Rise and Shine: July 15, 2020

Good Wednesday morning, CivMixers. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s Tax Day.

The original federal tax filing deadline of April 15 fell just as the coronavirus pandemic was getting underway, and the IRS in response gave Americans a two-month reprieve. The state of New York also extended its deadline to match the new federal due date, as did the majority of other states in the nation.

Then, about a month ago, the IRS announced that no, it would no be extending the two-month grace period any further, and if any filers needed additional time, they would have to seek a formal extension until October. Here was the message at the time:

“The IRS urges people who owe taxes, even if they have a filing extension, to carefully review their situation and pay what they can by July 15 to avoid penalties and interest. For people facing hardships, including those affected by COVID-19, who cannot pay in full, the IRS has several options available to help. To avoid interest and penalties, the IRS encourages them to pay what they can and consider a variety of payment options available for the remaining balance.”

But, of course, the financial damage from the pandemic is still being felt, and will be for some time, experts say. As a result, as of a few days ago, the IRS had received 6.3 million FEWER returns than at this point – two months past the filing deadline – last year.

The good news is that many people are likely to receive a refund from the government, which one might view as another stimulus check as the powers that be in Washington fight over the next infusion of federal cash into the virus-struck economy.

As so often happens with things related to the government, there appears to be some glitches occurring to complicate the lives of last-minute filers still further.

Ironically for those who turn out to OWE the government money, it’s also National Give Something Away Day. Fitting.

We’re in for a partly cloudy day with temperatures reaching the mid-80s.

In the news today…

Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

…The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”

This came White House and the Department of Homeland Security officials reportedly were considering scaling back the new rules. That could pave the way for the Trump administration to issue a modified policy in coming weeks – including potentially applying the more restrictive rules only to newly enrolling students.

The loss of international students could have cost universities millions of dollars in tuition and jeopardized the ability of U.S. companies to hire the highly skilled workers who often start their careers with an American education.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, who has a lengthy history of medical issues, has been taken to the hospital and treated for a possible infection, according to a court spokeswoman.

For more than an hour, President Trump pilloried Joe Biden, progressive Democrats, mail-in voting and a range of other people and topics in a rambling speech on that was supposed to be about new U.S. sanctions on China.

A Covid-19 vaccine developed by the biotechnology company Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health has been found to induce immune responses in all of the volunteers who received it in a Phase 1 study.

Medical experts and lawmakers had a plea for scientists developing a coronavirus vaccine — don’t give in to political pressure from President Trump ahead of the election, and risk an even more damaging debacle than the episode around hydroxychloroquine.

Hospitals across the country are stocking up on drugs for treating Covid-19, hoping to avoid another scramble for critical medications should a second wave of the virus threaten new drug shortages.

Hospitals have been ordered to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all patient information to a central database in Washington, raising questions about transparency.

Florida set a new record for coronavirus deaths yesterday, one of several metrics that show the state’s coronavirus crisis is still getting worse, even as Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed at a news conference Monday afternoon that the state’s situation had “stabilized.”

The largest U.S. banks signaled that the worst of the coronavirus recession is yet to come, opting to stow away tens of billions of dollars to prepare for an expected wave of loan losses.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on his Republican colleagues to remove a cap on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, when the next round of COVID-19 relief negotiations begins.

A new round of contracts in the Trump administration’s coronavirus food box program again does little to address increasing hunger in New York, 14 congressional representatives warned the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

The British government said it would bar telecom companies from purchasing new equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for their 5G networks in a further sign of the deteriorating relations between Beijing and the West.

Jeff Sessions lost an Alabama Senate GOP primary runoff on Tuesday to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, CNN projects, a major blow to the former attorney general who faced fierce opposition to his candidacy from Trump.

The U.S. and Canada are poised to extend their agreement to keep their shared border closed to non-essential travel to Aug. 21, but a final confirmation has not been given.

A Democratic operative photographed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz without a mask on a flight over the weekend — prompting American Airlines to review the matter after the image was posted online, and went viral.

