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An anecdote in a new GQ Allen Stanford story sheds some light on yesterday's weird reports that the suspected Ponzi schemer secured himself ten years of SEC amnesty by being an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration -- and also the continuing puzzle of why the Stanford's "statuesque" CIO Laura Pendergest-Holt, who was formally indicted today, isn't cooperating with the government. Stanford wasn't just any DEA informant, he turned his plane around at the chance to rat out a Mexican drug lord! Also, Stanford was a bit cultlike.

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I wrote a bit skeptically about yesterday's White House health care event. In a broad sense, even if the administration did move the ball forward, it was a small advancement through the legislative minefield comprehensive health reform will no doubt prove to be.

But could the event, in and of itself, have actually been a setback? When the health care fight kicks off on the Hill, one of the major points of friction will be the issue of a public insurance option. Commercial health care interests oppose it. Republicans oppose it. Several Democrats oppose a serious version of it. But, in the minds of reformers, it's a crucial element of real progress. Without a public option--an affordable health care plan, run and subsidized by the government--insurers and other interests will have little incentive to cut costs and waste such that private plans will be affordable to all consumers.

Yesterday, those interests came together and pledged to shave 1.5 percent a year off the approximately six percent a year annual growth in health care costs. That's not unsubstantial--if they really follow through they'll save people about $2 trillion over the next 10 years. (More accurately, if they follow through, health care costs will grow by $2 trillion less than they would have in absence of any reforms.)

But there are a few problems.

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On May 11, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI began his week long "journey of faith", as he called it, in the Middle East that included visits to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Here, the Pope and Israeli President Shimon Peres, plant a tree at the garden of the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.

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At a Mount Scopus reception ceremony.

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At the reception ceremony at Ben Gurion airport.

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Pope Benedict XVI flanked by his assistant Monsignor Guido Marini, places a note in the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City.

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Pope Benedict XVI during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem May 11.

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At Yad Vashem.

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Pope Benedict XVI stands in front of the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount on May 12.

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Pope Benedict XVI and Israeli President Shimon Peres during a tour at the garden of the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem, Monday, May 11.

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Israeli President Shimon Peres greets Pope Benedict XVI in front of an Israeli youth choir at his residence in Jerusalem, May 11.

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Pope Benedict XVI and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu hold hands as Israel's President Shimon Peres smiles in the back right, during a welcoming ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, May 11.

Newscom/Sipa

Appearing on Fox News with Neil Cavuto, former Vice President Dick Cheney strongly responded to those who have criticized him for his public campaign against the Obama administration's decisions about interrogation/torture programs.



"Well, I don't pay a lot of attention to what the critics say, obviously," said Cheney. "I - from my standpoint, the notion that I should remain silent while they go public, that I shouldn't say anything while they threaten to disbar the lawyers who gave us the advice that was crucial in terms of this program, that I shouldn't say anything when they go out and release information that they believe is critical of the program, and critical of our policies but refuse to put out information that would show the results that we're able to achieve -- bottom line is we successfully defended the nation for seven and half years against a follow-on attack to 9/11. That was a remarkable achievement, nobody would have thought that was possible, but it was. I believe it was possible because of the policies we had in place, which they're now dismantling."

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Suspected Ponzi schemer Sir Allen Stanford's chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt was indicted in Houston this morning for obstructing and conspiring to obstruct the federal investigation into Stanford's sham money manager. Aside from a new allegation that Pendergest transferred $4.3 million of bank funds into the bank's operating account after speaking to the SEC, the charges don't appear much different from those laid out in a criminal complaint filed against the photogenic 35-year-old overseer of Stanford's "Tier 2" investments in February. (That's not for lack of rifling through her underwear drawer, according to a motion filed by her lawyer.)

That complaint depicted Pendergest-Holt's role in the Stanford enterprise as less mastermind than a case of (yes we realize this is a lame joke but) "Who Framed Jessica Rabbit?"

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So we told you earlier today that the Philadelphia Inquirer has signed up Bush torture guru John Yoo as a columnist.

But it gets worse. Greg Sargent points out that in March, Yoo used his new perch to attack civil libertarians who have criticized the Bush administration's expansion of executive power -- an expansion in which Yoo played a key role.

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Former Gov. Jesse Ventura (Independence Party-MN) appeared on Larry King Live last night, and he had some choice words for former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), the man that he defeated in the race for governor back in 1998:



Ventura said that the legal process in Minnesota is working out as it's supposed to be -- but at the same time it looks like Al Franken is the winner, and any federal appeal by Coleman should be thrown out.

King asked whether Ventura criticizes Coleman: "Well I criticize him only that Coleman's always been a hypocrite. He never does what he says," Ventura responded. "He said Election Night, when he won, that Franken should drop out, and he should be the Senator. Well, then the same should hold true after the recount."

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is running a conservative primary challenge in the Republican Senate primary against moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, is all set to use Crist's support for the stimulus bill against him. Rubio now has this new Web ad, tying Crist directly to President Obama:



As Greg Sargent says: "It isn't every day that a politician seeks to turn a race into a referendum on his opponent's support for a President with an approval rating in the 60s, but these aren't ordinary times for today's GOP."

Obama might be popular with most Americans right now, but he's unpopular with the people who count in this race: The folks who will be voting in that Republican primary.

Now this is some chutzpah...

Norm Coleman is arguing that he should be able to use campaign funds to pay his legal bills in connection with the Nasser Kazeminy allegations, citing the need to respond to inquiries on the subject from TPMmuckraker and others in the media. But we're kind of unclear about what expenses the Coleman camp incurred here -- because they never responded to us in the first place.

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