Rise and Shine: Sept. 4, 2020

Happy Friday, CivMixers, and welcome to the long weekend.

This is a sort of bittersweet moment when we bid adieu to summer and usher in the fall season. Traditionally, it’s a three-day extravaganza of trying to squeeze in the very last swims and picnics and hikes etc. before we all have to buckle down and go back to our regular routines. There are also often parades and fireworks and cookouts and parties…

Of course, the pandemic has changed all that. (Or it should. PSA time: If you’re planning to gather this weekend, or dine out, or hang out, or whatever, please continue to observe public health protocols and keep New York’s infection rate low).

It’s still Labor Day weekend, though, and thus it’s worth revisiting the history behind the holiday, which pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers – something that is particularly poignant and important, given the dangers that essential workers faced and continue to face throughout this unprecedented public health crisis, and the historically high unemployment levels we’re seeing as a result of the virus.

Labor Day was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.

Labor unions first appeared in the 18th century and steadily grew more vocal and active as the U.S. moved from an agrarian economy to one based in manufacturing, which resulted in all sorts of injustices for workers. Unions started organizing and urging workers to strike and rally in favor of better conditions, shorter hours and higher pay.

Some of these events turned violent, in particular the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. On Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City – the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

Today is National Wildlife Day, (one of two held annually), which encourages awareness of endangered species, preservation, and conservation efforts around the world.

It also happens to the be the day that Steve Irwin, the Australian wildlife expert who was known to millions around the world as the Crocodile Hunter, died after he was stabbed in the heart by an eight-foot stingray while filming on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Irwin was buried in a private ceremony at Australia Zoo, the 100-acre wildlife park that was created by his parents and subsequently owned by Irwin and his wife Terri. Irwin’s wife continues to run the wildlife park along with her son, Robert; her daughter, Bindi (of Dancing with the Stars fame, which I LOVE), and Bindi’s American husband, Chandler Powell.

The zoo closed temporarily due to the pandemic, but reopened to the public in June – just in case you happen to be in Australia and looking for something to do sometime soon.

We’re looking at clouds this morning, giving way to sunny skies in the afternoon – just in time for you to call it quits and get the weekend started a wee bit early. Temperatures will be in the mid-70s.

In the headlines…

Law enforcement agents shot and killed Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, an antifa supporter, as they moved to arrest him in the fatal shooting of a right-wing activist who was part of a pro-Trump caravan in Portland, Ore., officials said.

In the wake of a deadly protest-related shooting in downtown Portland last weekend and nearly 100 straight days of frequently chaotic protests, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for an end to the violence.

Trump angrily denied a report in The Atlantic that he denigrated U.S. service members, calling it “fake news” and a “disgrace” and suggesting the author and his sources are “liars.”

The Atlantic report says Trump disparaged the military service of the late former president George H.W. Bush, objected to wounded veterans being involved in a military parade, and canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he didn’t care about honoring those killed in war.

Trump painted Democratic nominee Joe Biden as weak on crime and a danger to the U.S. economy, while again suggesting supporters attempt to vote twice in the November election to ensure their ballot is counted.

“These mail-in ballots are a disgrace and they know it,” Trump said. “Sign your mail-in ballot. Sign it and send it in and then you have to follow it. And if on Election Day or early voting, that is not tabulated and counted, you go vote.”

While his critics and elections’ officials seized on the president’s remarks, contending it is criminal to intentionally vote twice in North Carolina and many other states, that is not the case in New York.

Two days after Trump traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin to focus attention on violence and disorder, Biden also went to the city and sought to strike a drastically different tone, repudiating the president’s divisive approach to matters of racial injustice.

Facebook will prohibit new political advertisements in the week before the U.S. presidential election in November and seek to flag any candidates’ premature claims of victory, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said.

Trump is said to have spoken privately for years about withdrawing from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a move that critics say would be a major victory for Russia.

In an appeal to racism among white voters, the president says that Democrats tried to ruin Westchester County through fair housing policies.

