Rise and Shine: Aug. 17, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

It’s Bennington Battle Day, which is an official state holiday for our neighbors in Vermont. (Technically, actually, this day is Aug. 16, but it’s observed on the nearest weekday if the holiday falls on a weekend).

As you probably guessed by the name, the day commemorates the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington, which took place on Aug. 16th, 1777.

Short history lesson time, for those of you who don’t care about this sort of thing, well, you’re really reading the wrong blog. Anyway…

Following the British’s recapture of Fort Ticonderoga, American troops were sent to plunder military supplies from Bennington. The 800-strong raiding party pushed the British five miles North of the city, and the fight was an overall success with a total of 30 American lives lost compared to Britain’s 207. Additionally, approximately 700 British troops were captured.

It was a great boost to American morale and contributed to the defeat of Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga – a major turning point in the war.

A lot of socially distanced events took place over the weekend in Bennington to mark this day. It was both business as usual and completely out of the ordinary, as so many things seem to be these days.

Some other cool stuff that happened on this day in history:

Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market – is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the U.S. – opened in 1907, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was first published in 1945, and swimmer Michael Phelps, at the age of 23, became the first person to win 8 gold medals in one Olympic game, breaking Mark Spitz’s standing 36-year record of seven gold medals.

If you happened to be traveling North today, you might know that it’s Discovery Day, an annual event in Yukon, Canada. The day has both historical and cultural significance. In 1896, Skookum Jim Mason, originally named “Keish” by his Tagish (First Nations) parents, discovered gold in the Bonanza Creek, triggering the Kluane gold rush in 1905 and eventually establishing the Yukon as a Canadian territory.

Keish was one of the first successfully straddle the worlds of both white and Native peoples. Before he died in 1916, Keish set up a large trust fund benefiting his native community.

The forecast today calls for clouds in the morning, temperatures in the high 70s and potential scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon that could contain strong, gusty winds. Be on the alert for that.

I am so not ready for this.

In the headlines…

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden start their nominating conventions this month with Trump struggling to reach a level of job approval that would make re-election more likely and his challenger drawing soft support that could present turnout challenges, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Biden’s lead over Trump among registered voters has significantly narrowed since June, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, even as the former vice president maintains an advantage over the President on several top issues and his choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as a running mate earns largely positive reviews.

Trump’s younger brother, Robert Trump, a businessman known for an even keel that seemed almost incompatible with the family name, died Saturday night after being hospitalized in New York, the president said in a statement. He was 71.

The White House, which announced his death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, did not give a cause. “He was not just my brother, he was my best friend,” the president said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again.”

Biden took to social media yesterday morning to send his condolences to the president after the death of his brother.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that Biden’s newly minted running mate, Harris, is eligible to serve as vice president, rejecting a racist birther conspiracy theory that Trump has promoted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the House to return into session later this week to vote on a bill that would prevent changes the Trump administration has made to the Postal Service, alterations Democrats say will cause a slowing of the flow of mail and potentially jeopardize the November election.

Democratic lawmakers also called on the leaders of the U.S. Postal Service to testify before Congress amid concerns over mail delays ahead of an election season in which some states are expanding mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meadows said the U.S. Postal Service will not scuttle any mail-sorting machines between now and the election — and called on Democrats to Trump an offer to fund post offices for November’s vote.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican Party and Trump campaign megadonor, has drawn stinging criticism for the changes he has made at the Postal Service since assuming the position on June 15.

New Zealand will delay its national elections by four weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in the country’s largest city.

The Trump campaign is working to dispatch tens of thousands of election monitors to battleground states in what is shaping up as the Republican Party’s largest-ever poll-watching operation.

Trump shared Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice on voting in person amid the coronavirus pandemic — after the expert said there’s “no reason” it can’t be done.

The presidential election is three months away, but some traders are preparing for the possibility that prolonged political uncertainty will stoke stock-market mayhem.

Casino operators and investors are making bets that online gambling is ready to take off in the U.S. as the coronavirus pandemic keeps gamblers away from slot machines and blackjack tables.

Deaths from the coronavirus are skewing younger for many minorities, a stark disparity that offers a clear picture of the pandemic’s outsize impact on vulnerable populations.

To the alarm of some government health officials, Trump has expressed enthusiasm for the Food and Drug Administration to permit an extract from the oleander plant to be marketed as a dietary supplement or, alternatively, approved as a drug to cure COVID-19, despite lack of proof that it works.

