Rise and Shine: Aug. 31, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. I have to confess that I’m a little bummed out – more than the usual mid-pandemic melancholy, I mean.

It’s Monday AND it’s the last day of August. What a depressing combination. I feel summer slipping away. The change of seasons actually always kind of throws me. I’m not great with change as a rule.

But then I Googled “last day of summer” and found out that – astronomically speaking – the season doesn’t end until Sept. 22, which is the first day of fall. So what does this mean? Well…

“The astronomical start of a season is based on the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. More specifically, the start of each season is marked by either a solstice (for winter and summer) or an equinox (for spring and autumn). A solstice is when the Sun reaches the most southerly or northerly point in the sky, while an equinox is when the Sun passes over Earth’s equator. Because of leap years, the dates of the equinoxes and solstices can shift by a day or two over time, causing the start dates of the seasons to shift, too.”

This is good news! I am restored in body and soul.

Unfortunately, there’s more. Meteorologically speaking, which is to say based on the annual temperature cycle and the 12-month calendar, the first day of fall is indeed Sept. 1.

However, this is something of a false construct, since it was climate scientists and meteorologists who created this definition to make it easier for them to keep records of the weather, because the start of each meteorological season doesn’t change from one year to the next.

No less an authoritative source than “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” follows the astronomical definition of the seasons. So, I’m going to go with Sept. 22.

These end of summer/early fall days are glorious, though. The heat starts to wane and the air gets a hint of that fabulous fall crispness…yes, it has hints of the winter to come, but let’s not think of that right now. Also, let’s not think about pumpkin spice. If you love it, you do you. Personally, I’m a hard “no.”

OK, so let’s think about it just a little bit. If you have a few moments to go down the internet rabbit hole, this is a pretty interesting article about how we all got obsessed with pumpkin spice as a flavor.

Oh, and to no one’s surprise, a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte turns out to be a massive sugar bomb, and not terribly good for you, though it does contain more protein than you might think.

Speaking of good things to eat (I know, I did say that the jury is out on the pumpkin spice latte thing), it’s National Trail Mix Day, and I can definitely get down with that. Nuts, dried fruit and chocolate? Yes, please.

On this day in 1997, Princess Diana of Wales died at the age of 36 after being injured in a care accident in a road tunnel in Paris while being chased by photographers on motorcycles.

Diana, as she was known to the world, was taken to the hospital and died there after doctors’ attempts to save her proved unsuccessful. Her partner, (she was about a year out from her divorce of Prince Charles by this time) Egyptian billionaire Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140 in which the couple was riding, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The only survivor of the crash was Diana’s British bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones. He had been wearing a seatbelt, whereas the others were not. Had Diana been wearing her seatbelt, experts suggest she very well may have survived the crash with minor injuries.

A statue of the late princess, commissioned by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, who were 15 and 12, respectively, at the time of their mother’s death, will be installed on July 1, 2021 on what would have been her 60th birthday. They commissioned the statue in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of her death.

We’re in for a stretch of really lovely weather, with a mix of sun and clouds today and temperatures in the low 70s.

In the headlines…

The number of cases of the coronavirus has now passed 25 million worldwide. The milestone happened yesterday, fueled by a surge of more than 78,000 cases in India on Saturday.

The United States was on the brink of 6 million coronavirus cases yesterday, and those numbers are likely just a small fraction of the true penetration into the world population, experts say.

A new paper published in The BMJ, the peer-reviewed UK medical journal, finds that the 2-meter (6-foot) safe physical-distancing rule is “an oversimplification based on outdated science.”

Companies are racing to bolster Covid-19 testing as schools reopen and flu season approaches, saying they aim to avoid a repeat of July when overwhelming demand for testing led to long delays for results.

One person was shot and killed late Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of President Donald Trump supporters and social justice protesters clashed in the streets, police said.

…The victim was a “good friend” of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, founder Joey Gibson said.

The mayor of Portland, Oregon and Trump engaged in a real-time argument yesterday as the president sent a flurry of critical tweets about Ted Wheeler as the mayor was holding a press conference about the fatal shooting of a right-wing supporter in his city the night before.

In a tweet, Trump shared a video of the pro-Trump caravan driving into Portland and labeled its members “GREAT PATRIOTS!” In another tweet, he referred to protesters in Washington, D.C., as “Disgraceful Anarchists” and said, “We are watching them closely.”

Oregon State Police will return to Portland to assist city officers following a fatal shooting amid clashes between Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters, Gov. Kate Brown announced.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will make a speech in Pittsburgh, PA today in which he will pose the question: “Are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?” The President – despite pleas from the Wisconsin governor not to do so – will travel to the violence-wracked city of Kenosha tomorrow.

