Ah, July, we hardly knew ye. And now here we are, CivMixers, on the very last day of the workweek AND the very last day of the month.
A few things to note today:
Yesterday at sundown marked the start of Eid al-Adha, which is the second major Muslim festival after Eid al-Fitr. (The latter marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting).
Eid al-Adha marks the end of Hajj, a five-day pilgrimage all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims are obliged to undertake once in their lifetime, but was, of course, very limited this year as a result of the pandemic.
Most people will commemorate this day with extra prayers, though it is traditional to also celebrate with an animal sacrifice – preferably something you can eat (goat, sheep cow, or, depending on where you live, camel). Again, going to a livestock market at this moment in time is challenging, so apparently there are – of course – apps for that.
It is also the birthday of J.K. Rowling, the author who gave the world the wildly popular boy wizard Harry Potter, who, for the record, also celebrates his (fictional) birthday today. Coincidence? I think not. He was “born” on July 31, 1980, which would make him 40 – if, in fact, he was a real person.
Rowling, who is 55, has been generating a lot of negative press of late and has been accused of transphobia. Her comments have been seriously disappointing for a lot of big Harry Potter fans, including this one, but her books remain wildly popular.
Also, in the “learning something new” category, the Google Doodle today celebrates Pacita Abad, an artist, activist, and feminist from the Philippines, who, on this day in 1984, broke gender barriers in the Philippines by being the first woman to be given the country’s Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award.
And one more thing: It’s National Avocado Day. Get them while you still can. Or, if you’re venturing out these days, you can hit up Chipotle, which is giving out free guacamole to all of its rewards members.
We’re looking at a glorious day, weather-wise, to round out the week, with a mix of sun and clouds and temperatures in the mid-80s. Tomorrow also looks fantastic. Get outside. Safely.
In the headlines…
President Donald Trump has suggested November’s presidential election be postponed, saying increased postal voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate results.
An array of congressional Republicans, including more than a dozen members in both the House and Senate and in the party’s leadership, openly rejected Trump’s suggestion, saying the president has no authority to delay the election because the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting.
Trump appeared to backtrack on a delay, even as he continued to raise doubts about efforts to expand mail-in voting in some states to respond to the coronavirus. “Do I want to see a date change? No,” Trump said at the White House hours after raising the idea in a tweet. “But I don’t want to see a crooked election.”
The co-founder of the Federalist Society wrote in the NYT that he is “frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election.”
Voting rights advocates are suing New York over the state’s registration deadline of 25 days before the general election on Nov. 3 – and say it disenfranchises tens of thousands.
The death of Herman Cain, attributed to the coronavirus, has made Republicans and Trump face the reality of the pandemic as it hit closer to home than ever before, claiming a prominent conservative ally whose frequently dismissive attitude about taking the threat seriously reflected the hands-off inconsistency of party leaders.
The positive coronavirus test of Rep. Louie Gohmert, a mask-shunning Texas Republican, exposed a dangerous reality that lawmakers, aides and other staff members have fretted over for months: Congress, tasked with shepherding the nation through the pandemic, itself lacks consistent procedures for protecting its members and its work force.
Inside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church in Atlanta yesterday, the nation’s first Black president – who has acknowledged there was a Black president only because of what John Lewis sacrificed – delivered a eulogy for the civil rights icon and congressman that went well beyond pure remembrance.
In one of the most jolting moments in modern political history, Obama reclaimed his political pulpit with a stark warning that his successor is a grave and imminent threat to American democracy and racial justice.
Three former presidents and dozens of other dignitaries were drawn to Ebenezer Baptist Church to bid farewell to Lewis, a giant of Congress and the civil rights era whose courageous protests guaranteed him a place in American history.
The economy contracted at a record rate last quarter and July setbacks for the jobs market added to signs of a slowing recovery as the country faces a summer surge in coronavirus infections.
The drop — the equivalent of a 32.9 percent annual rate of decline — would have been even more severe without trillions of dollars in government aid to households and businesses.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose again last week, as the economy stalled amid surges of the coronavirus, and extra help from the federal government came to an end.
The United States Department of Labor reported that 1.434 million claims were filed and 829,697 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the new federal program for independent contractors and the self-employed.
