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Tue, 5 Jul 11
New breed of ‘super PACs,’ other independent groups could define 2012 campaign

One commercial accuses President Obama of worsening the deficit and says, “It’s time to take away Obama’s blank check.” Another attacks Republican tax and Medicare policies, arguing: “We can’t rebuild America if they tear down the middle class.”

So begins the shadow campaign of 2012, in which a new breed of “super PACs” and other independent groups is poised to spend more money than ever to sway federal elections.

The first major ads look as if they came from a regular campaign. But they were produced and aired by groups independent of Obama or his Republican rivals.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
One Republican race, two starting points

AMHERST, N.H. — The GOP presidential hopefuls who hit the campaign trail on the Fourth of July spent their time doing much the same thing — over and over again. They walked and waved their way through parades, shook hundreds of hands, and dropped by back-yard cookouts, capitalizing on the day’s patriotic fervor to try to make inroads in key early states.

But their time on the hustings underscored that while their method of face-to-face retail politics is the same, their starting points for the Republican nomination race are miles apart: One race begins in this primary-obsessed state, where Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. marched in the same parade; another begins in Iowa, where Rep. Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich saw the same flags and smiling faces as they walked down Main Street in Clear Lake, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Is California’s past America’s future?

There should be a word for an event that, in being remarkable enough to merit comment, is depressing because it should be normal enough to pass without mention. Linguistically, this seems like a job for the Germans. And if they’re looking for an example, they could turn to California, which is celebrating the prompt passage of its 2012 budget.

It’s not a very good budget. But unlike all but five others in the past 25 years, it made it into law before the start of the fiscal year. In California, that’s a big deal. Now you see why I wanted the Germans to come up with that word.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities

At the most recent Zhuhai air show, the premier event for China’s aviation industry, crowds swarmed around a model of an armed, jet-propelled drone and marveled at the accompanying display of its purported martial prowess.

In a video and map, the thin, sleek drone locates what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group near an island with a striking resemblance to Taiwan and sends targeting information back to shore, triggering a devastating barrage of cruise missiles toward the formation of ships.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
HUD to give away $1 billion to struggling homeowners

Sandra Allwine has been pleading with her bank for more than two years to modify the mortgage on her Arlington County home. Despite exhausting all her savings and having her daughter move in to help with her $3,000 mortgage payment, Allwine, 65 and unable to find work, is struggling to save her home from foreclosure.

In June, a potential lifeline opened up. The newly launched $1 billion Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program, or EHLP, is targeting homeowners who are among the most difficult to help: those who fell behind on their payments because of job loss or unexpected medical bills. For many of them, it might be the last chance to save their homes.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
U.S. health plans cut premiums for consumers with preexisting conditions

Uninsured sick people got some good news recently, or some of them did, anyway. Starting July 1, the Obama administration reduced the premiums by up to 40 percent in special high-risk insurance plans that the federal government is running in 17 states and the District.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Voters angry about Minnesota shutdown give Republican lawmaker an earful at July Fourth parade

EAGAN, Minn. — As Republican Sen. Ted Daley hustled up Yankee Doodle Road in the lineup for Eagan’s Fourth of July parade, some of his constituents wondered loudly why he wasn’t at the state Capitol 10 miles to the north trying to end the state government shutdown that was in its fourth day.

“Go get your job done!” shouted Bill Egan, a 52-year-old salesman who said he’s disgusted by the standoff between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republicans who control the Legislature.

The two have been at odds over the state budget since they were sworn in early this year. Republicans want to limit state spending to $34 billion, the amount the state is expected to bring in over the next two years, while Dayton wants to raise income taxes on the state’s top earners to provide $1.8 billion more to keep up with growing demand for state services and prevent cuts to social programs and public colleges.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Hackers put big — and false — news on Fox Twitter account

While some marked Independence Day with hot dogs and fireworks, anonymous hackers spent Monday morning breaking into a Fox News Twitter account and posting fake reports of a presidential assassination.

The prank tweets on the @foxnewspolitics account began just after 2 a.m., and — like any proper news account — kept updating with breathless posts on President Obama’s supposed condition.

