Good morning, it’s Thursday, and I’m thrilled about that, CivMixers, because it’s one day away from Friday.

I feel duty bound to inform you that it is National Sugar Cookie Day.

According to the interwebs, the sugar cookie as we know it is believed to have originated in the mid-1700s in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. German Protestant settlers created a round, crumbly and buttery cookie that came to be known as the Nazareth Cookie.

But actually, it may date back as far as the 7th century, when sugar was first cultivated in Persia.

The problem here is that I have no use for sugar cookies, which – in my humble opinion – are weak sauce compared to, say, a peanut butter cookie, or a chocolate chip cookie, or even an oatmeal raisin. Sugar cookies just don’t have that much going on in terms of a flavor profile. If straight-up sweet is your jam, well then, you do you.

Five years ago today, then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – a Republican – relegated the Confederate flag to the state’s “relic room” after the Legislature passed a measure removing the flag from the grounds of the Statehouse in the wake of the slaughter of nine African-Americans at a church Bible study.

Five years ago. And yet, somehow this is still a hotly debated issue.

It’s going to be blistering hot today, with temperatures reaching into the mid-90s. We’ll have a mix of clouds and sun with a shower or thunderstorm possible.

There’s a heat advisory in effect for parts of the state, which means you should take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside, and if at all possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Wear lightweight and loose fitting clothing and stay hydrated. Keep an eye on pets and kids and the elderly. Basically, be smart. And safe.

In the headlines…

Scientists warned of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage as new evidence suggested Covid-19 can lead to severe neurological complications, including inflammation, psychosis and delirium.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he would reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) if elected.

Florida has emerged as a global epicenter of the latest coronavirus surge, raising questions about the safety of major events that relocated to the state.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for Trump’s reelection campaign and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., revealed that she is feeling “really pretty good” after she tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.

Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month likely contributed to the area’s recent rise in coronavirus cases, the Tulsa City-County Health Department Director said.

The U.S. surpassed 3 million confirmed Covid-19 cases less than a month after crossing the 2 million mark, as the virus spread rapidly in the nation’s three most populous states.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country has controlled coronavirus “better than many of our allies, particularly including our neighbor.” (Canada borders just one other nation: The U.S.)

As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues, almost one-third of U.S. households, 32 percent, have not made their full housing payments for July yet, according to a survey by Apartment List, an online rental platform.

As coronavirus cases surge across the country, hospitals, nursing homes and private medical practices are facing a problem many had hoped would be resolved by now: a dire shortage of respirator masks, isolation gowns and disposable gloves that protect front-line medical workers from infection.

The Transportation Security Administration has improved coronavirus protection for airport screeners after a TSA official accused the agency of endangering travelers, the whistleblower’s lawyer said.

A Florida man who had sent a letter to Trump peddling toxic bleach as a fake coronavirus cure has been arrested by the commander-in-chief’s own Justice Department, an ironic turn of events that comes two months after the nation’s leader suggested the ludicrous method as a possible COVID-19 treatment.

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, Trump threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.

Once again rejecting the advice of the specialists who work for him, Trump dismissed the CDC’s “very tough & expensive guidelines,” which he said asked schools “to do very impractical things.”

Cuomo blasted Trump for pressuring state officials to reopen schools this fall, saying the federal government doesn’t have any authority over the matter.

The governor set a timeline for the state to decide whether schools can reopen. Districts must submit plans by July 31, and a decision will be made during the first week in August.

“We’re doing everything to be ready in September,” Cuomo said. “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the schools in September…that would be reckless and negligent.”

Chaos will likely rule the classrooms under NYC’s plan to reopen public schools with a staggered schedule this fall, teachers said.

The mayor’s release of his plan for the system, by far the nation’s largest, capped weeks of intense debate among elected officials, educators and public health experts over how to bring children back safely to 1,800 public schools.

While the president and vice president cajoled states to ignore the nation’s top health experts in reopening schools, state and local officials pleaded for the opposite in a House hearing.

Colleges across the Capital Region and the country are taking another look at their reopening plans after ICE made an announcement that student visas could be terminated if the school switches to online-only courses.

Harvard University and MIT sued the Trump administration in federal court over new rules barring international students from staying in the U.S. while taking classes entirely online this fall.

The Ivy League presidents placed all sports on hold until at least January, making it the first Division I conference that will not play football as scheduled in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a “difficult but necessary” move, SUNY Adirondack temporarily furloughed 126 administrators and staff starting Monday while it addresses financial challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Outgoing Ohio State President Dr. Michael V. Drake has been chosen as president of the University of California, the first Black leader in the 280,000-student system’s 152-year history. (Drake will be replaced at Ohio by outgoing SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson).

