DAYBREAK DAILY: Va. House OKs East Sea/Sea of Japan bill

ABC7 WEATHER: Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 30s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Updates on deadly Alexandria shooting; Winter Olympics opening ceremony set for tonight; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Plenty, per the Virginian-Pilot, “The power of grassroots lobbying was on vivid display Thursday as Virginia lawmakers, injecting themselves into an emotional international dispute, took on the role of geographers, cartographers and content providers for school textbooks. As hundreds of Korean-Americans watched intently, the House of Delegates passed legislation mandating that any new textbooks approved by the state Board of Education, when referring to the Sea of Japan, must note that it is also referred to as the East Sea.

"What’s next? one lawmaker wondered aloud: Will they try renaming the English Channel? In a spectacle seldom duplicated at the Capitol over any issue, let alone one centered on a place 7,000 miles away, busloads of Korean-Americans have repeatedly descended on Richmond in recent weeks to lobby for the measure. The proof of their effort was there for all to see Thursday: an 81-15 House vote for the bill (HB11). A companion measure has already passed the state Senate, 32-4, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he will sign it.”

NATIONAL BLACK HIV/AIDS AWARENESS DAY: Just the facts, per the Baltimore Sun, “A broad coalition of government agencies and non-profit organizations will be offering free HIV testing in Baltimore on Friday — which is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The events and the national initiative are efforts "to encourage African Americans to get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated for HIV/AIDS," according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is helping to host the events.

“. . .According to national statistics, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, and Maryland ranks fourth among all states for the highest diagnosis rate. (Maryland's rate is 36.4 diagnoses per 100,000 people.) While HIV affects all demographics and age groups, African Americans make up a disproportionate number of Marylanders with HIV, officials said.”

ABORTION: Ever the hot-button topic in Virginia, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee proved that the 2013 statewide elections had consequences — just not as significant as Democrats would like. Newly configured with a majority of Democrats, the committee pushed through two bills to repeal abortion-related legislation that became law during the previous two years of Republican control.

“But the current configuration of power — Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans dominating the House of Delegates — effectively renders passage of the repeal bills as largely symbolic. Senate Bill 617 would repeal the state’s mandatory ultrasound law and Senate Bill 618 would eliminate the prohibition of insurers from offering abortion coverage to Virginians through the state health exchange.”

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CASE: Just the facts, per the Washington Post, “A former Maryland music teacher pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in a Baltimore County courtroom Thursday, clearing the way for his transfer to Montgomery County, where he is accused of sexually abusing 14 elementary school students and raping a middle school girl. Lawrence W. Joynes, 55, was sentenced to nearly a year in jail, which amounts to the time he has served since his arrest in February 2013. Authorities said he could be released to Montgomery almost immediately and could make his first court appearance there Friday or Monday.

“The investigation of Joynes stemmed from a federal probe of online distribution of child pornography, which by early 2013 led federal agents to Joynes, a resident of Dundalk, Md. The agents alerted local authorities, searched his home and found images on his computer, according to court records. At the time, Joynes was teaching at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, which has students from pre-kindergarten through second grade. Police ultimately alleged that Joynes had sexually abused 14 students there. According to charging documents, Joynes asked students to come to his classroom during the lunch hour, coaxed them to suck on his finger or peppermint sticks, and video-recorded what they were doing.”

IMMIGRATION REFORM: Or not, per the New York Times, “The yearlong effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, which had the support of President Obama, Republican leaders and much of American business and labor, was seriously imperiled on Thursday when Speaker John A. Boehner conceded that it was unlikely he could pass a bill. His pronouncement, amid mounting resistance from conservatives, significantly narrowed the window for success this year and left it to Mr. Obama to win the trust of balking Republicans.

“Mr. Boehner’s remarks came a week after he and other House Republican leaders offered a statement of principles intended to win support for the measure. But, he said, House Republicans are not prepared to move forward in partnership with a Democratic administration that they believe will not fairly and impartially carry out the laws they pass. “The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” said Mr. Boehner of Ohio, citing executive actions by the Obama administration that have changed or delayed the carrying out of the president’s health care law.”

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: No extension, per The Hill, “Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked Democrats’ third attempt to pass an extension of federal unemployment benefits. The Senate voted 58-40 Thursday on a proposal that would have continued unemployment insurance for three months, just short of the 60 votes needed to end debate.

“I’m beginning to believe there is nothing that will get Republicans to yes,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “It’s a ‘no’ vote because they don’t want to extend unemployment insurance. . .We’re one Republican vote away from restoring benefits to 1.7 million Americans,” Reid said. “There is one Republican vote standing in the way of a lifeline to these 1.7 million people.”

