TPM News

Retired journalist Helen Thomas reignited the controversy regarding her views about Jews and Israel last week at an Arab-American workshop in Dearborn, Michigan. Thomas, who was forced to apologize and retire last spring after saying Jews "should get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home," said in a speech last week that "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists."

In response, Wayne State University announced it would end the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award.

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Bryan Fischer, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the conservative Christian group the American Family Association, wrote on his blog this week that gays -- not Julian Assange -- are responsible for the thousands of government documents released by Assange's WikiLeaks.

More specifically, Fischer assumes that the alleged WikiLeaks source Private Bradley Manning was "at minimum" seriously confused about his sexuality. He then really stretches things when he suggests that Manning leaked the documents to wage war on the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

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Attorneys for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) faced off in state court today against the legal team of Republican nominee Joe Miller, in Miller's attempts to defeat Murkowski's write-in campaign. No ruling will come immediately today, but is expected to come by Friday.

As KTUU, the local NBC affiliate in Anchorage, reports:

Miller argues that write-in votes must name "Lisa Murkowski," exactly as her name appears on her declaration of candidacy, to be counted.

Murkowski's lawyers, who have intervened in the lawsuit, turned to a dictionary for their argument and say the word "appears" means "seems to be" and therefore allows elections officials to assume voter intent.

The state's attorney, Joanne Grace, agreed and says Miller's "standard of perfection" clearly disenfranchises voters.

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President Obama this afternoon signed a law funding two major legal settlements for black farmers and American Indians who were discriminated against by the federal government.

The Pigford II settlement, worth $1.25 billion, will pay claims made by black farmers that they were discriminated against by the Department of Agriculture in the 1980s and 1990s, when the department denied them loans and other assistance. The Cobell settlement, worth $3.4 billion, is for American Indians whose land trusts and oil and gas rights were mismanaged by the federal government, which withheld royalties.

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Here's what Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that she needs to support a full Senate debate on the defense authorization bill (the vehicle for Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal): 15 guaranteed votes on amendments (10 for Republicans, and 5 for Democrats), and somewhere around four days to debate the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already promised her the 15 amendments, but his initial offer was for a day or two of debate. Here's her response to reporters tonight, after a Senate vote.

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The prospect of a vote moving Don't Ask, Don't Tell one step closer to being repealed in the Senate tonight is sending the vehemently anti-repeal Family Research Council into a bit of a tizzy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to call for a cloture vote on the defense spending bill that includes a repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service -- possibly sometime this evening -- and the FRC is firing up its phone banks in response.

"Call your Senators today," an "Action Alert" email sent this afternoon by the FRC reads, "and tell them to stop using the military to impose this Administration's radical anti-life/pro-homosexual agenda."

The FRC, a leader in conservative social politics, has led some of the most ardent opposition to repealing DADT. The action alert email tonight could signal that the group is worried that the end of the fight is near -- and that it's not ending the way they hoped.

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A day after President Barack Obama's White House's compromise with Republicans on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, Sen.-elect Rand Paul almost had a compliment for the president.

"I actually think that President Obama is going to turn out to be fairly pragmatic with the new Republican Congress," Paul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview to be broadcast later.

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Antonio Martinez, a 21-year-old from Baltimore who recently converted to Islam, went to his Facebook page on Sept. 29 and reportedly fired off a public posting calling for violence to stop the oppression of Muslims.

"The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease inshallah ta'ala YA muslimeen! don't execept the free world we are slaves of the Most High and never forget it!" Martinez wrote, according to an FBI affidavit.

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President Obama has been calling Senators on both sides of the debate over Don't Ask, Don't Tell to urge them to vote for a repeal of the military's ban on openly gay military service. Obama, who made repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell a highlight of his campaign and a policy aim after his State Of The Union address, has been a central part of the negotiations with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to get to cloture on the defense spending bill that includes the DADT repeal and, TPM confirms, he's been calling other senators on behalf of repeal as well.

"The President has been reaching out to Senators from both sides of the aisle to reiterate his desire to see Congress pass the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' during the lame duck," White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told TPM.

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Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the oldest member of Congress, was officially confirmed as the next chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

The Texas representative is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry and has voiced his support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The League of Conservation Voters has given him a zero-percent rating every year since 2004 due to his positions and votes on environmental issues.

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