Once considered suitable for the White House, he’s now headed for the big house. Bob McDonnell received a 24-month prison sentence today for taking $177,000 in gifts and loans to push a dietary supplement. His wife faces sentencing on Feb. 20. “I allowed my life to get way out of balance,” said the disgraced politician, who was on Mitt Romney’s short list for vice presidential running mates. The sentence was far less than the 10 years sought by prosecutors, but one writer argues that it’s plenty fair.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Hope comes to Oxford, England. Drug maker Johnson & Johnson announced plans to test an Ebola vaccine in people with trials at the university, after the doses worked in monkeys. The script calls for two injections, the second developed by a Danish firm. J&J has eyes on a large-scale trial by April, aiming for 2 million doses ready this year. Two other firms are testing their own vaccinations. With some 8,000 stricken in West Africa, protection can’t come soon enough.
It’s swearing-in day for the 114th U.S. Congress, with Republicans taking control of both the Senate and House. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Keystone XL oil pipeline tops the agenda, with Obamacare and immigration close behind. The incoming class, with 104 women, 33 Hispanics, 12 Asian-Americans and two Native Americans, is the most diverse ever. John Boehner won a contested vote for his third term as House Speaker, giving him a front-row seat to the skirmishes ahead.
He is silent no more. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has lashed out about Sunday’s protest in which hundreds of police officers turned their backs on him at a funeral. “I can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing in a context like that,” he said, ending weeks of silence. The feud and resulting “work stoppage” has seen a 54 percent drop in arrests. Last night, two NYPD cops investigating a robbery were shot and wounded, heightening awareness of the risks they face.
The city lights went out in Cologne. In Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate went dark. It’s a counter-protest against a rising anti-Muslim group, known as PEGIDA, whose protests drew 18,000 in Dresden — but were met with thousands denoucing them elsewhere. The ultra-right-wing group welcomes neo-Nazis and hooligans. Some liken the anti-Muslim sentiment to anti-Semitism — not really a comparison anyone wants to hear coming out of Central Europe. But PEGIDA doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
They’re carrying big sticks and not speaking softly. Kiev and Moscow are supposed to meet for peace talks next week, but saber-rattling has reached fever pitch. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is stockpiling jets and howitzers, while Vladimir Putin is cozying up to mercenaries, accepting foreign fighters-for-hire. Poroshenko’s now threatening not to turn up for negotiations unless a draft peace agreement is in place beforehand, and Germany and France say there’s no point in talking if no one’s committed to peace.
Welcome back, Wall Street. Investors returned to work to be greeted by tumbling oil prices and renewed worries about the world economy. U.S. crude hit a dubious new milestone, falling below $50 a barrel for the first time since spring 2009. The slick caused the Dow to slide 331 points yesterday and continued rattling global markets today. Adding to uncertainty is political turmoil in Greece, which could exit the eurozone. Expect more volatility as barrels of black gold dip into the $40s.
Search crews find tail section of AirAsia flight QZ8501 in Java Sea. (BBC)
Shooter kills one person and himself at El Paso military facility. (CNN)
Obama will not sign bill approving controversial pipeline. (USA Today)
Female suicide bomber attacks Istanbul’s historic district.(Reuters)
Judge lifts ban to allow gay marriages in Florida.(NYT)
California breaks ground on the first bullet train line in the U.S.(AP)
Jeb Bush announces PAC in English and Spanish.(NBC)
Divers search seabed for AirAsia wreckage as weather lifts.(AFP)
Jordanian prince eyes presidency of world soccer.(BBC)
CIA inspector general set to resign.(Reuters)
The 24-hour news network is prepared for the apocalypse. Years ago, Ted Turner commissioned a sign-off video to be played if the Earth’s demise is “confirmed.” Folks thought it was a joke, but footage unearthed by an intern reveals it’s true. In the clip, a military marching band plays the national anthem and “Nearer My God to Thee,” allegedly the last song heard on the Titanic. “I can’t watch this without getting tears in my eyes,” Turner once said. Let’s hope it never hits the air.
It’s being called the “Everest of planetary exploration.” For the first time since 1989, when NASA explored Neptune, a spacecraft is reaching a planet, even though Pluto has been demoted to “dwarf” status. The New Horizons probe took nine years — traveling at a speed of 27,000 mph — to reach the Kuiper belt, an unexplored part of the solar system. Carrying the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered Pluto, it will swoop closest, just 7,750 miles above the surface, on July 14, 2015.
The cows won’t be happy, but at least they’re not mad. Irish beef is returning to the U.S. market after more than 15 years. The BSE crisis of the 1990s — which claimed 77 lives and forced the slaughter of 4.5 million cattle — led to the ban. But Ireland is the first EU country to be allowed back into the American market. Thanks to growing stateside demand, Ireland hopes to sell between $60 and $120 million worth of meat to the U.S. this year.
These fish know how to dive. Japan’s Tsukiji fish market recently held its first bluefin tuna auction of 2015, and the first fish — which sold for $1.76 million in 2013 — sold for an underwhelming $37,000. Sushi magnate Kiyoshi Kimura netted the 400-pound fish and credited a good harvest for the drop in price. But the depreciation probably had more to do with a lack of rival bidders. Tuna populations, after all, are still in decline, and demand is as high as ever.
Tired of the same old Tuesday dinner? Try an earthly recipe from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “1 cup magnesium, 1 cup silicon, 2 cups iron, 2 cups oxygen, 1/2 teaspoon aluminum, 1/2 teaspoon nickel, 1/2 teaspoon calcium, 1/4 teaspoon sulfur, dash of water.” The catch? The H2O must come from asteroids, and you need to place your ball of goodness near a young star. Scientists hope the “recipe” will help them spot a new Earth in the heavens. But you may want to stick with spaghetti tonight.
The cable guy’s days are numbered. Sports lovers in need of an ESPN fix have been keeping cable subscriptions afloat, but that may change thanks to a new service from Dish Network. Sling TV lets viewers watch their favorite sports for $20 a month — along with the Food Network, CNN and Travel Channel — via live Internet streaming, rather than cable or satellite. With similar services from HBO and Showtime due out this year, cable customers may soon be reaching for their scissors.
They’re calling in reinforcements. Arguably the best sixth man in the league, J.R. Smith, and fellow guard Iman Shumpert are heading to the court of King James in a “blockbuster” trade. The struggling Knicks get forward Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City, along with two Cavs players. Promising youngster Dion Waiters will make his new home with the Thunder. For Cleveland, the swap is expected to free up LeBron on offense and boost the team’s perimeter defense — along with its shot at the title.