TPM News

Veterans and active-duty service members filed a federal lawsuit this week alleging that the Pentagon has turned a blind eye to a hostile military culture that has resulted in sexual harassment and rapes.

The lawsuit, filed by civil litigator Susan Burke in Virginia, notes that there's been an increase in reports of sexual abuse in the military and that Pentagon leadership hasn't done enough about it.

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Earlier this month, NASA's Kepler mission announced that it had discovered the first crop of Earth-sized planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. Five of those Earth-sized planets orbit stars similar to our own sun and have orbits that make it possible to have a range of surface temperatures similar to the range on Earth.

But how will we one day reach these next potential outposts for human life? The solar system's nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, sits 4.5 light years away. Voyager I, currently the farthest human-made object outside our solar system, will have to travel for another 50,000 years before it enters the neighborhood of the stars.

But worry not, space enthusiast, because DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already making plans for future interstellar travel.

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The release last week of the FBI file of the late Sen. Ted Stevens painted a colorful portrait of the long serving Alaska Republican. But noticeably absent from the file were documents from the federal corruption investigation that ended his political career. Not to worry -- the FBI says that part of the file is still in processing and will be released down the line.

An FBI spokesman told the Associated Press that the investigative files were still pending. The news service said it wasn't clear when the new investigative files would be released.

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The protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) proposals to roll back public employee unions rights are continuing Wednesday, with schools in the state capital Madison closing as the result of teachers calling in sick en masse.

Under Walker's plan, as TPM has previously posted, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn't rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index. Walker and state Republican leaders have said the plan is necessary to deal with the state's budget shortfall.

According to the Associated Press: "The proposal would effectively remove unions' right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt."

In Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal reports, School Superintendent Dan Nerad was forced to close the schools today after 40 percent out of 2,600 members of the teachers union called in sick. The teachers' move was spurred by Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews, who urged members to call in sick and instead attend a rally at the state Capitol.

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The White House isn't the only place where DNC chair Tim Kaine's future is being debated. Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also been courting Kaine to run for Senate in Virginia, now that Sen. Jim Webb (D) has retired.

According to Stein, Reid has "privately encouraged" Kaine to run in the race that would pit the former governor of Virginia against the winner of the Republican nomination fight currently led by former Sen. George Allen.

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As Egypt rides the "freedom-nami" toward a more democratic form of government, Stephen Colbert fretted whether American can really let Egyptians to choose their own leaders.

Speaking with guest Christiane Amanpour, Colbert asked how frightened he should be of the Muslim Brotherhood on a scale of nine to ten. His fear, stoked by reports on Fox News, was that Egyptians were either too untrustworthy -- or perhaps even genetically unable -- to handle democracy on their own, and he was concerned that they would elect leaders who might not always act in America's interests.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the national Tea Party star who is eyeing a possible run for President, really is opposing every initiative from the White House. In her latest comments, Bachmann slammed First Lady Michelle Obama's move as part of her physical fitness campaigns, plus decisions by the Obama administration proper, to promote breastfeeding.

The government has taken recent steps to promote breastfeeding, including a ruling last week by the Internal Revenue Service to declare breast pumps and other nursing supplies as medical tax deductions.

But this is one tax break that's not welcomed by Bachmann, as she said during an appearance Tuesday on the Laura Ingraham radio show.

"I've given birth to five babies, and I've breastfed every single one of these babies," Bachmann said. "To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies, I mean, you wanna talk about the nanny state -- I think you just got the new definition of the nanny state."

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Jon Stewart thinks conservatives should leave comedy to the comedians.

At last week's CPAC event, several speakers cracked jokes about President Obama's citizenship and policies -- or at least they tried to. After rolling clips of Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and others delivering quips to tepid applause, Stewart said that the jokes fell flat because they were really just inflammatory statements without punchlines.

"Those aren't even jokes," Stewart said. "You're just saying he wasn't born here."

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