Make them pay. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has some explaining to do today after a newspaper printed emails suggesting that members of his administration authorized street closures to create a traffic nightmare in a town whose mayor declined to endorse the governor’s reelection bid. Christie had claimed the closures were part of a traffic study, but the emails all but prove they were designed as retribution. In one message, Christie’s chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, tells one of Christie’s appointees to the New Jersey Port Authority, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The lane closures at the base of the George Washington Bridge started on the first day of school and created four days of gridlock throughout the town. New Jersey lawmakers are investigating the incident. Christie won a landslide reelection victory in November. He is widely considered a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
War on poverty. President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” by announcing the creation of five “promise zones”—special districts in impoverished places that will get special tax incentives and other government funding. He plans to provide more details on the zones during a news conference tomorrow. The president first hinted at his plans for special empowerment zones during his 2013 State of the Union speech. That was the same vehicle President Lyndon B. Johnson used to declare a “war on poverty” in 1964. As part of his renewed focus on poverty issues, Obama plans to fight this year to get the federal minimum wage raised to $10.10 from $7.25. Republicans oppose the measure. Two of the GOP’s most vocal members—Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin—are expected to announce their own plans to address poverty issues later this week.
“Happy birthday, dear dictator.” Former pro-basketball star Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea this week just keeps getting more bizarre. Today, Rodman reportedly serenaded North Korean leader Kim Jung Un with that old classic, “Happy Birthday,” before leading a team of American basketball has-beens in an exhibition game against a North Korean team. While Rodman isn’t exactly Marilyn Monroe, his ode to his “friend for life” is getting about as much coverage as the former movie star’s birthday crooning for President John F. Kennedy. And that may in fact be the whole point of Rodman’s continued association with North Korea. When he played in the National Basketball Association, Rodman thrived on media attention. Since he retired, he’s been largely out of the public eye. But it’s been like the good old days again since he started traveling to North Korea and cozying up to the country’s dictator, who turns 31 today.
Gearing up. Supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are getting a jump on fundraising, even though she has yet to make her 2016 presidential bid official. The political action committee Ready for Hillary announced this week it raised more than $4 million last year with donations from 33,361 people. Clinton is likely to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, although her successor at the State Department, John Kerry, also is expected to make a bid. Vice President Joe Biden may join the fray as well.