The Rock of Talk 'Daily Blast' for Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

The Top 10 Links of the Day, NM Morning Local News Briefing and the Global and US News Snapshot

I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of insidious forces working from within.-Douglas MacArthur

For the rest of the links, click “NEWS” on the ABQ.FM - Rock of Talk App. Download for Apple or Android.

Top 10 Stories of the Day

  1. What red level means for New Mexico counties

  2. Officials say Bernalillo County has long way to go before COVID restrictions loosen

  3. Supreme Court Rules that Constitution Matters, Even in a Pandemic

  4. Republican Ohio Gov. DeWine targeted with articles of impeachment backed by members of his own party

  5. Powell stresses importance of lending programs, calls economic outlook ‘extraordinarily uncertain’

  6. Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Office: Now Is Not the Time To ‘Worry About Raising Deficits and Debt’

  7. Joe Biden’s ‘radioactive’ nominee

  8. Taking stock of a half-century of failed education reform

  9. How a ‘rapid withdrawal’ from Afghanistan is logistically possible

  10. Let’s Talk About Remote-Controlled Gun Turrets And The Killing Of Iran’s Top Nuclear Scientist

New Mexico News Snapshot

Navajo Nation lawmakers consider extending junk food tax

FARMINGTON, N.M. — Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are considering a bill to extend a 2% sales tax on unhealthy food and beverages sold on the reservation. The tribe approved the Healthy Diné Nation Act in November 2014 to tax food with minimal or no nutritional value. The tax expires this year unless lawmakers vote to extend it. The bill refines what would be subject to the tax, and clarifies its administration and enforcement. The Daily Times in Farmington reports that the tax has generated more than $7.5 million over the past few years. It is meant to fund things like wellness centers and walking trails.

New Mexico Land Office offers online Christmas tree permits

SANTA FE, N.M. — The State Land Office is joining other land management agencies in New Mexico in offering online Christmas tree cutting permits. The Land Office also is allowing people to get permits to gather sand for filling their luminarias, which are traditional holiday fixtures of candles inside paper bags weighted with sand. Permit applications, maps, directions and other information is available on the agency's website. Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says her office is pleased to offer the low-cost permits as New Mexicans honor two long-held holiday traditions. Like other activities on state trust land, the tree cutting and sand gathering fees help support public schools.

New Mexico counties have long way to go under virus system

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico is moving to a county-by-county system for responding to COVID-19 that allows local communities to shed some restrictions on mass gatherings, restaurant dining, attendance at religious services and some nonessential businesses — if the virus retreats.. At this point, only one of New Mexico's 33 counties — Los Alamos County — would be eligible to ease restrictions on gatherings and resume indoor dining at restaurants. The new system will take effect Wednesday. Over the past week, one person in every 155 people in the state was diagnosed with COVID-19. The state Republican Part said the governor was stoking false hope that restrictions may be lifted. For more on the story click here.

Deadly pursuit could lead to murder charges for defendants

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that defendants who cause deadly crashes while fleeing police can face felony murder charges under certain circumstances. The court's decision was announced Monday. It came in a case in which two people were accused of stealing a van in 2017 and fleeing police at high speeds through residential neighborhoods. The driver crashed into another vehicle, killing a mother and her teenage daughter. The court said aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer can serve as the underlying offense for felony murder. The case will be reevaluated by a state district court judge. 

Navajo Nation finds 177 more COVID-19 cases, 5 new deaths

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation is reporting more than 170 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths. Navajo health officials announced Sunday a new tally of 177 newly confirmed virus cases, bringing the total to 16,427, including 27 delayed unreported cases. The death toll from COVID-19 on the vast reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah now stands at 653. So far, 8,676 have recovered from COVID-19, and 157,860 COVID-19 tests have been administered. Residents remain under a stay-at-home order, with an exception for essential workers and essential needs like food, medication and emergencies. Essential businesses are limited to hours between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. 

New Mexico ranks high for coronavirus diagnosis rates

SANTA FE, N.M. — A rolling average of statewide deaths from the coronavirus has surpassed 25 as New Mexico nears the end of a two-week period of heightened restrictions. Virus-related deaths on Sunday included 60-year-old middle school teacher Sylvia Garcia of the Las Cruces area. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in New Mexico has risen over the past two weeks from 14.9 deaths per day on Nov. 14 to 25.3 deaths per day on Saturday. That's according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins. State health officials on Sunday announced 1,443 newly confirmed virus cases and 13 related deaths.

