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Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) will reportedly announce today that he is retiring from Congress. The Palmetto Scoop reports that significant factors in the decision were Brown's age -- he is 74 -- and also that he did not want to continue serving as a member of the minority party.

Brown was first elected in 2000 to a safe Republican seat. (His predecessor was Mark Sanford, who left Congress in order to honor a term-limits pledge. Sanford was of course later elected governor, and has been in the midst of a sex scandal since last spring.) But in 2008 he had an unusually close race, winning by only 52%-48%, at the same time as John McCain carried the district by 56%-42%. He was already facing challenges in the Republican primary from several credible candidates -- who will now effectively be the main GOP bench for the open seat.

A Republican source was optimistic about holding the seat, telling TPM: "Democrats might think they'll have a smidgen of a chance here, but as the year progresses they'll find it's not working out for them."

A Democratic source, on the other hand, looked to the infighting between the state GOP's moderates and hard-line conservatives. "Oh yeah, it definitely could be winnable," the source said. "It's clear that the fight within the Republican party has taken a toll on South Carolina's GOP members of Congress, and that's gonna matter straight through election day."

Late Update: Possible Democratic candidates, our Dem source tells us, are former minister and small business owner Robert Barber, businesswoman Linda Ketner (the 2008 nominee who came very close to upsetting Brown), and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) on Sunday became the latest Republican to criticize the Obama Administration for handling the would-be Christmas day bomber as a civilian, and Bond's communications director added on Twitter that trying shoebomber Richard Reid in federal court was a "mistake."

The comments by Bond, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Fox News Sunday echo calls by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, for Umar Abdulmutallab to be tried in a military tribunal.

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Former Massachusetts governor and probable second-time presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will soon be back on the trail and hitting Iowa to promote what has been described by his spokesman as "an ideas book.''

The Boston Globe took a look at the March 2 kickoff for Romney's "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."

Romney (R) will speak at Iowa State University in Ames and visit Des Moines, but the book tour should not be expected to mirror Sarah Palin's, the Globe reported. They haven't announced the stops for the rest of the tour, which will wind through 18 states.

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The Transportation Security Administration seems to have had second thoughts about those subpoenas it issued to two bloggers in an attempt to find out who leaked the agency's new security directive, issued in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attack.

On Friday evening, a TSA spokeswoman sent out the following statement:

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Key House Dems Returning To Washington For Health Care Talks Roll Call reports that House Democratic leaders and committee chairmen will be in Washington this week to work on the health care bill. The House isn't formally due back in session until January 12, but conversations on the bill have already been taking place by telephone.

Obama's Day Ahead: Returning from Hawaii President Obama and his family departed from Honolulu at 3 a.m. ET (10 p.m. Sunday evening, local time). They will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 11:30 a.m. ET, and back at the White House at 11:45 a.m. ET.

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Yesterday, Fox News' Brit Hume weighed in on the Tiger Woods sex scandal, offering Tiger some practical advice for obtaining "forgiveness" for his indiscretions: Hume said that Tiger, who Hume identified as a Buddhist, should "turn to the Christian faith" so he can get the "kind of forgiveness and redemption" needed to make "a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

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In the late nineties, Douglas Farah, at the time a reporter for the Washington Post, was looking into a then-obscure Antigua-based businessman who had played a key role in helping the island nation rewrite its banking laws, frustrating U.S. efforts to crack down on money laundering.

Farah's reporting suggested that Allen Stanford wielded surprising influence in the Antiguan government. And Farah was hearing that the Texas-born billionaire and his company, the Stanford Financial Group (SFG), had ties to Latin American drug money.

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Brennan: 'Clearly The System Didn't Work On That Day' Appearing on Meet The Press, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan bluntly admitted that there were intelligence failures in the Flight 253 attempted bombing. "Clearly the system didn't work on that day, because Abdulmutallab should never have gotten onto that plane with those explosives," said Brennan, who also said that President Obama "needs to hold everybody accountable, including me."

Brennan: Either Cheney Is 'Willfully Mischaracterizing' Obama's Position, 'Or He's Ignorant Of The Facts' Also during his Meet The Press appearance, Brennan rebutted former Vice President Dick Cheney's latest attacks on the Obama administration, over the handling of the Flight 253 case: "Either the vice president is willfully mischaracterizing this president's position ... Or he's ignorant of the facts. And in either case, it doesn't speak well of what the vice president's doing."

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Obama: Remember Our Adversaries Are The Terrorists, Not Each Other In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama said his administration is taking steps to address the Flight 253 attempted bombing, and directly blamed al-Qaida for plotting the attack. And he spoke against politicizing the event, in a seeming rebuttal to Republican political attacks:



"So as our reviews continue, let us ask the questions that need to be asked. Let us make the changes that need to be made. Let us debate the best way to protect the country we all love. That is the right and responsibility of every American and every elected official," said Obama. "But as we go forward, let us remember this-our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans, not each other. Let's never forget what has always carried us through times of trial, including those attacks eight Septembers ago."

McConnell Cites The American Revolution In this weekend's Republican address, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hearkened back to the American revolution, and the bravery shown on New Year's Day 1777 at the Battle of Trenton, as an example of Americans overcoming great difficulties. This might be a dog-whistle for the Tea Party movement, which ties its opposition against President Obama to the spirit of the American Revolution:



"Political disagreements will continue in the year ahead. This is an essential part of any vibrant democracy. But Americans expect and deserve their elected leaders to put country first, and work together to solve our common problems," said McConnell. "Powerful forces may be aligned against us, just as they did against the Continental Army on that cold January night in 1777. But when the challenges are greatest, Americans always join ranks. It was true in Trenton. It's no less true today."

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Expect Congressional hearings exploring what happened in the weeks before the attempted terror attack on Flight 253 in the new year.

President Obama returns to Washington next week and plans a private huddle with intelligence officials and his national security team to evaluate the findings of a probe into the communication breakdown that allowed a Nigerian man to board a plane with explosives in his underwear.

Already the administration has put in place new measures and homeland security officials are coordinating with international airports.

Congress will be back mid-January and if the political chatter this week is any indication, Flight 253 will dominate their return.

In the week since the incident, there have been statements from Obama and other top White House officials, a preliminary review and a host of political fundraising attempts and accusations coming from GOP members of Congress and former President Dick Cheney.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kit Bond announced Jan. 21 hearings of their Senate Select Committee on Intelligence but will start the investigation sooner by collecting "all intelligence related to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab held by various intelligence agencies in order to determine who had what, and how the information was handled."

The panel also will review national security policies on sharing information and terrorist watchlisting, they said. The House intelligence panel also is looking into the incident.

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