Four more states were added to the tri-state’s quarantine-restricted list Tuesday – New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Delaware came off, no longer meeting the criteria to be considered a viral hotspot under New York standards.

Port Authority officials were not sure how many people flew into LaGuardia and Kennedy airports yesterday, but many passengers said they were unaware they were required to fill out the forms — and some who were aware didn’t take them seriously.

Health Department employees and law enforcement officers weren’t yet greeting air passengers at their arrival gates at Albany International Airport. But the airport’s largest carrier stepped up its notifications to passengers that they must submit traveler forms as the state seeks to control the spread of the virus.

The first federal execution in nearly two decades was carried out “in the middle of the night,” as the condemned triple murderer was still battling in court to avoid his fate, his lawyer said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new rental assistance program for New York tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that will provide direct aid for tenants who lost income due to the pandemic.

Starting tomorrow, renters who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for rental assistance from $100 million in federal funds that has been set aside.

Supporters point to three more bills they’d like to see taken up by the Legislature that would eliminate backdated rent, extend an eviction moratorium and provide relief for the recently homeless. But insiders said it’s unlikely any of those bills will pass when lawmakers return to Albany next week.

Cuomo and Suffolk County officials expressed alarm that summer parties are contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.

Ten Suffolk County lifeguards and four people at a Fourth of July weekend party have tested positive for COVID-19 in separate instances of new spread that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called “a wake-up call.”

Young, upwardly mobile New Yorkers who flooded the city’s restaurants and bars last month — not those who attended weeks of massive anti-police protests — are responsible for the spike in coronavirus cases among 20- to 29-year-olds, a city health official insisted.

Scientists and medical experts are blasting an internal New York state study that let Cuomo’s administration off the hook for ordering nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients.

A recent coronavirus outbreak at the St. Peter’s Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Albany began around the time a nurse’s aide who was in quarantine after traveling out of state returned to work, allegedly due to staffing needs, according to a person briefed on the situation.

The high school athletics community hopes the state will offer some guidance today on the fate of the fall sports season.

The New York Times art critic, Jason Farago, reviews the governor’s new pandemic poster and finds it…well, lacking.

CNNs Jake Tapper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta panned the poster, which seems to declare victory over Covid-19, despite many medical experts who say the coronavirus may come back.

For $14.50 a pop — plus shipping and handling — Cuomo-sexuals and others can submit contact information online to pre-order the old-school political campaign-style poster. (Pre-orders total 10,639 posters over the last 14 hours since the link was first published).

Airplane food is being served by the city Sanitation Department as part of the Big Apple’s emergency coronavirus food program.

While the bare shelves brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have largely been restocked across New York City and the country, times are still far from normal at supermarkets, which face less pronounced but potentially more enduring shifts – including less product variety.

NYC’s confusing attempts to regulate outdoor dining set-ups during the coronavirus has forced Big Apple restaurants into a costly game of musical chairs — with owners saying they’ve had to build and rebuild their makeshift patios to keep up with shifting guidelines.

More than two months after New York City’s subway system started closing every night for cleaning during the coronavirus pandemic, trains are once again filling up with commuters heading to work, sparking tension among riders who are butting heads about safety procedures.

All but two of the nation’s 10 largest districts exceed a key public health threshold of a less than 5 percent infection rate and are not prepared to reopen in the fall, according to a New York Times analysis.

Cuomo is still practicing social distancing when it comes to romance, telling “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon on Monday night’s show that he’s in no rush to reopen his love life.

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver failed to convince a judge that the coronavirus pandemic makes it too dangerous for him to get re-sentenced in person for his $4 million bribery scheme.

Jamaal Bowman’s campaign said the Democratic insurgent’s sizeable lead over veteran Rep. Eliot Engel has expanded during the early counting of absentee ballots.

Mondaire Jones, a progressive candidate supported by the institutional left, was declared the victor in a crowded Democratic House primary for retiring Rep. Nita Lowey’s seat, all but ensuring that he will join Congress next year as among its first openly gay African-American members.

