Rise and Shine: Aug. 18, 2020

Hello, welcome to Tuesday, CivMixers.

We are halfway through August and I have yet to mention that it is the 17th annual Black Business Month – mea culpa; I should have noted this much earlier. This month has gained increased attention and taken on heightened importance due to the national movement for social justice and equity that has kicked into high gear since the death in police custody of George Floyd.

Black business owners account for about 10 percent of U.S. businesses and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses. That’s about 2 million companies owned by African Americans, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

New York has the most Black-owned businesses of any city in the nation, closely followed by Atlanta. The highest ratio of Black-owned businesses is in Washington, D.C. – 28 percent.

There has been enormous growth in recent years of minority-owned businesses, but they are also suffering at higher rates as a result of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Historian John William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr. founded National Black Business Month in August 2004 to “drive the policy agenda affecting the 2.6 million African-American businesses.”

If you need some ideas about how to support Black businesses, click here, here and here.

It’s also National Fajita Day.

According to What’s Cooking America, fajitas were invented by Mexican ranch workers living in western Texas in the late 1930s. Workers would get the least desirable bits of steer meat as part of their wages, so they learned to make the most of those tough cuts of meat.

By modern standards, a fajita is anything cooked and served rolled up in a tortilla. Again, according to What’s Cooking America, true fajitas are made from skirt steak.

On this day in 1920, Rep. Harry T. Burn, 24, the youngest member of the House, who had been wearing a red anti-suffrage rose, surprised everyone by casting the deciding vote in Tennessee’s – and thus America’s – ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowing women’s suffrage after receiving a note from his mother imploring him to vote “yes.”

Another beautiful – and significantly less hot and humid – day is on tap, with temperatures in the high 70s and sun with a few passing clouds in the forecast.

In the headlines…

Former First Lady Michelle Obama was a standpoint speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention yesterday, taking the fight directly to President Donald Trump in a pre-taped but emotive speech.

…She accused Trump of being “clearly in over his head” and being “the wrong president for our country.”

Obama endorsed her husband’s former vice president, Joe Biden, saying: “I know Joe Biden. He is a profoundly decent man, guided by faith,” before calling him the best person to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has killed 170,000 people in the US.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, twice an unsuccessful presidential contender and a self-declared socialist, also endorsed Biden to be the party’s standard bearer and urged his liberal supporters to join him.

“My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary, and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders, 78, said from Burlington, Vt.

Actress Eva Longoria emceed the night’s programming, a combination of prerecorded and live material, from a studio.

George Floyd’s brother led a moment of silence in a video broadcast at the DNC.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during his speech to the DNC, accusing the White House of “negligence” even as his own administration drew flak for thousands of deaths in New York’s nursing homes.

“COVID is the symptom, not the illness. Our nation is in crisis. And in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor. A virus attacks when the body is weak and when it cannot defend itself,” Cuomo said in a pre-taped message.

“Only a strong body can fight off the virus, and America’s divisions weakened it,” Cuomo also said. “Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division. The division created Trump; he only made it worse.”

New York, once the epicenter of the coronavirus, has become a model for how to handle the crisis. But is a second wave inevitable?

In a tweet, Trump accused Cuomo of being responsible for thousands of deaths in nursing homes, referring to his controversial policy in late March that essentially ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, a measure designed to free up hospital beds. (He eventually reversed the order in May).

The president also retweeted a video posted by his campaign showing Cuomo praising the Trump administration for its assistance during the pandemic in different clips.

Trump will campaign in four battleground states – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona and Pennsylvania – during this week’s Democratic convention, which is based in Milwaukee but is being broadcast to delegates and voters nationwide.

Trump said he intends to hold his younger brother Robert Trump’s funeral at the White House on Friday, telling reporters it would be “a great honor” to the late executive.

Miles Taylor, a former senior Trump administration official, endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign, becoming one of the highest-ranking former Trump administration officials to do so.

A number of Republicans – including former New York Rep. Susan Molinari, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former new Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman – spoke at the DNC.

The Democratic primary race began as a clash of ideas. But when the DNC convened, the party assembled with a singular aim: defeating Trump.

Speakers at tonight’s DNC include, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former President Bill Clinton and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify before Congress next week amid allegations from Democrats that he is undermining the cash-strapped US Postal Service ahead of the November election.

DeJoy, who has come under fire for his continuing financial ties to a company that does business with the Postal Service, received $1.2 million to $7 million in income last year from that firm, according to financial disclosure forms reviewed by The New York Times.

House Democrats vote Saturday on a bill that would prohibit operational changes to the Postal Service until well after the election and give $25 billion in additional funding to the agency.

Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the City of Troy’s main post office yesterday to deliver a message that did not require a stamp: Amid a growing chorus of worry that the Postal Service is being undermined for political gain, they want swift action to be taken against Dejoy.