The $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ends today, which will hurt many Americans. U.S. Senate Republicans have proposed a stimulus package that includes reducing the extra unemployment benefit to $200 with plans for future assistance to equal 70 percent of a person’s wage.
Frenzied talks between the White House, Democrats and Republicans on a fourth wave of coronavirus stimulus have been unsuccessful as conservative lawmakers pushed for a large reduction to the $600 jobless payments supplement for people who have been left jobless by the pandemic.
Amazon delivered soaring quarterly sales and profit, leading a pack of tech giants yesterday that reported thriving business during the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and highlighting the industry’s central place in business and society at a time of growing concern over its clout.
Amazon’s sales were up 40 percent from a year ago and its profit doubled. Facebook’s profit jumped 98 percent. Even though the pandemic shuttered many of its stores, Apple increased sales of all its products in every part of the world and posted $11.25 billion in profit.
Employers across the country are being sued by the families of workers who contend their loved ones contracted lethal cases of Covid-19 on the job, a new legal front that shows the risks of reopening workplaces.
Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ has announced that it plans to close 800 locations across the country.
While deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: The second surge of confirmed cases appears to be leveling off.
More than 1,500 coronavirus-related fatalities were reported in the U.S. for Wednesday — marking the country’s worst single-day death rate since May.
Saratoga County health officials are reporting a “troubling increase” in COVID-19 cases among young adults in their 20s and 30s — a concern that has been echoed in Albany and other counties nationwide.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the governors of four U.S. states – Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana – that they need to get new infections under control.
Fauci is now suggesting that people wear goggles, or some other type of eye protection, to better protect themselves from COVID-19. That’s in addition to face masks.
A large majority of Americans blame China for the global spread of the coronavirus as animosity toward the country has soared, according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Center.
The success of a coronavirus vaccine candidate in protecting monkeys from the dangers of COVID-19 led to the beginning of U.S. human safety trials for Johnson & Johnson.
A new study found that infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults. Indeed, children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults.
The COVID-19 virus and the economic shutdown it forced reduced the state pension fund for public workers by $16.2 billion to $194.2 billion and will likely force greater employer contributions by state and local governments, according to a report by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The state will provide counties $30 million for contact tracing, federal funds for flu vaccines and offer financial incentives to a Long Island company and 11 others in New York to manufacture medical supplies, Cuomo said.
Cuomo cast doubt on the idea of including the Garden State as part of the Empire State’s quarantine if coronavirus cases climb.
“I don’t know how you could quarantine New Jersey, they don’t fly into New York, you’d have to blockade roads and we’re not talking about blockading,” Cuomo told reporters.
In a first-of-its-kind initiative, New Jersey lawmakers are expected to approve legislation that could free more than 3,000 prisoners — about 20 percent of the state’s prison population — months before their release dates in response to the extraordinary threat posed by the coronavirus in tightly packed correctional facilities.
The financial impact of the coronavirus will force the state to postpone some of its plans, including the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, as Cuomo said he doesn’t believe “it would be financially prudent” to pursue the measure at this time.
Given the phenomenon of wealthy New Yorkers fleeing the five boroughs during the pandemic, Cuomo says he is concerned about a federal bill that would allow people to pay income tax based on where they are working virtually instead of where their physical office is located.
New York City bars and restaurants continued to rack up violations for failing to comply with pandemic-related regulations, while New Jersey was facing pockets of viral outbreaks among young people.
Cuomo’s administration is touting a new analysis that finds New Yorkers approve of their chief executive’s handling of the pandemic at higher rates than residents of nearly every other state.
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik accused Cuomo of the “height of hypocrisy” for investigating a Hamptons concert that broke pandemic-related public health requirements, while not investigating the high rate of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes.
The Troy Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in South Troy has 22 new COVID-19 cases – all involving residents, Rensselaer County reported.
New Yorkers are expected to get the most independent review to date of the thousands of COVID-19 deaths at state-licensed nursing homes and long-term care facilities at a legislative hearing set to begin Monday.
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, New York was preparing for the possibility of an overwhelmed medical system, and spent millions of dollars for medical equipment that ultimately went unused.
A surprise appearance by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande at the Rose Bowl in LA was canned due to fear of crowds not following social-distancing rules.
