Rise and Shine: July 30, 2020

Good Thursday morning, CivMixers.

We have reached that point in the summer when time seems to accelerate, even during this weird pandemic moment when every day can seem like a year. We are now galloping at warp speed toward fall, and after that, well…I don’t want to think too hard about winter right now.

We still have the entire month of August head of us. And cheer up! Today is the International Day of Friendship, proclaimed as such by the UN in 2011 “with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.”

To mark this day, the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

That’s not really all that possible at the moment. But we could all use a little more mutual understanding these days. So maybe pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken with in a while, settle those differences. Life is too short to be mad.

You know what else helps make friends? Sharing food. Since today is both National Chili Dog Day AND National Cheesecake Day, you have options.

For the 52 weeks ending this past April 19, refrigerated cheesecake sales hit $319.33 million, according to Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery’s State of Industry Bakery 2020 report. Apparently, America’s perennial favorite dessert originated in ancient Rome.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, The Cheesecake Factory will not only be donating $1 to Feeding America for every slice of its 30+ legendary flavors of cheesecake sold, but it will also introduce its newest flavor: the Chocolate Caramelicious Cheesecake Made With Snickers.

Yep. Decadence defined as cheesecake swirled with pieces of Snickers bar on a brownie crust with chocolate, caramel and peanuts.

If you happen to be in Cincinnati, Ohio, where chili dogs are something of a religion, you can pick up a free cheese coney – as in Coney Island got dog – (when you purchase a drink) at Gold Star Chili.

And if travel isn’t in the cards for you – as is the case for so many of us at the moment – here’s a recipe you might want to try.

There will be more thunderstorms this morning giving way to mostly cloudy skies in the afternoon. Temperatures will hover in the mid-80s. (In other words, don’t let that cheesecake sit out too long).

In the headlines…

The chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, four tech giants worth nearly $5 trillion combined, faced withering questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike for the tactics and market dominance that had made their enterprises successful.

The session, conducted via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, laid bare deep-rooted frustration with some of the country’s most successful companies, at a moment when Americans rely on them more than ever.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook each brought their distinct mannerisms to bear, but all shared an abundantly cautious approach that extinguished most of the difficult questions with well-rehearsed lines about how their firms do not tilt the playing field in their own favor.

Bezos acknowledged, albeit earnestly and transparently, that Amazon may have improperly used third-party seller data to inform its own product decisions – a key concern over the company’s approach to competition.

President Donald Trump made one of his most overt appeals so far in the campaign to White, suburban voters, saying in a tweet that they will no longer be “bothered” by low income housing in their suburbs.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, citing Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” series, rebuked Trump for rescinding an Obama-era regulation meant to address segregated living patterns and housing disparities.

Some of Joe Biden’s allies – including a few of his top donors – are waging a campaign behind the scenes to stop California Sen. Kamala Harris from becoming his vice president.

The former police chief in Orlando, Fla., Val Demings, has emerged as a finalist to be Biden’s running mate. A review of her record shows a complicated history with episodes involving police misconduct.

The prospects for a quick agreement in D.C. on a new round of aid for the ailing economy faded yesterday, as Trump undercut his own party’s efforts to negotiate a deal and a top White House official declared that a lifeline to unemployed workers would run out as scheduled at week’s end.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that the viral epidemic is endangering the modest economic recovery that followed a collapse in hiring and spending this spring. As a result, he said, the Fed plans to keep interest rates pinned near zero well into the future.

While Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are still arguing over what the next coronavirus aid package should look like, they do seem to agree on one point: Americans should get another stimulus check.

Oregon and the Trump administration said they had reached a deal for a potential drawdown in Portland of federal agents whose controversial presence has been at the heart of recent violent protests in the city.

The Wall of Moms, a protest group that originated in Portland, has gone national. There’s a Wall of Dads, often armed with leafblowers to blow back tear gas, too.

Two women were arrested and accused of beating a state senator, Democrat Tim Carpenter, who had been recording video of protesters last month, during a night of intensifying violence in Madison, Wis., the authorities said.

