Texas Standard For December 17, 2020

It’s being described as an act of cyber espionage so big it is hard to overstate its impact, and a Texas company is in the crosshairs. And: Texas is distributing the COVID vaccine in tiers of priority. But what happens if someone tries to cut in line? Also: The holiday shopping season’s not what it used to be and certainly not at the border right now, where Texas merchants are feeling the pressure from pandemic rules and a loss of customers from Mexico. Plus: The student debt crisis: is there a better alternative than loan forgiveness? We’ll hear about some of the options that could be on the table and much more.

By Texas StandardDecember 17, 2020 9:53 am

Here’s what’s coming up on Texas Standard for Thursday, December 17, 2020. Listen on your Texas public radio station, or ask your smart speaker to play Texas Standard. We’ll have full posts for each story, including audio, a little later today.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Deep East Texas

East Texas counties are now seeing capacity restrictions for businesses including gyms, retail stores nd restaurants as hospitalizations for COVID-19 rise. Sharon Shaw, the administrator for the Angelina County and Cities Health District, talks to the Standard.

Border Shutdown Shoppers

Retailers across Texas are struggling. And COVID-19 has made many shoppers avoid brick and mortar stores this holiday season. But it’s been especially rough for merchants on the border, who rely on customers from Mexico crossing into the U.S. to shop. From El Paso, KTEP’s Angela Kocherga reports.

Food Bank Impacts

Texas food banks have seen large cuts to federal and state programs that provide them fresh produce and other food. Houston Public Media’s Elizabeth Trovall has more on how food banks are hoping state officials will step in.

Alternatives to Forgiving Student Loans

Following our conversation yesterday, Texas Standard talks to Sandy Baum, a fellow for the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute about alternatives to student loan forgiveness.

Solar Winds Federal Hack

It was revealed over the weekend that several federal agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Defense, Commerce and Veterans Affair had all been hacked by suspected operatives of the Russian government. It began with a malware-infected software update from Solar Winds, an Austin-based company that makes network monitoring software. Tech expert Omar Gallaga wrote about the hack and about Solar Winds for Texas Monthly and talks to the Standard.

The Sounds of Texas: We Are Santa


More than 24,000 Texans have died from COVID-19 since March. But even as that number continues to grow, the data and numbers can feel abstract, or impersonal. KUT’s Marisa Charpentier reports on one Austin man trying to help people visualize just how immense this death toll is.

Jumping The Vaccine Line

The vaccine for COVID-19 is here. Frontline health care workers in Texas are already getting vaccinated for the coronavirus. The rest of us could be in for a bit of wait unless you’re willing to break the rules. Doing so might not even be that difficult. Reporter Caitlin Owens wrote about that for Axios and talked to the Standard.

All this and Texas News Roundup, plus Social Media Editor Wells Dunbar with the talk of Texas.

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