New Mexico to require details of water for oil well drilling

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Officials say New Mexico oil and gas operators will be required to report the amount and quality of water used to drill wells. The Albuquerque Journal reported the data collection is an attempt by state agencies to scrutinize water use across New Mexico's economic sectors. Adrienne Sandoval of the state Oil Conservation Division says the reports will help fill a data gap for industry water use. Operators previously reported the amount of produced water injected into storage wells but were not required to disclose water data for well completions. Companies must now submit water use data within 45 days of completion.

Navajo Nation health director named to Biden COVID-19 board

PHOENIX — The executive director of the Navajo Nation Department of Health has been named a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board. KPHO-TV reported Dr. Jill Jim was among the board members announced as part of Biden's transition team preparing to implement the president-elect's coronavirus containment plans. The Navajo Nation member's work has focused on preventing chronic diseases and addressing healthcare and health disparities involving Native Americans and Alaska Natives. She most recently served as a cabinet member in the administration of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

Global and US Daily News Snapshot


The Supreme Court will listen to arguments over whether or not President Trump can exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census count, which is typically used to allocate state seats for the House of Representative. If Trump wins the case, this could lead to millions of people in places like Texas, California, and New Jersey to lose congressional seats, according to the New York Times. This would change the agreement of the census counts, which allows illegal immigrants to be counted towards the population regardless of their status. This could have the potential to shift congressional seats from Democratic states to Republican ones. Trump’s team says they are allow to exclude unauthorized immigrants.


A study from the University of Bristol showed that the number of young people that have anxiety nearly doubled during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The percentage jumped from 13% to 26% between the ages of 27 to 29, according to the study, and that number is expected to climb. This is another example of the ways in which people’s mental health is struggling during this time.


The pandemic has upended many things this year, including people’s wallets. A record number of people have lost their jobs and have had to apply for unemployment to make ends meet. As Christmas rounds the corner, there are still millions of people struggling to make it work. How can we make this Christmas season special despite financial strain?


Jared Kushner is in the middle of a high stakes trip to the Middle East. The Trump Admin is making a final push at ending the now 3-yr long Gulf Crisis pitting several regional allies against Qatar. The Saudi-led blockade broke out shortly after Pres Trump took office. Kushner will also reportedly push Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on normalizing relations with Israel on what could be his last foreign trip as a White House official. It's one of the remaining issues the Trump White House believes it can still accomplish before the end of the term.


GA voters are heading to the polls today for the remainder of the late Rep. John Lewis' term in the US House. It comes ahead of January's Senate runoff elections, and as the GA Secy of State's Office is looking into more than 250 cases involving the presidential election. Officials are also investigating third-party groups accused of wrongdoing when encouraging people to register to vote.


As Pres-elect Biden formally introduces his economic team, what will it mean for your wallet? Biden's Treasury pick, Janet Yellen, supported fmr Pres Obama's fiscal agenda: higher taxes & regulations on businesses & entrepreneurs, paving the way for her backing massive new spending, tax increases, & more regulation in an economy still stricken by COVID-19. Yellen has also previously stated opposition to the "Trump tax cuts." There are ways the Treasury Dept can bring in more revenue from the wealthiest Americans & corps while tweaking the code for lower-income earners, without congressional approval. With the IRS falling within the Treasury Dept, Yellen could revisit certain tax-code regulations and launch more audits on affluent taxpayers. Will your taxes increase? Will your 401K fall or rise?


It's been nearly a month, but we don't yet know the breakdown in the House of Representatives. They're still processing 8 races, mostly in NY & CA. Republicans have a net gain of 9 seats, and possibly more. And, 2 races in IA & NY are separated by fewer than two dozen votes in both contests, combined. That could lead to a challenge on the House floor in January when it comes time to seat new members. But there's no question about seating Sen.-elect Mark Kelly. He joins the Senate today, trimming the GOP Senate majority to 52 Republicans versus 48 Democrats.


A group of bipartisan Senators is taking COVID relief into its own hands. This group, led by Collins, Murkowski, Romney, & Cassidy on the GOP side, and Manchin, Warner, & Durbin on the Dem side, are working toward a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package, and they're working outside of their leadership that has negotiated for months to no end. Sources say the group agree on the need to provide some more enhanced federal unemployment benefits, addl funding for the small business-focused PPP, and also funding to help with vaccine distribution, testing, and to help hospitals; but the group is still stuck on what to do with Sen McConnell's coveted liability protections, and Dems' calls for state & local govt funding. It remains to be seen what this group might be able to get done as they'll need buy in from both sides.


