TPM News

If you're a reader of World Net Daily, a fan of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) or a regular reader of anti-Muslim columnist Frank Gaffney, you know all about the controversies surrounding the attendance of gay Republicans and Muslim conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference later this week.

But anti-gay and anti-Muslim CPAC attendees, take heart! There are still plenty of scheduled non-official CPAC events for the Islamo- and homophobic conservatives in your family.

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Without a whimper, Democrats have allowed Republicans to build the reality that, in the current economic environment, government spending costs jobs, while austerity creates jobs. While Republicans tout a "cut and grow" Congress, most Democrats are running away from the idea that spending can do any good at all.

Not all of them though. In a "Dear Colleague" letter, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is trying to build opposition among his colleagues to the Republican Study Committee's call for dramatic spending cuts on the grounds that they will lead to major job losses.

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Progressive groups are again targeting Republicans in competitive districts for voting to repeal health care reform while accepting federally financed insurance.

Americans United for Change, Daily Kos, and Blue America have aligned to run radio ads in the districts of Reps. Charlie Bass (R-NH), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sandy Adams (R-FL), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

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Egypt's extensive military, lobbying and public relations connections in Washington have been under the media microscope since pro-democracy protests have undermined the Mubarak regime, but one contract in particular, involving a well-placed Mubarak supporter and a major DC public relations firm, hasn't received much attention.

Qorvis Communications, a powerful player in the DC media world, had a two-year contract with Egyptian steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz from 2007 to 2008. Egyptian protesters have torched the Cairo headquarters of Ezz's multinational steel company three times in the last month, displaying a particular hostility for Ezz and the politically powered wealth he represents, the New York Times reported Monday.

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Pro-choice Democrats are raring for an abortion fight this week -- and they intend to start one. After a trio of ultra-conservative abortion bills were filed in the weeks since the Republicans took over earlier this year, returning House Democrats and several of their Senate colleagues will roll out a multi-tiered attack on the GOP's abortion plans, simultaneously painting the bills as extreme, hypocritical and off the all-important economic message.

Sources familiar with the rollout in the House tell TPM the rhetorical attacks have been coordinated with national pro-choice groups like NARAL Pro-choice America, the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood.

Though the effort on the Senate is less coordinated, a number of Senators are planning to join the fight against the House abortion bills in anticipation of them making it out of the Republican House majority.

Democratic campaign types say Republicans may have boxed themselves in with the bills, which have led to an embarrassing walkback on "forcible rape" and go farther than critics say any anti-abortion legislation has in the past. Democrats hope that publicizing the bills and forcing the Republicans to talk about them could alienate the new House majority from some of its independent female supporters.

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Federal Judicial Vacancies Reaching Crisis Point The Washington Post reports: "Since Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the president's nominees. Experts blame Republican delaying tactics, slow White House nominations and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system. Six judges have retired in the past six weeks alone."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive his daily briefing at 10:30 a.m. ET. He will meet at 2:30 p.m. ET with the National Policy Alliance. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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The Department of Defense's agency in charge of advanced research and design is looking for new designers to work on the next generation of military vehicles. But the DoD is not directly recruiting from MIT, Carnegie Mellon or the nations' other top computer science and engineering schools. Instead they're looking to you, America, to help with the next generation of military design.

Last week, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a competition to help design an experimental combat-support vehicle. DARPA is looking for a design for a four-wheeled vehicle that can either transport four passengers or three passengers laying-down for evacuations.

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When Congress looks for ways to trim the federal budget, they might want to be careful of how closely they listen to their constituents. That's because several polls have shown that Americans are typically terrible estimators of how much money the U.S. spends on particular areas of the budget -- suggesting that public opinion about potential cuts is often influenced by gross misconceptions.

Reining in government spending and reducing the deficit were central to the Republican Party's platform in last year's midterm elections, when the GOP reclaimed control of the House. Amid a sluggish economy and a ballooning deficit, polls have consistently found that overwhelming majorities of Americans agree with the idea of paring down federal spending; a CNN poll in January found 71% of Americans supported the idea trimming the federal budget.

Yet when it comes time to get specific, the cuts that Americans are by and large in agreement on don't add up to much. While they want Congress to drastically reduce spending overall, they overwhelmingly oppose doing so by scaling back some of the budget's biggest pieces.

Essentially, Americans want to have their budget cake and eat it too.

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Austin, Texas is looking for a new name for its Solid Waste Services Department, something that "better reflects all of the services the department provides."

So who better to ask than the good people of Austin -- or, better yet, the entire population of the Internet? The department has put it to an online vote, and the leader, by a huge margin is "The Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts." The FDSHA has garnered more than 25,000 votes. The runner up, the "Department of Neat and Clean" has just under 2,000 votes. In a distant third is "Ministry of Filth."

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The workhorse of the space program for decades -- the aging US space shuttle -- has a cargo bay that measures 15 feet by 59 feet. It can launch the equivalent of six large SUVs 1,000 miles up into lower Earth orbit. That might sound like a lot space, but when NASA is trying to launch a new module for the International Space Station (ISS), that cargo space is a critically limiting factor.

Which is why NASA has in the past few months been talking to Las-Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace about producing a new module for the International Space Station based on a simple, space-saving concept: the balloon. When stowed in the space shuttle's cargo bay, the module would be deflated to save space. But once unloaded in orbit, the module would inflate like a very tall doughnut, providing a large ring of usable space for any number of tasks. The center of the doughnut would contain the structure and equipment to maintain the inflated module.

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