News, Straight to the Point

Since news broke that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) has an ornately-decorated congressional office styled after a room from Downton Abbey, there's been an increased focus on the Illinois congressman's spending. Schock, according to Politico and USA Today, charters private planes, stays in some of the most expensive hotels around the world, and uses a personal photographer. Here are a few of Schock's more lavish indulgences.

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You'd be forgiven for not understanding why measles vaccinations and the anti-vaccine movement have been dominating headlines the last two days, making it the improbable first litmus test for 2016 Republican presidential aspirants that has owned the latest news cycle.

Believe it or not, it all started at Disneyland.

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Even before it got to the Supreme Court, the latest challenge to Obamacare baffled the people who drafted the law and tracked its passage. Reporters, Hill staff, Congressional Budget Office analysts -- nobody recalled Congress intending for the law's crucial subsidies to be limited to state-run exchanges and invalid on the federal

That's what the King v. Burwell plaintiffs allege, though. In recent days, weeks and months, more and more evidence has emerged that nobody who was involved thought that the law works the way its opponents now say it does. As The New Republic's Brian Beutler put it last week, the conservative version of events "has crossed the fuzzy line dividing revisionist history from X-Files-style conspiracy theory."

Those supporting the challenge dismiss the findings as ex post facto and irrelevant to the case. But nevertheless, here are some of the latest bits of evidence to emerge.

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How quickly the mighty fall: less than a week after longtime New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) was arrested on federal corruption charges, his fellow Democrats have decided to replace him.

Although the criminal complaint from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office hit at the very top of the legislature's food chain, Silver was merely the latest in a long line of state lawmakers who have been whacked with federal corruption charges. Bharara's office has convicted at least a dozen elected officials in recent years and is in the process of prosecuting even more.

Which all begs the question: Just how did New York state get so damn corrupt?

Some people have acknowledged the state's propensity for bad behavior. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made ethics reform a key part of his first term, creating a new body tasked with investigating corruption that was named the Moreland Commission. But Cuomo's goals were ultimately reduced to a bargaining chip in budget negotiations with, among other people, Silver.

As the New York Times reported last year, Cuomo eventually shuttered the Moreland Commission in March 2014 in exchange for the legislature agreeing to a scaled-back version of his ethics package. The irony is that Cuomo's closing of the commission is now also reportedly being investigated by Bharara.

TPM talked to some people who know New York politics to find out how the state got this way. Here are five points to know about the mess:

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Most state legislatures are opening for business this month, and that means that Medicaid expansion is once again becoming a hot issue. The last year has seen a number of Republican-led states start to bend on the program, and the new legislative sessions offer new opportunities to make headways in red America -- but could also put one pioneering state at risk.

Four or more conservative mainstays could expand Medicaid in the next year, while another state might become the first to back out of the program after first adopting it. Here's what you need to know.

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President Barack Obama faces a whole new landscape in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, buoyed by an improving economy and rising approval ratings but stymied by new Republican majorities in the House and Senate for the first time.

With five of his State of The Union addresses down and two more to go, including tonight's, here's the bare minimum you need to know about this overwrought oratorical anachronism that lives on despite itself.

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Fox News host Bob Beckel declared himself a proud "Islamophobe" Monday on "The Five" -- and it was only the latest in a long string of racist and offensive statements the network's token liberal has uttered on-air.

Beckel is the perfect liberal mouthpiece for the "fair and balanced" network. He serves as the lone counterweight to the other four hosts of "The Five," defending President Barack Obama's policies when his colleagues put him on the spot.

But in the next breath, Beckel is just as likely to slight the Muslim or Chinese communities as he is to drop a progressive talking point. He also falls back on his "old-timer" status -- he frequently uses the term "broad" -- to soften the landing of his demeaning comments about women.

Here is a sampling of the craziest, most racist things Beckel has said over the past couple years. It’s in reverse chronological order, for those of you keeping track.

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As the minority party in the 114th Congress, Senate Democrats are staking out specific policy areas to direct most of their focus.

Now that they no longer have a majority in either chamber, they're stuck with either blocking the Republican agenda or staking out positions of their own. Several key lawmakers have begun doing that.

"It's a smart way to bring new voices to the leadership table," Doug Thornell, a former top advisor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and former deputy political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told TPM. "It also helps with accountability. It also helps people feel like they do have a role and that they're part of the team, rather than a top down leadership structure."

READ: Progressives Seek Control Of The Democratic Party Here are five policy areas and the Democrats who are going to have a laser focus on them going forward:

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The world looked on in horror Wednesday as three gunmen carried out out a deadly attack on the Paris offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

At least 12 people were killed in the attack, including its editor, a cartoonist and two police officers. One of the police officers had been assigned to guard the deceased editor Stephane Charbonnier, also known as Charb, after he received threats.

The Catholic church, and French and world politicians were some of the publication's favorite punching bags. It also frequently aimed its satire at Islam, and its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in particular caused trouble for Charlie Hebdo and its staff. The Associated Press reported that al-Qaeda published a threat to Charb in its magazine in 2013.

About 7.5 percent of France's population as of 2010 was Muslim, according to Pew. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are against Islamic law, and Charlie Hebdo angered that community over the last decade as it repeatedly turned to Muhammad to denounce terrorists in its cartoons.

Here are some of the keys to understanding Charlie Hebdo's place in French journalism and its history as a lightning rod for Muslims.

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