Rise and Shine: June 8, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

Today is World Oceans Day, which is pretty significant, since the oceans make up 70 percent of the planet and they play a key role in regulating the climate.

They keep temperatures from getting too hot or cold and their water evaporates to form vapor that can travel vast distances before falling as rain. More than 90 percent of the warming that has occurred on the Earth over the past half century has taken place in the oceans.

I don’t think you need a degree in science to know that’s not good. It causes sea levels to rise, threatening shoreline communities, and also negatively impacts marine life.

And we haven’t even touched on all the junk we humans pour into the oceans every year. A lot.

So, yes, while I know that things here on land are pretty touch and go at the moment, it’s worth taking a few minutes of your day to stop and think about the ocean, and the call to to protect 30 percent of our blue planet by 2030.

We’re in for a scorcher of a week, with temperatures climbing up into the 90s as the days progress. Today, however, should be fairly nice and calm, with sunny skies, no rain in the forecast and the temperature just kissing 80 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.

In the headlines…

Thousands continued to gather across the state and the country over the weekend to protest the death of George Floyd and call for significant changes to policing.

The sudden outbreak of large protests sparked by Floyd’s killing on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police came at the same time mayors across the country were working to implement more aggressive testing and tracking programs to combat the coronavirus pandemic, complicating their efforts.

Nearly three months since the U.S. declared a national emergency over the new coronavirus, some states – including California, Utah, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Texas – are reporting a rise in new cases as they lift restrictions meant to slow the virus’s spread.

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council (a majority of that body) announced their support for de-funding the Minneapolis Police Department and replacing it with a community-based public safety model at a rally yesterday.

Voters by a 2-to-1 margin are more troubled by the actions of police in the killing of Floyd than by violence at some protests, and an overwhelming majority, 80 percent, feel that the country is spiraling out of control, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The anti-riot fencing surrounding the White House has been covered with signs left by protesters as crowds come together in solidarity against police brutality following Floyd’s death.

The 10th consecutive day of protests near the White House began quietly, laced with a family-friendly vibe that included people taking selfies inside the city’s newly named “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” as well as singing and praying.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered the National Guard “to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control.”

Trump’s order came as three former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff harshly condemned him for using force to drive protesters back from the White House and threatening to send troops to quell protests in other cities. They warned that the military risked losing credibility with the American people.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Houston today to have a private meeting with Floyd’s family, opting for a private meeting instead of potentially disrupting Tuesday’s funeral service with extra security measures.

Another former senior military official, Colin Powell, criticized Trump for his administration’s response to protests over Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody, saying the president has “drifted away” from the U.S. Constitution.

…Powell, who has criticized Trump in the past and didn’t vote for him in 2016, said he planned to vote this fall for Biden.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he did not believe racism was a systemic problem in policing, echoing other top administration officials’ defense of an important part of Trump’s base as protests against police killings of unarmed black people continued across the nation.

Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney yesterday joined an anti-racist protest march in D.C. over Floyd’s death, saying he was there to “end violence and brutality and to make sure that people understand that Black Lives Matter.”

Congressional leaders from a number of states, including New York, will unveil a new criminal justice reform bill today, addressing the ongoing protests for equal justice for black Americans.

James Bennett, The New York Times editorial page chief, has resigned, becoming the second prominent U.S. newspaper editor to lose his job over decisions related to coverage of civil unrest following Floyd’s killing.

Bennett’s departure came a day after The Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor stepped down after discontent among the newspaper’s staff erupted over a headline on a column about the impact of the civil unrest following the police killing of Floyd.

A suspect is in custody after he drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Seattle last night, police said. At least one person was shot during the incident.

After more than a week of protests that have led to violent clashes with police, the mayor of the nation’s largest city is struggling to regain the confidence of his constituents and staff, as the city teeters on the brink of the worst economic crisis in four decades.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted the curfew in the five boroughs a day before it was scheduled to expire.

De Blasio pledged for the first time to cut the city’s police funding, following 10 nights of mass protests against police violence and mounting demands that he overhaul a department whose tactics have caused widespread consternation.

The mayor declined to say precisely how much funding he planned to divert to social services from the New York Police Department, which has an annual budget of $6 billion, representing more than 6 percent of de Blasio’s proposed $90 billion budget.

De Blasio first rejected the defunding idea on Friday, saying: “I do not believe it’s a good idea to reduce the budget of the agency that’s here to keep us safe.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo panned calls to “defund” police departments spurred by unrest in the wake of Floyd’s death, pointing to looting that ravaged the Big Apple last week.

The NYPD’s powerful captains union blasted unnamed “elected officials” in a vitriolic letter to members Saturday, complaining that due to a lack of leadership, police are damned if they crack down on law-breaking protesters, and damned if they don’t.

High-ranking de Blasio administration staffers dismayed by the city’s handling of recent protests called on their boss to invest more in education, healthcare, housing and other areas in which people of color have been traditionally underserved.

The New York Police Department and the FBI are investigating the stabbing attack of a police officer last week as a possible terrorist attack, NYPD officials said.

