Rise and Shine: Sept. 8, 2020

Well, it happened. The unofficial last hurrah of summer has come and gone…and what a glorious weekend it was.

As we’ve mentioned previously, fall is technically not yet here – there are 14 days remaining until the Autumnal Equinox. But traditionally, Labor Day weekend has been the demarcation point between the seasons, and in normal times kids would be heading back to school and adults back to a regularly scheduled workweek.

Of course, we all know these times are anything but normal. The start of school has been delayed in many districts as administrators try to figure out the best way to bring kids back without causing massive COVID-19 outbreaks, and, because of the aforementioned virus, many adults will be working from home for the foreseeable future.

In keeping with the “back to school” theme, however, even if that’s not actually happening in your neck of the woods, it’s worth noting that today is International Literacy Day, which was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2000.

The purpose of this day is to recognize the importance of literacy, which, by the way, refers to a person’s ability to read or write – an ability that connects and empowers people, allowing them to communicate and interact with the world – and acknowledge the need to create a globally literate community.

Perhaps you are quietly questioning the need for such a day – I mean, aren’t we in modern times here? Who isn’t learning to read? – here are some disturbing data points to consider:

“Today, approximately 16 percent of the world’s population, two-thirds of which is female, is unable to read or write at a basic level in their native languages. Illiteracy in nearly all parts of the world has been linked to socio-economic issues like poverty and demographic factors such as gender.”

Need more convincing?

As of 2019, 45 percent of Americans were functionally illiterate and could not read above a fifth-grade level; 50 percent of adults could not read a book written at an eighth-grade level; 85 percent of juvenile offenders had problems reading; out of 5 people in American prisons couldn’t read; and 3 out of 4 people on welfare couldn’t read.

Also: The average child from a professional family hears 215,000 words per week; a child from a working-class family hears 125,000 words per week; and a child from a family receiving welfare benefits hears 62,000 words per week.

Turns out that reading really IS fundamental.

Speaking of reading, on this day in 1952, Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Old Man and the Sea” was published. Hemingway wrote this short novel in 1951 in Cuba. It was the last major work of his fiction that was published during his lifetime. It was published in book form – featuring black and white illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe and Raymond Sheppard – after it was featured in Life magazine on Sept. 1, 1952.

“The Old Man and the Sea” tells the story of a battle between an aging, experienced fisherman, Santiago, and a large marlin. It’s probably the best known of his works, because it is the bane of high school English students everywhere. The sentence “what are the metaphors in Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’ is probably enough to cause mild anxiety in all my fellow publish school graduates of a certain age.

I’m sorry to say, however, that it’s not my favorite Hemingway tome. (We can have a discussion about that some other time, but there are a lot of others I prefer more, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “A Farewell to Arms”).

It’s going to be partly cloudy with highs in the low 80s today.

In the headlines…

President Donald Trump launched an unprecedented public attack against the leadership of the U.S. military yesterday, accusing them of waging wars to boost the profits of defense manufacturing companies.

In the latest in an avalanche of books about Trump, his former attorney, Michael Cohen, says the president authorized hush money to an ex-porn star, routinely disparaged minorities and women, and will do anything in order to hold onto the presidency. (The book is being released today).

“As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all Black folks, from music to culture and politics,” Cohen writes in the book. He describes Trump calling Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule, “no leader.”

Traditionally the launch of the presidential race’s intense final stages, Labor Day this year assumed an outsized starting-gun quality as both Trump and his Democratic rival, former VP Joe Biden, began fervent in-person attempts to mobilize voters while the contours of the contest quickly harden.

Trump waged rambling attacks on Biden from the front steps of the White House, calling his opponent a “stupid person.” He visits Florida and South Carolina today. Biden, meanwhile, began a new phase of in-person campaigning with a low-key stop in Pennsylvania as he defends an unbudging polling lead that has become the steadiest on record.

House Democrats are launching an investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and called for his immediate suspension following accusations that he reimbursed employees for campaign contributions they made to his preferred GOP politicians, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

The prospect of a vaccine to shield Americans from coronavirus infection emerged as a point of contention in the White House race as Trump accused Democrats of “disparaging” for political gain a vaccine he repeatedly has said could be available before the election.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris spoke with Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back seven times by the police last month, while meeting with his family and legal team in Wisconsin yesterday.

Blake spoke from his hospital bed about the pain of recovery and his hope for the future in a video posted to Twitter by his attorney on Saturday.

As police cracked down Friday and Saturday on surging protests over the death of Daniel Prude, activists have been calling on both Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary to resign.

