TPM News

The death of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry in St. Louis yesterday marked the second death of an officer with the nation's oldest federal law enforcement agency in the line of duty this year. The incidents are shining a light on the expanding role of federal law enforcement in apprehending state and local felons and raising questions about the impact of proposed budget cuts on the safety of federal law enforcement officers.

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) hadn't had an officer die in the line of duty from gunfire since the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 until the death of 24-year-old Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller last month. Tuesday's incident also marked at least the fourth violent confrontation the U.S. Marshals have been involved with since the beginning of the year.

There's no one answer for why the U.S. Marshals have found themselves increasingly in the line of fire. But all four incidents this year -- the deaths of the two U.S. Marshals and the deaths of two task force officers working with the USMS as well as the deaths of two additional Florida police officers in January -- came when the agency was pairing with local law enforcement to apprehend non-federal fugitives.

The USMS has seven Fugitive Apprehension Task Forces around the country and another 75 Violent Offender Task Forces run by various regional USMS offices. And the volume of state and local fugitives apprehended or cleared by the Marshals Service through a decade-old initiative has surged from just 15,412 in 2004 to 34,015 in 2007 and 73,915 in 2008. The number peaked at 101,910 in 2009 (likely due to apprehension and Fugitive Safe Surrender programs funded by stimulus funds) then dropped in 2010, when the agency captured or cleared 52,519 violent state and local felony fugitives. The USMS is planning to apprehend or clear 52,000 state and local felony fugitives in 2012.

So for one, the USMS is simply involved in more incidents. Part of that is due to state law enforcement budget cuts, which have made local law enforcement more reliant on the Marshals for help in apprehending dangerous criminals.

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James O'Keefe, whose hidden camera outfit Project Veritas claimed another major scalp today with the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiler, departed from his usual symbiotic relationship with conservative media guru Andrew Breitbart in releasing his latest project.

As Mediaite notes, some observers are questioning if this reveals fissures between the two. O'Keefe posted his famous ACORN videos to Breitbart's "Big Government" but gave news site The Daily Caller first crack at his latest video. Breitbart turned on O'Keefe in the press last year after a colleague of O'Keefe's revealed to the press that the conservative filmmaker was planning an elaborate prank in which he would lure a CNN reporter onto a boat with a hidden camera and attempt to seduce her.

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George Djura Jakubec, a resident of San Diego County accused of having a "bomb factory" inside his home, is asking for a dismissal of the eight counts against him. He argues that "potentially exculpatory evidence" was destroyed when officials burned down his house, which they deemed too dangerous to enter because they said it still had explosives inside.

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Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) expressed his frustration with the state's recall laws, during a press conference on Tuesday.

Fitzgerald's off-the-cuff comments sounded less like he was mulling any actual prospective efforts to change the law, but rather seemed more a show of irritation that a significant number of his caucus members -- those last elected in 2008 -- are being targeted for recalls by Democrats, in the battle over Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal and its anti-public employee union provisions.

At one point, Fitzgerald was asked whether the wave of recall signature drives could lead to Republicans losing their newly-won majority. "No, I don't believe so," said Fitzgerald. "I mean, what I do believe is that we're taking those recalls seriously, and we're making sure that we have everything available to those senators to make their case.

"The ironic thing to me is that, you know, at this point we've got senators under recall that haven't even voted on anything and you know, we've got an assemblyman [Gordon Hintz (D)] that was arrested in Oshkosh (sic) for being at a massage parlor -- and he's not under recall. I mean, I think it really makes a case for, you know, are our recall statutes legit? And it really makes you wonder if they shouldn't be revisited at some point."

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the Republican Party's bluff on the need for deficit reduction Wednesday, outlining a fiscal framework that involves broader cuts and revenue raisers than the GOP has proposed -- and warning that there will be no agreement on funding the government unless the GOP broadens its approach.

"A bipartisan compromise simply will not be found in the domestic discretionary spending cuts alone," Schumer said in a half-hour presentation at the Center for American Progress. Without a broader scope, Schumer said, "we won't be able to come to a compromise on a seven month budget."

Schumer's entreaty changes the frame of the debate on Capitol Hill, which for weeks has been driven by Republican leaders, who have isolated their focus to domestic discretionary spending. Democratic leaders, who are unwilling to countenance major cuts to government services, had little luck playing on GOP turf, but will now have a coherent alternative to point to when negotiations over how to fund the government continue in coming days.

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The conservative campaign spending group linked to Karl Rove is going up with a tough ad aimed at America's labor unions and the president they supported in 2008.

The short version: Unions and their political activity are "a threat to democracy."

Crossroads GPS, the non-profit political spending outfit who Rove and former RNC chair Ed Gillespie helped launch last year, is going on national cable news channels Wednesday with the 60-second spot, aimed squarely at the union leaders and Democratic politicians who have been taking on governors across the Midwest in the past few weeks.

Crossroads GPS is not required to release the names of its donors, and has been a common target of Democratic and progressive criticism since its founding.

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John Ensign (R-NV) is not running for re-election after bowing out Tuesday, but his ongoing scandals and weak poll numbers mean that both parties have had plenty of time to contemplate an election without him. Republicans and Democrats are expected to field formidable candidates, setting up a brawl that could be as competitive as any in the nation.

On the Republican side, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) is considered the most likely nominee and was already widely discussed as a primary challenger for Ensign if the senator decided to go for another term. Polls have shown him strong against both Ensign and likely Democratic opponents and some observers have labeled him an early, if slight, frontrunner in the general election. He could have some competition from a familiar face, however -- one of Sharron Angle's former aides has been floating her as a potential candidate in the press. (She could also run for Heller's House seat if he vacates it to seek the Senate post.)

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NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned from the news organization Wednesday morning in response to a hidden camera prank targeting NPR Foundation president Ron Schiller, adding another high-profile notch to James O'Keefe's belt.

"The Board accepted Vivian's resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years," read a statement from NPR Board Chairman Dave Edwards.

Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian), president of the NPR Foundation, had already submitted his resignation on Tuesday evening after the network had placed him on leave and released a statement saying they were "appalled" by his behavior on a tape with a group of phony prospective donors slamming Tea Partiers, nodding politely as conspiracy theories about Jews in the media were floated, and suggesting NPR would be better off without federal funding. Another NPR executive in the video, Betsy Liley, director of institutional giving, is also on administrative leave.

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Incandescent lightbulbs will soon burn out for good and be replaced by compact fluorescents, the result of a bill Democrats passed in 2007 that requires lightbulbs to be more energy efficient. And while fluorescents have been maligned for their harsh glow and slow warmup time, Stephen Colbert hates them for an entirely different reason: their femininity.

It's the shape of the fluorescent bulbs - which some have described as squiggly pigtails -- that has Colbert so upset.

"You know who has pigtails? Girls," Colbert said. "I want a boy lightbulb, one that's shaped like a giant glowing testicle."

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Since the beginning of the standoff in Wisconsin, Republicans and conservatives have predictably cast the "Wisconsin 14″ as "cowardly" shirkers who "aren't doing their jobs," or have "retreated." This is to be expected, but what's really been hard to watch has been Democrats sitting silently by, or even going along with them. That's why it was so great to see Rachel Maddow destroy this line of reasoning on Tuesday night's The Rachel Maddow Show, when her "new best friend" Michael Steele trotted it out like a labradoodle at Westminster.

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