New York City begins reopening its economy today after more than two months in lockdown, with businesses struggling to regain their footing from the pandemic’s financial toll while also girding for a possible second wave of the contagion.

…As many as 400,000 people may return to work in a city still recovering from the pandemic and roiled by protests.

It’s an inflection point as the city tries to get back to business after becoming the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, suffering a surge that killed more than 500 people a day at its early-to-mid-April peak.

New York City’s electric utility is preparing for new strains on the grid this summer as people who normally commute to work stay home as a result of the new coronavirus. ConEd has purchased a dozen mobile generators and has made targeted upgrades in areas of Brooklyn where the power went out last summer.

De Blasio called on police officers to stop ignoring Health Department guidelines to wear a face covering when out in public.

Murders and shootings in the Big Apple skyrocketed last week compared to the same period last year, law enforcement sources said.

William Morris, the NYPD’s Chief of Transportation, 61, has succumbed to the coronavirus, department Commissioner Dermot Shea announced.

Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday, prosecutors said, after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in recent demonstrations over Floyd’s death.

…The Buffalo officers, part of a contingent in tactical gear ordered to clear Niagara Square after a citywide curfew started, are accused of taking steps that led Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist and protestor, to fall backward, striking his head on the sidewalk.

“There may be some who say that I’m choosing sides here by arresting and prosecuting these police officers,” Erie County DA John Flynn said. “I say that’s ridiculous. I’m not choosing sides. I’m prosecuting 39 protesters. There are no sides here that I’m choosing.”

City of Troy Police are questioning a group of between six and eight people after they were found wearing combat-type clothing and carrying handguns during the Black Lives Matter rally yesterday afternoon.

Legislation that would repeal a 1976 statute that has enabled New York law enforcement agencies to block the public’s access to police disciplinary records was introduced in the state Senate on Saturday as lawmakers, including Cuomo, have pledged to overturn the controversial law.

State lawmakers will also consider a bill that bans the use of tear gas.

“As has been evidenced in the last few weeks, there is still so much work to be done by the Legislature,” said Senate Majority spokesman Michael Murphy. “We plan on continuing our legislative work in the weeks and months ahead.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Senate Republicans to pass a coronavirus stimulus package that would provide $100 billion in rent relief and $75 billion in aid to homeowners grappling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Cuomo declared that New York “crushed” the curve and “did the impossible” as the state begins to re-open after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic appears to have passed – even as he faces criticism over his handling of the virus.

Cuomo wants state lawmakers to pass a bill next week making it a hate crime when 911 callers make a false accusation based on race, gender or religion.

New York will permit outdoor, socially distanced graduations of up to 150 people starting June 26, Cuomo announced. The governor is accelerating the reopening timeline, he said, as coronavirus statistics continue to decline statewide.

Houses of worship can open with 25 percent occupancy for regions in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, the governor said.

Cuomo signed an executive order allowing commercial buildings to take the temperature of people entering.

Numerous county officials across upstate New York said a new contact-tracing program used by the state to pinpoint incidences of COVID-19 has glitches, and many municipalities are opting to break away from the state’s plan and instead use their own systems.

Cuomo announced that day camps will be allowed to operate in New York beginning Monday, June 29, and his office has also promised thorough guidance to daycare facilities that will operate camps this summer.

At this point, Cuomo said, he would not send his daughters to sleep-away camp, saying the risk of them getting sick is still too unknown.

School election ballots can now be counted if they are postmarked by June 16 – a change from the original deadline for ballots to be in hand by tomorrow.

Individual investors are pouring money into popular technology stocks, contributing to a booming rally that is leading major indexes higher even as economic uncertainty related to the coronavirus lingers.

Millions of Americans have used social media to understand and communicate about Floyd’s killing. And for many of those tracking protests, the go-to online tool has been Citizen, an upstart smartphone app.

Federal stimulus money for airlines is keeping them afloat through the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s not proving to be enough to sustain the industry at its pre-pandemic size.

Nurses for the New York State Nurses Association held a demonstration in front of the hospital yesterday morning fighting for better working conditions in order to provide better patient care.

As the reopening process continues, the city of Albany will reinstate metered parking today, but will waive the five-cent fee for payments made through the ParkAlbany App until July 1.

Also beginning today, a special parking lot permit program will be introduced for Albany’s Central Avenue.

New York progressives hope that Bronx/Westchester Rep. Eliot Engel could become the next Joe Crowley – a longtime incumbent ousted by a primary challenge from the left. Engel is being challenged by Jamaal Bowman, a first-time candidate who founded a middle school in the Eastchester neighborhood of the Bronx.

Top Trump donors are also pumping thousands of dollars into the campaign kitty of the Democratic primary rival to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, campaign records show.

The potential for bringing high-speed rail service to New York has been delayed yet again.

Ten racehorses on their way from Florida to New York were killed early yesterday morning when the tractor-trailer they were riding in hit a concrete median on the New Jersey Turnpike and burst into flames, the authorities said.

Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in southeast Louisiana last night, bringing hazardous conditions that will continue to spread inland across portions of the northern Gulf Coast.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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