Rise and Shine: Sept. 11, 2020

It’s Friday, CivMixers, and it is the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The phrase “never forget” has become synonymous with this somber day, and though a lot of time has passed since the towers fell, the Pentagon was in flames and a handful of heroes forced a hijacked plane down into a remote Pennsylvania field, leaving close to 3,000 people dead, I can still very clearly remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

It was a terrifying day, and the weeks that followed were fraught with fear and grief and confusion. It was a horrible time for our country, and the effects are still being felt today.

It was very different from the terror we are experiencing now, which is more of a slow and steady drip with no end. Though the collective impact is similar, the unifying force we felt in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 for some reason is absent in the current crisis. I don’t know why that is. But it’s sad. Watching this virus pit one state against another, and the states against the federal government, has added insult to the injury that is COVID-19.

The pandemic has forced the regularly scheduled memorial events that have been held on this day for years to be altered significantly.

Families of 9/11 victims will again gather at Ground Zero, but for the first time, the program will not include a live reading of the victims’ names. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum will instead play a recording of the names that were gathered from the museum’s “In Memoriam” exhibition.

This change did not sit well with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which plans to hold its own name-reading ceremony a block from the site on Liberty Street and Church Street next to Zuccotti Park.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to participate in the live name-reading ceremony, which is expected to include 140 masked and socially-distanced participants.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden will take part in the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum with his wife, Jill Biden, his campaign announced late yesterday.

Also originally cancelled, but now back on, thanks in part to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is the annual tribute which sees twin light beams shined into the night sky to represent the loss of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. (There’s also a push on to make this Tribute in Lights permanent in advance of next year’s 20th anniversary of the attacks).

One thing that hasn’t changed: Bells will toll at six observed moments of silence marking the timeline of the attacks:

– 8:46 a.m., when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center;
– 9:02 a.m., when hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 struck the trade center’s South Tower;
– 9:37 a.m., when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon; 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower collapsed;
– 10:02 a.m., when hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and 10:29 a.m., when the North Tower collapsed.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, plans to attend a 9:45 a.m. ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania near Shanksville, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley will conduct a live virtual observance ceremony at 7:30 a.m. at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

It’s going to be almost chilly today, with temperatures in the high 60s. We’ll have clouds in the morning and sun in the afternoon.

In the headlines…

A special three-judge court in New York blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to make an unprecedented change to who is included in the census numbers that determine each state’s share of seats in Congress.

Acting on two lawsuits filed in New York by a group of states, cities, counties and civil-rights groups, the judges said that the plan violates several laws that spell out how the results of the decennial census are to be used for distributing congressional seats.

Trump denied disclosing classified military information after excerpts from veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book said the president boasted about a supposedly secret nuclear weapons system.

The president scoffed at a question about why he lied to the American public about the severity of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, calling it “disgraceful” in a contentious press conference amid fallout over his comments to Woodward.

Also in Woodward’s book: Trump bragged that he protected Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of the American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Most voters in six 2020 swing states do not consider either Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden mentally fit to be president, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll.

Trump made wildly inaccurate claims at a rally outside Saginaw, Michigan last night, suggesting he has revitalized auto manufacturing in the state when it actually lost jobs even before coronavirus hit in March.

“If Biden’s elected, China will own America. Washington vultures like Biden and others ripped apart entire towns all across your state,” Trump told a crowd of supporters at an overflowing airport hangar in Freeland, Michigan.

Trump also told reporters he believes the U.S. has now “rounded the final turn” in the fight against COVID-19 — unless Democratic candidate Biden beats him on Nov. 3 and imposes “a very unscientific blanket lockdown.”

A New York Times reporter claims she was removed from Trump’s campaign rally in Freeland after campaign staff located her using images she posted on Twitter.

Trump feuded with Gov. Andrew Cuomo again over the federal and state responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

The president called Cuomo “one of the worst governors” in the nation in response to a tweet by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about NYC’s high shooting rate and indoor dining enforcement.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivered a broadside attack on mail-in voting, attacking the process used by many Americans as prone to undue influence and coercion.

Russian government hackers have targeted at least 200 organizations tied to the 2020 U.S. election in recent weeks, including national and state political parties and political consultants working for both Republicans and Democrats, according to Microsoft Corp.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, warned that the U.S. should prepare for a difficult few months in the fight against COVID-19 as flu season approaches.

While many have questioned COVID-19’s impact on young people, a new study of hospital patients shows the virus can create major health challenges for people of all ages.

