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Gen. David Petraeus urged the American people to remember the reasons why U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan in the face of a new poll showing the lowest level of American support for the longest war in U.S. history.

Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that he understands the level of American frustration with the Afghan war, but warned of the growth of al Qaeda in the country and region if the U.S. abandons its mission and allows the Taliban to regain control.

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The political consequences for Republicans in Wisconsin are paying dividends for Democrats in DC.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is now pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to make a choice: negotiate with us, or side with the conservatives in your party, whom he described on a conference call with reporters Tuesday as "Scott Walker Republicans... using the budget to try and shoot the moon on [right wing] policy measures."

This is of a piece with Schumer's heads-you-lose, tails-you-lose offer to Boehner Monday, to dismiss the tea party constituency in his caucus and reach a bipartisan spending agreement with Democrats. Now he's citing Republican defectors as evidence that the real goal in this spending fight is to impose a conservative agenda via the budget process, just like in Wisconsin.

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If Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) thought returning the $88,000 in taxpayer money she spent on flights aboard a private plane she owns a piece of would make the scandal go away, the Missouri Republican Party would like to inform her she's got another thing coming.

The party clearly smells blood in the water, and they've filed a formal ethics complaint against McCaskill -- a top GOP target in 2012 -- to make sure the story stays around for a least a little while longer.

As first reported by Politico last week, McCaskill sent the U.S. Treasury $88,000 after an investigation by the paper into her state travel found she "spent nearly $76,000 in public funds since 2007 to fly on a charter plane she co-owns with her husband and other investors."

McCaskill denies any wrongdoing and her office says neither she nor her husband made a dime from the use of the aircraft, which the Senator used mostly to crisscross her homestate. McCaskill ponied up the $88,000 "to cover all costs associated with the flights," according to Politico.

The state GOP says that's an example of too little, too late. Plus, they say they've got evidence that the flights broke ethics rules.

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Just a few months into his first term, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) appears to be immensely unpopular with his constituents, a clear majority of whom disapprove of his job performance, according to a PPP poll of registered voters. What's more, if a do-over election were held today Kasich would lose -- by a resounding 15-point margin.

Kasich barely defeated incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland (D) last November, winning by a slim 49% to 47%. But if they could do it all over again, 55% of voters now say they would vote for Strickland, while only 40% say they'd go with Kasich.

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The open seat left by Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) scandal-aided retirement in Nevada has drawn its first official top-tier candidate: Republican Congressman Dean Heller.

In an e-mail to supporters obtained by the Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston, Heller announced his candidacy, which was already long expected by political observers regardless of whether Ensign retired. Heller's note overwhelmingly focuses on fiscal issues and he proudly touts his vote against TARP, setting up a preview of the race ahead.

"My view then, just as it is now, is that debt fueled bailouts only hurts [sic] long-term economic growth and places taxpayers on the hook for the excesses of Wall Street," Heller wrote. "Now I want to take this fight to the United States Senate."

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1||More than 120 suspected mobsters were arrested by the feds in January in what the FBI in New York called the biggest mafia bust ever. TPM submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for their mugshots, and so far we've got back photos of 14 of the defendants charged in New Jersey. Here's Albert Cernadas, 75, AKA "The Bull" who was the President of International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Local 1235.

According to the indictment, around every Christmas for the past 30 years, Cernadas and associates would extort payments from ILA port workers, taking their year-end bonus checks. Cernades is also accused of threatening to inflict harm on others. ||U.S. Marshals Service&& 2||According to the indictment, the principal purpose of the Genovese crime family was to generate money for its members and associates. This was achieved through various criminal activities, including fraud, extortion, illegal gambling and loansharking. Shown here is Anthony Alfano, 76, AKA "Brooklyn," who, along with others, is accused of running an illegal gambling business.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 3||Members of the family "at times used the resources of the crime family to settle personal grievances and vendettas," according to the feds. Fifty-one year old Edward Aulisi, AKA "Eddie," is accused of extorting money from union members ||U.S. Marshals Service&& 4||Possibly "Eddie's" father, Vincent Aulisi, 78, AKA "The Vet," is also accused of extorting money from union members.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 5||This is 75-year-old Michael Trueba, AKA "Mikey," who the feds say extorted union members and obtained money from John Does #8,9 and 10 by inducing their consent through use of actual and threatened violence and fear.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 6||Here is Tonino Colantonio, 32, AKA "Tony," who "did knowingly and intentionally conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct and own all or part of an illegal gambling business," according to the indictment.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 7||Richard Dehmer, 75, AKA "Dickie," is also accused of running an illegal gambling business and participating in "extortionate means" to collect extensions of credit from bettors. Dehmer also allegedly used a cell phone "for the transmission in interstate and foreign commerce of information assisting in the placing of bets and wagers on a sporting event and contest."||U.S. Marshals Service&& 8||Stephen Depiro, 55, AKA "The Beach," is accused of running an illegal gambling business and participating in "extortionate means" to collect extensions of credit from bettors.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 9||Nunzio Lagrasso, 60, is accused of extorting money from union members.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 10||Salvatore Lagrasso, 60, is accused of extorting money from union members.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 11||Thomas Leonardis, 53, AKA "Tommy," is also accused of extorting money from union members. ||U.S. Marshals Service&& 12||Guiseppe Pugliese, 32, AKA "Pepe," was also allegedly part of an illegal gambling business.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 13||Ramiro Quintans, 52, AKA "Romo," is accused of extorting money from union members.||U.S. Marshals Service&& 14||Robert Ruiz, 52, AKA "Bobby," is also accused of multiple accounts of extorting money from union members.||U.S. Marshals Service&&

House Republicans have questions to answer back in their districts about the spending cuts they've recently voted for and continue to support. Back in Wisconsin, where state Republicans are already under attack after their broadside against collective bargaining rights, GOP freshmen in competitive districts are catching earfuls from locals about budget cuts.

The Green Bay Press Gazette flags one example. House bill HR 1 -- the Republican House majority's flaship legislation this Congress -- eliminates funding for the Workforce Investment Act, which funds job training for people out of work.

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Wisconsin state Senator Van Wanggaard, one of the Republican legislators whose home has been picketed in the political battle over Gov. Scott Walker's newly-passed law curtailing public employee unions, told the Racine Journal Times that he will be writing a new bill -- to outlaw picketing at private homes.

"When they come to my house it's intimidating and threatening," said Wanggaard, a freshman who defeated a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 Republican wave.

He told the paper that some municipalities already have ordinances against such demonstrations at private residences, but he would like to see a statewide statute, and is in the early stages of writing a proposal.

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