DAYBREAK DAILY: Maryland's health exchange numbers not so bad after all

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 40s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Vienna mayor Jane Seeman dies of lung cancer; Public hearing today on death of Cecil Mills; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

IN HINDSIGHT: Not so shabby after all, per the Baltimore Sun, “The target long used by the Maryland health exchange of how many people would enroll in private policies through its website this year was slashed in half after an error came to light, making the state appear far closer to its goal — but still unlikely to reach it. A top exchange official said Sunday a mistake in a chart outlining exchange projections made by outside analysts put the number of people likely to sign up for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act at close to 150,000 by the end of open enrollment on March 31.

“The new number is 70,000 after it was corrected by the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a nonpartisan heath research organization that discovered its error weeks ago and sent a letter dated Feb. 21 to Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, health secretary and chairman of the exchange board. It was a footnote to one chart that wrongly also included open enrollment targets beginning next fall for 2015 coverage.”

MEANWHILE: Hypocrisy?, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Members of Virginia's part-time legislature are locked in an intensely passionate policy battle over whether to let thousands of their constituents enroll in government-backed health insurance. About three-fourths of those same General Assembly members enjoy for themselves, and their families, taxpayer-funded state health benefits under plans that in many cases are more attractive than those in the private sector.

“Of the General Assembly's 139 members - one seat is vacant - 104 were enrolled in state health plans as of Feb. 10, as were 202 of their dependents, according to state Department of Human Resource Management data. That nearly 75 percent participation rate by legislators on both sides of the aisle has some asking this question: Is it fair or moral for them to accept publicly subsidized health insurance as a benefit of being a lawmaker while denying government-funded coverage to people without another option?”

AND THIS: More on the issue, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “On Monday mornings, in the ninth-floor conference room of a Main Street tower overlooking the state Capitol, lobbyists for industry, hospitals, insurance companies, physicians and regional trade groups swap intel and plot strategy in the health care fight that is paralyzing a part-time legislature with a little-known secret: full-time, gold-plated health coverage.

“Gridlock is the norm in Richmond. It has been for more than a decade. Among those contributing to this almost-continuous standoff are lawmakers who get from the government what they are insisting the government shouldn’t give others: health insurance, which, among other things, paid for the weight-reduction surgery of at least one senator.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY: If you can, per the Washington Post, “The popular D.C. tuition assistance program that helps city students pay for college can’t explain how millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent since 2004, according to an unreleased audit that describes weak financial controls and management problems at the city agency that administers the program.

“The federally funded D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program is unique to the District and has become key to how thousands of families budget for college, providing as much as $10,000 a year to students who attend schools outside of the city. But the audit, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that the District’s oversight of TAG money has been riddled with shortcomings, leaving uncertainty about how much money the program should have in its accounts.”

UKRAINE UNREST: And then some, per the New York Times, “Ukrainian lawmakers moved swiftly on Sunday to assert control over the government, racing to restore calm after a week of upheaval and bloodshed that ended in President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s flight and ouster on Saturday, and in sudden fears that the country might fall into civil war.

“On Sunday, a series of bureaucratic events — a session of Parliament and the continued running of government institutions — seemed to pull the country back from the brink. As Parliament acted, even Mr. Yanukovych’s party denounced him for the deadly crackdown on protesters. And the military vowed to support the new government rather than rallying to the ousted president’s side.”

LONG RIDE: From there to here, per the Miami Herald, “Francisco Díaz crossed the Mexican border into the United States near Brownsville., Texas, 14 years ago and since then has been living in Homestead, Fla., without immigration papers and in constant fear of deportation.

“On March 2, Díaz, 41, plans to take a more-direct role in efforts to persuade President Barack Obama to halt deportations and urge Congress to pass immigration reform. He will begin a two-month, 1,085-mile journey from Homestead to Washington, D.C., on his bicycle, carrying a pen in his backpack that he plans to give Obama so he can sign an executive order suspending deportations.”

DRUG KINGPIN: Nabbed – again, per the New York Post, “A top lawmaker Sunday called for the extradition to the United States of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was captured in Mexico but has a history of jailbreaks. “I would ask the Mexicans to consider extraditing him to the United States where he will be put in a Supermax prison under tight security, where he cannot escape, and be brought to justice with a life imprisonment sentence,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas).

“McCaul said that he feared a repeat of Guzman’s escape from a Mexican prison in 2001. “There is corruption in that country,” McCaul said on ABC’s “This Week.” Guzman, who ran Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and is considered the world’s most powerful drug lord, was captured this weekend by US and Mexican authorities at a condominium in Mazatlan.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Jim Messina, the former campaign manager to President Barack Obama who spent two decades in politics out of the public eye, is increasingly stepping out from the shadows — and onto other Democrats’ toes.

