Rise and Shine: Sept. 9, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Wednesday. I need reminding of this fact because three-day weekends always throw me off. I spent most of yesterday thinking it was Monday.

Nope.

Today is California Admission Day – the day that, way back in 1850, then President Millard Fillmore signed the Act for the Admission of the State of California, which admitted California as the 31st state to the Union.

The area became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the U.S. in 1848 after the Mexican–American War (we paid $15 million dollars for the place, which is a massive amount of cash at the time). California is one of only a few states which became a state without first being an organized territory.

Known as the “Golden State,” California has long had a mystique and has drawn people from all over the world, and it certainly has a lot to offer: Breathtaking coastline, great weather, amazing parks, cosmopolitan San Francisco, cool LA – home to Hollywood. It is, like New York, known as one of the nation’s progressive leaders when it comes to government policies.

But it also has a lot of drawbacks, like earthquakes, horrible traffic (in LA, at least), a reputation for pretension and excess (LA again), and – more recently – rolling blackouts, insane heat and spiking COVID-19 rates.

I’ll stick with New York, thanks.

Today is International Sudoku Day, and the fact that it falls on 9/9 is apparently supposed to mean something to fans of this numerological puzzle thing. I’m not a numbers person, and so I’ve never gotten into this craze. I’ll just put the blurbage right here for those of you who might care:

“The goal of the Sudoku game is to fill a 9×9 grid so that each column, row, and 3×3 sub-grid contains all the digits from 1 to 9. So nine-nine is the natural choice for the day of celebration.”

Also, it’s National Wienerschnitzel Day. Yes, a whole day set aside to commemorate the popular Austrian dish made of a large, boneless veal cutlet dipped in a batter of egg yokes, rolled in bread crumbs and fried in butter.

According to some web sources, the appellation “Wienerschnitzel” is protected by Austrian law, which states that any dish called “Wienerschnitzel” must be made from the traditional veal.

Somehow, I was not aware of the existence, prior to this morning’s Googling experience, that Wienerschnitzel is a fast food restaurant – the largest hot dog chain in the world, it claims, that serves more than 120 million hot dogs each and every year. And it was founded – where else? – in California.

John Galardi started the company in 1961 with a single hot dog stand in Wilmington, CA and is known as one of the pioneers of the quick-service food industry. There’s a whole e-book about him that you can download, if you’re looking for some light reading, from the Wienerschnitzel website.

We’re in for a mix of sun and clouds today, with temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s – not a bad day if you haven’t put that grill away yet, to whip yourself up some hot dogs.

In the headlines…

President Donald Trump banned oil drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — dramatically expanding a more narrow expiring moratorium covering Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Trump compared himself to conservationist President Teddy Roosevelt during a speech in swing-state Florida, which he called “my home.”

Standing behind a podium with a presidential seal, Trump claimed, with no evidence, that electing his Democratic rival, former VP Joe Biden, would leave the environment “permanently injured,” adding: “The left’s agenda isn’t about protecting the environment. It is about punishing America.”

A report commissioned by federal regulators overseeing the nation’s commodities markets has concluded that climate change threatens U.S. financial markets, as the costs of wildfires, storms, droughts and floods spread through insurance and mortgage markets, pension funds and other financial institutions.

Trump and Biden are tied in a new NBC News/Marist poll of Florida voters in the latest sign of a tightening race.

Trump told rally-goers in North Carolina that if Biden defeats him, “rioters” who harass restaurant diners would run the country.

The president blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo and and Rochester’s mayor, Lovely Warren, after the city’s police chief and senior members of his command staff announced their retirements amid criticism for the handling of the police-involved death of Daniel Prude earlier this year.

In a statement, the chief, La’Ron Singletary, a 20-year veteran of the force who is also African American, blasted outside groups for trying to destroy his character and what he called “mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death.”

Warren, who promoted Singletary in 2019, said the chief was “not asked to give his resignation, because I do believe he is giving his very best.”

The mayor said the resignation followed “new information that was brought to light today that I had not previously seen before.” She did not elaborate.

The Rochester Police Locust Club, the local union representing police, said that the chief’s retirement came as a surprise, adding: “What is clear is that the problems of leadership go directly to the mayor’s office.”