Plainclothes New York Police Department officers arrested a protester and put her in an unmarked van at a demonstration against police brutality in Manhattan Tuesday, drawing criticism from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo after videos of the incident were widely shared on social media.

Former President Barack Obama will speak at the funeral for U.S. congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis today. Ex-commanders-in-chief Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will also attend the ceremony for Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Trump has said he won’t be there.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, has undergone a nonsurgical medical procedure in New York City and expects to be released from a hospital by the end of the week, the court said.

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from moving forward with plans to deny green cards to immigrants who have received Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers, even on a limited basis — a wealth test that several states, led by New York, sued over during the coronavirus pandemic.

The death toll in the United States has crossed 150,000, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. Across the country, cases are still increasing by the tens of thousands and the U.S. reports nearly 1,000 deaths, on average, every day.

The FDA is nearing a decision to authorize emergency use of antibody-rich blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients for treating those infected with the coronavirus.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Capitol officials issued broad new mask requirements after a Republican member of Congress tested positive for the coronavirus. The member, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, often shunned wearing masks and was known to vote without one.

Gohmert tested positive just before he was scheduled to travel to his home state on Air Force One with Trump. He was forced to cancel his plans and was immediately criticized by colleagues for not always wearing a mask.

MLB has initiated an investigation into how the COVID-19 outbreak began on the Marlins with the aim of reinforcing better practices specifically with this team and learning what can be done to prevent a repeat elsewhere.

The U.S. Open Championship will be hosted Sept. 14-20 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, Westchester County without fans.

As Congress negotiates the second stimulus package in Washington D.C., local school districts are banking on an infusion of federal aid to help them safely reopen their buildings in the fall.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators caucus of the United Federation of Teachers has collected nearly 4,000 signatures demanding that schools remain locked until New York has no new COVID cases for 14 days.

Citing budget pressures, the NYC Department of Education is defunding a program at a top city high school that allows students to earn credits at Queens College during their senior year.

More than two dozen NYC private schools have said over the past month that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll skip in-person interviews and instead require kindergarten applicants to sit through an assessment over the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

The economic shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus has left New York facing a $30 billion deficit over the next two years, and hiking taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers won’t cover the gap, state officials said.

Cuomo, setting himself up for a fight with fellow Democrats in the state Legislature, says he is opposed to efforts to raise taxes on high-income New Yorkers to help balance a deficit estimated at $30 billion over the next two years.

New York has a $14 billion deficit this fiscal year and expects a $16 billion hole in next year’s budget, Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. Unless Congress provides help, local governments, schools and hospitals will get 20 percent funding cuts.

Proponents of legalizing mobile wagering on sports contests in New York say this is their time to get the matter settled after years of efforts. And they say it will happen in the weeks ahead when lawmakers might go back into session to figure out how to balance the state’s 2020 budget.

A pair of men attacked several workers at a Manhattan Trader Joe’s — with one threatening to shoot the workers — when they were told they had to wear masks inside, police said.

A New York fertility doctor has developed a rapid, noninvasive coronavirus test that uses saliva and can deliver accurate results in 30 minutes or less, according to a preliminary study.

A German shepherd in Staten Island who was the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus has died, the first fatality of its kind. (He also likely had cancer, so the cause of death is unclear).

The state will “get to the bottom” of reports of violations of coronavirus mitigation laws in the Village and Town of Southampton beyond a weekend “drive-in” concert in Water Mill that included widely reported flouting of the regulations, Cuomo said.

In an op-ed for Rolling Stone, DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker called the widely criticized Hamptons concert a “flagrant disregard for the public’s health during a pandemic.”

Of 49 new cases of novel coronavirus confirmed since Tuesday in the greater Capital Region, 20 were in Albany County, including three that were traced back to a massive July 4 party in Albany, county officials said.

The recent increase in new coronavirus positive test results in New Jersey is being fueled in part by a spike in indoor house parties like the mansion bash that attracted 700 people over the weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding attendees belong in the “Knucklehead Hall of Fame.”

