Rise and Shine: Aug. 21, 2020

It’s Friday! In case you’re looking for an excuse to celebrate: Happy Ninoy Aquino Day, CivMixers.

This is a national non-working holiday in the Philippines that commemorates the assassination of former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the husband of Corazon Aquino, who later became the country’s president.

Aquino fought for independence and a free democracy and was a well-known opposition figure and critic of the then-President Ferdinand Marcos. Due to his beliefs, he was imprisoned for about eight years after martial law was declared in the country, and was released to be allowed to seek medical treatment in the U.S. for a heart condition. He went into exile upon his release, but planned on reentering Filipino politics.

Tragically, upon his return in 1983 – three years after leaving the country – he was assassinated at the Manila International Airport. His death eventually led to the Marcos’s downfall on Feb. 25, 1986, through the People Power Revolution.

Today, Filipinos remember Aquino’s famous words: “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

It’s also World Senior Citizens Day, which was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 14, 1990. Former President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this National Senior Citizens Day, through Proclamation 5847, in 1988. (Apparently the definition of a “senior citizen” is someone who is at least 60 or 65 years old…given that I am rapidly approaching the cusp of those years, I beg to differ. In my mind, 60 is the new 30; and I plan to work until I die – G-d permitting. I don’t golf and I don’t like Florida).

Some statistics: Roughly 78 million people 65 years and older will live in America by 2035, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, surpassing the number of the country’s population under the age of 18 (76.7 million) for the first time in U.S. history.

On this day in 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee. All that was left was an empty space on the wall, and an empty frame nearby. The painting was returned after the culprit was arrested following an attempt to sell the masterpiece to a dealer. (He said he acted out of patriotism).

Also on this day in 1961, Motown Records of Detroit, Michigan released what became its first #1 hit song, “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

We’re headed back into the mid-80s today, with mostly sunny skies and a few afternoon clouds. The weekend looks lovely…get out there and enjoy the heat while we still have it.

In the headlines…

If Joe Biden becomes the 46th American President, his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination last night will be seen as the moment when the destiny of a man and his nation converged.

Accused by President Donald Trump of hiding in his basement throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Biden turned his opponent’s narrative to his advantage on the final night of the convention, delivering an austere address in a quiet room that some commentators, both left and right, likened to a speech from the Oval Office.

In a campaign riddled with verbal gaffes and setbacks, where his cognitive abilities were questioned and his debate performances criticized, Biden stepped up to the lectern and delivered the biggest speech of his life without a hitch.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long — too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”

In a letter released hours before Biden delivered his nomination acceptance speech, over 70 of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials called Trump “unfit to lead” and outlined their support for his opponent.

Trump flipped a line from Hillary Clinton’s DNC speech — claiming it’s Democrats who are trying to “steal the election” with their push for mail-in voting.

Twitter was abuzz last night after an insect twice landed on former New York City Mayor’s Michael Bloomberg’s face during his speech at the convention.

Bloomberg urged voters to evaluate Trump like a coworker or employee when deciding whether to give him another tern, saying: “Would you rehire or work for someone who ran your business into the ground, and who always does what’s best for him or her, even when it hurts the company?”

Although the DNC broadcast has been a nightly ode to unity, some progressive delegates say their wing is being sidelined amid efforts to bring change to the event and the candidate, a problem exacerbated by the virtual format.

Steve Bannon, the rabble-rousing strategist behind a White House travel ban on foreigners and its pullout from the Paris climate change accords, was arrested for leading an outfit charged with scamming hundreds of thousands of donors out of money to build a Mexican border wall touted by Trump on the campaign trail.

…Pledging publicly not to take any of the proceeds for themselves, Bannon and the other suspects instead siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for travel, hotels, personal credit card debt and other expenses, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said.

Bannon pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors to a $25 million campaign to build a border wall during his first court appearance in Manhattan federal court.

The U.S. Justice Department has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision prohibiting Trump from blocking critics on Twitter.

A federal judge rejected Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, roundly dismissing the president’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith.

Trump called the investigation into his financial records led by New York prosecutors part of “the most hideous witch hunt in the history of our country.”

During a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump blamed California for its raging wildfires and threatened to withhold federal money, reprising his attacks from previous rounds of catastrophic blazes.

To many strategists, Pennsylvania is the most crucial battleground of 2020, and Northeast Pennsylvania, with its density of white working-class voters, is especially pivotal.

All told, power plants with the ability to produce almost 6,000 megawatts, or about 15 percent of the electricity on California’s grid, were reported as being offline when temperatures surged last Friday, leading to rolling blackouts in the middle of a pandemic.

