Monday News: Six thousand, nine hundred ten


NC'S NEW CASE COUNTS TOP 9,000, OVER 3,500 HOSPITALIZED: At least 564,924 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 6,910 have died, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 6,487 new COVID-19 cases, down from 9,365 reported the day before and the record 9,527 reported Friday. A record 3,576 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Sunday. As of Friday, the latest day for which data are available, 13.6% of COVID-19 tests were positive. A national projection model from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts 1,100 more people may die from the coronavirus in North Carolina during the first three weeks of January.

PHASE 1B OF VACCINE PLAN BEGINS TODAY, SOME SENIOR CITIZENS CAN GET 1ST DOSE: On Monday, North Carolina enters 1B, the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, meaning senior citizens should soon have access to vaccines. The first Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which were administered in the United States in mid-December, were prioritized for healthcare workers and for those who live or work at long-term care facilities. Now, other frontline essential workers and people 75 and older will be able to get the vaccine as well. In a state briefing last week, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said she expects to share more information soon on the updated vaccine rollout plan, which could use employees from CVS and Walgreens to help administer shots to senior citizens. At least three weeks must separate the administration of the two doses. The Pfizer vaccine appears to be about 52% effective after the first dose and 95% effective after the second dose. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

PROSPECTS FOR DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA IN NC ARE IMPROVING: NC NORML is one of a handful of advocacy groups seeking to legalize cannabis use. While the language within the task force's policy suggestion doesn't amount to legalization, Ramquist believes it's a good start. "To decriminalize is to make it a specific crime to where people can be fined but not jailed and it doesn't go on the record," Ramquist said. "It's a fine like speeding, it puts you in that category. Legalization would allow people to possess [cannabis]. Of course, it would still make impaired driving illegal, regardless of substance. It would still be a crime if it is misused." State Attorney General Josh Stein agreed. "White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced," Stein said in December, when the task force introduced their policy prescriptions. "Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana.” Findings by the ACLU give further credence to this. In their recent report, titled A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, the ACLU analyzed government compiled data and discovered African Americans are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession relative to their white peers.

IN RECORDED PHONE CALL, TRUMP BEGS AND THREATENS GA SECSTATE TO "FIND" VOTES SO HE CAN WIN: President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that legal scholars described as a flagrant abuse of power and a potential criminal act. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.” Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining that the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate. He later added: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still asserting he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office. Several of his allies were on the line as he spoke, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell, a prominent GOP attorney whose involvement with Trump’s efforts had not been previously known. Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators — an allegation for which there is no evidence — they would be subject to criminal liability. “That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”

NANCY PELOSI WILL CONTINUE AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Democrats returned Representative Nancy Pelosi of California to the House speakership on Sunday for what may be her final term, handing a tested leader control of the slimmest majority in almost two decades as Washington prepares for a new Democratic president. The nearly party-line vote punctuated an opening day marked more by precaution than pomp, as the 117th Congress convened under the threat of a deadly pandemic and awaited a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of that chamber. Several House members sick with Covid-19 missed the session altogether and others cast their votes from behind a plexiglass enclosure specially constructed in a gallery overlooking the chamber. Her victory means that after two years as President Trump’s most outspoken antagonist, Ms. Pelosi will now be responsible for trying to shepherd through Congress as much of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda as possible. Ms. Pelosi secured 216 votes for speaker on Sunday afternoon, keeping defections within her party to just a handful despite grumbling from some moderates and progressives eager for new leadership. On the other side of the Capitol, six new senators were sworn in, but both parties were more concerned with the runoff elections scheduled for Tuesday. The outcome could determine the fate of Mr. Biden’s legislative goals on climate change, taxes and health care; his response to the coronavirus pandemic; and his ability to fill his cabinet and influential federal judgeships.



Did anybody else think "Nixon Tapes" when the story hit?

At any other time in our country, a sitting President threatening a state official to suborn an election would lead directly to Impeachment and calls from his own party to resign immediately. But with Trump, it's just another day in the theatre of the macabre.

15 days and a wake-up.