10 things you need to know today: February 1, 2014

Another day, another set of damaging allegations.

Another day, another set of damaging allegations. | (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The Week

Chris Christie’s credibility takes a hit, the Keystone XL pipeline gets a greenlight, and more…

1. Christie allegedly knew about lane closings as they happened
Despite claiming otherwise, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) knew all along about the politically motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, according to the former Port Authority official who oversaw the closings. A lawyer for the official, David Wildstein, released a letter Friday calling the closures a “Christie administration order,” and said there is evidence to prove the governor lied about his involvement. The scandal, in which Christie aides caused a traffic jam to punish a Democratic mayor, has engulfed Christie’s administration and threatened to dash his presidential aspirations. Christie’s office denied Wildstein’s accusations. [New York Times]
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2. Republicans unveil immigration plan
A full seven months after the Senate passed a sweeping immigration overhaul bill, Republicans have finally countered with a proposition of their own. In a one-page document, released at the annual GOP retreat, the party outlined its “principles” for immigration reform — tighter border security, and an electronic employment verification system, among other things. Notably, the principles do not include a so-called “path to citizenship,” which could be a deal-breaker for Democrats. [Politico]
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3. Keystone XL pipeline advances
A long-awaited State Department review concluded that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions. The finding puts pressure on the president to approve the project, which has been on hold amid strenuous opposition from environmentalists. Crucially though, the final assessment did not specify whether the multi-billion dollar pipeline met the the president’s broader energy and climate change standards. [Washington Post]
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4. Judge approves massive Bank of America settlement
A New York judge on Friday approved most of Bank of America’s proposed $8.5 billion settlement over investors’ mortgage security losses related to the bank’s acquisition of Countrywide Financial at the height of the economic meltdown. State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kapnick ruled that Bank of New York Mellon, which oversaw the securities, “did not abuse its discretion” and had mostly acted in good faith. BoA agreed to the settlement back in 2011, but it had been hung up in legal limbo until now. [Wall Street Journal]
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5. Syrian peace talks end in standoff
The delicate peace negotiations between Syria’s government and opposition forces came to a standstill Friday, with each side blaming the other for the violence that has killed more than 100,000 people since the uprising began in 2011. The government of embattled President Bashar Assad refused to set a date for the next round of talks, which a U.N. mediator had proposed for February 10, and rejected the opposition’s demand that Assad step down. [BBC]
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6. Ukranian president repeals anti-protester laws
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday signed into law a bill repealing widely criticized legislation that punished demonstrators in the protest-torn nation. The legislation offered amnesty to detained protesters, though critics said it did not go far enough to end the violence and bloodshed that has plagued the country since late last year. [CNN]
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7. Bloomberg heads to the U.N.
One month after his three-term reign over the nation’s largest city came to an end, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was appointed Friday to become a special U.N. envoy for cities and climate change. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Bloomberg’s job will be to “raise political will and mobilize action” on climate change. [Associated Press]
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8. Wall Street slumps to close January
Stocks slid significantly to close Friday, resulting in Wall Street’s worst January since 2010. The Dow dropped 149 points, while the S&P 500 fell 11.61 points amid concerns of turmoil in emerging markets, which could be an ominous sign for the year to come on Wall Street. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

9. Super Bowl XLVIII to kick off in New Jersey
The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will face off Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for Super Bowl XLVIII. It’s the first ever cold-weather, open-stadium Super Bowl; the forecast calls for below-freezing temperatures around game time. The Broncos are a three point favorite to win. [Grantland]
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10. Vodka blamed for high death risk among Russian men
Russia’s unusually low life expectancy may be the result of a widespread drinking problem, according to a new study. Researchers who tracked some 151,000 Russian men over ten years found that those who regularly drank large quantities of vodka had a 35 percent higher chance of dying before the age of 55. Russia’s male life expectancy is just 64, and a quarter of Russian men die before hitting 55. [The Guardian]

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