Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:
1. State of the Union: Obama pushes economic populism
Hammering home a theme of a recovering American economy, President Barack Obama laid out his vision for the final years of his administration during Tuesday night's State of the Union address. His two terms have been overshadowed by a recession and wars, and the president applauded the country for weathering the storm. "The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong," he said in his first State of the Union address to a Republican-controlled Congress. Obama touched on tax-related programs to benefit middle-class and working families, on improving relations with Cuba and fighting terrorism, at times striking a defiant tone with Republicans. Rear more in POLITICS.
Meanwhile, some in the audience applauded when Obama said he has no more campaigns to run. That prompted the president to ad-lib a quick comeback.
2. Republicans pledge to ‘change the direction’ of Washington
In the Republican response directly after the State of the Union, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said that her party would do its best to "change" Washington following its victory in the midterm elections. Her 10-minute speech mentioned the president just a handful of times and was much kinder to the White House than many of the responses given by her Republican colleagues. The Republicans, who now control both the House and the Senate, aim to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and repeal Obama's Affordable Care Act. Read more in POLITICS.
3. Disneyland workers diagnosed in measles outbreak
After Disneyland said earlier this month that there were at least 20 cases of measles linked to people who've visited the theme park, officials in Orange County, California, are now saying park employees have also contracted the disease. "Several Disneyland employees in multiple jurisdictions" have been sickened, a county spokeswoman said. The exact number is unclear. In total, more than 50 people in California, at least three other states and Mexico have been connected to the outbreak. Read more in HEALTH.
4. AirAsia jet went into steep climb before crashing
The AirAsia plane that crashed in the Java Sea in December, killing 162 on board, climbed about 6,000 feet a minute — an extraordinary ascent for an airliner, Indonesia's transport minister said Tuesday. "It can only be done by a fighter jet," he said. The pilots' actions are part of a larger mystery as to why the jet crashed unexpectedly without setting off a distress signal. Survey ships have located at least nine big objects from the plane, including the AirAsia jet's fuselage and tail and the aircraft's black boxes. Read more in NEWS.
5. How one Japanese hostage got abducted by ISIS
Journalist Kenji Goto, one of the two Japanese men captured by ISIS, went to Syria to find his friend, Haruna Yakawa, who had vanished last August and had been abducted by the terrorist militants. Goto's disappearance in the war zone was described by a guide who spoke with him before he vanished. Both Goto and Yakawa appeared in a new ISIS video released Tuesday in which the militants demanded a $200 million ransom. Read more in NEWS.
6. Deflategate: NFL finds Pats footballs were under-inflated
Sunday's AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts ended with a Pats victory and the team on its way to next month's Super Bowl. But a controversy over alleged under-inflated balls used by the Patriots could mar that win. ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL found 11 of the 12 footballs used were under-inflated by two pounds each, and decreasing the weight of a football can give players a competitive advantage. While the NFL continues its probe, it's still unclear what penalties might be imposed on the Pats. Read more at NBC SPORTS.
And now this ...
Here's the data behind the headlines — and what America was saying — as President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night.