Civil rights attorney and New School professor Maya Wiley, who served as NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top legal counsel during a fundraising scandal, has filed paperwork to run for mayor in 2021.
School districts across the country trying to complete their reopening plans are struggling to figure out what to do if a coronavirus outbreak hits—and how bad it would have to be to cause them to shut schools again. So far, schools are getting little consensus from federal and state officials on how best to plan.
Positive coronavirus tests in NYC schools this fall will trigger closures of classrooms or whole school buildings while investigators from the city’s Test and Trace Corps probe for evidence of a wider outbreak, officials announced.
A Manhattan principal cautioned parents at his school this week that their kids will likely be in classrooms only five or six times a month this upcoming year.
While it’s still unclear if New York City public schools will reopen in September, charter schools and catholic schools are planning to reopen.
The answer for some parents – who can afford it – pod schools.
SUNY’s chief operating officer, Robert Megna, said this week in a public hearing with state lawmakers that random testing is a possibility. However, SUNY has not released details on who would administer those tests, whether they would be done on or off campus, and how quickly people would get results.
The College of Saint Rose is taking a hard look at its budget as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the Capital Region economy. The College’s Interim President Marcia White announced that work is underway to cut expenses by $6 million.
Several Capital Region colleges have announced their plans to address the challenge of students returning to campus from high risk areas. Those students will be required by the state to quarantine for 14 days.
Taxi and for-hire vehicle rides plummeted across New York City as the city shut down due to Covid-19 this spring, new data shows, putting a further strain on the struggling industry. And the city’s dire finances from the pandemic means a bailout for taxi drivers isn’t likely.
The Port Authority may be forced to rethink the redevelopment of JFK Airport and the LaGuardia AirTrain amid a coronavirus-induced $800 million drop in revenue this year, officials warned.
The American Museum of Natural History announced it plans to reopen on Sept. 9 at a 25 percent capacity and with COVID-19 safety measures set in place, pending permission from New York State and New York City officials.
Trump tweeted his support for a Long Island pizza shop after the owner told Fox Business that a woman threatened to drive him out of business over his “Keep America Great” flag.
The Queens man who allegedly shot a former SUNY football player over a bodega beef has been charged with attempted murder, officials said.
A Back the Blue rally in the city of Saratoga Springs yesterday evening sparked a counterprotest which continued into the late evening and was followed by a heavy police presence.
A judge ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week to list “any and all inaccurate or misleading statements” the agency made as it attempted to justify banning New Yorkers from federal Trusted Travelers programs.
The state Committee on Open Government issued an opinion this week advising that unfounded or unadjudicated complaints against police officers could be withheld from the public if releasing them would be an invasion of privacy.
A coalition of real estate groups spent the most on lobbying in 2019, according to the annual JCOPE report. Taxpayers for an Affordable NY, which includes REBNY and RSA, spent $3.9 million while lobbying to weaken a rent package that passed at the end of last year’s session.
Despite a soaring demand for home health care over fears of staying in congregate facilities due to the pandemic, 5,100 home health aides in the Hudson Valley leave the job each year because of low pay and inadequate benefits, a report unveiled this week found.
A man stabbing a woman during a domestic dispute in Troy yesterday was shot and killed by an off-duty city police officer who lived in the apartment below and who was trying to intervene, Troy police said.
An experienced female police commander with nearly 35 years on the force has been tapped as the Niskayuna Police Department’s new leader as the town looks into allegations “the previous chief” violated unspecified town policies.
Plans to install a $17.7 million sewer around the rim of Ballston Lake will dissolve if about 700 homeowners in the district don’t approve a $5 million grant from the state in an Aug. 17 vote.
St. Louis County’s prosecutor announced that he will not charge the former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and the police treatment of people of color.
A Long Island Diocese can’t postpone the 86 child sex-abuse lawsuits it’s facing as it tries to fight a law protecting underage victims, a judge ruled
Deceased financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein told his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell that she had “done nothing wrong” in a 2015 email, according to a trove of court documents unsealed last night.
Michael D. Cohen now will be allowed to finish his tell-all book about Trump after the government said that it had given up a legal battle to prevent him from expressing himself on television, on social media or in books while he serves a prison sentence at home.
Photo credit: George Fazio.