As many as 87mil public & private sector workers could lose access to federal mandated benefits at the end of the year. Families First, a relief package enacted in March, required many employers to offer workers 2 wks of coronavirus-related sick leave at full pay and up to 12 wks of family & medical leave to care for family members at 2/3 pay. These benefits are slated to expire at the end of the year, along with expanded unemployment benefits, as Treasury Secy Mnuchin and Fed Chair Powell testify before the Senate with lawmakers and the Trump Admin stalled on a second economic package to extend benefits. Both also testify after Mnuchin moved to cut off funding for many of the central bank's emergency lending programs as the economy shows signs of slowing and COVID-19 cases surge.


The US has now recorded nearly 13.5mil total coronavirus cases, with more than 4mil of those in November alone. Over 93,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with the disease, leading public health officials to warn of dark days ahead, as hospitals are running out of beds & medical staffs are increasingly strained. Meanwhile, cities and states remain under tough COVID restrictions, including curfews, a cap on the number of people allowed to gather, and indoor dining closed in many states, including MI, where the state restaurant assoc is awaiting a ruling in their lawsuit that, if successful, could reopen restaurants as soon as today.


HHS Secy Azar says some Americans could begin receiving coronavirus vaccinations before Christmas. Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine could be authorized and shipped within days of a Dec. 10 meeting of outside advisers to the FDA tasked with reviewing trial data and recommending whether it warrants approval. A vaccine from Moderna Inc could follow a week later, he said, after the company announced yesterday it would apply for US and European emergency authorization. Final trial data showed the vaccine to be 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19, comparable with Pfizer's results. The federal govt will ship the vaccines; state governors will decide how they are distributed within their states.


CDC advisors are holding an emergency meeting today to vote on who they recommend should be first in line for a coronavirus vaccine. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when; HHS Secy Azar saying it would be up to governors to decide which segments of the population would be first in line to receive them. The CDC has already recommended that the first group should include frontline health providers and support personnel, followed by those most at risk, such as nursing home residents. But when do average Americans get the green light?


Many once-thriving cruise ports have turned into ghost towns as the pandemic forced the cruise industry to a crashing halt. But as we near the roll out of a vaccine, cruise lines & ports are preparing to set sail again. Royal Caribbean announced that over 100,000 volunteers have signed up for their free-of-charge, govt-mandated test voyages, while Disney has tentatively scheduled its first sailing for Feb 5. However, a vaccine alone won't be enough. There are still many hurdles to climb before the govt gives the go-ahead to resume sailing and the public feels comfortable going back on the high seas. Safety protocols on ships and ports have been refined to restore the public confidence in cruise lines. We see first-hand what safety changes they're making to ensure travelers that it's safe to sail again.


While Americans spent more online than ever before this Cyber Monday, charities are struggling to raise money critical to carry out their missions. The Salvation Army fears donations could fall by half, because the pandemic and lockdowns have dramatically reduced foot traffic at retail locations where its famous bell ringers set up during the holidays. The national shortage of coins only makes matters worse. Folds of Honor, which raises money to provide scholarships for children & spouses of fallen and disabled service members, says it had to turn away 3,000 qualified applicants this fall and contributions are down nearly 30%.


Two women caught over the weekend trying to place a device on railroad tracks near Bellingham, WA, face federal charges for a terrorist attack on a railroad facility and may be part of a larger anarchist plot. The US Atty says devices called "shunts" have been installed on railroad tracks in the state more than 40 times this year and that a "claim of responsibility on an anarchist website... stated that the shunting activity was carried out in solidarity with Native American tribes in Canada seeking to prevent the construction of an oil pipeline across British Columbia, and with the express goal of disrupting (railroad) operations and supplies for the pipeline." Charging docs do not specifically link the women to the plot, but a bumper sticker on their vehicle with the caption "Indigenous Land" suggests they may be supporters.


San Jose's police chief and Democratic mayor want the county to reconsider its policy of not honoring ICE detainer requests for violent criminals. This comes days after an illegal alien with a lengthy criminal record was charged with stabbing 5 people at a local church, killing 2. Fernando Jesus Lopez had been deported 3 times and was most recently arrested in June for domestic violence.


With no stimulus in sight, NY lawmakers are eyeing a "tax the rich" approach in order to subsidize those being hurt by the pandemic and address the state's budget deficit. However, a new study by the Manhattan Institute shows this move may actually backfire and create a bigger tax revenue shortfall. NY, already one of the highest tax states in the country, is seeing its highest earners leave the state for places with lower taxes, and this new plan could drive even more to flee. In some of Manhattan's richest neighborhoods, departure rates this year are as high as 50%.


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