The tweets, six in total, included gory (and entirely bogus) details: two shots at an Iowa restaurant, hitting the president in the pelvis and neck, etc.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Reporter’s ordeal continues in convoluted CIA case

The three-year legal ordeal of New York Times reporter James Risen is not over. But his battle with Justice Department prosecutors to avoid testifying before grand juries investigating allegations that led to the indictment of a former CIA officer was laid out last week publicly for the first time in a once-top secret judicial opinion.

In that November 2010 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who sits in Alexandria, granted Risen’s motion to quash a subpoena from the Obama Justice Department that called for him to testify before the grand jury in the case being put together against Jeffrey A. Sterling, who as a CIA case officer was involved in a highly sensitive attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program during the Bush administration.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Sen. Baucus marries former state director in small, casual ceremony at Montana ranch

HELENA, Mont. — U.S. Sen. Max Baucus has married the former state director he once recommended for Montana’s top attorney job.

Spokeswoman Kate Downen says the wedding Saturday at the Sieben Ranch was casual with close friends and family, but did not release a guest list. Several Montana media outlets reported Air Force Two carrying Vice President Joe Biden landed in Helena earlier in the day.

The 69-year-old senator recommended Melodee Hanes for Montana’s U.S. attorney post in 2009, a move that came under scrutiny due to their relationship. She withdrew her name from consideration and took a job with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Tue, 5 Jul 11
Historic Maryland dome gets facelift

A July 4th pop quiz:

George Washington resigned under it. Ben Franklin designed the lightning rod on top of it. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison hung out on its balcony. You won’t see it this holiday.

Give up?

Mon, 4 Jul 11
Newt Gingrich bets on Alzheimer’s, other niche issues as key to a 2012 comeback

Newt Gingrich thinks he can revive his debilitated campaign by talking about Alzheimer’s. So at a private fundraiser last week in Newport Beach, Calif., he devoted much of his speech to the disease.

In the audience, it turned out, were four members of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Orange County chapter.

Mon, 4 Jul 11
At NEA convention, mixed feelings among teachers for Obama ahead of 2012 vote

CHICAGO — When her union endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008, retired Montgomery County teacher Jane Stern wrote checks to his campaign and spent hours calling voters in swing states to support a Democrat she though would stand strong for public schools and break from a federal education policy of “testing, testing, testing.”

Three years later, all the standardized tests are still there. In some places, they are beginning to be used to fire teachers. Lately, Stern said, the solutions to all of public education’s troubles seem to boil down to a refrain: “Blame it on the teacher who works her tail off for 14 hours a day.

Mon, 4 Jul 11
New vehicle rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions spark debate

Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, makes a forceful case for why we need to slash greenhouse gas emissions from cars and small trucks: It will cut America’s oil consumption; foster the nation’s energy independence; save consumers money at the pump; and help revive domestic auto manufacturers.

What she doesn’t volunteer is that it will curb climate change.

The Obama administration is crafting two regulations — one targeting passenger vehicles, another focused on heavier trucks and buses — that will do more to cut global warming pollution than any other policy in his term.

Mon, 4 Jul 11
With Republicans majority, House loses its resolve for symbolic legislation

Something is off in the House of Representatives: It’s already July 4, and the House still has not yet registered its opinions on bald eagles, motherhood or the American flag.

By last Independence Day, the House had already voted to approve Resolution 1409, which declared the bald eagle “an inspiring symbol.” It had approved Resolution 1295, saying that American mothers “have made immeasurable contributions.” Resolution 1429 affirmed that “the United States flag is universally honored.”

Bills such as these — whose only purpose is to commemorate, congratulate or celebrate — are the legislative equivalent of empty calories. And last year, the House was on a binge.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Obama says ‘nothing can be off-limits’ in budget debate; Republicans say tax increases are

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Saturday that “nothing can be off-limits” in the budget debate — even though Republicans have said tax increases are. The president said every tax break and federal program must come under scrutiny.