Facing a persistent polling deficit and a struggling economy, Trump has cranked up pressure on administration health officials to expedite work both on a coronavirus vaccine and on treatments that might signal to voters there is an end in sight to the life-altering pandemic that has imperiled his reelection.

“Under Operation Warp Speed we remain on track to produce a safe and effective vaccine in that record time that we talked about,” Trump said in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “It will be delivered before, in my opinion, before the end of the year – but it really might even be delivered before the end of October.”

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment initiative, said that it was “was “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be available by the end of October.

Stocks plunged yesterday after a summer of almost unabated gains, as a rough day for the tech sector weighed on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 800 points, or around 2.8 percent, and the S&P 500 fell more than 125 points, a more than 3.5 percent dive.

More than five months after the coronavirus pandemic began throttling the economy, layoffs remain widespread, the government reported yesterday, the latest sign of the labor market’s painstakingly slow recovery.

Another 881,000 Americans filed initial claims for benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. Normally, the fact that so many people filed for unemployment last week would not be a reason to celebrate. But these are not normal times, and this is another sign that the jobs market is gradually recovering.

The latest jobless numbers indicate that nearly half of all workers receiving unemployment benefits are supported by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which covers individuals not traditionally eligible for aid, including self-employed, freelance, gig and part-time workers, and expires at the end of the year.

Jobless claims appear to be leveling off in New York and New Jersey, with nearly 90,000 people across the tri-state area filing for first-time unemployment benefits last week.

Federal income taxes paid by New Yorkers fell by nearly $3.4 billion, or 2.4 percent, in 2018 — in the first year following the tax overhaul approved by Trump and Congress, a new study released by the Empire Center shows.

A police officer and another person were fatally shot on the west side of Cleveland last night, law enforcement officials said, but further details were not available and a motive was not immediately clear.

More police across the country have died in the line of duty from COVID-19 complications than any other cause, data shows.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded an “expeditious” investigation into the March police-custody death of Daniel Prude in Rochester that’s been probed since April, calling the fatal encounter “deeply disturbing.”

The seven police officers involved in the March arrest of Prude, who was pinned to the ground and later died, have been suspended, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced.

Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said at a news conference this week that he called Rochester police the night of the incident to help find his brother, who was mentally ill, and was shocked to learn that the outcome had led to his brother’s death.

The officers used a mesh hood on Prude that’s known as a “spit hood” or “spit sock” and was intended to prevent Prude, who had been spitting on the ground, from exposing them to disease.

Members of the Community Justice Initiative say that by not disclosing information on Prude’s death, Rochester leaders committed what is tantamount to a “cover-up.” The mayor said the delay was due to the fact that the state AG’s office took over the investigation into the incident.

Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” called on Cuomo to apologize for a statement he made on Wednesday telling Trump that “he better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York.”

Cuomo “nakedly” admitted to “failure” with his comments about the president, according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Casinos will be allowed to reopen in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 9, Cuomo announced. They will be limited to 25 percent capacity, and table games will not be allowed unless physical barriers are installed between patrons.

The governor said that he would not allow indoor dining to return in New York City unless local politicians devoted significant police resources to enforcing social distancing and other reopening conditions.

Cuomo said the return of casinos amid a low level of new COVID-19 cases is “the right next step in our data-driven, phased reopening, which is working.”

The Shinnecock Indian Nation has disclosed several strategic moves to reignite its decade-long plans to enter casino gaming in New York, announcing a “fully vested” partnership with native-gaming giant Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment and developer Tri-State Partners.

Cuomo announced that that NYC malls like Hudson Yards would finally be able to open, starting on Sept. 9, but only at fifty percent capacity, and with no indoor dining.

Angry restaurant owners rallied in eastern Queens, demanding that Cuomo allow indoor dining to restart — and arguing they won’t survive the winter without it.

Nearly two out of three restaurants across New York believe they may be forced to close within months without a comprehensive aid package designated specifically for the hospitality industry, according to the latest poll from the New York State Restaurant Association.

Transit systems, schools and other public facilities in New York could soon become a whole lot dirtier because of a policy change enacted by the Trump administration that’ll strip millions of dollars in critical coronavirus aid for the state.

