TPM News

Diplomats in Athens, Malta and Hong Kong might soon have to say sayonara to the rest and relaxation benefits they were getting for enduring hardship postings thanks to a State Department Inspector General report which found the conditions at those locations no longer justified the benefit.

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House progressives are trying to draw attention to language Republicans have included in an annual must-pass defense bill, which they say will dramatically expand Presidential power in the war on terrorism. The pushback comes just over a week after U.S. forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and reignites one of the most controversial disputes the country's faced over the past decade. At stake is the question of whether Congress will allow the war on terrorism to continue indefinitely, or let it slowly dissipate as the years since September 11, 2001 pass.

The origin of the language in the defense bill dates back to March, when President Obama signed an executive order -- derided by some of his closest allies -- that effectively formalized an indefinite detention system at Guantanamo.

In response, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and his colleagues unveiled legislation intended to codify the intent of that executive order, and update the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force -- the legal underpinning off the war on terrorism.

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Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) defended the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday amid a concentrated attack from prominent Republicans around the country, accusing conservative critics of meddling with an independent federal agency.

"We need agencies like the NLRB to be able to operate freely and without political pressures," he said in a floor speech. "We need to keep our independent agencies independent. This case is for them to decide, not us."

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House Republican freshmen admit that their so-called "MediScare" attacks on Democrats helped them win a big majority in 2010. Democrats had voted for the health care law, which included $500 billion in "cuts" to Medicare -- primarily slashing overpayments to private insurers -- and Republican challengers never let them forget it.

Now, they say, it's time to let bygones be bygones.

Nearly a dozen House Republican freshmen held a press conference outside the Capitol Tuesday morning to "wipe the slate clean," and "hit the reset button."

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He's back! Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is seeking a return to public office after over a decade off the ballot, though he's never totally left the public stage. He was once the GOP's great leader following his party's congressional election victory in 1994, but he resigned in disappointment four years later. And over the last few years, as he's flirted with a run for the White House, he's charted a stunning political course on his way back into the limelight.

Gingrich was first elected to the House way back in 1978, and rose through the Republican ranks to become Minority Whip in 1988. In 1994, with Minority Leader Bob Michel retiring, Gingrich spearheaded an ambitious effort to win the House after 40 years of Democratic dominance, with the "Contract With America" platform tapping into public dissatisfaction with President Bill Clinton, and he rode the wave straight to the Speaker's gavel. After a tumultuous two terms that included two government shutdowns and the impeachment of Bill Clinton over a sex scandal -- but also significant accomplishments such as welfare reform and spending compromises that helped lead to a balanced budget -- Gingrich resigned from both the Speakership and the House itself, as a result of GOP dissatisfaction with Dem gains in the 1998 cycle.

In the years between his 1998 departure and the 2008 cycle, Gingrich sought to market himself as a policy-minded technocrat. He considered a run for president in the last cycle, but ultimately decided not to do so and instead kept with his American Solutions organization.

And as the Wall Street Journal reported, Gingrich's American Solutions political organization has had a stunning fundraising record, dwarfing all the other 2012 GOPers combined.

Even with flush campaign coffers, Gingrich's political record provides much ammunition for his opponents to grab hold of, but it is often said that his personal past is among his greatest liabilities. In 2000, Gingrich married former staffer Callista Sibek, who he had been having a relationship with since 1993, while he was still married to his second wife. (Indeed, Gingrich had pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton, at the same time as he was secretly having an extra-marital relationship himself.) Recently, Newt has credited Callista for his conversion to Catholicism.

As the nation moved into the age of Obama, Gingrich truly sharpened his rhetorical sword. In this milieu of progressive change, the former two-term Speaker and three-time husband emerged as...a champion of Christian values against the forces of what he often called "secular socialism."

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Stephen Colbert said Tuesday night that Donald Trump doesn't need to run for president in real life because he's already won the election in his own mind.

Colbert first explained why Trump was dragging his feet on announcing whether or not he would ultimately throw his hat in the ring. The reason, Colbert said, was because Trump "has gotta be careful when he throws his hat so that his hair doesn't go with it."

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So who killed Osama bin Laden? That's what Jon Stewart asked Tuesday night, as he discussed how former top staffers in George W. Bush's administration were saying that their old boss, and not President Obama, deserved the most credit for killing bin Laden.

Stewart said the push to credit Bush was "mind boggling," such as an argument made by Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew Card, that Obama has "pounded his chest" too much in celebration about bin Laden's death.

"You can bet your sweet bippy that the guy who was President Bush's chief of staff during his Top Gun-inspired, crotch-enhanced, aircraft carrier landing that took credit for ending a war we're still fighting eight fucking years later isn't gonna let Barack Obama get away with any chest thumping," Stewart said.

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Newt Gingrich became the latest prominent Republican to take on the National Labor Relations Board over its suit against Boeing, writing an open letter in Human Events on the issue one day after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called on President Obama and the Republican presidential field to get involved.

"It is clear that President Obama is packing the NLRB board with left wing ideologues as a payoff to his union boss allies, so that the fix is in with regard to this case and others like it," Gingrich wrote. "The move is consistent with an ongoing pattern in the Obama administration, in which they use the apparatus of big government to reward their allies and punish their opponents."

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