The Rock of Talk 'Daily Blast' for Friday, December 18th, 2020

The Conservative Calendar, Top 10 Videos of the Day, Top 10 Links of the Day, Morning Local News Briefing, US and Global News Briefing and The 'Rock of Talk' Debate of the Day

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There's no compromise with truth. That's all I got up on this floor to say. When was it? A year ago, it seems like....Just get up off the ground, that's all I ask. Get up there with that lady that's up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that's what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we'd better get those boys' camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it's not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again! - Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

THE CONSERVATIVE CALENDAR

Forecast at The KIVA: High 47 Degrees at 3pm (Will feel like 42) Low 27 Degrees at 7am (Will feel like 21). Winds get to 12

MPH at 4:00pm. Sunny and Clear. *Weather is from the KIVA Weather Station.

Today is Friday, Dec. 18, the 353rd day of 2020. There are 13 days left in the year.

In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, whose first wife, Ellen, had died the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt, a widow, at her Washington home.

In 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" and sent it to the states for ratification.

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast while at the same time ruling that "concededly loyal" Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained.

In 1956, Japan was admitted to the United Nations.

In 1998, the House debated articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

In 2000, the Electoral College cast its ballots, with President-elect George W. Bush receiving the expected 271; Al Gore, however, received 266, one fewer than expected, because of a District of Columbia Democrat who'd left her ballot blank to protest the district's lack of representation in Congress.

One year ago: The U.S. House impeached President Donald Trump on two charges, sending his case to the Senate for trial; the articles of impeachment accused him of abusing the power of the presidency to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election and then obstructing Congress' investigation.

Today's Birthdays: Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 93. Rock musician Keith Richards is 77. Actor Brad Pitt is 57.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

0600MST -- VPOTUS and SLOTUS will publicly receive a COVID-19 vaccine to "promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people." The VP will give brief remarks. Surgeon General Jerome Adams will also receive the vaccine. 

0845MST -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds weekly press conference

1330MST -- POTUS meets with the Acting Secretary of Defense in the Oval Office. VP Pence joins. CLOSED 

1400MST -- VPOTUS celebrates first anniversary of United States Space Force.

UPCOMING LOCAL EVENTS

Rio Rancho Rally
Saturday Dec 19, Noon
"Say NO to Bread Lines"
901 Unser Blvd SE

Las Cruces/ Freedom Christmas Ride & Protest
Saturday 12/19/2020 - Staging 10am - Onate HS - 5700 Mesa Grande Dr
Ride starts @ 11am - Protest 12noon - Young Park - 850 S Walnut St.

TOP 10 VIDEOS OF THE DAY

  1. Tom Cotton: Joe Biden Should Address Allegations on a Press Conference Not on a Late Night Talk Show

  2. Joe Biden Says He’d Like ‘To Go A Round’ with Those Who Attack His Son, Jill Biden Adds ‘We’re Taking the High Road’

  3. Sen. Blackburn: China’s Success Depends on Complete Control over Speech, Thought, Resources, and Relationships with Other Nations

  4. Rand Paul: ‘Hunter Biden Deserves the Same Justice that Paul Manafort Got, Nothing Less, Nothing More’

  5. Kayleigh McEnany: We Have To Overwhelm the System By Having Every Trump Voter Vote in Georgia Runoff

  6. Hogan Gidley: Georgia Can’t Be the Tipping Point That Would Bring This Country Down to Socialism

  7. Dr. Siegel: Second Covid Vaccine Gives U.S. Arsenal in Virus Battle

  8. Chris Hayes: Right-Wing Media Is Pivoting to Vaccine Misinformation; Tucker Carlson Is Toying with It Tonight

  9. Raymond Arroyo Calls Hunter Biden’s New Art a Sort of ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Rorschach Test

  10. Dem Rep. Cunningham, Who Lost His Bid for Re-Election, Cracks a Beer in His Farewell Speech on the House Floor

TOP 10 LINKS OF THE DAY

  1. Governor says general public could start getting COVID-19 in early spring

  2. 'Still a lot of unknowns' PED secretary works to address virtual learning challenges

