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Morning Briefing: May 2, 2012

By ThinkProgress  

"Morning Briefing: May 2, 2012"

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Less than two hours after President Obama left Afghanistan last night, a suicide bomb attack killed seven Afghans in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was intended to send Obama the message that Taliban insurgents oppose the U.S.’ recent strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan.

After earlier criticizing President Obama for politicizing the death of Osama bin Laden, Mitt Romney released a statement late Tuesday saying he was “pleased” that the president had visited Afghanistan. Americans “deserve to hear” from Obama what is at stake, Romney added.

With his campaign deeply in debt, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will finally drop out of the race today and throw his support behind Mitt Romney. “Gingrich surged to the top of national polls for the Republican nomination in January only to face millions of dollars in attack ads from the Romney campaign and its super PAC ally, Restore Our Future. He ended up winning only two primaries.”

Freshman House Republicans try to have their cake and eat it too, but are struggling with the tension between their no earmark pledge and their desire to bring home the bacon to their districts.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told The Hill this week that the 2012 farm bill is facing stiff opposition from House Republicans, who are demanding millions of dollars in cuts to food stamps and other vital programs.

The Secret Service will receive ethics training this week, in part as a response to the Colombian sex scandal the agency faced over the last weeks. New rules have also been established for agents that prohibit heavy drinking and bringing foreigners into their hotel rooms. The training was already set, but has been expanded to 100 agents.

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng is leaving U.S. custody and will remain in China with assurances that he will no longer be a target for the Chinese government. Chen, the blind lawyer who escaped house arrest last week, spoke to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before departing from the U.S. embassy and told her he was grateful US assistance. He is currently receiving treatment in a Beijing hospital.

One day after the Dow closed at its highest level in more than four years, U.S. stock futures slipped on Wednesday as weak euro zone data set off new concerns about the region’s fiscal health. The euro also dropped to its lowest level in two weeks against the Japanese yen.

And finally: 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin joined Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show last night to provide some political punditry. Baldwin joked, “All Obama needs to do for the first month of the general election is just show clips of Gingrich’s remarks about Romney.” This morning, the Obama re-election campaign released a video showing Gingrich’s criticisms of Romney.

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