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The current field of 2012 GOP presidential candidates is pretty boring. You've got several grouchy old men, a pizza magnate, and a walking anal sex joke. So why not a white supremacist? Sure, the GOP has noted xenophobes like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, but they lack the panache of an openly racist candidate. But that could soon change, as 1990s throwback David Duke prepares to embark on a tour of 26 states to feel out his chances of putting the "white" back in the White House.

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Tim Pawlenty has a new ad up in Iowa, boasting of his performance in a 2005 Minnesota government shutdown -- just as his state finds itself in the middle of a new government shutdown.

"Minnesota, gripped by one of the longest transit strikes in history," The announcer says. "Why? Because Governor Tim Pawlenty refused to cave in to government unions. Result? Pawlenty won. Minnesota government shut down. Why? Because Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats' massive tax-and-spending demands. Result? Pawlenty won. Tim Pawlenty -- results, not rhetoric."

Minnesota is now trying to find its way out of budget gridlock, due to disagreements between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-led legislature over how to fix the deficit they inherited from the previous mirror-image administration of GOP Gov. Pawlenty and a Dem-led legislature.

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No dice, President Obama. Mitt Romney still thinks you made the recession worse.

Romney made the heavily disputed claim that Obama made the recession deeper and longer a central part of his campaign rollout last month. But he appeared to backtrack at an appearance in Pennsylvania last week after an NBC reporter asked him how Obama could have made the economy worse while the stock market, GDP, and unemployment have all improved since his policies took effect. Romney responded: "I didn't say that things are worse."

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A team of researchers from University of Toronto Engineering is developing a way to manufacture inexpensive solar cells in the form of a paint-on coating.

The new paintable solar cell could be applied to a variety of surfaces, including building materials. It could also be used to run portable electronic devices such as laptops.

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While the federal government has been playing chicken with U.S. credit, liberal academics -- and even some Democratic members of Congress -- have begun questioning whether the legislative branch actually has the power under the Constitution to force the federal government to default on its debts.

Their argument rests on a unique reading of the fourth section of the 14th Amendment, which seemingly forbids Congress from preventing the country from paying what it owes: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law...shall not be questioned."

It's an interpretation that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called "crazy talk," and that President Obama refused to comment on at a recent press conference.

But even if it's correct, and even though Republicans are holding the debt ceiling hostage to unpopular conservative legislative priorities, it's not a step the administration wants to take, or would be able to take lightly.

Conversations with experts indicate that the president would likely need one of the most powerful offices in the government to agree with this view before they could blow past the debt limit. And even if Obama got the go-ahead, the White House would have to be prepared for epic political and legal battles with the GOP, which would no doubt follow if Obama took such drastic action.

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Ethics experts say the House still has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to its handling of the corruption case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) last fall, which resulted in partisan backbiting, deep mistrust between Republicans and Democrats on the panel and the suspension of the lead attorney and an assistant a week before the matter was set to go to public trial.

The ethics panel has been at a virtual standstill for eight months since its internal dissension exploded onto the headlines of political publications and the Washington Post in early December. On Friday the panel announced it was extending separate investigations into Reps. Greg Meeks (D-NY), Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and two aides, but a source said the committee was forced to continue those probes because it had yet to begin looking into the matters in earnest.

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The proverbial noose seems to be tightening around the neck of Libyan despot Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Turkey is the latest nation to recognize Libya's rebel movement as the country's legitimate representatives. Since Turkey had at one point tried to set itself up as a potential honest broker between the two sides, this closes down yet another avenue for Qaddafi.

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