  3. DOE/NNSA Responding To Cyber Incident Related To Solar Winds Compromise

  4. In Farewell to House of Representatives, Luján Thanks New Mexicans and Highlights Legislative Victories

  5. Peter Navarro releases 'The Immaculate Deception,' a report about the 2020 presidential election

  6. The Current COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out Doesn't Make Sense

  7. The Persistent Myth of Biden’s ‘Moderation’

  8. It's time for the 'Deplorables' to become the Unconquerables

  9. Tulsi Gabbard & Abortion: Democrat Introduced Two Pro-Life Bills

  10. Neocons want us to belly up for one more round of war

MORNING LOCAL NEWS BRIEFING

Daily deaths set record in New Mexico amid vaccination push

SANTE FE, N.M. — New Mexico's governor says a record-setting 48 daily deaths have been linked to the coronavirus pandemic, as the state delivers economic relief payments to the unemployed and small businesses. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says that she is concerned daily deaths could grow even higher over the year-end holidays. In other virus-related developments, more than 50 inmates have sued the Penitentiary of New Mexico, claiming the facility near Santa Fe did not protect its inmates from the coronavirus. The New Mexico Supreme Court was asked to intervene after 56 inmates submitted a handwritten petition alleging lax precautions caused an outbreak in late October.

Vaccines reach COVID-ravaged Indigenous communities

SANTA FE, N.M. — The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are arriving at Native American communities that have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic. The communities around the U.S. have been hit hard despite curfews, roadblocks and the suspension of business including casinos and artisanal trading posts. Vaccinations began Tuesday for health workers at clinics across the Navajo and Hopi nations in parts of Arizona and New Mexico, where 3,900 doses are being delivered to clinics. On Thursday, the vaccine reached the Lummi Nation on an oceanside Washington state peninsula. Small tribes including Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico are partnering with trusted state health officials to vaccinate.

In historic pick, Biden taps Haaland as interior secretary

President-elect Joe Biden has picked New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as interior secretary. The historic pick Thursday would make Haaland the first Native American to lead the powerful federal agency, which has wielded influence over the nation's tribes for generations. If confirmed by the Senate, the first-term congresswoman would also be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Tribal leaders and activists around the country, along with many Democratic figures, have urged Biden for weeks to choose Haaland to lead the Department of Interior. Haaland promised Thursday to "be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land."

At least 7 Mexican wolf pups cross-fostered into wild packs

PHOENIX — Arizona Game and Fish Department officials say at least seven Mexican wolf pups have successfully cross-fostered into wild packs since last spring. Members of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan cross-fostered 20 genetically diverse wolf pups from captive facilities into litters of wild wolf packs. The IFT reports that one of two pups cross-fostered from the Phoenix Zoo to the Iron Creek pack in New Mexico was caught and radio-collared plus one of two pups cross-fostered from the Endangered Wolf Center to the San Mateo pack in New Mexico. 

Border Patrol: Suspect in Iowa homicide dead in New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The U.S. Border Patrol says a man later determined to be wanted in an Iowa homicide was fatally shot after his vehicle went around an immigration checkpoint in southern New Mexico. The Border Patrol says it wasn't immediately known whether the man killed himself or was struck by Border Patrol agents' gunfire when they returned his fire during a pursuit Wednesday. The incident began at a checkpoint on a highway near Las Cruces and ended west of Truth or Consequences. The Border Patrol said a female passenger in the car was taken into custody. No identities were released and no details were provided on the Iowa homicide.

Mexico unveils monument to murdered U.S. women, children

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has attended the inauguration of a monument to honor nine U.S.-Mexican dual citizens killed on Nov. 4, 2019 by suspected drug gang assassins. The monument in the small town of La Mora is in the northern border region near New Mexico, near the site where the group was ambushed along a rural road. Sonora state Gov. Claudia Pavlovich said the monument "is a testament to the need that this never be forgotten, that it always be remembered, and that it never be repeated." The killings of three women and six children shocked Mexico.