New York dispatched more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into vulnerable nursing homes during the height of the pandemic, officials said this week.

Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, a Democrat and the chair of the Assembly health committee, said an outside entity should investigate the COVID-19 situation in nursing homes, not the state Health Department or the state attorney general, as Cuomo recently directed them to do.

Chris Churchill: “Anyone with a cursory understanding of New York government under Andrew Cuomo knows state investigations will always point blame elsewhere and never direct fire inward. That’s the unfortunate reality.”

Technology used by New York City public health officials to spot cases of Legionnaires’ disease or a serious food-borne illness has now been fine-tuned to pick up potentially connected cases of the novel coronavirus.

An analysis of more than 17 million people in England — the largest study of its kind, according to its authors — has pinpointed a bevy of factors that can raise a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

A New York nurses union is demanding local hospitals turn over statistics about coronavirus in nurses so they can prepare for a possible second wave of the virus.

Cuomo’s policy that gun retailers are generally not “essential businesses” – and could be ordered temporarily closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 – was upheld in a federal court ruling.

As the New York City Board of Elections begins counting a record number of absentee ballots citywide, advocates and lawmakers pleaded with Cuomo to intervene to protect voters so their ballots aren’t tossed out through no fault of their own. But so far, the governor’s office has refused to act.

The U.S. Supreme Court expanded exemptions for religious employers from health-care regulations and anti-discrimination laws, extending a line of decisions that have elevated the rights of religious exercise and the role of sectarian institutions in American society.

In the most crucial test yet of its ability to resume operations while keeping consumers safe, Disney will begin opening its flagship park in phases starting today and continuing through July 15.

The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious retailers. Brooks Brothers — pioneer of the polo and uniform of the polished prepster — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection from creditors as it continues to search for a buyer.

Amazon is removing Washington Redskins merchandise from its site, after the NFL called on the team to change its name, widely considered a racial slur against Native Americans.

United Airlines said it is exploring the possibility of shedding almost half its U.S. workforce, the first major domestic carrier to detail how deep the industry might have to retrench amid the pandemic-driven slump in passenger demand.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. plans to close approximately 21 percent of its namesake stores, or 200 locations, over the next two years, the company announced.

Indoor shopping malls outside New York City can reopen tomorrow as long as they install new air filters that remove coronavirus particles from the air, Cuomo said.

At least two Long Island malls will reopen this week, more than three months after efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus led to mandated retail shutdowns statewide.

New York City is moving ahead today with its plans to have a mural of the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street in front of Trump Tower this week, despite pushback from the president earlier this month.

…the painting is scheduled to start this morning, with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio potentially taking part in some way later in the day.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr acknowledged a “widespread phenomenon” where communities of color are treated differently by police in the U.S.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes before he died, dismissed Floyd’s pleas of being unable to breath, saying “it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk,” it was revealed.

Floyd uttered “I can’t breathe” not a handful of times, as previous videotapes showed, but more than 20 times in all. He cried out not just for his dead mother but for his children too. Before his final breaths, Floyd gasped: “They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me.”

The revelation came from an attorney representing Thomas Lane, one of the officers charged in the killing, who asked a Hennepin County judge to dismiss charges of abetting second-degree murder against his client, saying the officer didn’t play an intentional role in the slaying.

State AG Tish James called for a radical redesign of the NYPD, with the police commissioner answering to a group citizens, not just the mayor.

James, whose investigation was prompted by criticism of NYPD tactics and violent encounters caught on video during the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, called for structural changes at the department as well as new oversight and accountability in a preliminary report.

State bail reform and coronavirus-related releases from city jails are not driving this year’s surge in shootings, the NYPD’s own data shows — despite the insistence of department brass to the contrary.

The release of inmates from Rikers Island jails during the coronavirus crisis, failure of district attorneys to enforce the law and steady flow of anti-police brutality protests have all fed into a spike in violent crimes in New York City, Cuomo said.

New York’s Finest are putting in for retirement faster than the NYPD can handle — while citing a lack of respect and the loss of overtime pay.

NYC’s coronavirus lockdown and subsequent rise in unemployment have created the perfect conditions for a new generation of graffiti writers.

COVID-19 is pushing New York City’s affordable housing crisis to a breaking point.

Amid thousands of protests nationwide against police brutality, dozens of drivers have plowed into crowds of protesters marching in roadways, raising questions about the drivers’ motivations.

A protester who claimed to have been hit by a car on Long Island was charged with filing a false report, police said.