There’s no vaccine for Covid-19, but there’s one for influenza. With the season’s first doses now shipping, officials are struggling over how to get people to take it.

An analysis of thousands of patients treated at a Southern California health system identified extreme obesity as an independent risk factor for dying among Covid-19 patients — most strikingly, among younger and middle-aged adults 60 and younger, and particularly among men.

Trump has found a new doctor for his coronavirus task force — and this time there’s no daylight between them.The president last week announced that Dr. Scott Atlas, a frequent guest on Fox News Channel, has joined the White House as a pandemic adviser.

The Trump administration is planning a sharp increase in the cost of naturalization this fall. Critics say it is part of a pattern intended to discourage immigration from poor nations.

The number of Americans who say they can’t afford enough food for themselves or their children is growing, according to Census data, and it is likely to get larger now that some government benefits have expired.

Public health officials in multiple northeastern U.S. states are investigating the possible spread of the coronavirus among youth hockey players.

Households with children are under severe economic strain and at greater risk of needing to dip into savings, missing a rent payment or not having enough food to eat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published by the New York Federal Reserve.

Internet usage soared 25 percent within a few days in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic started forcing Americans to stay home, a Wall Street Journal analysis found, and is bound to remain substantially higher than before the pandemic.

More than 300,000 internet-enabled iPads New York City officials distributed after schools shuttered last spring will now function as hotspots — allowing families to use the internet from the tablets on other devices nearby.

Novavax said its experimental Covid-19 vaccine is starting the second phase of testing to see if it can safely protect against the new coronavirus.

The Democratic National Convention will kick off today, launching a first-of-its-kind virtual nominating convention heavily shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

For Americans watching at home or on their phones, the convention will offer a unique viewing experience — a combination of April’s NFL draft, which ping-ponged from city to city, the produced montages of “Saturday Night Live at Home” and a political telethon asking viewers to commit and donate to the Biden campaign.

The DNC will take place over four nights from tonight to 20 with speeches and musical performances each night from 9 to 11 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chief rival to Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would unequivocally support the ticket of Biden and Harris. He’ll be speaking at the DNC today.

Cuomo today will give a prime-time televised speech at the DNC convention, and there’s already speculation about what comes next for the 62-year-old Queens native.

Cuomo is expected to draw a sharp contrast between how he and Trump have handled the coronavirus pandemic as a speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. He will be joined by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in laying out a major Democratic line of attack on Trump.

A new poll of potential Democrat candidates for president in 2024 has Cuomo leading the field – and it seems no one is more surprised than Cuomo himself.

Another New Yorker who ran in the primary, Manhattanite Andrew Yang, was a late addition to the lineup of DNC speakers.

New York City’s annual light installation in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will take place next month, organizers said, reversing an earlier decision to cancel this year’s tribute.

The governor said that the state would ensure the annual 9/11 tribute light installation will go on as planned, just days after it was canceled over coronavirus concerns.

Cuomo announced over the weekend that 7 million diagnostic tests for COVID-19 have been conducted to date in New York State, and that the number of positive cases yesterday — 0.78 percent — was below 1 percent for the ninth day in a row.

“Our numbers reflect the hard work of New Yorkers, and as other states across the nation see surging cases, our numbers remain steadily low,” said Cuomo in a statement.

Bowling alleys will be allowed to open today, being limited to 50 percent of occupancy capacity and forced to follow other rules, such as bowlers must have a face covering and every other lane will remain closed. Food and alcohol service will also be limited to wait service.

Cuomo will be releasing protocols today detailing how gyms will be able to reopen.

The governor did not say when he anticipates gyms will be allowed to reopen, only that the state would issue rules today.

When gyms are allowed to reopen, the fitness landscape will look very different from before the pandemic. Not only will the reopened gyms have made changes, there will be some that won’t reopen at all.

New York City museums can reopen at limited capacity on Monday, Aug. 24, Cuomo said, bringing a measure of relief to cultural institutions that have been forced to close for months over the new coronavirus pandemic.

With bowling alleys opening and gyms set to receive instructions on how to open, the operators of New York’s movie theaters are wondering what happened to them. Continued closures will put some independent owners out of business and it will keep bringing havoc to the film industry in general.

Travelers returning to New York from states with high infection rates say they are following the Cuomo administration’s mandated quarantine rules, but their social media posts say otherwise.

As small businesses across New York City struggle to make rent, some local lawmakers are pushing to give landlords tax breaks if they provide more lenient leases.

