TPM News

Between a stalled recovery in the United States, a major debt crisis in Europe, fallout from the earthquake in Japan, a recent fuel price spike, and gridlock in Washington where legislators have reached consensus in favor of austerity measures, speculation had climbed over the last several days that the Federal Reserve would intervene by buying up a significant amount of assets, injecting money into the economy -- a new round of so-called "Quantitative Easing".

But in a statement after a regular meeting of the Fed's Open Market Committee, the central bank decided to continue its current policies, with the caveat that they might start loosening those policies if things don't improve quickly.

Here's their assessment of the weak state of the economic recovery. "[E]conomic growth so far this year has been considerably slower than the Committee had expected. Indicators suggest a deterioration in overall labor market conditions in recent months, and the unemployment rate has moved up. Household spending has flattened out, investment in nonresidential structures is still weak, and the housing sector remains depressed. However, business investment in equipment and software continues to expand. Temporary factors, including the damping effect of higher food and energy prices on consumer purchasing power and spending as well as supply chain disruptions associated with the tragic events in Japan, appear to account for only some of the recent weakness in economic activity."

But though unemployment remains significantly higher than the Fed's employment mandate requires, they're not really ready to intervene in a major way just yet. "The Committee discussed the range of policy tools available to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability. It will continue to assess the economic outlook in light of incoming information and is prepared to employ these tools as appropriate."

Full statement below:

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The Environmental Protection Agency has granted almost $3 million to researchers to simulate the functions of a human liver in an effort to replace the expensive and cruel process of testing the impact of environmental toxins on rodents.

The computer liver is part of EPA's virtual organ program -- several other government agencies are working on similar projects.

The Food and Drug Administration is also working on computer simulations of the liver to test the safety of new drugs.

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While seven Republican presidential hopefuls will be competing in the Iowa Straw Poll this Saturday in Ames, candidate Gary Johnson will be in a slightly different kind of race. The former Governor of New Mexico announced Tuesday that he would be spending Saturday competing in a 100 mile-long mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado.

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A House Republican says he wants President Obama impeached -- he's just not sure why! As long as the ensuing gridlock stymies President Obama's agenda, it's the right thing to do.

Pressed by Tea Party activists angry that he voted for the debt limit deal, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said he wouldn't vote to raise the debt limit again and said he'd be happy to see President Obama impeached for...something.

"It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up," Burgess said. "No question about that."

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So far, so good in the Wisconsin state Senate recalls, which as of midday have, according to reports, been proceeding smoothly.



Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, said that the GAB has not yet received any calls about incidents at any polling places, nor updates about turnout. The overall call volume to the GAB's central office has been only low to medium -- and coming from an interesting source for problems.

"We've had calls from people who want to know where they vote, and it turns out they don't live in one of the Senate districts, so they're unhappy about that," said Magney. "And that's what happens when you've got elections that happen in certain districts, but people in the media markets are seeing ads about it and not realizing who their senator is."

As WisPolitics reports, city clerks in some municipalities say that turnout could be near the level of a presidential election -- though this is not true across the board, with other being closer to the hotly-contested state Supreme Court election this past April.

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TPM has been reporting for weeks about the effect of the debt debate on individual political leaders and the subsequently low ratings of Congress. But new data from a CNN poll shows that there's been a difference in the minds of many Americans: the Democratic Party is getting a split on approval/disapproval at 47 - 47, but the Republican Party disapproval rating is all the way up to 59%, against a 33% approval.

The GOP approval rating has been going down in the CNN poll since their 2010 victories: in the October 27-30 version, the Republican Party had a small plurality in approval, at 44 - 43. But since last fall's election they've seen a steady downward trend in the survey, to the current low, which is the highest disapproval rating in the CNN poll in the last twenty years.

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Proponents of gay marriage scored a huge victory in June when the New York Legislature passed a law legalizing it, advocates celebrated when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it, and Mayor Bloomberg marked the occasion by officiating the wedding of two top staffers. In short, the political establishment embraced gay marriage in New York, and now it's a part of life in the state.

In Vermont, it's been part of life since April of 2009. A new survey from Public Policy Polling provides a look into how the law is viewed by Vermont residents, who have clearly accepted it as part of the state's social fabric: 58% say that same sex marriage should be legal.

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Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a frontrunner to win the GOP nomination against Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), compared poor people to scavenging racoons in a speech this week.

In a video captured by the liberal group, American Bridge 21st Century, Bruning makes the comparison as part of an elaborate metaphor originally focused on environmental regulations. He describes a requirement that workers at a construction project gather up endangered beetles by luring them into a bucket with a dead rat in order to release them elsewhere. But the plan is thwarted when hungry raccoons then eat them straight out of the rat-infested bucket. Which, according to Bruning, is a perfect image to illustrate how welfare recipients receive their benefits.

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Last week the U.S. Commerce Department released a report that highlighted the ongoing lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math jobs. The study showed that the disparity began at university with only 27 percent of degrees in the field being awarded to women in 2009.

Now it turns out that many of those women who do go on to pursue an academic career in science say that their career prevents them from having as many children as they want. In addition, almost a third of young women scientists who took part in a newly-published study worry that their careers will prevent them from having a family.

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