Rise and Shine: Aug. 25, 2020

Time to Rise and Shine and take on Tuesday, CivMixers. Up and at ’em.

On this day in 1916, then-President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the National Park Service Organic Act, AKA the “Organic Act,” which established the National Park Service (NPS), an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The purpose of the NPS, as per the act, is to “promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Parks have taken on a new significance and meaning in our collective existence these days as our opportunities for entertainment have been dramatically curtailed by the pandemic. People are spending more time outside, which is GREAT – in theory.

There have been countless studies about the benefits of spending time in nature. Just being outside for a short period of time can help you manage stress, lower your blood pressure and even reduce your risk of cancer – and it’s FREE.

The downside is that we are perhaps loving our parks a little too much these days. Increased foot traffic isn’t always the best for sensitive alpine plants and animals. And also humans have a horrible habit of leaving all manner of things behind when they go out into the woods.

People, PLEASE, if you bring it in, bring it out. This is hiking best practices 101 – and for lord’s sake, dig yourself a hole to poop in. Don’t befoul our wilderness. It’s not only bad for Mother Nature, but downright rude for your fellow humans who are seeking solace in green spaces and don’t need to see your trash.

The DEC has been grappling with overuse in the popular Adirondack High Peaks for some time now. A permit system, which exists at parks elsewhere in the country, has been considered, but thus far isn’t going to be implemented. I know it’s controversial, but I’m in favor. We can debate this offline, if you’d like.

In the meantime, why not consider some less-traveled hikes? The High Peaks are amazing, I know. And peak bagging is a fun challenge. But there are a lot of beautiful and remote areas in this state that don’t get visited nearly as much. Seek them out. Try something new.

O.K., I’ll come down off my soapbox now.

FWIW, it’s also National Banana Split Day. (I’m writing a lot about food these days…what does that mean, I wonder). Anyway, I think banana splits are just…too much. All those sauces and stuff makes one big mess in a dish. I know some people enjoy the ice cream soup thing. But I like my ice cream as the creator intended: Still frozen and largely unadulterated. Maybe a few sprinkles. Yes, I’m five.

Today’s Google Doodle is worth a mention. It celebrates Barbara Hepworth, an English abstract sculptor who is widely considered one of the mid-20th century’s most impactful modernist sculptors. During her lifetime, her work enjoyed international prominence that was unusual for women artists.

Today is the anniversary of Hepworth’s relocation in 1939 to St. Ives, a town on England’s southern coast, where she co-founded the Penwith Society of Arts and became one of the leading figure in a local colony of artists. She died there in 1973.

And one more: Today is the anniversary of the death of the “Princess of R&B,” legendary singer-songwriter Aaliyah, who was at the height of her career when she tragically died in a plane crash in the Bahamas on Aug. 25, 2001.

We are in for widely scattered showers and maybe a few thunderstorms – a few could be quite severe. This. is all going to happen early in the day, and then…clouds. Temperatures in the low-80s.

In the headlines:

Attempting to rewrite history during the first night of the Republican National Convention, the GOP tried to portray President Donald Trump as a caring leader who quickly confronted the coronavirus, while casting Joe Biden as an ultra-liberal who threatens the American way of life.

Hours after Republican delegates formally nominated Trump for a second term, the president and his party made plain that they intended to engage in sweeping revisionism about his management of the coronavirus pandemic, his record on race relations and much else.

Trump himself told convention delegates that Democrats are using the coronavirus to “steal” the 2020 election, arguing closures of businesses and demands for mail-in voting are not driven by a pandemic that has killed nearly 180,000 Americans in five months, but to defeat him.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress that the Postal Service could be trusted to carry out the largest vote-by-mail program in American history without political bias, even as Trump repeated baseless accusations that mail-in voting would be used by his rivals to rig the November election against him.

Trump also falsely accused Democrats of rigging November’s election, while his allies and family members hailed him as a champion of “western civilization” in dark and dramatic speeches aimed at firing up his hard-right base.

In a radical break from tradition, Trump appeared from the White House twice during the RNC last night, and he will deliver his acceptance speech this week from the South Lawn. Melania Trump will speak from the Rose Garden. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will beam in to endorse the president from a rooftop in Jerusalem.

Trump has made his executive order tying prescription drug prices in the U.S. to the prices paid in Europe and other developed nations — and the ensuing war that has broken out with the pharmaceutical industry — a centerpiece of his campaign for re-election. The problem: No such executive order has been released.

The leadership of Jerry Falwell Jr., one of the most prominent evangelical supporters of Trump, resigned as president of Liberty University late last night after a report emerged of sexual indiscretions involving Falwell, his wife and a pool attendant.

Speaking at the RNC, Donald Trump Jr. called Biden “the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp” in a convention speech warning that the Democratic nominee’s fiscal policies would “crush the working man and woman.”