With an Aug. 2 deadline looming to raise the government borrowing limit, the president used his weekly radio and Internet address to call on Congress to make a deal.

He also renewed his call for Congress to eliminate some tax breaks for the well-off as part of any agreement. Republicans want deep spending cuts without any tax increases while Obama and Democrats call for what they term a “balanced” approach. That means one that also includes new revenue in the form of higher taxes for some, though Democrats steer clear of using phrases like “tax increases” or “higher taxes.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Obama administration supports lesbian employee’s case, says marriage act unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO — In a strongly worded legal brief, the Obama administration has said the federal act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians and is unconstitutional.

The brief was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee’s lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse.

The Justice Department says Karen Golinski’s suit should not be dismissed because the law under which her spouse was denied benefits — the Defense of Marriage Act — violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Liberal worry over Justice Ginsburg’s tenure: Fate could hand high court seat to conservative

WASHINGTON — Democrats and liberals have a nightmare vision of the Supreme Court’s future: President Barack Obama is defeated for re-election next year and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 78 the oldest justice, soon finds her health will not allow her to continue on the bench.

The new Republican president appoints Ginsburg’s successor, cementing conservative domination of the court, and soon the justices roll back decisions in favor of abortion rights and affirmative action.

But Ginsburg could retire now and allow Obama to name a like-minded successor whose confirmation would be in the hands of a Democratic-controlled Senate. “She has in her power the ability to prevent a real shift in the balance of power on the court,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Irvine law school. “On the other hand, there’s the personal. How do you decide to leave the United States Supreme Court?

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Military says 3 Southern California Marines entered sham marriages to get housing allowance

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Three Southern California Marine corporals are facing charges of defrauding the government for entering into sham marriages for financial gain, the military said Saturday.

The scam was hatched when a lesbian couple, one a Marine and the other a civilian, decided to live together off base, according to 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a Marine spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton.

The female Marine found a male Marine willing to get married, allowing them to collect a $1,200 housing benefit, Dooley said. The civilian woman also eventually married a male Marine and collected government funds, according to officials.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Thousands rally against strict Ga. law cracking down on illegal immigration at state Capitol

ATLANTA — Thousands of marchers stormed the Georgia Capitol on Saturday to protest the state’s new immigration law, which they say creates an unwelcome environment for people of color and those in search of a better life.

Men, women and children of all ages converged on downtown Atlanta for the march and rally, cheering speakers while shading themselves with umbrellas and posters. Capitol police and organizers estimated the crowd at between 8,000 and 14,000. They filled the blocks around the Capitol, holding signs decrying House Bill 87 and reading “Immigration Reform Now!

Sun, 3 Jul 11
New obstacle to death penalty in U.S.

A Danish company has announced that it is taking steps to try to prevent prison officials in the United States from using a powerful sedative it makes to execute prisoners.

Lundbeck said Friday that it was reviewing all orders for its drug Nembutal, also known as pentobarbital, to block any shipments to prisons in states that execute prisoners.

The announcement creates the latest obstacle to capital punishment in the United States. Many states have begun using pentobarbital to execute prisoners instead of the anesthetic sodium thiopental, which became unavailable when Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill., announced in January that it would stop making it. That decision was prompted by opposition to the death penalty by lawmakers in Italy, where the company had planned to shift its production of the drug.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
GOP presidential candidate Bachmann dives into bid for Iowa caucuses 6 weeks before early test

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Republican candidate Michele Bachmann spent Saturday shaking hands in Iowa diners and strolling through a bustling farmers market as she tried to capitalize on her early popularity in the state that kicks off the presidential campaign season.

An Iowa native, the tea party favorite ranked nearly even with GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in a recent poll of Republicans likely to participate in the state’s lead off caucuses next year. But just six weeks before the state’s closely-watched straw poll, the Minnesota congresswoman has done little to campaign or set up an organization here.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Seeking GOP nomination, Herman Cain tries to fire up support from mainstream conservatives

ATLANTA — Bolstered by support from his loyal radio talk-show audience and tea party backers, businessman Herman Cain has revved up mainstream conservatives, rising recently to third place in a poll of voters in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state.

