Rise and Shine: Sept. 3, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Thursday, one day closer to a three-day holiday weekend. It’s also National Welsh Rarebit Day.

Who thinks this stuff up?

If you’re not familiar with Welsh Rarebit – or Welsh rabbit, as some call it – it is a dish that, contrary to the name, contains no actual rabbit. It’s vegetarian, but not vegan, though I guess a vegan version could be made, if you were so inclined. (We will leave the debate over whether vegan cheese is any good for another day).

It originated in Britain and features toasted bread topped with a savory cheddar cheese sauce that also includes beer or ale, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, mustard, and paprika.

If an egg is served atop the dish, it is called Buck Rarebit.

No one is quite sure about the exact origins of this dish. According to one website, the earliest cited use of the term “Welsh rabbit” was in 1725, with the alternative form rarebit (a word that, by the way, has no actual meaning) appearing in 1785.

But another site says a dish of cheese and topped with mustard or spices has been popular since at least the 1500s, but was known then as “caws pobi,” which is Welsh for “toasted cheese.”

As legend has it, Welsh peasants gave a meat-based name to this meatless dish because they used cheese as a substitute for the meat they could not afford.

Welsh Rarebit/rabbit is not to be confused with cheese toast, which is exactly as it sounds – grilled cheese on bread. If you’re interested in making yourself the PERFECT version of this dish, click here. And if you avoid alcohol, like me, you could consider swapping out the booze for cider.

It’s also National Skyscraper Day, which is well worth noting given all the obituaries that are being written for New York City these days as a result of the pandemic. My dad insists that the Big Apple is resilient and will survive this setback as it has survived so many others before. I’m not sold on that yet. We didn’t have the internet during previous challenges (like, say, the Spanish flu), which changes everything – especially when it comes to not needing to be in a physical office in order to work.

But I’m hopeful.

The term “skyscraper” – for the record – is 100 percent American. It dates back to the late 1880s during the building boom in Chicago and New York. At the time, buildings that had more floors than the surrounding buildings were called skyscrapers, but now buildings must have at least 40 or more floors to be designated as skyscrapers.

Here’s a cool historical fact: On this day in 1838, abolitionist, journalist, author, and human rights advocate Frederick Douglass made his dramatic escape from slavery, traveling north by train and boat from Baltimore, through Delaware, to Philadelphia. That same night, he took a train to New York, where he arrived the following morning. His escape story is pretty fascinating and worth a bit of a detour, if you have a few moments…click here.

It’s going to be mostly cloudy today with temperatures in the high 70s. Look for some rain showers in the early evening.

In the headlines…

President Trump issued a memorandum yesterday titled “Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities,” which threatens to withdraw federal funding for any “anarchist” jurisdiction” it finds “disempowers or defunds police departments.”

The five-page document, sent to Attorney General Bill Barr and director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought, claims “anarchy” is taking over Democratic-run cities and calls for a review of federal funds given to Seattle, Portland, New York City, and Washington, D.C. It also leaves the door open for other cities to be targeted.

The wave of violence in the Big Apple continues to rear its ugly head, as New York City saw an increase in overall crime last month compared to the same time in 2019, according to the latest NYPD statistics.

The NYPD’s data showed 53 murders in August, an increase of over 47 percent from 36 during the same month in 2019. Shootings surged 166 percent, with 242 reported last month.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that a COVID-19 vaccine will be the answer to the city’s spate of shooting violence.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo all but threatened Trump’s safety if he returns to New York City in response to the news that the president is looking to pull federal funds from “lawless” cities – including the Big Apple.

“He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City,” Cuomo said. “Forget bodyguards, he’d better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the streets in New York…He is persona non grata in New York City, and I think he knows that, and he’ll never come back to New York, because New Yorkers will never forget how gratuitously mean he has been.”

A gubernatorial spokesperson later clarified that Cuomo did not mean that the president would literally need such additional protection, but was simply illustrating how unwelcome he would be in the city.

The governor also said any attempt to defund New York City by the president would be an “illegal stunt” because Trump is “not a king.”

Barr said that Jacob Blake was committing a felony and armed when a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot him seven times in the back.

Barr also broadly defended the actions of police, saying shootings of Black Americans often weren’t racially motivated and weren’t as common as public demonstrations have made them seem. “I don’t think there are two justice systems,” he insisted.

“I think the narrative that the police are in some epidemic of shooting unarmed black men is simply a false narrative and also the narrative that’s based on race,” Barr said.

A disturbing new video shows Rochester police laughing at a naked and cuffed Black man, Daniel Prude, 41, with a mesh bag over his head — before shoving his face into the ground until he stops breathing.

…The incident occurred in March — two months before George Floyd’s very similar death in Minneapolis touched off nationwide protests — yet it didn’t become public until now.

The New York State attorney general, Letitia James, and the Rochester police chief said they were investigating Prude’s death. The officers involved are still on the force.

Three activists questioning Prude’s death were arrested inside Rochester’s Public Safety Building yesterday afternoon. One person was reportedly taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries received during the arrest.

A California police officer was charged yesterday with felony manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black man inside a Walmart in April in a swift confrontation that the district attorney said displayed an unreasonable use of deadly force.

The Trump administration is asking states to speed up approval for vaccine distribution sites by Nov. 1, the latest sign the federal government is eager to get a vaccine out before the end of the year.

A new analysis of several studies in which steroid drugs were used to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients found the drugs significantly helped reduce patient deaths, bolstering earlier, preliminary evidence for the benefit of these medications.

