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First a very sincere

First, a very sincere thank you to everyone who's contributed so far in our fundraiser for launching TPMCafe.com (see this post for more details on the new site). As of mid-afternoon, we're coming up on 250 contributors so far. So that puts us a decent notch toward our eventual goal.

A number of you have written in to say that you would prefer to send a check rather than use PayPal. So this evening we'll be posting instructions for sending contributions by check through the mail.

If you haven't had a chance to contribute yet, well ... there's no time like the present! Just click right here and you can send us a contribution toward our new effort in just a couple minutes time.

The JTA is reporting

The JTA is reporting that AIPAC is now "negotiating severance packages" with Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two staffers at the center of the espionage investigation that broke last fall involving Pentagon civilian employee Larry Franklin, AIPAC and the possible passing of highly classified US intelligence to Israel. See the top item under 'Breaking News' on their site.

Late Update: The Forward has more details in this story just posted on their website (which they've made available to non-subscribers).

According to a just-released

According to a just-released Quinnipiac University poll, Democrat Robert Casey Jr. holds a 14 point lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) for next year's senate race. Quinnipiac has it at 49% to 35%, compared to 46%-41% in February. For Rick Santorum, phase-out may take on a whole new meaning.

A good place to

A good place to go to dig deeper into all the questions surrounding the Church, the new Pope and what it all means for Catholics and non-Catholics alike: Commonweal magazine.

Okay enough threatening to

Okay, enough threatening to hold a fundraiser, here we go.

As I've mentioned several times now, we're launching a new site, TPMCafe.com, a companion site to Talking Points Memo. It will include a new group blog with an exciting list of contributors, a handful of topic-specific blogs like our Special Edition Bankruptcy Blog and discussion areas where we're going to try to facilitate more of what readers allowed us to do in tracking the Social Security debate in the first months of this year.

We're hoping to launch next month.

It will be a work-in-progress and, with your feedback, we'll make changes and let the site evolve as we go.

But we need your help to get started. Simple as that. Even small contributions go a long way. Click here to contribute.

And please accept our sincere thanks and appreciation in advance.

Theres a profoundly disturbing

There's a profoundly disturbing article out tonight from the AP about what appears to be a widespread climate of intolerance and even harassment of non-evangelical Christians at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. 'Widespread' is a vague word. And I'm only going on the basis of this one article -- and I'd strongly recommend reading the whole piece to decide for yourself if I'm using the correct word. But what the piece describes at least is not a matter of a few outrageous incidents but something much more pervasive.

Here's the passage that stands out to me ...

''There were people walking up to someone and basically they would get in a conversation and it would end with, `If you don't believe what I believe you are going to hell,''' Vice Commandant Col. Debra Gray said.

Critics of the academy say the sometimes-public endorsement of Christianity by high-ranking staff has contributed to a climate of fear and violates the constitutional separation of church and state at a taxpayer-supported school whose mission is to produce Air Force leaders.

They also say academy leaders are desperate to avoid the sort of uproar that came with the 2003 scandal in which dozens of women said their complaints of sexual assault were ignored.

''They are deliberately trivializing the problem so that we don't have another situation the magnitude of the sex assault scandal. It is inextricably intertwined in every aspect of the academy,'' said Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, N.M., a 1977 graduate who has sent two sons to the school. He said the younger, Curtis, has been called a ''filthy Jew'' many times.

The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, conceded there was a problem during a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, the civilian group that oversees the academy.

''The problem is people have been across the line for so many years when you try and come back in bounds, people get offended,'' he said.

The board chairman, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned Rosa that changing things could prove complicated. He said evangelical Christians ''do not check their religion at the door.''

These articles are always hard to evaluate since you don't get a sense of who the 'critics' are, how many of them there are, or even some objective measure of how legitimate their beef is. Though inappropriate, a few of the other incidents mentioned in the piece don't seem in themselves to be causes of great concern. But the Rosa quote above seems to suggest that there is a very real problem. And what's with Gilmore's response?

The piece ends with this delightful passage ...

Two of the nation's most influential evangelical Christian groups, Focus on the Family and New Life Church, are headquartered in nearby Colorado Springs. Tom Minnery, an official at Focus on the Family, disputed claims that evangelical Christians are pushing an agenda at the academy, and complained that ''there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing'' at the school.

Anti-Christian bigotry. That's marvelous. <$NoAd$>Needless to say, Focus on the Family is SpongeBob persecutor and Arch-Wingnut James Dobson's outfit.

Many liberal Catholics await

Many liberal Catholics await Benedict XVI's pontificate with dismay or even foreboding. But a dear friend calls my attention to this update on the Catholics Against Capital Punishment website which says Benedict played an "instrumental" role in strengthening the Church's opposition to capital punishment. That doesn't change the larger picture; but it adds a new dimension.

This spring students at

This spring students at Swarthmore College, with the support of the school's administration, started producing a webcast called War News Radio. You can see a news release about it here and visit the broadcast site here.

Swarthmore has a tradition of political activism. And the aim of the broadcast is to cover the conflict in Iraq in all its dimensions -- from interviews with ordinary Iraqis to stories on returning US soldiers and everything in between, all with an eye to catching stories the mainstream media might miss. The first broadcast, for instance, featured an interview with a young Iraqi man who works as a clerk in one of the hotels that hosts many of the foreign press reporting from Baghdad.

It's still a work in progress. And Swarthmore is looking to hire a full-time journalist (at a full-time salary) -- with at least some radio or TV experience -- to oversee the project for a year, beginning this June. Age isn't important. What they are looking for is someone who will enjoy helping students find their own voice while mentoring them in responsible journalistic practices. If you're interested or know someone who might be, you can send them an email at swarthmorewnr@yahoo.com to find out more.