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Can Congress avoid an economic train wreck?

Political ideologies and government spending realities are speeding trains headed toward a nasty crash in Washington this week barring a compromise between Republicans in the House and Senate Democrats aligned with President Barack Obama in the battle to contain America’s soaring debt. Failure to reach a deal for the rest of this budget year, which ends on Sept. 30, could lead to a partial shutdown of the government when spending authority expires at midnight on Friday. It is unclear which side would absorb public blame and anger for such a dramatic turn of events. But there was likely to be
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Obama no longer agent of change

President Barack Obama, once a fresh faced prophet of hope, now a graying incumbent and the face of America’s painful status quo, is expected to launch his bid for a second term this week. Obama, his political brand battered by a flurry of crises near and far — including an economic meltdown and a third US war abroad in Libya, has endured two years of turmoil after winning an election for the ages in 2008. He is expected to formally lodge paperwork with the Federal Election Commission early this week, which would allow him to set a political course for
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Labor, tea party spending big bucks in Wisconsin court election

Pro-labor organizations and one of the country’s largest tea party groups are pouring money into Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election in an effort to turn the normally sleepy race into a referendum on the national fight over labor rights. The attention from conservative and liberal groups has energized voters and set the election on pace to be the most expensive high court race in Wisconsin’s history. Sarah Palin even weighed in via Twitter on Friday, throwing her support behind the incumbent conservative justice. The candidates, Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, say the race is about their
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Boehner walks political tightrope on budget

Sometimes in politics and legislation, whether you win is less important than how you win. That’s the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner as he tries to round up the votes to pass a fast-approaching spending compromise and avert a partial government shutdown by week’s end. Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the overwhelming majority of those votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory. The goal complicates Boehner’s task, and possibly could push the bill farther to the right. It motivates him to battle for the votes
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Obama ready to announce run for second term

President Barack Obama is about to make one of Washington’s worst kept secrets official: He wants a second term. Democratic officials familiar with the president’s plans said Saturday that Obama intends to file papers as early as this coming week with the Federal Election Commission to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. He also will announce his candidacy to supporters by email and text messages. The officials asked not to be identified in order to speak before the papers are filed. That widely anticipated but formal step of registering with the FEC will free Obama to start raising money for the
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Online gone wild for April Fools’ Day

The online world got an April Fools’ Day makeover as YouTube rolled out 1911 viral videos and the Huffington Post put up a mock pay wall. Lighthearted pranks are an annual Web tradition on April Fools’ Day, with jokey redesigns and parody products. Comedy video website Funny or Die, which last year became “Bieber or Die,” turned into “Friday or Die.” The site’s home page was taken over by teenage viral video star Rebecca Black, complete with “Behind the Music”-style featurettes on her song “Friday.” Escape was futile: Even pressing “back” in one’s browser only added Black’s lyrics to the
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Student newspaper cover photo yanked by Facebook

Now that Facebook is mainstream, the gold old days of anything goes is history. Nowadays, the social networking site is so afraid of being sued that it yanked a student newspaper photo illustrating a cover story about how oral sex can spread throat cancer. The photo depicts a couple simulating oral sex but does not contain any nudity or explicit sexual imagery.  But Facebook put the University of North Florida student newspaper, The Spinnaker, under notice and forced the paper to remove the photo from its Facebook account. The paper always publishes its cover photos on its account but this
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Close to deal on spending? Depends on who’s talking

A bullish President Barack Obama said Friday that compromise is close with Republicans on $33 billion in budget cuts, and he warned that without a deal the ensuing government shutdown would “jeopardize our economic recovery” just as jobs are finally being created. Despite his assessment, negotiators reported little progress, Senate Democrats backtracked on a key concession from earlier in the week and Congress’ top Republican sounded less optimistic than the president that a breakthrough was imminent. “There is no number. There is no agreement on a number” on how much to cut, insisted House Speaker John Boehner, who is under
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So long to federal funding for candidates

A cornerstone of U.S. politics since the 1970s, public funding of presidential campaigns may soon go the way of other relics of the era like long sideburns and lava lamps. Neither President Barack Obama nor any of the leading 2012 Republican contenders is expected to accept federal matching funds and the limits they impose. In fact, opting to take public money to finance a presidential campaign this year is likely to be seen as the mark of a loser. “I would be shocked if they took matching funds. I don’t think that it’s a successful model this time, or in
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Wisconsin anti-union law on hold for two months or more

Wisconsin’s polarizing union rights law will remain on hold for at least two months after a judge Friday said she would continue a restraining order blocking its enactment while she considers whether Republicans broke the state open meetings law in passing it. Republicans had been pushing the law through despite a boycott by Democratic state senators and weeks of protests that drew as many as 85,000 people to the state Capitol. But they suffered a defeat Thursday when the same judge declared the law was not enacted last week as Republicans had claimed. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi on
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