Long Island’s mail has already been delayed by overtime reductions, scheduling changes and removal of equipment as concern grows that the U.S. Postal Service won’t have adequate funding this fall, union representatives and Rep. Tom Suozzi said.

As local elections boards across the state prepare for handling an estimated 8 million absentee ballots in the general election, some officials have warned that the surge in mail-in ballots is a recipe for fraud.

Postal slowdowns and warnings of delayed mail-in ballots are causing election officials to rethink vote-by-mail strategies, with some states seeking to bypass the post office with ballot drop boxes, drive-through drop-offs or expanded in-person voting options, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was conspicuously missing last night from a video montage at the Democratic National Convention showing most of the party’s former 2020 presidential candidates.

Might we be closer to herd immunity against the coronavirus than we thought? Some scientists think so.

A new strain of the coronavirus, called D614G, is currently making its way across Southeast Asia, and Malaysian health officials worry it may be even more infectious than COVID-19.

After months of frustration over testing shortages and delays, a new saliva test could give Americans a fast and inexpensive option to learn if they have COVID-19.

A federal judge has blocked an effort by the Trump administration to erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies, dealing a blow to the broader legal reasoning it has used to try to roll back transgender rights across the government.

Trump said he will pardon someone who is “very, very important” today. On Saturday, he said he’d look “very strongly” at pardoning Edward Snowden, who’s accused of espionage and theft of government property for leaking troves of National Security Agency information.

The husband-wife duo who waved firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home in an affluent section of St. Louis in June will appear virtually at next week’s Republican National Convention to express their support for Trump.

Some Justice Department staffers have expressed internal concerns over plans to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google – and what they view as an aggressive timeline favored by Attorney General William Barr, according to people familiar with the matter.

The president said there was no progress to report on talks for a new 10-figure spending plan including a second round of popular direct payments to Americans.

A $300-a-week federal boost to unemployment benefits may end shortly after it starts. In some states, recipients may only get three weeks’ worth of payments — if they get it at all.

Pizza Hut will close up to 300 locations as part of a deal between the Yum Brands chain and its largest U.S. franchisee, NPC International.

A new survey of New York’s restaurants reveals that nearly 90 percent say it’s unlikely they will be profitable in the next six months unless they get some sort of assistance – state or federal.

The stock market has staged an extraordinary recovery from its March lows, driven by emergency stimulus efforts from Washington, a surge in big tech stocks and a torrent of individual investors piling into stocks.

Police in Chicago have been retiring at twice the usual rate recently, a trend that some officials believe is likely to continue and could leave the city streets short of officers.

Cuomo announced that gyms in New York state will be able to open as soon as August 24 at 33 percent capacity, but New York City officials later suggested that reopening gyms may take longer in the city as the focus is on reopening schools safely.

“While indoor fitness classes and indoor pools will not be opening at this time, we’ll be developing a fair and rigorous inspection system for other gym setups in the coming weeks,” de Blasio spokesman Mitch Schwartz said. He couldn’t say whether gyms in the city would be cleared for opening by Aug. 24.

The governor insisted de Blasio could postpone reopenings in the Big Apple, but only until Sept. 2.

Fitness centers across the state can reopen on Aug. 24 as long as they follow strict coronavirus safety precautions including a 33 percent capacity limit and mandating gym-goers wear masks.

Cuomo expressed doubt about New York City’s school reopening plan, saying he “would want to hear more” if he were a parent faced with the decision of whether to enroll in the city’s hybrid program that will offer a mix of in-person and online classes.

Jim Malatras, a key official on Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force who sat beside the governor during his daily press conferences, is reportedly set to be appointed chancellor of the State University of New York after the board of the state college system decided to scrap a national search to fill the post.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will shift all undergraduate courses for the fall to remote instruction Wednesday, following a series of Covid-19 outbreaks on and around campus since starting classes last week.

The number of families opting out of classroom learning jumped by 40,000 in the past week — with Hispanic families accounting for the highest number of those choosing the format, according to new NYC Department of Education data.

The City School District of Albany relies on grants, partnerships and parents’ personal health care to maintain their school-based health centers in three of their middle schools — but Superintendent Kaweeda Adams anticipates an increase in demand while their K-12 students cope with stress and trauma during COVID-19.

Congratulations, bowlers. You’ve got your sport back, even if the restrictions can be a bit limiting and confusing.

A number of local bowling alleys are not yet reopen, as they are waiting to rehire staff, establish safety protocols or get a further understanding of the regulations have forth to open businesses that have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March.

Cuomo is still leaving movie theaters, which he called less essential and higher risk, in the dark about when they can reopen.

Frustrated with what they describe as a lack of action by the Democratic majorities and determined to get answers to why New York’s nursing homes saw so many coronavirus fatalities, Republican leaders in the state Senate and Assembly hosted another hearing to discuss the virus’ impact on these facilities.

