The Rock of Talk 'Daily Blast' for Wednesday, December 9th, 2020
The Top 10 Links of the Day, Morning Local News Briefing, US and Global News Briefing and Conservative Snapshot
“How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other.” -John Steinbeck ‘The Grapes of Wrath’
Morning Local News Briefing
New Mexico seeks court's protection from business lawsuits
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s governor and top health officials are trying to fend off a flurry of lawsuits by businesses owners who say financial losses caused by the state’s pandemic health orders amount to a regulatory taking and should be compensated. The administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging the state Supreme Court to intervene and defuse the lawsuits. On Tuesday, an attorney for small businesses said state law supports public compensation for the pandemic response. Arguments are scheduled in January at the Supreme Court. At least 14 lawsuits initially filed in district court describe pandemic-related health orders as a regulatory “taking” that merits just compensation to businesses.
New Mexico prepared for rationing care if pandemic worsens
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Top health officials say New Mexico has a solid plan in place to stretch hospital and health care resources as far as possible before having to ration care. But they also warned during an update Tuesday that the state could face that prospect if the coronavirus pandemic worsens. Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said there are hospitals around New Mexico facing extremely high demands. He said state health officials are likely to formally declare that providers are at a stage where rationing care is possible. Officials stressed that the tools for making such decisions are objective and based on equity and fairness.
Budget analysts caution legislators on film subsidy growth
SANTA FE, N.M. — The budget and accountability office of New Mexico’s Legislature is cautioning that the cost of film tax credit payments to producers such as Netflix could grow quickly and unpredictably in coming years. A Legislative Finance Committee report on Tuesday said preliminary estimates indicate that new production commitments by Netflix, announced in November, could increase annual tax credit payouts by $25 million beginning next fiscal year. The state expects to pay out nearly $100 million in film production tax credits in the coming fiscal year, starting in July 2021, and $147 million the following year. Budget analysts say costs to taxpayers could quickly grow further through partnerships with the film industry.
Pearce elected to another term as chair of New Mexico GOP
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steve Pearce will serve another term as chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico. The former congressman beat three challengers to hold on to the leadership post. Members of the party's central committee voted during an online meeting Monday. There were questions about the initial tally as it showed Pearce ahead of radio station owner Eddy Aragon by just one vote. Party spokesman Mike Curtis said a mistake by the company tallying the results was corrected and Pearce widened his lead. Pearce says the party will continue to push to win more legislative seats and mayoral races around the state.
Albuquerque plans to turn old hospital into homeless shelter
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City officials say they plan to buy a former Albuquerque hospital and turn it into a homeless shelter and services hub. Mayor Tim Keller said Tuesday that the city is working to purchase the former Lovelace hospital although the price wasn’t immediately disclosed. Keller told the Albuquerque Journal that the property would provide emergency shelter beds, an around-the-clock dropoff site for first responders and a home for on-site medical and behavioral health services. New Mexico currently is leasing 360,000 square feet of the facility as a COVID-19 emergency hospital and Keller says the city’s purchase would not disrupt that.
Arizona utility increases its share of nuclear power plant
PHOENIX — An Arizona public utility is increasing its ownership share in the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station located west of Phoenix. The Salt River Project announced that its board has approved the purchase of part of Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s ownership along with some transmission assets for about $70 million plus the cost of the plant’s associated nuclear fuel inventory. When the deal is completed, SRP says its ownership share will be about 20% of the plant’s total capacity. SRP says its purchase of 114 megawatts of Palo Verde’s output from PNM will provide additional energy needed to serve increasing customer demand.
Economists predict rebound in New Mexico government income
SANTA FE, N.M. — State economists are predicting a rebound in New Mexico state government income for the fiscal year that starts in July 2021, on top of multibillion-dollar financial reserves. Economists for the Legislature and three state agencies said Tuesday that the state anticipates an increase in general fund revenues of $163 million over current annual spending obligations. That's roughly a 2% increase. The state is likely to finish the fiscal year in July with $2.4 billion in financial reserves. That leaves New Mexico well-positioned to maintain funding for essential services in public education, public safety, health care and more amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Virus outbreak in Texas army base alarms New Mexico leaders
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico congressional delegation is raising questions about a coronavirus outbreak among a group of soldiers in El Paso, Texas, which borders their state. The Oregon Army National Guard unit recently returned from a month-long deployment in the southern European country of Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force. The Senators and Congress members say they’ve learned 70 soldiers have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday. In a letter to the Pentagon, the delegation asks for details about how the army will test and contact trace going forward, and if the outbreak has spread beyond the unit.