Largest wind farm in New Mexico to begin generating power

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Xcel Energy says work is done on the Sagamore Wind Project, and the turbines will go online at the end of the month. Covering 100,000 acres, the wind farm is the largest in New Mexico and the second largest on the utility's eight-state system. CEO and chairman Ben Fowke said during a virtual celebration that Sagamore will be a key asset for Xcel in its push to reach carbon-free electricity generation by 2050. Xcel officials said the new wind farm will result in lower costs for customers and will provide hundreds of millions of dollars in lease payments and tax revenues over the next 25 years.

US wildlife agency gives more deference to economic benefits

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. wildlife officials have finalized a rule to exempt some areas from habitat protections meant to save imperiled species. Thursday's announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would place greater weight on the economic benefits of development when deciding if land or water should be protected. It's the latest move by the Trump administration in a years-long overhaul of how the Endangered Species Act is used. Wildlife advocates say it would allow more drilling, mining and other activities in areas crucial to the survival of dwindling populations of plants and animals. Administration officials say the proposal gives more deference to local community needs.

US AND GLOBAL NEWS BRIEFING

CYBER ATTACK

No comment so far from President Trump on what is now potentially looking like the worst cyberattack against the government in years. The latest federal bodies to apparently fall victim to the ever-widening hack attack - the Department of Energy and the agency that maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Agencies also believed to be affected by a corrupted version of SolarWinds' "Orion" system monitoring software include the Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture departments as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

NO DEAL? GOVT SHUTDOWN LOOMS TODAY

Government funding expires at 11:59:59. Congressional leaders are still negotiating an omnibus/covid relief combo package. McConnell says negotiators are on "the one-yard line" as they continue to meet by phone. Pelosi said they made "some progress" Thursday morning. The possibility of a government shutdown or another short term CR becomes more likely by the hour. Even if a deal is reached at this point, it needs to be put on paper, read by members, voted on in the House and then voted on in the Senate. And we could still hear objections from Progressive caucus members on the left and deficit hawks on the right. 

STIMULUS DOWN TO THE WIRE

Negotiations over a COVID stimulus bill and a government funding deal are down to the wire. With a deadline of Friday at midnight to fund the government, lawmakers are likely to need a days-long measure to tide funding the government over until they can clinch a roughly $900 billion coronavirus deal to a government funding package. Lawmakers are still looking at how to structure a second round of stimulus checks, expected to be around $600, including potentially lowering the income cap from the $75,000 cap included in the March CARES Act.

HHS SEC ALEX AZAR WIFE HAS COVID-19

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday night informed staff that his wife, Jennifer, tested positive for Covid-19, according to an email shared by HHS. "Today, my family learned that my wife Jennifer has tested positive for Covid-19," Azar wrote in an email. He added that his wife "scrupulously followed public health guidelines" and immediately self-isolated after her initial symptoms and even after she received a negative diagnosis from an initial instant test. A subsequent molecular test, which is more reliable, revealed that she was positive, Azar added. Azar said that he and his children have tested negative and have no symptoms. The HHS secretary also said he will continue to work on the advice of his physician and public health experts like CDC Director Robert Redfield. More than 17 million Americans have now tested positive for Covid-19, including President Donald Trump and several dozen White House and senior administration officials. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday also tested positive for Covid-19.

COVID CASES & DEATHS

While a handful of states are seeing slight declines in new coronavirus cases, All 50 are reporting record numbers of both covid hospitalizations and deaths. Nearly one week before Christmas, more than 113-thousand Americans are hospitalized, and the situation is so dire in California that covid deaths are overwhelming the system and ICU availability in Southern CA is now reportedly at zero.

NURSING HOME VACCINES 

Hardest hit nursing homes and assisted living facilities are preparing to vaccinate their residents with help from CVS and Walgreens. Fox News visits the largest non-profit nursing home in New York to speak to eager residents as staff educate and prepare them to be vaccinated. Nearly 40% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were in long term care facilities.