A federal agency is resurrecting a version of Predict, a scientific network that for a decade watched for new pathogens dangerous to humans. Biden has also vowed to fund the effort.

The Republican National Convention may have ended with a literal bang — fireworks spelling out “Trump 2020” — on Thursday last week, but according to a new post-convention ABC News-Ipsos poll, the president isn’t getting much of a convention bounce — at least when it comes to his approval rating.

The decision by the nation’s top intelligence official to halt classified, in-person briefings to Congress about foreign interference in a presidential election that is just nine weeks away exposes the fundamental tension about who needs to know this information.

The family of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha police officer, led a march through the city on Saturday as thousands followed.

A defense attorney for the fired Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in connection with the death of George Floyd is asking a judge to drop all charges, arguing the 46-year-old man’s death was allegedly from a drug overdose and not caused by the officer planting his knee in the back of Floyd’s neck.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron of Kentucky said that he had received a ballistics report on the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, calling it a “critical piece” of the investigation.

A St. Louis police officer who was a “hero” to his family died yesterday after being shot in the head by a barricaded gunman on the city’s south side, authorities said.

The tweet announcing that the world had lost “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman, 43, to colon cancer, is now the most liked tweet of all time – with 5.7 million likes. Twitter confirmed the accolade on its own verified account Saturday simply stating: “Most liked Tweet ever. A tribute fit for a King. #WakandaForever.”

Boseman’s life and legacy are being celebrated by some of his most famous friends and colleagues. Just two days after the actor died of colon cancer, ABC brought together many of Boseman’s former co-stars to reflect on his impact and his friendship.

Louisiana’s death toll from Hurricane Laura was at 14 yesterday as cleanup efforts continue in the wake of the powerful storm that devastated parts of western Louisiana.

SUNY Oneonta will close for in-person instruction for the next two weeks following a spike in coronavirus infections, incoming Chancellor Jim Malatras said.

…The primary source of the infection spread has been traced to a number of student parties in and around campus, state officials said. So far, five students and three campus organizations have been suspended for their involvement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo yestwerday deployed a virus SWAT team to SUNY Oneonta to help handle the outbreak. The campus will shift to remote learning, but students can stay on campus grounds with only “limited campus activity.”

Officials from Upstate and from the SUNY Health and Welfare Department will assist SUNY Oneonta officials for a mandatory, rapid pool testing of about 3,000 students over a three-day period, Malatras said.

The University at Albany has suspended four students after investigating off-campus parties where campus leaders fear coronavirus could get a toehold. A fifth student has been thrown out of campus housing for an on-campus incident but can continue to attend classes.

The University at Albany is suspending all athletic-related activities indefinitely out of concern that athletes have likely attended off-campus parties that could have spread coronavirus.

Nine students at Cornell University have recently tested positive for COVID-19, University Vice President Ryan Lombardi said in a statement.

“I think the colleges are the canary in the coal mine,” Cuomo said. “I think what we’re seeing at colleges, we’re going to see at the K-12 setting when those schools start to reopen.”

Enrollment at New York’s public colleges reportedly has dropped amid the coronavirus. The number of students at City University of New York schools has fallen by 4.4 percent for at least the fall semester, according to early figures reported by many of its 25 campuses.

Beth Berlin, a former top state education official, has been tapped to lead SUNY Empire State in Malatras’s absence until a new president is selected.

Hundreds of raucous party-goers crammed into a pool area near the University of South Carolina over the weekend in violation of coronavirus rules, authorities said.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is withholding $12 million in funds allocated for improvements to Manhattan public schools, including upgrades to ventilation systems, to help plug the $5 billion deficit caused by the coronavirus, according to the borough president.

As de Blasio warns of up to 22,000 layoffs of municipal workers this fall, New York City is paying millions of dollars in consulting fees to some of the world’s biggest corporations, including Deloitte and KPMG.

COVID-19 — and the measures taken to keep people safe from it — could now complicate NYC’s ambitious measures intended to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, experts and building industry insiders say.

Five daily classroom “mask breaks” are among the new COVID rules and rituals greeting students and teachers at a Bronx elementary school. There will also be timed hand-washing, scheduled restroom visits, and students eating lunch at their desks without looking at the teacher giving a lesson.

The New York City teachers union prepared on Saturday for a possible strike-authorization vote to delay opening school buildings. De Blasio has previously called the union’s strike threat a provocation and a stunt.

New Yorkers keeping their children out of schools this fall over concerns about the new coronavirus are getting creative with space, repurposing city gyms, condo rooftops, music schools and more into makeshift classrooms.

Dozens of school districts across Long Island have pushed back reopening dates, largely as a means of providing more training time for teachers and other staff dealing with the potential threat of COVID-19 infection.