In his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, Cain’s views on the economy and his fiery delivery have resonated with some in the GOP. His campaign has also been marked by controversy, including his comment that he would not want a Muslim bent on killing Americans in his administration. Just this week, Cain accused comedian Jon Stewart of disliking him because he is an “American black conservative.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Minnesota government shutdown reflects widespread budget paralysis

There is a giant gap between what many of the world’s governments have promised and what they can afford. Now, the headlines from the across the United States and overseas show what happens when the clunky machinery of democracy goes about trying to close that gap.

The latest: The Minnesota government shut down Friday, locking families out of state parks on a normally busy holiday weekend after the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature failed to reach agreement on whether to close a projected $5 billion budget deficit in part with tax increases.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
U.S. turns to other routes to supply Afghan war as relations with Pakistan fray

The U.S. military is rapidly expanding its aerial and Central Asian supply routes to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that Pakistan could cut off the main means of providing American and NATO forces with fuel, food and equipment.

Although Pakistan has not explicitly threatened to sever the supply lines, Pentagon officials said they are concerned the routes could be endangered by the

Sun, 3 Jul 11
Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor

The last shuttle, Atlantis, sits on Pad 39A, ready for its valedictory flight.

It is the nature of a shuttle to look kind of lonely out there on the pad, kept at a safe remove from the control room, the hangars, the observation platforms. The pad is not far from the beach, one of the last stretches of Florida coastline unblemished by hotels and condos. Beach houses were torn down years ago when the federal government showed up with rockets. Old-timers talk of 11 graveyards and an old schoolhouse lurking somewhere out there, the remnants of the era before the coming of the spaceport.

Sun, 3 Jul 11
In 2012 GOP race, where are the governors?

Among the many surprises in the Republican presidential race this year has been the virtual silence of the governors. GOP chief executives so far have played no significant role in shaping the nomination campaign, either as candidates or through their powers of endorsement.

There are many reasons for this. Most of the governors are dealing with major budgetary problems, entailing legislative battles and painful cuts in spending. For them, presidential politics can wait. Many have also have been reluctant to get involved at this stage, given the fluidity of the GOP presidential field. They prefer to see which candidates prove their mettle on the campaign trail and in debates before taking a stand.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
The Minnesota shutdown, the NBA and the death of compromise

As of 12:01 this morning, the Minnesota government shut down with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislators unable to find common ground on a budget.

The Minnesota morass comes amid a broader national fight over budget priorities with President Obama and Congressional Republicans both ramping up the rhetoric this week even as the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit draws ever closer.

And, it’s not just in politics where the “take my ball and go home” mentality is pervasive these days. The National Football League has been in lockout mode for months and on Thursday the National Basketball Association locked its players out too.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Maria Shriver files for divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger after 25 years of marriage

LOS ANGELES — Maria Shriver filed for divorce Friday from Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The former television journalist and Kennedy family heir filed for divorce in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences. She did not list a date that the couple separated.

The filing comes six weeks after the action star and former governor admitted fathering a child out of wedlock with a member of his household staff.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Tim Pawlenty raises $4.2 million

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty raised $4.2 million over the past three months, a total likely to raise questions about his perceived status as the primary alternative to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential race.

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the number, adding that the governor “begins the third quarter with more available cash-on-hand than the Republicans who won the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary had in July 2007.” Conant offered no specifics about Pawlenty’s cash on hand total. He did note that Pawlenty’s fundraising total did include general election money that he would not be able to spend unless and until he becomes the party’s nominee.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Employees had been increasingly troubled by Gingrich’s Tiffany purchases

Employees of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich grew increasingly concerned in recent years about their boss’s purchases from luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co., worrying that if he followed through on plans to run for president, it could become a political liability.