A Seattle man who the authorities said drove into a protest on a closed section of Interstate 5 over the weekend, killing one demonstrator, was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving.

Of all the political candidates running for office in next year’s NYC elections, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain now running for mayor, has by far benefited the most from the NYPD’s political largesse, records show.

Rep. Paul Tonko denounced a Schenectady police officer who was caught on video kneeling on the neck of a man the officer was trying to take into custody Monday morning. Schenectady’s police chief didn’t like the criticism.

Community activists are calling on the governor and state attorney general to investigate Freeport police officers accused of misconduct during their arrest of Akbar Rogers in December, a day after the Nassau district attorney declined to prosecute the officers.

Legal defender services say a decision by the state’s judiciary to require some in-person court appearances next week unnecessarily endangers the health of lawyers, court officers and everyone else who works in New York City courthouses.

The MTA will see a 25 percent hit next year in tax revenue that helps pay for buses, trains and subways, said a report by the the city’s Independent Budget Office that hammered home the dire financial situation brought to the agency by the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of protesters managed to stop what officials called a heartless and illegal eviction of tenants from a Brooklyn residence last night.

A former staff member of embattled City Councilman Andy King sued him in federal court, claiming his office retaliated against her after she cooperated with investigators who probed him for gender discrimination.

Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin wants de Blasio ousted from office in the wake of the surge in gun violence and crime the city has seen in recent weeks.

Nassau County has issued a notice of default to the operating company of NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum that threatens to terminate its arena lease if more than $2 million in unpaid rent and utilities isn’t paid in two weeks.

A Dairy Queen customer on Long Island was flipped off by the manager after he asked them why employees weren’t wearing masks.

An internal investigation into Saratoga County’s pandemic pay debacle, when hundreds of employees including elected officials were paid time-and-a-half during the early days of COVID-19’s sweep across the state, blames communication failure.

Saratoga County health officials say an employee at Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse in Clifton Park has tested positive for COVID-19, and may have exposed others.

Several people were hurt after a deck collapsed at a location on Route 9P in the town of Saratoga last night.

The second vote on the proposed 2020-21 Rensselaer City School District budget slated for July 28 does not include athletics as an expenditure. That has sent the athletic program into survival mode as it looks to maintain things for the upcoming scholastic year.

State lawmakers are reconvening July 20 in Albany for a rare summer session. So far, 178 bills have been introduced or amended since July 1 – with a focus on everything from new health and consumer protection measures to another round of legislative steps affecting law enforcement.

New York lawmakers this month will hold a public hearing on the revamped redistricting process as the process for redrawing boundaries for legislative districts looms next year. The hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 15, and will be conducted jointly with Assembly and Senate lawmakers.

Geoffrey Berman, whose unceremonious firing as head of the Justice Department’s most prestigious office remains clouded with questions, will speak to lawmakers today about the circumstances surrounding his ouster, a spokesperson said.

Three days before Trump’s latest rally in New Hampshire – a state that Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016 – the only thing that seems clear is that the president’s team has no idea what to expect.

Trump’s annual financial disclosure report was due to be released more than a week ago. But the filing, the only official public document detailing his personal finances, was not published, and neither the White House nor federal ethics officials offered a public explanation.

Political task forces Biden formed with onetime rival Bernie Sanders to solidify support among the Democratic Party’s progressive wing recommended that the former vice president embrace major proposals to combat climate change and institutional racism while expanding health care coverage and rebuilding the economy.

The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) and Judicial Watch announced it is suing the University of Delaware for access to Biden‘s U.S. Senate records.

Facebook said it had removed a network of more than 100 pages and accounts linked to Roger Stone, the longtime confidant of Trump, because it violated the company’s rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares took parting shots at progressive challenger Matthew Toporowski – and Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who backed his opponent – in the wake of his Democratic primary victory by nearly 4,000 votes.

The Colonie Historical Society has asked Sheehan to consider relocating a statue of Maj. Gen. Philip J. Schuyler from in front of City Hall, where it was erected in 1925, to his gravesite at the Albany Rural Cemetery.

The head of a state-sponsored regional diversity program said she’s moving out of the Adirondack village of Saranac Lake, citing racist graffiti on a railroad bridge that made her feel unsafe.

The Mets plan to put cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands at home games, a free perk for season-ticket holders who renew their packages for 2021. Other fans likely can pay to have their cutouts included, though details have not been finalized.

Glee actress Naya Rivera is missing and presumed dead after a boating incident with her 4-year-old son on a California lake, reports said.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the NYPD when “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen — wearing a spangly pink bikini — tried to prank him into a spoof interview.

Photo credit: George Fazio.