TPM News

President Obama Wednesday announced tougher sanctions against Syria and its President, Bashar al Assad, as well as other senior officials in his government, in an effort to turn up the pressure on his regime and their increasingly deadly crackdown against peaceful protesters.

Previously, the United States has frozen assets and banned trade deals with senior Syrian government officials including al Assad in an effort to convince him to end the violent response rebel groups in Syria and their desire to institute democratic reforms.

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Struggling to shake off a politically damaging interview on Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich took the ever-popular tack yesterday of blaming the media and its "gotcha" questions. But host David Gregory isn't having it, pushing back today against Newt's claim that he was ambushed.

"There was no set-up," Gregory told the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, adding that Newt "knew what he was doing" and "knows what he's doing now."

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Top Republicans in Congress are advancing the idea that allowing the U.S. to default on its debts for a short time will be fairly harmless, and is a far better option than lifting the debt ceiling without simultaneous, dramatic spending cuts.

The new push comes just days after the country hit its statutory debt limit. In essence, the GOP is arming itself with a rationale to continue to oppose a debt ceiling hike, despite dire warning from economists, finance experts, and the Obama administration about the consequences of default.

At an event at the conservative American Enterprise Institute Wednesday morning, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) laid out the case. "This problem is so urgent that there is -- an alternative school of thought has emerged recently," Toomey said. "The most high-profile advocate for this was Stanley Druckenmiller ... one of the world's most successful hedge-fund managers, extraordinarily wealthy from his knowledge of the markets, a big money manager now, and a big holder of Treasury securities -- and he has said that he would actually accept even a delay in interest payments on the Treasuries that he holds. And he would prefer that if it meant that the Congress would right this ship."

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The death of World Net Daily editor Joseph Farah's doubts about the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate has been greatly exaggerated.

In an interview with TPM, Farah confirmed he's still on the "birther" crusade and said he might sue Esquire over a satirical article that said otherwise.

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President Obama's reelection campaign is turning a conspiracy theory that had long dogged the president into a snarky fundraising tool, selling merchandise depicting Obama and his complete long form birth certificate.

For a $25 donation, you can get a t-shirt that shows a smiling Obama above the phrase, "Made in the U.S.A" on the front, and the president's long-form birth certificate on the back. The campaign is also giving away coffee mugs with the same design scheme to supporters who make a $15 contribution.

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Rick Santorum backtracked on his comments that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may not "understand how enhanced interrogation works" if he doesn't believe it led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Santorum said in a statement Wednesday that he disagrees with McCain's view that torture doesn't work, but "for anyone to infer my disagreement with Senator McCain's policy position lessens my respect for his service to our country and all he had to endure is outrageous and unfortunate."

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After treading lightly around his plan to cut and privatize Medicare in a speech Monday, Paul Ryan doubled down on the proposal Wednesday in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor.

While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concludes that Ryan's plan would achieve its savings by forcing seniors to pay thousands of dollars more in medical costs within a decade of its passage, Ryan claimed that those "demonizing" his budget as a blow to the safety net have it all wrong.

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In another key moment from his interview with Greta Van Susteren Tuesday night, Newt Gingrich said that his 1993 statements in support of the individual health insurance mandate had to be placed in context of the opposition to Hillary Clinton's push for universal health care at the time, when the mandate was being talked about in order to stop government-run health care. And he decried the "political amnesia" that led people to focus on those comments, and forget about his more recent activism against the mandate.

Gingrich made the comments during the same interview in which he said, "Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate," regarding his now-retracted comments against Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed budget that would privatize Medicare.

"I do not support a mandate. I am opposed to Obamacare. I am in support of the 26 attorney generals (sic) who have filed suit," said Gingrich. "The Center for Health Transformation that I supported, that I helped found, has been actively opposed to Obamacare for two-and-a-half years.

"That was a clip from 1993, when in fact, the conservative position was to have individual insurance, in opposition to Hillarycare -- because she wanted everybody to be in government -- but let's get that out of the way, okay?"

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Democrats couldn't be more thrilled to see the Republican party turn on Newt Gingrich. And they're capitalizing on it, politically.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave Gingrich a giant bear hug, saying he agreed with Gingrich's critique of the House Republican plan to privatize Medicare and warning Republicans that rejecting Gingrich locks them into a politically disastrous position.

"Newt and I are considered political opposites," Schumer said, "but I couldn't agree more with what he said Sunday about the House Republican proposal to end Medicare.... In a straight shooting way he acknowledged that this is right-wing social engineering."

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Often lost in the fight over Newt Gingrich's takedown of Paul Ryan's Medicare plan is that Gingrich had actually said only weeks earlier he'd have voted for it. He offered his support for the GOP budget once again on Tuesday night at an event in Minnesota.

"I would have voted for the budget," he told a blogger for Media Matters. "The question is how do we go through taking the Medicare part of it and turning it into law, which is the next stage. But I would have voted for it. If you go to my website, you'll see I wrote a newsletter endorsing it. He's a very good friend of mine. And I think he's doing a brilliant job."

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