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host who is dating Trump Jr., made waves on social media with her in-your-face address trashing the Democrats’ “socialist agenda” and painting a doom-and-gloom picture of America with Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, in charge.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley may have fired up speculation about a 2024 presidential bid, delivering a speech at the RNC that praised Trump while touting her own accomplishments and life story.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple caught on video pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home in June, endorsed Trump as the law-and-order candidate at the RNC.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio made an appearance at the RNC in a video trashing their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy declared the state’s 94 delegates for Trump in a short speech that praised the president’s pandemic response and accused Cuomo of lying.

While he’s backing away from a formal endorsement, former Rep. John Faso, a Republican, said he will probably vote for Trump in 2020 – although some former GOP members of Congress are now publicly backing Biden. Faso said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, casting a ballot for Libertarian Gary Johnson instead.

A 33-year-old man was infected a second time with the coronavirus more than four months after his first bout, the first documented case of so-called reinfection, researchers in Hong Kong reported.

COVID is now the No. 3 cause of death in the US – ahead of accidents, injuries, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, “and many, many other causes,” according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former CDC director.

The World Health Organization cautioned that using blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat other patients is still considered an experimental therapy, voicing the concern as a U.S. boost for the treatment has many scientists afraid formal studies will be derailed.

The Food and Drug Administration continues to add hand sanitizers to a list of products that should be avoided after they tested positive for methanol and a dangerous new contaminant – 1-propanol – recently found in some products.

Social Security funds would run out as soon as 2023 if Trump ends the payroll tax cut and the revenue isn’t replaced, the agency’s chief actuary found.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said that it has agreed not to enforce a subpoena to an accounting firm for Trump’s financial records until after a federal appeals court has ruled on the president’s request for a stay pending appeal of his lawsuit.

Eric Trump is refusing to be interviewed as part of an investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged in new court papers filed in Manhattan yesterday.

The president’s son, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, abruptly canceled an interview with the attorney general’s office last month, and last week the company told the office that the company and its lawyers would not comply with seven subpoenas related to the investigation.

The AG’s office is investigating whether the Trump Organization and the president improperly inflated the value of his assets in financial filings, according to court papers made public that seek to compel company executives to comply with subpoenas.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have yet to comment after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday dropped its recommendation for travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon returning from trips overseas or out of state during the coronavirus pandemic.

Musicians, singers and dancers coming to New York City to perform on MTV’s Music Video Awards will be exempt from quarantining to participate in the show, even if they’re coming from a state with high COVID-19 infection rates.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts agreed to coordinate on buying the PPE and other equipment their hospitals needed, saying this would stabilize the supply chain, stop the states from bidding against each other, and reduce prices. That pledge has yet to be fulfilled.

Police shot tear gas to disperse protesters defying curfew in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last night as they demonstrated against yet another police shooting of a Black man: Jacob Blake, 29.

What began as peaceful demonstrations in Kenosha became violent as hundreds of protesters clashed with law enforcement, marking a second night of unrest here after a Black man was shot multiple times in the back by police.

Hundreds of protesters poured into the streets of Manhattan to condemn the police shooting of Blake in a hail of bullets as his three children watched from the car.

Users of videoconferencing app Zoom reported problems with the service yesterday morning, just as many students in the U.S. returned to school for virtual classes dependent on the technology.

The infection rate for the coronavirus in New York state plummeted Sunday to the lowest level during the pandemic, Cuomo announced.

Western New York is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases and while it’s not a cause for serious concern, it is a “caution flag,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo announced a new five-pronged executive order meant to ensure November’s election goes off without a hitch.

The University of Alabama has reported more than 500 cases of COVID-19 since classes resumed last week. At least 531 students, faculty, and staff on the university’s main campus in Tuscaloosa have been infected with the virus, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Marist College in Poughkeepsie has suspended 15 students who attended an off-campus party last week and ignored coronavirus pandemic precautions, just days before classes were set to begin.

A Florida judge ruled against the state’s order requiring schools to open for in-person instruction by the end of August, calling parts of it “unconstitutional.” He granted a temporary injunction, putting the decision-making power in the hands of individual districts.

Lawmakers in the state Senate urged their federal counterparts to find a funding solution for New York’s schools, as the state withholds 20 percent in funding amid the recession created by the coronavirus pandemic.

CUNY is still charging students an “activity fee” even though it is conducting classes remotely.

New York will allow “low risk” school sports like tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming to start up again on Sept. 21, Cuomo said.

Public schools in Danbury, Connecticut will begin the year with remote learning amid a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the city, the superintendent announced.

New York City streets and parks will be turned into outdoor classrooms amid the coronavirus, de Blasio said. The union representing city school principals blasted the outdoor learning plan as too little, too late.

De Blasio has said his administration will address historic inequities in rebuilding the city’s economy after the coronavirus pandemic. A new analysis of the wage and employment disparities facing Black New Yorkers shows how hard that will be.

