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Nearly two years after the Wall Street meltdown drove the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse, and forced the U.S. government to prop up major financial institutions with hundreds of billions of dollars, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now claims that the Bush Administration prohibited its own top officials who were handling the emerging crisis from briefing Congress until a complete financial collapse was only hours away.

In little-noticed statements to reporters over the last few weeks, Pelosi has alleged that the Bush administration knew well in advance of its intervention that the financial crisis would hit, and that Congress would need to authorize a historic and unpopular bailout - but that top officials, including then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, told her that they had been barred from briefing Congress about true extent of the crisis.

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A new CBS/New York Times poll finds that Americans have become more optimistic about the economy now than at any time during the recession.

The numbers: 41% say the economy is getting better, up from 33% in April. Only 15% say the economy is getting worse. President Obama's approval rating on the economy has also improved in this poll, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving -- Obama's highest rating since this past November. The sample of American adults has a margin of error of ±3%.

From CBS's analysis: "Most Democrats (77 percent) approve of the president's handling the economy, while most Republicans disapprove (86 percent). Independents are divided: 46 percent approve, while 45 percent disapprove. Last month, more independents disapproved than approved of how Mr. Obama was handling the economy."

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The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico, sparking a massive cleanup effort. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.

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The new Honolulu Advertiser poll shows that Democrats are in danger of losing a seemingly ultra-safe House seat in Hawaii, thanks to the state's quirky special election process.

The numbers: Republican Honolulu councilman Charles Djou 37%, Democratic former Rep. Ed Case 29% -- and another Democrat, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, with 22%. The sample of likely voters has a ±5.2% margin of error.

Hawaii special elections for the House do not function according to the usual rules in other states, where candidates either compete in separate party primaries, or the parties select their candidates through an internal party committee process. Instead, a single-round election is held in which all the candidates appear together on one ballot, and the plurality-winner takes the whole thing. The election is being conducted entirely by mail, and will end on May 22.

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With the final day of campaigning in the Indiana GOP Senate primary underway, the national Republican establishment seems headed to a rare victory over the forces of the tea party movement in the race to seize Sen. Evan Bayh's (D) Senate seat. There are actually five candidates running for the Republican nomination, but three have risen to dominate the race, and define the internal battle lines: former Sen. Dan Coats (who is the establishment pick), Rep. John Hostettler (who has the support of Ron Paul) and former state Rep. Marlin Stutzman (who is the tea party choice).

Based on money and recent polling, Coats seems poised to sweep the field -- a rare victory for the party mainstream that's still smarting from Gov. Charlie Crist's collapse in Florida and the conservative insurgency that looks like it might take out Sen. Bob Bennett (R) in Utah.

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It's no secret that Janet Napolitano is one of President Obama's favorite Cabinet members. But as her name continues to linger at the bottom of his Supreme Court shortlist, the fact that she's among the busiest in the administration is a signal she's unlikely to be chosen for a new job on the high court any time soon.

As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano has her hands full handling some of the administration's biggest priorities and crises. From immigration to oil spills to airline security and domestic terror threats, Napolitano's department is tasked with major initiatives that have her traveling the country and appearing frequently on television. Plus, DHS oversees FEMA, so she isn't a stranger to handling weather threats and working on the administration's Katrina rebuilding effort.

She was in Obama's final four last spring and remains on the list this year as he nears a decision to replacing retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Sources close to Obama have said she was chosen for her current spot -- after being considered for several others -- because of her long career in public service and her civil rights record. She's also a breast cancer survivor. These qualities all fit the bill for those empathetic characteristics Obama is seeking in a new justice, but selecting Napolitano is less certain because she's both needed and embroiled in many heated policy changes.

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The Minnesota Republican Party's official candidate to succeed Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is looking ahead to a 2012 run for President, is a staunch conservative well to Pawlenty's right who has a long history of "Tentherism," the attempts by the far right-wing to invoke the Tenth Amendment and nullify federal laws on various liberal initiatives. He has even proposed a state constitutional amendment that would allow federal laws to operate in Minnesota only if they were consented to by super-majorities of the state legislature.

State Rep. Tom Emmer picked up the official Republican endorsement at the party's convention this weekend, and he also walked away with the backing of Pawlenty himself. "We don't have any doubt about what Tom Emmer stands for or what his values are," Pawlenty said at the convention. "He is strong. He is steadfast. He is clear. ... He is going to be the next governor of the state of Minnesota." Emmer also has the support of Sarah Palin, who praised him just before the convention got underway as a "hockey dad" who once played for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks -- a move that may have been a tipping point, according to the Star-Tribune.

Emmer was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2004. Just this past March, he was a co-author of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would, to borrow the words of Nigel Tufnel, turn the Tenth Amendment all the way up to 11, with Minnesota preemptively nullifying all federal laws unless a state supermajority consents to them. Here is the key quote from the amendment's text: "A federal law does not apply in Minnesota unless that law is approved by a two-thirds vote of the members of each house of the legislature and is signed by the governor. Before voting to approve a federal law, each legislator must individually affirm that the legislator has read the federal law and understands it."

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Scott Lee Cohen, a pawnbroker who dropped out of the Illinois lieutenant governor race in February over allegations of domestic abuse and other scandals, announced today that he instead will run for governor as an independent.

The mostly unknown Cohen had won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor earlier this year, but his campaign was quickly thwarted by reports that he had been charged with domestic abuse in 2005 for allegedly holding a knife to his girlfriend's throat and slamming her head into a wall. He has also admitted to steroid abuse and his ex-wife, in divorce proceedings, claimed he had tried to sexually assault her.

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The new Muhlenberg poll of Pennsylvania gives Sen. Arlen Specter only a narrow lead in his Democratic primary against Rep. Joe Sestak, which is coming up on May 18.

The numbers: Specter 48%, Sestak 42%. The sample of likely Dem primary voters has a ±5% margin of error. The TPM Poll Average gives Specter a lead of 45.2%-34.0%, with some recent gains for Sestak due to his ad campaign in the home stretch of the primary.

Specter was first elected to the Senate as a Republican in 1980, and served as a moderate, socially liberal GOPer. He was challenged from the right for the GOP nomination in 2004 by then-Rep. Pat Toomey, and won by only a 51%-49% margin. Specter was a crucial vote to pass President Obama's stimulus package, and he then subsequently switched parties when polls showed he would lose a GOP primary rematch with Toomey. The White House and Democratic leadership promptly endorsed Specter for re-election, but Sestak soon got into the race pitching himself as the true Democrat.

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's ambitious and deeply conservative attorney general, has launched two new fronts in his right-wing crusade: one absurd, the other deeply troubling.

Absurdity first: Cuccinelli recently handed out to his staff lapel pins with a redesigned version of the state seal, which shows the Roman goddess Virtus, or virtue, the Virginian-Pilot reported over the weekend. In the usual version of the seal, Virtus's left breast is exposed. In Cuccinelli's version, it's covered up.

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