Rise and Shine: Aug. 14, 2020

Hey, CivMixers! It’s Friday….wheeeeeeee!

It’s also National Kool-Aid Day. Yes, everyone’s favorite powdered drink mix (I say this very tongue-in-cheek, naturally) has its very own day of recognition. I actually am not a huge fan, but I am interested in weird historical facts, and so I did a little Googling, and here’s what I found out:

Kool-Aid was invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in Hastings, Nebraska, who conducted all his experiments in his mother’s kitchen. Perkins was working with a liquid concentrate called “Fruit Smack,” which sounds a little too kinky to be a drink, or maybe the name of some un-winnable carnival game, but whatever.

Anyway, he was trying to find a way to reduce shipping costs, and discovered a method to remove the liquid from Fruit Smack, leaving only a powder behind. And thus, Kool-Aid was born.

Perkins moved his production to Chicago in 1931 and sold his discovery to General Foods in 1953. Within a year the popular and iconic Smiling Face Pitcher was introduced in print advertisements for the product. Kool-Aid is now owned by Kraft Holdings, which markets it with flavors ranging far beyond the original six – grape, lemon-lime, cherry, orange, raspberry, and strawberry – which, by the way, sold for 10 cents per paper packet.

Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid was developed in 1964 and redeveloped in 1970. The most popular flavor is, of course, red (AKA tropical punch). But there’s also now a whole bunch of others, including but not limited to: Regular lemonade, soarin’ strawberry lemonade, pink lemonade, watermelon, and kiwi-lime. There’s also a mess of spin-off products, like ice cream bars, and freezer pops and “fun fizz” – whatever the heck that is, kinda like an Alka-Seltzer, looks like, but without the stomach settling qualities.

Oh, and the Kool-Aid man? OH, YEAH! In 2013, Kraft decided to give him a new persona, reimagining him as a CGI character, “a celebrity trying to show that he’s just an ordinary guy.” (Who just so happens to be a pitcher filled with liquid with a drawn-on cartoon smile, sure).

Hastings still celebrates an annual summer festival called “Kool-Aid Days” that is usually held on the second weekend in August to mark its claim to fame and also to celebrate the state’s official soft drink. The celebration, which actually was scheduled to take place Aug. 21-23, is on hold until 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

Today is also World Lizard Day. I feel sort of personally about this, since my nickname – for better or worse – when I was a kid was “Lizard.” And also “Private Benjamin.” There were a couple of others that I hated and have been permanently scarred by and as a result, will not be sharing here.

Lizards are pretty darn cool, really. Did you know, for example, that Crested geckos do not have eyelids, and so must lick their own eyes in order to keep them free of dirt. Imagine if you had to do that. Ugh.

Speaking of eyes, Caiman lizards have a clear third eyelid that they can close when they are underwater, which allows them to see while they are submerged and also acts as goggles so that they can hunt for food. Neato.

Find more lizard facts here.

Also today is the 73rd Pakistan Independence Day, which celebrates that nation’s birth. At the end of colonial rule in British India, the region was partitioned into two due to pressure from Indian Muslims who wanted a land to call their own. Thus, Pakistan and India came to be through the Indian Independence Act of 1947.

Pakistan’s ceremony of the shift of power from British to local occurred on this day, a day before India’s. (Of course, these two countries don’t get along terribly well, and have a long history of conflict, but since today is supposed to be a celebration, let’s overlook that part, shall we?)

Today should be partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s. Nice and predictable. I’m good with that.

In the headlines…

The U.S. now has more than 5 million cases and 166,700 deaths from the coronavirus. And with flu season approaching, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that things could get a lot more grim.

The United States needs to get control of Covid-19 and carefully reopen the country, or the consequences could be devastating, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

If the U.S. allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked in an attempt to try to achieve so-called herd immunity, the “death toll would be enormous,” Fauci said.

Johns Hopkins University says coronavirus has infected more than 5 million people and killed over 166,000 nationwide. There were 55,910 reported new cases and 1,499 deaths, on Wednesday alone – the highest number of fatalities since May.

Across the United States, at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the CDC. This is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus.

Scientists warned of a pandemic for decades, yet when Covid-19 arrived, the world had few resources and little understanding.

The coronavirus is at least as deadly as the 1918 flu pandemic and the death toll could even be worse if world leaders and public health officials fail to adequately contain it, researchers warned in a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to new CDC data that paints a bleak picture of the nation’s mental health during the crisis.

President Donald Trump encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers: that Sen. Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.

Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis retweeted an op-ed that argues Harris is “not entitled to birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment as originally understood,” citing a fringe legal theory holding that children of temporary visitors to the country are not conferred citizenship even if they are born here.

Former 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she is “ready to help in any way I can” when asked if she would take a job in a Biden administration.

Trump said during an exclusive Oval Office interview that his campaign is “putting New York in play” against Biden in the 2020 election.

