TPM News

The 12 members of the new joint deficit Super Committee will meet Thursday for its first hearing on the origins, drivers, and potential consequences of U.S. debt.

For nearly all experts, this is a matter of settled fact. Most existing U.S. debt stems from a combination of Bush administration policies (massive tax cuts, unfunded wars), automatic consequences of the great recession (unemployment benefits, reduced revenues), and President Obama's stimulus bill. The key driver of future debt is health care costs, which will soon make Medicare unaffordable, and the ramifications, should policymakers fail to control the debt in the long run, would be economically catastrophic.

But for weeks, the committee's Republican co-chair, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has been repeating a version of this talking point, from a recent official statement.

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology wants to give the development of graphene a boost.

The university is creating a new center that will focus on exploring strategies to create actual devices and applications for the nano-material.

Researchers have so far focused on studying the attributes of the material, but MIT wants to go a step further and coordinate the resources of its disparate departments and industrial partners to accelerate development of the nano-material that scientists say will have a revolutionary impact on everything from solar panels to the speed of the internet connections.

Graphene is an inexpensive, one-atom-thick, nano-material made up of carbon atoms arranged in honeycomb-shaped lattices when it is created in sheets. Scientists are excited by its attributes because as a material for building things it promises to be strong, flexible, and cheap.

"The unique structure and properties of graphene have the potential to impact numerous industries," said Tomas Palacios, an electronics professor at MIT and the center's first director in a press statement.

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It hardly seems a year has passed since last August when the "ground zero mosque" dominated the political news cycle. As summer winds down and Congress goes on recess, journalists are typically left wanting for hard-hitting stories. Not this August.

It's no secret the dog days of this year's summer saw big news. From the debt-ceiling fracas in late July, to the U.S. losing its AAA credit rating for the first time, to Muammar Qaddafi's 42-year rule crumbling in Libya, to a rare earthquake hitting the East Coast, all capped by a hurricane threatening the country's major population centers.

But the Wall Street Journal took what most journalists -- and news junkies -- could sense and crunched the numbers. From the WSJ's Zach Seward:

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Tex. Gov. Rick Perry has taken the lead nationally, but GOP voters are really starting to catch on with his campaign in key primary states as well. Recently, Perry's stormed to the front in South Carolina and Iowa in multiple surveys, and a Republican poll out Friday shows him at the top in another early state in the GOP nomination process: Nevada.

A Magellan Strategies poll out Friday showed that Perry is the first choice of 29 percent of Neveada GOP caucus-goers, followed by former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney at 24 percent. The survey shows pretty much a two way race: the rest of the field is in single digits, and former contender Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is down to fourth with 6 percent, behind businessman Herman Cain's 7.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has recused himself from a prominent case on campaign-finance regulations that is coming before the court, in the wake of objections that he would have a potential conflict of interest -- because the lead attorney for the Tea Party groups challenging the regulations, Jim Troupis, was just recently Prosser's own attorney in the recount of his very close re-election campaign.

Prosser sent a letter to all the various parties in the case, stating simply:

Dear Counsel:

Please be advised that I will not participate in the oral argument or decision in Wisconsin Prosperity Network v. Myse.

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President Obama pulled the plug Friday on a long-delayed environmental regulation that would have further limited industrial smog emissions, leaving in place an ozone standard that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson recently described as "legally indefensible." The development most likely means smog standards in many states will remain lower than they would have been if President George W. Bush's lax policy had been fully pursued.

The proposed limits have been under assault by congressional Republicans and the business community for months. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently called it "possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama Administration regulations."

Obama's decision comes the same day new employment figures show the economy created zero net jobs in August.

What was the regulation, and what does it mean now that it's been scotched? In short, it means Bush-era smog standards, declared inadequate by government science advisers, will likely remain in effect until mid-decade if not longer.

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Dick Cheney is not impressed with Sarah Palin's presidential resume, telling a radio host that he is concerned about her decision to abruptly resign her governor job in 2009.

"I've never gotten around the question of her having left the governorship of Alaska, mid-term," the former Vice President told radio host Laura Ingraham. "I've never heard that adequately explained."

He added that he'd "like to know more about that." Palin offered a plethora of reasons for the decision at the time she stepped down, most notably citing a slew of ethics investigations that she said paralyzed state government and required huge legal costs.

Cheney and Palin are generally considered two of the least popular Republican leaders in the country based on polling.

A new CNN poll out on Friday shows that two and half years after the financial crisis and subsequent fallout, the public's worries about the economy have not settled. In fact, more people now feel the US is in a recession than they did in October of 2008.

CNN's survey showed that 69 percent of Americans think we are in a serious or moderate recession, with 13 percent who believe it's still a mild one. That means 8 in 10 Americans still feel the economy is still stuck in neutral, which isn't helpful for other economic indicators like consumer confidence, and could contribute to slowing the recovery.

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