TPM News

By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

In the past year, we've put the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid through an extensive set of test-drives, resulting in our first drive report, winter test-drive, financial analysis and even a family vacation.

With so many miles behind the wheel, our editorial team has already shared our five things we love about Toyota's first plug-in hybrid.

But now it's time to share the things we're not so fond of - its limited EV range: the way the charger heats up the cabin; the lack of charge timer; lost luggage space; and lackluster performance.

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A fight is brewing on the right, between anti-tax zealots and big military types over who takes the next hit in the continuing fight over deficits. The prospect excites progressives, who see a rare opportunity to force the GOP to slaughter one of their sacred cows, and rip the party apart in the process.

But the left is poised for a similar internal battle.

The tensions on both sides of the aisle were set in motion by the debt deal, which created a powerful, bipartisan deficit committee tasked with finding over $1 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. If it gridlocks, though, it will trigger automatic spending cuts, including about half a billion dollars from defense.

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The House Ethics Committee has cleared Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY) of charges that he took out an inappropriate loan he received from a businessman but is still investigating whether he disclosed it properly.

Likewise, the panel exonerated Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) of any wrongdoing in accepting $500,000 in legal services from the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund, a Turkish-American interest group, even though they found them to be improper gifts under House rules and are demanding she repay the attorneys. The committee also decided against pursuing an investigation into Rep. Luis Guiterrez' July 26 arrest during a immigration protest in front of the White House. Guiterrez paid a $100 fine for failing to obey a lawful order of a policeman.

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The US government, in between hours spent squabbling over the price of a cheese sandwich, has ordered a bunch of refurbished M88A2 HERCULES ARVs, also known as tanks that tow other tanks -- and other big stuff too.
Based on the previous-generation M60 Patton tank, the M88 HERCULES (Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Life Evacuation System) is a tracked armored recovery vehicle with the power and equipment to pull any U.S. armed forces vehicle out of trouble -- and that includes the 70-ton M1 Abrams battle tank. It even carries a hoist and boom with a 35-ton capacity, for engine swaps in the field. The upgraded M88A2 went into production in 1994.

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FOX Nation drew some howls of derision for referring to President Obama's birthday bash as a "Hip Hop BBQ" on its website, complete with a picture of Jay-Z, Chris Rock, and Charles Barkley for emphasis. To commemorate the occasion, TPM started #HipHopBBQActs to suggest some grill-themed performers and Twitter users quickly generated thousands of ideas. Here are some of the best.

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Rick Santorum is continuing his staunch opposition to gay rights -- warning that courts have created a "super-right" to sex, which overrides the constitutional right of religious freedom.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register's editorial board, Santorum claimed that same-sex marriage was a threat to religious liberty, alleging for example that government could threaten the licenses of marriage counselors who don't treat gay couples.

"Religious liberty is now trumped because we have now created a super-right," said Santorum. "We have a right [in] the Constitution of religious liberty but now the courts have created a super-right that's above a right that's actually in the Constitution, and that's of sexual liberty. And I think that's a wrong, that's a destructive element."

Also, the paper reports: "Santorum says if 'pursuit of happiness' means 'pursuit of pleasure,' we won't be a country very long."

Jon Huntsman's new groove is going on the attack. The one-time Mr. Nice Guy has been sticking it to Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney over health care, the debt ceiling, and that mysterious $1 million donation in the hopes of tearing down the Romney colossus.

On Friday, Team Huntsman floated a new line of attack: Romney may be too close to the Chinese for comfort.

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Rick Perry's newly released college transcript may not look like much, but graded on a curve he's not doing so bad.

Per the Huffington Post, which obtained Perry's college records, he scored mediocre to lousy marks in a broad array of subjects:

While he later became a student leader, he had to get out of academic probation to do so. He rarely earned anything above a C in his courses -- earning a C in U.S. History, a D in Shakespeare, and a D in the principles of economics. Perry got a C in gym.

Perry also did poorly on classes within his animal science major. In fall semester 1970, he received a D in veterinary anatomy, a F in a second course on organic chemistry and a C in animal breeding. He did get an A in world military systems and "Improv. of Learning" -- his only two As while at A&M.

Taken in the broader context of presidential nominees, however, Perry looks much better. President Bush, Perry's predecessor in the Texas governors' mansion, was a famously "meh" student at Yale University and graduated with a 77 average. His highest grade was an 88 which he received in three classes. He only had one "D" however.

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The state of Wisconsin's recently passed Voter ID law will now result in an increased cost to the state, as Department of Motor Vehicles offices are expanded in order to accommodate the increased demand for photo identification cards.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that state Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb announced the expansion on Thursday, which will leave all current DMV offices still open, increase the total number of offices from 88 to 92, and increase total office hours across the state by about 32,000 per year.

The change is expected to cost $6 million in the first year, and $4 million for each additional year going forward.

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