CRUISE INDUSTRY STATUS 

The once popular cruise industry continues stuck in port and going nowhere. The CDC has eliminated its “no sail” order, imposed this past March when the Coronavirus pandemic spread like wildfire in the close quarters of cruise ships.   While cruises can technically resume sailing now, the CDC’s 40 pages of regulations and guidelines are so onerous, the cruise line companies keep postponing their return to sea. The industry has lost $35 billion dollars so far, and a quarter million jobs lost, as well as peripheral jobs in the big cruise port cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral.

FDA/MODERNA VACCINE 

The FDA is expected to approve another coronavirus vaccine for emergency use authorization. The new vaccine from Moderna has been touted as "highly effective" in clinical trials with a success rate similar to Pfizer's vaccine. Earlier this week, millions of the first dosses were shipped across the United States. A similar rollout is expected for the new Moderna vaccine. 

AWAITING MODERNA APPROVAL

Moderna could receive emergency authorization approval as soon as Friday, becoming the second vaccine approved for COVID. Moderna has promised to make 50 million doses of its vaccine available this month, enough to vaccinate 25 million people — largely health care workers and nursing home residents. HHS Secretary Alex Azar says 5.9 million doses of Moderna's vaccine are likely to be distributed next week. Meanwhile, Vice President Pence will try to create confidence in taking the vaccine publicly. Is a successful vaccine rollout what the economy really needs to recover?

INTERNATIONAL 

-- Czech Republic starts a new lockdown on Friday. All non essential businesses will be closed and curfew is being imposed.

-- The Palestinian Authority imposed new restrictions Thursday in the West Bank until further notice, closing all schools and universities, a general curfew on weekends, and a night curfew 1900-0600 every day. Israeli Arabs will be barred from entering PA territory, while Palestinian workers will be unable to enter Israel. Those who are already in Israeli territory will have to stay in Israel until the restrictions are lifted.

 -- Berlin's biggest restaurant, which had to close due to the pandemic, has opened its doors for homeless people. Starting this week, the Hofbräu Berlin offers free meals, a place to warm up and counseling for up to 150 homeless people per day.

CA-ARRESTS MADE IN UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD SCHEME 

Four women have been charged for their alleged roles in three separate schemes targeting California’s Employment Development Department. Two former EDD employees, an inmate and a parolee all face charges after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance benefits meant for those affected by the pandemic shutdowns. U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said the collective arrests “may prove to be the largest fraud scheme ever perpetrated against the taxpayers in California history.” The Department of Justice reports former EDD employee Andrea Gervais of Roseville is accused of mail fraud. She faces charges for allegedly obtaining money by filing around 100 fraudulent unemployment assistance claims using other people’s names. In one instance, she used the identity of a sitting U.S. senator and was able to obtain a Bank of America debit card in the senator’s name. On Thursday night, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, released a statement on the scheme, criticizing the EDD and identifying Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the name used by Gervais. “Think about this for a minute: EDD issues a debit card to Senator Dianne Feinstein! How does that happen? I’ll tell you how, EDD is complicit in the fraud by mailing out Social Security numbers to scammers; or they are utterly incompetent by not even checking eligibility before they issue the debit card. Either way, EDD has aided and abetted the fraud,” the assemblyman wrote. The DOJ says in total, over $200,000 in unemployment benefits were paid out to Gervais’ address.

DEATH ROW INMATE DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19 AHEAD OF EXECUTION 

A federal death row inmate in Indiana, who’s set to be executed shortly before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, has tested positive for coronavirus, officials said. 

The Bureau of Prisons told attorneys for Dustin John Higgs — who’s on federal death row for ordering the killings of three women in 1996 — that their client was positive for the coronavirus at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana Thursday. The diagnosis comes as more than 300 inmates at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19 with some being asymptomatic and other experiencing mild symptoms. Higgs’ lawyer has previously expressed concerns that he may be exposed to the virus ahead of his scheduled execution on Jan. 15. The Bureau of Prisons confirmed to the Associated Press that inmates on federal death row at Terre Haute had tested positive for COVID-19, but didn’t say how many. 

