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While Congress slogs through the final months of the health reform debate, the American people remain focused on the economy. With good reason: We’re in a very deep hole, and it’s not clear how we’re going to get out.  As Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, pointed out in her recent testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, “The shocks that hit the U.S. economy last fall were, by almost any measure, larger than those that precipitated the Great Depression.” And despite unprecedented government action, the labor market has reflected these shocks.

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Okay, here's the latest on the ongoing mini-drama over the Senate climate bill. Earlier this morning, the Environment and Public Works committee met to begin marking up and amending the bill, and Republicans carried out their early threat to boycott the session—only George Voinovich showed up, to lodge a complaint. Voinovich asked committee chair Barbara Boxer to postpone the markup until the EPA had done a full analysis of the initial Senate draft.

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Organizing for America is a complicated beast, and my story yesterday couldn’t quite contain some of the interesting things about it. For all the activism geeks out there, here are some outtakes. About elections: OFA doesn’t just exist to push the administration’s agenda.  If all of its issue campaigns failed, OFA would still serve the purpose of keeping volunteers engaged so they’re ready to help in 2012. "In '04, if you opened your door, it was a paid staffer coming to your door,” OFA deputy director Jeremy Bird told me.

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Putin's Game

After years of stalemate, negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear development program seemed to progress last week when an Iranian delegation in Vienna agreed to the export and modification of its low-enriched uranium. The resulting optimism did not last. Officials in Tehran demurred, insisting that they needed more time to study the proposal and could not meet Friday's deadline to ratify the agreement. While Iran's stonewalling came as a disappointment to the United States, it did not come as a surprise.

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Last Standish

Standish, Michigan It's two p.m. on a workday, and the casino parking lot is completely full. Hundreds of people have come for the $20 gambling coupons offered to those willing to donate blood. Turnout for the drive was "above and beyond" expectations, says Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, who run the 800-slot complex. The nurses are already turning people away two hours before closing, and they will soon run out of blood bags. "We get free money!" one woman tells me, clutching her coupon as her friends nod in agreement.

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The big question looming over reform negotiations in the Senate is how to pay for expanding insurance coverage. The Senate Finance bill calls for an excise tax, to be levied on plans with generous benefits. But many Democrats don't like the idea. So will they scale it back? And, if so, can they will come up with an alternative?

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When the world last left Wesley Clark in early 2004, he was a streaking meteor of a presidential candidate. Still fresh from leading NATO in the Kosovo war, he arrived as a savior for the left, who saw a bulletproof patriot that the rest of America could believe in; hero of the netroots, beloved by Michael Moore and Madonna; hope of the Clintonites, delighted by such a clean ideological slate. Alas, after five blazing months, Clark for President flamed out. There are the conventional explanations: He got in too late. He didn't play in Iowa.

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Rob Shapiro is the chair of the NDN Globalization Imitative and chairman of Sonecon, LLC. Policymakers and pundits who finally are worried about a "jobless recovery" should consider this: Our actual prospects are worse than that term suggests.   The initial expansion we may already be experiencing will be notable not for a lack of new jobs, as the phrase "jobless recovery" suggests, but for substantial, continued job losses.   Total employment will continue to decline for many months and perhaps as long as two years, as it did after the 2001 recession.   Nor will it be enough to aim for simpl

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Maurice Bowra: A Life By Leslie Mitchell (Oxford University Press, 385 pp., $50) As warden of Wadham College in Oxford, president of the British Academy, the author of well-known books on ancient Greek literature, and a conversationalist of legendary brilliance, Maurice Bowra seemed, in the middle of the last century, the very embodiment of Oxford life. Enjoying a huge international reputation as a scholar, a wit, and an administrator, he was duly elected into prestigious academies and awarded honorary degrees in both Europe and America. George VI knighted him in 1951.

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Hillary Clinton has become the president's secretary for women's affairs, and she's done a good job at it--within the severe limits of what realistically can be done to protect females from sexual violence in war zones.  On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council met, with Hillary in the chair, and as the Associated Press put it, "adopted a resolution ...

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