“For everything that we have seen this year it is clear to me that there is more work to be done, and I am committed to doing what’s necessary and I know that the chief is committed to doing what’s necessary to better serve our citizens and our community,” Warren said.

Amid continued protests in the city over the death of Prude, Warren said that the city will be doubling its availability of mental health professionals and will take its family crisis intervention team “out of the police department and move it and its funding to the Department of Youth and Recreation Services.”

New York’s attorney general, Tish James, announced on Saturday that she would set up a grand jury to consider evidence in Prude’s death. James’s office became aware of the incident in mid-April, but made no public mention of the case until this week.

Naked protesters wearing nothing more than “spit hoods” sat outside Rochester’s police headquarters yesterday, demanding accountability for the death of Daniel Prude, an unarmed Black man who was fatally injured during a March encounter with cops.

Prude’s suffocation in Rochester has drawn new attention to the hoods — mesh bags that have been linked to other deaths — and the frequent reliance on police to respond to mental health emergencies.

Video shows a protester getting hit by a car that sped through a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Rochester, while the driver also covered the crowd with what appeared to be pepper spray during a weekend of unrest over the police-involved death of Prude.

The wake generated by other boats caused five boats to sink on a Texas lake during a parade in support of the president, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Trump told a reporter to remove his face mask during a Labor Day press conference at the White House, arguing that he couldn’t hear the “muffled” question. The reporter declined to remove his mask, but offered to “speak a lot louder.”

New wildfires ravaged bone-dry California during a scorching Labor Day weekend that saw a dramatic airlift of more than 200 people trapped by flames and ended with the state’s largest utility turning off power to 172,000 customers to try to prevent its power lines and other equipment from sparking more fires.

Wildfires have burned 2 million acres in California this year, marking a state record as fire crews continue to put out fires across the state, officials said.

One of the multiple wildfires burning in California was started by the use of a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” during a gender-reveal party.

While revelers marked the end of the summer season with sunny skies and perfect beach weather over Labor Day, the feisty Atlantic continued churning out storms, in keeping with a record-breaking hurricane season.

A battle over a COVID-19 relief bill awaits Congress when it returns to work today for a monthlong session in which it also must reach a deal to continue funding the government after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Across the nation, states and cities have made an array of fiscal maneuvers to stay solvent and are planning more in case Congress can’t agree on a fiscal relief package after the August recess.

If U.S. Senate Republicans get their way, New York City will suffer an economic collapse of unprecedented proportions, Democratic members of the Big Apple’s congressional delegation said, as they railed against a scaled-back coronavirus stimulus plan proposed by the GOP.

Robert Mujica, the governor’s budget director, said officials were still deciphering how much money they would withhold from a large $3 billion payment to schools in September, noting officials would be careful not to disproportionately cut funding from poorer school districts. The governor is resisting calls to tax the rich.

New York City’s economy depends on immigrants, but at a time when it needs all the help it can get, the flow of new residents from overseas is slowing.

The coronavirus infection rate in New York state has remained below 1 percent for 30 consecutive days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday, a significant milestone for a state that was once the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

A small, particularly vulnerable population of New Yorkers who are ill from 9/11-related conditions suffered severe illness from the coronavirus.

Separate 9/11-anniversary ceremonies to remember the 2,983 killed in the attacks are planned for Friday — just blocks apart in lower Manhattan — after a disagreement over whether to read victims’ names in person or via a recording.

Ten New York City public school buildings won’t be able to welcome teachers back today to prepare for the start of in-person learning on Sept. 21 because of problems with the buildings’ ventilation system, the Department of Education said.

Five teachers have sued the city seeking to work from home in the upcoming school year because of health concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic, new court papers show.

More than 200 staff members in the Williamsville Central School District near Buffalo have resigned or taken leaves of absence amid the coronavirus pandemic, causing numerous online courses to be postponed.

NYC-based Success Academy Charter network’s all-remote September-through-December schedule is so strict and demanding, some parents and teachers worry the kids won’t last that long.

More than 200,000 students are due to start classes in Long Island public schools today, the biggest opening day on the calendar and one marked by extraordinary efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the launch of a SUNY system-wide COVID-19 case tracker dashboard. The centralized dashboard will provide real time, up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases, testing, and quarantine and isolation space availability across SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities.

The stunning outbreak at SUNY Oneonta and another that unfolded at University at Buffalo last week have exposed wide inconsistencies in mask enforcement, social distancing and testing protocols at New York colleges, including within the sprawling SUNY system.

