DAYBREAK DAILY: McAuliffe has big, bold plans for Virginia business

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the upper 20s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Former D.C. teacher who was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List has reached a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to five charges including production of child pornography: Deadly crash on Baltimore-Washington Parkway; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

McAULIFFE SHARPENS MESSAGE: Of ambitious thinking, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe has big plans for Hampton Roads. By the end of his term in office, "when people talk about Hampton Roads, they will talk about it as the greatest economic driver on the globe," McAuliffe said Wednesday in a speech before about 750 members of the area's Chamber of Commerce.

“. . . McAuliffe, a Democrat, said he has spoken with every Republican member of the General Assembly. "We have had great meetings," he said. "We found common ground on so many issues." McAuliffe reiterated his support for expanding Medicaid coverage, saying it would help businesses avert increases in premiums, and for revamping the Standards of Learning for public schools. . .He said he's also contacted several business leaders. McAuliffe asked those who aren't based in the state: "Why haven't you moved your corporate headquarters to Virginia? And if you're here, why haven't you doubled your business?" { }

MEANWHILE: A settlement, per the Washington Post, “Star Scientific, the company whose chief executive is at the center of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s gift scandal, has agreed to pay the state more than $900,000 to settle a dispute over back taxes. The company reached the legal settlement with the state last month, averting a trial that had been scheduled to begin Friday.

“The tax fight was the subject of the first public scrutiny into Star Scientific’s interactions with top elected leaders in Virginia, and it was a key issue in the recently concluded campaign for governor. Star Scientific, a former discount cigarette manufacturer, filed suit against Virginia in 2011, contesting a tax assessment of more than $700,000 levied on tobacco curing barns the company owns in southern Virginia.”

TEAR IT DOWN: Cell by cell, per the Baltimore Sun, “A state legislative commission endorsed a half-billion dollar plan on Wednesday to knock down the troubled Baltimore jail and rebuild it, lending new weight to a longstanding idea that languished for years as the Civil War-era facility continued to age. The panel of state senators and delegates, convened in the wake of an FBI investigation into widespread smuggling and corruption at the jail, said in a report that the facility's outdated design makes it difficult to manage and allows contraband to flow unchecked.

“. . . The document, which the lawmakers approved Wednesday, also includes plans to make it easier to suspend officers who are suspected of smuggling, to standardize security procedures and expand employee training. While the building program is the most eye-catching proposal set out by the commission, it also recommended several shorter-term — and much cheaper — fixes.”

IN HER SHOES: Tommy Wells takes a walk, per City Paper, “Living on the District's minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, Shemethia Butler says she can fit a $13.96 bag of chicken wings into her budget. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells won't be joining her. "I'm not sure if you can afford this chicken right now," Butler told Wells as they shopped together this afternoon at a Safeway in Southwest. Wells admitted that he couldn't.

“The mayoral hopeful is trying to live on the District's $8.25 minimum wage as part of the challenge popularized by New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. That gives Wells only $98.28 to cover his food and transportation bills for the week, so Wells brought along Butler, a McDonald's cashier, for shopping advice.”

SENATE SNIT: Doesn’t really matter, per the New York Times, “The Senate confirmed Cornelia T.?L. Pillard to the country’s most powerful appeals court in an early-morning vote on Thursday, installing her over the objections of Republicans who, despite their inability to filibuster the nomination, are loudly protesting the way Democrats have stifled opposition.

“An all-out procedural war has now broken out in the Senate: Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, kept the Senate in session through the night and early morning, and has vowed to continue calling round-the-clock votes through the weekend if Republicans continue to delay the process.”

MEANWHILE: Of diluted tea, per The Hill, “The rift between House Republican leaders and outside conservative organizations broke into the open Wednesday as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) rebuked groups that had preemptively denounced a budget deal. Distrust between Boehner and conservative groups has been a theme of his Speakership, but it boiled over the day before an expected vote on a two-year budget deal likely to hand the Speaker’s team a victory.

“Conservative groups, including Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, had assailed the agreement even before it was struck, prompting Boehner to lash out at them. “They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference after the GOP meeting. “You mean the groups who came out and opposed this before they even saw it?” Boehner asked, interrupting a reporter who started to ask about the criticism from conservative groups.”

POLITICO PLAY: “GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander’s chief of staff was arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, the Justice Department said. Jesse Ryan Loskarn — who goes by his middle name — is expected to be arraigned on Thursday morning in federal court.

“Jesse Ryan Loskarn, 35, of Washington, D.C., was arrested this afternoon by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service based on probable cause for possession and distribution of child pornography charges,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. “He remains in custody pending a court hearing that is expected to be scheduled for tomorrow at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.”

SIGNER SAGA: He speaks – for real, per the Mail & Guardian, “Thamsanqa Jantjies was unapologetic about his sign language interpreting at Nelson Mandela's memorial at FNB Stadium in an interview with Talk Radio 702 on Thursday. Jantjies also revealed that although he was not comfortable talking about his medical status in public, he is receiving treatment for schizophrenia.

“The sign language interpreter who stood next to the podium and interpreted what heads of states, religious leaders and other celebrated figures had to say about Nelson Mandela at his memorial service on Tuesday was accused by the deaf community in South Africa of using incorrect signs. When asked how he felt about being the centre of questioning about his interpreting skills, Jantjies said: "It is very sad at this present moment because I believe that it was an issue that had to be dealt with earlier. If the Deaf Federation of South Africa have an issue with my interpreting they should have clarified it a long time ago, not at this crucial time for our country."

WALLOPED: And then some, per the Buffalo News, “The output from the lake-effect storm that enveloped Western New York could be swept from the pavement in Buffalo, West Seneca and Amherst. In parts of the Southtowns, however, you needed a backhoe to clear the 2 feet of snow that fell with a fury in North Collins, Dunkirk and Boston.

“One meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo compared this snow-churning blast to a firehose. Those living north of Route 20A escaped with a few flakes. It was a different story on the southern side.”

BAD WATER: Or something like that, per the Frederick News-Post, “The city of Frederick is working to fix water quality issues after it failed this year to meet new requirements under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act. The average level of haloacetic acids, or chlorine byproducts, found in water samples taken between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013 at three of the city’s eight system sites was higher than the drinking water standard, according to a public notice addressed to residents on Dec. 5.”

GOING POSTAL: In Maryland, per Gazette.Net, “The United States Postal Service is considering four locations for the new White Flint office. According to a Dec. 10 letter to Bethesda Regional Services Director Ken Hartman from Richard Hancock, real estate specialist for the postal service, the four sites under review are:
• 5420 Edson Lane
• 5000-5060 Nicholson Lane, Nicholson Plaza
• 11760-11796 Parklawn Dr., Parklawn Commerce Center
• 11601-11631 Nebel St., Flint Hill Building

DISTRICT TRENDS: And demographics, per DCist, “From the Urban Institute comes a series of maps and visuals that show how Washington, D.C.'s demographics changed from 2000 to 2010. . . Another visual shows how D.C.'s black population shrank during the decade.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “A National Zoo report is shedding light on some serious problems at the zoo. The internal investigation was prompted by a series of mishaps that led to several animal deaths, injuries, and escapes over the past year. According to the director of the National Zoo, resources and staff are stretched too thin and budget cuts are reportedly to blame.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is D.C. restaurateur Andy Shallal, who will be asked about his mayoral campaign.

--Skip Wood