Christie fires aide, apologizes
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Moving quickly to contain a widening political scandal, Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized repeatedly for the “abject stupidity” of his staff, insisting he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams to get even with a Democratic mayor.
“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” the Republican governor said at an extraordinary news conference in which he patiently took questions from reporters — and answered in his typically blunt fashion — for nearly two hours.
Christie, who had previously assured the public that his staff had nothing to do with the lane closings in September that caused major backups at the George Washington Bridge, said he fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly “because she lied to me” when he demanded weeks ago that anyone who knew anything about the episode come forward.
Kelly was the latest casualty in a scandal that threatens to upend Christie’s second term and his expected run for president in 2016. Two other top Christie appointees have resigned in the past few weeks.
Care units for troops will close
WASHINGTON (AP) — With the number of seriously wounded and ill soldiers at a six-year low, the Army is closing down some of the special units set up to care for troops and reorganizing the program.
“That’s good for the Army, good for our soldiers,” Brig. Gen. David Bishop said of the declining population of severely wounded. Bishop heads the command that runs the so-called Warrior Transition Units, started in 2007 following the scandal over poor conditions at what was then Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, including shoddy housing and bureaucratic delays for troops who were outpatients.
Fourteen of the 38 units will be closed and some new community-based units will be established under the reorganization plan being announced Thursday.
Some 58,000 soldiers have passed through the special units since the start of the program, aimed at giving the most severely wounded, ill or injured soldiers comprehensive and coordinated medical and mental health care and provide counseling on legal, financial and other issues as they transition either out of the service to civilian life or back to military duty.
Deep freeze may have cost $5B
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hunkering down at home rather than going to work, canceling thousands of flights and repairing burst pipes from the Midwest to the Southeast has its price. By one estimate, about $5 billion.
The country may be warming up from the polar vortex, but the bone-chilling cold, snow and ice that gripped much of the country — affecting about 200 million people — brought about the biggest economic disruption delivered by the weather since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, said Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company in suburban Philadelphia.
While the impact came nowhere close to Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in property damage alone, the deep freeze’s impact came from its breadth.
“There’s a lot of economic activity that didn’t happen,” Gold said. “Some of that will be made up but some of it just gets lost.”
Still, Gold noted his $5 billion estimate pales in comparison with an annual gross domestic product of about $15 trillion.