The purchases included jewelry valued up to as much as $300,000 for his wife’s Christmas gifts, selected each year during a fall Potomac River cruise sponsored by the jeweler. On a smaller scale, Gingrich (R) spent about $40,000 over four years, buying Tiffany trinkets as holiday gifts for up to 100 employees, according to three former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
A Petty mind can’t see Michele Bachmann as Tom’s ‘American Girl’

A few days ago, Michele Bachmann received a letter from Tom Petty. The rocker asked the Republican to kindly stop using his song “American Girl” as her campaign jingle in her bid for president.

The cease-and-desist letter raised the usual chatter about artistic rights and political branding, totally missing the point.

How does a tea party candidate who owns a Christian counseling service on the side go to Iowa, crank up the Alpines and blast Tom Petty as a rallying call to conservative values?

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Barbara Boxer’s blatant rewriting of history

   “I think we ought to go back to the people and the party that was the only party and the only people to balance the budget in 40 years. I hate to break it to my Republican friends, but that is the Democratic Party. We are the ones who did it. We did it when Bill Clinton came into office. We did it after hard work. We did it after painful cuts. We did it with smart investments.”

— Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), June 29, 2011

Each party in Washington seems to have their own narrative. Sen. Boxer’s comment above, from a long floor speech Wednesday lambasting Republicans for pushing a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, is a case in point.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Deadline tightens for Congress, White House on debt limit

Can Congress and the White House reach a debt-limit deal by July 22?

That’s the new date by which the Obama administration now says there must be an agreement in order to give Congress time for legislative action before its final Aug. 2 deadline.

The rhetoric surrounding the debt-limit battle has shifted 180 degrees over the past week – from a surprisingly cooperative tone to finger-pointing and gamesmanship, heightened by President Obama’s harsh criticism of Republicans at a press conference on Wednesday. But little substantive change has happened in the week since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pulled out of the talks over an impasse with Democrats on tax increases.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Greg Sargent: Dems pounce on Romney’s latest mega flip-flop

Yesterday Mitt Romney backtracked on one of his core campaign messages — that Obama made the economy “worse” — and the Democratic National Committee has rushed out a new video documenting the flip-flop with footage.

It shows Romney claiming yesterday that he never said the economy got worse, followed by footage of Romney previously making that exact claim three times:

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Afternoon Fix: Mark Kelly not running (for now)

Mark Kelly says he’s still the astronaut, Thad McCotter is in, Bobby Scott is still thinking and the Huntsman campaign isn’t pulling any punches.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
North Carolina GOP targets four Democrats in redistricting proposal

There may be a new king when it comes to gerrymandering this cycle, and it’s the North Carolina Republican party.

State legislators, looking to reverse decades of Democratic-drawn maps and give their party a chance to win multiple seats, released a map Friday that not only does just that but is also likely to be a case study for any aspiring map-drawer.

The map makes four Democratic-held seats much tougher for the incumbents to hold, and Reps. Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Brad Miller are all going to have to fight for their political lives. Republicans, who currently hold just six of 13 seats in the state, will almost surely win at least a couple of these.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Will Rick Perry run for president?

AUSTIN — This week marked the end of a legislative season in which Texas Gov. Rick Perry got pretty much everything he wanted — especially if what he wanted were talking points for a Republican presidential campaign.

The Texas legislature passed a fiscally austere budget that left $6 billion in the state’s rainy-day fund, and bills requiring women seeking abortions to get sonograms, voters to show photo identification and plaintiffs who bring lawsuits deemed frivolous to pay court costs and attorney fees.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Panetta takes office as defense secretary

Leon Panetta, sworn in Friday as the nation’s 23rd secretary of defense, pledged there would be “no hollow force on my watch,” as the Pentagon seeks to rein in costs without undermining military readiness.

Panetta faces an administration request to identify $400 billion in savings in the defense budget over the next 12 years, a target that will require him to make hard choices.

In an opening message to Defense Department personnel, Panetta acknowledged the scope of the fiscal challenges but said he believes in achieving a balance between disciplined spending and doing what is necessary to maintain the strength of U.S. forces.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Guantanamo detainees see legal progress reversed

Guantanamo detainees have lost a series of court battles over the past 18 months as appellate judges in Washington have repeatedly sided with government lawyers and against suspected militants seeking to win their freedom.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has not affirmed a single decision ordering the release of a detainee, nor has it reversed any decision that favored government lawyers. The Justice Department even won a case this month in which it had little expectation of victory.