The NY Post editorializes: “There’s no denying it: The city’s in trouble. Big trouble. Mayor de Blasio is now a lame-duck figurehead…And the crop of candidates looking to replace him is anything but promising. New York needs fresh blood. So today we’re asking — pleading, actually: Won’t anyone step up and save New York?”

Rats are running rampant and dangerously under-prepared snowplow drivers could hit New York’s streets thanks to recent city budget cuts, a sanitation union boss said.

Nearly two months after the city Parks Department had its budget slashed by almost $85 million, many green spaces in Brooklyn and The Bronx are now littered with trash and overgrown with high, unmown grass.

Nearly five months after shutting their doors, some of the Big Apple’s fanciest hotels are starting to take reservations again, buoyed by signs of pent-up demand from cooped-up New Yorkers.

Two raves packing a total of more than 280 people were busted up early yesterday in Sunset Park, Brooklyn — just days after de Blasio warned that the neighborhood was experiencing a troubling rise in coronavirus cases.

Amid public alarm over the inadequacy of coronavirus testing across the nation, Los Angeles schools today will begin a sweeping program to test hundreds of thousands of students and teachers as the nation’s second-largest school district goes back to school — online.

Teachers heading back to NYC schools are tackling COVID-19 on their own — by asking for donations so they can stock up on protective gear.

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association of America against the state and Cuomo over the closure of gun shops at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

A state bureaucrat wants to mandate 500 hours of training for anyone who shampoos hair at a beauty salon or barbershop — but something about her push for the bizarre new requirement just doesn’t wash. That’s because she is also a beauty school owner, and a member of the state board that licenses salon workers.

Patrick Bobilin, a 37-year-old candidate for State Assembly in Manhattan, was collared by cops after allegedly smashing the windshield of a driver June 19 during a Black Lives Matter protest on the Upper East Side.

One of the SUNY system’s foremost research institutions, Stony Brook University, will freeze hiring, cut salaries and budgets, and take more than 50 percent from its $80 million reserve fund this next academic year to offset mounting costs from the coronavirus pandemic, the school’s president said in a letter last week.

Thousands of customers were out of power amid blustery weather on Long Island last night, while service outages for Internet, cable, and phone that originated with Tropical Storm Isaias Aug. 4 continued in some areas.

PSEG Long Island president Dan Eichhorn said Friday the company has wrapped up much of its work restoring the damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias, and, despite a tidal wave of criticism from lawmakers and residents, the utility was prepared for the next major storm.

New York City police have made fewer arrests amid the coronavirus pandemic, prompting questions from some elected officials and criminologists over whether that has played a role in a rise in shootings and other violent crime.

New York City’s latest bloody week of gunfire saw 76 people injured, including 14 murdered — with almost two-and-a-half times more shootings than the same week last year, according to police sources.

New Yorkers are buying up bulletproof vests.

Hundreds of children have been packed into buses and brought to more than six Jewish camps in Ulster County this summer, triggering a drawn-out battle with local code enforcement officials who have asked a judge to shut down the facilities they allege are operating in violation of zoning laws and COVID-19 restrictions.

Capital Region school superintendents conducted a conference call Saturday morning to discuss how the Ballston Spa Central School District’s decision to delay in-person learning could potentially affect other districts’ reopening plans.

Schenectady County Public Health Services confirmed Saturday evening that an individual later diagnosed with COVID-19 rode CDTA Bus Number 370 at 7:05 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12 and Thursday, Aug. 13.

A sixth resident of the Troy Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing has died after contracting COVID-19.

A number of Colonie residents and community members attended a town board meeting last week to speak out against proposed legislation that would make “aggressive” panhandling a crime.

In what organizers described as hundreds of boats, people supporting the re-election campaign of Trump sailed up and down Lake George yesterday flying Trump flags, American flags and Back the Blue flags.

An internal Albany Police Department report on the beating of three men outside 523 First St. last year revealed misconduct by officers on the scene as well as a more general breakdown in law enforcement management and leadership.

A bricks-and-mortar version of Amazon is coming to Crossgates Mall near Albany, but what about Destiny USA in Syracuse?

The body of a missing swimmer, Andrew G. Somwaru, 36, of South Richmond Hill, Queens, was found and recovered from the Hudson River Saturday night.

A man in his 30s was rescued by his friends Saturday night after he nearly drowned in the vicinity of Mosquito Bay on Great Sacandaga Lake.

Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, the first woman to hold the position, died yesterday at the age of 94. Shulman served for 16 years, from 1986 to 2002.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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