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If a government shutdown happens, it'll be because Republicans are demanding policy restrictions in addition to spending cuts before agreeing to fund the government through September. These policy restrictions would target abortion providers and seek to limit the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Which of the so-called riders are at stake and how do they work?



There are several riders addressing abortion and environmental regulation. It's not clear yet which of them specifically are at issue. Neither side is saying publicly which they are. But here's a primer on what they contain:

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In a rambling letter from his prison cell sent to TPM and other media outlets, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) writes that he never told the feds that he had sex with a prostitute "and the DOJ bastards know it," that IRS agents and media reporters "remind me of ravening wolves," and that he never should have agreed to a plea deal that put him behind bars.

The former California Republican is serving eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2005. Now he's claiming that there were no "bribes," and that the only checks he received were reimbursements.

I wrote to Cunningham a few months ago to ask him what he thought of Attorney General Eric Holder's push for prisoner re-entry reform and to get an update on how he's been spending his time behind bars.

What I got back on Wednesday was a packet from Cunningham that featured a personalized response and a copy of "The Untold Story of Duke Cunningham" -- a nine-page, typed, single-spaced monograph dated March 2011 apparently written by Cunningham himself. The monograph was attached to a copy of a March 17 letter to the federal judge who handled his case. That letter was also copied to numerous media outlets.

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An important thing to keep in mind for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, in which liberal-backed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has declared victory with a razor-thin 204-vote lead over incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser in the Associated Press count: It's not over yet -- and in fact, the totals could change as the counties review their numbers.

Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board -- which oversees elections -- spoke to reporters Wednesday. The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

The unofficial totals showing Kloppenburg with a narrow lead are "very good numbers," Kennedy said, but they will change.

"There will be changes because this is a very human-driven process," Kennedy said. "We expect mistakes...Our goal will be to make sure every ballot is counted and every discrepancy on election day is accounted for."

It looks like conservative-leaning Mackinac Center For Public Policy think tank drew first blood in the battle over labor studies and academic freedom in Michigan.

As Wayne State University considers what to do about the Freedom Of Information Act requests Mackinac sent over last month, lawyers at the school have ordered parts of the Labor Studies Center website shut down over concerns from Mackinac that they violate rules against political advocacy with state resources.

The Michigan Information and Research Service News Service reports (sub req'd) that Wayne has pulled down parts of its labor studies dept website while they're "under review by the university's general counsel to make sure they are not running afoul of state law."

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Jon Stewart tried unsuccessfully Wednesday night to pin down Mike Huckabee over what place religion has, if any, in government.

In the nearly half hour interview, Stewart repeatedly asked Huckabee whether it was right to base policy decisions on scripture, particularly given the separation of church and state. And Stewart said it was discomforting that Huckabee, in his opinion, seemed to downplay his religious rhetoric when talking to people outside the party base.

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