Rise and Shine: Aug. 10, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers. Somehow, Monday always manages to come around again, no matter how hard we might wish it away.

I personally could have done with just a little more time this weekend. The weather was perfect for engaging in that iconic upstate pastime: Lake life. There was a lot of sun – maybe a hair too much, but that’s my own fault – cool, restorative water and a nap or two.

Perfect.

Anyway, we’re back at it now. But for those who might still be out in the great outdoors – or even just have access to a backyard fire pit, or, in a pinch, a gas stove will do – it’s National S’mores Day.

The recipe for S’mores – graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and melted chocolate – first appeared in a 1927 guidebook called “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts from the Girl Scouts of America.” The origin of the name is pretty obvious, as the treat is so delicious, you’ll be wanting “some more” – try saying that phrase with a mouthful of gooey sugary goodness and see what happens.

What’s ironic about the s’more is that a key ingredient – graham crackers – was developed in the early 1800s by Sylvester Graham, a New Jersey minister who was committed to reversing the moral decline he observed in society. His recommended regimen called for daily showers, drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and regular exercise.

Graham believed that immoral sexual desire was linked to diet, so he advocated for the consumption of bland, plain foods – including the cookie that now bears his name, which is made from wheat bran, wheat germ, and finely-ground wheat flour.

Of course, he never imagined anyone would sandwich melting marshmallow and chocolate between two halves of said cookie to create a decadent treat that is anything BUT parsimonious. I’m sure Mr. Graham would not approve. Tough.

Since we’re on the topic of indulgence, there are some interesting rock and roll milestones of note that occurred on this day in history.

In 1970, Jim Morrison’s trial for “lewd and lascivious behavior” began on this day in Miami. The charges resulted a performance by The Doors at the Coconut Grove’s old Dinner Key Auditorium the year before.

Morrison was eventually found guilty of just two charges – indecent exposure and open profanity – and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine. He was in the process of appealing the judgement from his new home in Paris when he died in what was believed to be a heroin overdose, though no autopsy was ever performed, at the age of 27 in 1971.

Four decades after this incident, Florida decided to posthumously pardon Morrison. The surviving members of The Doors and Morrison’s family issued a statement in response saying they didn’t feel like he had done anything wrong in the first place.

In 1972, Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, were arrested in Sweden on drug possession. McCartney was fined roughly $1,304 in addition to other charges amounting to about $2,000. At the time, he said that Swedish authorities were “far too serious” about simple cannabis possession. Though this was his first pot-related arrest, it would not be the last.

Most famous of these incidents was his bust at the Tokyo airport in 1980, when customs officers discovered nearly half a pound of cannabis tucked away in his luggage upon his arrival in the country for a planned 11-city concert tour by his band, Wings.

McCartney would later assure Japanese authorities that all the cannabis he was carrying was intended solely for his personal use, but the amount was large enough to warrant a smuggling charge and a potential seven-year prison sentence. Despite Japan’s reputation for rigorous enforcement of its strict anti-drug laws, he was released after spending nine days in prison and quickly deported prior to making any appearance in court.

It’s going to be another glorious mid-August day, with a mix of sun and clouds and temperatures in the high 80s. A stray thunderstorm or shower is possible. There’s a heat advisory in effect from noon today until 8 p.m. tomorrow. Push those fluids.

In the headlines…

President Donald Trump’s big executive power move ostensibly meant to support laid-off workers and stimulate the economy is already mired in confusion that threatens to leave millions of jobless Americans waiting in vain for help from Washington.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s executive actions on coronavirus relief “absurdly unconstitutional.”

White House legal counsel greenlighted the measures, said chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who acknowledged they will likely be challenged in court. But Democrats signaled a hesitation to fight them.

Trump over the weekend signed executive orders for a payroll tax cut, enhanced unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium and student loan relief, after indicating all last week that if Congress did not finalize a stimulus deal that he would take his own action to provide relief to the American people.

