Good morning. It’s Wednesday, for those of you keeping track of such things. For those who are on vacation or otherwise unencumbered by the passage of time…I envy you.
Last night at sundown marked the start of Tu B’Av, which is a minor Jewish holiday that, in modern-day Israel, is celebrated as a holiday of love – kinda like Valentine’s Day.
It is believed to be an auspicious day for weddings, commitment ceremonies, the renewal of vows, or proposing marriage. It’s also just a nice day for romance, if you’re in need of an excuse to get amorous.
In the old days, Tu B’Av marked the start of the grape harvest, which ended around Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. It seems like one could make a stretch of a connection between grapes and grape products (namely wine) and love…and then subsequently, atonement.
But I digress.
Anyway, it’s worth noting even though it’s a minor holiday, because couldn’t we all use a little more love in our lives these days? Why not do something nice for someone today, and chalk it up to an observance of Tu B’Av? Hurry up, you only have until sundown tonight to get your declarations of love – platonic or otherwise – in under the wire.
On this day in 1861, then-President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the first personal income tax (3 percent of incomes over $800). This is particularly germane these days in New York as elected officials debate whether to increase taxes on the rich to help close the multibillion-dollar revenue gap created by the pandemic.
Shorthand: Progressives (like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez et al) say the rich can afford to pay more and therefore should, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has never been a big fan of the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” has expressed concern that all the wealthy people who left the state during the pandemic will be further disincentivized from returning home if their tax bills go up.
Also on this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe, then just 36 years old, was found dead in her home in Los Angeles, and after a brief investigation, was determined to have taken her own life (though there are those who still don’t believe that conclusion).
On this day – just last year – the poet and author Toni Morrison, whose work focused on the Black experience in America – particularly the challenges faced by Black women – died at the age of 88.
Today is National Underwear Day. I’m not sure how to celebrate that…by wearing underwear? By NOT wearing underwear, so I can then better appreciate the benefits of undergarments when I return to them? I’ll leave that for you to decide. (For the record, I’m going to wear underwear, OK? So, if you see me, don’t even ask because the answer is “yes.” Nothing to see here. Move along).
Interesting to note, though, that underwear is a great equalizer, as a cursory internet search reveals that some version of it exists in almost every culture on the planet.
Today’s Google Doodle is a public service announcement of sorts, encouraging everyone to mask up as the pandemic rages on across the globe, with more than 18 million cases registered. It’s cute that all the letters of “Google” are wearing their own masks, but this is no laughing matter, as we’re all well aware.
After some distinctly unseasonable cooler temperatures and a lot of rain, compliments of that tropical storm who shall go unmentioned because I remain angry about the crummy weather yesterday, we are back to our regularly scheduled summer forecast of sun, sun and more sun, with temperatures in the low 80s, according to The Weather Channel.
The weekend – yes, I’m looking forward to the weekend already – is shaping up to be pretty nice, too, with more sun and heat.
In the headlines….
Three US Defense Department officials said that as of last night there was no indication that the massive explosion that rocked Beirut were an “attack,” contradicting an earlier claim from President Donald Trump.
Officials in Lebanon had previously stated the blast came from a large quantity of explosive materials that were being held in a warehouse, but Trump, citing conversations with top U.S. military personnel, characterized the explosion as an “attack.”
The explosive material, which Lebanese officials identified as ammonium nitrate, had been kept at the warehouse for the past six years, according to Prime Minister Hassan Diab. “All those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price,” he said.
During the interview, Trump talked about how his administration has done an “incredible” job of navigating the pandemic and how the outbreak is “under control” despite surging infection numbers.
“They are dying. That’s true, and — it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.”
The president doubled down on his claims, saying during a news conference last night that “strong mitigation efforts” are “working very well” and rattled off numbers he called “spectacular” on the country’s economy and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the U.S. could end up “in a really bad situation” if it does not bring its daily coronavirus case count down to 10,000 by September.
Novavax announced that its potential vaccine to prevent Covid-19 generated a promising immune response in an early stage clinical trial, but the biotech company’s stock fell briefly on concerns about its safety.