A 2008 Supreme Court ruling allowing those held at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their detention was followed by an initial round of district court rulings that ordered the release of dozens of suspected militants after the government’s evidence was found wanting.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Who had the worst week in Washington? Time’s Mark Halperin.

In journalism, just like in politics, you are always one word away from trouble.

Time’s Mark Halperin learned that the hard way this past week when, during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he gave a vulgar description of President Obama’s performance at a news conference Wednesday. Halperin expected the word to be bleeped by the show’s censors.

Except it wasn’t.

Sat, 2 Jul 11
Changes at FCC could affect AT&T’s bid to acquire T-Mobile

As the Federal Communications Commission reviews AT&T’s $39 billion bid for T-Mobile, major staff changes at the agency are creating uncertainties about when and how the commission will vote, experts say.

One Republican-held chair is open on the five-member commission now that Meredith Attwell Baker has resigned to take a position at cable giant Comcast. Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps will leave later this year— months before the agency’s review of the deal is expected to be complete.

The staff changes, as well as growing opposition by state utilities and competitors such as Leap Wireless and Sprint Nextel, have spurred intense lobbying over the deal.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Debt talks stagnate as blame game goes on

Federal debt talks remained at a stalemate Thursday as both sides continued their week-long battle of blaming each other for the stymied negotiations to allow the Treasury to continue borrowing money to finance government operations.

Even as senior officials suggested that a deal needed to be reached by July 22, allowing 11 or 12 additional days for legislative action, both sides engaged in showmanship.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) canceled his chamber’s planned week-long Fourth of July break, calling all senators back to Washington next week even though there is no major legislation ready for consideration. Minutes later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor to offer a last-minute invitation to President Obama to meet with Senate Republicans to discuss the issue, fully aware that the president didn’t have the time on his schedule.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Analysis: Michele Bachmann’s reveal of miscarriage puts unique appeal on display

Rep. Michele Bachmann made a startling admission Wednesday night at an event in South Carolina: She had a previously unreported miscarriage.

“After our second child was born, we became pregnant with a third baby,” said Bachmann (R-Minn.). “And it was an unexpected baby, but of course we were delighted to have this child. And the child was coming along, and we ended up losing that child. And it was devastating for both of us, as you can imagine if any of you have lost a child.”

She told the story in the context of her opposition to abortion. But Bachmann’s decision to reveal something so personal is telling — and provides a window into her unique appeal in the race.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
FEC allows Stephen Colbert to form ‘super PAC’ for 2012 elections

Stephen Colbert learned an important lesson Thursday at the Federal Election Commission: Even a gifted comedian can’t make campaign-finance law funny.

In a meeting devoid of anything beyond a gentle chuckle, the FEC decided that Colbert could go ahead with his plans to form a self-titled “super PAC” that could raise and spend unlimited money on the 2012 elections.

But the panel also concluded that the television host’s employer, Viacom Corp., would have to report any help it gives to Colbert for political activities outside the “Colbert Report show.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Senate Finance Committee postpones action on free-trade deals after GOP boycott

Senate Republicans on Thursday boycotted a hearing on three pending free-trade agreements, delaying action on a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s effort to boost U.S. exports.

Republicans object to a worker assistance program the administration wants to include as part of a free-trade agreement with South Korea. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program costs about $1 billion and has drawn bipartisan support in the past.

But in the charged environment over spending and debt negotiations, the dispute is complicating what the administration had hoped would be an easy push to broaden trade with South Korea,

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Gates departs Pentagon with Medal of Freedom

President Obama surprised Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, paying tribute to his four decades of public service at a regal farewell ceremony outside the Pentagon.

The honor came on Gates’s last day as defense secretary after 41 / 2 years in the job. The citation for the medal — the highest civilian honor the commander in chief can bestow — said that Gates has “selflessly dedicated his life to ensuring the security of the American people.”

