TPM News

As Zack noted in great detail here, the Obama administration is investigating the activities of health insurance giant Humana--a participant in Medicare Advantage that's been telling its aging consumers that the government plans to slash benefits, and urging them to tell Congress not to touch the program as it reforms the U.S. health care system.

Medicare Advantage plans are private health care plans that seniors can buy into with federal assistance in lieu of participating in traditional Medicare. Under terms the government erected when it created the system, those insurers face strict limits on how they communicate to beneficiaries--regulations that exist to protect seniors from acting under the pressures of insurers, who control their benefits. In response to a request from Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has demanded the lobbying effort cease, and is investigating the company to determine whether it violated those rules.

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House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) appeared yesterday at a health care reform discussion hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. As the newspaper reported, constituents "listened without booing" and "left in an orderly fashion -- without shouting, fighting or the escort of law enforcement." What a refreshing change of pace.

As Think Progress pointed out, there was only one glitch: Cantor told a woman whose uninsured relative needs a tumor operation that she ought to look into "an existing government program" or seek charity to pay for the operation. Way to stick to conservative principles.

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Besides showering Democratic politicians with hundreds of thousands dollars -- probably several million in all -- what was Hassan Nemazee spending all that money on?

Unlike Bernie Madoff or 'Sir' Allen Stanford, Nemazee's alleged Ponzi scheme did not involve bilking individual investors. The Feds put the fraud at $292 million since 1998. Even taking into account that some of the money was allegedly borrowed to pay off other loans, a person would have to spend hard and often, on more than just political donations, to burn through that kind of cash.

And, the indictment suggests, Nemazee did just that.

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President Obama told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they "must take risks for peace" in trilateral meetings, Middle East Envoy George Mitchell told ABC News.

Reading from notes taken during the meeting, Mitchell quoted the President as saying:

It's difficult to disentangle ourselves from history but we must do so. The only reason to hold public office is to get things done. We all must take risks for peace. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is critical to Israel's security and it's necessary for Palestinians to realize their aspirations.


A "senior U.S. official" also said Obama wanted to impart "a sense of his impatience and seriousness and his analysis that they need to get going." Peace talks "can't just be a perpetual kabuki," the official said, if Obama is "going to continue to invest his political capital."

Before the meeting, Obama called on the leaders to "find a way forward."

The Massachusetts state Senate has passed the bill to provide for a temporary appointment to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, voting by a 24-16 margin. Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to name an appointee by the end of the week, putting Democrats back at 60 seats.

Until 2004, state law had provided for a gubernatorial appointee who would hold the office until the next regular Congressional election. State Democrats changed the process to a special election with no appointment in 2004, when John Kerry was running for president and Republican Mitt Romney was governor.

The new law, which was requested by Kennedy shortly before his death, will provide for an appointee of the same party as the departing Senator, who will be expected to not run in the expedited special election. Former Gov. Mike Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, is widely viewed as the favorite for the appointment.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, has now formed his own federal political action committee, called "Freedom First," which will allow him to raise money for other Republicans and to travel around the country -- but Pawlenty is denying that this is a step towards laying groundwork for a presidential campaign.

As the Star Tribune reports:

Pawlenty, who ended his state fundraising committee earlier this month, said the new PAC should not be seen as confirmation of his interest in running for president.

"It is just the opposite," Pawlenty told the Star Tribune this morning. "This undertaking, as we plan it and envision it, would be to help other candidates on a federal level."

President Obama, speaking today after he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separately and before he met with them together, described his message to the two leaders:

"Despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward," Obama said. "We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. ... Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency."

The goal, he said, is a lasting peace with two states: Israel and Palestine.

"It is past time to talk about starting negotiations," he said. "It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that's necessary to achieve our goals. Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon."

Obama lauded progress made so far but insisted it's not enough.

"Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations," he said. "Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity. But they need to translate these discussions into real action on this and other issues."

He said Middle East Envoy George Mitchell will meet with negotiators from each side in Washington next week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will report on the status of the talks in mid-October.

Video after the jump.

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