Hospitalized Covid-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma rich with antibodies from recovered patients reduced their mortality rate by about 50 percent, according to researchers running a large national study.
The unexpected demand for plasma has inadvertently undercut the research that could prove that it works.
A recent survey identified dozens of potential long-term coronavirus symptoms that had previously been unreported, including hair loss.
The Justice Department is seeking as much as $18.1 billion from bankrupt opioid maker Purdue Pharma, new filings show, a demand that could disrupt the company’s months-long effort to reach a settlement with states and local communities that accuse it of helping fuel the opioid crisis.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the circumstances around Eastman Kodak’s announcement of a $765 million government loan to make drugs at its U.S. factories.
Democratic leaders left a meeting with Trump administration officials yesterday saying they are plodding toward a coronavirus relief deal. As the sides grind through differences to try to strike to a relief agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects to back whatever aid agreement they reach.
A judge correctly struck down a new Department of Homeland Security rule that went into effect earlier this year denying green cards to legal immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other forms of public assistance, an appeals court said.
With the Trump administration’s decision to end the 2020 census count four weeks early, the Census Bureau now has to accomplish what officials have said it cannot do: accurately count the nation’s hardest-to-reach residents — nearly four of every 10 households — in just six weeks.
The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit against Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske over changes to the state’s general election plan that include automatically mailing ballots to all active registered voters this November.
At least four people who have been active in Republican politics are linked to Kanye West’s attempt to get on the presidential ballot this year. The connection raises questions about the aims of the entertainer’s effort and whether it is regarded within the GOP as a spoiler campaign that could aid Trump.
Trump banned his former friend, the wealthy investor Jeffrey Epstein, from his exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club for hitting on the teenage daughter of another member, a new book claims.
The president signed legislation that will devote nearly $3 billion a year to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands following its overwhelming approval by both parties in Congress.
Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. government take a cut from the forced sale of the viral Chinese app TikTok sparked a new round of anger and reflection in China, as TikTok’s founder warned employees about “rising anti-Chinese sentiment.”
Walt Disney posted its first quarterly loss since 2001, nearly $5 billion, as the majority of its business segments reeled from government efforts to corral the coronavirus by shutting down public spaces around the world.
The coronavirus has put coal in our stocking, with the annual Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes being canceled for the first time in 87 years.
“We regret that the 2020 production of the ‘Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes’” has been canceled, Madison Square Garden Entertainment said in a statement, citing “uncertainty associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Hotels nationwide have embarked on a transformation of the most basic ways they run their business, aimed at showing would-be travelers they understand where they’re at: terrified.
Travelers from Rhode Island must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in New York because of high levels of coronavirus there. It became the latest addition to a list that now includes 34 states and Puerto Rico. Delaware and Washington, D.C., were dropped from the list, since their coronavirus indicators have improved.
It’s the first time since the tri-state governors set up the quarantine system that a New England state has been on the list.
Youngsters hitting nightclubs and beaches have sparked an uptick in coronavirus cases around the globe, the World Health Organization said.
A COVID crackdown is going down in the Hamptons following the recent charity concert headlined by the Chainsmokers.
Nearly 100 New York bars and restaurants have had their liquor licenses suspended during the coronavirus pandemic for violating social distancing and other COVID-19-related restrictions, according to new state data released yesterday.
Cuomo easily defeated Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a surprise challenge to determine who will head New York’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
The New York State Senate Education Committee will host a virtual discussion today on education and health guidance for school reopening this fall.
After four days of confusion over whether school districts need to have a plan in place to test teachers and students preemptively for COVID-19, a Cuomo spokesman clarified remarks made by the governor during his daily briefings. It appears the plans most districts submitted still meet the standards.
The NYT editorial board calls on Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to set aside their longstanding differences and work together during the pandemic.
There are still about 50 school districts that haven’t sent reopening blueprints to the state yet, according to the governor.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which prohibits courts from evicting residential tenants who experience financial hardship due to COVID-19, is set to expire tonight. Without that protection, advocates say thousands of New Yorkers will be at risk of becoming homeless.
