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As Congress and the country lurch toward an August 2nd deadline for defaulting on its debt, President Obama issued an urgent plea for party leaders to put aside their differences and forge a compromise to raise the nation's borrowing limits and rescue the country from the brink of economic calamity.

"The time for putting party first is over and the time for compromise on behalf of the American people is now," Obama said in a mid-morning address Friday. "For for all the intrigue and drama taking place on Capitol Hill, I'm confident that cooler heads will prevail."

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just can't wait any longer. In a frustrated speech on the Senate floor Friday morning, Reid promised to file cloture on his compromise bill to raise the debt ceiling today, before the House GOP (maybe) finishes cobbling together support for Speaker Boehner's plan.

"This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default," Reid said.

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Jon Stewart Thursday night took on a colorful detail to come out of Congress' debt ceiling negotiations. House Republicans, whipping support for Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) debt limit plan, used a clip from the Ben Affleck bank heist movie "The Town" to rally the troops.

The clip shows Affleck's character asking for a friend's aid in order to "hurt some people."

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On Tuesday, federal officials concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to link cases of cancer in 9/11 first responders to the duties they performed at Ground Zero. Consequently, the bill providing health care to the responders will not include coverage for cancer treatments. On tonight's Daily Show, Jon Stewart, who has long advocated for the bill's passage, made no secret of his anger over the news.

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Imagine that every time Detroit wanted to build a new car, they'd skip the step of a blueprint.

Instead, they'd task each of their departments--the steering wheel engineers, the body designers, the tire makers--to make random changes. Then they'd combine all those new products in thousands of random ways, and see which resulting car crashed the least. It sounds crazy, but that's what synthetic biologists have historically done when they want to design a new living cell. They'd make random changes and see which cell does the desired job the best.

Now, a computer program has added some order to the process. It doesn't quite create a blueprint for a cell, but it lets synthetic biologists predict ahead of time how a cellular product will be made.

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Before there was the war over the debt ceiling, there was the unending Democratic attack over Republican plans to change Medicare. In Wisconsin, that old fight is still raging as the recall elections approach - and progressives are firing a massive new salvo.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are launching a new, $150,000 television buy against state Sen. Alberta Darling (R), who Democrats hope to depose with state Rep. Sandy Pasch (D). The buy will also continue an existing spot the coalition is running against state Sen. Luther Olsen (R). Both recall elections will be held Aug. 9.

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Rachel Maddow's career is over. At least that's what Larry Klayman -- the lawyer for controversial preacher Bradlee Dean, and founder of Freedom Watch -- said will come of a lawsuit filed against Maddow and MSNBC.

Bradlee Dean, a conservative preacher who is known for his incendiary, anti-homosexual rehetoric, and his ministry are seeking damages in excess of $50 million from Maddow and MSNBC for slander and false light.

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Maybe it's the epic scale of Congress' debt limit fight or just politicians' natural geekiness coming out, but the last week is producing more fantasy and science fiction references than a Kevin Smith movie.

The Wall Street Journal got the ball rolling with a Lord Of The Rings themed editorial comparing Tea Partiers to Frodo and the gang:

"The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the Tea Party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor."

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It's fair to say that if they're not paying attention already, the debt ceiling crisis will likely be on the minds of Americans this weekend as the August 2nd deadline for default draws nigh. And as they tune in, a coalition of labor groups hope to use a new TV ad campaign to remind Americans of their side of the story.

The coalition -- made up of AFSCME, SEIU, the NEA and Americans United For Change -- has dropped ads on eight states targeting Republican politicians over the debt ceiling crisis, which seems destined to drag on until the bitter end -- or maybe after, taking the nation into default. The message from labor: "If the Social Security checks, veterans' benefits, military pay Americans are counting on don't arrive after August 2, thank Republicans in Congress."

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