Rise and Shine: Aug. 11, 2020

Good Tuesday morning to you, CivMixers.

On this day in 1921, the writer Alex Haley was born in Ithaca. If you’re not in the know, Haley was the author of the 1976 book “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”

ABC adapted the book as a TV miniseries of the same name and aired it in 1977 to a record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers. In the U.S., the book and miniseries raised the public awareness of the Black experience in America and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history. (And of course, because isn’t it always the case, the work is tainted by controversy; more on that here).

Another iconic Haley book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” was published in 1965. It was the result of a collaboration between the human rights activist and Black nationalist leader and Haley, who based the work on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X’s assassination two years later.

Most people who know of Haley likely associate him with Tennessee, which is where he grew up. But his father, Simon, was a graduate student at Cornell University and his mother, Bertha, was studying at the Ithaca Conservatory of Music, (now Ithaca College).

Though the Haleys did not remain in Ithaca for long, the city is proud to claim him – there’s even a local pool named after him. In fact, a marker commemorating his birthplace on Cascadilla Street was just recently unveiled.

Haley died of a heart attack at a Seattle, Washington hospital on Feb. 10, 1992, at the age of 70.

Today also happens to be National Presidential Joke Day. The holiday began in 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan was clowning around during a sound check for a radio broadcast. Here’s what he said: “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Reagan was not aware that the mic was hot. Not everyone thought this was so funny. Soviet officials got word of the broadcast and put the military on high alert. But, once the threat of nuclear war had abated, Americans apparently found the situation hilarious.

Imagine what would happen if this incident occurred in the Twitter age – and with the current occupant of the White House in charge? I shudder to think.

While you’re digging around in search of that old presidential joke book grandpa gave you way back when…be aware that today is going to be blazing hot. Like up past 90 degrees hot, with partly cloud skies and – naturally – the chance in the latter part of the day/evening of a thunderstorm.

In the headlines…

Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus surpassed 20 million globally, while the U.S. reported its lowest number of new cases in about a week, as new infections in some parts of the country trended down.

President Donald Trump is considering new immigration rules that would allow border officials to temporarily block an American citizen or legal permanent resident from returning to the U.S. from abroad if the authorities have reason to believe the person may be infected with the coronavirus.

The federal government spent nearly $250 billion on extra $600-a-week unemployment benefits from early April to the end of July, the Labor Department said, as millions of workers were laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump resumed a press conference at the White House yesterday afternoon after abruptly leaving the briefing room due to a reported shooting nearby.

The Secret Service said the incident happened one block from the compound, when an officer fired on the suspect who had run “aggressively” towards him.

It was not clear whether the man, 51, was armed. The Secret Service said that “both the officer and the suspect were then taken to hospital”, and that “at no time during this incident was the White House complex breached.”

“The suspect approached the officer and told the officer he had a weapon. The suspect then turned around, ran aggressively towards the officer, and in a drawing motion, withdrew an object from his clothing,” the federal agency said.

During an eventful press briefing, Trump incorrectly claimed that in 1917, the Spanish Flu “probably ended the second World War,” began more than two decades after the pandemic in 1939.

Trump wants college football to be played this fall. He quote tweeted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence yesterday afternoon and said that athletes worked too hard for the 2020 season to be canceled or pushed back.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging so widely that fall sports seasons had become imperiled, college football’s stars mounted a ferocious public campaign to salvage their games — and to assert power in a multibillion-dollar industry.

Amid the mass death of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say there may be an unintended health benefit: The same social-distancing, mask-wearing and other measures aimed at preventing transmission of the coronavirus also may be leading to fewer cases of the flu, the common cold and other contagious illnesses.

Many New Yorkers are avoiding the subway, fearful of jostling with strangers in crowded cars. Masks and social distancing are essential, but good air flow is also key to reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in certain states, grocers are reporting a new increase in staples purchases – like baking supplies and paper towels – that could lead to scarcity.

A California judge said that ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft shouldn’t classify their drivers as independent contractors, citing the state’s gig-worker law that went into effect this year. The ruling is on hold until the companies have a chance to appeal.

Online-dating firm Match Group Inc. is giving users new features to woo each other via video call, providing the company with additional income streams as the coronavirus pandemic changes courtship behavior.

