Rise and Shine: Sept. 2, 2020

Good Tuesday morning, CivMixers. We’re now into Day 2 of “Sourdough September.”

I think it’s safe to say that sourdough had a real moment this year. With everyone locked down during the early days of the pandemic, we were all desperate for something to do to keep their minds and hands occupied – and also in search of something that felt nurturing and comforting.

As a result, a lot of people got into baking. So much so, actually, that there were yeast and flour shortages.

Making sourdough bread is a PROJECT with a capital “p.” It is not making brownies from a boxed mix. Not even close.

First you need (or knead, but actually that comes later) a sourdough starter, which is a fermented mix of flour and natural yeasts that help the bread rise. Proponents like to highlight the fact that it is is more digestible than regular bread because the fermentation process breaks down gluten that can cause bloating and other problems for those who have sensitive insides.

Having a sourdough starter turns out to be something like having a pet: You have to care for it regularly by feeding it and preventing it from overheating or getting too cold. But it doesn’t give you unconditional love in return. Instead, it’s super finicky and sometimes, maybe, if you do everything right, it gives you an amazing loaf of bread – or some pancakes – but then you have to start all over again.

Perhaps you have heard the story of physicist and Xbox inventor Seamus Blackley, who has been reviving some of humanity’s earliest sourdoughs, and baked loaves with strains of yeast he reported were more than 5,000 years old?

There are numerous stories of the longest-maintained sourdough starters – one Wyoming woman has claimed hers is well over a century old.

This is incredibly impressive to me, as I couldn’t even keep mine alive for a week. I lost patience with it and just chucked the whole thing in the garbage can and moved from the time-intensive sourdough to Mark Bittman’s very easy – and also rather infamous – no-knead bread, which I highly recommend because it’s delicious and very forgiving.

I will not be opening a bakery any time soon. I did, however, make some killer banana bread, which apparently was another pandemic baking favorite. I am in the chocolate chip AND walnut camp. More is more, if you’re locked down anyway, why not gild the lily?

On this day in 1945, Japan formally surrendered to the Allies aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing an end to World War II.

Actually, this is a little tricky, because the initial announcement of Japan’s surrender was made on Aug. 15 in Japan, and because of time zone differences, on Aug. 14 in the U.S. and the rest of the Americas and Eastern Pacific Islands. This was the date that the surrender document was signed, and there was a lot of pomp and circumstance that came after that, too.

There’s rain in the forecast today – scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon and showers in the morning, to be exact, with temperatures in the mid-70s.

In the headlines…

President Donald Trump stoked another controversy when he visited violence-hit Kenosha city in Wisconsin, and claimed that “domestic terror” was responsible for the racial violence and protests there. He also alleged that Democratic Party leaders had enabled the violence.

Trump also said he didn’t believe police violence was a systemic problem, saying it was more a matter of some officers “choking” under the pressure. He didn’t directly answer a question about whether he believes systemic racism exists.

In a statement following Trump’s visit to Kenosha, Biden’s campaign said the president had failed to fully condemn violence and was relying on violence as a “winning electoral strategy.”

Biden’s campaign unveiled a new television ad that packages portions of his speech on Monday in Pittsburgh condemning the sporadic violence that has erupted in some cities. The ad came as the former vice president pushes back against Trump’s efforts to define the Democrats as a party tolerant of lawlessness.

Jacob Blake’s family attorney B’Ivory LaMarr said the family has reiterated several times that they did not want his tragedy to become a political issue, but that Blake’s shooting by the police should have been the focus of the president’s trip.

From the president’s Twitter feed to the Republican National Convention to Fox News, a new talking point has taken hold among Trump and his allies: that U.S. intelligence shows that China would prefer a Joe Biden presidency and is trying to help him win.

Facebook took down recently created accounts and pages linked to a Russian group that U.S. authorities have accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, the social-media giant said.

The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, to help Trump.

Trump posted a baffling tweet declaring that he has not had a series of “mini-strokes” — and he had the White House physician release a statement backing up his claim.