US AND GLOBAL NEWS BRIEFING
CAPITOL HILL NIGHTMARE BEFORE XMAS
Congress is now struggling to finish three big issues before the holidays. Fund the government. Work out a coronavirus deal. And, potentially, override a threatened veto by the President of the annual defense policy bill. It is, as is often the case in Congress, the nightmare before Christmas. The House is expected to approve a stopgap bill to avoid on Wednesday to avoid a shutdown. Funding the government was believed to be the easy part. But those talks are now stalled. On the coronavirus front, it’s unclear if the sides can overcome differences about liability protection and aid to state/local governments. And, Congress could be cruising toward a veto override attempt on the annual defense policy bill. Some Republicans who previously liked the bill have now changed their tune because of the veto threat.
SWALWELL/CHINESE SPY ENTANGLEMENT
A suspected Chinese spy moved for several years through American political circles before unexpectedly leaving the US in 2015. Fang Fang cultivated her relationship with California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell while he was still a city councilman. Axios reports she interacted with him at multiple events over several years, fundraised for his 2014 reelection campaign, and helped place at least one intern in his office. The report says Fang also appeared in photos with other California Democrats and had romantic relationships with two Midwestern mayors. US officials have been warning local officials about attempted Chinese government infiltration and, earlier this year, the US closed the Chinese consulate in Houston claiming it was a hub of Chinese spying activity.
States across the country are announcing new restrictions including up in MA. Gov Baker says starting Sunday, the state will take a step back in their reopening plan - returning to what the state calls Phase 3, Step 1. It means reduced indoor capacity limits and tightened workplace restrictions for places like gyms, libraries, museums, retail stores, offices and houses of worship. In NY, Mayor de Blasio said he expects coronavirus-related restrictions to be reimplemented "in a matter of days" as the number of cases rises across the city.
CA VIRUS SHUTDOWN HAMMERS BUSINESS
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas should be the busiest of the year for retailers, but not in CA. Stay home orders, occupancy limits and Covid fears appear to be having a devastating effect on in-person holiday shopping.
TOWN DIVIDED BY COVID RESTRICTIONS
The town of Bristol has been split down the middle by coronavirus restrictions; Businesses on one side of the street are open while their neighbors must follow stricter safety regulations. Sound familiar? In April, at what we thought was the height of the pandemic, we covered the real challenge facing Bristol, TN/VA. Now it’s 8 months later and businesses along State Street are still struggling with the conflicting, ever changing, protocols.
Virginia side of the town enacted new COVID-19 restrictions while Tennessee side remains essentially open for business. Mark Meredith spoke with business owners and community leaders in the border town to find out how they’re handling the new realities of living in a federation during a pandemic.
POLITICS OF COVID VACCINE / WASHINGTON
In 2020, everything is political and during a pandemic that means science too. Prominent politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have questioned the credibility of the COVID-19 vaccines due to their political disputes with President Donald Trump. Trump, meanwhile, claims the credit for the vaccine is due to his leadership. And although many Americans are eager to take the vaccine in the hopes of returning to normal life, there are groups who have both ethical and religious concerns about taking it. Could this group be large enough to derail herd immunity? Will leaders who questioned the science of the vaccine now encourage people to get it?
UK VACCINE DAY TWO
UK hospitals are ramping up for Day 2 of administering the Pfzizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Britain remains the only country in the world to use the independently-tested and clinically-proven injection. Some 5,000 first-line workers and over-80’s have been injected at some 70 hospitals across the UK. No major problems were reported in handling the dose. However, two staff workers (with an underlying condition) got an allergic adverse reaction from getting the inoculation. Pfizer now saying anyone with a history of significant adverse reactions should avoid the vaccine. The U.S. continues to watch the UK roll-out closely. The Pfizer vaccine could be used in the U.S. starting as early as next week following possible FDA approval.
BIDEN DOD PICK
Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin, would need a waiver to serve as he has not yet been retired for seven years. Senators on both sides of the aisle now have to decide if they will grant Austin that waiver, as they did for General James Mattis four years ago. Democrat Richard Blumenthal has already told reporters that he will not support granting the waiver.
