Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Monday. Happy International Puzzle Day!

Yes, today is the birthday of Dr. Erno Rubik, the inventor of Rubik’s Cube, who was born in Budapest, Hungary during World War II.

For those of you who are not of a certain age, the Rubik’s cube was a worldwide craze in the 1980s. Within a year after the toy was first exported from Hungary in May of 1980, sales of the toy topped five million. Over 100 million Rubik’s cubes were sold between 1980 and 1982 alone.

Rubik invented the cube in 1974, intending to create a challenging three-dimensional puzzle with aesthetic value. It was placed on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1981.

The record for the fastest solving of a Rubik’s cube is held by Feliks Zemdegs, of Australia, who was 22 when he clocked in at 4.22 seconds in 2018. (He holds several other speed cubing titles…and yes, that’s what they call it).

Also on this day – and tomorrow – in 1977, an electricity blackout took place that impacted most of New York City, spurring widespread looting and other acts of criminal activity, including arson.

The blackout was caused by stress on the system after a series of lightning storms in Westchester County, but “human and mechanical error” also contributed to the incident.

The 25-hour blackout cost the city more than $300 million, both directly and indirectly. In neighborhoods affected by burning buildings or looting, the recovery process was lengthy. In some places, it took years to recover.

Exactly 42 years later, on the same day, the city was again plunged into darkness. This time, ConEd managed to restore the power in just a few hours.

It’s going to be hot today – again – in the mid-80s, with a mix of clouds and sun and the chance of a stray thunderstorm or show. I should just put that sentence in a save string and keep hitting it, as I feel like I’ve written it a lot lately.

In the news…

Florida set a new national record for the largest daily increase in coronavirus cases in the U.S. yesterday, while infections continue to spike around the world.

The U.S. has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3.2 million diagnosed cases and at least 135,155 deaths.

Florida’s staggering new single-day U.S. state record of coronavirus cases underscores how the aggressive opening strategy championed by President Donald Trump and allied governors is turning into one of the worst political and economic calls in modern history.

Houston leaders are calling for another lockdown as the number of active cases of the coronavirus in the county increased to more than 27,600 yesterday. Houston’s Harris County — the most populous county in Texas — has been the hardest-hit in the Lone Star State.

Trump wore a mask during a visit to a military hospital on Saturday, the first time the president has been seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the Trump administration is “trying to correct” its guidance earlier in the coronavirus pandemic urging Americans not to wear face coverings.

As the Trump administration has strayed further from the advice of many scientists and public health experts, the White House has moved to sideline Dr. Anthony Fauci, scuttled some of his planned TV appearances and largely kept him out of the Oval Office for more than a month.

Trump commuted the prison sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President. The announcement came just days before Stone was set to report to a federal prison in Georgia.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller offered pointed criticism of Trump’s decision to commute Stone’s sentence in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday, declaring that despite being granted clemency, Stone “remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he will grant a longtime Democratic request to have Mueller testify before the committee about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign.

Grocers are having trouble staying stocked with goods from flour to soups as climbing coronavirus case numbers and continued lockdowns pressure production and bolster customer demand.

Mexico surpassed 35,000 deaths from the coronavirus yesterday, overtaking Italy to become the nation with the fourth-most deaths from the virus.

The governor of Japan’s Okinawa island demanded a top U.S. military commander take tougher prevention measures and more transparency hours after officials were told that more than 60 Marines at two bases have been infected with the coronavirus over the past few days.

An appeals court overturned a lower court’s stay of execution requested on coronavirus grounds, paving the way for the first federal death sentence administered since 2003. Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Indiana today, in the first federal execution in 17 years.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to answer questions about the looming back-to-school crisis as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said if the Trump administration wants schools to reopen safely in New York and across the country this fall, the federal government will have to boost funding to help with some of the costs.

Educators, parents and advocates will be closely watching today’s Board of Regents meeting when state education officials are expected to outline how New York schools can safely reopen in the fall amid the ongoing threat of COVID-19.

Teachers say crucial questions about how schools will stay clean, keep students physically distanced and prevent further spread of the virus have not been answered.

When New York City decided to reopen its school system, the nation’s largest, on a part-time basis in September, it set off a new child care crisis that could seriously threaten its ability to restart the local economy and recover from the coronavirus outbreak.

The City University of New York is preparing to keep providing most classes online for the fall semester amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

New Yorkers are fleeing a city hard-hit by Covid-19, including for Connecticut’s pastoral towns, giving one of the nation’s most troubled states a glimmer of hope.

New York’s coronavirus statistics stayed stable this past week, with the five deaths reported Saturday tying last month’s record low — but Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the rest of the nation is still a threat to the state.

“You’re going to see our numbers and the Northeast numbers probably start to increase because the virus that you see now in the South and the West — California has real trouble — it’s going to come back here,” Cuomo said. “…It’s totally predictable. And we’re going to go through an increase. I can feel it coming. And it is so unnecessary and so cruel.”

New York City yesterday reported zero new coronavirus deaths for the first time since early March, a milestone that comes as the virus spikes in other parts of the country.

Statistics showed positive tests in the Capital Region for coronavirus, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness, went up from .7 percent on Thursday to 2 percent on Saturday – the highest in the state.

The giant new “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan has become a flashpoint for protesters clashing over the statement.

A peaceful Black Lives Matter rally was interrupted Saturday by a couple emerging from their home waving a gun at protesters, according to social media posts detailing the incident by City of Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson.

Republican north Country Rep. Elise Stefanik was part of a pro-police rally held in Plattsburgh, one of many rallies that have developed locally and nationwide as a response to Black Lives Matter protests.

