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Recount clock ticking in disputed Wisconsin court race

Officials in Wisconsin’s largest county said on Thursday they would meet the deadline for finishing their review of the local vote in last week’s state Supreme Court race, an election widely seen as a referendum on Republican efforts to curb public sector unions. The end of the county reviews would set the stage for either candidate in the closely watched contest to demand a recount. Although Milwaukee’s County’s review remains incomplete, its unofficial count, when combined with the final counts from other counties, show the incumbent, former Republican state assemblyman David Prosser, with a lead of about 7,300 votes over
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Obama’s plan: Cut spending, tax the rich

President Barack Obama coupled a call for $4 trillion in long-term deficit reductions with a blistering attack on Republican plans for taxes, Medicare and Medicaid on Wednesday, laying down markers for a roiling debate in Congress and the 2012 presidential campaign to come. Obama said spending cuts and higher taxes alike must be part of any deficit-reduction plan, including an end to Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. He proposed an unspecified “debt failsafe” that would go into effect if Congress failed to make sure the national debt would be falling by 2014 relative to the size of the overall
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Obama tiptoes around tax hikes

With his striking choice of words, President Barack Obama clearly outlined the greatest perils for Republicans — and for Democrats — in the nation’s high-stakes debate over spending and social programs. Obama used vivid, populist language in a forceful speech Wednesday to denounce the GOP plan for cutting spending and revamping Medicare and Medicaid. The Republicans, he said, have concluded that “even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.” But the president’s language was tortured and opaque when it came to
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Budget pact does little to reduce current year deficit

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year. The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending. When war funding
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Treasury Dept. paid law firms without checking bills

The Treasury Department paid out more than $27 million to law firms overseeing the financial bailouts without requiring detailed bills or questioning the incomplete records that the lawyers provided, a government watchdog says. Treasury’s “current contracts and fee bill review practices create an unacceptable risk that Treasury, and therefore the American taxpayer, is overpaying for legal services,” the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report issued Thursday. Treasury could not have adequately gauged whether the fees were reasonable because the records are so sparse, the report says. The report criticizes so-called “block billing,” in
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Poll: Most think their taxes are fair

For all the complaining this time of year, most Americans actually think the taxes they pay are fair. Not that they’re cheering. Fewer people expect refunds this year than in previous years, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But as Monday’s filing deadline approaches, the poll shows that 54 percent believe their tax bills are either somewhat fair or very fair, compared with 46 percent who say they are unfair. Should taxes be raised to eat into huge federal deficits? Among the public, 62 percent say they favor cutting government services to sop up the red ink. Just 29 percent
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A new TV network for rich boys with toys

Discovery Communications Inc. is launching a television network for rich guys and their toys. Called Velocity, the new network will replace the current network HD Theater in some 40 million homes on Sept. 25, Discovery officials said Thursday. The target audience is men with incomes of $150,000 a year and more. “We just felt like this was a space missing in the marketplace,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. HD Theater was launched in 2002 with the specific purpose of showing high-definition versions of programs on other Discovery networks. The rapid adoption of high-def by consumers, and
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James Bond will return for 23rd film

James Bond is staying put with the studio that distributed his last two big-screen adventures. Sony Pictures has signed a deal with MGM to co-finance and distribute the 23rd film in the super-spy franchise, due in theaters Nov. 9, 2012. Daniel Craig will be back for the third time as British agent Bond. In an announcement Wednesday, the studios said they hope to partner up for a 24th Bond film, as well. Sony Corp. had been a part owner of MGM and distributed Craig’s earlier Bond flicks, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.” But the Bond franchise had been on
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Obama eyes Medicare changes, tax increases

President Barack Obama, two years into a presidency marked by increased spending on a weak economy, is turning his attention to the nation’s crushing debt and trying to counter a Republican anti-deficit plan with one of his own. The president on Wednesday was to deliver a speech outlining his proposal to reduce spending in the biggest government benefits programs, raise taxes on the wealthy and cut defense costs. In a pre-emptive response Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called any proposed tax increase “a nonstarter.” This new clash, just a week after the president announced he would seek re-election, ensures
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GOP supports Democratic Medicare cuts

In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall when Democrats and President Barack Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law. The cuts are included in the 2012 budget that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled last week and account for a significant share of the $5.8 trillion in claimed savings over the next decade. The House is expected to vote on the blueprint this week. Ryan’s spokesman, Conor Sweeney, said the cuts are virtually the only part of “Obamacare” — the term that Republicans use
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