TPM News

With President Obama addressing the nation tonight about a new escalation in Afghanistan, a perennially underexamined topic is once again receiving short shrift: the huge force of contractors, which as of June outnumbered the size of the U.S. troop presence itself, is likely to swell.

The Administration seemingly hasn't addressed the issue, and the word "contractor" doesn't appear much in media coverage -- for example, in the Times and Post stories on the escalation today.

But David Berteau, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells TPM that as Obama increases troop levels to at least 100,000, "there will definitely be an increase in the number of contractors."

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The Florida Highway Patrol announced that Tiger Woods will receive a citation for careless driving that caused his car wreck in a press conference just now. They will not pursue criminal charges.

The patrol's spokeswomen said that Woods is at fault for the incident and could be fined up to $164 for the single vehicle crash. Addressing some of the rumors surrounding the star golfer's crash, the patrol also said there have been no claims of domestic violence involved and the case is closed.

Woods dropped out of the 2009 Chevron World Challenge yesterday due to injuries sustained from the accident.

Jon Stewart has already cornered the market on lampooning CNBC for the chronic lack of skepticism that characterized its coverage of the financial world during the boom years.

But the network's failure wasn't just a case of cheer-leading for Wall Street banks that made bad bets on the housing market. Both before and after last fall's financial crisis, CNBC has lavished fawning coverage on several high-flying financiers who later, say prosecutors, turned out to be little more than frauds. And this past week offered the latest example.

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World AIDS Day 2009 is a date that many U.S. activists in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS thought would be a high water mark in their decades-long struggle against the deadly disease. President George W. Bush had dramatically increased U.S. AIDS funding during his term in office -- albeit with caveats activists say hurt some of their efforts -- and President Obama had promised to do even more on the campaign trail.

But as activists nationwide take time today a day to focus on a disease that's killed more than half a million Americans, some of them say the promises of a renewed focus on AIDS that came with Obama haven't been realized.

"It's heartbreaking," Matthew Kavanagh, director of U.S. advocacy for Health GAP told TPMDC. His group was among four U.S. AIDS groups that gave Obama a "D+" on AIDS policy yesterday. Kavanagh said that to his shock, he felt Bush had a better record on AIDS research than Obama. "I could not imagine I would be saying that now [last year]. Many folks in the global AIDS movement were so looking forward to stepping up the fight with Obama."

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By a vote of 11-2, the D.C. City Council voted to legalize same sex marriage in the nation's Capitol today. DCist has the story:

The historic legislation still needs to pass a second vote in the Council in the next month, at which point it will be sent to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty for his signature. Fenty has promised he will sign the bill.

The second vote (which will make the bill official) is seen as a formality by marriage equality proponents in the city. Former D.C. Mayor/now Ward 8 councilmember Marion Barry (D) and Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) were the lone "no" votes on the bill. Congress, which has the power to overrule any D.C. legislation is not expected to take any action on the bill, meaning the first same sex weddings could take place in D.C. starting in the spring.

Remember how there was that big row when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said the Republican health care plan amounted to 'don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly'? Demands for apologies, etc? Well, Republicans may have a new Alan Grayson of their own: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

"If it doesn't raise costs, and we're truly going to take this money from Medicare, what it's going to do to our seniors is, I have a message for you: 'You're gonna die sooner.'"

It's hard to see how this allegation is any different than Grayson's. Let's see if it becomes the media's (and the Democrats') main point of interest for the rest of the week.

Late Update: One senior Senate Democratic aide told us: "His insights on health care are about as helpful as his marital advice to Senator Ensign."

White House officials and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been courting Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)--likely the only other 'gettable' Republican on health care--for some time now. With the bill on the floor, though, it's crunch time for Democrats if they hope to bring her from the "no" column into the "yes" column--or at least into the "I won't filibuster" column. And they're not there yet.

Collins has long been opposed to all manner of public option proposals, including the trigger compromise offered by her Maine colleague Olympia Snowe. Today, Collins told reporters she isn't budging: "I made very clear that I could not support the bill as it's currently drafted, and that there would have to be substantial changes, but I certainly hope that that will be possible."

What about a public option compromise--proposed by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)--modeled in part on Snowe's trigger? "I'm not a fan," Collins said.


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