Trump plans to give his nomination speech to the Republican National Convention from the White House lawn rather than the battlefield at Gettysburg, the other site he had considered.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner confirmed that he recently met with presidential hopeful Kanye West, but said they avoided talk of his campaign.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he feels “optimistic” that Republicans will be able to hold on to the Senate come November — but warned it was going to be “tough.”

Trump launched crude attacks on a handful of women politicians on morning talk shows yestwrday, including calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “poor student,” “not even a smart person” and yappy, leading the congresswoman to clap back, challenging him to release his transcripts.

The president frankly acknowledged that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money in order to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.

Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen released the foreword of his upcoming book on working for the president, which says it will detail scandalous actions including a back channel to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, “golden showers” at a Vegas sex club and lying to Trump’s wife Melania about his infidelities.

The U.S. Justice Department said Yale University has discriminated against Asian-American and white applicants, issuing its findings roughly two years after opening an investigation into the school’s admissions practices.

The U.S. Senate is officially adjourned through Labor Day despite not coming to an agreement on its next coronavirus stimulus package.

Robust federal spending significantly lessened the economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, White House economists said, adding that more relief efforts would further aid the recovery.

Millions could run out of jobless benefits altogether by the end of the year if Congress does not pass legislation extending eligibility, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

New applications for state unemployment benefits fell below one million last week for the first time since the pandemic took hold in March, the Labor Department said. But filings remain high by historical standards, and other measures show the economy losing momentum.

New applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 963,000 in the week ended Aug. 8, the Labor Department said, marking the second weekly reduction in filings.

The federal aid to unemployed workers that Trump announced last weekend looks likely to be smaller than initially suggested — and it remains unclear when the money will start flowing, how long it will last or how many workers will benefit.

By far, workers in the leisure and hospitality industry took the biggest hit during the coronavirus pandemic and statewide lockdowns, accounting for over one-third of recent job losses.

Cuomo administration officials say New York prevented nearly $1 billion in unemployment fraud during the coronavirus pandemic.

New York has cut spending projections by $4 billion, thanks to freezes on hiring, new contracts and pay raises, as the Cuomo administration hopes for an influx of federal aid, according to a state report released yesterday.

…The estimate is more than $1 billion higher than was projected in April, and there’s an expected $62 billion deficit through 2024.

Despite coronvirus infection rates remaining low across the state, many businesses – including gyms, yoga studios, wedding venues and theaters – remain shuttered and are in limbo when it comes to when or how they can reopen.

A group of over 1,500 gym owners from across the state, including at least 500 located in New York City, have filed a class action lawsuit against Cuomo, the state, and the state attorney general in an attempt to force the state to allow them to reopen.

New York’s hospitals are warning the COVID-19 pandemic will cost them billions of dollars in revenue as patients remain fearful of returning to health care settings.

New York State performed a record-high 87,900 tests for the coronavirus Wednesday, Cuomo said, with daily new positives remaining below 1% for the fifth straight day. The statewide level of new cases was 0.84 percent.

Cuomo ordered the State Police to investigate the anti-Semitic messages left on two Upper East Side buildings — including the office of a state assemblywoman, Rebecca Seawright.

A new poll (released by a Canadian firm) indicates that voters would favor a 2024 presidential election between Cuomo and Republican U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney.

In an unusual move, the State Attorney General’s Office asked for an expedited hearing that could result in a shut down of an Aug. 22 wedding at the Timberlodge at Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron, of Pamella Giglia and Joe Durolek, out of concern of the coronavirus.

An Arizona woman sued to fight New York’s 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers from hot-spot coronavirus states — arguing that it unfairly stopped her from helping friends move house and going sightseeing with them. But a judge this week tossed the suit.

The federal judge rejected the constitutional challenge to New York’s quarantine rules for travelers from high-risk states, finding a 115-year-old legal precedent required deference to the state’s decision.

As the pandemic continues to sweep the U.S., Canadians are getting more and more concerned about what American visitors could be bringing with them over the border.

Long before Covid-19 killed more than 6,400 New York nursing home residents, understaffing was a chronic problem at long-term care facilities. But the DOH missed by more than seven months its deadline for delivering to state lawmakers a report on whether a proposed nursing home minimum staffing law was needed.

The DOH is walking back a recent statement by the state’s top health official, Howard Zucker, who had cast doubt on reports from nurses about dire shortages of protective gear at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March and early April.

Sen. Joe Addabbo sees one possible timeline where users would be able to place online bets by the Super Bowl – if the Legislature acts soon to legalize mobile betting.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio increased pressure for teachers to show up on the first day of school — saying it’s “their job” — as he shot down pleas from the principals and teachers unions to delay the reopening.

New York City will hire hundreds of nurses in the coming weeks to ensure every public school building in the city has a medical professional on site when it reopens, officials said.