Singletary’s retirement will be effective Sept. 29, according to Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott, who also said that as of now, there is no blueprint for how the city moves forward following the retirements of the command staff.

Prude’s sister, Tameshay Prude, filed a civil rights lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western District of New York against the City of Rochester, Chief Singletary and the officers involved in the encounter.

The Rev. Al Sharpton slammed the nationwide call to defund the police as a “latte liberal” ideology, adding: “People living on the ground need proper policing.”

Vice President Pence will take part in a scaled-back commemoration of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan on Friday.

The U.S. Senate prepared to vote this week on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it only has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid.

In a highly unusual legal move, U.S. Justice Department attorneys are seeking to replace private lawyers for Trump in his legal battle against E. Jean Carroll, an advice columnist who claimed he raped her more than 20 years ago.

A new study that analyzed cellphone pings for Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees and the COVID-19 case numbers in the communities they returned to estimates that more than 265,000 infections confirmed between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2 trace back to the massive gathering in South Dakota.

One of the three major worldwide coronavirus vaccine trials was paused yesterday.

…The Phase 3 trial for the potential vaccine developed at Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca was halted after one participant had an adverse reaction.

Facing concerns that a coronavirus vaccine will be rushed out amid a feverish political climate, nine drug makers issued a joint statement promising they won’t cut critical corners before moving to release an injection to the public.

Bracing for a second wave of coronavirus cases, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today will announce a ban on gatherings of more than six people in England.

Cuomo claimed that Trump “caused” the coronavirus outbreak in New York by not banning travel from Europe sooner – the latest in an escalation of words between the politicians.

Cuomo also accused the president of “actively trying to kill New York City” while airing a long list of other grievances about how the Empire State has been treated by the federal government.

Opening indoor dining in New York City would be “negligent” and “reckless” Iuntil the city has an adequate and expanded enforcement plan for social distancing, Cuomo said.

Staten Island restaurant owners and workers ripped the city coronavirus policy banning indoor dining, as they heralded a $400 million suit against the mayor and governor.

Four states have been added back onto New York’s COVID-19 travel advisory: Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

Big Apple traffic — still subdued amid the COVID-19 pandemic — is likely to pick up now that Labor Day has passed, Cuomo warned.

New York nonprofits warned state lawmakers that a recent 20 percent cut in state aid to local governments will have devastating consequences for people with mental illness, addiction and developmental disabilities.

Two state lawmakers from NYC want to tax the rich to create an “excluded workers” fund that would provide $750 weekly payments retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic to families that have lost income but are barred from accessing existing programs and assistance.

New York’s cash-strapped MTA could be down another $500 million thanks to FEMA’s “baffling” and “reckless” decision to cut COVID-19 funding for mass transit, transit chief Pat Foye fumed.

New York City bus ridership plummeted last week after the MTA began collecting fares on local routes for the first time since March 23.

A new feature on the Long Island Rail Road’s mobile app aims to help commuters keep their distance from one another, even before they head to the train station.

The New York City Board of Elections unveiled the design of the drop-off ballot box where COVID-19-concerned voters can safely deliver their mail-in ballots at 1,300 polling sites during the Nov. 3 general election.

Students across the U.S. ran into computer glitches yesterday as they began the school year with online instruction at home because of the coronavirus, adding to the list of problems that have thrust many a harried parent into the role of teacher’s aide and tech support person.

A ransomware attack forced Hartford, Conn., to call off the first day of classes. A website crash left many of Houston’s 200,000 students staring at error messages. And a server problem in Virginia Beach disrupted the first hours back to school there.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been pushing for schools to open for in-person learning as an option for families who want or need it. Some parents say they work full time and can’t help educate at home, while others are critical of remote learning after the method produced generally dismal results in the spring.

Buffalo Public Schools are starting the new school year 100 percent online, and many students and staff could not log on.

The New York City The Department of Education is hustling to fill teaching spots just weeks before the scheduled start of the new academic year, Chancellor Richard Carranza said.

The Rensselaer School District became one of the first in the Capital Region yesterday to open amid the coronavirus crisis.

Albany City School District Board of Education discussed more potential budget cuts last night. The BOE decided to keep students in kindergarten through 6th grade and students with special needs in person. Grades 7 through 12 will be virtual for the first semester.