The Trump administration outlined a plan to commercialize a broad swath of military radio frequencies for use in next-generation 5G networks, yielding to cellphone carriers that have sought the spectrum for their own use.

Trump, seeking to block a subpoena for his tax returns, plans to ask a federal judge to order the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to disclose details about his investigation into the president’s business practices, according to a letter filed yesterday.

Eastman Kodak Co. shares lost more than a quarter of their value yesterday after news that a planned $765 million loan to the company was put on hold as the deal has come under congressional and regulatory scrutiny.

Seattle’s police chief says she is stepping down, a move made public the same day the City Council approved reducing the department by as many as 100 officers through layoffs and attrition.

The Trump administration is expected in the coming days to lift Obama-era controls on the release of methane, a powerful climate-warming gas that is emitted from leaks and flares in oil and gas wells.

Trump said that his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination will be held at either the White House or the Gettysburg battlefield, as he searches for a symbolic substitute for his virus-scuttled plans for an arena celebration.

A coalition of 27 major companies including Mastercard, Goldman Sachs and Verizon has pledged to hire 100,000 low-income and Black, Latino and Asian workers in New York City over the next 10 years, part of a broader push by corporate America to expand economic opportunities to marginalized communities.

Governors across the country struggled with how to make good on Trump’s order that their economically battered states deliver billions more in unemployment benefits to jobless residents.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said a state control board should take over New York City’s shaky finances amid a stalemate between the White House and congressional Democrats over a new COVID-19 stimulus package.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo dared U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to sponsor and pass a federal bill allowing cash-strapped states thanks to the coronavirus’ hit to state revenues to declare bankruptcy.

Trump’s executive order to extend federal unemployment benefits, but have states pick up part of the tab, would cost New York $4 billion and take weeks to implement, Cuomo said.

Despite critics’ concerns that Trump acted unlawfully when he signed an executive order extending additional unemployment benefits, fellow Republican and supporter Rep. Elsie Stefanik said she backs the president’s efforts on unemployment during the pandemic.

New Hampshire’s governor said New Yorkers are pouring into the state due to high taxes and fear for their safety amid the Covid-19 crisis. “We’re booming,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNBC.

Cuomo said “you’d have to be blind” to think calls to further calls to investigate the coronavirus deaths linked to state nursing homes amid the pandemic are “not political.”

State pols from both sides of the aisle have called for investigations into the conditions that led to at least 6,400 COVID-linked deaths in the facilities, including what role a March 25 mandate from Cuomo’s Department of Health barring homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients may have played.

The state Legislature held its second and last scheduled virtual hearing yesterday on COVID-19 and residential health care facilities.

“There is no such thing as a person who is trusted by all Democrats and Republicans,” Cuomo said. “That person doesn’t exist. The Department of Health, those are just numbers. They report on numbers. You can see what you want in the numbers, but the numbers are the numbers.”

Relatives of New York nursing home residents blasted the conditions that drove the facilities’ coronavirus hell — including Cuomo’s directive barring the refusal of COVID-positive patients.

Cuomo criticized the more than 100 public school districts that he said have not yet handed in their plans to reopen from the coronavirus pandemic, including 28 on Long Island. Among them are major districts such as Sachem, Brentwood and Syosset, he said.

Cuomo said that the plans must be submitted to the state Education Department and the Department of Health. If the school districts don’t submit their plans by Friday, they can’t reopen for in-person instruction during the 2020-21 academic year.

Online portals for school reopening plans tripped up East Greenbush, Brunswick, Troy and Shenendehowa schools, landing them on Cuomo’s list of 107 districts in New York that failed to submit proposals by July 31.

Cuomo is threatening to revoke the state operating licenses of PSEG Long Island and Con Edison, calling out the two utilities for doing what he termed “a lousy job” in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and six Long Island state senators called on PSEG to reimburse residents for perishable food and medication lost in nearly a week without power, slamming the utility company for its poor communication and slow removal of downed power lines.

For residents of Connecticut and New York who are still without power, frustration with utility companies grew as temperatures rose.

A federal judge has given his blessing to two upstate New York couples who sued for the right to have more than 50 people at their weddings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby issued the ruling Friday in a case that involved a couple who wanted to host 110 people at a wedding at a golf club restaurant in Akron, Erie County.

