 2020

Today is Monday, CivMixers. Good morning.

It was kind of a wash of a weekend – literally – with a lot of rain. We’ve got more rain in the forecast today through Wednesday, and then things start to dry out and look pretty darn glorious for the Glorious Fourth. Fingers crossed there.

(Personal PSA: please lay off the fireworks, people. My dog and I thank you).

Now back to our regular programming.

It’s fitting that we’re getting so much rain today – thunderstorms on and off all day long, temperatures just shy of 80 degrees – because today is International Day of the Tropics, which celebrates and recognizes the area between the tropic of Capricorn and the tropic of Cancer and all its potential.

It rains more frequently in the tropics than anywhere else in the world. The tropics consist of about 40 percent of the earth’s surface and its home to 80 percent of its biodiversity, 95 percent of the world’s mangrove forests by area and 99 percent of mangrove species.

The tropics have just over half of the world’s renewable water resources – 54 percent – yet almost half their population is considered vulnerable to water stress.

More bad news: The tropics face severe challenges – including the climate crisis, deforestation, urbanization and demographic shifts.

Most of us aren’t doing much traveling these days, but maybe if you have a spare moment – or need a brief break from work – Google some photos of the tropics and imagine yourself there.

And now back to reality, which, unfortunately, isn’t terribly pretty at the moment.

In the headlines…

Over 500,000 people have now died from COVID-19, Johns Hopkins University reported yesterday, and the world’s death toll has doubled in less than two months.

…On the same day that the number of cases surpassed 10 million, the world hit this new tragic milestone. The U.S., Brazil, Russia and India have reported the most cases.

The U.S. set a daily record for new coronavirus cases this past week, reporting more than 45,000 on Friday — its highest single-day increase.

Florida continued to record high coronavirus numbers yesterday, adding more than 8,500 new cases to its statewide tally.

Much of Florida’s new surge in cases appears to follow from the reopening of beaches, bars, restaurants and other social activities. The state’s beaches are full and throngs of revelers pack its waterways on boats.

Paranoid hallucinations plague many coronavirus patients in I.C.U.s, an experience that can slow recovery and increase risk of depression and cognitive issues.

Coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations across New York State have now dropped to rates last seen in the early days of the pandemic in mid-March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday.

Cuomo called on state investigators to probe a COVID-19 cluster in Westchester, believed to be caused by a student who attended a graduation ceremony in Chappaqua after returning from coronavirus hotspot Florida.

Cuomo said Trump and his administration are “basically in denial” about the coronavirus pandemic and aren’t doing enough to combat it.

The governor complained about the “political heat” he has faced over coronavirus deaths in nursing homes — claiming the facilities are now safer for seniors than staying at home.

“I’ve taken political heat, OK? There are facts and there’s politics,” Cuomo said on “Meet the Press,” adding: “There’s no doubt in nursing homes across this nation, that’s where we saw most of the deaths.”

Forty-three percent of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are linked to nursing homes.

Cuomo said New York has offered to help other states battling ballooning coronavirus infection rates as the state — once the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States — now marks one of the lowest infection rates in the country.

Cuomo issued an executive order denying paid sick leave due to the coronavirus to state employees who voluntarily travel to Florida and other high-risk states.

The governor also issued an order that will close a loophole which made employers responsible to pay the salaries of workers who are in mandatory 14-day quarantine if they left the state for non-essential purposes, including taking a vacation.

The continuing national coronavirus crisis may contribute to putting the 2020-21 school year at risk, Cuomo said on “Meet the Press,” adding: “If this continues across the country, kids are going to be home for a long time.”

Some private school officials say their institutions are small, nimble and flexible enough to reopen safely this fall amid the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, compared to larger schools with hundreds or even a few thousand students packed into a single building.

A federal judge on Friday blocked New York state from enforcing coronavirus restrictions limiting indoor religious gatherings to 25 percent capacity when other types of gatherings are limited to 50 percent.

Crucial coronavirus funding for New York City could dry up next month if the Trump administration does not extend a public health emergency declaration, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned.

Fiscal watchdogs are cautioning state lawmakers against raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to plug the deficit, a move they said could prompt wealthy residents to move elsewhere.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt practically every aspect of American life, pharmaceutical drugs are staring down another problem in the near-future: supply shortages.

In a tweet late last night, President Donald Trump said the intelligence community told him he was not briefed about allegations Russia had offered the Taliban bounty payments to kill Western forces — including U.S. troops — because it did not find the reports credible.

A choir of more than 100 people performed without masks at a robustly attended event in Texas at the First Baptist Church yesterday that featured a speech by Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence said the Trump administration is leaving it up to states to decide whether face masks should be mandatory to protect against the coronavirus — while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a nation-wide mandate on facial coverings is “long overdue.”

Pence said the country is in “a much better place” to respond to the growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country, but Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar warned “the window is closing” to narrow the spread of the virus.

Pence called off campaign events in Florida and Arizona this coming week as the states experience a surge in new coronavirus cases.

More than three years after his exit, former President Barack Obama is back on a political battlefield he longed to leave, drawn into the fight by an enemy, Trump, who is hellbent on erasing him, and by a friend, Joe Biden, who is equally intent on embracing him.

