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The country of Afghanistan, despite heavy U.S. military presence for nearly a decade, has remained in many respects out of reach of American military power. That's what makes the overthrow of the government in nearby Kyrgyzstan last week so vexing for the U.S. government.

Kyrgyzstan is home to the only American military base in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, a base which the U.S. relies on to send troops and supplies into Afghanistan as the war there rages on.

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R-MN) Freedom First PAC announced over the weekend that they raised $566,000 in the first quarter of 2010, and that the potential presidential candidate's committee has over $911,000 in cash on hand.

This amount was less than half of what Pawlenty raised in the previous quarter, when Pawlenty officially launched the PAC. As such, the press release led the announcement by saying that the PAC "raised over $1.84 million in its first six months."

Phil Musser, senior advisor for the Freedom First PAC, said in the press release: "Between his work for the RGA, the PAC, and the many events for state parties, Tim Pawlenty is moving the needle in terms of helping Republicans prepare to win this fall."

Charlie Crist has a new attack ad in the Florida Republican Senate primary, which will be held on August 24, attempting to tie his rival Marco Rubio to a state-level scandal involving Rubio's successor as state House Speaker, the now-indicted state Rep. Ray Sansom.

"Rubio was Speaker, 'Sansom was Rubio's handpicked budget chief.' The ultimate insiders," the announcer says. "Both steered millions of taxpayer money into two colleges -- then received cushy jobs from the colleges.

"The scandal unfolds. Sansom indicted, Rubio subpoenaed. Marco Rubio -- it's not just what we know, it's what we don't know ... yet."

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April 9, 2010: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement this morning, after serving on the Court for 34 years. We look back at some picture-worthy moments of his career.

Stevens visits with President Obama and Vice President Biden during a presidential visit to the Supreme Court in Jan 2009.From left, Obama, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, David Souter and Biden.

Newscom/Rapport Press

Stevens was a captain on University High School's 1937 "lightweight" basketball team. He won its season opener with a last-minute shot.

University of Chicago

Stevens (right) played forward and was a captain on the 1936 University High soccer team.

University of Chicago

Stevens's 1941 class portrait.

University of Chicago

Stevens (right) was chosen to lead the Grand March of the 1941 Washington Prom, which was held downtown at the Palmer House.

University of Chicago

Stevens (back row, third from right) was part of the Psi Upsilon fraternity while at the University of Chicago.

University of Chicago

Stevens with then President Gerald Ford (left), and Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger (center) in December 1975.

Newscom/Upi photos

Stevens at a Burr Ridge Illinois park named in his honor in May 1985. To his left are his grandchildren, Edward and Susie Jedlick. To his right is Robert Steinke, left, who came up with the winning name for the park.

Newscom/Krt photos

Stevens speaks at the University of Chicago Law School during a 1991 Bill of Rights symposium.

University of Chicago Law School

Stevens speaks with Edward Levi, former University of Chicago president and dean of the Law School, at a Law School conference in 1991. Levi recommended Stevens for the Court in 1975, when Levi was serving as U.S. Attorney General.

University of Chicago Law School

Supreme Court Justices, (from front) Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer file down the steps of the Supreme Court before Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's funeral procession in September 2005.

Newscom/Upi photos

Stevens swears in Roberts in September 2005.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (left) and Stevens walk down the steps of the Supreme Court after Roberts's investiture ceremony in October 2005.

Newscom/Upi photos

Stevens at Roberts's swearing in ceremony, with former President George W. Bush and Jane Roberts in September 2005.

Newscom/Wenn photos

Stevens at Obama's inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in January 20 2009.

Newscom/Bsp photos

Stevens at a welcoming ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the White House in August 2009.

Newscom/Upi photos

Sue Lowden, a former Nevada GOP chair currently seeking the Republican nomination in the June 8 primary to run against Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, has detailed some of her alternative recommendations for health care policy: Encourage people to save as much money as they can in tax-free health savings accounts -- the number she mentioned was $20,000 -- and to barter with their doctors.

At a candidate forum this past Tuesday in Mesquite, Nevada, Lowden was asked what she would have done instead of the Democrats' health care bill. Lowden's message was generally deregulatory in nature, pointing to the ideas of interstate insurance policies and the legalization of stripped-down "mandate-free" policies. "I would have also allowed for us to have savings plans increase instead of being decreased like in this bill," said Lowden. "I would have said to all of you, if you have a health savings account, I don't really care how much you save, good for you. pre-tax, go ahead and save as much as you want. It's your -- it's for your health. And if you want to save $20,000, good for you. Save it pre-tax."

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The AFL-CIO is throwing its weight into the Hawaii First District special election, actively backing state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in a new pair of mailers -- and going further by attacking the other Democrat in the race, former Rep. Ed Case.

The mailers target two key union demographics, warning them of the dire consequences that the union says Case's positions would mean for them. Public employees are told of "layoffs," "cutting pensions" and other negative developments, while longshore workers are told: "Ed Case Will Put Your Job AT RISK."

This special election was caused by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who wanted to focus full time on his campaign for governor. The race has seen a potentially crucial split in Democratic support. It has been widely reported that the DCCC is unofficially backing Case, who enters the race with very high name recognition from unsuccessful but very close Democratic primary campaigns for governor in 2002 and a 2006 primary challenge against incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka. Meanwhile, the state Democratic establishment -- as embodied by Akaka and Hawaii's senior Senator Daniel Inouye -- are backing Hanabusa.

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An online news outlet in New York state has obtained dozens of emails, many of them racist and sexually graphic, which it reports were sent by Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of New York, to a long list of political and business associates. One email shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal," while another depicts hardcore bestiality.

Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo, would not comment on specific emails, but acknowledged to TPMmuckraker that Paladino had sent emails that were "off-color" and "politically incorrect," saying that few such emails represented the candidate's own opinion. Caputo accused Democrats of wanting to change the subject from substantive issues to "having sex with horses."

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The attorney general in Montana won't be suing the federal government over health care reform, charging that GOP requests to do so are just political theater. The Republicans say he's the one playing politics.

As the state lawsuits -- driven in every case but one by Republican officials -- over the new health care reform law pop up across the country, GOPers want in on the action. After being asked to join the suit, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) penned a letter to House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Sales (R) and state Sen. Robert Story (R) saying no way.

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The battle for health care reform brought out both the best and the worst in the tea party movement, according to activists. On the plus side, the conservative insurgency showed it could dominate the political dialogue and influence decision-making on both sides of the aisle. Activists say that shows tea partiers are becoming wiser and more seasoned politically.

But the health care debate also exposed rifts and deep vulnerabilities with in the tea party movement that could stop its path toward mainstream acceptance. Violent rhetoric and racial overtones in protests spilled over into actual death threats, property damage and the hurling of slurs. Whether or not the suspects in those incidents are actually tea partiers, movement leaders seem worried that they play into progressive arguments that the tea parties are just a new wrapping on right-wing extremism.

Now, with the movement's annual Tax Day Tea Party approaching, tea parties are actively trying to show that the sterotypes aren't true -- one more aware of the limelight shining on it.

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