The Trump administration has announced measures intended to boost childhood vaccination rates that have sagged during the coronavirus pandemic, putting hundreds of thousands at risk of contracting serious and life-threatening diseases.

Oleandrin, a plant extract trumpeted this week as a “cure” for Covid-19 by the leader of a pillow company, is untested and potentially dangerous, scientists say.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reversing course on a change to the way hospitals report critical information on the coronavirus pandemic to the government, returning the responsibility for data collection to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that new state unemployment claims jumped to 1.1 million last week, a sign that some employers continue to lay off workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic while others remain reluctant to hire.

…The report followed others from the government and private firms showing that job gains slowed in July from June, job postings fell this week for the first time since April and several companies are planning more layoffs.

The figures suggest that employers are still slashing jobs even as some businesses reopen and some sectors like housing and manufacturing have rebounded.

Rep. Paul Tonko and more than 100 other House members are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass a bill extending federal unemployment benefits when they return to Washington on Saturday, some hoping that another legislative offer will break the gridlock with Republicans on a coronavirus package.

Jobless claims on Long Island rose last week for the first time in over a month as the state continues to evaluate the possibility of participating in a limited federal program meant to enhance unemployment payments by $300 for a short period.

A majority of New Yorkers will be able to vote via absentee ballot in the November general election after Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a trio of bills expanding and protecting mail-in voting.

…But with only 10 weeks until Election Day, the challenges of administering an election predominantly by mail will be especially pronounced in New York, following the state’s uneven handling of its primary just two months ago.

Cuomo signed an executive order expanding a coronavirus-related emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosures of commercial properties until Sept. 20.

To control the spread of the coronavirus, Cuomo’s liquor authority has specifically banned darts, pool, cornhole, karaoke and exotic dancing. (Apparently axe throwing is OK).

If bars or restaurants have live music that merely “complements” dining, social-distancing practices must be adhered to, along with the wearing of face masks, and performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons, according to the SLA. All other forms of live entertainment are not allowed.

A coalition of 100 Staten Island and Brooklyn restaurants are planning a class-action lawsuit to force the city and state to reopen indoor dining in New York.

State Senator Jessica Ramos was joined by more than 30 Queens and Manhattan business owners who spoke out against what they say has been “excessive fining” and liquor license removals from the SLA.

A day after New York City’s powerful teachers union threatened to strike over school reopening guidelines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will see the “safest school year ever.”

School nurses are already in short supply, with less than 40 percent of schools employing one full time before the pandemic. Now those overburdened health care specialists are finding themselves on the front lines of a risky, high-stakes experiment in protecting public health as districts reopen their doors.

There are still “far too many unanswered questions” to safely reopen New York City public schools for in-person learning next month, a group of 31 City Council members wrote in a scathing letter aimed at the Department of Education and de Blasio.

New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza warned that the system might have to lay off 9,000 teachers and call off in-person instruction this year if the state forges ahead with threatened cuts to school aid and doesn’t let the city borrow more money.

Matching children to the right course preferences and credits they need for graduation, NYC school officials say, is something like “a multidimensional Rubik’s Cube.” Much remains up in the air for many students, who don’t yet know what their class schedules will look like.

New York’s fourth-largest public school district, Yonkers, announced it would start the 2020-21 academic year all-remote, putting more pressure on New York City officials already facing controversy over a planned hybrid start.

An update issued by Questar III’s State Aid and Financial Planning, a planning resource for school administrators across New York, recently warned officials they should expect state aid payments to be reduced by 20 percent, according to an Aug. 14 post on Questar’s website.

The Cuomo administration has quietly withheld $324 million in payments to schools in June and July, a worrisome signal for districts as they grapple with less funding against rising expenses related to reopening school doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Warning signs that public schools could potentially lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state financial aid are raising fresh challenges for Long Island educators, already tasked with the job of reopening classes safely in the midst of a pandemic.

Syracuse University officials announced that 23 students have received interim suspensions after a large gathering took place on campus in violation of COVID-related protocols.

A Syracuse University administrator released a public letter lambasting first-year students who gathered on the campus quad in hordes the night before, throwing the feasibility of an on-campus semester into jeopardy.

The Mayor of the village of Brockport sent a letter to SUNY students living there outlining their responsibilities. College leaders are working with police to crack down on parties, issuing tickets and even potential suspensions to students not in compliance.

NYU students who are quarantined in their dorm rooms used their favorite social media app – TikTok – to complain about the meals they received.

