Talk Media News

Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

Quick News

  • “Historic blizzard” to Eastern US
  • GOP argues: Trump or Cruz – who’s worse?
  • Trump/Cruz: “Like being shot or poisoned”
  • Clintons ramp up Sanders slams
  • Murder of ex-Russian spy “probably approved” by Putin
  • Syria peace talks: Late start?
  • Flint water crisis: Latest
“Historic Blizzard” to Eastern US (WaPo, AP, Hill, me)
• States of emergency have been declared in five states and DC as a historic blizzard barrels down on the Washington region today. More than 2 feet of snow are expected. Schools and govt offices are being closed. The federal govt will close at noon today. The DC subway and bus system will shut down tonight through Sunday
• The House is canceling its scheduled votes on Monday. One major event is still on: the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally is scheduled for today, the anniversary of SCOTUS’s Roe v Wade decision. The U.S. Capitol police said sledding on Capitol Hill would be welcome for the first time in decades – if conditions are safe
• The director of the National Weather Service said all the ingredients have come together to create blizzards with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm. People are emptying grocery store shelves – and stocking up on booze (drunk shoveling – mind boggles)
• The snowfall, expected to continue from this afternoon into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation, weather service director Louis Uccellini said. Washington looks like the bull’s-eye of the blizzard. The snow could continue for 24 hours or more. Up to 75 million people could be impacted
• People should expect high winds, a storm surge and inland flooding from Delaware to New York. Train service could be disrupted. All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend. FlightAware estimates airlines will cancel at least 5,000 flights on Friday and Saturday combined (hope I have power on Monday for Quick News…)


• North Korea says it’s arrested a U.S. student accused of committing a “hostile act” against the state – University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier. Its state news agency said Warmbier entered North Korea as a tourist with the intention “to destroy the country’s unity” and the U.S. govt had “tolerated and manipulated him.” (BBC)
GOP Argues: Trump or Cruz – Who’s Worse? (NYT, me)
• 2016ers Donald Trump and Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas): Which man is more dangerous, Republicans ask. Conservative intellectuals have become convinced that Trump, with his message of nationalist-infused populism, poses a dire threat to conservatism, and has issued a manifesto today to try to stop him (so, good luck with that, then)
• Meanwhile, Republican lobbyists, operatives and elected officials based in DC are much more unnerved by Cruz, a go-it-alone, hard-right crusader who campaigns against the political establishment and could curtail their influence and access, building his own GOP machine to essentially replace them (and who actually believes what he says)
• The Republicans who dominate the right-leaning magazines, journals and political groups can live with Cruz, believing that his nomination would leave the party divided, but manageably so. They say Trump poses the most serious peril to the conservative movement since the 1950s-era John Birch Society
• Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, has drawn some of the country’s leading conservatives, including Erick Erickson, William Kristol and Yuval Levin, to write essays buttressing the argument that Trump has no commitment to restraining the role of govt and possesses authoritarian impulses antithetical to conservative principles
• Yet many influential Republicans, especially lobbyists and political strategists, say they could work with Trump as president, believing that he would be open to listening to them and cutting deals, and wouldn’t try to take over the party. Trump said Thursday, “There’s a point in which, let’s get to be a little establishment. We gotta get things done.” (he’s shifting – will fans care?)


• Latest: The Republican National Committee has ended partnership for the 25 Feb debate with National Review after the mag devoted its new issue to a “symposium” of reasons why voters should reject Trump. Late Thursday, Trump tweeted: “The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!” (WaPo)
“Like Being Shot or Poisoned” (NYT, Politico, me)
• Of course, few among the Republican professional class believe Trump would win a general election. They think it would be better to effectively rent the party to Trump for four months this fall, through the election, than risk turning it over to Cruz for at least four years (pretty cynical, if so)
• Cruz is viewed by many Republicans in DC as stubborn and overweening (and they just think he’s a complete orifice). They say his record of attacking his Senate colleagues and taking relentlessly hard-line positions shows that he would have difficulty unifying the party
• Charles Black, a lobbyist who has worked on numerous Republican presidential campaigns, said if Trump were the party’s nominee, “You can coach Donald. If he got nominated, he’d be scared to death. That’s the point he would call people in the party and say, ‘I just want to talk to you.'”
• Some establishment-aligned figures argue that Trump has the potential to bring out new voters, but predict that Cruz would draw support only in a handful of states and would reorient the party around a hard-line conservatism
• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently endorsed former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla) after ending his own 2016 bid, was asked Thursday whether he preferred Trump or Cruz as the nominee. “It’s like being shot or poisoned,” Graham told reporters. “What does it really matter?” (ask poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, it matters…)