Stefanik is on track to raise $10 million in her re-election bid this year, the fruits of a fundraising machine that observers say will fuel the New York Republican’s rise.

Endicott Mayor Linda Jackson and and Deputy Mayor Cheryl Chapman issued a joint apology Friday evening — following over a week of backlash and calls for their resignation — due to controversy over “white lives matter” Facebook posts.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed that hungry New Yorkers stealing bread were behind an “uptick in crime” in the city — despite the fact that overall crime is down, while shootings and murders have soared.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said community leaders would walk “with police officers” through violent hot spots in the city this weekend — but a day later, City Hall was backpedaling on the plan.

Only a handful of unlucky New Yorkers face eviction during the coronavirus pandemic, but the cases hint at gargantuan problems for tenants, landlords and courts as the rent comes due.

Democratic state legislators joined affordable housing advocates to unveil three bills that would protect all tenants from eviction, cancel rent and mortgage debt for unemployed tenants and homeowners, and provide immediate relief to re-house homeless New Yorkers.

What began as an effort among upstate judges of color to reaffirm their commitment to equal justice has grown to include more than 120 judges from across New York, including five judges in the Capital Region.

The New York Employees’ Retirement System — more commonly known as NYCERS — has failed to return an avalanche of calls on behalf of families attempting to claim death benefits from the pensions of transit workers who died from COVID-19.

With the pandemic damaging the economy, fiscal experts question whether New York will continue to sustain a generous policy that lets police, teachers and other public employees cash in unused vacation, sick and other paid days off when they leave a job.

A Syracuse-area gym owner is suing Cuomo to force him to allow indoor gyms to reopen amid the coronavirus.

Five of New York’s state-created horse-racing bookie offices with its Off-Track Betting Corporation are raking in millions of dollars apiece in federal loans meant to keep small businesses afloat amid the coronavirus.

The nation’s largest transit system, the MTA, teeters on the edge of an unprecedented financial crisis as it emerges from the new coronavirus pandemic, leaving it with few options other than imposing major spending cuts and borrowing billions of dollars, officials say.

Outdoor seating is proving to be a critical but tenuous lifeline for New York City restaurants since Cuomo indefinitely postponed the reopening of indoor dining in the city over coronavirus concerns.

Federal grant funds have run out for small businesses, farms and nonprofits trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Program has exhausted the $20 billion authorized by Congress, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced.

Oil and gas companies are hurtling toward bankruptcy, raising fears that wells will be left leaking planet-warming pollutants, with cleanup cost left to taxpayers.

The Trump administration plans to retain a national limit of 70 parts per billion for the pollutant ozone, the standard set by the Obama administration five years ago after business groups fought tougher standards.

Could expanded telework opportunities for state employees help New York reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

A day after winning a Supreme Court victory over Trump, the Manhattan district attorney moved one step closer to obtaining some of the president’s financial records when a lower-court judge acted quickly to hear any final arguments from the president’s lawyers.

The organizers of Brooklyn’s New York Caribbean Carnival and the J’Ouvert parade have announced their plans to hold alternative Labor Day weekend celebrations this year, with the coronavirus pandemic in mind.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in New York got the go-ahead Friday to resume limited visitations for residents next week as long as they have gone 28 days without a new case of COVID-19.

Testing has revealed that there are 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents at Riverside Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, a facility that sits overlooking the Hudson River on Castleton’s North Main Street.

Authorities are taking their time to build an airtight case against a Bronx man allegedly caught on camera putting an NYPD cop in a headlock, upping their odds of making charges stick.

Steve Cohen, a former top aide and longtime advisor to Cuomo, is leaving MacAndrews & Forbes, the investment company led by Ron Perelman where he has served as general counsel, to start his own firm.

Longtime stalwarts of the Bronx political machine are losing races to liberal upstarts or, in some cases, quitting politics altogether, giving a new generation of leaders a chance to reshape the long-neglected county.

State Sen. Sue Serino, a Hudson Valley Republican, is receiving treatment for early-stage breast cancer, she said in a statement.

State Sen. Peter Harckham, a Democrat serving the 40th District, proposed a bill that calls for discontinuing state funding for any school utilizing a “race-based mascot.”

A fallout of the Raise the Age statute has been a veritable revolving door in the youth justice system that has been evident in the city of Albany, which has been rocked by gun violence this year.

Albany’s Lincoln Park Pool temporarily closed for minor repairs last night, and will likely remain closed through today.

The Schenectady chapter of the NAACP gathered Saturday afternoon to discuss policing and how to move forward after a video emerged of a Schenectady police officer kneeling on a man’s neck in early July.

The 152nd meet at Saratoga Racetrack will kick off Thursday with no fans in sight.

Hedge-fund manager Chatham Asset Management emerged as the winner in a bankruptcy auction for McClatchy Co. ending 163 years of family ownership for the newspaper chain and increasing financial investors’ control of the American publishing industry.

ESPN has suspended Adrian Wojnarowski, its top scoopmonger on the inner workings of the National Basketball Association, after it was revealed he used profane language in an email to a U.S. senator.

Benjamin Keough, the grandson of rock and roll icon Elvis Presley, has died of an apparent suicide. He was 27.

Michael Lofthouse, California tech CEO who was caught on camera hurling a racist diatribe at an Asian family earlier this month, has resigned from his company, Solid8.

Actress Kelly Preston, whose credits included the films “Twins” and “Jerry Maguire,” died yesterday after losing a battle with breast cancer, her husband John Travolta said. She was 57.

Photo credit: George Fazio.