Cuomo’s mandate for travelers to self-quarantine if they come to New York from states hard hit by coronavirus is enforced mostly through the honor system.

As the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths across New York continue to improve, as reported by the state, Cuomo is making good on one pledge made early in the pandemic: he’s ordering aid to be sent to Florida.

New York bars struggling to stay afloat should not be required to serve food to drinkers, and instead customers should be banned from standing outside watering holes, a new petition created by a Lower East Side bar owner argues.

The coronavirus pandemic has demolished New York City’s for-hire vehicle workforce, newly released city data shows. The number of working drivers stood at 30,675 in June, the Taxi and Limousine Commission said — a 75 percent drop from the 108,880 who drove for-hire vehicles in March.

Police have collared the gunman accused of shooting a former SUNY football star, who remains in critical condition after suffering a wound in his abdomen.

Transit officials are quietly testing out five new maps in a display at 86th Street station in Brooklyn — including a subway diagram based off a controversial minimalist design from the 1970s.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles will now allow DMV-licensed driving schools to conduct “distance learning” via video conference platforms for the mandatory five-hour pre-licensing course.

A 21-year-old college student captured a massive, near 400-pound bull shark off the coast of Long Island Beach earlier this month.

For a third straight day, officials shut down South Shore beaches yesterday after another shark was spotted off Nickerson Beach and one was seen later at Point Lookout, prompting closures from there to Long Beach.

The state DOH today is expected to adopt its first-ever maximum contaminant levels for three chemicals: 1,4-dioxane, a likely carcinogenic industrial solvent also found in trace amounts in household products; perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), used in firefighting foams; and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in stain- and water-resistant material.

The Times Union Center is in negotiations to bring arena football back to the Capital Region as soon as next year, arena general manager Bob Belber confirmed.

Safe staffing levels and overtime expenses collided in the City of Cohoes fire department this past weekend after the city would not pay overtime to staff the Saturday platoon of firefighters at full strength, firefighters confirmed.

State Forest Rangers have had a busy month in the Adirondacks and Catskills, responding to at least four cases in recent days when hikers had twisted, rolled or broken their ankles or injured their legs. Additionally, they performed two rescues in six days, using helicopters and ATVs to rescue stranded hikers.

A burst of shootings in the West Hill neighborhood of Albany – including one that left a man gravely injured – had police searching for clues yesterday to determine if the violent encounters were linked or simply a coincidence of timing.

Emotions were high last night in Schenectady, as an outdoor community meeting with city police ended abruptly after a crowd demanded police answer their questions and pressed them on an array of issues.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is gradually opening the doors to Lake Placid’s Olympic venues.

The Adirondack estate owned by the Whitney family for 120 years is on the market for $180 million.

Whitney Park, a 36,000-acre property in the Adirondacks, has belonged to the prominent Whitney family for more than a century. The seller is her husband, John Hendrickson, who inherited the estate from his wife.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx Zoo, three other zoos and an aquarium in New York, apologized for two aspects of its history that the society’s chief executive described as demonstrating “unconscionable racial intolerance.”

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is charged with recruiting three girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse, made a last-minute – and unsuccessful – bid to stop the public release of her 2016 testimony in a civil case.

The actress Ashley Judd can proceed with a sexual harassment claim as part of a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul imprisoned for sex crimes and a focus of the #MeToo movement, an appeals court ruled.

NASA today hopes to send a robotic rover and a small experimental helicopter on a journey of six-and-a-half months to the red planet. It follows two earlier launches by the United Arab Emirates and China. The launch was originally scheduled for July, but encountered technical delays.

A e-commerce technique known as brushing is coming into focus this week as federal officials look to whether the practice is behind a phenomenon of seeds appearing in mailboxes across the country.

Regis Philbin’s death last week was caused by a heart attack.

Malik Basit, the rapper and founding member of the hip-hop group The Roots, died yesterday at the age of 47. No cause of death was reported.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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