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Thursday, Mar 30th

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Rep. Patrick Kennedy rips media in Afghan speech

U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy is blasting the news media as "despicable," accusing it of ignoring the war in Afghanistan even as troops continue to die there. The Rhode Island Democrat shouted, pointed and waved his arms excitedly during a speech on the House floor Wednesday on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

He chastised the media for focusing "24/7" on former Rep. Eric Massa of New York, who resigned from Congress amid sexual harassment allegations, at a time when lawmakers were debating the future of the war.

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John Conyers' Wife Sentenced to Jail

A former Detroit councilwoman married to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. was sentenced to 37 months in prison Wednesday for accepting bribes from a waste-management company trying to win city business.

Monica Conyers is appealing the sentence, which includes two years of supervised release after prison, according to the office of U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, who handled the case.The sentencing is the latest chapter in the latest scandal to plague Detroit, already struggling with severe unemployment, poverty and blight.

Mrs. Conyers in June admitted she took bribes from Houston-based Synagro Technologies Inc. as it sought a $47 million sludge-disposal contract from the city. The company won the contract in a 5-4 vote, with Mrs. Conyers voting in its favor after initially opposing it.

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TVNL Comment:  Now we know why impeachent talk disappeared along with all investigations into 2004 voting machines in Ohio.  Now we know.

Senator warns against $1B deal with Blackwater

A senior Senate Democrat said Thursday the Pentagon should consider barring Blackwater from a new $1 billion deal to train Afghan police because of "serious questions" about the contractor's conduct.

The comments by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin suggests thinning patience in Congress for the Pentagon's heavy reliance on contractors on the battlefield.  U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan using independent contractors has been a boon for companies like Blackwater and saved money and time for the Defense Department, whose forces are busy in combat.

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Inquiry sought into disappearance of e-mails in interrogations case

Senior Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups demanded Friday that the Justice Department investigate the disappearance of e-mail messages written by Bush administration lawyers who drafted memos blessing harsh interrogation tactics, saying their absence cast doubt on an ethics report that cleared the lawyers of professional misconduct.

The lost e-mails cover a critical period in 2002 when Justice Department attorneys labored under heavy pressure on a memo that gave the CIA a green light to use simulated drowning, sleep deprivation and other interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda suspects.

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Senate votes to extend USA Patriot Act for 1 year

The Senate voted Wednesday to extend for a year key provisions of the nation's counterterrorism surveillance law that are scheduled to expire at the end of the month. In agreeing to pass the bill, Senate Democrats retreated from adding new privacy protections to the USA Patriot Act.

The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote with no debate. It now goes to the House. Three important sections of the Patriot Act are to expire at the end of this month.

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CIA briefed 68 lawmakers on interrogation program

Pelosi, who became House Democratic leader in late 2002, said at a news conference in April last year that she was never told at the time that simulated drowning -- or waterboarding -- and other harsh interrogation techniques were being used. She said she was only told the CIA had legal opinions that approved harsh interrogation methods.

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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s perk costs taxpayers $1 million

Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has plowed through about $1 million in taxpayer dollars in the last two years for an office and staff in west suburban Yorkville, thanks to a little-known perk given to ex-speakers.

Hastert, 68, a lobbyist and business consultant who retired from Congress in 2007, has hired three of his former staffers at salaries of more than $100,000 apiece to run the publicly financed office.

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