Happy Thursday, CivMixers. I hope you are all doing well on this chilly, gloomy day.

September has been a hard month in the US for weather-related emergencies. In the west, wildfires are raging, destroy tens of thousands of acreage, and causing massive evacuations. In Oregon, firefighters showed they still have a sense of humor, though, as they sang a makeshift song “Take Me Out to the Fire” after a grueling 14-hour shit of merely trying to contain a fire known as the Lionshead Fire, which is burning outside of Detroit.

Meanwhile, in Alabama, Hurricane Sally came ashore yesterday to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the exact day Hurricane Ivan also came ashore in the state. Sally may be down to a tropical depression, but her make-up and slow pace have caused her to drop the equivalent of four months of rain in some places.

In an active hurricane season, the Gulf Coast needs help recovering, and there are ways to do that here.

Onto our 5 Things:

1)  In the shadows of Mount Katahdin Maine, Aug. 7 dawned as a lovely day – a great day to get married. A couple did just that, with Rev. Todd Bell officiating over the service at the Tri-Town Baptist Church in the small town of East Millinocket instead of his in his Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.

The reception followed in Millinocket at the Big moos Inn. Since then, the event has been traced to multiple COVID outbreaks in two separate Maine areas. At last count, one service is responsible for spreading the disease to over 170 people and has led to seven deaths.

Rev. Bell is staying pretty silent about his part in the outbreak, even as ten of his congregants have tested positive. He continued holding his regular services, and one of his sermons even questions the efficacy of face coverings. His exact analogy was comparing them to a chain-link fence attempting to stop mosquitoes. He told his followers to put their faith in God and not the government. Bell’s attorney has confirmed that Calvary Baptist does not require maks in their school, and they are actively encouraging attendees to leave the masks off in the church.

Though he is not talking to the press, Bell has been actively responding to neigh sayers on social media sites, saying that he ignores those comments to listen to his lord. According to Bell, he has been attacked and hated for the wedding, and a representative of the church – The National Center for Life and Liberty – has said that Bell’s family has been receiving death threats.

Critics are still voicing their displeasure at what is being dubbed a “superspreader” in Maine, and even the Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah has said that the one event may undo much of the progress made throughout the state since the start of the pandemic.

The spread began in the area of the wedding location with those Katahdin residents who attended spreading it to their communities, including the Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center, a Madison nursing home. One attendee carried it back to their workplace at the York County Jail, and now York has seen a surge in cases, with over 70 cases reported so far. 

Not one of the seven who have died attended the wedding – six of them were residents of that Madison nursing home. According to officials there, the first was reported in a small town called Millinocket.

After the news broke, venues across the state put their procedures through a microscope and changed rules to increase safety, causing additional headaches for couples. The actual venue that let the wedding and reception proceed briefly had its license suspended.

Before this event, the state of Maine had controlled the COVID crisis well. State officials have said that the reception at the Big Moose Inn violated the state’s limit of 50 people for indoor events, having 65 in attendance. Guests have said it was closer to 100.

The blow has been severe to a struggling venue in a state hurting from low tourist industry numbers thanks to the pandemic. Increased safety rules have caused event cancellations or stress as couples try to minimize already pared down lists.

2) Yesterday was Constitution Day, and Hillsdale College had U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr speak to commemorate the day.

Mostly full of conservatives, the audience heard a fire and brimstone speech in which AG Barr attacked his own DOJ prosecutors, accusing them of being a “permanent bureaucracy” guilty of high-profile headhunting cases.

Barr maintained that everything at the DOJ should go through him. He said, according to the way the law is written, only the AG can prosecute, and all in the DOJ are simply agents of the AG. He clarified that he was not pompous when he says that he is the end-all-be-all of the DOJ. He is just clear on where the authority lays.

He even compared junior prosecutors in his department to preschoolers.

Barr did not name names, but current employees have testified at whistleblower hearings held on Capitol Hill. Barr has also faced much criticism for his tendency to get involved in cases regarding those defendants who have a history with President Trump. He also quoted C.S. Lewis in the speech, using the author’s words to help him make a case for even more autonomy from his prosecutors.

He continued down the path during the question period after the speech, again questioning the validity of mail-in voting for an election that has not happened yet. He sounded like Trump, saying his evidence was “common sense.” He also insulted some staff members who worked under Rober Mueller, the special counsel who investigated the 2016 Russian election interference. The report concluded that Trump’s campaign was very open to that interference.< He finished up by taking aim at both the COVID-19 lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement. Barr compared the lockdowns to slavery, saying the restrictions against people today are second only to that.

He then claimed that the BLM movement is not about civil rights, but rather is aimed at advancing a political agenda. He stated that only a small amount of people of color are killed by police daily, saying it is usually fewer than a dozen.

The Washington Post has been logging and analyzing incidents since 2015. If you are interested in seeing how AG Barr’s compared to facts, please check it out here.

3) Here in upstate New York, we have our COVID cluster tied back to a church.

In Horseheads, around an hour west of Binghamton, a cluster of 93 positive reports has been traced back to the Lighthouse Baptist Church. Today, it was announced that one of the people connected with the cluster has passed away. No further information about the victim is available.

As of last week, the Lighthouse Baptist Church was tied to cases not only in its own Chemung county but also throughout five additional counties. Congregants of the church attended a late AUgust wedding in Oneida county, and that is when the disease was entered into the congregation. DOH officials have not determined if they brought it with them or picked it up somewhere in their travels, but that wedding was the catalyst event.

The counties affected by this cluster are Broome, Chemung, Oneida, Schuyler, Steuben, and Tioga Counties. One of those who have tested positive is a member of the congregation at Lighthouse Baptist Church and is also on the Ridge Road Elementary School staff, located in the Horseheads Central School District.

The Chemung County Health Department asks anyone who would like further information or thinks they may have been exposed to contact them at (607) 737-1813 or contact the COVID hotline at (607) 873-1813.

4) There have been no developments after four days of looking for the shooter who killed 11-year-old Ayshawn Davis. The young boy was outside late Sunday night and was hit by a bullet fired out of a fast-moving car in the head. He was transported to Albany Med and pronounced dead at the scene.

The FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for any information that will lead to an arrest in the case.

Ayshawn’s school district has announced a scholarship named for him, the “Ayshawn Davis Anything is Possible Scholarship.” Lansingburgh Central School District announced the new award today. They said they want to make sure that Ayshawn is remembered for being the caring, hard-working, and smart boy.

If you know anything about the shooter or have any information at all about the incident at all, please call (518) 270-4772.

5) On Sept. 4, Mohonasen Central School District sent kids home for virtual learning after learning a positive test within their staff. After quarantining numerous teachers and administrators, the Schenectady DOH has said that there have been no further positive cases. 

According to the school district, students can return to class tomorrow. They will send out letters with specifics for each grade that will detail busing, drop-offs, and other vital information.

Administrators stated that though this was a hiccup in their opening, they hope the changes they have made in response to the issue will keep all students, admin, and faculty safe in the future.

In other education news in the Capital Area, a teen has been taken into custody by investigators for threatening to shoot up the school during a class.T

The student was overheard by other students and a teacher during an in-session class at the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School yesterday for stating they wanted to shoot up both the elementary and secondary schools. After being taken into custody, local authorities partnered with State Police troopers to search the student’s home, which they say turn up no evidence.

The teen has been charged with a Class D felony for making a terroristic threat.

Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.