Despite a budget crunch that threatens teacher layoffs and a “massive staff shortage” predicted by principals, NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is spending nearly a half-million dollars to beef up his highly-paid executive staff.

Despite a “strict freeze” on hiring all but essential employees at all state agencies, the governor has brought on a number of new employees with a background in politics, not pandemics or public safety.

The governor traveled last Tuesday to Ontario County to raise campaign cash at a fundraiser hosted by the Sands family, the largest shareholder of beer-and-wine giant Constellation Brands.

Cuomo said he’ll have an announcement this week on commercial casinos, one of the very few businesses that remain completely shuttered since the coronavirus pandemic hit months ago, hinting it will be “positive news.”

Cuomo announced the state has suspended liquor licenses for six additional bars/restaurants in New York after finding “egregious violations” of pandemic-related Executive Orders, bringing the total number of liquor licenses suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to 168.

The governor said 1,024 rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests were conducted on Saturday across the eight state-run sites in Western New York during a spike in cases in an effort to help quickly identify those who are infected.

Nursing home operators are calling on the state to adopt new federal guidance released earlier this week that requires coronavirus testing for staff based on the infection rate in a community, and would reduce staff testing at the facilities to once a month.

A program to fight implicit bias among New York Police Department officers successfully changed many officers’ attitudes, according to an analysis of the effort commissioned by NYPD officials.

The city should launch an independent investigation of a possible work slowdown by NYPD officers, according to Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Borough Park Councilman Kalman Yeger blasted the law-enforcement “militia forces” he says are patrolling his Brooklyn neighborhood to bust up large gatherings amid the coronavirus.

Dozens of emergency first-responders and others who were stricken with underlying illnesses linked to their work around Ground Zero have succumbed to the pandemic, according to a top victims’ lawyer.

Facial recognition software helped the NYPD identify the suspect accused of trying to rape a fellow passenger Saturday morning on a midtown Manhattan subway platform in a witness-recorded attack, the chief of detectives said in announcing the man’s arrest.

Rich Manhattanites are fleeing New York City so fast because of the pandemic and deteriorating quality of life in the Big Apple that moving companies can barely keep up with them.

Since the pandemic began, the suburbs around New York City, from New Jersey to Westchester County to Connecticut to Long Island, have been experiencing enormous demand for homes of all prices, a surge that is unlike any in recent memory, according to officials, real estate agents and residents.

Fourteen passengers were injured and the driver was thrown through the windshield when their New Jersey Transit bus slammed into a divider at the Port Authority Bus Terminal Saturday morning, officials and sources said.

Nassau prosecutors say some of the community’s most vulnerable members have fallen victim to a spike in physical violence during the coronavirus pandemic, as quarantine conditions created “a perfect storm” for elder abuse.

A person who attended a local church service Aug. 23 has been diagnosed with COVID-19, a development that’s prompted Schenectady County officials to urge others who were present to self quarantine and contact the health department where they live.

Keith Raniere told a loyal NXIVM disciple he wanted to “get scrutiny” on the federal judge who will sentence him in October and that the judge needs to know “he’s being watched,” federal prosecutors in Brooklyn revealed in asking the same judge to send Raniere to prison for life.

The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission has a new executive director, Arthur Butler, who is slated to start today, and was selected after a national search.

The owner of a landmark downtown building cited by the city of Schenectady for dozens of alleged code violations is slated to return to court next month over the infractions.

A 7-year-old child was shot in the knee in Albany yesterday afternoon when gunman in a vehicle opened fire on a crowd of people gathered outside to enjoy the late summer weather, police said. The youngster is at least the third child 10 or younger shot in the city in 2020 and the 100th shooting victim this year.

The National Weather Service confirmed that two separate tornadoes hit eastern Saratoga and western Rensselaer counties Saturday.

A study by the financial technology company, SmartAsset, has named Johnstown, NY as the 8th cheapest place in the state to own a home. Southport, in Chemung County, topped the list of affordability.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics published a report, commissioned by the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club, calling on the state to invest more in managing trails and crowds in the Adirondacks, especially the eastern High Peaks.

The DWI case of state Assemblyman Brian Kolb, the former minority leader, which has been at a standstill since early this year due to COVID-19, will resume next month.

RIP Ken Green, a development executive described by former colleagues as the visionary behind bringing nanotech to Saratoga County, who has died at the age of 65.

The MTV Video Music Awards took the city by storm yesterday, raining victory on Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande after a powerful BLM-inspired performance by DaBaby and calls for “justice” from The Weeknd.

The VMAs were dedicated to Boseman, whose tragic death has rocked the entertainment world and beyond.

The National Football League’s regular season is scheduled to kick off Sept. 10, but if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that there are no guarantees.

United Airlines said it is permanently ending flight change fees for most domestic tickets, the latest effort to boost demand in an air-travel industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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