Trump said his plan to order payroll tax cuts via an executive order could be permanent and will have “no impact” on Social Security benefits.

Despite Trump’s assertions that his actions “will take care of this entire situation,” the orders also leave a number of critical bipartisan funding proposals unaddressed, including providing assistance to small businesses, money for schools, aid to states and cities and a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

As the U.S. surpassed 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases, Trump’s senior aides defended his handling of intertwined economic and public health crises, declaring that Democrats would bear the blame for millions of Americans’ financial distress if lawmakers challenged his controversial new directives on relief.

The economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic is emerging as particularly bad for millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, who as a group hadn’t recovered from the experience of entering the workforce during the previous financial crisis.

Last year, Trump’s administration reportedly tried to pressure intelligence agencies to delete part of a classified report that found Russia was trying to help him win the 2020 election.

Several investment and technology firms are exploring a potential deal for the U.S. operations of TikTok, which is facing a Trump administration ban, but they each would have to surmount hurdles at least as high as the Chinese social-media platform’s main suitor, Microsoft Corp.

The largest mall owner in the U.S. has been in talks with Amazon – the company many retailers denounce as the mall industry’s biggest disrupter – to take over space left by ailing department stores.

Trump denied reports that the White House contacted the governor of South Dakota about carving his face into Mount Rushmore — but said that adding his likeness to the historic monument “sounds like a good idea to me!”

Trump arrived on Long Island on Saturday evening to attend two fundraisers as he campaigns for a second term as president in a race against Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed against Trump’s new executive orders for coronavirus relief, saying it’s “laughable” to expect cash-strapped New York to pitch in more money for unemployment.

Cuomo said it would cost New York State $4 billion to pay $100 of every $400 of every coronavirus unemployment benefit under the terms of the executive order. He said coronavirus has already left states with “no funding for schools.”

Cuomo demanded the NYPD do more to enforce social distancing rules — as he announced Queens bars and restaurants had received the bulk of violations a day earlier.

All New York schools have been authorized to reopen, Cuomo said Friday, clearing the way for New York City, the nation’s largest school district, to go forward with a plan to offer students a hybrid of optional in-person classes and remote learning.

Children might be more vulnerable to Covid-19 than once believed, with new research suggesting that they are able to contract and spread the virus, especially if they don’t take precautions such as wearing a mask.

New York had its lowest percent positive COVID-19 rate Saturday since testing began in March. The number of people testing positive for coronavirus was .78 percent Saturday of 65,812 people getting tested.

Just because schools have opened doesn’t mean sports will automatically resume as normal. Each school district has their own specific re-opening plan.

A pair of NYC Council members is urging the de Blasio administration to use remote learning to better “desegregate” the district — including by offering more gifted and talented programs.

In the Capital Region, instead of giving free Covid-19 tests and making less money, several upstate New York-based “urgent care” chains are making the uninsured pay the bill.

A 95-year-old male resident of the Troy Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing has died from COVID-19, the second such death of a resident at that facility over the weekend. The death brings the total coronavirus victim count in Rensselaer County to 36.

Bandannas, gaiters and knitted masks are some of the least effective face coverings for preventing the spread of coronavirus, according to a new study.

At one point during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, staffers at New York’s largest hospital network were forced to shop at hardware stores for garden hoses to make the ventilators they had received from the state actually work, according to a new book by Northwell Health executive director Michael Dowling.

Admissions tests for many graduate schools have gone online. But not the MCAT, the exam for aspiring doctors. It must still be taken in person, pandemic or not.

A group of nine Buffalo-area businesses – including two strip clubs, a martial arts studio and a bowling alley – is suing Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James and the State Legislature alleging the businesses’ constitutional rights were violated by the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another heat wave was rolling into the New York tri-state region yesterday as over 300,000 residents and businesses waited for electricity to return after last week’s tropical storm.

The state Legislature is holding a joint hearing during the week of Aug. 17 to grill utilities to answer for failing to quickly restore power to hundreds of thousands of residents left in the dark after Hurricane Isaias.

