TPM News

A team of researchers from University of Toronto Engineering is developing a way to manufacture inexpensive solar cells in the form of a paint-on coating.

The new paintable solar cell could be applied to a variety of surfaces, including building materials. It could also be used to run portable electronic devices such as laptops.

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While the federal government has been playing chicken with U.S. credit, liberal academics -- and even some Democratic members of Congress -- have begun questioning whether the legislative branch actually has the power under the Constitution to force the federal government to default on its debts.

Their argument rests on a unique reading of the fourth section of the 14th Amendment, which seemingly forbids Congress from preventing the country from paying what it owes: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law...shall not be questioned."

It's an interpretation that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called "crazy talk," and that President Obama refused to comment on at a recent press conference.

But even if it's correct, and even though Republicans are holding the debt ceiling hostage to unpopular conservative legislative priorities, it's not a step the administration wants to take, or would be able to take lightly.

Conversations with experts indicate that the president would likely need one of the most powerful offices in the government to agree with this view before they could blow past the debt limit. And even if Obama got the go-ahead, the White House would have to be prepared for epic political and legal battles with the GOP, which would no doubt follow if Obama took such drastic action.

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Ethics experts say the House still has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to its handling of the corruption case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) last fall, which resulted in partisan backbiting, deep mistrust between Republicans and Democrats on the panel and the suspension of the lead attorney and an assistant a week before the matter was set to go to public trial.

The ethics panel has been at a virtual standstill for eight months since its internal dissension exploded onto the headlines of political publications and the Washington Post in early December. On Friday the panel announced it was extending separate investigations into Reps. Greg Meeks (D-NY), Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and two aides, but a source said the committee was forced to continue those probes because it had yet to begin looking into the matters in earnest.

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The proverbial noose seems to be tightening around the neck of Libyan despot Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Turkey is the latest nation to recognize Libya's rebel movement as the country's legitimate representatives. Since Turkey had at one point tried to set itself up as a potential honest broker between the two sides, this closes down yet another avenue for Qaddafi.

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Michele Bachmann courted evangelical Christian voters in Iowa over the weekend, urging a church congregation to pray for God to heal the country from its sins. It seems, then, she's presenting herself as the sort of religious-based candidate who could be a good fit for a state where former governor and minister Mike Huckabee won the Republican caucuses in 2008.

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It's taken as an article of faith in D.C. that government has gotten too big, spending is out of control, and Washington has to tighten its belt, just like everybody else. Even President Obama takes this view.

This has meant no small consequences for the federal budget. In the spring, Republicans launched an effort to slash tens of billions of dollars from non-defense discretionary programs -- money the government approves every year to pay for social services and other programs -- from the federal budget. That campaign almost ended in a government shutdown.

That same sliver of the budget is again under attack in the fight over whether to raise the national debt limit. Republicans want to reduce overall domestic spending and cap it for years going forward, so it can't exceed a set level. That means as time goes on, the population grows, and the cost of goods and services increases, the government will be spending less and less on the people who rely on these programs over time.

But a close look at the numbers reveals a few important, and frequently overlooked facts. Domestic discretionary spending is a small sliver of the budget. Our deficit and debts can be traced to the fact that spending on entitlement programs and defense has shot up, and tax revenues have plummeted to their lowest level in decades. But spending on domestic discretionary programs has grown much more slowly. And, if you correct for inflation, and for growing population, it turns out we're spending exactly the same amount on these programs as we were a full decade ago.

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Fox News is reeling from an apparent hack of their Twitter account, after messages were posted in the very early a.m. hours purporting to break the (false) news that President Obama had been assassinated.

According to the tweets, Obama had just been shot by an unknown assailant while campaigning at a restaurant in Iowa, and died from the wounds. However, Obama was not in Iowa at all this past weekend, as evidenced by both the White House's public schedule and an absence of any available news reports showing him in the state -- and it would also be odd for him to have been campaigning at an Iowa restaurant after midnight.

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