“Messina is moving aggressively to capitalize on his newfound fame and status as the maestro who ran a masterful reelection campaign for a president mired in a slumping economy. He’s building a political fiefdom through his deep ties to rich Democrats and a nexus of big-money operations including the Obama nonprofit Organizing for Action, whose major donors Messina is hosting in his office Monday and whom the president will address Tuesday, and Priorities USA, the pro-Obama turned pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.”

TIME WARP: Of Vladimir Putin, per The Hill, “National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is still living in the past and has a "pretty dated perspective" on Cold War politics with the United States. The Obama administration and Russia have been at odds as of late over a number of issues, including whistleblower Edward Snowden's asylum, the civil war in Syria, Russia's treatment of gay people and, more recently, the conflict in Ukraine.

“Some pundits have speculated that Putin is using the disagreements to escalate diplomatic tensions into a second Cold War between the two superpowers, but Rice reiterated the Obama administration's opposition to any such conflict. "We have confronted him, and we do call him on it. The president is very plain and very forceful in his dealings with Putin," Rice told NBC's "Meet the Press." "But it's not necessary, nor is it in our interest, to return to a Cold War construct, which is long out of date and that doesn't reflect the realities of the 21st century."

SAMANATA SHRESTHA: A memorial, per the Roanoke Times, “A crowd of people listened Sunday as friends and family described the short but extraordinary life of Virginia Tech student Samanata Shrestha, who practiced kindness, was brilliant, wanted to someday cure a disease and loved to eat. Speaker after speaker hailed the 21-year-old woman, who was found dead Feb. 10 in Montgomery County in what police are calling a homicide.

“She was a shining star who never sought the spotlight,” said Devi Gnyawali, a professor of management at Tech. “She was very accomplished, yet very humble.” Addressing more than 150 people, speakers stood on a hydrangea-decked lower outdoor terrace of the War Memorial Chapel for a public vigil organized by student groups. After the tributes, people stood quietly holding burning white candles. Tech, once again in mourning, sent top university officials to the public vigil, which ran about an hour.”

SNOWY SALES: Or something like that, per the Frederick News-Post, “The practice of people staying off roads in cold, snowy weather is good, but that means less foot traffic for real estate professionals and homebuilders. “Unusually cold conditions — ice and snow — make it easy for buyers to delay shopping and stay at home waiting for better conditions,” said Hugh Gordon, mortgage loan officer for Fitzgerald Financial.

“Winter weather for 2014 has been harsher than last year, which most likely has caused fewer people to actively pursue buying, said Todd Walker, a Realtor. “That being said, I have been busier this winter season than I was last winter,” Walker said. “If that is any indication, I should have a banner year since last year was a very good year for me.” The harsh winter weather has made it difficult to show property in the last few weeks, but resale inventory levels remain low and properties that show well and are priced properly are selling fast, said Buzz Mackintosh, who runs Mackintosh Inc. Realtors with his brothers.”

CECIL MILLS: Lot of fault to go around, per City Paper, “The mayor's office has released a damning report on the findings of its investigation into the January death of Cecil Mills across the street from a fire station. The document calls for disciplinary action against five firefighters and four emergency dispatchers after the firefighters failed to respond to the incident and dispatchers initially sent emergency personnel to the wrong address.

“Mills collapsed Jan. 25 across the street from a fire station on Rhode Island Avenue NE while shopping with his adult daughter and later died at Washington Hospital Center. Despite pleas for help and awareness that a medical emergency was occurring, none of the nearby Engine 26 fire fighters at the station provided medical assistance.”

SICK SIDEWALKS: A healing plan, per Gazette.Net, “Montgomery County Councilman Hans Riemer is trying to gather support among his colleagues for a plan that would improve the county’s plans for removing snow from sidewalks after winter storms.

“We have a very robust snow plow operation that clears the roads very efficiently, and our superb highway team is always working to improve its performance,” Riemer wrote in a letter to other council members. “However, we do not have a sufficient plan or policies in place to meet the challenge of removing snow from sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.”

NEW BEN’S: But no hell burgers, per ARLnow, “Workers erected a sign at the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn this morning. The sign, advertising the landmark D.C. eatery’s half-smokes, burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, is now up at 1725 Wilson Blvd, which was formerly the home of Ray’s Hell Burger. (Ray’s moved to a new location across the street.) Ben’s owner Nizam Ali was originally hoping to open the location — the first in Virginia — as early as New Year’s Day. Due to construction delays the opening is now expected to take place in about two weeks.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards beat Cleveland 96-83; Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins Daytona 500.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Prince George's County Police have identified the victims and are intensifying the hunt for suspects in Saturday's triple slaying in Capitol Heights. Police say Ortiz Ola, 38, of Capitol Heights, and Weldon Mason, 33, and Staci Taneesha White, 33, both of Laurel had been shot. They were pronounced dead on the scene.”{ }

NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.

--Skip Wood