BIDEN ON DEFENSE OVER NEW PICKS
The Biden team is facing questions on both sides over their recent cabinet picks.
— President-Elect Biden penning an oped explaining why he picked General Lloyd Austin for Defense Secretary, as he’s facing bipartisan concern over a Congressional waiver for the general. Senator Elizabeth Warren among the Democrats against a waiver. Also, Journalist Glenn Greenwald slamming Austin for being on the Raytheon’s board, tweeting “If confirmed, Raytheon will have a very good friend in charge of the bloated $750 billion annual U.S. defense budget”
— Biden is expected to name Rep Marcia Fudge as Housing and Urban Development Secretary but she comes with a controversial past — In 2015, the congresswoman asked a judge for leniency on behalf of former Ohio state legislator Lance Mason, who was charged with assaulting his then-wife in front of their children. Mason served nine months in jail before murdering his ex-wife in 2018. Republicans are expected to make this a key point in her confirmation battle.
— Elsewhere, Biden is expected to pick former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as his Agriculture secretary. In a statement, Center for Food Safety Policy Director calling the appointment a “a huge step backwards in our urgent need to support agricultural systems that protect public health, the environment, and mitigate the ongoing climate crisis.”
GA ELECTIONS / ATLANTA
Republican heavy-hitters are coming to Georgia this week, including Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Friday. The GOP is trying to prevent Democrats from flipping the U.S. Senate seats of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, but Democrats also have large get out the vote operations in play. The outcome of Georgia’s January 5 runoffs will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate
AZ CHALLENGES / PHOENIX
A federal judge says her decision on whether to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Trump supporters Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood should come no later than Wednesday afternoon. A lawyer for 11 would-be Trump electors told the court on Tuesday they have evidence of voter fraud, but the attorney representing the governor and AZ secretary of state called those claims “implausible” and cited rulings in other states tossing out similar cases
TIGHT FIGHT FOR NY'S 22ND
More than a month after election day, a congressional race in upstate NY is still undecided - and won't be called for at least another week. Democratic incumbent Congressman Anthony Brindisi is in a tight fight to keep his job from his Republican challenger, former congresswoman Claudia Tenney. She is currently in the lead by just 12 votes and wanted a NY State judge to rule her the winner. Brindisi wanted the judge to order recounts in only certain counties in the district. But the judge ruled against both of them and ordered a complete re-inspection of all votes cast in all 8 counties in the district – including 1500 ballots in dispute and counting dozens not yet in the tally. Both sides are due back in a court for a compliance conference next Friday.
CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION CAUSES SHELTER IN PLACE ORDER
Residents in a section of Belle, W. Va., were told to shelter in place late Tuesday after a “chemical incident” at a local chemical plant. The Chemours Company said in a email that there was a fire at one of the tenant companies at their site in Belle, W.Va. The Kanawha County Commission said in a press release that the explosion occurred at the plant at 10:02 p.m. Jennifer Herrald, the county commissioner, told Fox News that the situation is being evaluated but it is currently considered unsafe for anyone in a 2-mile radius of the plant to leave their homes. The West Virginia Emergency Management said the 2-mile radius includes “everyone between Chelyan Bridge and Burning Springs and includes all of Belle, Marmet, Chesapeake and Chelyan.”
FMR COVID DATA SPECIALIST LATEST-DESANTIS APPOINTEE RESIGNS OVER RAID
A man appointed to a commission that recommends judicial appointments to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resigned citing the search warrant served on a former Department of Health employee who has criticized the state's COVID-19 data. Ron Filipowski announced his resignation from the 12th Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission on Twitter on Tuesday, saying a raid at the home of Rebekah Jones was unconscionable. Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement served the search warrant Monday, saying a computer at Jones's home was used to hack the Department of Health. Jones refused to let agents in for 20 minutes, the department said. When she did open the door, a camera set up inside Jones's home filmed the agents as they entered. She released the video on Twitter, though it only shows the first 31 seconds of the raid. Filipowski, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, who is a close DeSantis ally. He served on the commission that recommends judicial nominees for Sarasota, Manatee and Desoto counties. “I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity,” Filipowski said in his resignation letter. The governor's office didn't immediately comment on the resignation.
