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President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tour earthquake-damaged areas of L'Aquila, Italy at the G8 summit on Wednesday, July 8. The damage is leftover from a 6.3-magnitude quake that struck the town in early April. See TPM's gallery of the initial devastation here.

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President Obama arrives at the main conference hall in L'Aquila on Thursday, June 9, day two of the G8 summit, for the talks between the G8 countries, G5 countries and Egypt.


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The main conference hall. From left to right: UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.


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From left to right: Italian Equality Minister Isabella Rauti (also the wife of Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno), First Lady Michelle Obama, Italian Minister of Education Maria Stella Gelmini and Italian Minister for Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna on the Caffarelli terrace at the Campidoglio palace in Rome.


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Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and his wife Isabella Rauti host a luncheon for the First Ladies on the Caffarelli Terrace.


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The First Ladies with Mayor Alemanno and his wife Isabella in front of the statue of Emperor Marco Aurelio.


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The First Ladies visit the historic city center of L'Aquila on the second day of the G8 Summit. Pictured here on the far right is Gursharaan Kaur, wife of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


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Michelle Obama in L'Aquila.


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G5 and G8 leaders pose for a photo on Thursday. From left to right: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and President Obama.

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Brazilian President Lula da Silva gifted the G5 leaders with his country's soccer jerseys at their press conference on Thursday. From left to right: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Lula da Silva, South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo. Lula also gave President Obama one of the jerseys.


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World leaders pose with the "Junior 8" on Thursday in L'Aquila. The Junior 8 Summit, or J8, is an annual forum where young people from around the world meet to share their concerns and recommendations on how to solve global issues with G8 leaders and the world community.


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From left to right: German Chancellor Merkel, French President Sarkozy, Italian PM Berlusconi, Japanese PM Taro Aso, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


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President Obama confers with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at a G8 working dinner.


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Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi (R) greets President Obama as he arrives for a round table session.


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Japanese PM Taro Aso, President Obama, and German Chancellor Merkel.


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President Obama, French President Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Merkel.


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President Obama and French President Sarkozy.


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TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: The marathon mark-up of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's health care reform bill continued. Meanwhile, with the idea of capping the health insurance tax exclusion now on ice, a Finance Committee staffer unveiled some of the other funding schemes the panel is considering.


  • Climate Change: Looks like the Senate action on climate change legislation has been pushed back to September.


  • Nominations: The Senate Judiciary Committee released the witness list for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing. The hearing will begin on Monday, stretching on for days. And the GOP has invited a few doozies to testify.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), whose appointment to the Senate by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was embroiled in controversy, will not run for a full term in 2010.

Burris reportedly only raised $20,000 in the past quarter, making it impossible for him to run a real campaign. Polls also showed consistently that he would lose the Democratic primary, and if he were nominated he would lose the general election.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money. It's also expected that businessman Chris Kennedy, a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, could get in.

A source told the Sun-Times that Burris was concerned about how people will remember him, after all the controversy that has happened: "After 20 years in government service, Burris didn't want the last four months in office to be that legacy."

After taking heat from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) for weeks, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is fighting back. "Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in a statement today. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process."

According to the website pa2010.com, the Specter campaign has been building up to the charge for days. "Specter's campaign," they report, "pointed out Sestak's registration history, first in a message to supporters Monday, later in follow-up messages to a reporter and again in a fierce statement against Sestak Thursday."

The attack is based on the allegation that, until recently, Sestak often did not vote in major elections, and didn't register as a Democrat until 2006. It's hard to say whether it'll stick, but it does seem to indicate that, with a primary challenge all certain, Specter's getting riled.

Whatever the merits of Specter's statement, it certainly more reasonable than the attacks Sestak's old rival levied against him in 2006. In that race, Republican Curt Weldon hit Sestak--a navy admiral--for having not lived in the district for years and years. Gee, I wonder why that might've been.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is now the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, has made it official: He does not want Sarah Palin coming to campaign for him -- and he doesn't think it would help him.

"This is about New Jersey issues and New Jersey, and I don't think having Governor Palin here would do me, or frankly the state, a whole lot of good in the sense that we need to talk and focus on what the New Jersey issues are," Christie said during a radio interview.