The agency added that an employee working in the unit also contracted the virus, but didn’t have contact with staff members working executions in November or December. So far, Higgs is the last federal death row inmate to be executed before Biden, who has promised to abolish the federal death penalty, is sworn in as president next month. The Trump administration has executed more inmates in a single year than any other other administration in history.

KS-FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST DEPUTY WHO ALLEGEDLY USED PATROL CAR TO HIT FLEEING SUSPECT 

The dashcam video captured a horrific scene: a Kansas sheriff’s deputy in a patrol truck mowing down a Black man who was running, shirtless, across a field in the summer darkness after fleeing a traffic stop. Lionel Womack — a 35-year-old former police detective from Kansas City, Kansas — alleges in a excessive force lawsuit filed Thursday that he sustained serious injuries when Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally drove over him during the Aug. 15 encounter. Womack said in a statement that he hadn’t been speeding nor was he under the influence of anything when he was initially pulled over. His driver’s license, insurance and registration were up to date. The graphic video is at the crux of the federal civil rights case filed by attorney Michael Kuckelman against the deputy in U.S. District Court in Kansas. The lawsuit argues that Rodriguez used excessive force and was “callously indifferent” to Womack’s civil rights. Womack had left the police department earlier in August with hopes of growing his own security business. He was on his way back home from a business trip to California when a Kansas Highway Patrol officer in western Kansas initiated a chase over “an alleged traffic violation,” according to the lawsuit. Sheriff’s deputies from Pratt County and Kiowa County joined in the chase. The car chase ended on a dirt road, and Womack took off on foot across a nearby field. The dashcam footage from a Pratt County sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle shows Rodriguez using his patrol truck to catch up to Womack, who was unarmed.

IRAN / CONSTRUCTION AT UNDERGROUND NUCLEAR FACILITY 

Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program, satellite photos show. Iran has not publicly acknowledged any new construction at Fordo, whose discovery by the West in 2009 came in an earlier round of brinkmanship before world powers struck the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. While the purpose of the building remains unclear, any work at Fordo likely will trigger new concern in the waning days of the Trump administration before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Iran is already building at its Natanz nuclear facility after a mysterious explosion in July there that Tehran described as a sabotage attack.

NIGERIA / SCHOOLBOYS RELEASED

More than 300 schoolboys released after being kidnapped last week in northwest Nigeria have appeared in a regional capital, bleary-eyed and stunned by their ordeal, most still in their school uniforms, some wrapped in gray blankets. The boys were abducted one week ago from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School. Boko Haram jihadist rebels claimed responsibility for the abduction, saying they attacked the school because they believe Western education is un-Islamic. It does not appear that a ransom was paid to secure the boys’ freedom. The abduction has gripped a country already incensed by widespread insecurity, and evoked memories of Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls, only about half the girls have been found or freed. Others were married off to fighters, while some are assumed to be dead.

UK; EU / LOOMING NO-DEAL BREXIT

The European Union's chief negotiator says the bloc and the United Kingdom are starting a "last attempt" to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal, with EU fishing rights in British waters the most notable remaining obstacle to avoid a chaotic and costly changeover on New Year's Day. Michel Barnier told the EU parliament on Friday he "can't say what will come out during this home straight of the negotiations".

DEBRA HAALAND

Joe Biden added a few more members to his administration yesterday including the first Native American to run the Interior department, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM). Haaland is the third House member Biden has selected, a move that could slim the Democratic majority. This as questions remain regarding his son Hunter’s investigation. 

GA ELECTIONS

VP Pence hit the campaign trail in Georgia yesterday in support of GOP Sens Perdue and Loeffler, and today Loeffler will be participating in an event with Travis Tritt, Ted Cruz, and Tim Scott. Perdue and Loeffler are hoping to hold off challenges from Dem hopefuls Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as early voting is underway in the Jan 5 runoff elections which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. 

