News, Straight to the Point

Let's get the bad news out of the way first.

As you've heard by now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that premiums on the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces will go up by an average of more than 20 percent for the 2017 plan year.

The increases point to a system that is still struggling to stabilize in some places, as pressure grows on lawmakers to fix some of the problems that have emerged in the law since the passage of Obamacare in 2010.

Fixing those problems isn't rocket science, most health care policy experts agree. But the politics of Obamacare remains exceedingly difficult, as long as Republicans remain united in lockstep opposition to anything but full repeal.

Here are five points that help better understand the political and policy dynamics at play:

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When it came to Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed business acumen, Hillary Clinton at the Monday’s presidential debate had a plan: Take what he believes is his greatest asset and turn it into a liability, in the form of a reminder of the shady, scummy and maybe illegal things he did on the way to building his empire. And Trump couldn’t help but play into her hands. Any time she brought a business practice or comment that would prompt others to show remorse, Trump responded glibly–or even bragged about it.

Here are some examples:

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Watching Monday’s presidential debate was like watching two separate conversations. On the one hand was Hillary Clinton’s policy-heavy explanations of her positions and plans for the country. On the other hand was Donald Trump repeating in various forms what has been the core argument of his campaign: that he was going to be able to shake things up after establishment figures like Clinton had screwed up the country.

But a few exchanges stand out as revealing the dynamics of the two candidates’ debate performances. Here are the five big moments from the first presidential debate.

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In a comprehensive report on ex-Fox News boss Roger Ailes' downfall published online Friday, New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports previously unknown details about how Ailes allegedly used private investigators to obtain rival journalists’ phone records and ran the network like a “surveillance state.”

The story traces Ailes’ ascent to CEO of Fox News, where he allegedly abused female employees along every step up the corporate ladder. Sherman, whom one of Ailes' lawyers recently described as a "virus" that is trying to "suck the life" out of Ailes' family, writes that it’s “unfathomable” to think top executives at the network were unaware of Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of dozens of women.

Here are five of the most stunning developments from Sherman’s magazine piece.

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Republican control of the House during President Obama's era was marked by high-stakes showdowns, intra-party sniping and the persistent threat of a coup against the GOP House speaker. A Republican House at the outset of a President Clinton administration could be more of the same–or even worse–if November losses erode the GOP majority, giving the Freedom Caucus types increased leverage in a more closely divided chamber.

While Democrats are signaling they're playing to win back the House, most forecasters still see a flip of the lower chamber to be a long shot. But that doesn’t mean Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the other GOP leaders committed to steering the party away from the recent dysfunction have any reason to breathe easily. An election that preserves Republican control of the House but shrinks GOP’s margins significantly will exacerbate the challenges Ryan was already facing in navigating a fractured party.

Here are 5 points on the headaches awaiting Ryan if Republicans’ margin over Democrats in the House shrinks.

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In between "Lock her up!" chants from the crowd, Donald Trump ramped up his rhetoric at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday afternoon, painting Hillary Clinton as lying, corrupt, and running the State Department as a criminal enterprise.

"Hillary Clinton’s actions constitute all of the elements of a major criminal enterprise," he told the crowd.

Trump has accused Clinton of criminality for weeks, in a series of unusually direct and unreserved attacks by a major party nominee. But Thursday's speech was a more comprehensive indictment that linked five separate lines of attack: Clinton's meeting with Clinton Foundation donors as secretary of state, her use of a private email server, her speeches to Wall Street, the Benghazi attack, and Trump's claims that the November election is rigged.

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In a lawsuit filed Monday, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros alleges that ex-network boss Roger Ailes was far from alone in making unwanted sexual advances during her tenure there. Tantaros alleges that network heavyweight Bill O’Reilly and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) also contributed to a culture of “misogyny” at the conservative news network.

Tantaros’ suit comes after Ailes resigned from the network amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation, first made by fired host Gretchen Carlson in a lawsuit filed in July (Ailes strenously denied those allegations through his lawyers). Tantaros’ lawsuit names the network’s newly appointed co-president, Bill Shine, public relations czar Irena Briganti, and two other high-ranking executives, along with Ailes, whom the complaint labels as a “predator.”

“Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” the complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court, reads.

The complaint also detailes network executives’ alleged efforts to “silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation,” including pulling her off her “dream job” hosting the network’s 5 p.m. talk show and using Fox News’ vast PR infrastructure to denigrate her in the press.

Fox News told Politico the network doesn't comment on pending litigation and Briganti did not respond to a request for comment. Susan Estrich, the attorney representing Ailes also did not respond.

Here are five points on the bombshell allegations brought to light in the lawsuit.

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Donald Trump's presidential campaign spent $18.5 million in the month of July, which was more than it had in previous months, but the candidate's money is still being doled out in unorthodox ways.

Trump still lags far behind Clinton in fundraising, spends a huge amount of cash on campaign swag, shows little evidence of having built a traditional ground game and relies heavily on a digital strategy firm that doesn't have much background at all in politics.

Here are five ways Trump's spending is upends politics as usual.

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News that Aetna, the county's third largest insurer, is slashing its Affordable Care Act participation is not the Obamacare-apocalypse that Republicans are making it out to be. But, coupled with similar moves by two other large insurance companies, the decision points to legitimate challenges some carriers are facing on the ACA exchanges, industry experts tell TPM.

The marketplaces are still working for other plans, and there's reason to believe the big insurers scaling back now might be willing to give the exchanges another try down the road, the analysts predict. Other issues might require the attention of lawmakers, and the hyper-partisan atmosphere that lingers around the law isn't helping.

Here are five points on what it means for Obamacare that Aetna is scaling back its involvement in the exchanges by 70 percent:

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Voting rights advocates have had a good couple of weeks at the courts this summer, having received favorable rulings in cases coming out of Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan and North Dakota. The setbacks states have faced in enacting restrictive voting requirements like voter ID and laws that cut back early voting, limited pre-registration or made absentee voting more difficult could affect minority turnout in key battleground states like North Carolina and Wisconsin. The recent opinions are also shaping the broader legal battle over whether these laws are veiled efforts to discriminate against groups of voters who lean Democrat.

Here are five points on the recent rulings:

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