Rise and Shine: Aug. 20, 2020

Wakey, wakey, CivMixers. It’s Thursday, and it’s also National Bacon Lover’s Day. If that’s not enough to make your morning, I’m not sure what is.

Now, for all my vegan and vegetarian friends out there, you might want to just skip this part…And yes, I’m Jewish, and yes, I love bacon. This is not a confession, but merely a statement of fact. I am not ashamed.

I also love sausage. Actually, I might prefer sausage – come at me! – though that depends on the brand and type, links and patties are both good, and if they’re locally made, so much the better. But crisp, almost burnt bacon is the BOMB, people. SO GOOD.

I am not such a big fan of ham. And also I cannot stomach cheeseburgers. Something about the not mixing milk with meat thing did stick with me past my childhood. But set me up with a slice of sausage or pepperoni pizza and I am a goner.

The average American, by the way, consumes 18 pounds of bacon every year. EIGHTEEN POUNDS OF BACON. That’s just a little bit less heavy than your average car tire.

Also, this country is currently in the midst of a decades-long trend of “bacon mania,” or, if you prefer, a bacon boom. In 2018, bacon accounted for $4.9 billion in U.S. sales, up from $4.7 billion the previous year and an increase of more than 20 percent from 2012.

And yeah, I’ve read all the stories about how bacon is bad for your health, but consider this: Some research has actually shown positive health outcomes associated with bacon consumption. A University of North Carolina study, for example, found that choline, which is a micronutrient in bacon, is key to healthy brain development in unborn babies.

Eat up, moms-to-be.

Some interesting historical moments of note…

On this day in 1866, the newly-formed National Labor Union called on Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday AND President Andrew Johnson formally declared that the Civil War was over, even though the fighting had ceased months earlier.

The National Labor Union was a coalition of skilled and unskilled workers, farmers, and reformers, created in hopes of pressuring federal lawmakers to enact labor reforms – an effort that was not successful, but did raise awareness about the plight of hourly workers across the nation.

The union had a bit of a rocky tenure as a result of violent strikes and some other attendant issues. It was dissolved in 1873 following a disappointing venture into third-party politics in the 1872 presidential election.

The number of hours that Americans work has taken on new meaning in the pandemic as so many people (those lucky enough to still be employed) work from home and struggle to figure out a work-life balance when work and life are taking place in the some location. At least one company is experimenting with a compressed four-day workweek in which employees work ten hours a day, four days a week.

Speaking for myself, ten hours would be a gift.

Another relatively mild (for August) day is on tap, with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s. The weekend is shaping up to be quite a bit warmer, with temperatures back up into the high 80s and perhaps even hitting 90 degrees.

In the headlines…

Former President Barack Obama used his primetime speaking slot at the virtual Democratic National Convention to make the case for his former vice president, Joe Biden, as the next president — and then argued against giving another term to Donald Trump, defying the tradition that former presidents avoid direct criticism of their successors.

“I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care,” Obama said. “But he never did.”

Obama, speaking from from Philadelphia, the birthplace of the Constitution, essentially accused the current president of corruption and abuse of power, saying Trump had “no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris made history last night as the first Black and South Asian woman to accept a major party’s vice presidential nomination, promising to be a champion for the voiceless and forgotten Americans who are struggling in the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis.

“We’re at an inflection point,” Harris said in her speech. “The constant ­chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more.”

Hillary Clinton, in her DNC speech, sought to channel the lessons, energy and disappointment of her campaign to become the first female president into an effort to unseat the man who defeated her, urging Democrats who never fully unified around her to come together against Trump.

Former Arizona congresswoman and mass-shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords pitched Biden as the candidate most equipped to combat America’s epidemic of gun-violence in stirring remarks at the DNC.

Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, said Biden can hold his own on having a plan for nearly every policy challenge, large and small.

Trump did not hide that he was closely following the third night of the DNC, firing off all-caps tweets in real time as Obama and Harris delivered withering criticisms of his presidency.

“He spied on my campaign, and got caught!” Trump wrote in all caps, without directly referring to Obama as the ex-president delivered a rare rebuke of his predecessor’s time in the White House.

Trump offered encouragement to proponents of QAnon, a viral conspiracy theory that has gained a widespread following among people who believe the president is secretly battling a criminal band of sex traffickers, and suggested that its proponents were patriots upset with unrest in Democratic cities.

Facebook said it had removed 790 QAnon groups from its site and was restricting another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts related to the right-wing conspiracy theory, in the social network’s most sweeping action against the fast-growing movement.

Trump is calling on his followers to not buy Goodyear tires and threatening to remove them from his custom presidential limousine, despite previously railing against “cancel culture,” after an employee posted a viral photo of a company policy banning “Make America Great Again” and other political attire in the workplace.