Now that most NYC-area schools have released their plans for the upcoming school year, with a combination of remote and in-person learning, parents of elite students are scrambling to supplement what they believe will inevitably be lost if students aren’t in the classroom — by hiring private educators.

A coalition of civic and business leaders in New York, led by former Gov. David Paterson, is pushing back on proposals to raise taxes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and says it will spend millions to advance efforts to help the state’s economic recovery.

Blanket business shutdowns, which the U.S. never tried before this pandemic, led to a deep recession. Economists and health experts say there may be a better way.

The majority of Brooklyn’s small businesses will struggle to survive this fall because of coronavirus-related losses, according to a new survey by a local industry group.

The recovery of the NYC economy will be shaped by how small business districts in the outer boroughs rebound just as much as by how larger destinations like Midtown and Lower Manhattan — the city’s commercial centers — do, business leaders and economic experts say.

Small, minority-owned travel agencies in New York, already pummeled by internet websites, are facing further devastation because of the pandemic.

The Public Theater, a leading Off Broadway nonprofit, is giving small “financial relief” grants to several hundred freelance artists as many grapple with the impact of joblessness and expiring unemployment benefits.

New York City buildings department officials were negligent in allowing the owners of a Midtown building to delay repairs to its damaged facade, where a piece of debris fell and killed a woman last December, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.

In New York City, where early coronavirus lockdowns kept residents inside cramped apartments for months, apartments with terraces in Manhattan are selling for 5.4 percent more per square foot than those sold this year before the pandemic lockdown.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld explains why NYC is not dead.

The hundreds of thousands of bikers who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have departed western South Dakota, but public health departments in multiple states are trying to measure how much and how quickly the coronavirus spread in bars, tattoo shops, and gatherings before people traveled home to nearly every state in the country.

De Blasio predicted that wealthy New Yorkers who have abandoned the city due to the pandemic would be back, and if they don’t return “I guarantee you they’ll be replaced by others who will bring a lot of creativity and talent.”

The cash-strapped MTA is putting up a five-figure reward for information leading to the arrest of the “sociopath” vandal who’s been smashing 7 train windows, the agency’s top boss announced.

Cuomo said he didn’t know what his plan will be for overnight subway service when the MTA at the end of the month ends a program that offers free cab rides to essential workers during the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. shutdown.

The reopening of gyms across the state was marked by confusion among some fitness operators, as well as a mad dash by county health officials, to determine exactly what they should be doing.

Buffalo Music Hall of Fame guitarist Michael Hund is suing Cuomo, demanding the governor roll back the state’s restrictions on live music at venues and compensate for financial loss.

Nassau and Suffolk counties have moved dozens of people who were homeless and infected with the coronavirus to motels in an effort to isolate them from group homes, shelters and parks to stop the virus from spreading in crowded quarters and public spaces, officials said.

New York recently nixed a $55 million, five-year contract with a local nonprofit that employs people with disabilities, yet it continues to pay out-of-state vendors nearly $1 billion for various printing services.

New York’s highest court quashed what appears to be Republicans’ last chance to get a candidate on the ballot to challenge state Sen. John Brooks in a key Long Island district.

PSEG Long Island said its internal review of the response to Tropical Storm Isaias will include examining why the utility did not activate a force of up to 1,000 National Grid employees already on Long Island for support and survey work early in the restoration.

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, 76, who is headed to prison for a corruption conviction, threatened to punch a NY Post photographer in the mouth.

A car crashed into an outdoor dining setup on the Upper East Side last night, leaving one person hospitalized, authorities said.

During his tenure as a New York City police officer, Saratoga Town Justice Daniel Waldron was named in 10 complaints alleging police misconduct, according to a database released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of New York.

The city of Albany is hiring a Virginia-based firm for $80,000 to conduct a study of racial bias in the Albany Police Department.

Resisting calls from Albany County prosecutors and the victim’s mother for a harsher sentence, a judge sentenced Isis Knight to the minimum of 15 years to life in prison for her role in the 2018 murder-for-hire of Ty-Son Williams.

One city of Albany bar and another in Schenectady were among 14 businesses statewide that had their licenses to sell alcohol suspended by the State Liquor Authority in recent days for various violations of restrictions related to the continuing effort to slow the spread of the coronvirus, according to the governor’s office.

New Yorkers accused of illegally possessing guns are being released at more than double the rate during the coronavirus pandemic than they were in the same period in 2019, the Daily News has learned.

In another example of law enforcement backing Republicans, the NYC Police Benevolent Association endorsed GOP congressional challenger Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis over first-term Staten Island Democratic incumbent Rep. Max Rose in what is considered one of the most competitive House races in the country.

The California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty for Scott Peterson, who was found guilty in 2004 of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, in a notorious case that became fodder for the tabloids and cable news and spawned at least one made-for-TV movie. His conviction was upheld.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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