DAYBREAK DAILY: At Liberty U., Sarah Palin blasts "war on Christmas"

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly cloudy with highs near 70.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Fast food workers promise wide-ranging strike to protest low wages; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

YOU BETCHA: Happy holidays, per the Lynchburg News & Advance, “Sarah Palin addressed Liberty University students at their final fall convocation Wednesday, blasting what she called a "war on Christmas" and promoting her latest book. She was joined onstage at the Vines Center by Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and the university's spokesman, Johnnie Moore, who sat together and discussed Palin's career, beliefs and book, "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas."

"There definitely is a war on Christmas," Palin said. Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008, said "revisionists" are at work to turn the Christmas season into a "winter solstice season," creating a greater divide between church and state. The former Alaska governor spoke of her favorite holiday traditions, including moose chili and the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," though she said she always has valued the religious center of Christmas.”

TERRY TIME: Of Medicaid expansion, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Despite healthy GOP opposition, Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday showed no signs of retreating on his push for Medicaid expansion. McAuliffe also said he supports tightening the state’s ethics laws, and putting more funding toward the state’s mental health system.

“The Democrat spoke to reporters and editors gathered at the Richmond Times-Dispatch building for the annual AP Day at the Capital. McAuliffe would not say whether he would try to press Medicaid expansion by submitting an amendment to the state’s two-year budget, which outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell will reveal Dec. 16.”

SAY WHAT?: Of fire trucks and ambulances, per the Washington Times, “The District’s fire chief was at a loss Wednesday to explain to a D.C. Council committee why his department sought no money in this year’s budget for trucks and ambulances despite a fleet that is aging and in disrepair. The city is expected to receive 30 new ambulances this year through $6.6 million allotted after vehicle maintenance and replacement became an issue following a series of high-profile malfunctions. But D.C. Council member Tommy Wells grilled Chief Kenneth Ellerbe about the lack of funds appropriated this fiscal year, which started after problems with the fleet were already well documented.

“There was no money in the budget for this fiscal year for fleet replacement — none. And I’m sure that you will get it in there,” said Mr. Wells, a Ward 6 Democrat and mayoral candidate who heads the council committee with oversight of the department. “But I cannot ignore the fact that no capital dollars were requested to see that you had the trucks and ambulances you needed in this year’s budget.” Chief Ellerbe said the issue was a possible “oversight” and added that the person in charge of the budget has since retired.”

SNOOP DOG: Or something like that, per the Washington Post, “The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.

“The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result. One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.”

OBAMACARE: On a roll, per the New York Times, “President Obama and congressional Democrats, seizing on the good news of an improving health care website and rising enrollments, on Wednesday highlighted parts of the law that are popular with the public and reminded Americans, and the law’s opponents, of what would be lost if the Affordable Care Act were repealed.

“As part of that political counteroffensive, which began this week, Democratic congresswomen challenged Republicans to present an alternative that would provide free preventive health services for the 105 million Americans who have already received them under the law. At the same time, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee singled out about 60 House Republicans, accusing them of plotting to take away immunizations for children, cancer screenings and mammograms.”

MEANWHILE: Not so fast, per The Hill, “Mounting opposition to ObamaCare among young adults is creating a new crisis for the White House. While the federal enrollment website appears to be improving by the day, polls show the “young invincibles” key to making the law work are becoming less likely to enroll. Younger people were skeptical of the healthcare reform law even before its troubled rollout, despite their support for President Obama.

“But polling indicates the problems facing — a site the administration initially touted as a hip, tech-friendly experience — have reinforced their doubts about the need to have health insurance at all. “The trend is daunting for the White House but not necessarily surprising,” said Pew Research Center Director Michael Dimock. “Younger folks are part of Obama’s base ... but the rollout confirmed concerns that were already in their minds.” A poll released Wednesday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that more than half of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of ObamaCare and believe it will raise their healthcare costs.”

POLITICO PLAY: “The National Republican Congressional Committee wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year, so they’re meeting with top aides to sitting Republicans to teach them what to say — or not to say — on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman. Speaker John Boehner is serious, too. His own top aides met recently with Republican staff to discuss how lawmakers should talk to women constituents.