Trump said he will try to win New York in the November presidential election, citing support across upstate, on Long Island and with voters who have changed their minds about him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited a hair salon in San Francisco on Monday, her spokesperson confirmed, despite the city’s current guidelines intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Millions of Americans who are struggling to put food on the table may discover a new item in government-funded relief packages of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat: a letter signed by the president. Democrats say this violates the Hatch Act.

The U.S. recorded its smallest number of daily coronavirus cases in months, continuing a slowdown in new infections.

People of color have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and recent studies have renewed concern about the susceptibility of children in these communities.

A Trump administration official said that the U.S. will go it alone in developing a coronavirus vaccine, shunning the worldwide cooperative effort because it is tied to the WHO.

A scientific advisory group said in a draft report released yesterday that people with a high chance of contracting COVID-19 or a significant risk of dying from the virus should be at the front of the line to receive a vaccine when it becomes available.

The IRS announced that 50,000 Americans who had their stimulus checks wrongfully withheld can expect to receive their funds in early-to mid-September.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified before Congress that a new stimulus package is still needed to help the economy recover from the ravages of the coronavirus, but a phone call he subsequently placed to Pelosi yielded just the latest evidence that talks are going nowhere.

Tropical Storm Nana formed yesterday afternoon in the Caribbean Sea, the National Hurricane Center said. It’s the 14th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, and the hurricane center predicted Nana will strengthen into a hurricane, with winds of 75 mph, before it makes landfall in Central America on Thursday.

A federal appeals court agreed to delay the release of Trump’s tax returns, hours after it heard arguments from the president’s lawyer about why the papers should remain hidden.

…In a brief order, the court in New York said it would temporarily block a grand jury subpoena issued by the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, while it considers Trump’s arguments that the request was “wildly overbroad” and politically motivated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly planning to institute a federal eviction ban for the remainder of the year due to the coronavirus.

In a draft order posted in the Federal Register, the CDC said it would use the Public Health Service Act of 1944 to extend a recently-lapsed eviction moratorium through Dec. 31.

The moratorium stops short of what some Democratic lawmakers and housing experts said is necessary. For one thing, the Trump administration did not set aside any new federal dollars for renters, who eventually will owe what may be sky-high past-due balances, or for landlords, who might face financial struggles of their own.

Proceedings for the eviction of retail tenants are picking up across the country as courts reopen and states’ moratoriums on evictions are expiring or getting curtailed as the economy reopens.

A CDC report is being twisted by conspiracy theorists to imply the COVID-19 death toll is not as serious as it sounds, health experts say. In response, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical authorities say unequivocally that at least 180,000 Americans have died because of this virus.

The Agriculture Department, under pressure from Congress and officials in school districts across the country, said that it would allow schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to any child or teenager through the end of 2020, provided funding lasts.

New York City’s schools will delay in-person classes until Sept. 21, averting the threat of a teacher strike — and putting the nation’s largest school system on track to be the only major urban district to start the fall term with kids in classrooms.

The city’s last-minute move to push back the reopening of its public schools and limit mandated coronavirus testing earned it a failing grade from some parents and teachers.

A new report from nonprofit public education advocacy groups shows that proposed cuts to education will disproportionately affect Black, brown, and low-income students.

After six of the most trying months in modern city history, nearly half of New Yorkers say that the Big Apple is heading in the wrong direction — with worries about the economy and crime listed as top concerns, according to a Manhattan Institute survey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that two additional states — Alaska and Montana — meet the metrics to qualify for New York State’s COVID-19 travel advisory. No areas have been removed.

The Empire Center for Public Policy, a government watchdog group, is accusing the Cuomo administration of sitting on data that would provide the full death tally of nursing home residents from the coronavirus.

The New York Department of Labor will not say when the agency will begin to pay out a new $300 per week federal unemployment benefit that the state was approved to distribute Aug. 23.

The state released new guidance for agri-tourism businesses as New York enters the Fall season.

Cuomo has ordered an investigation into why a Confederate flag was draped over the side of a Long Island fire truck for a local drive-by event, saying he was “appalled” by reports of the incident.

Amusement park owners are desperately awaiting the green light from Cuomo to reopen, ranking among the few remaining industries still shuttered due to coronavirus restrictions.