The president blasted Republicans on Twitter – tagging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a rare move – for “allowing the Democrats to have ridiculous Post Office hearings…just before and during our Convention” as Democrats revisit questions surrounding the selection process of Trump’s controversial postmaster pick.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo again justified his administration’s decision to stop counting as nursing home deaths the COVID-19 fatalities of residents who succumbed after being transferred to hospitals, but finally admitted at least one mistake he made during the coronavirus crisis: Failing to mandate mask-wearing sooner.

New York schools must prepare to confront coronavirus outbreaks like those seen at some U.S. colleges in recent days as they prepare to reopen, Cuomo said.

New York’s powerful teachers union threatened to walk out unless every student and staffer in the Big Apple’s sprawling public school system is tested for the coronavirus as a precondition for restarting in-classroom learning — a near-impossible task.

After weeks of discussions with City Hall about how to make sure schools reopen safely, the United Federation of Teachers laid out additional steps it said must be taken to open schools for in-person learning.

Interim state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa: “We know that the learning loss, and the broadband issue, is a mega-issue for the state as a whole. The plans for the learning to continue, knowing that we need investments in equipment and conductivity, is critical.”

New York State United Teachers attacked the plans to cut education funding for school districts and public higher education across New York State.

The Cuomo administration says we could be hearing about the immediate future of high school sports within a week.

New York University welcomed back students to its Manhattan campus yesterday, but, as per the school’s coronavirus safety plan, the scholars are required to get tested for the virus upon arrival.

College-bound students were thrown a curve ball when the College Board said that more than 178,000 students who signed up to take the SAT college admission test on Aug. 29 would probably not be able to do so because nearly half the testing sites in the nation are closed or operating at limited capacity.

Several University of Connecticut students were evicted from their dorm rooms following a packed on-campus party that violated the school’s coronavirus policy.

Administrators at Union College in Schenectady feel they’re well prepared to welcome their students back safely. They’ve set up a coronavirus testing site in the Memorial Field House and have taken in 37 students so far this week.

The coronavirus is already spreading through colleges and universities at a frightening pace — and some of the biggest clusters have been at sororities, fraternities and off-campus parties.

Michigan State University, which had planned to open Sept. 2 for in-person classes, became the latest to announce that all undergraduates would be learning remotely.

A teacher from the Ballston Spa School District has tested positive for COVID-19.

Big box stores like Walmart and Target are experiencing record profits during the pandemic. The success of those retailers can be attributed, in part, to their one-stop shopping advantage.

Apple became the first U.S. public company to eclipse $2 trillion in market value, a dizzying achievement that highlights the iPhone maker’s commanding role in the world economy.

California, the nation’s most-populated state, is facing multiple crises, including 23 major wildfires raging while the daily death toll from the coronavirus is above 100.

The state of Michigan is expected to announce a settlement this week to pay residents of Flint $600 million to resolve civil claims from the city’s lead-tainted drinking water crisis, according to a person familiar with the settlement.

Democratic legislators in states across the country are trying to advance legislation that would subject law-enforcement officers to more legal liability for misconduct and restrict their use of force.

Cuomo painted a gloomy picture of the months ahead, warning that the COVID-19 crisis is not over even as New York continued to register low levels of new coronavirus infections, with 11 straight days of new positives falling below 1 percent of people tested in the state.

“This is going to be difficult and challenging,” Cuomo said, adding that he would ask local health officials how they plan to balance testing for the flu and the novel coronavirus. “There’s going to be no easy answer to that riddle.”

The governor warned that New York City restaurants that have been staying afloat with outdoor patios and takeout service this summer may be forced to close when it turns cold this fall as local officials struggle to enforce the state’s orders to curb the coronavirus.

New Yorkers, losing their favorite spots because of the pandemic, are returning for one last burger, one more bowl of ramen.

A new wrinkle in the state’s coronavirus guidelines for bars, restaurants and similar venues in New York state prohibits them from offering live music that customers pay for separately. It seems to have suddenly popped up in the rules this week.

Cuomo declined to disclose financial details for the book he is writing about overseeing New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said he would donated an unspecified amount of the proceeds to a COVID-related entity.

“I announced I’m doing a book on COVID, they say I’m doing a history of COVID. No, my book is not about the history of COVID, because it’s not over,” the governor said. “It is what we have learned, what we should learn, what we must do, how we handled this, and what we need to do in the second half of the game.”

The TU’s Chris Churchill says Cuomo’s forthcoming book is “sure to disappoint.”

The administration was asked first thing yesterday morning about whether approval or guidance was sought by the ethics agency; it said in the late afternoon that the governor’s book plan was submitted to the ethics office and okayed.

Albany lawmakers are pushing for an independent, bi-partisan commission that would investigate the COVID-19 deaths of at least 6,447 New Yorkers in state-regulated nursing homes and what role Cuomo’s mandate that virus-ridden patients be taken into the facilities may have played.

