Rise and Shine: Aug. 7, 2020

Good Friday morning, CivMixers.

It might be a little rainy and overcast, with showers and scattered thunderstorms in the forecast and temperatures barely getting out of the 70s. But it’s still Friday, which is something to celebrate.

Here’s an obscure one: On this day in 1961, Yale Psychology Professor Stanley Milgram began conducting his controversial human behavior experiments concerning obedience toward authority figures. You’ve probably heard something about these…they were very disturbing and influenced by the events of the Holocaust – especially the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

In short: A subject walks into a lab believing that s/he is about to take part in a study of memory and learning. After being assigned the role of a teacher, the subject is asked to teach word associations to a fellow subject, who is, unbeknownst to the first person, a collaborator in the experiment.

The teaching method, is involves administering increasingly higher electric shocks to the learner. Once the presumed shock level reaches a certain point, the subject is thrown into a conflict: Should an individual who is in obvious pain and potentially at risk be freed, even as the experimenter insists that the teacher continue?

Contrary to the expectations of professionals and laymen alike, some 65 percent of all subjects continued to administer shocks up to the very highest levels.

Because at some level, we’re all lemmings, just yearning to be told what to do and be relieved of the responsibility of making decisions.

On a happier note, on this day in 2010, New York native Elena Kagan was sworn in as the 112th justice and fourth woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I neglected to note that yesterday was the official midpoint of summer, which is kind of depressing because I, for one, am not at all ready for snow and cold and long, dark days stuck inside.

The traditional midpoint of summer, which apparently is a different thing altogether, is Aug. 1, otherwise known as Lammas Day, one of the four traditional “cross-quarter” days midway between the solstices and the equinoxes.

The name is derived from the Old English “loaf-mass,” because it was once observed as a harvest festival. Lammas Day comes almost exactly six months after Groundhog Day – the traditional midpoint of winter. Celebrations of Lammas Day include baking of bread, and enjoying a feast with friends and family.

It’s National Beer Day in case you’re in need of an excuse to enjoy a cold one to mark the end of another work week – or even just because. Beer, by the way, is one of the oldest known human-produced drinks.

The U.S. isn’t the world’s top consumer of beer. That honor goes to the Czech Republic. In fact, we don’t even make the top 10.

In the headlines…

President Donald Trump ordered a sweeping but unspecified ban on dealings with the Chinese owners of consumer apps TikTok and WeChat, although it remains unclear if he has the legal authority to actually ban the apps from the U.S.

The orders will take effect in 45 days. Their scope is not yet clear, but according to the text of the twin orders, they will prohibit U.S. individuals and companies from involvement in “any transaction that is related to WeChat” or TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

Chinese companies with shares traded on U.S. stock exchanges would be forced to give up their listings unless they comply with U.S. audit requirements under a plan recommended by the Trump administration.

Trump announced that he was reimposing a 10 percent tariff on Canadian aluminum to help struggling American producers, a step that is likely to incite retaliation and worsen ties with Canada just one month after the countries’ new trade deal went into effect.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday a stimulus deal would become much less likely to pass at all if Republicans and Democrats don’t make progress or agree to a deal by the end of the week. And it appears we’re heading into that self-imposed Friday deadline without a deal.

The White House and congressional Democrats warned last night that they remain far apart on coronavirus relief, raising new doubts that they can reach a consensus on sweeping legislation to address the public health crisis and the economic devastation it has caused.

Trump said he is preparing executive action as soon today on student loan payments, as emergency relief for nearly 40 million federal student loan borrowers is set to expire in eight weeks.

The Paycheck Protection Program provided respite for hard-hit small businesses, but it is ending soon. With no word on further government help, owners worry about their fate.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the “numbers don’t lie” when it comes to coronavirus in the United States as he acknowledged that the country has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world and some states, in a sense, were “on fire.”

Initial supplies of any successful coronavirus vaccines are now expected to fall short of what is needed even for high-priority groups like health-care workers, forcing drugmakers and U.S. officials to grapple with the thorny question of who should be first in line.

AstraZeneca has agreed to have a Chinese drugmaker produce hundreds of millions of doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine for use in China if it is approved by regulators there, a deal that expands China’s access to potential vaccine options.

