TPM News

In one fell swoop today, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) revived the specter of health care death panels, and called into question the FDA's ability to judge the effectiveness of breast cancer medication.

According to the Associated Press, Vitter slammed the FDA, which voted 12-1 to drop its endorsement of the breast cancer drug Avastin after research showed that its additional positive effects were minimal, but it was associated with increased liver toxicity. Vitter called the decision "sickening" -- but not because the FDA's accelerated approval of the drug in 2007 went against the medical advise of its advisory committee or because women with metastatic breast cancer using the drug were more likely to die. Instead, he compared the FDA's reversal to withholding care for patients whose lives are "not deemed valuable enough."

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The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has expanded its probe of the city of Bell, widening the investigation from a scandal over inflated salaries to include allegations of voter fraud and possible conflicts of interest involving city businesses.

Bell City Council members have taken a lot of heat this month after it was revealed that many of them had inflated their salaries to $96,000 a year for part-time elected positions, with one city staff member banking nearly $800,000 a year.

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Despite the demise of climate change legislation last week, top Republicans are loudly opposing a new, scaled back energy bill unveiled by Senate Democrats last night.

At a press conference this morning with top Republicans, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called it a "cobbled-together bill," and GOP aides continue to raise the specter of a "national energy tax" despite the fact that the new legislation contains no tax on carbon emissions.

The Democratic plan, which is comprised of several measures (each of which has bipartisan support), may be in serious jeopardy, unless Democrats budge on one key issue: oil spill liability.

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In yet another sign that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has recovered in his re-election race -- thanks to the many gaffes and right-wing positions of Republican former state Rep. Sharron Angle -- the new Rasmussen poll of the state now has Reid inching ahead, the first time Reid has been ahead in a Rasmussen survey.

The numbers: Reid 45%, Angle 43%. The survey of likely voters has a ±4% margin of error. In the previous Rasmussen poll from two weeks ago, Angle led by 46%-43%. The TPM Poll Average has Reid leading Angle by 44.5%-42.8%.

In addition, Rasmussen has changed its rating on this race, from toss-up to leaning Dem.

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With days to go before Michigan's gubernatorial primary, Michigan Attorney General and Republican candidate Mike Cox is dealing with the fallout of a leaked affidavit that puts him on the scene of a long-rumored party supposedly thrown at the Detroit mayor's mansion in 2002 by then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Cox called the allegations "bold-faced lies," and says he's never set foot in the mayor's mansion. In an interview on WJR-AM, Cox suggested the leak of the affidavit was timed close to the primary to draw the most headlines.

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Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), whose reelection bid is looking a little tougher than expected thanks to the entrance of former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi (R), is getting a little help from the country's most famous Democrat.

According to the Seattle Times, President Obama will headline a fundraiser for Murray on August 17 -- the same day as Washington's primary -- as part of his first presidential trip to Seattle.

Murray, first elected to the Senate in 1992, already has a large warchest to battle Rossi, the assumed Republican choice in the state's "top 2" open primary system. In the last fundraising quarter, Murray reported $6.8 million on hand, putting her well ahead of Rossi's reported $1.3 million.

Polls show the race to be close, however, and Republicans have repeatedly pointed to the race as a potiential pickup opportunity since Rossi got in. The TPM Poll Average shows the race to be essentially a dead heat, with Murray leading Rossi 45.5-44.8.

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The federal criminal investigation into the Gulf oil spill will focus on BP, Transocean and Halliburton -- and their connections to federal regulators.

The Washington Post reports today that investigators known as the "BP Squad," including people from the EPA, the Coast Guard, the FBI and other agencies, are assembling in New Orleans. They'll investigate not only the oil companies, but the role the former Minerals Management Service may have played in the disaster.

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So has the Obama economic program been working? While the economy certainly continues to have problems, the Obama administration -- and some members of the Bush administration -- have consistently argued that things would have been worse without their intervention. And now, two economists have published a study arguing in favor of that very idea, saying that there's quantitative evidence that the interventions of the Obama and Bush administrations helped avert a depression.

As the New York Times reports, a new economic paper from Princeton professor and former Fed vice chair Alan S. Blinder and Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi argues that the combination of financial reforms such as TARP, bank stress tests and emergency lending by the Fed, plus the stimulus, have indeed saved the economy from far worse problems.

The report also finds that while the financial reforms alone would have been been stronger than the stimulus alone, the whole is not directly comparable to the sum of the parts in isolation, "because the policies tend to reinforce each other."

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Stephen Colbert didn't understand last night what the big deal is about the recent leaks about the war in Afghanistan by the site WikiLeaks: "Innocent people have died, Pakistan is not the most trustworthy partner, and Afghanistan is a tough place to wage a war. This information and more is also available on my new website, 'ObviLeaks.'"

The site also features such "groundbreaking information" as "Linsdey Lohan Troubled," "Hungry Monkey: Banana Good," and "Bear Sh*ts In Woods, Reports Catholic Pope."

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Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) boldly declared Tuesday night that he is officially back and running in the Connecticut Senate race -- though on the other hand, he also joked that he should have edited that statement.

Simmons, who suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination in late May but has recently gone back on the air -- with an ad reminding voters, as he likes to say, that he's "still on the ballot" -- showed up last night for a debate with another candidate, financial commentator Peter Schiff. The frontrunner for the Republican nomination, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, was not present.

"I'm Rob Simmons. I am running for the United States Senate, because I love my country, and I don't like where it's going," said Simmons. As the Connecticut Mirror reports: "But Simmons was playful after the debate concerning his status: 'I should have edited that old opening statement.'"

The Republican primary will be held on August 10. The TPM Poll Average for the primary shows McMahon with a lead of 43.4%-29.6% over Simmons, plus 10.0% for Schiff. In the general election, McMahon trails Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal by 52.5%-38.8%, and Simmons trails Blumenthal by 52.7%-35.7%.

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