BIG TECH TRANSITION

More states are signing onto antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook with complaints against Google’s search and ad businesses and for co-conspiring with Facebook, marking the latest legal challenges against big tech. Meanwhile, Google’s response to the Justice Department’s lawsuit is due Monday. But how hard will the next administration push these antitrust cases? A number of senior executives from Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies have joined the Biden transition team that will help craft the administration’s Big Tech policies. Biden’s Transportation pick Pete Buttigieg has received millions from Silicon Valley.

HOUSING RISKS DESPITE RECORD LOW RATES

Mortgage rates continue to hit record lows, with the 30-year fixed rate now at 2.67%. That’s boosting demand and driving up the prices of homes while supplies are tight, but the booming housing market could become more competitive under a Biden administration. President-elect Biden is poised to enact an ambitious housing agenda that could spell out a recipe for disaster. One item under consideration is a tax credit for down payment assistance, which could send a torrent of first-time homebuyers into an already pinched market space, making for more competition and less affordable housing.

HUNTER BIDEN LATEST

 Fox News reporting that Hunter Biden’s business associates in 2017 were looking to “get Joe involved” in a joint venture with the Chinese Energy Company CEFC – hoping to make it look like a “truly family business” adds to the drip, drip, drip of information on Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings  Already many Republican lawmakers are calling for a Special Counsel to investigate since Biden is set to take office in about a month, and he could dismiss the United States Attorney in Delaware leading the Hunter criminal probe. Some Republicans suggest if there isn’t going to be a Special Counsel then the President-elect must guarantee that he will not interfere, and will allow federal authorities to complete their work. How does this affect Biden’s search for an Attorney General? How difficult will it be for that person to get confirmed by possibly a Republican led Senate? What kind of promises will that nominee need to make during the confirmation process?

RECALL NEWSOM

California Republicans have spearheaded multiple efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom in the past, but the latest attempt could get an extra push because some Democrats are lining up behind it, Politico reports.   The current recall campaign against Newsom is easily the strongest since the 2003 effort targeting Democratic Governor Gray Davis. The Associated Press reports that organizers of a recall drive that began in June appear to have about 800,000 of the required 1,495,709 signatures of registered state voters to trigger a recall election. California Republican Party chair Jessica Millan Patterson has announced her support.  Given that 20 percent or more of ballot signatures are typically found to be invalid, such an election is far from a sure thing. But all it would take is one rich conservative — playing the role that then-Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, did in 2003 — to fund paid signature-gathering to get the effort over the top in the three months remaining to qualify the recall for a likely summer 2021 vote. Though he lost the state by 29 percentage points, President Donald Trump got 1.5 million more votes here this year than in 2016. Trump’s 6 million California voters — and other Californians disillusioned by Newsom’s governance — probably wouldn’t need much of a push to buy the case for Newsom’s ouster.

NC COLLEGE DRUG BUST

Nearly two dozen people including current and former students were arrested in a major drug dealing case at colleges in North Carolina.  For nearly three years until this past Spring, drug sales were made around fraternities at UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Appalachian State.  According to court documents, the drug ring sold a thousand pounds of marijuana, several hundred kilos of cocaine, plus other drugs like Xanax and steroids.  

HOLIDAY TRAVEL: CAN YOUR EMPLOYER DENY YOU?

Wrap your gifts, pack your car, check with your boss? That’s the latest reality of the COVID-19 pandemic as your trip home for the holidays could need your employer’s approval. Under federal law, companies must provide a safe workplace. So if your boss finds out your Christmas plans violate any federal or local guidelines, they’re well within their rights to deny your vacation or stop you from returning to work. If the federal government gets its way, stopping your holiday plans could be as simple as your boss saying no. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he and his wife will not be seeing their children this holiday season — and he’s asking Americans to do the same to stop potential coronavirus spread.