More than three-quarters of New York’s 1.1 million public school students will participate in “blended learning” — a combination of classroom instruction and remote lessons — when city schools reopen in September, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials announced.

A majority of students and teachers in New York City’s public school system will return to in-person teaching in September, de Blasio said. According to city officials, about 74 percent of students and 85 percent of teachers will go back to classrooms while the rest will learn and teach from home.

Schools around the country are facing problems as they plan or contemplate reopening this fall, dealing with aging air conditioning, heating and circulation systems that don’t work well or at all because maintenance and replacement were deferred due to tight budgets. Outdoor classes are being considered.

New York City has seen a surge in shootings and other violent crime amid the new coronavirus pandemic, but the factors driving the trend are up for debate. The NYPD, de Blasio, judges, local politicians, and criminologists all have varying theories on what is propelling the rise.

The MTA is urging Apple to update its facial-recognition technology so riders don’t have to take their masks off to unlock their phones.

Newly emboldened, many New Yorkers want to repurpose streets for walking, biking, dining and schools, even as traffic returns.

The New York State Board of Elections plans on using a Red X or Red arrow — and possibly larger print — to remind people voting in the November 3 general election to sign their affirmation letter included with their mail-in ballots.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Trump administration regulation allowing employers and health insurers to opt out of contraception coverage has energized the abortion rights movement, leaders say, even though it does not affect strong abortion-access laws in states including New York.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie does not think the five New York City Democratic Assembly incumbents who lost their seats to more progressive challengers represents “some kind of sea change.”

As Long Island residents and business owners who lost internet service due to Tropical Storm Isaias scrambled to function without online access, internet service providers said they were working hard to bring back service but could not say when the restoration would be complete.

A former high-ranking cop who built a decades-long career in the NYPD was locked out of top-tier positions in the department because of her gender, she claimed in a suit filed yesterday.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson, 54, has been forced into early retirement following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and an investigation into accusations of “erratic” behavior on the bench, officials announced.

A man who beat, raped and murdered two moms as their young children listened to their screams in a Westchester County home invasion is about to be freed by the state parole board.

The NYPD says applications to get a gun license have nearly doubled this year, echoing a nationwide trend of purchasing and wanting guns was triggered first by the coronavirus pandemic, and then the social unrest that followed George Floyd’s killing.

Despite a drastic decrease in airplane passengers because of the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of customers illegally transporting firearms in carry-on bags was three times as high in July as it was during the same month last year, the Transportation Security Administration said.

The pandemic has silenced New York City’s once-vibrant live music scene and left its future in doubt. Nearly five months after the city went into lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19, concert halls, clubs and arenas remain closed with no guidance from the state on when things might return to normal.

A massive rave took place at Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Sunday — with carefree revelers ignoring social distancing guidelines as the city recovers from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Even though New York City museums aren’t yet permitted to open indoors because of coronavirus restrictions imposed by the state, a few are planning their returns.

Thousands of people turned up to a concert headlined by Smash Mouth in South Dakota at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Sunday night amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A 25-year-old Brooklyn woman, Lauren Sobel, fell to her death while rock climbing near New Paltz, police said.

A third resident from the Troy Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing has died from COVID-19, according to Rensselaer County.

Clearing up at least one of the mysteries surrounding the family at the center of the deadly Schoharie limousine crash, Pakistani billionaire and real estate mogul Malik Riaz Hussain has finally confirmed that he is the brother of Shahed Hussain, the owner of the vehicle in which 20 people died in October 2018.

An ex-financial firm CEO who was sent to the federal prison in Otisville for his role in the college admissions scandal is asking to be set free — because life behind bars is “torture.”

Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant in Colonie, open since 1976 and an area institution that was famed for years for requiring police traffic control to handle the volume of vehicles picking up the some 10,000 pies it sold every Thanksgiving week, has closed – perhaps forever.

The town has approved a site plan for a small specialty grocery store at Halfmoon Crossing on Route 9 – but what that store is is a mystery. Speculation is that the site will be home to a new Trader Joe’s.

Celebrity chef Rachael Ray and her family – including their dog, Bella – escaped a fire that damaged her home on a private drive in Lake Luzerne.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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