TPM News

Miami gun runner Efraim Diveroli was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for trying to ship millions of rounds of Chinese-made ammunition to forces in Afghanistan fighting alongside U.S. troops, the Associated Press reported.

Diveroli said the "good times" he enjoyed due to the sudden wealth brought on by the $300 million contract wasn't worth it. "No way it could ever be worth the suffering I have endured and my family has endured because of my actions," he said.

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Forget bumper stickers. South Carolina drivers may soon have a new way to make a political statement while tooling around town in their cars.

As Corey Hutchins reported in the Columbia Free-Times, several lawmakers in the South Carolina State House recently introduced bills that would allow the DMV to issue over a dozen new specialty plates, including one with the Gadsden Flag slogan turned Tea Party rallying cry, "Don't Tread On Me." Among the other proposed plates are ones bearing the words "Coon Hunters" and "Second Amendment" for firearm fans, or, if fishing is more your thing, one with an image of a largemouth bass.

The bills have a long way to go before those plates could become a reality. They're among over 200 measures South Carolina lawmakers pre-filed at the end of last year--a procedure that basically just publicizes what legislators would like to work on in the upcoming session--so they'd have to run the full legislative gambit when the legislature reconvenes January 11.

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Republicans have swept back into power in the House amid promises of a new kind of party. But how different is it, really?

If a handful of new hires made by the new House leadership -- staffers who worked for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in the heady days of his hammer-fisted reign -- is any indication, not much.

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The Obama administration's apparent plan to draft an indefinite detention policy with periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay shouldn't come as a surprise, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights told TPM in an interview. But they are concerned that it could result in less transparency for lawyers and other observers -- and it could mean that more detainees will face a lifetime of imprisonment with no chance to review the evidence against them or appeal the decisions made about them.

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Rick Sanchez is looking to make a comeback after being fired from CNN in October. Or, rather, his friends are making one for him. The eponymous website "Friends of Rick Sanchez" (tagline, "Get the whole story") makes the case for Sanchez's compassionate side, saying "Rick doesn't hate. He doesn't discriminate."

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The past year saw great strides forward for supporters of gay rights, culminating in the repeal in December of the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian service members. Polls continue to show the American public is warming to gay rights, from overwhelmingly supporting the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to rising support for legalized gay marriage at the federal level.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: It's Over: Senate Repeals Don't Ask, Don't Tell]

It seems increasingly clear that embracing some changes in the way gays and lesbians interact with society will be necessary for political viability in the future. That is, unless you're running to be the next chair of the Republican National Committee. At their debate yesterday, the major candidates running to lead the RNC through the 2012 presidential race pledged to hold the line on gay rights, expressing concern over the repeal of DADT and vowing to keep the Republican Party in the sanctity of marriage business.

Though Republicans may be less willing overall to embrace gay rights than other groups, the party by no means speaks with one voice on the topic. The DADT repeal vote in the Congress carried a few Republican votes with it, and a handful of well-known Republicans have expressed their support for gay marriage as well.

But that's not how the candidates for RNC chair see it. At the debate yesterday, they spoke with basically one voice and said support for gay marriage does not have a place in the modern GOP.

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Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson (R-SC) used the cash the government gave him for his personal lodging, meals and incidentals during an official overseas trips to buy a statue of the statesman who founded Turkey, marble goblets from Afghanistan and flags from various countries with which to decorate his congressional office. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) picked up flowers, candy and wine for ambassadors or other hosts; had custom-made baseball hats for staff and members attending one overseas trip; and gave a $100 bill to an Iraqi refugee at an event in Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL) purchased gifts like "leather goods, t-shirts, dolls, and post cards" for his family and used his per diem to cover the expenses of his wife, who accompanied him on at least one trip. Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) picked up gifts and souvenirs for his family with his per diem and also suggested members pick up the cost of one ''shockingly'' expensive meal for their staffers. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) "occasionally used the per diem to cover the meals and entertainment of leaders or residents of the country that he visited" as well as gifts for his secretary and chief of staff. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz (D-TX) picked up the tab of some meals for his staff.

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It's a far cry from the near 70% approval rating Obama enjoyed at the start of his presidency, but for the first time since last May, half of the country approves of of how he's doing as president, according to Gallup.

In the latest Gallup poll, 50% of respondents said they approved of Obama's job performance, versus 43% who said they disapproved. In results released yesterday, that split was a tad better for Obama, 50%-42%. Those findings mark the first time Obama's approval has reached the symbolic 50% mark in Gallup's poll since the end of May 2010.

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