DAYBREAK DAILY: McDonnell facing new questions about his conduct

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs in the upper 90s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Deadly multi-vehicle overnight crash on the inner loop of the Beltway near Rt. 5 and Branch Ave; P.G. water situation takes a sudden turn for the better; Nelson Mandela’s health improves as he turns 95; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m M-F.

MORE QUESTIONS FOR MCDONNELL: Yes, they’re related to finances, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Gov. Bob McDonnell has found a way to defray part of his monthly real estate expenses on the millions in property he owns -- by renting his western Henrico home to his hand-picked state health commissioner. Dr. Cynthia C. Romero, who took over as state health commissioner in January, has been renting the McDonnells' $835,000 home in the tony Wyndham residential community, a McDonnell spokesman confirmed.

“The details of the rental agreement were unclear. Based on the current mortgage rate and loan for the property, a mortgage payment would be about $2,800 per month. News that the governor entered into a financial relationship with a top state official under his supervision comes as federal and state investigators probe the gifts the first family and McDonnell have received during his time in office and his relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr.”

MEANWHILE: A direct link to Star, per the Washington Post, “Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the wealthy nutritional supplement maker at the center of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s gifts scandal, met with Virginia’s health secretary to pitch his product at the recommendation of the governor, according to an e-mail his assistant wrote the day of the November 2010 meeting.

“This email is to confirm a meeting between Jonnie Williams and Secretary Bill Hazel on Thursday, November 4th at 9:00 am,” Monica Block, McDonnell’s scheduler, wrote to Williams’s assistant in a message two days before he sat down with Hazel, the state’s secretary of health and human resources. The e-mails, obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, are the first indication that McDonnell (R) directly intervened on behalf of Williams, whose gifts of luxury items and five-figure payments and loans to the McDonnell family have triggered state and federal investigations.”

KEN THE MARINE: Or not, per the Virginian-Pilot, “In 1993, Ken Cuccinelli entered the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves under a program to train future officers for a career as a military lawyer. But two years later, he resigned his commission after serving just a few weeks on active duty – never having completed all of the training requirements he initially signed up for.

“Since entering public life as a state senator more than a decade ago, Cuccinelli, now Virginia’s attorney general, has generally downplayed his short-lived military career. It is not mentioned in his campaign bio, and when addressing it Cuccinelli has said the U.S. Marine Corps discharged him because it had no use for him after he completed law school. However, a document obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, which Cuccinelli’s Virginia Attorney General’s Office twice declined to release under open records requests, suggests the story may not be that simple.”

MARYLAND GOP: All-inclusive?, per the Baltimore Sun, “The Maryland Republican Party is weighing whether to open its primary elections to independent voters, a plan some envision delivering statewide victories that have largely eluded the party. A contingent frustrated with consistent Republicans losses in top offices has convinced party leadership to study inviting unaffiliated voters to help pick GOP candidates as soon as 2014, tapping into the fastest-growing segment of Maryland's electorate.

“. . . The idea has inflamed opposition in the party's more conservative ranks, whose members predict partisan shenanigans by Democrats and a dilution of Republican values if independent voters could participate in primaries.”

JUDGING CHINA: Then flip it, per the New York Times, “Americans view China in a markedly less favorable light than two years ago, and Chinese attitudes toward the United States have also soured, a sign that the two countries are drifting apart at the level of public opinion, according to a Pew Global Survey to be released on Thursday.

“The survey showed that since 2011, China’s approval rating in the United States has dropped 14 percentage points to 37 percent, the lowest rating for China in any region in the world. Negative attitudes toward the United States among the Chinese rose to 53 percent, a nine-point increase.”

FIRES GONE WILD: This one’s near Palm Springs, per the Los Angeles Times, “About 6,000 people were under evacuation orders Wednesday night as a massive wildfire burned out of control in rugged mountain terrain southwest of Palm Springs and began to move toward populated areas. Fire commanders leading the battle to stop the 19,600-acre Mountain fire were concerned about a shift in the winds Wednesday night that was pushing the blaze toward the resort town of Idyllwild, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Melody Lardner told The Times.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Todd Harris, the usually gregarious consultant to Sen. Marco Rubio, uncharacteristically resisted eight days of calls and emails seeking his thoughts for this column. When he finally did reply, the answer was: “to be honest, another story about Marco and immigration is not high on Christmas list!!”

“No wonder. The very issue Rubio (and Harris) thought would be a game-changing, legacy-builder looks like a big liability for the Florida senator, at least right now. In the process, the self-confident presidential hopeful suddenly looks wobbly, even a little weak, as he searches for what’s next.”

RUSSIA TRIP OFF?: Stay tuned, per The Hill, “The White House for the second day in a row signaled President Obama could scrap planned one-on-one talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month in Moscow if Edward Snowden is granted asylum in that country. White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday refused to elaborate on the president’s autumn travel plans, admitting it was possible he was being “deliberately vague.”

CRISIS AVERTED: P.G. County exhales, per ABC7—WJLA, “A significant water crisis in a portion of southern Prince George's County was averted Wednesday after water officials say that they've made "significant progress" on repairing a large main. Hundreds of thousands of southern Prince George's County residents were on the brink of being without running water for up to five days while crews repair a 54-inch water main that was on the brink of failure.

“However, at a regularly scheduled meeting, WSSC General Manager Jerry Johnson said that it's likely that no customers would lose access to water as long as they followed restrictions that were put into place Tuesday night.”

D.C. POT: Of a sudden shift, per City Paper, “. . .Last week, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill that would replace criminal penalties for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana with a $100 fine. Wells’ legislation already has a majority of the D.C. Council behind it. Councilmember David Grosso is working on his own bill that would legalize the drug outright. Suddenly, the District is looking downright pro-pot.

“It’s a jarring change for a city government that wasn’t even talking about pot last year, but it’s been a complete one. So suddenly conventional is the wisdom that the District’s drug laws are going to change soon that LL felt like a square even trying to find out what accounts for the switch.”

BIG BOX: Retailers weigh in, per the Washington Times, “Business leaders from six national companies are requesting D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray veto legislation that would raise minimum hourly wages at large retail stores. In a letter submitted Wednesday to Mr. Gray, representatives from the Home Depot Inc., Target Corp., AutoZone Inc., Lowe's Companies Inc., Walgreen Co. and Macy's Inc. urged the veto because they say the Large Retailer Accountability Act is unfairly discriminatory. Their letter also for the first time confirms some of the retailers — in addition to Wal-Mart — that could alter plans for store development in the District as a result of the bill.”

CONVERSION IN UPPER MARLBORO: Call it a wish list, per Gazette.Net, “Upper Marlboro residents and officials want to see the town’s vacant and run-down properties transformed to create a destination downtown space. Stephen Sonnett, president of the town’s board of commissioners, said he wants to repurpose old buildings such as the Old Marlboro Elementary School in the hopes that it will revitalize the town to become a retail center as the current downtown area consists of several blocks of mostly vacant properties on Main Street.”

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Some more problems for Prince George's County. Officer Vanessa Edwards-Hamm, 38, has been indicted in connection with document tampering and alerting a drug ring of the FBI’s electronic surveillance. The 17-person ring is accused of peddling cocaine, heroin, and prescription pills out of the Potomac Garden and Hopkins apartments in Southeast D.C. She has been suspended without pay.”

NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.

--Skip Wood