TPM News

by Adrianne Jeffries

When entrepreneur Eamonn Carey started talking about building a Kabul travel guide iPhone application, everyone - friends, family, potential sponsors, the Afghanistan Tourist Office - thought he was joking. "The initial reaction was one of total surprise in almost every instance," he said.

But Carey and his business partner Conor Purcell were completely serious. Kabul has robust 3G coverag, because of the reconstruction money from the military, NGOs, and the return of wealthy expatriated Afghanis. BlackBerrys, Nokias, iPhones and Android phones are abundant, and download speeds are fast, Carey said.

A Kabul app wouldn't -- and clearly couldn't -- just be for tourists, according to Carey, so it will feature maps, news, security tips, updates on roadblocks and checkpoints -- as well as the usual suggestions for hotels and things to do. They expect that troops, aid workers, diplomats and contractors stationed in Kabul could use the app -- and their families and friends at home could download it to get a glimpse of daily Kabul life. People in the U.S. and other countries -- where Kabul has been in the news since the Afghanistan war began a decade ago -- might download the app out of curiosity.

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Updated 7:22 p.m. ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) finally yielded the Senate floor Friday evening after nearly nine hours of speaking against the Obama tax cut plan. He was spelled briefly by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) but otherwise had the floor to himself for the bulk of a day when there was no other Senate business pending.

Original Story:

About three hours ago, just as he took the Senate floor, Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) staff, tweeted: "You can call what i am doing today whatever you want, you it [sic] call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech..."

And he's been speaking, almost uninterrupted, ever since.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Block That Bill! A History Of The Filibuster]

It's a filibuster as filibusters were originally intended -- and, as such, makes a mockery of what the filibuster's become: a gimmick that allows a minority of senators to quietly impose supermajority requirements on any piece of legislation.

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A grand jury in Troy, N.Y., is investigating allegations that city officials blatantly colluded to commit voter fraud by forging ballots in the 2009 Working Families Party primary for local and county elections.

The grand jury has subpoenaed some 14 witnesses, according to local news reports. The witnesses, who testified this week, included residents whose names were used on absentee ballots in the primary but who say they never requested an absentee ballot nor voted.

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Despite an investigation this week by USA Today that showed federal prosecutors are unlikely to be fired even when investigators conclude that they committed prosecutorial misconduct, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Office of Professional Responsibility is up to its task.

"I think OPR does a real good job," Holder said in response to a question from TPM. "The overwhelming majority of federal prosecutors in this country handle themselves in appropriate ways."

"You can find a few instances where mistakes have occurred and people have been disciplined, but people who represent the United States on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice do so honorably and do so within the rules," Holder added.

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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are so exasperated by President Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans that they're offering up their own progressive-friendly proposal -- and lashing out at the White House.

At a press conference today, CBC members basically said they didn't believe Obama will be able roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest in the midst of a presidential election year. Obama has said he'll fight for the an expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans after the two-year extension contained in his deal.

"We've already established the principle that failure to extend tax cuts amounts to a tax increase," Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who authored the CBC's alternative plan, said, pointing to the conservative rhetoric of the past year. "If we can't cut them off now, what is the chance that we'll be able to 'increase taxes' in the middle of a presidential and congressional election?

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A very large number of political pundits and reporters have spent the last week demonstrating that they don't agree at all on the definition of the word "triangulation." That and, in some cases, that they don't understand basic geometry.

To me there's a very short version of this story. President Obama did very publicly this week what Rahm Emanuel and other unnamed aides in his administration have been doing for a long time now. There isn't too much difference, descriptively, between Obama calling some Democrats sanctimonious, and anonymous officials taunting the AFL for backing Bill Halter in Arkansas. Presumably, Obama's been trying to distance himself from the ugly and confusing rancor on Capitol Hill, but realizes he can only accomplish that if he makes a big show of it. Quiet leaks to Beltway reporters won't get him very far.

That ticked a lot of people off. It also made him approximately the 44th president who's tried to do this.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has expressed his hope that litigation in the Alaska Senate race -- where Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's apparent victory as a write-in candidate is being challenged by the Tea Party-backed GOP nominee Joe Miller -- ends soon and the state has full representation in the Senate. Hmm...

As Roll Call reports:

"We just have to be patient and wait for the judge to decide," said Cornyn, a former judge. "I understand that could be as early as [Thursday], and I hope it doesn't go on much longer because I think the people of Alaska deserve to have a Senator when we reconvene again in January, and not still have that up in the air."

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David Letterman and Bill O'Reilly assessed a number of potential 2012 presidential candidates on the Late Show last night, disagreeing over whether Sarah Palin will end up running.

Letterman acknowledged Palin could raise the necessary money to run, but he's not convinced she'll do it. "She knows that the second a person puts their hand on the bible and takes the oath of office, the stock starts to drop," he said.

"I disagree," O'Reilly said, adding that she could be a viable candidate.

They both agreed, however, that it would be entertaining if she did ... and good for both of their shows.

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A Florida doctor who raised millions of dollars for Republicans and advised Gov. Charlie Crist pleaded guilty Thursday to tax fraud, mail fraud and making false statements for his role in a fraud scheme involving lobbying and fundraising for political candidates and organizations.

Alan Mendelsohn admitted that he and his co-conspirators siphoned approximately $330,000 from the political entities -- both directly in the form of third-party payments -- for Mendelsohn's benefit from 2003 through 2008, according to the Justice Department.

Some of that money was used to buy a love-nest for him and his mistress, as well as a car for the mistress, prosecutors had charged. Mendelsohn also admitted to failing to report $82,000 in political donations that he secretly gave to a former state senator. All in all, Mendelsohn underreported his taxable income by over $600,000, said DOJ.

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Sarah Palin is now getting on the conservative bandwagon to oppose the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan -- which of course, already failed to receive the approval of a supermajority of the commission itself. And along the way, she's bringing back her greatest hit from the health care debate: The Death Panels!

As Palin writes in a new guest column in the Wall Street Journal:

Not only does it leave ObamaCare intact, but its proposals would lead to a public option being introduced by the backdoor, with the chairmen's report suggesting a second look at a government-run health-care program if costs continue to soar.

It also implicitly endorses the use of "death panel"-like rationing by way of the new Independent Payments Advisory Board--making bureaucrats, not medical professionals, the ultimate arbiters of what types of treatment will (and especially will not) be reimbursed under Medicare.

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