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Former White House official David Safavian, sentenced to 18 months in prison for crimes related to his relationship with Jack Abramoff, isn't headed to the pokey quite yet. A federal judge has decided to let him remain free until his appeals have been heard, reports:

Appeals can take several years, so Safavian's sentence of 18 months -- if upheld -- will not begin until after that ruling.

In his opinion granting the request, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman cited the section of U.S. Code that says that if a person is not likely to flee, and the appeal raises a substantial question of law likely to result in a reversal, new trial or different sentence, then the judge can grant a request for release on bond.

It's a movement! As we mentioned earlier this week, the attorney general in Missouri has introduced legislation that would protect citizens on the state's "No Call" list from automated political calls.

Well, you can add Virginia and Pennsylvania to the list, and likely Connecticut.

In Virginia, state Delegate Bob Brink (D-Arlington) has announced that he will introduce legislation outlawing robo calls in the state.

In Pennsylvania, where a barrage of robo calls targeted Dem Lois Murhpy in the state's 6th District, state Rep. Mike McGeehan, D-Phila., says that he will announce the introduction of a bill next week that would add political robo calls to those covered by the state's "Do Not Call" Act.

And in Connecticut, where the state GOP sent out robo calls prior to the election promising to end robo calls, a number of legislators have been reported to be interested in an anti-robo call bill.

Are there any other states moving this way? Let us know.

Late Update: You can add Florida (the bill would add political calls to the state's Do Not Call list) and Wisconsin (the bill would ban all automated calls) to the list.

The fight rages on in Florida's 13th District, where Democrats say malfunctioning electronic voting machines may have cost them the election.

The latest developments: to lead the audit team, the state of Florida has tapped a die-hard Republican who vowed during the 2000 recount controversy to "never be a passive political participant again." However, Republican candidate Vern Buchanan has won court approval to delay the start of the audit. Democrats say it's a partisan stalling tactic.

The controversy in the district revolves around an unusually high rate of "undervotes" in Sarasota County. Thirteen percent of voters -- about 18,000 people -- voted in the county but did not select a candidate in the congressional race. In other counties, that total "undervote" rate was approximately 11 percentage points lower*.

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"They're simply not complying with the law. It's incredible."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) raised eyebrows yesterday with that comment regarding the Bush administration, made before a crowd of several hundred at a Washington, D.C. event.

At issue is a report on climate change that Congress requires every four years. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for producing the document, last filed a report in 2000. A new report -- the first to be filed by the Bush administration -- was due in November 2004, but to date the agency has not done so.

"When you get to that degree of obfuscation, then you get a little depressed," McCain said, according to several attendees. McCain's comments were also reported by the trade daily Environment and Energy.

McCain has rapped the administration before over the long-overdue report.

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The U.N. conference on global warming in Nairobi was nothing more than a "brainwashing session," Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) declared yesterday. As we noted then, Inhofe -- a man of science -- wasn't basing that on firsthand knowledge, but on the word of his staff who attended the event.

Who was this expert staffer? Press accounts identify him as Marc Morano, who isn't a scientist but is Inhofe's press flack. Morano is also a former reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh show, according to an online biography of the gentleman.

TPMmuckraker editorial guidelines strictly prohibit the writing of completely obvious punch lines. So I will only point out the building blocks -- Inhofe, "brainwashing," expert, Rush Limbaugh Show -- and let readers construct their own.

I think it's fair to say that there's a movement among Democrats to prevent the dirty tricks of 2006 from happening again.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has introduced legislation that seeks to punish harassing robo calls and other attempts to mislead voters -- a bill distinct from one Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has talked about introducing, which he said would be among the first 10 bills in the new Senate.

"We look forward to working with Sen. Reid to getting this passed," Obama's spokesman Tommy Vietor told me, who added the bill was "specifically written" to include the NRCC's robo calls in its targetted dirty tricks. "I know it's an issue important to him. It's important to Sen. Obama as well."

The full release follows...

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Last night, David Kurtz (nee TPM's Reader DK) noted that the New York State Police demoted a 28-year veteran detective following the pre-election leak of a police report detailing a 9-1-1 domestic disturbance call from the house of Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY). Sweeney's attorney insists he was the guy who leaked the police report to the press.

So Sweeney got his retribution, it would seem. But he should have been warned -- whom the gods would destroy, they first make angry. And this morning, the story just turned sharply against Sweeney: This morning, the Albany Times-Union reports that the State Police may have faked a vague version of the original police report filed from the incident, to protect Sweeney in case the document became public:

State Police took steps to "lock up" a 911 report about a call to Congressman John Sweeney's home last year by creating an alternate version that lacked key details, an informed source said Thursday.

The full report on the domestic incident was concealed because of concern it could be used against Sweeney during his re-election campaign this fall, the source said.

Since the emergency call did not result in any arrest -- Sweeney and his wife, Gaia, called off the alert -- State Police officials created a less specific version to guard against leaks of the original, according to the source.

Bush Choice for Family-Planning Post Criticized "The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as 'demeaning to women.'

"Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday." (WaPo)

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From Salon:

Remember those abusive Republican robo-calls and the sample ballots that suggested -- falsely -- that Michael Steele is a Democrat? The soon-to-be Senate majority leader does, and he's prepared to do something about them.

In a breakfast meeting sponsored by the American Prospect, Harry Reid told reporters today that the calls and the phony campaign literature were "absolutely wrong," and that one of the first 10 bills he introduces in the next Senate will deal with such abuses. "We need to make these criminal penalties," Reid said, saying that civil liability was apparently not enough to deter what happened in the run-up to last week's election.

Reid's legislation seems like it will be targeted against harrassing robo calls like the ones the NRCC deployed. But as we noted yesterday, there's movement against all robo calls on the state level.

This is kind of fun. In a new report on publicly-funded abstinence programs, a government watchdog charged that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allows programs to distribute inaccurate sex information to kids, and suggested the agency clean up its act.

But in its defense, HHS argued that it doesn't know how to tell whether something is "scientifically accurate."

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), HHS last year spent $153 million on abstinence education programs -- including my favorite, "A.C. Green's Game Plan Abstinence Program," developed by the famously abstinent onetime NBA superstar (ironic nickname: "Ironman").

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