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Everyone seems pretty upset right now with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) over their botched "Fast and Furious" program. Agents allegedly watched as suspected "straw purchasers" bought weapons they intended to give to Mexican drug cartels. So Democrats have a crazy idea: maybe buying weapons for drug cartels should be, you know, illegal.

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by Kim Barker, ProPublica

Last month, Craig Taffaro Jr., the president of Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish, lambasted a ProPublica story while testifying before a congressional committee.

The story, published in April, described how some local powerbrokers and others, aided in part by Taffaro, cashed in after the BP oil spill, winning lucrative jobs related to the cleanup effort and earning the nickname "spillionaires." The story also showed how some who profited from the spill then donated to Taffaro's campaign. On June 2, Taffaro told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the story was "a hatchet job" with "no factual data."

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The White House is dismissing House Republicans' decision to take time out from serious debt talk negotiations to vote on a conservative plan called "Cut, Cap and Balance," ridiculing the measure as "Duck, Dodge And Dismantle."

House Republicans on Tuesday plan to consider the measure, which would slash spending, impose a statutory cap to keep spending below 18 percent of GDP and ensure a follow-up vote on a Constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance its budget every year without any tax increases.

The bill also would raise the debt ceiling - an attempt to insulate House Republicans from charges that they are wreaking havoc on the economy by refusing to support an increase on the nation's borrowing limits that includes a tax increase of any kind.

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Microsoft on Monday offered a $250,000 bounty to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrest of the minds behind the notorious spamming operation known as the Rustock botnet.

"This reward offer stems from Microsoft's recognition that the Rustock botnet is responsible for a number of criminal activities and serves to underscore our commitment to tracking down those behind it," wrote Richard Boscovich, Microsoft's senior attorney in its digital crimes unit, in a Monday blog post. "While the primary goal for our legal and technical operation has been to stop and disrupt the threat that Rustock has posed for everyone affected by it, we also believe the Rustock bot-herders should be held accountable for their actions."

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David VanderLeest, the Republican candidate in Tuesday's Wisconsin recall election against Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen, is clearly irritated about press coverage regarding revelations about his personal finances and reports of domestic violence (which included a plea of no-contest to two charges of disorderly conduct). So much so, that VanderLeest has announced that he intends to sue Democrats for slander.

As the Green Bay Press Gazette reports: "While VanderLeest said he planned to sue for slander, the alleged violations -- including airing TV ads and sending mailers that defame him -- would constitute as libel, not slander."

VanderLeest made a statement to the press, and released a document entitled "Transcript" from the event, though it contains shorthand that one might make in a rush transcription before reformatting with the full words. Key quote:

False accusations have plagued this campaign. False slander Chicago style mob politics must stop in WI. The buck stops here. We are not going to allow these tactics to destroy tangible debates on real issues which face WI. The people will stand not for it, and neither will I. I truth is I was never found guilt of Domestic Violence in the State of WI. I was given primary care of my child in a messy divorce, and was never found guilty of abusing anyone. For these reasons I will be filling a slander lawsuit against Friends of Dave Hansen, DLCC, Greater WI Political Fund, We are WI, Politiscoop, The Green Bay Progressive, and One WI Now.

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In another twist in the News Of The World scandal, a former reporter for the tabloid who initially alleged that editor Andy Coulson knew about the practice of phone hacking by his staff, was reportedly found dead Monday.

The Guardian reports that though police wouldn't confirm the identity of the man found dead, it is believed to be Sean Hoare, formerly of NOTW and The Sun, who worked under Coulson but was fired for alcohol and drug problems in 2005. According to the police report, "the death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing."

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To understand why Republicans won't raise the debt limit until after they hold a symbolic vote on a plan to squeeze the government down to a size that would require it to gut popular entitlement programs, it's important to realize it's not just because of the political perks. Powerful conservative interest groups are demanding they vote for it. And at the same time they're warning the GOP against voting for the only viable option currently on the table for avoiding a catastrophic debt default.

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Tuesday, the House of Representatives will vote on, and likely pass, a conservative Republican plan called "Cut, Cap, and Balance." The package will include some immediate, as-yet unspecified spending cuts, a statutory cap to keep spending below 18 percent of GDP, and a promised separate vote on a Constitutional amendment that requires Congress to maintain a balanced budget, but essentially forbids any future tax increases.

It would also raise the debt ceiling through 2012 -- an ancillary benefit for Republicans who are looking for any way to pin the consequences of a debt default, should one happen, on Democrats. Indeed, the GOP feigned shock and anger Monday when the White House, as expected, issued an official veto threat -- turns out President Obama's the one threatening to wreak havoc on the country.

Of course, later in the week, the Senate will follow suit, and there Cut, Cap, and Balance is expected to fail.

For Republicans, it's the perfect alignment of popular sounding policies -- "spending cuts" a "balanced budget" and, finally, an end to this debt limit brinksmanship -- minus the a scintilla of accountability or transparency. And for Republicans trying to make nice with conservative activists, it will give them cover to later vote for a much more modest plan to cut some spending, raise the debt limit, avoid default. But the details have been intentionally obscured by most conservatives, and they reveal the plan to be the most radical fiscal policy the GOP has aligned behind in years -- one that makes the Republican's current budget proposal to phase out Medicare appear moderate by comparison.

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Tuesday is the general election for one race in the Wisconsin state Senate recalls. And now a new Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Democratic incumbent Dave Hansen set to steamroll his Republican opponent -- thanks at least in part to some Republican blunders in the nomination of that particular candidate.

The numbers: Dave Hansen 62%, Republican nominee David VanderLeest 34%. The poll of 1,301 likely voters was conducted from July 15-17, and has a ±2.7% margin of error.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's district rankings show, this district voted for Scott Walker for governor in 2010 by a margin of 53.5%-44.9% -- but before that, it voted for Barack Obama for president by 56.5%-42.1%. So this area does have the potential swing around, depending on turnout.

In a way, VanderLeest's showing in this poll seems like an impressive, automatic Republican vote for a candidate who has been plagued by questions about his fitness for office, after revelations about his personal finances and reports of domestic violence (which included a plea of no-contest to two charges of disorderly conduct). VanderLeest also recently distinguished himself with the quote: "None of it's true. I don't smoke rocks, and that's the truth."

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