DAYBREAK DAILY: Maryland named nation's top state for women

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the mid 70s. { }

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – President Obama to visit Prince George’s Community College to tout universal health-care benefits; Highlights from Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate in McLean; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

GIRL POWER: Maryland is tops, per the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland received a new No. 1 title for Gov. Martin O'Malley to crow about Wednesday as the Center for American Progress ranked it the best of the 50 states for women. And crow the governor did, releasing a statement saying he and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown were "thrilled" by the distinction.

“. . . The ranking is unlikely to impress conservatives because the Center for American Progress is a liberal group that counted such things as unimpeded access to abortion services and contraception among its criteria for a positive rating. But the title could give Maryland bragging rights among the blue states and could be a plus for O'Malley as a possible presidential candidate making a pitch to women who vote in Democratic primaries.”

VIRGINIA RACE 2013: Of a contentious debate, per WJLA, “Virginia's gubernatorial candidates both went heavily on the offensive Wednesday night, with Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli painting his challenger as inexperienced and Democrat Terry McAuliffe accusing his rival of attacking gay Virginians by being against gay marriage.”

MEANWHILE: Past stands haunt Cuccinelli, per the Washington Post, “The big question going into Wednesday evening’s critical Virginia gubernatorial debate was whether Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli could find a way to shake up a contest in which Democrat Terry McAuliffe has claimed a modest but meaningful lead. Cuccinelli failed to do so, and the back-and-forth in a Tysons Corner auditorium illustrated two main reasons.”

SLAVERY MUSEUM: A back and forth deal, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “A judge in Caroline County has ordered the U.S. National Slavery Museum’s Fredericksburg property to be sold off for unpaid taxes, but a deal currently in the works to sell it privately could keep the 38-acre parcel of land from reaching the auction block.

“. . . Fredericksburg wants to sell the property to recoup $435,000 in unpaid taxes and fees. That amount is based on a $7.6 million assessment that is at the heart of a dispute between the city and museum. A sale could take place within 30 days, but former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the museum’s founder, said the museum would appeal the judge’s decision.”

CHANGE OF HEART: All it took was a change in presidents, per the New York Times, “As he conducts a high-profile good-will visit to New York this week, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, says he is bringing a simple message of peace and friendship. But on Wednesday, Mr. Rouhani set off a political storm here and in Iran, with an acknowledgment and condemnation of the Holocaust that landed him in precisely the kind of tangled dispute he had hoped to avoid.

“Mr. Rouhani, in an interview on Tuesday with CNN, described the Holocaust as a “crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews” and called it “reprehensible and condemnable.” It was a groundbreaking statement, given that his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denied the systematic extermination of Jews during World War II.”

KENYA MAYHEM: The aftermath, per the Los Angeles Times, “Forensic experts searched for clues amid the rubble at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall Wednesday as many Kenyans demanded to know how 10 to 15 gunmen managed to hold off government security forces for more than three days.

“More than 70 people, including five gunmen, were killed in the siege. The death toll was expected to rise, as forensic experts from the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany helped Kenyan police search the mall.”

SHUTDOWN SPECTRE: Of a mad scramble, per The Hill, “Gridlocked over a months-long spending bill, the widely unpopular 113th Congress is trying to see if it is capable of passing a stopgap measure for just one week. Washington often kicks the can down the road on tough issues; but this time, down the road means not a year or even a few months, as it usually does, but just a handful of working days.

“Having failed to agree on a bill to avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers are now pinning their hopes on a one-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep the lights from going out in Washington on Tuesday at midnight.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Coming off a difficult 112th Congress, Republican leaders knew that they needed to build bridges with right-leaning groups that have been giving them fits since the 2010 elections. Nine months later, the results aren’t great, to say the least.

“This week’s showdown over defunding Obamacare at the expense of potentially shutting down the government is the most recent example in a series of fights activists have supported, including forcing a debate on National Security Agency surveillance, filibustering nominations in the Senate and thwarting Republican support for gun control legislation.”

MEANWHILE: Daring in the District, per City Paper, “A little law-breaking can be contagious. Mayor Vince Gray risks violating the Anti-Deficiency Act if he keeps the entire city government running during a shutdown without the feds' approval, but he's not alone. D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson is set to introduce his own bill Tuesday to keep the city running. Councilmember David Grosso, meanwhile, says the District should build on the shutdown fight and start ignoring the portion of the Home Rule Charter that requires 30 days of congressional review for D.C. legislation.”

CASINO CLIMB: Of a steep design, per Gazette.Net, “MGM Resorts International unveiled its design for a resort at National Harbor, and its CEO reiterated Wednesday the company’s promise to bring more revenue and high-paying jobs into Maryland if the company is offered the state’s sixth casino license. The planned MGM National Harbor is designed in a monument style, sitting atop a gradual 90-foot slope that looks like the steps leading to a Washington, D.C., landmark.”

FREDNECKS: Just the facts, per the Frederick News-Post, “Love it or hate it, the term Fredneck is likely with us to stay. So why not embrace it? Crumland Farms is offering a chance to let your inner Fredneck shine. The farm's second Redneck Games will feature hay bale tossing, tire flipping, a corn hole, ladder golf, a corn-on-the-cob eating contest and more from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday as part of Crumland's season opener.”

WHY NOT?: Just the facts, per the Washington Times, “The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest LGBT newspaper, has been selected to join the White House press pool on a rotating basis, the paper announced Wednesday.”

TALL BUILDINGS: That’s the plan, anyway, per WAMU, “Let D.C. grow. That's the message from the D.C. Office of Planning, which is pushing a federal panel to allow some of the city's buildings to grow taller than they currently can. In a document submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission last week, the Office of Planning said changes should be made to the 100-year-old law that keeps most buildings in the city from rising above 90, 130 feet or 160 feet, depending on where they are located.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Nationals lose 4-1 against St. Louis.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Party on, Terps! The University of Maryland in College Park has been named the 10th best party school in the United States by Playboy, the magazine announced Wednesday.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Erica Meier of “Compassion Over Killing,” who will preview this year’s VegFestDC.

--Skip Wood