Good Monday morning, CivMixers, and for those of you who observe, “G’mar chatima tova.”
I have to confess to feeling very conflicted and ambivalent about Yom Kippur this year. It is the holiest day of the Jewish year, on which, according to tradition, God decides each person’s fate, so we are encouraged to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed over the past 365 days.
This holiday is supposed to be marked by a strict fast – no food or water – from sundown to sundown. And during that time, there’s a lot of praying and synagogue attending. This year, of course, that’s not possible, due to the pandemic.
Though I have read about some congregations holding outdoor services, most are doing the online thing. This is just me, but praying alone in my office, watching the rabbi on Zoom just doesn’t feel spiritual to me. It just feels lonely and sad.
I usually look forward to this time – even though it’s a very heavy holiday and fasting (OK, really, going without coffee) can be hard – as a moment to pause and reflect and take stock of myself. But I don’t know, really, what I’m going to to do this year. I’m still struggling with that at this late hour.
The fourth week in September, which is where we find ourselves now, if you can believe it – fall is just flying by – kicks off Parents Week, established to commend and encourage the work of parents in supporting and caring for their children. (I missed National Daughter Day last week, but saw a lot of you posting lovely tributes to your female offspring on social media).
Parenting is hard in the best of times – or so I’m told, and I have to rely on the experiences of others here, since I’m just a Dog Mom. But the pandemic, with its virtual learning and social distancing requirements, has brought a whole new level of difficult to parenting. And so, I salute you parents! Keep on keeping on.
It’s also International Day for Universal Access to Information, which is really a mouthful.
This day was proclaimed by the UN in 2018, and this year focuses on the right to information in times of crisis and on the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
After a stretch of simply amazing summer-like weather, we’re in for…rain, which is a bummer, but is also so needed, as things have been very dry. Today, we’ll have showers in the morning and sun later in the day, with temperatures hanging in there on the warmer side in the mid-to-high 70s. But don’t get too used to that, as we’re heading into the 60s – and even the high 50s – as the week progresses.
In the headlines…
The New York Times finally got its hands on some of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which reveal an inept businessman and a serial tax avoider crushed by massive debts that could expose him to conflicts of interest given his position as President and power to help undisclosed lenders.
Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.
Trump used the $427.4 million he was paid for “The Apprentice” to fund his other businesses, mostly his golf courses, and was putting more cash into his businesses than he was taking out. He has also been fighting the IRS for years over whether losses he claimed should have resulted in a nearly $73 million refund.
The president spent more than $70,000 to style his hair when he was on “The Apprentice,” and he wrote off the costs as a business expense
At a White House briefing yesterday, Trump denied the New York Times story and claimed that he pays “a lot” in federal income taxes. He said he is willing to release his tax returns once he is no longer under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, which he said “treats me badly.”
Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents. The New York Times said it will not make Trump’s tax-return data public so as not to jeopardize its sources “who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.”
Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale was hospitalized yesterday following reports of a suicide attempt at his Florida home.
By nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump took the first step toward solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court, a shift that could usher in sweeping changes to health care, as well as abortion, voting and gun rights.
In her Rose Garden remarks, Barrett touted her mentor Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked at the high court and whose view of the law has shaped her own.
If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Judge Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending — and potentially much more — and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign between Trump and his Democratic opponent, former VP Joe Biden.
The second-highest ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, of Illinois, conceded that his side can’t halt Barrett’s confirmation to the nation’s high court, and maybe could merely slow the process a number of hours or days.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for Barrett on Oct. 12. Barrett is expected to meet with members of the Judiciary Committee ahead of the hearings, but some Senate Democrats on the panel have indicated they will not privately meet with her and would only question her in public.
Biden accused Trump of nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court to “steal away” health care from millions of Americans by getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Park Slope apartment on Saturday morning to demand he “use all the tools” to block Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court hours ahead of the president’s anticipated announcement.
Trump has worked overtime to persuade followers that Biden is addled and incoherent, significantly lowering expectations for the former vice president’s performance in the upcoming first debate – but raising expectations for himself.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are helping Trump prepare for upcoming debates, the commander-in-chief said.
A federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to ban TikTok downloads in the U.S., giving the Chinese-owned app a short-term victory as it scrambles to ensure its future while caught in a battle of brinkmanship between global superpowers.
A Kentucky State Police ballistics report does not support state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s assertion that Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot a police officer the night she was killed.
A Jefferson County grand jury decided not to indict Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and former police officer Brett Hankison in the death of Taylor based primarily on the fact that Walker fired the first shot in the fatal confrontation.
Police arrested a 25-year-old woman in a hit-and-run incident during demonstrations in Buffalo earlier this week over a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to charge three police officers in Taylor’s death.
New York State’s COVID-19 infection rate edged above 1 percent Saturday, and eight Suffolk establishments were out of compliance with state safety requirements, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The number of positive tests reported daily in the state has been steadily inching up in recent weeks, a trend possibly related to increasing numbers of businesses reopening, college campuses reopening and children returning to school.
Long Island residents under age 30 represented the largest share of new coronavirus cases since June — more than 40 percent — as many young people attended more social events and let down their guard against the virus, according to county health officials and data.