The secretary appeared humbled and genuinely surprised by the honor.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Glenn Beck’s Fox News finale is a vintage visit to the ‘doom room’

Goodbye to the big blackboard. Goodbye to the turn-it-on tears. Goodbye, too, to the suppertime serving of anger, conspiracy and the coming apocalypse.

Glenn Beck — populist ranter, Barack Obama scourge, self-described “rodeo clown” — stepped away from his biggest stage Thursday. After a volcanic rise and a muddled denouement lasting just 30 tumultuous months, the host ended his run on the Fox News Channel, going out with what sounded almost like a threat: “For those members of media who are celebrating [his departure] . . . you will pray for the time I was only on the air for one hour a day.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
What Obama’s press conference tells us about 2012

The consensus in the wake of President Obama’s press conference on Wednesday was that he was mad as hell (at Congress) and wasn’t going to take it any more.

But, with the press conference now in the political rear view mirror, the question that needs to be asked is whether Obama’s combative tone — he unfavorably compared the behavior of Republicans in Congress to his two daughters’ homework habits — is part of a broader strategy to run against an unpopular Congress in the lead-up to the 2012 election or simply an isolated incident born less of political positioning than personal pique.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Justice Department to investigate deaths of two detainees in CIA custody

The Justice Department has opened full criminal investigations of the deaths in CIA custody of two detainees, including one who perished at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., means continued legal jeopardy for several CIA operatives but at the same time closes the book on inquiries that potentially threatened many others. A federal prosecutor reviewed 101 cases in which agency officers and contractors interrogated suspected terrorists during years of military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but found cause to pursue criminal cases in only two.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Romney visits shuttered Pennsylvania steel plant to attack Obama’s jobs record

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The first day of voting in the Republican presidential nominating contest is still seven months away, but Mitt Romney is trying to sound and act like the nominee.

On Thursday afternoon, as Air Force One touched down in Philadelphia to ferry President Obama to two fundraisers, Romney came to a shuttered steel plant about 70 miles north to assail the president’s stewardship of the nation’s distressed job market.

In 2009, Obama visited the Allentown Metal Works plant here, touting it as a symbol of the nation’s manufacturing might — an employer that would benefit from his $787 billion economic stimulus bill. But by this year, the plant had closed, laying off its workers and

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Minn. braces for shutdown at midnight; Democratic gov and GOP lawmakers at odds over taxes

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In an echo of the debate unfolding in Washington, Minnesota hurtled toward a midnight government shutdown Thursday in a dispute over taxes and spending that could force thousands of layoffs, bring road projects to a standstill and close state parks just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

As the deadline drew ever closer without a resolution, people rushed to get driver’s and fishing licenses, and park officials began warning campers to pack their gear and leave.

Though nearly all states are having severe budget problems this year, Minnesota stood alone on the brink of a shutdown, thanks to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's determination to raise taxes on high-earners to close a $5 billion deficit and the Republican Legislature’s refusal to go along.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Jon Huntsman raises $4.1 million in the second quarter

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman raised $4.1 million for his campaign in the second quarter, including a large contribution of his own money. A campaign official would not say how much of the money came from Huntsman’s personal coffers — only that the amount was “less than half” of the total.

Huntsman, the former Utah governor who announced his bid nine days ago, will not file a fundraising report in July, a campaign aide said. Huntsman arrived in the United States in May from Beijing, where he was serving as ambassador to China.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Pentagon costs rising fast, CBO warns

The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday projected that higher costs for weapons systems and health care will increase the Pentagon budget by $40 billion over the next five years at a time when President Obama and many lawmakers are looking to cut military spending.

The new projection, of $594 billion in spending for 2016, is $25 billion higher than the Pentagon’s estimates.

The report notes that health-care costs for the Defense Department have outpaced those elsewhere. It also says that “the costs of developing and buying weapons have historically been, on average, 20 percent to 30 percent higher” than Pentagon estimates.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
U.S. military sees Iran behind rising troop deaths in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June’s death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years.

