Happy Fall Solstice, CivMixers.

Actually, the Fall Equinox will occur promptly at 9:30 a.m. (EDT). Remember: In the Northern Hemisphere, this marks the first day of autumn in what we call astronomical seasons.

There’s also another, more common definition of when the seasons start, namely meteorological definitions, based on average temperatures rather that astronomical events. Under this definition, fall is already well underway. It’s also the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

The word “equinox” comes from Latin aequus, meaning “equal,” and nox, “night.” On the equinox, day and night are roughly equal in length. (See more about this below.)

During the equinox, the sun crosses the so-called “celestial equator” – an imaginary extension of earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the sun’s center passes through this line.

Another definition of fall is nights of below-freezing temperatures combined with days of temperatures below 70 degrees – a phenomenon we’ve been seeing quite a bit of recently. I’ve been getting kind of a kick out of seeing my neighbors wrap their prized outdoor plants in blankets and burlap sacks in an effort to prevent them from the frost.

It’s also National Voter Registration Day – a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our small-d democracy. First observed in 2012, the day has quickly gained momentum ever since. Nearly 3 million voters have registered to vote on the holiday to date.

You have some time yet before the deadline for registering to vote in New York in order to be eligible to cast a ballot in the upcoming Nov. 3 general election. But that date – Oct. 9 – is fast approaching.

It has become pretty standard to say things like “this is the most important election in our lifetime” and “so much is at stake, get out and make your voice heard by voting.” Maybe these sorts of admonishments sound trite to you. But it really is a time like no other – we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and no one knows how the surge in mail-in ballots is going to impact the outcome of the elections. Thus far, based on what happened in the primaries, it’s not looking too good.

I like to think that voting gives you permission to complain and engage and call out elected officials for failing to do what they should – represent the interests of their constituents, not themselves, not big corporate donors, etc. and so forth.

If you don’t vote, you don’t really have the right to complain about the outcome of the elections. So, if for no other reason than preserving your right to bitch and moan, get out there and get those ballots in. Reminder: We have early voting now in New York, which starts on Oct. 24 for the general election.

There are a lot of options for those who are feeling a little concerned about in-person voting as a result of the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I got my absentee ballot in the mail today. And I plan on filling it out and returning it ASAP. It will be one less thing hanging over my head, and I’ll know I did my part when the results come in – no matter how the chips fall.

Another sun-filled day is on tap, with temperatures in the mid-60s. Glorious.

In the headlines…

The CDC abruptly reverted to its previous guidance about how coronavirus is transmitted, removing language about airborne transmission it had posted just days earlier.

The CDC had said Covid-19 is primarily transmitted between people in close contact. On Friday, it added that the virus can also be spread by “droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols” that can be inhaled and cause infection, and then it reversed itself again.

Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious disease, said the Friday update was posted in error. “Unfortunately an early draft of a revision went up without any technical review,” he said.

The nation’s top doctor Anthony Fauci said that public health measures are no more partisan than the coronavirus is, and called the current lack of cohesive guidance on the pandemic “unfortunate.”

Experts and medical groups increasingly say that checking if someone has a fever isn’t a good gauge of Covid-19 infection.

Two new studies published in a scientific journal raise questions about whether transmission of the coronavirus on lengthy commercial airline flights might be more common than earlier thought.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s body will lie in repose tomorrow and Thursday outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building and will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, making her the first woman ever to receive either honor.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the rare distinction — which has not been bestowed since the death of William Howard Taft, who served as chief justice from 1921 to 1930, after having served as president.

President Donald Trump said he was considering five women for the vacant Supreme Court seat and likely would make public the pick on Saturday, as Senate Republicans largely lined up behind him and rejected Democrats’ calls to let the winner of the presidential election choose the nominee.

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Cory Gardner suggested that they will not stand in the way of a pre-election vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick, marking striking flip-flops for both Republicans and all but sealing the deal for a conservative addition to the high bench this year.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham last night said his party has enough votes to confirm a new Supreme Court justice before the November election.

Trump pushed back when asked if he was going against Ginsburg’s dying wish by appointing someone before the November election, questioning whether she even personally made the alleged remarks.