Cuomo offered some hope that movie theaters in New York could reopen soon.

“Movie theaters, I think, are next,” Cuomo said. “They’re congregate, they have a centralized ventilation system, people by definition are not moving around, you’re in close proximity to another person for a long period of time.”

It’s been 5 months since New Yorkers have been able to lace up their skates and enjoy roller rinks, and there is no indication from the Cuomo administration as to when they can reopen.

After months of having empty halls, the Brooklyn Museum and El Museo del Barrio will reopen to the public on Sept. 12, albeit with limited hours and restrictions on capacity.

Cuomo took sharper aim at PSEG Long Island, nixing its potential nearly $10 million annual incentive bonus over the utility’s widely criticized response to Tropical Storm Isaias.

Consolidated Edison and PSEG are among New York utilities facing “steep penalties” for storm-related power outages that plunged millions into darkness for as long as a week, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Amid more outages yesterday, some PSEG Long Island ratepayers who went days without power in sweltering heat after Tropical Storm Isaias said the utility’s program to reimburse them for lost food and medicine is too little too late.

People will die” if the de Blasio administration follows through with a plan to lay off nearly 400 EMTs and paramedics, the head of the union representing those workers said.

Federal Northern District Judge Glenn Suddaby sounded unconvinced by the state’s argument that wedding parties with more than 50 people posed a unique threat of spreading COVID-19 when compared to other activities and venues where groups of more than 50 are still allowed.

Amtrak is more than two-thirds over its initial $106 million budget for the Moynihan Train Hall project in New York City, a new report finds, and early missteps raise doubts that the new facility will be able to open to customers by the end of 2020 as planned.

New York City has released more than 1.46 million coronavirus antibody test results, the largest number to date, providing more evidence of how the virus penetrated deeply into some lower-income communities while passing more lightly across affluent parts of the city.

New York’s largest nurses union has condemned a new state Department of Health report that appears to side with hospitals and nursing homes who say minimum staffing laws would devastate their finances and have unintended consequences for patients and staff.

The New York Broadband Program Office declared victory over the digital divide last year, saying that 99.9 percent of the state was covered with high-speed broadband of 25 megabits per second or faster. But those left in the .1 percent, mainly in rural areas, are out of luck.

Albany County residents who wanted to vote early in October will be able to do so at any of the early voting sites throughout the county after Vote Early NY said the Board of Elections plan violated state election law.

State legislators are urging Cuomo to authorize a mailing and printing contract that’s been in the works for five years and is critical to employing about 50 disabled people in the Capital Region.

The union representing New York state troopers filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of New York City codes that criminalize certain restraint techniques used by State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Grubhub is launching a petition today to end food-delivery commission caps that have been imposed during the pandemic by the New York City Council.

A newly formed Upper West Side residents’ group is bringing in the big guns — hiring high-profile lawyer Randy Mastro to get City Hall to do something about the troubling influx of homeless in their neighborhood.

An ex-security chief at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College claims that the school president has been systematically phasing out male white employees replacing them with minority women, new court papers show.

With Amazon renting a Shirley warehouse, the online retailer will have at least three distribution centers on Long Island to make “last mile” deliveries to customers.

The U.S. Postal Service has removed mail sorting machines from its regional processing plant in North Syracuse, part of a nationwide series of cutbacks that have led to slower delivery, union officials say.

Locust Dale Farm, the brick Dutch Colonial in Claverack where the Food Network show “Farmhouse Rules” is filmed, is on the market for $5.9 million.

The city of Schenectady’s former armory will be used as a soundstage for shooting the next season of the Amazon Prime Video series “Modern Love,” based on popular The New York Times column of the same name, according to people familiar with the plans.

The Saratoga Builders Association is planning a TV special to replace the annual Showcase of Homes tour, cancelled this year because of COVID-19.

A tavern that has been open for a century in Berne re-emerged late last month as a medieval-themed restaurant with period-costumed servers and a broad menu encompassing everything from fried mozzarella with raspberry sauce to beef stew in a bread bowl, barbecue fare, $34 steaks and $35 lobster tails.

Forest rangers continued to be busy in the Adirondacks and Catskills this month rescuing overturned kayakers, as well as lost and injured hikers – including one who suffered a head injury.

The rise and fall of Nxivm is the subject of a captivating nine-part HBO documentary series, called “The Vow,” which starts Sunday night and exposes how one person’s charisma and calm-voiced coercion can destroy countless lives.

Talk show icon and billionaire entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey is giving all of her workers Election Day off so they can cast their ballots. She made the announcement on Twitter and challenged other companies to follow her lead.

Thom Brennaman, a Fox Sports announcer who has been calling Major League Baseball games for more than 30 years, was suspended last night, the Cincinnati Reds said, after he used a homophobic slur during a live broadcast of a Reds doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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