HOT HOLIDAY GIFTS: SMART TOYS

With gaming up 46% this year because of the pandemic, big companies are taking notice. They are now providing tech toys that promote learning for kids in an increasingly virtual world. It's hard to go wrong with a tech gift for the gamer in your life. These “smart toys” may look like fun and games — but they are also making kids smarter and think more critically.

NO DEAL? GOVT SHUTDOWN LOOMS TODAY

Government funding expires at 11:59:59. Congressional leaders are still negotiating an omnibus/covid relief combo package. McConnell says negotiators are on "the one-yard line" as they continue to meet by phone. Pelosi said they made "some progress" Thursday morning. The possibility of a government shutdown or another short term CR becomes more likely by the hour. Even if a deal is reached at this point, it needs to be put on paper, read by members, voted on in the House and then voted on in the Senate. And we could still hear objections from Progressive caucus members on the left and deficit hawks on the right. 

STIMULUS DOWN TO THE WIRE

Negotiations over a COVID stimulus bill and a government funding deal are down to the wire. With a deadline of Friday at midnight to fund the government, lawmakers are likely to need a days-long measure to tide funding the government over until they can clinch a roughly $900 billion coronavirus deal to a government funding package. Lawmakers are still looking at how to structure a second round of stimulus checks, expected to be around $600, including potentially lowering the income cap from the $75,000 cap included in the March CARES Act.

CHINA THREAT

Chinese spying tends to focus on economic espionage while Russia focuses on influence operations designed to undermine US institutions. Years ago Chinese hackers for instance pulled the rug out from under US Steel – stealing trade secrets that would have kept the US steel manufacturer competitive. The undercutting of US Steel led to the loss of American jobs, but it is not just steel that Chinese hackers stole but also the formula for White House paint, undercutting the American paint manufacturer who made the special high quality paint used to give the White House a bright white color.

SWALWELL LATEST 

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is refusing to answer Fox’s questions about his involvement with suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang. Amid calls for his resignation from the House Intelligence Committee by many House Republicans, Swalwell has yet to answer whether he has breached trust and security barriers surrounding sensitive material Intel members are privy to and discuss. Swalwell’s colleagues in  the Dem leadership say they have “complete confidence” in him. 

Swallwell remains on Capitol Hill while the House is in session, possibly through the weekend while they continue working out COVID relief and government funding. 

FIJI / CYCLONE STRIKE

Despite gusts up to 214 miles per hour, Cyclone Yasa's landfall on Fiji was not as devasting as feared. At least two people were killed and dozens of homes destroyed.

AUSTRALIA / TERRORISM SUSPECTED IN MURDER

Australian detectives suspect the murder of an elderly couple in Brisbane is a "terrorism incident" perpetrated by a knife-wielding man who was later shot dead by police as he threatened police. The bodies of the couple were found in their home near where Raghe Abdi, 22, was shot. Police suspect Abdi had been influenced by the Islamic State group. He was arrested in 2019 on suspicion that he was trying to join extremists when he attempted to depart Brisbane Airport for Somalia, but released without charge due to insufficient evidence and his passport canceled.

‘ROCK OF TALK’ DEBATE OF THE DAY

2020 has been a really difficult year, and it has taken its toll on Americans, with a new survey finding that more than two-thirds of 2,000 people surveyed, 68 percent, said this year had left them feeling, quote, "defeated." As expected, the top thing making them feel defeated was the pandemic, cited by 63 percent. Other things making them feel that way included: not being able to enjoy pre-Covid activities, named by 45 percent; the presidential election, also named by 45 percent; the spread of misinformation related to the coronavirus, named by 35 percent, and the 24/7 news cycle, cited by 30 percent. The survey also found that 77 percent of Americans said 2020 caused an existential crisis for the country, and 65 percent feel like they'd had their own personal crisis at some point during this year.

  • Has this year left you feeling "defeated," and if so, what is the main reason or reasons?

  • Do you feel like 2020 caused an existential crisis for the country, and if so, in what way?

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