Public-health officials worry that dispatching students from college campuses where there are COVID-19 outbreaks back to their hometowns, often without testing them before departure, could lead to new outbreaks around the country.

Long Island saw an increase in cases and its infection rate for COVID-19 as residents headed into the holiday weekend and the impending reopening of schools, according to state figures. Some of the rise might be attributed to an increase in students testing positive at colleges.

A cluster of Covid-19 cases has been linked to a fraternity party at the University of New Hampshire, health officials say.

The University at Albany began athletic-related activities yesterday, a week after suspending those workouts because of concern that athletes likely attended off-campus parties that could have spread coronavirus.

It is a trade-off that looms for millions of families across the U.S. whose children are returning to partial or completely remote learning at K-12 schools this fall, and the potential blow to the economy as parents stay home could be big enough to rival a small or medium-size recession.

The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) has been offering rapid, on-site COVID-19 tests to students and faculty at the pharmacy school and several other Albany-based colleges.

The president of SUNY Oneonta said the school is looking to identify students for discipline and possible suspension after a photo surfaced showing students “violating strict safety protocols” after the college switched to remote learning because of a massive coronavirus outbreak.

A SUNY Oneonta freshman from Centerport, Long Island who tested positive for COVID-19 said school officials should share more of the blame for a student outbreak than her peers who partied.

The state Assembly will hold a virtual public hearing today take testimony on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people with mental illness or an intellectual or development disability.

New York beachgoers were greeted with what appears to be a grim anti-Cuomo banner in the sky Saturday.

Cuomo celebrated members of organized labor as “heroes of the COVID war” in his pre-recorded Labor Day address.

Cuomo signed legislation requiring all public employers to create plans to protect workers in the event of another health emergency.

A month after New York closed its rental assistance program, tenants who have struggled to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic continue to wait for funds to be released.

Republican state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, GOP City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo are joining a group of restaurant owners to sue Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the Big Apple’s continued ban on indoor dining.

Lady Gaga’s father has joined more than 450 New York City restaurant owners suing Cuomo and de Blasio for $2 billion in damages over a continued ban on indoor dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuomo stepped in to stop New York City from holding its annual lien auction Friday, moments after de Blasio said the sale would go on as planned later in the month.

New York City’s traffic may feel as slow as ever — but streets are actually still seeing less driving than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data.

Sarah Pitts, a 35-year-old prosecutor who works for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, was struck and killed by a charter bus while she was bicycling in east Williamsburg early yesterday morning, authorities said.

A 6-year-old boy who was hit by gunfire near a pre-dawn J’Ouvert celebration in Brooklyn early Monday had one of his leg bones shattered by the bullet, his mother said.

Facebook is offering users money to refrain from using the site and Instagram in the weeks leading up to the bitterly contested November elections.

While Albany Med nurses worked throughout the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, they have been unsuccessful in settling a contract with their employer and recently voted to strike within 10 days if hospital leadership does not meet them at the table.

The Ballston Town Board will hold a public hearing on its proposed moratorium on certain development from 6 to 7 p.m. tonight, at Town Hall, 323 Charlton Road or via Zoom.

E-commerce giants are enacting new restrictions on the sale of seeds, but the moves are unlikely to eliminate the tactics government officials and industry experts suspect are behind the mystery seeds caper that gripped the world this summer.

Used cars are usually overlooked in the fanfare accorded to cutting-edge electric cars and gussied-up pickup trucks. Now they are suddenly the industry’s hottest commodity, as buyers are snapping them up in an effort to avoid using public transportation during the pandemic.

The Nassau County Off-Tracking Betting Corporation has taken up Trump’s call and is giving workers a pause in paying the 6.2 percent payroll tax, which funds Social Security.

Even though there were no fans in the stands at Saratoga Race Course, the meet came close to breaking its 2019 betting record. But solid betting does not mean that NYRA is flush with cash.

Authentic dueled with Tiz the Law in the final turn and upset the heavy favorite to win the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law is scheduled to return to New York today following his runner-up effort in the Derby with plans for a next start to be determined.

NYRA didn’t have a single positive COVID-19 case among its own employees, backstretch workers or outside vendors during the entire Saratoga meet, which was held without fans.

The overwhelming US Open favorite Novak Djokovic was stunningly defaulted from his fourth-round match versus Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday after striking a lineswoman in the throat with a ball hit in frustration.

A public foot traffic and conservation easement agreement shows trails on the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) can be closed by either the state or the land’s private owners to protect “from undue adverse environmental damage.”

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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