Wildfires across the American West burned millions of acres and killed a total of at least 15 people by yesterday, as firefighters continued working to contain some of the fastest-growing blazes ever seen.

As wildfires began consuming communities across Oregon this week, leaders at the state emergency management office fired off an email to counterparts around the country, pleading for 10 firefighting strike teams that could bring 50 extra engines to the region. One state sent help: Utah.

Officials dealing with catastrophic fires on the West Coast have had to counter social media rumors that the blazes were set by antifascist activists, publicly pleading that people verify information before sharing it.

COVID-19 lockdowns may have tanked economies, but they inflicted nary a nick on climate change, a new United Nations report says.

Republicans introduced a new stimulus measure in the U.S. Senate this week, after negotiations broke down last month. The “skinny” bill, as it is being called, does not include support for states.

Senate Democrats blocked the $300 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill, dampening the prospects Congress will pass much-needed financial relief for Americans weathering the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the November election.

Cuomo threatened to increase the burden on New York’s already heavily taxed residents if federal lawmakers don’t provide funding to offset losses due to the coronavirus crisis.

“This will be a hole in the financial plan so large that it will be impossible to fill,” the governor said. “What would we do to try to fill it? Taxes, cuts, borrowing, early retirements (of government workers)? All of the above.”

The global economy is set to regain lost ground in the three months through September, but there are indications that its recovery is likely to slow from there, with the novel coronavirus still weighing heavily on consumer services and other businesses.

Although the nation is partially recovering from its steepest-ever recession amid the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses continue to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers as they grapple with fewer sales and depleted federal aid.

Weekly jobless claims were worse than expected last week amid a plodding climb for the U.S. labor market from the damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 857,000 Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance – a rough measure of layoffs – last week, up about 20,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said. (The figures are not seasonally adjusted).

Jobless claims ticked up slightly in New York, with nearly 66,000 people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits in the week that ended Sept. 5, up 2.79 percent over the previous week.

The debate continues over whether the enhanced $600 unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act disincentivized Americans from going back to work.

Unemployed U.S. workers who are banking on an extra $300 in federal jobless aid will now receive up to six weeks of benefits, double the three weeks initially guaranteed by FEMA, the government agency overseeing the relief.

After being criticized for foot-dragging, the Cuomo administration announced that next week it will begin distributing the expanded $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefits to up to 2.4 million jobless New Yorkers.

While most states have yet to distribute the extra $300 a week under the president’s executive memorandum, a handful are already running out of funds to pay the additional benefits.

New Yorkers mourned the announcement of Century 21’s closure, describing the loss of the department store as a grim sign of what lies ahead for other cherished businesses and institutions with the economy still strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor fined Smithfield Foods Inc. over a Covid-19 outbreak that infected nearly 1,300 workers at a South Dakota plant and killed four, alleging that the pork giant failed to protect employees.

The U.S. government is halting its enhanced entry screening for certain international passengers at airports starting Sept. 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The race for a coronavirus vaccine to help end the pandemic has consumed the scientific community and created an escalating demand for an essential resource: monkeys.

More than 160 business leaders, including executives at Citigroup, Mastercard and Nasdaq, have signed a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio warning of New York City’s deteriorating condition in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and growing anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality-of-life issues.

“There is widespread anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality of life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs,” the powerful business leaders wrote.

Goldman Sachs told employees that it would allow them to return to the office in shifts, a rotational approach similar to what JPMorgan Chase announced last month for its investment bank.

De Blasio split with Cuomo’s plan to allow indoor dining in New York City, saying he wanted a later opening date and a firm requirement to shut restaurants back down if infection rates rise.

“I believe firmly that we need to watch our overall trajectory of this disease,” de Blasio said. “And if we get to 2 percent infection rate on a regular basis – on that seven day average – at that point, we need to immediately reassess indoor dining.”

With little warning, City Hall moved more than a hundred disabled New Yorkers out of their Midtown shelter to make way for the homeless who were booted by de Blasio from an Upper West Side hotel.

Cuomo says he expects substantial upticks in mass transit use as reopening steps continue in the coming months – and he wants people who ride subways and rails to feel safe. To that end, he ordered implementation of a $50 fine for MTA passengers who refuse to wear masks on public transportation.

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to get a flu shot early this year, and said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had even considered making the shot mandatory.

Watchdog groups are urging Cuomo to provide $50 million in emergency funds to election board officials across the state to avoid chaos and delays in handling millions of mail-in ballots during the Nov. 3 general election taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New York’s new online system for obtaining absentee ballots received more than 220,000 requests in its first week — about half of all absentee ballots sought during the entire 2016 presidential campaign, according to the state Board of Elections.