Nearly 100 people attended a rally outside the state Capitol calling for the release of guidelines for reopening casinos, expressing their eagerness to get back to work and confidence that the facilities can operate safely.

De Blasio signaled that the Big Apple will likely scale back two staples of the holiday season — the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree celebration — to prevent crowding that could fuel another coronavirus outbreak.

In New York City, those ignoring the mask rule are nearly twice as likely to be men as women, The New York Times found in a mask census of over 7,000 people, conducted across the city at 13 street corners and one beach boardwalk.

While the moving industry is fractured among numerous small business owners, and official statistics are tough to come by, one thing is clear: New Yorkers are changing their addresses in droves.

A loose coalition of New York’s top property owners and managers is busily working the phones, pressing many of the city’s biggest employers – including powerhouses like Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and BlackRock – to speed up the return of their employees.

Over 323,000 accusations of misconduct against current and former New York City police officers were published online yesterday, a major milestone in a long and contentious political battle to open records of police discipline to public scrutiny.

A wealthy Manhattan donor to de Blasio’s political campaigns not only scored $120 million in no-bid coronavirus contracts for his New Jersey-based company, he also won seats on two influential city boards.

State lawmakers took utility providers to task during a virtual hearing yesterday, grilling state regulators and slamming power companies for leaving New Yorkers in the dark following Tropical Storm Isaias.

“It seems more common that after any major storm, people are left scrambling for days and days,” said state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat. “We want viable, workable plans that will prevent us from being here yet again.”

In testimony submitted to the joint hearing on power and communication failures from Tropical Storm Isaias, Westchester County Executive George Latimer expressed his frustration on behalf of the nearly one million of residents of the County while making two proposals for how the issues can be addressed.

“Throughout this period, some utilities provided inaccurate information, making it challenging for families and businesses to plan. This was more than inconvenience. It was completely unacceptable and a public health and safety concern,” PSC Chairman John Rhodes told lawmakers.

With school set to open on Sept. 14, the Schenectady school district could still “explore” a full virtual learning model to start the academic year, a scenario that officials concede could lead to staff layoffs but would not “necessarily be in the everyone’s best interest and most importantly the interest of students.”

The regional economic development council award program, which handed out a total of $750 million last year to the 10 regional councils, is in potential jeopardy as a result of the state’s financial loss from the pandemic, although nothing has been decided yet.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is reopening exclusively for victims’ families on the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attack — and then to the general public a day later following a six-month closure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation’s largest transit agency already has a debt load surpassing $45 billion, mostly to pay for new buses, trains and infrastructure. But it is now considering borrowing billions of dollars just to keep its system—including New York City’s subway—running during the new coronavirus pandemic.

An Upper East Side man was charged with leaving a vulgar anti-Semitic note outside state Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright’s Manhattan offices, officials said.

New York City cabbies formed a protest caravan of yellow taxis yesterday, blocking traffic outside City Hall and the offices of three separate medallion lenders to demand immediate debt relief.

A chopper service for the wealthy just sold out of a commuter-pass between the Hamptons and Manhattan in September, suggesting that many of the wealthy who fled the city during the pandemic plan to remain in the Hamptons for the fall.

New York’s never-enforced ban on single-use plastic bags has survived a lawsuit lodged by a plastic bag manufacturer and convenience store owners, but a state judge ruled that state regulators went too far by allowing stores to hand out thicker plastic bags.

…The DEC said it will provide the necessary 30-day notice to stores and businesses that the state will soon start to enforce the ban.

Crossgates Mall is suing six tenants, including the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, over $800,000 in unpaid rent since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the mall, which shut its doors back in March until it was allowed to re-open last month.

The town of Guilderland has announced the formation of a police reform committee whose main task will be developing a plan to combat racial bias in policing.

One player and one staffer from the Mets tested positive for COVID, postponing yesterday game against the Marlins in Miami and today’s Subway Series opener at Citi Field against the Yankees, according to an MLB announcement.

The James Beard Foundation, which honors outstanding American chefs, restaurants and bars each year in a gala ceremony, said that it would not announce any more winners for its awards in 2020 and 2021, citing the pandemic that has closed restaurants and continues to ravage the economy.

South Dakota health officials warned that a number of people who attended the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this month, including some who came from out of state, have come down with COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating bagged peaches as a likely source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 68 people across nine states, 14 of whom were hospitalized.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



1 Comment

  1. Dave

    The more I read about Trump and his cronies I can’t wait to flush the turd on Nov. 3rd.


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