New data shows that New York City is starting to see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 patients in two hospitals in Brooklyn and at least one in Queens, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.
Coronavirus continues to spread “at an alarming rate” in several New York City neighborhoods, the Health Department said yesterday – a day before it is expected to decide whether to shut down private schools and nonessential businesses there.
“COVID-19 remains a force to be reckoned with throughout the country and around the globe, and we cannot drop our guard,” Cuomo said. “While our numbers remain relatively flat, we continue to closely monitor the data daily as always.”
The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, dismissed reports that he had pressured the Food and Drug Administration to soften new, stricter guidelines that the agency was preparing for the emergency authorization of coronavirus vaccines.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were Vitamin D sufficient, with a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL (a measure of vitamin D status), had a significant decreased risk for adverse clinical outcomes.
Blood banks and researchers are mobilizing to find recovered COVID-19 patients who have high levels of antibodies and are willing to donate regularly.
The numbers of suicides among members of the military have increased by as much as 20 percent this year compared with the same period in 2019, with pandemic-induced stress believed to be partly to blame.
Supermarkets are stockpiling groceries and storing them early to prepare for the fall and winter months, when some health experts warn the country could see another widespread outbreak of virus cases and new restrictions.
If there is a second wave of COVID-19 in New York, no matter the lockdown model, a range of business interests are already making the case directly and on a daily basis to the Cuomo administration that the state can ill afford the economic walloping it took during the shutdowns this spring.
Pay raises for an estimated 80,000 state government employees are being deferred 90 days a third consecutive time, through at least Jan. 1, according to the Civil Service Employees Association.
After suffering a wave of losses in New York in 2018, Republicans are trying to regain seats by campaigning on statewide themes. Crime and bail. Nursing homes and COVID-19.
A new requirement for ballot access has prompted a flurry of activity among minor parties whose role in New York’s presidential contests, which have been won by Democrats for the last 35 years, was typically small.
The labor union representing New York City public school principals has passed a vote of no-confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s stewardship in reopening the school system, and asked the state to take over “for the remainder of this health crisis.”
…The vote came just days before most city schools in the nation’s largest school district are set to reopen for in-person instruction.
Back in May, de Blasio appointed dozens of New York City’s most experienced leaders in education and social services to advise him on how to reopen schools in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic. And then he ignored much of their advice.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on New York’s public universities, which are bracing for a 25 percent cut in state operating aid on top of big revenue losses.
The State University of New York at Geneseo is planning to move all courses online after Thanksgiving, joining the ranks of every other SUNY school.
Education and changing students’ attitudes about the disease is a key component to managing any public health crisis, according to Dolores Cimini, director at UAlbany’s Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research.
At least 18 students from the same dorm at Pace University have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting more than 200 people to be quarantined, according to school officials and reports.
The NYC theater community is coming to life, with rehearsal studios opening in recent weeks so professionals can gather and develop shows. The question, though, is whether such facilities are permitted to operate under New York state’s social-distancing guidelines.
Dozens of New York City police officers charged into a group of people standing near an intersection in the West Village on Saturday evening and arrested several of them, in a chaotic scene that stunned outdoor diners and other onlookers.
New York’s attorney general recommended the New York Police Department get out of the business of routine traffic enforcement, a radical change she said would prevent encounters like one last year in the Bronx that escalated quickly and ended with an officer fatally shooting a motorist.
Mayor Lovely Warren named Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, as its interim chief Saturday morning. The Rochester native becomes the first woman to lead RPD.
The Albany County Department of Health is advising anyone who attended the Sept. 20 service at Latham’s Life Church to contact them as a result of a possible COVID-19 exposure.
Someone with a connection to Bethlehem Central High School tested positive for COVID-19, the district announced.
The Stuart M. Townsend Elementary School in the Hadley-Luzerne School District is switching to remote learning from Sept. 28 – Oct. 2 after a fifth person from the school tested positive for COVID-19.
The town supervisor of Malta said he will be discussing safety on the Zim Smith Trail with town board members after a woman was sexually assaulted while jogging on the trail Saturday afternoon.
Loyalists to NXIVM leader Keith Raniere are enlisting Amanda Knox, who was convicted but ultimately exonerated of a 2007 murder in Italy, in an attempt to turn the tables on the federal prosecutors who went after the man they call “Vanguard.”
State Sen. Neil Breslin, an Albany-area Democrat, will chair a special committee examining the influence of race on insurance policies for a national legislative group, the group announced.
The Grand Street Community Arts Center in Albany was vandalized with a racial epithet directed at Black people and the term “Life is Horrible.”
The 20-year-old Cohoes man charged with fatally shooting an 11-year-old boy in Troy earlier this month had been released from jail in June — where he was being held on robbery, weapons and reckless endangerment — because he had not been indicted within 45 days of his arrest last October.
Catskill’s long-dormant Friar Tuck Inn, which was an iconic resort in the 1970s but has since fallen into disrepair, has been purchased by a New York City businesswoman who is planning a “Mindfulness” resort.
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and his wife confronted a home intruder who attempted to kidnap their 9-month-old grandchild over the weekend, Los Angeles law enforcement officials confirmed.
Photo credit: George Fazio.