As of Aug. 10, the state’s prisons recorded 754 Covid-19 cases among inmates — a jump of 150 cases from Aug. 4 — and 1,312 among staff as of Aug. 4, with five staff deaths and 17 inmate deaths, according to the New York state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Nearly two dozen principals signed a letter to NYC Education Department officials begging for more guidance on outdoor learning — and support navigating city bureaucracy.

A recent uptick in coronavirus cases in a Brooklyn neighborhood appears to be the result of individual households not complying with social distancing rather than a widespread cluster of infections, de Blasio said.

An East Village hotspot, Cloister Cafe, is fighting back by suing the state Liquor Authority after it was shut down for allegedly flouting COVID-19 regulations by hosting secret after-hours parties for teeming crowds.

Nearly 150 businesses in the state have lost their liquor licenses to date amidst a COVID-19 generated crackdown on bars and restaurants found in violation of social distancing guidance, the State Liquor Authority announced.

Front line workers will come together today for a lobbying campaign putting pressure on New York’s leaders, urging them to take steps and pass bills to help keep Empire State residents in their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo denounced the surge of shootings across New York state, including in the Big Apple, saying more has to be done to beat back the rampant crime wave.

With the level of shootings soaring across New York, Cuomo said he will send a letter to 500 police agencies reminding them they must develop “collaborative” response plans to deal with the violence or face the possibility of losing their state funding next year.

A teenager died when a gunman in another car ambushed the vehicle he was riding in on Southern Boulevard and unleashed gunshots that left another passenger in the car injured, police said. The 17-year-old is the city’s 12th homicide victim of 2020.

City of Troy Police are investigating after a 23-year-old was killed in a shooting around 6 p.m. yesterday.

Two people have been charged with the 2002 murder of the musician known as Jam Master Jay, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday, bringing closure to a case that has remained unsolved for years.

The governor said state health authorities are “very concerned” about the upcoming flu season, warning it will make the coronavirus pandemic more complicated “in many ways.”

The Capital Region lost two more residents to the novel coronavirus yesterday, including at least one nursing home resident, local counties reported.

Straphangers were left in a pickle over the weekend when all of NYC’s MetroCard vending machines stopped accepting credit cards — a snafu that forced transit workers to allow an untold number of riders through turnstiles without paying the fare.

In recent years, food halls have become a major force in New York City’s dining scene, with several opening and aiming their appeal to a public that appreciates the diverse range of cuisines they feature. But as with much else in the city, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the business, and it could take years to recover.

Outdoor restaurant dining is where New York’s more-or-less general agreement about masks unravels into confusion.

In an example of how COVID-19 is rearranging the economy and job market, a Capital Region pool manufacturer says it can’t hire people fast enough to keep up with the backlogged demand for swimming pools.

Amazon, which last week began hiring to fill 1,000 full-time jobs at its $100 million fulfillment center in Schodack, said it will open new delivery stations at 1785 State Highway 5S in Amsterdam and at 30B Post Road in Colonie.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin their quest for a record-tying 17th NBA championship today.

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein is claiming New York’s Child Victims Act is unconstitutional — in a bid to get a court to toss accusations that the fallen movie mogul sexually abused a woman nearly 20 years ago when she was just 16, court papers show.

A white couple on Long Island was arrested for allegedly harassing their black neighbor by repeatedly shooting pellets across her yard and leaving feces on her lawn, officials announced.

The Guggenheim Museum has approved a plan to address complaints of entrenched racism within its walls. It is one of the first major cultural organizations to provide details of an expanded diversity effort.

Ellis Medicine has announced a new partnership with the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo that is expected to bring expanded cancer care, specialty services and clinical trial opportunities to residents of the Capital Region.

The chairman of the public benefit corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center said “drastic” measures may be needed to prevent the financially troubled public hospital from going “belly up.

The state’s Public Service Commission is holding virtual public statement hearings on Aug. 26 and Aug. 27 to compile comments from NYSEG customers about proposed increases to its electric and gas rates through 2023.

PSEG Long Island said it would reimburse customers who had an outage of 72 hours or more for some food and medicine losses due to Tropical Storm Isaias. The new policy will reimburse residential customers up to $250 for spoiled food while commercial customers such as restaurants can receive as much as $5,000.

Lawmakers and consumer groups expressed outrage that the operator of California’s electricity grid had not adequately prepared for a heat wave and was resorting to rolling blackouts.

RIP Nettie Mayersohn, a longtime community activist and nearly three-decade Queens Assembly member, who passed away in her sleep on Aug. 13 at the age of 96.

Death Valley in Southern California is reputedly the hottest place on earth. At 3:41 p.m. on Sunday, it lived up to that reputation when the temperature at Furnace Creek reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NOAA Weather Prediction center, which appears to be the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet.

Zookeepers at Washington’s National Zoo are on furry black-and-white baby watch after concluding that venerable giant panda matriarch Mei Xiang is pregnant and could give birth this week. It’s a welcome bit of good news amid a pandemic that kept the zoo shuttered for months.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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