“I have spoken with New York State and New York City and they are telling me that disinfection of the MTA, government buildings, and schools will now no longer be eligible expenses (for federal reimbursement), and that PPE for non-medical workers has been strictly limited,” U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The MTA could lay off 8,400 workers by November or sooner if the federal government doesn’t come through with a $12 billion bailout, agency chairman Pat Foye said.

More than nine in 10 subway riders are wearing a mask — but a full 15 percent of them are doing it wrong, according to the MTA’s latest survey.

As NYC orders teachers back to work at their schools, hundreds of Education Department staffers who work on policy and support have been allowed to keep working from home.

The Department of Education is flunking when it comes to school reopening plans, NYC elected officials said, as the city’s biggest network of charter schools said it would remain online-only through December.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that New York City would delay reopening schools, he heralded a “spirit of unity” that led to a deal with labor unions. But UFT President Michael Mulgrew subsequently warned he would go to court if necessary to enforce the agreement’s safety standards.

Albany City School District could lay off 222 full-time employees and suspend in-person learning for most students in grades 7-12 to address a devastating budget shortfall caused by reductions to state aid, according to a proposal presented at an emergency board meeting.

As New York officials rethink their initial push to open schools for in-person learning, a majority the state’s residents say fully reopening schools runs too great a risk of spreading the coronavirus, citing fears a second wave of infections is coming in the fall, according to a new Siena poll.

Some New York City teachers say they want more help with a vital part of reopening school: improving remote instruction.

The Islip, Smithtown and Bellmore-Merrick school districts on Long Island each reported a positive case of COVID-19 this week among employees who had returned to prepare for reopening after Labor Day.

In mid-June, the Westchester County Legal Aid Society sent a letter to Cuomo, imploring him to open an investigation into allegations of rampant police corruption and brutality in Mount Vernon, a town of 67,000 just north of the Bronx. He has thus far not responded.

Officials announced that they were canceling in-person classes for the fall semester at SUNY Oneonta and sending students home, making it the first SUNY campus to shut down because of the virus after trying to reopen for classes.

As universities across the country scramble to control a rise in coronavirus cases on their newly reopened campuses, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases urged them not to send sick students back home. “It’s the worst thing you could do,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

A car plowed through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Manhattan’s Times Square last night in a frightening caught-on-video confrontation.

The NYPD believes it has hit on a new strategy for tamping down gun violence: Many cops from the recently disbanded Anti-Crime Unit are now in uniform, working closely with other officers to help get weapons off the street.

A white George Washington University history professor who apparently confessed to assuming several Black identities may have also posed as a Latina woman in a bizarre rant during a virtual NYC Council meeting.

Parishioners of a Westchester County church are being asked to self-quarantine after a priest and staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, county officials announced.

The Rensselaer County Legislature Republican majority and County Executive Steve McLaughlin said it’s time to raise the flags across the state that were ordered flown at half-staff by Cuomo in April to honor COVID-19 victims.

NXIVM sex cult leader Keith Raniere received the first face-to-face lawyer visit last Thursday in Brooklyn federal lockup since the coronavirus-induced shutdown — one day before Ghislaine Maxwell met with her attorneys at the same facility, officials said.

The death of a young man whose body was discovered at John Boyd Thacher State Park early yesterday morning has been ruled a suicide.

A federal judge ruled this week that the Buffalo and Batavia immigration courts have been committing unconstitutional practices in bond hearings by violating due process, rarely giving immigrants options outside of detention, and by setting extremely high bonds.

Owners of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve said they may test out recreation limits on a portion of the property this Columbus Day weekend, and they plan to definitely place restrictions on the entire reserve next year.

Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Paul Tonko wrote to the CEO of General Electric Co. this week, calling on him to reconsider his decision to move 45 jobs from Schenectady to Poland.

Citing the continuing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in South Florida, organizers of the Art Basel Miami Beach fair — which each year attracts the global stars of the art world — said that they were canceling this year’s event, which had been scheduled for December.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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