TPM News

As NASA's space shuttle program comes closer to its long-scheduled termination later this year, concern is growing in Florida and around the country about the future of the massive workforce currently employed both directly and indirectly by the program.

Brevard County -- the central Florida home of the Kennedy Space Center, the famous Cape Canaveral launchpad and ten of thousands of highly trained and specialized aerospace workers -- is bracing itself for the worst. Many fear the impending end of the shuttle program will bring about a repeat of the economic devastation of 1975, when NASA abruptly cancelled the Apollo program; everything from rocket science to real estate was impacted, practically overnight.

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As the Egyptian uprising continues to play out, there is no consensus among Americans about how the eventual outcome will impact the U.S. Yet based on public opinion polls, one thing is clear: Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to see the protests as bad news for America.

So much remains unknown about what will unfold in Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak has pledged not to seek reelection, though he has resisted calls for his immediate resignation. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters continue to take to the streets demanding that he do just that. All the uncertainty about what sort of government will emerge from the chaos -- and whether a new leader will be an ally or enemy -- has Americans largely clueless about whether the protests will have a positive or negative impact on the U.S.

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The House GOP continues to place its heaviest emphasis on fighting abortion rights, and they've taken a lot of heat for it. Progressives, Democrats, pro-choice groups, and others have spared little criticism, but they've focused most heavily on three distinct lines: the fact that Republicans are ignoring job-creation as a priority; the fact that one of their pieces of legislation would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a dying woman; and the fact that, until recently at least, the GOP wanted to limit tax-payer support for abortion to exclude incidences of non-forcible rape.

Here's another one: The GOP's plan to ban tax-payer money from funding abortions includes giant tax hikes for businesses.

More specifically, it would eliminate tax incentives on employer-provided health care benefits if those benefits cover abortion as a medical procedure.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) showed up at tonight's Tea Party Express town hall in downtown DC to take a few questions about the budget and push his tea party cred by sharing a stage with movement heavyweights like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and Sen. Mike Lee, the tea party Republican who booted Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) last cycle.

Hatch rose to the occasion, offering up the kind of anti-tax, anti-big government, anti-Obamacare messaging that the tea party thrives on. It's clear why Hatch was there -- he wants to avoid the fate that befell Bennett, who ignored the tea party rumblings in his home state only to be run out of the Senate by Republicans back home.

What's not clear is how Hatch, who presumably is just the type of incumbent Republican the tea party would like to take out in 2012, came to be introduced as a supporter of the movement before a nationwide tea party audience.

Hatch told TPM he was invited. Tea Party Express president Amy Kremer told TPM he invited himself. And Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo (who incidentally used to work for Hatch) told TPM that anyone who says Hatch wasn't extended an invitation from his group is mistaken.

Welcome to Invite Gate.

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1||The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a six-year, $53-billion-dollar project to expand high-speed rail service in the United States - promising trains reaching 250mph. The budget request is in addition to $8-billion already allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Even so, those billions are a drop in the bucket compared to the investment European and Asian countries have been making to their rail networks for decades. Above - a Japanese bullet train - top speed 275 mph. ||flickr/kubotake&&

2||The inside of a Japanese bullet train. Japan's rail network carries over 150 million passengers annually on its 1,528 miles of track. Currently, the only high-speed passenger rail in the US is Amtrak's Acela line which runs between Boston to Washington, D.C., and it hits top speed only briefly along that route.||Kyodo/Newscom&&

3||In this photo a German high-speed train sits next to a yellow Eurostar train. After Japan, West Germany was the second country to develop a high-speed rail network. Germany ordered its latest set of trains in 2008 - 15 trains costing 500 million euros. At current exchange rates that's $684.3 million, or 9% of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocation for high speed rail.||Robert Schlesinger/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom&&

4||While Europe has had a head start, it is China that has the world's largest high-speed network with 5,193 miles of track. Above, a new high-speed line connects a Chinese provincial capital to a nearby city. The new line opened in January 2011.||Color China/Newscom&&

5||Passengers wait board to trains at Shanghai Train Station. China's current high-speed rail plans call for over 10,000 kilometers of high-speed rail.||flickr/nojhan&&

6||China's signature rail project is a connection of Beijing to Shanghai - the first commercial line designed to travel at a top speed of 380 kilometers per hour. The 820-mile trip will take under four hours. The engine above will be one of the engines propelling those new trains.||STEPHEN SHAVER/UPI/Newscom&&

7||A prototype of France's next generation of high-speed trains. The prototype debuted in 2008, and a private Italian train company will receive the first production trains in 2011. ||Stanislav Zbynek/MCT/Newscom&&

8||The Eurostar is famous for quick travel under the English Channel. Passengers get on in London and arrive in Paris less than two hours later.||David Wimsett/Photoshot/Newscom&&

9||A high-speed train in Taiwan.||flickr/POHAN&&

10||But the future of rail travel may be maglev trains which never physically touch the ground when traveling. Currently, the only operational maglev train in the world connects Shanghai to its suburban airport. It makes the 19 mile trip in seven minutes. With Shanghai traffic, the trip by bus can take hours.||wikimedia/Alex Needham&&

11||The unique track Shanghai's maglev train runs on. Shanghai's maglev uses magnets to levitate itself above the track even when the train is at rest in the station. ||flickr/maxim303&&

12||The current fastest train in the world is the Central Japan Railway Company's experimental maglev in Yamanashi, Japan. In 2003 it reached a top speed of 361 mph.||flickr/Globalism Pictures&& 13||Another photo of Japan's experimental maglev.||Natsuki Sakai/Newscom&& 14||Another photo of Japan's experimental maglev.||Natsuki Sakai/Newscom&&

The anti-abortion group LiveAction released a third undercover video today targeting Planned Parenthood in a James O'Keefe-style sting, which LiveAction says shows an employee in a clinic in the Bronx describing to a pimp and prostitute how to get taxpayer funded insurance for underage sex workers.

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Election fraud alert!

An employee of the Nassau County Board of Elections has been accused of writing eight fake addresses on campaign forms in 2009, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office announced Tuesday. Imtiaz Insanally, 27, of Valley Stream, is alleged to have used the fake addresses on a petition to add Republican Christian Browne to the ballot on the Tax Revolt Party line. Browne was running for County Legislator in the Fifth Legislative District.

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