TPM News

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the fiery Irishman who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, may have attracted a rash of criticism for holding one of his first hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims and homegrown terrorism, but his decision to hire a respected New York scribe as a top staffer is a sign he is serious about truly digging into holes in the nation's counter-terrorism programs and policies.

King has tapped James Gordon Meek, an eight-year veteran of the New York Daily News and a respected reporter on the terrorism beat, to join the committee staff as a senior investigator.

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Though Americans are still deeply divided over the health care law, a clear majority disapprove of a Republican plan to choke off funding for it, according to a new CBS poll.

In the poll, 55% of respondents said they oppose the plan to block health care funding, while only 35% said they support that proposal.

Having failed in their efforts to repeal the law outright, some Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have suggested scuttling President Obama's signature achievement through the legislature's power to appropriate funds. By blocking funding for some of the law's provisions, Congress could in effect cancel out pieces of the law without actually repealing them.

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Now that President Obama has threatened to veto the House's spending legislation, things will really heat up.

As House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D_MD) reminded reporters yesterday, President Clinton drew some bright lines himself during the budget fight in late 1995 -- and we all know how that one ended. And House Republicans are set to add a bunch of riders to the spending package, which will make it even more toxic to Democrats.

One way out of this for House Republicans would be to set up back-channel negotiations with Senate leadership and the White House and basically take the ball out of the hands of rank-and-file conservatives who want to undermine the administration in unacceptable ways.

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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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