TPM News

The workhorse of the space program for decades -- the aging US space shuttle -- has a cargo bay that measures 15 feet by 59 feet. It can launch the equivalent of six large SUVs 1,000 miles up into lower Earth orbit. That might sound like a lot space, but when NASA is trying to launch a new module for the International Space Station (ISS), that cargo space is a critically limiting factor.

Which is why NASA has in the past few months been talking to Las-Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace about producing a new module for the International Space Station based on a simple, space-saving concept: the balloon. When stowed in the space shuttle's cargo bay, the module would be deflated to save space. But once unloaded in orbit, the module would inflate like a very tall doughnut, providing a large ring of usable space for any number of tasks. The center of the doughnut would contain the structure and equipment to maintain the inflated module.

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The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist Democratic group that once dominated the party and provided much of the core intellectual framework of the Bill Clinton presidency, could be on the verge of demise.

Ben Smith at Politico reports:

The Democratic Leadership Council, the iconic centrist organization of the Clinton years, is out of money and could close its doors as soon as next week, a person familiar with the plans said Monday.

Interestingly, the DLC's associated think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, appears to still be alive and well.

The DLC was organized after the 1984 landslide defeat of the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale, by centrists who believed that the party had become unable to win national elections in part because it was seen as overly representing traditional Democratic interest groups such as organized labor and minorities. The DLC then worked to refocus the party towards more centrist issues, including business-friendly policies. The DLC's high point was the election of Bill Clinton as President in 1992 shortly after Clinton had chaired the DLC.

The DLC's influence began to wane following Al Gore's defeat in 2000. Gore's running mate Joe Lieberman had chaired the DLC from 1995-2001. The DLC came to be seen by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as accommodationist and overly corporate. The strong and long-lasting support for the Iraq invasion in 2003 by sThe DLC's strong and long-lasting support for the Iraq invasion in 2003 further amplified the breach.

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Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton says that he's still "considering" whether to run for President in 2012, but when it comes to the decision, he's still just talking to people and not taking any major steps for a run: "I'm not like the duck, placid on the top of the water and paddling furiously underneath. I'm really looking at it. It's a hard decision for me."

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The Chamber of Commerce is denying a report by the Fars News Agency in Iran suggesting that they, along with several other business groups, sent a statement to the head the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines underlining their oppositions to U.S. sanctions.

"We did not send a letter to Iran, we sent a letter to the White House," said J.P. Fielder, spokesman for the U.S. Chamber.

Fielder didn't deny that the Chamber has contact with its counterpart in Iran, but that the Chamber sent no communication matching this description to Mohammad Nahavandian, who heads that group. "Not whatsoever," Fielder said.

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Late last year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), now the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent letters to hundreds of businesses to solicit feedback on government regulations that they felt impede job creation. Today, he posted the submissions he received -- a collection of almost 2,000 pages from 160 industry groups, ranging from the American Meat Institute to the Chamber of Commerce.

Even with just a cursory scan of the documents, it's clear there's at least one government agency that industry wants reigned in, immediately: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than 100 responses point to EPA rules as an obstacle to job creation.

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Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, according to one advisor who told CNN: "We have definitely shifted gears, there is no question about that. He's running until he says he's not."

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The resignation of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) will provide an interesting political science test case -- for a new electoral system in California.

In a referendum held during last year's primary, California's voters approved Proposition 14, which replaced the conventional party primaries with a different system known as Top Two, which has already been in use in Washington state for the past few years. (A similar system has been used for a long time in Louisiana, sometimes called the "jungle primary," but Washington state's version was the model used for California -- and in fact, Louisiana has scrapped the use of the jungle primary for federal races.)

Under this system, which took effect in January this year, all candidates will appear on the same ballot, with their respective party labels next to their names, and the top two voter-getters advancing to the general election. This system allows for the possibility of two Democrats or two Republicans facing off in very safe districts, which is thought to benefit more moderate candidates, though in statewide races and swing districts there will likely be one Dem vs. one GOPer.

A key feature of California's implementation of this system is that in regularly-scheduled elections, there will be a second round regardless of whether somebody were to get over 50% of the vote in the primary. For a special election such as this one to fill Harman's seat, however, a candidate who wins over 50% in the first round will not face a runoff, but will be elected immediately.

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The American Muslim community knows that Islamic extremism is a threat -- and several panelists at a forum hosted by a Muslim-American group on Capitol Hill today said that a community policing approach in partnership with the intelligence community was the best way to counter radicalization.

"Law enforcement can neither go in alone or arrest its way out of this challenge," the Muslim Public Affairs Council's Alejandro J. Beutel said.

"Our heads aren't in the sand, the threat clearly exists," Beutel said. "The threat exists, but it is not a pandemic."

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