As many as 400,000 families across New York City could end up in housing court as the coronavirus takes a toll on people’s health and finances.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker warned Rensselaer County’s top executive late last week that a recent attempt to block a health inspection at the county-run nursing home could put the facility’s Medicaid and Medicare funding at risk.
A record number of New Yorkers filed their state tax returns using free software through the state’s Free File program this year, the state tax department announced.
New York City’s top public health official, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, resigned in a shakeup that followed months of tension over the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She’ll be replaced by Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, an official and physician in the public hospital system.
De Blasio has pointed to court delays and bail reform to explain the surge in gun violence. But the NYPD’s own numbers tell a different story.
Students enrolled at New York’s public colleges must first pass a COVID-19 test in order to get access to campus in a bid to prevent the spread of the contagious virus.
About 71 percent of Long Island parents are worried their children’s education will suffer because of COVID-19, a nextLI survey found. When the pandemic caused the sudden closure of school buildings in March, forcing instruction to go online, only 36 percent of parents said their districts were prepared.
So far, NYC restaurants are mixed on whether they would participate in outdoor dining in the colder months.
A federal judge’s ruling to reinstate thousands of invalidated ballots from New York’s primary shows that the state needs to come up with a better voting process for November’s general election, voting advocates and elected officials said.
The U.S. Postal Service is disputing bipartisan complaints that it might not be prepared to process the millions of ballots voters are expected to cast by mail this fall, but experts still believe recent service changes mandated to save money might keep ballots from being delivered on time.
Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney was finally deemed the winner of her tightly-contested Democratic primary race that was plagued by problems with mail-in ballots, her campaign announced.
In the South Bronx, Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old New York City councilman, won a 12-way Democratic primary for a soon-to-be-open House seat, continuing a dramatic remaking of the New York congressional delegation.
A staggering 25 percent of mail-in ballots cast in Brooklyn for June’s primary elections were declared invalid, it was revealed yesterday, as de Blasio called on the Board of Elections to shape up by November.
A man was killed by a falling tree branch in New York City and more than two million households in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were left without power yesterday as Tropical Storm Isaias barreled through the region.
A flood of 911 calls overwhelmed emergency call centers as Tropical Storm Isaias rolled into New York City.
Elected officials in towns hardest hit by power outages from Tropical Storm Isaias are already expressing outrage over communications problems in reporting outages to PSEG Long Island, with some calling for the state to investigate.
Tropical Storm Isaias shut down the region’s rail system yesterday, as a barrage of downed trees blocked tracks, forcing the LIRR, sister-railroad Metro-North and several subway lines out of service.
The city of Albany broke its rainfall record for the date yesterday afternoon with 3.23 inches of rain falling, causing flooding, street closures and police rescuing children stranded in a vehicle on Central Avenue near Colonie border.
City of Troy detectives have started an investigation into the July 30 fatal shooting by an off-duty police officer of a man who was repeatedly stabbing his estranged wife during a domestic violence incident, which includes listening to 911 calls and interviewing eyewitnesses.
Another civil lawsuit has been filed against Mavis Discount Tires alleging that employees at its Saratoga Springs location were negligent in allowing the 2001 stretch Ford Excursion limo involved in the horrific 2018 crash in Schoharie to be on the road after it failed a state inspection just months before the disaster.
Hudson Valley Community College students were booted from their campus apartments with little notice to make way for students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is “de-densifying” its campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The AG’s office is investigating.
Immigration attorneys and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over living conditions for detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Mann, the former MyPayrollHR CEO accused of committing a $70 million bank fraud that caused the collapse of his Clifton Park payroll company, is scheduled to appear in federal court later this month for a possible guilty plea.
Thoroughbred horse owners from Sackatoga Stable, whose horse Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes, are inviting fans to join them to watch the $1 million Travers Stakes race on Saturday, Aug. 8, at The Diamond Club at Embassy Suites.
Camp Woodmere, the compound established on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks in 1883, sold at auction Saturday for approximately $5.21 million.
Adirondack protection groups are asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation to purchase 36,000 acres of land put up for sale by the family of the late Marylou Whitney to make sure it isn’t divided up and developed.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on top officials to rename Confederate monuments, including at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Photo credit: George Fazio.