A new study in South Korea offers more definitive proof that people without Covid-19 symptoms carry just as much virus in their nose, throat and lungs as those with symptoms, and for almost as long.

Trump is leaning hard on an expanded view of executive power in the lead-up to the 2020 election, using a flurry of executive orders and presidential memos to implement parts of his agenda before November.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said his faith is the “bedrock foundation of my life” after Trump accused him of being “against God.”

Trump’s reelection campaign is requesting that the first presidential debate between the president and Biden be held in early September, while it has provided organizers with a list of recommended moderators.

Biden attempted to clarify his comments suggesting that the African American population is not as “diverse” as the Latino community.

Facebook removed hundreds of accounts from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said last night that the governor tested negative for Covid-19, following an announcement earlier in the day that he had tested positive ahead of a scheduled meeting with Trump in Cleveland.

During a speech in Ohio, Trump slammed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her “a real beauty” who “knows nothing about the economy.”

Trump can’t postpone E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him by using an immunity defense, a judge ruled, citing a recent Supreme Court decision in a case to subpoena the president’s tax records.

The world may be long familiar with rap superstar Kanye West, but not many know his vice presidential running mate, Michelle Tidball, a 57-year-old spiritual coach who, like West, lives on a ranch in Cody, Wyoming, and has a deep religious background.

A conservative legal advocacy group is reviving its ethics complaint against U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for making “threatening comments” against Supreme Court Justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh during an abortion rights rally earlier this year.

The National Rifle Association counter-sued New York Attorney General Letitia James yesterday – the same day she brought a case to break up the pro-gun group — claiming she has misused her office to go after the organization for political reasons.

Trump will meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend in New Jersey to discuss important Big Apple infrastructure projects like the Second Avenue Subway.

Cuomo warned that New York will need an influx of $30 billion from the federal government over the next two years to plug its growing deficit, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mental health and substance abuse service providers have joined the chorus of calls to federal lawmakers to provide financial relief to state and local governments in light of millions of dollars in state payments being withheld.

Cuomo said there will be “no evictions as long as we are in the middle of the epidemic” as he signed a 30-day extension of the eviction moratorium amid the coronavirus pandemic.

…his action marked at least a temporary victory for about 14,000 households, which faced possible eviction related to proceedings that began before the pandemic. Now it is up to the New York Court system to decide how to apply the governor’s order, and the courts could still allow some eviction proceedings to go ahead.

In some places, including Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, students began streaming back into classrooms as early as last week, with quarantines quickly following.

Cuomo, who is expected to announce today whether he will permit schools to open for live in-person instruction this fall, said yesterday the decision will be made on a region-by-region basis.

“The situation is very different across the state, because regions are in different positions … and parents and teachers have different opinions,” Cuomo said. “Our decisions will be region by region, just analogize this to the economic reopenings.”

The governor’s comments injected an element of uncertainty into whether the New York City system, the nation’s largest, will go forward with its plan for a blend of classroom and online instruction.

Meanwhile, LG Kathy Hochul had this to say on the reopening question: “New Yorkers have sacrificed, they wear the mask all the time, social-distancing. Because of New Yorkers, we are now in a position this first week in August, to say yes, it looks like we’re going to meet that threshold.”

As of yesterday, eight districts across Nassau and Suffolk still had not posted detailed reopening plans on their websites, leaving about 12,000 students wondering what their districts are planning for the fall, according to data from the state Education Department.

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin tries to pinpoint the chances that students will show up to school this fall already infected with COVID-19.

Five months after gyms were shut down in New York, Cuomo still has no timeline for when he might allow them to reopen in the state’s 10 regions, citing glaring evidence from other states about heightened risk.

“Now is not the time,” Cuomo said when asked by reporters when the state would lift gym shutdown restrictions. “We know from the other states: They opened them, and they had to close them. That’s a fact,” he added, calling gyms “highly problematic” as the state attempts to control the spread of Covid-19.

A group representing hundreds of gym owners presented Cuomo with a plan to reopen and petitioned him for a meeting to discuss potential safety protocols, saying they deserve a chance to save their businesses from shutdown-induced financial ruin.

The state’s budget director, Robert Mujica Jr., said the administration is actively considering reopening proposals submitted by gyms across state. “We continue to look at it,” Mujica said, but cautioned it was still considered a “high risk” activity.