The hearings will focus on customer frustrations in getting through to utilities in the aftermath of the storm and the inability of some to get service restored, said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who requested the joint Senate-Assembly hearings and will co-chair them.

State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an inquiry into PSEG Long Island’s preparation and response to Tropical Storm Isaias to “determine whether violations of state law have occurred,” according to a copy of the letter to PSEG top brass shown to Newsday.

PSEG saw an almost complete breakdown of its communication systems during the storm, rendering almost useless the more than $1 billion in ratepayer and taxpayer-funded upgrades to computer systems, telecom networks, its website and text-in outage system, smart meters and the regional grid.

Officials from the city’s Board of Elections will appear at a hearing in Albany tomorrow as state legislators seek answers over the mail-in ballot debacle for the June 23 primary election.

Town clerks across Connecticut are anxiously awaiting a flood of absentee ballots in the final days before tomorrow’s primary election, in what some described as a bumpy rollout of expanded mail-in voting.

The pandemic has delayed Cuomo’s ambitious multibillion-dollar plan to overhaul JFK. Contract negotiations for several of the largest terminal projects are months behind schedule. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is considering adding years to the construction process because of the slump in passenger demand.

The Big Apple is set to hit more grim milestones, with the number of shootings and gun victims so far this year set to match figures for same period the past two years — combined. There have been 821 shootings and 1,000 gun victims as of Saturday.

Derrick Ingram, an organizer of a group leading New York’s Black Lives Matter protests, was besieged inside his Manhattan apartment on Friday while a police helicopter patrolled overhead, officers banged on his door and police dogs waited in the hallway.

Several Black NYC Council members have lashed out at progressives, comparing calls to defund the police to “colonization” and “political gentrification.”

Police departments in New York, facing a state mandate on reform, are turning to the Texas-based consulting company Lexipol for help. Critics say the policies it sells tend to be conservative interpretations of the law that prescribe the bare minimum to keep police departments from getting sued.

Due to increasingly squalid conditions on the Upper West Side, including two new homeless shelters packed with junkies and registered sex offenders, longtime dwellers are departing the Big Apple with no plans to ever return.

A shooting on Saturday, which Albany police say was a drive-by with more than one shooter in the vehicle, brings the city’s total number of gunshot victims this year to 91. The victim is the 11th person to be killed in Albany so far in 2020, as part of a wave of violence and gun incidents that have hit the city.

A relatively minor issue months ago with a sink spray hose at Bumpy’s Polar Freeze has resulted in the popular ice cream shop being fined $10,000. The future of Bumpy’s at 2103 State St. is also in question as operator David Elmendorf has said he would be willing to sell the business.

Schenectady County is advising anyone who visited Frog Alley Brewing the night of July 31 to monitor themselves for coronavirus symptoms.

Seventeen years after winning the Kentucky Derby with the New York-bred gelding Funny Cide, who pulled off a 12-1 upset, trainer Barclay Tagg and Sackatoga Stable will be heading back to Churchill Downs with another New York-bred who will be a much shorter price in the world’s most famous horse race: Tiz the Law.

The Belmont Stakes champion Tiz the Law added the Travers Stakes to his winning résumé on Saturday, making him the favorite to win the postponed Kentucky Derby next month and then possibly to claim the sport’s 14th Triple Crown with a Preakness victory in October.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama said last week that she was experiencing “low-grade depression” and seemed to suggest that it was because of a combination of quarantine, racial unrest and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Bennington Battle Day will be celebrated Aug. 16 to mark the 243rd anniversary of the battle at the Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site off Route 67 and across the state line in Bennington, Vt.

“America’s Got Talent” creator and judge Simon Cowell broke his back Saturday while testing his new electric bicycle at his home in California. He was expected to have surgery Saturday evening, according to a spokesperson for the entertainment mogul.

A Lake Luzerne home owned by celebrity chef Rachel Ray was reportedly on fire last night. She was not injured in the blaze.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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