The Affordable Care Act, the landmark health law that has been a subject of caustic debate for more than a decade, is being tested as never before, as millions of Americans lose their jobs and medical coverage in the midst of the nation’s gravest health crisis in a century.

Mississippi lawmakers voted yesterday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has flown for more than 120 years.

Democrats in Orange County, California, are done with The Duke, and they want John Wayne’s name and likeness stripped from the county’s airport, citing his professed support of white supremacy in a 1971 Playboy interview.

Trump announced late Friday that his administration would be enforcing federal provisions demanding that cities and states protect monuments paid for by the federal government and threatening those who pull down monuments with “long prison time.”

A video shared by Trump on Twitter yesterday includes a man who appears to be a Trump supporter saying “white power” in response to protesters.

…the White House said the president didn’t hear the words “white power” in the now-deleted tweet.

The Rolling Stones are threatening legal action against Trump for using their songs at his rallies despite previous cease-and-desist directives over the tunes.

Four police officers in San Jose, Calif., have been placed on administrative leave after an anonymous blog post accused retired and current officers of posting racist and anti-Muslim comments in a private Facebook group.

Shootings across New York City reportedly more than doubled last week compared to the same period last year.

The NYPD’s top uniformed cop blamed criminal justice reform and “animosity towards police” for Gotham’s recent surge of gun violence.

For decades, NYC has turned to the department as a catchall fix for many of society’s ills, outside of traditional crime-fighting. Now, political movement has gathered momentum to curtail the New York Police Department’s size and mission creep.

Rain or shine, hundreds of protesters have camped outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan around the clock, refusing to leave until the police budget is cut.

Gay pride and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police in Washington Square Park yesterday, the 51st anniversary of the landmark, culture-changing Stonewall riots.

…Technically speaking, the annual Pride Pride was held virtually, though some smaller events did occur.

The Stonewall is among many small businesses suffering after months of closures and restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19. It is more than four months behind on its monthly $40,000 rent and could be forced to close.

Applications are now open for the Restoration of Honor Act, which allows veterans who were denied honorable discharges due to their LGBTQ identity to have their New York State veterans’ benefits restored.

Drivers across the five boroughs are brazenly tossing aside street-blocking barriers set up as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to provide outdoor recreation space amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A set of 56-year-old subway cars will soar again along Brooklyn and Queens elevated tracks this summer, chugging to the rescue after the latest batch of trains the MTA purchased were pulled from service.

The last two NYC Council staffers for Brooklyn’s former Councilman Rafael Espinal have been fired, leaving one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods with no council representation during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

About 150 people rallied outside the Museum of Natural History yesterday in an effort to save the statue of President Teddy Roosevelt there from removal.

Protesters made it clear at a rally Saturday night: They want Syracuse’s Christopher Columbus statue to come down in the next two days.

…Protesters from the Resilient Indigenous Action Collective called the statue “traumatizing” and “disgusting” and that its presence shows support for genocide.

NYC’s acting correction union boss has been voted out in the first election since the group’s long-term ex-leader, Norman Seabrook, was convicted in a corruption scandal.

Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan yesterday celebrated the first in-house Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral since mid-March, when the coronavirus began gripping New York City.

Some experts predicted a flood of divorce filings when city courts re-opened for non-emergency business last month, but the number of married people looking to leave is dramatically down, dropping 45 percent in the last four weeks over the typical monthly average.

Seventeen New York City correction officers, including a captain, will be disciplined for their roles in the death just over a year ago of a 27-year-old transgender woman at the Rikers Island jail complex, officials said.

The Broadway League, a trade association that is the closest thing to a governing body presiding over America’s biggest stages, has decided to undertake a sweeping audit of diversity in the industry in response to the unrest over racial injustice that is sweeping the nation.

And as civilians hurl criticism at law enforcement for its treatment of black Americans, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins is one of the thousands of law enforcement officers of color who have found themselves in the middle.

Despite thousands of state employees working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, New York continues to collect parking permit fees from workers.

Princeton University will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges, the university’s president said – a move that comes four years after it decided to keep the name over the objections of student protests.

A firework was thrown into the residence of an employee of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple announced.

Police had to de-escalate a situation in Lansingburgh yesterday as protesters briefly blocked the entrance to a church that was giving away an AR-15 assault rifle.

New York State troopers issued 24,980 total traffic tickets during the Speed Week enforcement campaign earlier this month.

More than 200 people gathered yesterday outside Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, a popular ice cream parlor in Schenectady, to rally against store owner David Elmendorf, who allegedly sent text messages using racial slurs and saying he doesn’t hire black people.

For the first time ever, vendors will be allowed to sell food and refreshments along Albany County’s Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail – a move designed to help small businesses at a time when their sales have been crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIP Milton Glaser, a graphic designer who changed the vocabulary of American visual culture in the 1960s and ’70s with his brightly colored, extroverted posters, magazines, book covers and record sleeves, notably his 1967 poster of Bob Dylan with psychedelic hair and his “I ♥ NY” logo. He died on his 91st birthday.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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