TPM News

Hey, remember Terry Jones? I'm talking about the Florida pastor who took the news cycle hostage last summer by threatening to burn some holy books, an event which could have seriously hurt relations with the Muslim world as well as caused giant wild fires if the sparks managed to spread to Jones' moustache. Anyway, Jones had plans to take a trip to England to go to a rally decrying the expansion of Muslim mosques. Unfortunately for him, the British government ran up, snatched away his tickets, and said, "Dude, you have no trip to England!"

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President Obama's approval rating improved over the last few weeks, and now so too has his standing in hypothetical 2012 matchups with the leading GOP candidates, according to a new PPP poll.

In the poll, Obama increased his lead over several front runners for the Republican presidential nomination since PPP last polled the head-to-head matchups two months ago. He also easily topped a bonus candidate included in the survey, Michele Bachmann, who is reportedly considering a White House bid.

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is not being shy about his opposition to friendly relations with China. In an appearance Wednesday night on Parker-Spitzer, Rohrabacher was asked about his description of the country as "the world's worst human rights abuser." And he didn't back down.

Kathleen Parker asked Rohrabacher whether this language was the best way to start the state visit of Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

"It certainly is, when you're talking to a gangster. If you treat him like a nice guy, he's not gonna respect you at all. Our trouble is, we've been dealing with these people as if they're Englishmen or Belgians, or something like that, when in reality, this is a gangster regime that murders their own people, and should be treated in that way, or they won't respect us."

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Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) inched ahead of one of his top potential rivals in the key presidential caucus state of Iowa -- outspending Mitt Romney in contributions to candidates there in the final quarter of 2010.

The Star Tribune reports:

Pawlenty gave $34,000 to 19 politicians and organizations through his Iowa Freedom First political action committee, while Romney donated $16,000 with his PAC, according to Iowa campaign finance reports. Pawlenty also kept pace with Romney on the state fundraising front, raising $81,000 to Romney's $87,500.


One downside for Pawlenty: He has just $1,900 remaining in his Iowa account, while Romney still has $108,600 in the bank.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The 2012 GOPers: Ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)]

Stephen Colbert last night said Obama's lavish state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao might give China the wrong idea about America's debt issues.

"Is (Obama) crazy?" Colbert said. "President Hu knows full well that he's the one footing the bill for the duck pâté Lincoln Memorial. Think about it, if you're down on your luck, and you borrow a bunch of cash from your brother-in-law, you don't invite him over to check out your new 52-inch flat screen."

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Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), who got in some hot water this week for comparing the rhetorical tactics used by Republicans in the health care debate to those used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, issued a new statement Thursday expressing regret that his statement offended Jewish groups.

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Conservative House members on the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), have outlined a program they claim can cut $2.5 trillion in spending over the course of a decade. Like most major spending cut proposals, this one's not entirely rigorous. It relies principally on an aspirational spending cap -- specifically, limiting non-defense appropriations totals to their 2006 levels without adjusting for inflation. In other words, it punts the question of what to cut to future Congresses, which could just as easily bust the cap.

That accounts for nearly $2.3 trillion of the projected cuts. But the plan also calls for a host of specific cuts to make up the remaining few hundred billion dollars.

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-AZ) husband Mark Kelly today said he's "extremely hopeful" Giffords will make a full recovery after the mass shooting in Tucson almost two weeks ago.

"I mean, she is a fighter like nobody else that I know," Kelly said during a press conference. "I am extremely confident that she's going to be back here, and back at work soon."

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A bomb found along the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., on Monday was a sophisticated device with the potential to devastate, an official on the case tells the AP.

"They haven't seen anything like this in this country," the official said. "This was the worst device, and most intentional device, I've ever seen."

The official also said the device was rigged to a remote detonator.

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