The New Jersey governor said he didn’t know anything about aides’ involvement with the controversial closing of a major traffic artery for political purposes. In a Thursday morning press conference, Gov. Chris Christie apologized for their actions, said he unintentionally misled the public, and dismissed a key staffer. But the case isn’t closed yet, as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey is now looking into the incident.
The Presidential Daily Brief
President Obama is set to announce a program in five cities to fight poverty by creating jobs and housing, and by providing law enforcement and education reform. On the 50th anniversary of former President Lyndon Johnson’s declared “War on Poverty,” San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will be designated “promise zones” to help them get direct access to federal government assistance and incentives for improving impoverished neighborhoods. This is part of the president’s broader strategy in 2014 to fight income inequality, which includes raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
The first known fatality from the H5N1 avian flu virus has struck North America. Canadian officials have announced the death of an Alberta resident who had recently visited Beijing. People are being urged to remain calm, with Health Minister Rona Ambrose calling it an “isolated case.” She said the risk to others is low, and the World Health Organization says the virus is difficult to transmit from person to person. But once caught, H5N1, which affects the lower respiratory tract and often causes severe pneumonia, is deadly 60 percent of the time.
More than 10,000 of Israel’s African migrants have been protesting for days to demand recognition as refugees and the right to work legally without fear of detention. The migrants’ request for asylum and work privileges is stoking a tense political debate in Israel, itself a byproduct of refugees fleeing inhumane conditions. Prime Minister Netanyahu argues that the migrants are mostly illegal job-seekers and a threat to Israel’s Jewish fabric. Israel reportedly accepts less than one percent of refugee requests, and the government has recently passed a law allowing indefinite detention of migrants.
France’s data-protection watchdog fined Google Inc. $203,500, the maximum allowed under law, for violating privacy laws by not sufficiently informing users of how their data is processed and used. France’s action to bolster users’ rights to access, object to and delete their data follows a similar case against Google in Spain, and comes amid other European investigations. The cases are part of a broader effort to rein in the power that American companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have over Europe’s Internet economy, and are looking at everything from the products these firms promote to whether they pay their taxes.
Chemical factory blast in Japan kills at least five. (BBC).
Greece assumes EU presidency, targets ”intolerable” austerity measures. (The Guardian).
CAR president expected to face pressure to step down at regional summit. (BBC).
Jury finds police killing of Mark Duggan, which set off UK riots in 2011, lawful. (BBC).
Utah governor’s office will not recognize same sex marriages, pending appeal. (NPR).
Businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in December, the highest number in more than a year, according to ADP, a payroll processor. U.S. mortgage applications rose too, as did retail sales. Even troubled JC Penny saw a “pleasing” performance. Experts hope all this good news is just a precursor to a positive Fed jobs report on Friday, showing the U.S. economy well on the road to recovery.
Three years after she was shot in the head at a campaign event in Tucson, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords still struggles to speak and walk. Yet she chose to mark the anniversary of the shooting with her first skydive. Since retiring from Congress to focus on her recovery, Giffords has become one of America’s most powerful advocates for gun control reform. She compares the political struggle to reduce gun violence to her personal struggle with physical therapy, describing how she has “seen grit overcome paralysis.” Her hope is that Congress will resolve to do the same.
Marlise Munoz has been brain dead for more than a month, and she is being kept alive on life support against her and her family’s wishes. Staff at a Texas hospital refuse to comply with the request because Texas prohibits medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient. Medical ethics experts have challenged the hospital’s understanding of the law and its accounts of her condition, but the case has become a flashpoint for contentious issues like end-of-life care and abortion. Doctors will soon determine whether the pregnancy can be carried to full term.
The entire staff of the San Francisco Chronicle is being sent back to school in an attempt to reverse the paper’s declining readership. Staff will be given a two-month digital crash course. Managing Editor Audrey Cooper believes that it’s essential for journalists to understand digital evaluation metrics, such as clicks and engagement time. The newspaper has been criticized for its lack of technology content, particularly as it’s located at the heart of San Francisco’s startup community. No one, not even the 95-year-old science editor, will be exempt from the new training program.
Michigan’s Motor City is fighting to change its bad boy image by putting a new twist on gentrification. Rather than targeting wealthy renovators, the Write a House organization is daring literary artists to move into one of three homes it’s refurbishing. Poets, journalists and novelists can live rent free for two years and, if they meet their obligations, can earn the deed to the house. Organizers hope the campaign will help revitalize Detroit neighborhoods and get the writers-turned-residents involved in their communities while providing a creative backdrop for their writing.
Source: New Yorker
Three former Major League Baseball stars are headed for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Former Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux, fellow teammate and pitcher Tom Glavine, and former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas were elected in their first year on the ballot. Former Houston Astros standout Craig Biggio fell just short of the 75 percent of the vote required for enshrinement. Former players believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs were again left off the majority of ballots.