“. . .There have been “multiple sessions” with the NRCC where aides to incumbents were schooled in “messaging against women opponents,” one GOP aide said. While GOP party leaders have talked repeatedly of trying to “rebrand” the party after the 2012 election losses, the latest effort shows they’re not entirely confident the job is done.”

MOCO PEGS ITS FIRE CHIEF: And he’s multi-talented, per Gazette.Net, “Steve Lohr has dealt with tricky situations in the course of his career as a Montgomery County firefighter — from multi-home fires on hot summer days to helping deliver babies. (He’s done that four times.) Now he is preparing for a new challenge: County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has decided on Lohr as the next fire chief, subject to the County Council’s approval.

“Lohr, 58, became interim chief of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service in May 2013, after then-Chief Richard Bowers resigned and became the fire chief in Fairfax County, Va. Bowers was listed in a 2013 county employee database as having a salary of $190,000 as chief. Lohr, who joined the department in 1985, has a current salary of $155,703 as head of the operations division, according to the database.”

EAGER: And willing, per the Frederick News-Post, “Three of five Frederick County commissioners are poised to run for elected office in 2014, with one eyeing the county executive race, another competing for a county council seat, and a third aiming for election to a statewide office. Commissioner David Gray said he will kick off his campaign for Frederick County executive outside Urbana High School on Tuesday, just before a public hearing on a controversial 1,510-home development plan. The Republican, who has served as a commissioner for almost 20 years, said the current administration’s growth-friendly polices were a factor in persuading him to run.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY: In the District, per City Paper, “As chairman of the D.C. Council's education committee, At-Large Councilmember David Catania has seen his agenda bump against mayoral control of the school system. So why not become mayor himself? Standing outside Anacostia's Cedar Tree Academy charter school, Catania announced his plans to consider doing just that by launching a mayoral exploratory committee. "I've decided to explore whether I can do more for the citizens of this city as mayor on the subject of education than I can as the chairman of the committee on education," Catania said.

“As an independent, Catania can stay out of the race through the Democratic primary in April. That gives Catania months to decide whether he's willing to give up his at-large Council seat, also on the ballot next year, to run against the Democratic candidate. On the other hand, his lack of party status likely places him at a disadvantage: Democrats have held the mayoralty since the beginning of District home rule in 1973.”

IT’S OFFICIAL: Says so right there, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Gov. Bob McDonnell has unveiled a new design for the state's standard license plate that incorporates the "Virginia is for lovers" slogan. It wasn't a drastic overhaul. The plates display the tourism slogan near the bottom in black letters with a red heart in place of the "v" in "lovers." Underneath, in smaller print, is "" Otherwise, the plates appear the same as the basic blue and white ones that have been the standard for decades.”

REFORM: That’s the plan, anyway, per DCist, “In addition to approving a minimum wage hike Tuesday, the D.C. Council also unanimously voted to pass a campaign finance reform bill. The legislation, which was introduced by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), will tighten D.C.'s campaign finance laws, specifically by restricting campaign contributions from related businesses, closing the LLC loophole, and requiring campaigns to report all fundraising data online for the Office of Campaign Finance to publish publicly.”

COLLEEN RITZER: Just the facts, per the Boston Globe, “With grief-stricken family members of his alleged victim looking on, a 14-year-old boy on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges that he robbed, raped, and murdered popular Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer in October. Philip Chism, who was shackled at the ankles and wore tan pants, a shirt and tie, and dark sweater, is charged as an adult with murder and as a youthful offender with armed robbery and aggravated rape. He pleaded not guilty in Essex Superior Court here to the murder charge, and the same plea was entered on his behalf to the additional counts.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Careful out there. A major winter storm will affect a large part of the U.S. over the next few days. A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain may even pay a visit to the D.C. area late this weekend.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) are D.C. Fire/EMS Chief Ken Ellerbe, who will be asked abouthis testimony before the Council regarding the department's fleet issues, and D.C. Councilman David Catania, who will be asked about his decision to form a mayoral exploratory committee.

--Skip Wood