…The Board voted unanimously to approve budgets cuts to make up for a $24 million reduction in aid. More than 220 people will be laid off from the district. Superintendent Kaweeda Adams said they’re in the process of notifying those who will lose their jobs.

Half-filled school buses and students in masks made their way back to Long Island schools for in-person instruction for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic caused districts to shut down in mid-March.

A high school senior from Long Island was suspended for attending in-person classes when he was supposed to be a remote learner. William Floyd High School senior Maverick Stow, 17, said he showed up yesterday morning because he believes he should be in school five days a week.

Following a recent large crowd of “young people” gathering at a park near New York University, Cuomo announced colleges will be required to report coronavirus cases to the state Department of Health if they have more than 100 COVID-19 cases in a two-week period.

New York City Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia announced her resignation, saying she was considering a run for mayor and she could no longer serve in her post because recent budget cuts to her agency would imperil the city’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

If Garcia formally enters the race to succeed de Blasio in 2021, she will be the third administration veteran — all of them women — to run for the job or consider doing so.

Even as the coronavirus pandemic appears to recede in New York, corporations have been reluctant to call their workers back to their skyscrapers and are showing even more reticence about committing to the city long term.

City Hall plans to pull the homeless from a hotly criticized Upper West Side emergency hotel shelter before the end of the month, officials confirmed, ending a weeks-long political brawl that consumed the neighborhood.

New York City recorded nearly two dozen shootings over the Labor Day weekend as the New York Police Department dispatched additional officers to counter a surge in violent crime this summer.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams echoed Mayor Bill de Blasio in praising the Labor Day Weekend as an overall success — despite a quintuple shooting that left a 6-year-old boy with a shattered femur.

An alleged teen gangbanger reportedly has been charged with five counts of attempted murder in the J’Ouvert quintuple shooting in Brooklyn.

The FDNY is renaming its highest medal for heroics after acknowledging the award was named after a man who “held deeply racist beliefs.”

…The James Gordon Bennett Medal will now be named for Chief Peter J. Ganci, who was killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The chief medical examiner has given the NYPD a list of about 20,000 DNA profiles that could be dropped from a much-criticized and ever-growing city database.

Jury trials are beginning across the state this week. A limited number of in-person jury trials will resume today on a trial basis, the first taking place in Suffolk and Schuyler counties.

Saratoga Casino Hotel will open its doors at 2 p.m. today – the first day non-Indian run casinos are allowed by the state to resume operating since the pandemic began six months ago. But Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady will not.

An electronic payment company that became entangled in the MyPayrollHR debacle is alleging that Pioneer Bank improperly seized $20 million in payroll taxes that the now-defunct Clifton Park payroll firm siphoned from its business customers last year as part of a $100 million fraud scheme.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stood outside The Palace Theatre alongside Albany Symphony Orchestra Director David Miller, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and local entertainment operators advocating for federal financial assistance for the music industry.

The entire concert industry is struggling as the Covid-19 shutdown continues. But a genre rooted in live performance and in-the-moment dynamics – jazz – is in particular peril.

A former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albany field office was the subject of a scathing internal investigation that found he sexually harassed eight subordinate employees and created a hostile work environment for another employee with whom he had an intimate relationship.

The state Office of Children and Family Service is choosing to keep its report on the death of a six-week-old child a secret despite a state law meant to shine light on the circumstances of such tragedies.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin, 73, a judge in Albany for 30 years and the administrative supervisor for judges in seven upstate counties, will be retiring next month.

Chiquita D’Arbeau, the first woman and person of color to lead the city of Albany’s housing authority, has spent more than two decades working for housing authorities, after a caseworker helped her realize that helping to ensure people have a home was the path for her.

A 20-year-old football player at Division II California University of Pennsylvania, died from coronavirus complications, according to a social media post from his high school.

The owners of the Islanders are partnering with Oak View Group on its proposal to downsize the Nassau Coliseum into a music theater once the Islanders move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next year, Oak View Group Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke said.

R. Kelly was denied bail by a federal appeals court in New York City. The R&B star, 53, awaits multiple trials for sex crimes and is currently behind bars in Chicago.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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