MEANWHILE: Putting a face to the issue, per the Los Angeles Times, “The phone begins to ring at 8 a.m. with incessant calls from creditors. Kevin Meyer has stopped picking up because he's sick of explaining the truth: that there's no money coming in, so he can't pay his bills. Two years ago, Meyer, 51, had a six-figure salary, a sizable 401(k) and the knowledge that he could support his wife and daughter. But he lost his job as a spokesman for a car rental company, and though he soon found another position, he was downsized again four months later.

“Unemployment benefits checks helped him pay for healthcare for his family as he looked for work, but like 1.3 million Americans across the country, his federal unemployment benefits ran out Dec. 28. Congress has considered extending the benefits, but on Thursday, Republicans blocked a Senate proposal to do so. Meyer, jobless since December 2012, lives in New Jersey, a state second only to Rhode Island for the highest rate of long-term unemployment — people who have been out of work for six months or longer — according to an annual average compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Don’t ever accuse the Republicans of having nothing to say about inequality. They have lots to say about it. Lots of different things. Now that President Barack Obama has put inequality on the national agenda, the GOP is on the hunt for something to say. They’re making progress, with prominent Republicans adopting some of the latest ideas generated by conservative thinkers — everything from rewrites of antipoverty programs to new tax breaks for middle-class families.

“And they’re challenging Obama’s seriousness in actually addressing the economic inequality he warned about. “We are facing an inequality crisis — one to which the president has paid lip service, but seems uninterested in truly confronting or correcting,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said in the tea party response to Obama’s State of the Union address.”

SEEKING ANSWERS: Just the facts, per ABC7—WJLA, “The family of Cecil Mills spoke out Thursday morning, demanding answers from the D.C. Fire Department. Mills, 77, died last month after having a heart attack in a parking lot across the street from Engine 26 on Rhode Island Avenue.
“And his family says firefighters refused to help. "We have people that just don't care,” said Sandra Mills, the widow of Cecil Mills. She stood with her family and attorneys and denounced the city for what happened to her high school sweetheart and husband of 55 years.”

MONEY MUDDLE: Behind the scenes, per City Paper, “Does District Attorney General Irv Nathan really know what happened in the District's $7.5 million settlement with a company run by alleged Vince Gray shadow campaign backer Jeff Thompson? The idea that Nathan was kept in the dark hung over U.S. Attorney Ron Machen's scrap with Nathan to get documents related to the settlement, with Machen suggesting in a letter to the AG that there were connections between District officials and Chartered "that you likely do not know about."

“Now an agreement between the two, obtained by LL through an open records request, shows that Machen offered to share information with Nathan that, if publicized, could make the District take action against one or more city employees.”

TRANSPORTATION: And a new tax proposal, per Gazette.Net, “A Montgomery County state senator has filed a bill that would allow a county or municipal corporation to impose an annual vehicle registration surcharge of up to $20 to go toward transportation improvements.

“The legislation filed by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington comes on the heels of a task force’s report to find more revenue for transportation, even after the gasoline tax and tolls were raised last year. Each dollar raised by a local entity would be matched by the state under the proposal.”

NO JUICE: And no promises, per the Frederick News-Post, “The sound of generators roaring became a record on repeat Thursday as thousands of Frederick County families stuck it out, huddled together and waited for the power to come back on. Nearly two days after a wicked ice storm left the county frozen, more than 12,000 Potomac Edison customers were still without power at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

“More than 30,000 customers were left in the dark on Wednesday, and that's when the calls to Potomac Edison started rolling in. After a day of uncertainty, Jim Sears, president of Maryland operations with FirstEnergy, said it was the company's goal to have almost all Maryland customers' power fully restored by the end of today. "There will be a small number of straggling customers who could see full restoration sometime Saturday," Sears said.”

NATURAL BRIDGE: Of a transformation, per the Roanoke Times, “Thomas Jefferson, the first American to own the Natural Bridge, came to view it “in some degree as a public trust, and would on no consideration permit the bridge to be injured, defaced or masked from public view.” On Thursday, Angelo Puglisi saw to it that, finally, after 240 years of private ownership, the national landmark in Rockbridge County would forever belong to the public.

“When you have the mileage of an 88-year-old, you better see it put in the hands of someone where it belongs,” Puglisi said Thursday during a telephone interview. As he was speaking, a deed was being recorded in Rockbridge County that placed a conservation easement on the 188-acre parcel and transferred its ownership to the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund. The VCLF plans in as soon as two years to have paid off the $9.1 million loan secured to purchase the balance of Puglisi’s 1,600-acre Natural Bridge holdings. With the final payment, most of the property will become a state park.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps beat Winnipeg 4-2.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Did you feel anything? Did you hear anything? People in Ocean City are reporting that they felt "earthquake-like" tremors Thursday afternoon.”

NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.

--Skip Wood