Now that New York school districts are planning to re-open this fall, many are wondering how new safety measures will affect the ride to school and worry about a shortage of bus drivers.

While the debate about reopening schools rages on, there’s a sector of students that complicate the decision even more — special education students.

The state Board of Elections has released the certified results for primary races held on June 23, nearly two months after the election.

Both Zohran Mamdani and Jenifer Rajkumar, who won primary challenges in June, will be the first Assembly members of South Asian descent.

Bronx Councilmember Andrew Cohen was nominated for a judgeship this week by the borough’s Democratic machine — setting off a special-election scramble among five candidates eager to replace him.

The typical home in Kingston, New York, now on the receiving end of the exodus from the densely packed city, sold for $276,000 in the second quarter, an 18 percent jump from a year earlier. That’s the biggest increase among 181 U.S. metropolitan areas measured by the National Association of Realtors.

The presence of new buyers worried about the pandemic, plus a sharp drop in the numbers of homes on the market, drove home prices to record highs in most parts of the United States, according to an analysis of housing price data.

Herkimer Diamond Mines is seeing a huge boom in business, and it’s kind of the perfect business to weather a pandemic. They’ve always had social distancing practices in place for the safety of anyone mining.

Only about 900 PSEG Long Island customers were without power last night but officials and residents remained furious with PSEG’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias nine days after high winds played havoc with the region.

The iconic Lower Manhattan 9/11 memorial display that features twin beams of light to honor victims of the terror attacks will not shine this year over coronavirus concerns, organizers said.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum officials fear that the virus could spread among the workers needed to create the display. Instead of the installation, buildings across New York City will light their facades and spires in blue.

New York State health officials approved a license for an all-female Hasidic ambulance company to provide emergency medical service in orthodox Jewish section of Brooklyn.

New York-based Steiner Studios has signed a deal to build a multimillion-dollar film and television production facility in Brooklyn, a major commitment at a time of economic uncertainty for New York City.

The teenager stabbed and set on fire in the Bronx had recently been dating his alleged killer’s 14-year-old sister, law enforcement sources and the family said.

Ghislaine Maxwell is being held in isolation from other inmates in a Brookly Federal jail for her own safety and the “orderly” function of the facility, federal prosecutors argued.

The City of Albany’s Policing Reform and Reinvention Collaborative will hold its first virtual meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins said in a joint announcement.

Lukee Forbes, a prominent Albany Black Lives Matter activist, was charged earlier this month with obstruction of governmental administration after police allege he confronted and interfered with officers who were arresting a man during a traffic stop following a brief chase.

Workers yesterday were repainting a Queens elementary school that racked up more than 1,000 positive tests for lead paint — as neighbors expressed outrage over the alarming situation.

The Schoharie County girls camp that was devastated by a fire on Wednesday was facing $60,000 in fines for alleged health code violations pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two people died yesterday afternoon when their vehicle collided with a state Department of Transportation vehicle, State Police said.

Saratoga County’s roundly ridiculed and ultimately discarded plan to pay time-and-a-half to many employees in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic would have covered nearly twice as many workers as initially disclosed by the government, a confidential report shows.

Rensselaer County has seen three fatal drug overdoses from fentanyl-laced cocaine and heroin since Tuesday – bringing the number of fatal overdoses to 48 this year, officials said.

Coccadotts Cake Shop employees could be seen working inside the Central Avenue store as supporters of its baking a cake in the shape of a red Make American Great Again hat in late July and Black Lives Matter protesters faced each other outside.

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton ordered the popular Siro’s restaurant closed, effective at 6 p.m. yesterday, citing failure to provide the proper documentation for their Chapter 136 Eating & Drinking license.

Amazon has begun hiring for 1,000 full-time jobs at its $100 million Schodack fulfillment center on Route 9 in Rensselaer County. Applicants may apply online at amazon.com/albanyjobs for the positions, with beginning pay at $15 an hour.

A notice on the Town of Grand Island’s website says that the public hearing scheduled for yesterday to discuss a proposed Amazon warehouse was canceled because the developer has withdrawn the application.

Niagara County officials have renewed contacts with Amazon since the developer seeking a massive warehouse site for the online retailer gave up on its proposed Grand Island project.

The state DEC announced that a camper in Washington County found the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid on the Glen Island Campground off the shores of Lake George. It is the second ever recorded infestation within the park.

In a seismic shift on Long Island’s East End, Ron Perelman-owned weekly The Independent will end its print edition after a 27-year run and merge with Dan’s Papers, Media Ink has learned.

A wayward emu was taken to an animal shelter after it was captured while running through the streets of a northern New Jersey city.

RIP Rezsin Adams, a diminutive woman who left a giant impact on activism in her adopted hometown of Albany over six decades. She died Wednesday after several years of declining health at the age of 93.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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