“I don’t know that she said that, or if that was written out by Adam Schiff, and Schumer and Pelosi,” Trump said. “That came out of the wind. It sounds so beautiful, but that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe Pelosi or Shifty Schiff.”

The battle for replacing the late Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is personal for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who cited his daughter’s visceral fear that her own same-sex marriage could be undone by a future high court run by a majority that opposes marriage equality for LGBT people.

Amy Coney Barrett, a front-runner to fill Ginsburg’s seat, is a federal appellate judge who has established herself as a reliable conservative on hot-button legal issues from abortion to gun control.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pushed back against the Trump campaign’s criticism of him not releasing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees to replace Ginsburg, saying it showed his opponent looks at the issue as a “game” and that there are good reasons candidates don’t normally release such lists.

With COVID-19 the newest preexisting condition, the Obama-era health law that protects Americans from insurance discrimination is more fragile following the death of Ginsburg.

Trump blasted Biden’s record in back-to-back rallies in Ohio yesterday, questioning the Democratic nominee’s working class roots and accusing him of selling out American workers.

An independent government agency will investigate whether Education Secretary Betsy DeVos breached a law forbidding federal employees from engaging in political activities on the job after her department distributed a clip of DeVos criticizing Biden through government channels.

A majority of Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while about half of Biden’s backers plan to vote by mail, a sign of a growing partisan divide over how best to conduct elections in the United States.

Trump and his business could be facing a criminal tax probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, prosecutors suggested in a court filing.

…The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business dealings, which began more than two years ago.

Tropical Storm Beta, the 23rd storm of the relentless 2020 hurricane season, made landfall late last night in Texas, threatening to bring days of flooding downpours to portions of the storm-weary Gulf Coast.

A wildfire scorching its way through brush and timber from the mountains to the desert northeast of Los Angeles threatened more than 1,000 homes today as crews across the West battled dozens of other major blazes.

The death of a White bar owner accused of killing a Black Lives Matter protester in Omaha this spring has upended the controversial case and the local racial justice movement that it ignited, further rattling a community that has been grappling with its divisions.

Cuomo said he could send National Guard troops to polling locations on Election Day to ensure voters can cast ballots.

The governor signed an executive order extending an emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for commercial properties until Oct. 20, giving business owners a month’s reprieve before facing potential eviction.

…But the state allowed commercial eviction warrants to be issued beginning Sept. 4 for cases that commenced before March 17, and some of those cases may now proceed.

State Attorney General Letitia James warned that she is preparing a lawsuit after Trump’s Justice Department labeled New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction” and threatened to withhold federal grant money.

“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” U.S. Attorney William Barr said.

…It is not clear how much money would be withdrawn from the “anarchist jurisdiction” cities, which also include Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington; or if such a move would be legal. It will likely be challenged in courts.

“If they actually do this, we will challenge it legally, and he will lose once again, because we’ve seen this play before,” Cuomo warned, referring to the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities. Cuomo said the 10th Amendment of the Constitution assures the state that it has control of that funding.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said any effort to withhold federal funding from the five boroughs would be unconstitutional.

New York City employees facing potential layoffs should get early retirement incentives as part of the city’s efforts to identify savings amid a worsening fiscal crisis, de Blasio said.

Progressive lawmakers and groups said New Jersey’s agreement to increase taxes on millionaires should be matched in New York, and are pushing the state Legislature here to convene soon to consider a revenue package.

The Cuomo administration is still getting inundated with complaints from frustrated jobless New Yorkers who haven’t received federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits that officials promised to transfer into their accounts last week.

The problem turned out to be an issue at KeyBank, the bank the state uses to move the money. “They’ve been read the riot act,” said Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide. Key assured the state the problem won’t happen again, DeRosa said.

Cuomo’s Health Department is responsible for $700 million in “improper” and “questionable” Medicaid spending during fiscal 2019, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced.

New York City’s former top doctor says the city will inevitably face a resurgence of Covid-19, its coronavirus testing needs to be recalibrated to work effectively and older children attending in-person instruction pose a health risk.

