A winter storm shuts down the South, President Obama promises to go it alone and a cruddy cruise ship heads for port.
Welcome to the Wednesday edition of "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."
1. WINTER STORM
Frozen: Who would have thought an inch or so of snow could cause so much trouble? The inch that fell on Atlanta yesterday was a record and was enough to paralyze the region. The cause? Frigid arctic air decided to party with moisture from the Gulf, giving much of the South - from Louisiana to North Carolina - a snowy, icy hangover. Southern road crews don't have much experience with these sorts of storms and just couldn't lay down enough sand and salt quickly enough to do much good.
Interstates and side streets became parking lots, turning normal commutes for some into 12-hour tests of patience and endurance. An officer the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs helped a woman give birth on the side of Interstate 285. Traffic jams blocked her route to the hospital and kept paramedics from getting to her.
Teachers across the South huddled with hundreds of kids at schools when got too dangerous for them to return home. Some kids on buses were stuck out in the storm for hours as conditions deteriorated. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pleaded with residents to stay off roads for the next day to give crews a chance to clear the streets and make them safe again.
2. STATE OF THE UNION
With or without you: President Obama goes bold in his fifth State of the Union address, calling for a "year of action." Even bolder, he promised to do it with or without Congress. Easier said than done. Republicans say the president is offering the same policies that haven't worked. So, what's on the president's to-do list? Lots of things, but the focus was his call for the government to work on behalf of all Americans in 2014. That includes a new, higher minimum wage. It's been a rough year for the White House. Approval ratings are down. The Obamacare website got off to a rough start and there are plenty of questions about the National Security Agency. Can one speech change the dynamics in Washington? We'll see.
3. CONGRESSMAN ATTACKS REPORTER
No means no: New York Rep. Michael Grimm defended his actions after threatening to throw reporter for CNN affiliate NY1 off a balcony. The congressman, who is being investigated for illegal fundraising, walked away from an interview when the topic changed from the State of the Union to the investigation. When the reporter took Grimm to task for walking away, the former Marine and former FBI agent rushed him, saying "Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this f***ing balcony." Grimm says he's not the first politician to tell of a reporter and won't be the last. True, but ... there might be a better way to handle it.
4. CRUISE SHIP RETURNS
An ignoble distinction: The ill-fated - and we do mean ill-fated - Royal Caribbean cruise ship returns home tomorrow to Cape Liberty, New Jersey. About one out of every five on board the Explorer of the Seas is sick, we're told. That's almost 700 people and the highest number in a couple of decades. The folks at the CDC say symptoms of the bug are consistent with norovirus, which produce vomiting, diarrhea and a host of other icky things. The company says all passengers would get a 50% refund and a 50% credit for a future cruise.
5. JUSTIN BEIBER
Egging him on: Investigators say detectives are "tightening up" their case against Justin Bieber in his alleged egg attack on a neighbor. Whoever tossed a bunch of eggs over the fence at the neighbor's mansion this month did about $20,000 damage. A dozen Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies raided Bieber's $6.5 million home in the exclusive Oaks community in Calabasas, California, two weeks ago, taking the security video system as evidence. They're supposed to meet with prosecutors next week to decide if charges will be filed.
Those are your five biggies for the day. Here are a couple of others that are brewing and have the Internet buzzing.
Fashion touchdown or fumble?:
Was this really necessary? Does everyone have to hitch their wagon to the Super Bowl horse? Bloomingdale's and the Council of Fashion Designers of America teamed up to create 48 - less than traditional, but certainly fashionable - Super Bowl XLVIII football helmets. The helmets are being auctioned off by the NFL. The proceeds go to the NFL Foundation.
First class scam:
Loopholes are meant to be eaten. First class airline tickets have lots of perks, like eating in the VIP longue for free. A man in China used his ticket to get a great free meal nearly everyday for a year. He'd check in, eat at the VIP longue and rebook his flight for the next day ... over and over and over again. When the airline got suspicious, he just canceled his ticket and got a full refund. Still, it seems like a lot of work for a free meal.