Westchester Democratic state Sen. Peter Harckham has introduced a bill that would pressure New York schools to remove team names, mascots or logos deemed racially offensive — such as those with Native American symbols and lineage.

State Sen. James Skoufis, a Mid-Hudson Valley Democrat who recovered from COVID-19, will co-chair four hearings at which New York’s response to the pandemic will be reviewed.

After days of critics calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, the mayor reiterated his support of the city’s top cop, saying Shea “is one of the people who made this the safest big city in America.”

The New York Times posted 64 videos, shot by protesters and journalists, that show NYPD officers meeting protestors demonstrating in the wake of George Floyd’s death with fists, clubs and body slams.

The limbless, headless torso of a millionaire tech entrepreneur was found inside his swanky Manhattan condo yesterday afternoon — an electric saw lying next to the remains, police said.

The police did not immediately identify the man, but several friends who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he was Fahim Saleh, a 33-year-old technology entrepreneur and the owner of the condo where the body was found.

An Occupy City Hall protester has been arrested on assault charges in the alleged board attack on a Post reporter, police said.

A group that’s been holding nightly dances in support of inmates at a federal lockup in Brooklyn may have begun as “cover movement” of Keith Raniere, the convicted leader of infamous upstate sex cult NXIVM.

Trump, whose re-election prospects have dimmed as Americans question his handling of the pandemic and race relations, stoked racial grievances yet again with a series of startling remarks about the Confederate flag, victims of police violence and a St. Louis couple who pointed guns at peaceful protesters.

Union College’s chief diversity officer is leaving the college for another opportunity at a time when a heated conversation between Union’s administration and a group of current and former students aiming to create a safer environment for Black and brown students on campus is underway.

The Rensselaer County Legislature rejected by identical 16-3 roll call votes two versions of a resolution last night intended to support the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice for people of color in measures that stirred controversy among county law enforcement agencies and some residents.

Schenectady elected officials pushed back against protestors who had blocked the City Hall doors Monday night, saying they put citizens at risk.

Angelicia Morris, the former executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, is suing the county to get her job back – and to force its leaders to restore her reputation.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello is introducing legislation to create a new county Department of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. He says the department would create new ways of recruiting and promoting those from minority backgrounds.

Syracuse officials won’t commit to posting police personnel files of its 427 officers online, despite proof from its Thruway neighbor, Utica, that it can be done.

A potential plea deal in the criminal case against the operator of the stretch limousine at the center of the October 2018 crash that killed 20 people may be the result of worries that prosecutors could fail to win a guilty verdict from a jury due to the complexity of the case.

The Albany County Legislature is resurrecting a committee designed to oversee the hiring of county workers during tough economic times.

Applebee’s on Troy Road in the Shoppes at Greenbush Commons has been closed in a precautionary measure made after a suspected exposure to coronavirus this past Monday.

…the restaurant is expected to reopen today after a deep cleaning.

Expressing deep skepticism, a federal judge upended a $25 million proposed civil settlement between Harvey Weinstein, his former film company, and dozens of women who have accused him of sexual harassment and abuse.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein who has been charged with helping him recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse girls as young as 14, was denied bail by a judge who said she posed a high risk of fleeing before her trial.

Saying that “Twitter has become its ultimate editor,” centrist New York Times columnist and editor Bari Weiss resigned this week with a scathing letter to the paper in which she cited “bullying by colleagues” and a “illiberal environment.”

Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan is leaving New York magazine, his professional home since 2016, he announced.

…In a series of tweets, Sullivan said that he was “immensely grateful” to the editors at the magazine and said that he had “no beef” with the outlet’s other writers, many of whom are left of center.

A New Hampshire radio station has severed ties with a conservative radio host who berated landscape workers for speaking Spanish in a widely shared video.

The Mets announced that anybody can participate in their cardboard cutout program for $86. They plan to put the cutout photos of fans in the stands at Citi Field during their 30 scheduled home games during the 2020 season.

Here’s some good news: The population of endangered Karner blue butterflies at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, native to the Capital Region ecosystem, is exploding this season.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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