U.S. debt has reached its highest level compared to the size of the economy since World War II and is projected to exceed it next year, the result of a giant fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that her rule-breaking visit to a San Francisco hair salon this week was the product of a “set up” and demanded an apology from the beauty parlor’s owner. (The owner denied that claim).

Asked about indoor dining yet again yesterday, de Blasio said his administration is continuing to work closely with the state and hopes to have some announcement, whether good or bad news, in the coming weeks.

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for an immediate restart to indoor dining in the Big Apple, saying a thriving restaurant industry is vital to the local economy.

Restaurants in the five boroughs say they are coming to a do-or-die moment, as New York state and city officials continue to delay a decision on resuming indoor dining in the metropolitan area.

State lawmakers and fiscal watchdogs are trying to make sense of de Blasio’s math as the city seeks approval from Albany to borrow billions.

New York City gyms reopened yesterday after a five-month lockdown brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic, giving stir-crazy New Yorkers a long-awaited chance to hit the treadmills and free weights inside.

Not even a location a block away from the “crossroads of the world” could save the Hilton Times Square from the pandemic. The owner of the 478-room hotel on 42nd Street said it would close permanently next month.

Cuomo and other state officials have been hit with a class-action lawsuit from more than 1,000 wedding venues that are arguing for the right to be treated the same as restaurants, which are allowed to serve up to 50 percent of their maximum occupancy under the current executive order pertaining to COVID-related restrictions.

A coronavirus outbreak sparked by a Maine wedding in August, which has also recently been tied to a series of cases at a county jail and nursing home, has continued to surge.

Over half of the state thinks the worst of the coronavirus pandemic still lies ahead, with a majority of New Yorkers fearful of indoor activities and sending kids back to in-person schooling, a new Siena poll has found.

Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping calendar, is still more than two months away, but retailers pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic have already been making decisions about inventory, staffing and how best to connect with customers skittish about visiting crowded stores during a pandemic.

A second Queens karaoke bar was shut down by the city sheriff’s office after more than a hundred people were found partying at the nightspot last night, authorities said.

De Blasio’s plan for students to attend outdoor classes due to the coronavirus crisis comes as daytime shootings have surged this summer — and cops say it’s a surefire recipe for disaster.

NYC Council members Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca held an outdoor learning demonstration outside P.S. 15 in Red Hook yesterday where tots sat in a shuttered roadway surrounded by parked cards and residential houses.

Bringing children back to classrooms in the nation’s largest school system was already a monumental challenge. Now New York City is also rushing to set up mandatory random testing at 1,800 schools by Oct. 1 — a last-minute wild-card mission that no other major city has tried.

Students, returning to school after months of isolation, are not only being asked to fully reimagine what their college social lives look like, but also to assume active roles as the front line against an outbreak at their schools by policing campus safety.

SUNY Oneonta has confirmed dozens more cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours. The college said 44 new cases were found.

The state’s largest teachers union, New York State United Teachers, wrote a letter to Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, asking him to revise the policy on masks in schools to make them mandatory while in the classroom.

The Court of Appeals declined to hear a last-ditch appeal filed by the State University of New York and several charter schools that were seeking to allow certain schools certify their own teachers.

The NYPD had to make a personal appeal to Upper West Siders to 911 them instead of running to the media and local politicians to sound the alarm on deteriorating conditions there, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism John Miller said.

A U.S. District Court judge in New York City dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state challenging a statute that requires political parties to offer a presidential candidate and garner nearly three times as many votes than previously needed to maintain their statewide ballot line.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called for reforms to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that her office said denies 99 percent of applicants.

Faced with the likely loss of nearly $28.7 million in state aid, the Schenectady school board members were poised to approve sweeping staff and program reductions that will adversely impact the district for years to come.

The first day of school for Albany students will be a partial day of virtual orientation on Sept. 9, and the first day of full instruction will be Sept. 29, Superintendent Kaweeda Adams said in a statement.

An Islip High School teacher has tested positive for COVID-19, district officials wrote in a letter yesterday, while trying to reassure parents with concerns that an outbreak could occur once classes begin next week.

Antoinette T. Bacon, an associate deputy attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice, has been named acting U.S. attorney for New York’s Northern District, according to multiple sources briefed on the matter. Bacon will become the first female U.S. attorney in the district.

State Police say they have reopened their investigation into an off-duty Cohoes police officer’s firing of his service pistol in Essex County and his claims that a Black male shot at him first.

State Police are investigating an overnight fire that took place early yesterday at an automobile repair and sales business on Route 40 at the intersection with Melrose Valley Falls Road.

Two firefighters have resigned after one unfurled a Confederate flag on a Brookhaven Fire Department ladder truck during a Patchogue parade.

The staples of a Long Island summer — open parks, campgrounds, beaches and pools fully staffed with lifeguards — will live on for several more weeks as officials announced an extension of activities beyond Labor Day, considered the unofficial end of the season.

Advertisers are pressing for unprecedented flexibility to back out of monthslong spending commitments with TV networks, concerned that the coronavirus pandemic is sapping the fall schedule of new programming and threatening the National Football League’s season.

The future of the Tri-City ValleyCats, and dozens of other minor league baseball teams, is in the hands of negotiators who are trying to hammer out a new agreement before the contract with Major League Baseball expires on Sept. 30.

RIP Tom Seaver, 75, the greatest of all Mets who dropped out of public life in March of 2019 after being diagnosed with dementia. He died early Monday, according to family sources, from complications from Lyme disease, dementia and COVID-19.

Happy 80th Birthday, Newsday!

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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