He's not above having outside help coming in, though, but of a different sort: "I hope Mayor Giuliani will continue to be supportive and be here and work with me, but other than that, I think the people of New Jersey have to hear from me and that's the person they'll be electing."

The state Republican Party chairman had previously made similar comments, though not quite as blunt. It would be hard to assume that this is related to Palin's latest round of controversy from her resignation as Governor of Alaska. New Jersey is a socially-liberal state that simply doesn't have much room in it for politicians from the Christian Right. So Christie probably had the same attitude even before the recent news.

The US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination of Republican voter-suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky to a state-level body that advises the commission.

Lenore Ostrowsky, a spokeswoman for the USCCR -- whose mission is to defend voting rights -- confirmed to TPMmuckraker that commissioners will vote at a Friday morning meeting on Spakovsky's nomination to the State Advisory Committee for Virginia, where he lives. According to a source, it is likely that Spakovsky's nomination will be approved.

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An FBI agent displays cash found in the freezer of former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). Jurors in Jefferson's bribery trial saw this and other pictures July 8.

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The cash was wrapped in $10,000 increments and hidden in frozen food boxes. Prosecutors allege that Jefferson received $400,000 in bribes. The defense says it was perfectly legal for him to receive payment for private consulting services.

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Some cash was hidden in a box of pie crusts. Jefferson allegedly sought millions for using his power to arrange business deals in Africa.

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More money was found in a Boca Burgers box. Jefferson lost his re-election campaign last year.

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Jefferson's kitchen, home to the infamous freezer.

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The interim foreign minister for Honduras apologized after the U.S. envoy there expressed "deep outrage" over his "disrespectful and racially insensitive comments."

Ortez Colindres called President Obama a "negrito," or "little black man," several times last week. Colindres is a minister for Roberto Micheletti, Honduras's leader since Manuel Zelaya was overthrown.

After the ambassador, Hugo Llorens, responded angrily, Colindres issued an apology.

"Please accept my profound apologies and my sincere expressions of friendship directed at this great nation that is the United States of America, which allows me to contribute in the best way to a happy understanding between that great country and the democracy that is the republic of Honduras," he said.

A Daily Kos diarist translated another quote from Colindres, reported in Spanish in El Tiempo, as even a little worse:

I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.


Here's the original quote from El Tiempo, which includes the caveat that Colindres was speaking both jokingly and seriously:

"He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos", dijo Colindres en broma y en serio.

Either the pickings were slim, or Republicans didn't use much imagination when they selected witnesses to testify against Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing next week. They invited the legal experts New Haven firefighters, and they invited a Bush appointee who warned of Arab internment, and, it seems, they invited someone who wouldn't have been happy with any pro-choice nominee of any stripe.

"For all the President's talk of finding 'common ground,' this appointment completely contradicts that hollow promise," said Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, when Obama announced his first Supreme Court pick.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board denying the American people to right to be heard on this critical issue....

A vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court Justice is a vote to strip Americans of the ability to choose for themselves how to regulate abortion.

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It now looks like the grand saga of the New York state Senate, which involved the chamber coming to a halt as two Democrats flipped control of the chamber by joining up with the Republicans, is now coming to an end. And it has a very amusing denouement.

State Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who had joined up with the Republicans in exchange for them making him state Senate President, is now returning to the Democratic caucus in a new role -- as Majority Leader! Espada told the New York Post that he has a "handshake deal" to return to the Dems in his new leadership position. His fellow renegade in this whole operation, Queens state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, had previously gone back to the Dems, too.

This is now Espada's fourth party switch in his career. Back in 2002, he'd switched from the Democrats to supporting Republican control, then was defeated for re-election by a Dem. Then last year he returned to the chamber as a Democrat from another district, then embarked on this whole adventure.

As Winston Churchill said of his own switch from the Conservative Party to the Liberals, then later back to the Conservatives: Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat. And in Sir Winston's defense, his switches took place over the course of 20 years, as various realignments of the British political system were going on. Espada, by contrast, has had the ingenuity to switch and re-switch in the course of weeks, after having already done it before.

TPMLivewire