• 2016er Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) claimed Thursday he and his family are without insurance as a result of Obamacare. Said he lost his private health plan at the end of the year. However, Cruz can enjoy guaranteed health care as a senator – if he wants it. But he chose to refuse it because he hates Obamacare – so it’s his own fault – apparently his wife wasn’t happy…
Clintons Ramp Up Sanders Slams (NYT, Politico, Hill, me)
• Former President Bill Clinton (D), campaigning for his wife Hillary in Nevada Thursday, took some shots at Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). “This other guy’s madder than she is. And that feels authentic. And besides, his slogans area easier to say. I say that with no disrespect. I admire him.” (damning with faint praise, Bill)
• “She does not agree that tuition should be free for everybody,” Clinton said of his wife. “People like me and Hillary can afford to go to college. The govt can’t help everybody. We should have money to put into jobs and infrastructure.” Clinton is worried that his wife’s campaign is struggling against Sanders and is urging her to start focusing on the March primaries
• Clinton, campaigning in Iowa, seemed to realize that her own and Chelsea Clinton’s recent harsh attacks on Bernie Sanders have alienated people and softened the edges a bit, twice referring to Sanders as “my esteemed opponent”
• Sanders, in NH, touted a new CNN/WMUR poll that showed he would do far better than Clinton against various GOP candidates, including Donald Trump, in theoretical match-ups. “One of the things that my opponent Secretary Clinton is saying is that Bernie is unelectable…So it gives me great pleasure to give you some facts that that might not just be the case.”

• Bernie Sanders’ new TV ad is set to air today in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It uses “America” by Simon and Garfunkel playing over snowy farmland, cheering Sanders rallies and everyday folks. It’s positive and powerful. But – is it too white? There are black folks in there. But – in my view – not nearly enough of them (me, USA Today)


Murder of Ex-Russian Spy “Probably Approved” by Putin (BBC, AP, me)
• The murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 in London was “probably approved” by President Putin, a British inquiry has found. Putin is likely to have signed off on the poisoning of Litvinenko with polohium-210 in part due to personal “antagonism” between the pair, it said
• Home Secretary Theresa May said the murder was a “blatant and unacceptable” breach of international law. But the Russian foreign ministry said the public inquiry was “politicized. WH spox Josh Earnest said the U.S. was closely reviewing the report and “certainly wouldn’t rule out any relevant future steps” by the U.S. against Russia over the report
• The report found that two Russian men – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun – deliberately poisoned Litvinenko, 43, by putting the radioactive substance into his tea at a hotel. Judge Robert Owen said he is also “sure” that both men had made an attempt to poison him two weeks earlier. The method of poison was “meant to set an example,” Kovtun told a witness – a slow death

• Owen said the men were probably acting under the direction of Moscow’s FSB intel service, and approved by the organization’s chief, as well as Putin. Owen said Litvinenko’s work for British intel agencies, his criticism of the FSB and Putin (which was brutal) and his association with other Russian dissidents were possible motives for his killing

Syria Peace Talks: Late Start? (Reuters, me)
• Syrian peace talks will go ahead in Geneva, SecState John Kerry insisted Thursday, but with just days to go, rival camps bickered about who should be invited to take part. Kerry conceded that they may not start as planned on 25 Jan, but “by Tuesday or Wednesday” people would be able to get there. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura would send out invitations Sunday
• With no military solution in sight after almost five years of war and over 250,000 deaths, Kerry and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov agreed Wednesday that the talks should go ahead despite no apparent agreement on who should represent the opposition (sounds like the start of a potential debacle)
• Kerry said initial talks wouldn’t be a face-to-face meeting of participants in the same room. “You are not going to have a situation where they are sitting down at the table staring at each other or shouting at each other,” Kerry said
• Countries backing the talks, including the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, are still arguing over which fighting groups should be branded “terrorists.” a discussion that’s expected to continue even as de Mistura shuttles between the rival delegations in Geneva (and they’re nowhere near agreement, either)


• Password management security company SplashData has compiled the world’s top 25 worst passwords from about 2 million passwords: “123456” and “password” topped the list – again. Also “12345678,” and “111111.” Plus: “qwerty.” “welcome,” and “letmein,” “football,” and “abc123.” New this year: “princess,” “starwars” and “solo” (you guilty?) (Forbes, me)
Flint: Latest (Hill, Hill, Reuters, Detroit News, me)
• Susan Hedman, the regional EPA chief responsible for Michigan, is resigning amid charges that she didn’t do enough to prevent the Flint drinking water crisis. Hedman told the Detroit News last week that her office knew in April 2015 that Flint’s action to switch its water supply could cause increased pipe corrosion and spiked lead levels
• She didn’t notify the public or take similar action, instead only pushing Michigan officials to fix the problems, the News said. Later last year, incidents of lead poisoning among children increased substantially, leading to the crisis
• Emails released Wednesday showed that the staff of Gov Rick Snyder (R) and the environmental agency spent months last year pointing fingers at local and federal offices for the lead problems as they downplayed concerns
• Snyder and other officials will be called to testify about the crisis before the House Oversight Committee next month, the office of Rep Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich) said. Thursday, President Obama announced an $80 million aid package for Flint families dealing with the crisis


• Rocking into the weekend with David Bowie – from 1985 doing spot-on – and I mean he nails it – impersonations of lots of peers including Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Anthony Newley. It’s a newly unearthed outtake recorded around the time of “Absolute Beginners” – fascinating (me, Rolling Stone)

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Victoria Jones – Editor