The New York State Fitness Alliance, which represents 85,000 employees and more than four million members, wants to remind Cuomo that they are essential, and they need to reopen immediately.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested Cuomo was wrong to call on wealthy New Yorkers to return to the city amid the coronavirus pandemic and an uptick in crime.

“To the point of the folks out in the Hamptons…we don’t make decisions based on a wealthy few,” de Blasio said. “I was troubled to hear this concept.”

Out-of-state travelers poured into Manhattan’s Penn Station early yesterday, breezing past city workers who did little more than offer leaflets with basic coronavirus containment tips even as de Blasio vowed to “aggressively” keep tabs on potentially contaminated visitors.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rescinded an order requiring people traveling from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to the Sunshine State to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.

A testing method pioneered by Saratoga Hospital in the Capital Region is being encouraged nationwide after a pilot program showed it can preserve desperately needed supplies and reduce the time and labor that goes into COVID-19 testing.

Abby Ehmann, the owner of East Village dive bar Lucky, has had her liquor license suspended a week after she started a petition calling for Cuomo to reverse the state’s new mandate that bars must serve substantial amounts of food with any alcohol purchase.

After a spike traffic deaths during the course of the pandemic, Cuomo says state and local police departments are going to be cracking down on motorists who violate speed limits.

Two days after Tropical Storm Isaias tore through the region, more than 1.4 million customers were still without power, and some could be in the dark into next week in what is emerging as the worst natural disaster to hit the area since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were still without power yesterday after Tropical Storm Isaias unleashed its wrath this week — and some may not get the juice back until Sunday.

The Eastern Seaboard, including Long Island, now can expect even more named storms and hurricanes — a total of 19 to 25, up from the 13 to 19 named storms predicted in May, federal scientists said.

The city Department of Correction has entered into an agreement with federal authorities to enact a number of reforms to curtail violence against inmates by officers at Big Apple jails, officials announced.

The state IG released a highly critical report on the State Police’s internal investigation into the actions of troopers assigned to a federal drug task force based in New York City, alleging they falsified work records and committed other wrongdoing but received the administrative equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

The police unions in the Big Apple have banded together to sue the city over a controversial part of the local chokehold law that makes it illegal for a cop to kneel on someone’s back.

Filed in New York state court on Wednesday, the suit says the city ban “goes beyond a law governing police misconduct” and “threatens police officers with fines and imprisonment for doing their jobs in good faith with no intent to harm a suspect.”

A federal monitor appointed to oversee NYC’s troubled jail system has found that little progress has been made curbing the brutality of guards and that violent incidents have risen sharply since 2016, remaining at an “all-time high.”

Whatever the underlying causes, it seems clear that Covid-19 is making things worse for Black mothers giving birth.

Family members of victims who died on 9/11 will be allowed to read the names of their loved ones after all, at a separate Lower Manhattan ceremony marking the 19th anniversary of the terror attacks.

Queens Assemblyman Michael Miller interfered with an Assembly Ethics Committee investigation into whether Miller harassed or discriminated against a female employee in his office, according to a committee letter released yesterday.

GE workers are pleading with Trump to help prevent layoffs by requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to build six massive new electricity generators in the US instead of moving some overseas.

The former coordinator of the city’s of Albany’s Community Police Review Board filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations after a city police officer pulled him out of his car near Western and Orlando avenues last August.

Almost two years to the day after the crash of a limousine in Schoharie that left 20 people dead, the National Transportation Safety Board is getting ready to reveal the results of its two year long investigation and to vote on the findings.

Hundreds of Adirondacks residents are asking Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague to fully investigate off-duty Cohoes Police Officer Sean T. McKown’s use of his service pistol in June and his allegedly false claims that a Black male fired at him first.

Divers have located the body of a 38-year-old Saratoga Springs man who went missing yesterday afternoon while swimming in the Hudson River.

Saturday, Aug. 8th is the official day of the Travers Stakes, which is earlier than usual, considering the event is normally held towards the end of the month.

If a jockey wants to ride in the Kentucky Derby on the first weekend in September, he or she is going to have to miss the final 10 days of the Saratoga meet.

Yesterday marked the official start of the $330,000 job of turning the forbidding Franklin Alley passageway in Troy into a brightly lit and invitingly decorated thoroughfare.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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