Shorter Question Everything
• NJ bridge scandal reaches Christie’s doorstep: Rachel Maddow reviews the story of the questionable New Jersey traffic jam, up to developments today that bring the scandal to the office of Governor Christie.
• ‘Explosive documents’ connect Christie, bridge scandal: There have been allegations that the governor and his team were punishing a local mayor for refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign, but the evidence was circumstantial. That is, until this morning. The Bergen Record”s Shawn Boburg published details that connect the scandal to the governor’s office in ways that raise the stakes of the controversy considerably: A cache of private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and his two top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock, and insults used to refer to the borough’s mayor, who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election. The documents obtained by The Record also raise serious doubts about months of claims by the Christie administration that the September closures of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge were part of a traffic study initiated solely by the Port Authority. Instead, they show that one of the governor’s top aides was deeply involved in the decision to choke off the borough’s access to the bridge, and they provide the strongest indication yet that it was part of a politically-motivated vendetta – a notion that Christie has publicly denied.
• Seven Reckless and Stupid Things About Chris Christie’s Bridge Scandal: There are two major angles to the Chris Christie bridge scandal. The most important angle is the public safety hazard that Christie’s staffers, and perhaps Christie himself deliberately created in order to apparently stymie Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. The other angle is closely related, but not as critical: the sheer thuggish, brazen stupidity of the Christie team.
In other news
• House Republican Bill Requires That the IRS Investigate Sexual Assault Survivors: The bill, H.R. 7, was introduced by fundamentalist Chris Smith (R-NJ) and seeks to rewrite the IRS tax code, re-define health insurance, regulate and tax every business in America, tax individuals, insert the federal government between a woman and private medical decisions, and punish rape victims by making them relive the horrors of sexual assault. Smith promoted his legislation on Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council website as another Christian law prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion, but it is simply legislation mandating the health insurance industry to eliminate coverage for family planning services including abortion. It is important to note that next to raising taxes, Republicans hate the federal government regulating business, especially big businesses like the health insurance industry, as much as they hate women, but regulating and taxing businesses is precisely what Smith’s legislation does under the guise of “religious liberty” to rob women of their right to choose when they produce offspring. Smith’s bill punishes every healthcare policy holder in America by disallowing a tax deduction on income tax returns for any medical insurance if the policy includes coverage for family planning that nearly all healthcare plans provide. It even punishes women who pay for an abortion with cash because it disallows a medical deduction on Schedule A of individual income tax returns whether it was included in a healthcare insurance plan or not. The bill does allow a sexual assault victim to take the medical deduction for abortion care in a case of rape, but only after an IRS auditor verifies the victim was really sexually assaulted and conceived her attacker’s progeny. Republicans have long-complained that the federal government, especially the IRS, interferes and intrudes into Americans’ private lives, but Smith’s bill amends the Internal Revenue Service code to require IRS auditors to investigate and interrogate sexual-assault survivors who access abortion care.
• ‘Black Teenage Unemployment Act’: A Fox News guest on Wednesday said that Congress should repeal the federal minimum wage because it was serving as the “Black Teenage Unemployment Act.” “The minimum wage makes no sense whatsoever to me,” former Reagan economist Art Laffer told Fox News host Jenna Lee. “Honestly it’s just the teenage — Black Teenage Unemployment Act. And this is the very group that we need to have jobs, not be put out of work because of a minimum wage. So, I’m very much in favor of, at least for teenagers, getting rid of the minimum wage.”
• H1N1: Concerns are growing in British Columbia after a traveller who flew from Beijing to Vancouver in December later died from H5N1 or avian influenza in Edmonton. The person, who has been identified only as an Alberta resident, first showed symptoms of bird flu on Dec. 27 aboard Air Canada flight 30 from Beijing to Vancouver. The passenger continued on to Edmonton on a connecting flight and was admitted to hospital Jan. 1. The infected person died Jan. 3. The case was confirmed in a lab test Tuesday night. It’s the first such case in North America. Speaking on Wednesday, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, said the person spent 2½ hours in Vancouver International Airport, between 12:30 p.m. PT and 3 p.m. PT on Dec. 27, waiting for the connecting flight.
• Another Train Carrying Oil Derails, Catches Fire in New Brunswick, Canada: A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed and caught fire on Tuesday in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, the latest in a string of train accidents that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under heavy scrutiny. There were no reports of injuries, but about 45 nearby homes were evacuated when the train derailed near the village of Plaster Rock at about 7 p.m. local time, according to local officials.