TPM News

Just two months after suffering a gunshot wound to the head that left her in critical condition, Rep. Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ) is making 'excellent' progress in her rehabilitation treatment and can already communicate in full sentences, according to her doctors who spoke at a news conference Friday morning.

While remaining cautious, Giffords' doctors said she has been making "leaps and bounds" in her treatment, remaining positive throughout and even surprising them at times with her steady improvement. And, as was reported Thursday, her doctors said there is a "good possibility" that she will be well enough to attend her husband's shuttle launch on April 19.

"She's making so much progress, and it's so exciting for everyone, including her," said Dr. Dong Kim. "She's getting better on a daily basis."

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As the magnitude 8.9 quake hit Japan, CNN's Tokyo bureau was staffed and busy-and someone had a camera to catch the building as it shook. The video shows walls rocking, television monitors swaying and, amazingly, a CNN staffer working the phones to cover the story.

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During an appearance Thursday night on Sean Hannity's TV show, Sarah Palin had a warning about the protests going on against the bill just signed by Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) to curtail public employee unions -- saying that unions should "tone down the rhetoric" against the bill, because it will result in people getting hurt.

Hannity and Palin discussed the death threat delivered to the Republican state Senators, which the state is currently investigating. Hannity said: And as soon as cuts start being made, we see there the violent rhetoric, the threats, this reaction. Do you think we're gonna see a lot of more of this? In other words, is this the beginning of things to come?"

"Well, these union bosses that are acting like thugs, as they are leading some of their good union members down a road that will ultimately result in, unfortunately, somebody getting hurt," Palin said, "if you believe the death threats that are being received by those who just happen to support amending some collective bargaining privileges of state unions. Well, it is these unions bosses' responsibility to turn down the rhetoric and start getting truth out there, so that nobody gets hurt."

This is, of course, the same Palin who just two months ago responded to controversies over the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and accusations that heated political rhetoric from herself and others may have contributed to it, as "blood libel."

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Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has the backing of his own state's senior Senator at the very least if he chooses to make a White House run.

"Yes, that's my choice," Lugar told Newsmax when asked who he would choose to take on President Obama in 2012.

"I have no idea what Gov. Daniels will ultimately decide," Lugar added. "I believe he would be an outstanding president, and I say this because he has managed with fiscal prudence the state of Indiana in such a way that we have balanced budgets."

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Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) has signed his bill curtailing public employee unions in to law, following a month-long political struggle in the state that saw Democratic legislators fleeing the state, massive protests, and a last-minute parliamentary end-run in order to get the measure passed.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

He signed the bill in the morning and will hold a ceremony and press conference later in the day to tout the signing.

Walker also is planning a press conference to talk about the tumultuous past few weeks. On Friday morning, Walker directed two state agencies to rescind layoff notices because the Legislature had passed the bill.

As TPM has previously reported, this is likely far from the end of the story in Wisconsin -- with a new series of political battles set to begin. Democrats have pledged to quickly recall the Republican members of the state Senate who are eligible, under the state law requiring at least one year of a term to be completed, and then to go after Walker next year. In addition, the union bill itself could potentially result in strikes or other labor unrest, in a state where unions have played a major role in the political culture.

If Congress prohibits the Obama administration from funding implementation of the new health care law, it will cost the government billions of dollars over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

You might think that declaring certain funds off limits would save the government money -- and indeed the measure in the House spending bill defunding the health care law would save $1.6 billion through the end of the year. But by forbidding the Department of Health and Human Services from developing programs expected to save money, such a prohibition would actually accrue about $6 billion in costs by the end of the decade.

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A senior Treasury department official told reporters Thursday that a brief government shutdown may be unavoidable as the only feasible way to de-escalate the confrontation over government spending dividing Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. The official said the administration still hopes to avoid such a flashpoint because of the impact it would have on the economy, but added that President Obama will not sign short-term stop-gap government funding measures in perpetuity.

The comments were made in a briefing with reporters conducted on deep background, meaning no direct quotes could be attributed to the official.

The official's remarks represent the most serious indication yet that the administration is willing to endure a short term shutdown despite the unknown political costs, to focus congressional leadership on brokering a long-term deal. But they also come at a time of ongoing negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans, and are a signal that the administration isn't resigned to getting rolled by the GOP. Whether that's tough talk designed to move negotiations, a bluff, or an indication that the White House is prepared to go the brink on this remains to be seen.

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UPDATE: Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee issued a release saying Kim is the first hire for the newly created Office of Oversight and Investigations, which will scrutinize the activities of the Department of Interior and "other agencies under the committee's purview."

One of the suspended attorneys at the center of the standoff between Republicans and Democrats on the House Ethics Committee has found a new gig on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Morgan Kim, who served as deputy chief of staff of the Ethics Committee in the last Congress and lead attorney on the case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), was recently hired by Republicans on the Natural Resources panel and is now working full-time there, two House aides confirmed for TPM Thursday.

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Obama Declares Bond With Japan 'Unshakeable' CNN reports: "President Obama sent his condolences to the people of Japan over the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake, and declared that the United States stands ready to offer aid because of the 'unshakeable' bond between the two nations. Obama, who was informed of the earthquake at 4 a.m. ET by Chief of Staff Bill Daley, also said he has instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency 'to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. states and territories that could be affected' by tsunamis."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET, and meet at 10:15 a.m. ET with senior advisers. He will hold a news conference at 11:15 a.m. ET, officially billed as being about rising energy prices among other issues. At 2:50 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will honor the 2009-10 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in a ceremony.

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