SEARCH UNDERWAY FOR FIGHTER JET THAT GOES DOWN DURING TRAINING EXERCISE
Emergency crews overnight were searching for the pilot of an F-16 fighter jet that crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula while on a military training mission Tuesday night. The Wisconsin Air National Guard said early today that an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to its 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field Air National Guard Base in Madison crashed about 8 p.m. Tuesday. “At the time of the incident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board,” the Wisconsin Air National Guard said in a statement released on its Facebook page. “Emergency responders are on scene. The cause of the crash, as well as the status of the pilot, are unknown at this time, and the incident is under investigation.” The crash occurred north of the U.P.’s Garden Peninsula, near the border of Delta and Schoolcraft counties in the Hiawatha National Forest. U.S. Forest Service workers joined with local authorities to set up a perimeter and begin the search late Tuesday. According to U.P. media reports and unconfirmed police scanner traffic from emergency crews in the area, authorities had located a crash site and also had a broad area identified that could be the pilot’s ejection site.
BOISE COUNTY HEALTH MEETING ADJOURNS OVER ANTI-MASK PROTEST SAFETY CONCERNS
Idaho public health officials abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday after the Boise mayor and chief of police said intense protests outside the health department building — as well as outside some health officials’ homes — were threatening public safety. The request from Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and the Boise Police Department came just a few minutes after one health board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, tearfully interrupted the online meeting to say she had to rush home from work to be with her son. The board had been expected to vote on a four-county mask mandate in Idaho’s most populated region. Another board member, family physician Dr. Ted Epperly, said protests were “not under control at my house,” as well. Protesters went to at least three board members’ homes, the Boise Police Department said. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Central District Health parking lot before and during the meeting. The protest at the health building was organized, at least in part, by a loose multi-state group called People’s Rights. The group was created by Ammon Bundy, an outspoken opponent of mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic who gained national attention and stoked the so-called “patriot movement” after leading armed standoffs at his father’s Nevada ranch in 2014 and at a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016. Members of an anti-vaccination group called Health Freedom Idaho also attended the protest. It wasn’t immediately known if Bundy attended the Boise protests Tuesday evening.
TEXAS INFLUENCER DEAD
Authorities are still not releasing any information on the investigation into the death of Alexa Sharkey, the social media influencer who was found dead on the side of Houston highway more than 10 days ago. Sharkey’s body was discovered naked and without any visible wounds... her mother and friends have maintained that foul play was involved but a final autopsy has not yet been made public. Meanwhile, new details are emerging about one business the influencer was involved in — a multi-level marketing company that some have called a “pyramid scheme.”
AFGHANISTAN / US TROOPS DRAWDOWN
Deep in mud and starving we found thousands of people who have fled recent fighting around the country. They tell us it is worse now than it has been in years, and only the US can help stop the Taliban. We have also spoken to analysts who say that from a strategic decision the drawdown is wrong. Still widespread hope for the peace talks, but little faith they will deliver.
GOP CLUB ATTACK
New York City Police are looking for four suspects, believed to be Antifa activists, who vandalized the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The vandals spray-painted Antifa symbols, left body bags on the sidewalk, and wrote “You’re Cancelled” over the front doors of the club’s mansion headquarters to coincide with the club’s annual Christmas and Hanukkah party. Club President Ian Reilly tells Fox News that the activists not only targeted the building because of the club’s support for President Trump, but also to attack the Christian and Jewish religion by picking the night of the holiday festivities. The club is the most prominent symbol of the G.O.P. in New York and is where both legendary Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Rudy Giuliani launched their campaigns for Mayor. Eric obtained the surveillance video of the attack.
FACEBOOK FACING ANTITRUST LAWSUITS
More than 40 attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission are expected to file antitrust lawsuits against Facebook as early as Wednesday over what they say is illegal and anticompetitive behavior. The states allege that the social network's purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp were part of a pattern of behavior to eliminate competitors while depriving users of any viable alternatives. States opened probes into Facebook's practices last year while the FTC began their investigation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which forced Facebook to pay a $5 billion fine.
MALL SANTAS GET A PANDEMIC MAKEOVER
Santa Claus is still is coming to town — or a mall near you — but he will be upholding CDC guidelines. Shopping centers across the country have struggled to keep a steady flow of customers through their doors, and Santa may be one of the reasons they stay afloat. Malls are forging ahead and bringing the fat, jolly man back — just don’t sit on his lap. In fact, you may not be able to get close at all if Ol’ Saint Nick is behind plexiglass. And yes, there are also Zoom Santas this year, too.