Six Capital Region venues for live entertainment joined more than 1,000 theaters and arenas nationwide last night in illuminating their facades in red to call attention to the dire financial circumstances faced by people who work in the industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

More than one million mail-in ballots were sent late to voters during the 2020 primary elections, an internal Postal Service audit found, underscoring deep concerns about whether the agency has the ability to process what is expected to be a major increase in mail-in votes for the presidential election in November.

Cuomo announced the launch of New York’s absentee ballot portal where voters can directly request an absentee ballot for the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, set off a wave of Election Day doubt when they seemed to suggest that New York’s public schools will not be used as polling places on Nov. 3.

De Blasio is ignoring his own COVID-19 pandemic transportation advisory council, panel members charged.

An NYPD Black fraternal organization lashed out at the endorsement by the city’s biggest police union of Trump’s reelection.

A federal judge dealt a blow to third parties hoping to make it easier to maintain a ballot line in the Empire State.

Before setting his sights on the state Senate, former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino worked as a consultant for a conservative public relations firm once hired to discredit Facebook critics by linking them to George Soros.

A state lawmaker from Long Island has raised new concerns over measures put in place by the MTA during the pandemic to protect its workers, including Long Island Rail Road employees who, according to a key union official, have “experienced frustrations” with getting adequate face masks and other safety equipment.

A proposed liquidation of Harvey Weinstein’s property would cut $8 million from a previously proposed payout to women who say the disgraced filmmaker sexually assaulted them, court papers show.

New York City will lower the speed limit by 5 miles an hour on nine major roads across the five boroughs, officials said, responding to an increase in fatal car crashes this year that they say has been caused by reckless driving.

The New York Police Department will increase patrols over the coming Labor Day weekend to combat a continuing rise in violent crime, police officials said.

An anti-Semitic vandal scrawled a swastika and the words “white power” in front of a Bronx criminal defense and civil rights lawyer’s office.

Amazon is opening a new Whole Foods store in Brooklyn, but it won’t be open to the public. In a first for the company, the Whole Foods store will be permanently online only.

Nassau officials have launched a campaign to lure more “foodies” into county restaurants by offering the ambience of eating inside again.

Roslyn High School’s principal has issued a letter condemning the behavior of about a hundred teenage students, mostly seniors, who were photographed at a private weekend party sharing drinks and not wearing masks.

A chemical leaked from a rail car yesterday morning at the SABIC Innovative Chemicals facility in Selkirk, releasing a foul smell into the air, spurring Cuomo to send state resources to assist on the scene and pushing town officials to declare a state of emergency.

With a still-raging coronavirus pandemic keeping local health departments busy and back-to-school season raising the specter of new outbreaks, public health officials are asking people to take one headache off their plate and get vaccinated against influenza.

Albany County officials said that they are closely monitoring a slight uptick in the number of residents who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks.

A resolution banning Albany County employees from working on political campaigns while on county time was voted out of committee with an unfavorable recommendation last week after Democratic legislators decided they wanted to wait for a report from the county comptroller and human resources offices.

The tax rate for the East Greenbush Community Library will drop by a penny in the proposed 2021 library budget of $2.067 million while four candidates run for two seats on the library Board of Trustees.

A local Planned Parenthood affiliate has opened a new health center in Troy that is expected to increase access to patients while providing a broader range of services.

Monroe County prosecutors are scheduled to present criminal allegations of campaign finance violations against Mayor Lovely Warren to a grand jury in September.

Binghamton Mayor Richard David has been elected to serve as the 95th President of the state Conference of Mayors during a time of deepending uncertainty for local governments in New York and across the country.

After more than a decade in local television news, Solomon Syed is leaving Spectrum News. His last day is September 3.

Rep. Richard Neal, current chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and a 30-year veteran of Congress, is projected to defeat Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain professional or occupational licenses for the first time.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey turned back a primary challenge from Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, handing the Kennedy family its first-ever electoral loss in Massachusetts and demonstrating the growing strength of the progressive left.

Standing before Malden public library, Markey delivered a victory speech with a theme of justice — including racial justice, climate justice and justice for marginalized groups. He also stressed the hope he holds for young people.

Stewart’s Shops has named a new ice cream flavor after the Travers and Belmont Stakes winner, Tiz the Law.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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