RSS
10 things you need to know today: January 10, 2014
Christie fires an aide over Bridgegate, Obama unveils a plan for "promise zones," and more
 
Chop.
Chop. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

1. Christie fires aide linked to traffic scandal
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday fired a top aide for her role in politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The tinkering with the bridge created gridlock in Fort Lee, a town run by a Democratic mayor who didn't support the Republican governor's reelection campaign. "I am embarrassed and humiliated," said Christie, a probable 2016 presidential candidate. The U.S. Attorney is investigating the "Bridgegate" scandal. [USA Today, The New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

2. Obama unveils plan for "promise zones"
President Obama launched an effort to battle rising income inequality by establishing five so-called "promise zones" to encourage private investment, through grants and technical support, in economically struggling areas across the country. GOP adversaries, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, attended the announcement in a potential sign of bipartisan support. "This should be a challenge that unites us all," Obama added. [USA Today]
………………………………………………………………………………

3. Dip in unemployment claims raises hopes for December jobs report
Economists expect the Labor Department to report Friday that the economy created 200,000 jobs in December, a slight improvement over the previous month. Unemployment is forecast to remain around seven percent. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 330,000 last week, the fewest since November, raising hopes that Friday's report will reinforce recent signs the economy is gaining momentum. (Update: The numbers came in below expectations, with 74,000 jobs added. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest since October 2008, as more people left the work force.) [The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg]
………………………………………………………………………………

4. Indian diplomat indicted, then given immunity
New York prosecutors announced Thursday that Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip search rattled U.S.-Indian relations, has been indicted on visa fraud charges for allegedly lying about how much she paid her housekeeper. Under a deal, she was granted diplomatic immunity and authorized to leave the U.S., but not before officials in India retaliated by curbing privileges and protection for American diplomats in Delhi. [CNN]
………………………………………………………………………………

5. Castro appears in public for the first time since April
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, 87, made a rare public appearance this week on the 55th anniversary of his triumphant arrival in Havana after toppling the government of Fulgencio Batista. Castro, stooped over a cane, showed up for the opening of an art gallery owned by a painter who is also a member of the communist Caribbean nation's parliament. It was his first appearance at a public event since April. [The Miami Herald]
………………………………………………………………………………

6. Congress changes hands as millionaires win the majority
Millionaires were a majority in Congress in 2012, the first time in history that has happened, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of the 534 members in Congress, 268 had a net worth of $1 million or more, up from 257 the year before. The median net worth for lawmakers on Capitol Hill as of the May 2013 filing was $1,008,767, up from $966,000 a year earlier. [CNBC]
………………………………………………………………………………

7. Karzai releases prisoners over U.S. objections
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday ordered the release of dozens of prisoners accused of attacks on Americans, further straining relations with Washington and endangering talks on continued U.S. troop support. Karzai said there was not enough evidence to hold the prisoners. The U.S. opposed the move, saying the prisoners were dangerous Taliban militants and that releasing them without trials violated the terms of a key security pact. [The New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

8. Pakistani teen dies stopping suicide bomber
Pakistanis are hailing a teenager, Aitzaz Hasan, as a hero after he died tackling a suicide bomber targeting his school. The local police chief recommended the 15 year old for a civilian award for valor, and the local government said it would offer the family compensation. Hasan's father said he was proud. "My son made his mother cry but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children," he said. [BBC News, Mirror]
………………………………………………………………………………

9. Analyst puts damage from the polar vortex at $5 billion
The polar vortex that hit much of the U.S. with subzero temperatures this week cost the economy about $5 billion, according to Evan Gold of the business weather intelligence firm Planalytics. The estimate, which includes everything from water-pipe damage to flight cancellations, would make the freeze the costliest weather disaster since 2012's superstorm Sandy, which cost $65 billion in property damage alone. [The Guardian]
………………………………………………………………………………

10. Poet Amiri Baraka dies
Poet, playwright, and activist Amiri Baraka, one of America's most prominent and controversial African-American writers, died Thursday at 79. Baraka was a leader of the Black Arts movement, which paralleled the black power movement in the '60s and '70s. He was named New Jersey's second poet laureate in 2002 and ignited a controversy with a 9/11 poem, "Somebody Blew Up America." The position was eliminated before his two-year term ended. [Los Angeles Times]

Get '10 things you need to know today' in your inbox each morning. Sign up for the email version here.

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week