U.S. military commanders have said in recent months that they feared such an increase in violence would accompany the planned withdrawal of most American troops by the end of the year. Military officials in Baghdad and at the Pentagon blamed the mounting death toll on the growing sophistication of weapons that insurgents and Iranian-backed militia groups are using, including powerful rockets, armor-piercing grenades and jam-resistant roadside bombs suspected of coming from Iran.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
MSNBC suspends Mark Halperin over vulgar comment about Obama

Cable news network MSNBC indefinitely suspended senior political analyst Mark Halperin after he called President Obama “kind of a [vulgarism for male organ]” on the network’s “Morning Joe” show.

He did so after he’d been assured by co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that the show had a seven-second delay in effect and that he should “take a chance.”

“Are we on the seven-second delay today?” Halperin said when asked for his thoughts on Obama’s Wednesday news conference.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
White House holding first ever Twitter town hall

President Obama will host the first White House Twitter town hall next week, an event announced today on (of course) Twitter.

On July 6, the president will answer questions tweeted to #AskObama live from the White House via webcast. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate, and Twitter will use its own curation methods to choose the questions.

Some portion of the live audience will be drawn from the 2.25 million people who follow @whitehouse — making the event not just a townhall but a ‘Tweetup.’ Those visitors won’t ask in-person questions, but White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips says officials are thinking about “other cool things they can do at the White House.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
AP Exclusive: Older workers would pay more due to unintended consequence of health care law

WASHINGTON — Another unintended consequence of President Barack Obama’s health care law has emerged: Older adults of the same age and income with similar medical histories could pay widely different amounts for private health insurance due to a quirk of the complex legislation.

Those differences could be substantial. A 62-year-old could end up paying $1,200 a year more than his neighbor, in one example. And experts say the disparities among married couples would be much larger. A leading GOP senator is considering a fix.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Senate panel passes bill on job training for military

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has approved legislation that would require broad job-skills training for all U.S. service members before leaving the military.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Kaine, Allen neck-and-neck in U.S. Senate race

The senate race will hinge on next year’s presidential race in Virginia. President Obama was the first Democrat to carry the state in more than four decades.

The poll showed Obama with a 48 percent approval rating in Virginia and garnering the support of 43 percent of registered voters against an unnamed Republican challenger, who received 41 percent. Voters split 47 percent to 47 percent on whether Obama deserves re-election.

Three in four Virginians -- 74 percent -- say they like the president personally. But when voters were asked if they liked most of his policies, that overwhelming margin drops to a split, 47 percent to 48 percent.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
South Carolina Republicans struggle to draw new GOP seat

This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on South Carolina. (And make sure to check out the previous installments:

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Status of polar bears as threatened species upheld by judge

A U.S. federal judge upheld the status of polar bears as a species threatened by climate change, denying challenges by a safari club, two cattlemen’s organizations and the state of Alaska.

The ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan confirmed a 2008 decision that polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act because their icy habitat is melting away.

The legal challenges — some contending polar bears don’t need this protection, others maintaining the big white bears need more — were launched after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service included this Arctic mammal on its list of threatened species.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
Prince George’s Council member pleads guilty to destroying evidence

Prince George’s County Council member Leslie Johnson, who made international news when she hid cash bribes in her bra, pleaded guilty Thursday to destroying evidence, but she plans to stay in office until she is sentenced in October.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and other politicians called for Johnson’s immediate resignation, although state law allows her to keep her council seat until a judge imposes her sentence.

Johnson’s guilty plea comes six weeks after her husband, former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D), was convicted of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from developers during two terms as the county’s top official. Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville) admitted in court that she tried to cover up those bribes by flushing a $100,000 check down the toilet and stuffing $79,600 in her underwear as federal agents knocked at her door.

Fri, 1 Jul 11
SEC lax in monitoring exempted firms’ compliance, inspector general report says

The Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t just enforce the rules that govern Wall Street. When asked, it often grants individual companies exemptions from those rules.

But companies that win special breaks often fail to comply with the conditions that come with them, the SEC’s inspector general said in a report released Thursday.

What’s more, the agency has no formalized process for monitoring whether companies live up to their end of the bargain, the report said.


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