TAX QUAGMIRE FOR REMOTE WORKERS
Many Americans have worked remotely since the beginning of the pandemic. If you’re in that number, you may have potential tax headache coming in January. While 17 states and DC are not taxing remote workers, a recent poll says 71 percent of remote workers are unaware that telecommuting could affect their tax bill, and more than half don’t know that there are tax penalties if they don’t change their state tax withholdings. So what do you need to do prevent any tax drama?
MOVIE BUSINESS REELING OVER STREAMING
Movie theaters are in dire straits — some still can’t open due to local mandates and now big budget studios are forgoing theatrical releases for streaming platforms debuts. The future of the industry is unclear as state and local governments continue to handcuff small, privately owned studios. Many who thought the closures would last a few weeks are now into their ninth month of empty auditoriums. Nick Nicolaou is the owner of a few smaller theaters in New York City and he tells us that he has been bending over backwards to welcome customers back. He renovated the air filtration systems, costing him thousands of dollars, but still can’t open up. He tells us that streaming can’t compare to the “movie magic” that comes from visiting a theater and that if restrictions don’t loosen, the fate of these theaters may be sealed.
DOORDASH GOES PUBLIC: FUTURE OF HOME DELIVERY
DoorDash is synonymous with food delivery, but could its pending IPO signal it has bigger plans for this digital world? In recent months, the company has signed onto partnerships with major retailers like Macy’s, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, and PetSmart. Toiletries, prescriptions and dog food delivered to your door are a long way from ordering your favorite sesame chicken. The move has many wondering if food was simply DoorDash’s entry point into the delivery business while it held bigger plans to expand to all of retail. Could DoorDash’s move possibly be the thing to help keep brick & mortar stores in business? Plus, Airbnb is preparing to launch its IPO on Thursday, a major step for the rental company that was hit hard early in the pandemic.
AIRBNB OF STORAGE SPACE
Ahead of AirBNB going public, Neighbor.com is being billed as the “Airbnb of storage.” Homeowners with an empty spare bedroom or garage can list it as storage space on the platform. But since the pandemic hit, the startup says new clients are now listing unused commercial property. Neighbor.com’s CEO tells FOX Business it’s added millions of square feet of storage space in vacant restaurants, offices and parking lots. The company says young professionals who are moving back home from big cities have become a new target customer.
CONSERVATIVE SNAPSHOT FROM LIBERTY NATION
Texas has filed suit against a number of states alleging that they made electoral changes unconstitutionally.
Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock has walked back on comments that compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa. He says his past comments were in the context of protecting human rights.
Yet more revelations regarding the Chinese Communist Party and their access are coming out, and they all seem to be related to Democrat politicians. Whether it is Dianne Feinstein employing a Chinese spy for 20 years, or Eric Swalwell and his relationship with a CCP local agent, this is a serious issue that deserves investigation.
Yet another “Autonomous Zone” is up and running; this time in Portland. Mayor Ted Wheeler – who happily joined with the Black Lives Matter protests this summer – has called for “all lawful means” to end the occupation.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes has suggested that the Electoral College is a “ticking timebomb” that needs to go. Many would argue that the idea of California (where a mass exodus is taking place) and New York (where another mass exodus is taking place) controlling who becomes president to the exclusion of all other states is a far deadlier prospect.
Chris Cuomo once again justifies his place as one of the least professional newsmen in the country. Speaking to Lindsey Graham, he asked the Senator if “Your words still come from your brain?” Graham may not be the perfect lawmaker, but to be called stupid for attempting to uphold his beliefs is beyond the pale.
It’s all happening in the courts. Texas has filed suit against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin asking that they either re-vote or allow legislatures to choose electors directly. This case is unique as in it is a state suing other states, meaning that the only place it can turn to is the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas has a history in this area writing “If this Court does not exercise jurisdiction over a controversy between two States, then the complaining State has no judicial forum in which to seek relief.”
Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) – an outspoken critic of President Trump’s foreign ties – has come under fire for what appears to be a lengthy relationship with a Chinese spy. An Axios report detailed how Christine Fang got close to prominent lawmakers at the behest of her CCP employers. Swalwell stated that he would, nonetheless, retain his position on the House Intelligence Committee, and suggested that Trump himself was behind this attempt to smear his reputation, not the well-documented multi-year relationship with an actual Communist spy.