According to the Monroe County Board of Elections, approximately 17,000 voters who applied for an absentee ballot in November were rejected.

State elected officials are fuming and frustrated after New York City didn’t use all funding avails including federal grants, while it significantly scaled back a popular summer jobs program amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor announced $88.6 million in federal CARES Act funding is available to assist child care providers through NY Forward grants as they adjust their programs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children in pediatric nursing homes who haven’t been able to hug or kiss their parents for six months will have an easier path to family visits, under new state rules for preventing the spread of coronavirus.

World Trade Center first responders and their advocates cheered a new directive that allows for the families of people who have 9/11-related illnesses — but die of COVID-19 — to still reap the benefits of the federal Sept. 11 victim compensation fund.

The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses.

The head of the NYC teachers’ union said that if the Department of Education doesn’t improve it’s COVID-19 testing they are going to prevent schools from opening Sept. 21.

Sixteen of the roughly 15,000 city teachers who got checked for COVID-19 before reporting to school buildings Tuesday have since tested positive for the virus, city teachers union officials said.

As schools try to cope with everything from remote learning glitches to shortages of substitute teachers, districts statewide are seeing an increase in full-time teacher retirements fueled by uncertainties or dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Does the widespread adoption of remote learning mean an end to snow days?

Mohonasen Central School District is abruptly shifting to remote learning after an adult at the high school tested positive for coronavirus on the very first day of school yesterday.

A high school student on Long Island has been arrested after he repeatedly physically showed up to school when he’s supposed to be learning at home.

New York’s public school districts must fully fund charter schools in the upcoming school year, according to a nonprofit public education advocacy organization.

The president of the State University at Albany reported a “very concerning” spike in coronavirus cases among students and warned that in-person classes and other on-campus activities could be suspended for the rest of the fall semester if the outbreak “is not addressed immediately.”

“Clusters have been identified within Athletics and in off-campus student housing in the Pine Hills neighborhood, but are not isolated to these students,” UAlbany President Havid Rodriguez said in a notice sent to students last night.

The Capital Region currently has the highest positivity rate of coronavirus cases in New York state.

Nearly 20 students at Siena College have been “temporarily dismissed” from campus housing for attending an outdoor “Derby Day” event Saturday that was not sanctioned by the college, school officials have confirmed.

More than 1,000 scientists and academic professionals, citing what they are calling a climate crisis, are urging state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and lawmakers to divest New York’s pension fund from all fossil fuels.

The sprawling Sears anchor store, covering more than two acres at the former Rotterdam Square mall, will be turned into retail and warehouse space by United Auto Supply, a Syracuse-based wholesale distributor of auto parts and accessories.

The head of a New York agency that monitors state prisons is a tyrannical boss who demeans her formerly incarcerated employees — treating them like “props” — and has misused thousands of dollars in grant money, claims a bombshell letter written by an ex-staffer.

A judge tossed the felony drug conviction of a man found guilty of moving heroin through the Capital Region, ruling that Albany County prosecutors failed to disclose the disciplinary history of a decorated State Police investigator who was their star witness at trial.

Times Union Center in downtown Albany announced that the venue is ready and safe to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic because they’ve adopted extensive health protocols.

Rochester’s outgoing police chief defended his officers’ response to protests over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, which included the use of pepper balls.

Rep. Joe Morelle: “I think the Mayor and all elected officials need to look within their hearts and determine whether or not they feel they can be a positive force and continue to provide leadership.”

After an off-season of social and political turmoil, N.F.L. players made it clear on the night of the season opener that they will continue to shine a light on social injustice and police brutality against African Americans.

A wide receiver who was cut from the New York Jets on Tuesday has been charged with fraudulently obtaining a $1.2 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program and using the proceeds to buy luxury goods, prosecutors said.

A paparazzi picture of actor Jon Hamm’s bulging trousers was so newsworthy the photographer who took it can’t collect a fee for its use in a mocking online article, a federal judge ruled.

“Saturday Night Live” will kick off its 46th season on Oct. 3 from Rockefeller Center, NBC announced.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation declaring Juneteenth, the day commemorating the emancipation of African Americans, a state holiday.

The Bridgeport, Connecticut police chief has been charged with rigging the search for his own job to ensure he was awarded the six-figure top cop position back in 2018, officials announced.

RIP British actress Diana Rigg, a sexy superspy on TV and beautiful Bond girl in the 1960s who gained a new generation of fans on “Game of Thrones” and died at the age of 82.

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