Starting on Sept. 30, New York City eateries, from cafes to buffets, will be permitted to start serving food indoors again after a six-month ban. But industry insiders say the 25 percent cap on patrons instituted to protect people from the coronavirus isn’t enough for owners to pay their workers without government aid.

Nearly 90 percent of New York City bar and restaurant owners couldn’t pay their rent in August, heightening the continued crush the coronavirus shutdown has inflicted on Gotham’s economy.

With winter approaching, restaurants that relied on outdoor dining to survived the COVID-19 pandemic hope the state will increase the limits on indoor seating capacity. Several Capital Region Assembly members are making the case for increasing dining-room capacity from 50 to 75 percent.

After three days of online orientation to learn the ropes last week, NYC kids began remote learning full-time yesterday, bringing new schedules and tech glitches for some anxious city families.

With a week to go before the delayed start of in-person learning, nearly half of NYC public school students are now enrolled in remote-only instruction, according to new figures.

Cuomo wants school districts across the state to come up with a plan for reopening and then stick to it. “Parents plan their lives around their children,” he told reporters. “The changes are not helpful.”

Students in Central New York’s largest district are still learning from home, but teachers at two schools have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Rensselaer High School tennis and cross-country teams began their fall practices yesterday thanks in part to a $10,000 donation from Stewart’s Shops to the fund to underwrite the school’s sports program after the district cut its financial support amid budget cuts.

About 80 Syracuse University students quarantined in their dormitory since Sunday were allowed to leave their rooms and resume normal activities last night after they all tested negative for coronavirus.

Commissioners of two NYC agencies leading efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in jails told the City Council they’re prepared to handle an outbreak if New York is hit with a second COVID-19 surge this winter — but not everyone was convinced.

Federal prosecutors charged a New York City police officer who is also a U.S. Army reservist with acting as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China since 2018.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Robert Carroll and NYC’s largest police union waged a war of words on Twitter over Gotham’s safety — with the cops accusing the pol of making light of shootings and the lawmaker firing back that police are fear-mongering.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said a talent show hosted in Arbor Hill Saturday was not approved by the county.

New York State regulators have approved the use of the emerging forensic technique of familial searching to help police identify crime victims.

A quirk in federal law that allowed Hempstead Town to receive significantly more for coronavirus expenses than Nassau County has touched off a tug-of-war between County Executive Laura Curran and Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin that appears to have no end in sight.

The volume of absentee ballots in New York this year is sharply exceeding past election cycles and officials in Albany and Rensselaer counties said they have issued twice the number of mail-in ballots than in 2016 during the last presidential contest.

Former Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove told a grand jury in 2017 that he allowed Troy police Sgt. Randall French to testify with immunity before an earlier grand jury because he believed the sergeant’s fatal shooting of Edson Thevenin in 2016 was justified.

Despite the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sales tax and other government revenues, the city of Cohoes has put forth a proposed budget for next year that comes with no property tax increase, or water and sewer rate increases, for residents.

Disgraced Onondaga Family Court Jurist Michael Hanuszczak resigned after he was charged by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct with “uninvited, unwelcome kissing and otherwise inappropriate behavior toward two female court staff,” wrote commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian in a statement.

State Police said they are investigating a homicide after human remains found last year in a Searsburg gravel pit were determined to be those of a 43-year-old Capital Region woman who was last heard from by family in July 2019.

The popular tourist spot Lake George had a surprisingly strong summer, all things considered, and is working hard to keep visitors coming this fall.

The cast and crew from the Amazon series “Modern Love” began shooting scenes in Troy for the show’s upcoming season. The production, based at the Schenectady Armory Center, has also filmed in Albany.

It’s 11 days until the 145th running of the Preakness Stakes. There has still been no decision on whether or not the popular New York-bred Tiz the Law will be part of the field contesting the third and final leg of the 2020 abnormal Triple Crown.

Jackie Stallone, famed astrologer, reality television star and mother of acting superstar Sylvester Stallone and singer Frank Stallone, has reportedly died at the age of 98.

Ellen DeGeneres started the 18th season of her daytime talk show yesterday with a lengthy apology that addressed reports describing her as a boss who led a toxic workplace.

Photo credit: George Fazio.