TPM News

Gov. Charlie Crist's senate campaign alerted reporters this afternoon to the results of a new private poll fielded by Crist supporters early last week. The poll, fielded by the Florida police union that endorsed Crist in the GOP primary on Monday, shows Crist with more than 20 point lead over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

The poll, first reported by the St. Petersburg Times, shows Crist leading the race 53-29. That flies in the face of recent public polling showing Rubio gaining on Crist.

How could a top government scientist with clearance to view a dizzying range of Top Secret weapons and technology information simultaneously work for an aerospace firm owned by a foreign government?

The question is prompted by one of the more curious sections of the criminal complaint against Stewart Nozette, who is accused of passing classified information to a person he believed was an Israeli agent.

"It's hard to imagine that there are many individuals who had a broader cross section of classified access -- overhead reconnaissance, signals intelligence, space technology, and nuclear weapons," secrecy expert Steven Aftergood told TPMmuckraker. "He was all over the place, probably because he was an exceptionally skilled and competent technologist," says Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists.

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On October 21, First Lady Michelle Obama held a "Healthy Kids Fair" on the South Lawn of the White House. At the event, Obama spoke to children about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, before moving through different healthy food stations and participating in obstacle courses and games of jump rope. Here, the First Lady is joined on the South Lawn by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

In her remarks, Michelle Obama said that one of her goals was "to begin to talk about nutrition and to highlight the little ways that each of us can add more healthy fruits and vegetables to our diet, something that I think about all the time as a mother. We felt that this was especially important right now when so many children in this nation are facing health problems that are entirely preventable. So we've got our kids who are struggling with things that we have the power to control."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"Medical experts are now warning that for the first time in the history of this nation, we're headed for the next generation being on track to have a shorter life span than us," she said. "That's the way we're going right now. And none of us wants that. None of us wants that for our children and for our children's futures. Even if we don't care about ourselves, we don't want that for our kids."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"We want our children to eat right, not just because it's the right thing to do but because quite frankly healthy good food tastes good and we want them to experience that...But it's hard to do everything," the First Lady said. "And when you come home from a long day at work, and the refrigerator is empty, and you know you don't feel like cooking -- the easiest and sometimes the cheapest thing to do is to get in a fast food drive-thru. We've all done it because we are overwhelmed and we don't know what the options are."

Newscom/Dennis Brack

"And today life is so different from when I was growing up, kids. And I know your parents tell you this," she said. "I tell my kids this. When I was growing up, fast food was a treat...And we didn't have dessert every single night. My mother would tell us, 'Dessert is not a right. It's a treat.' So we had it on special occasions. We didn't have -- and I have to tell my kids this -- you don't get dessert every night of the week. Otherwise it's not a treat; it's just something that you do...So these are the kind of rules that I grew up with, that all of your moms and your dads grew up with, and these are the kind of rules and boundaries and guidelines that we want to set for all of you."

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

"But in my household, there were no absolutes, right? I mean, we love good food, too," the First Lady said. "That's why I always say there's nothing that the First Family loves more than a good burger, right? And look, my favorite food in the whole wide world are French fries. I love them. Dearly. Deeply. I have a good relationship with French fries and I would eat them every single day if I could. I really would. But I know that if I'm eating the right things -- and I tell my girls this -- if you're getting the right foods for most of the time, then when it's time to have cake and french fries on those special occasions, then you balance it out.

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"Many kids don't have any access to physical education in the schools -- and that's also something that's also changed," she said. "When I grew up -- and I went to public schools in my neighborhood -- I don't care what you did; you had recess and you had gym on a very regular basis. So even though we're encouraging our kids to exercise, if they can't go to school and that -- get the same kind of exercise opportunities, then it makes our jobs as parents harder."

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

"We don't just want our kids to exercise because we tell them to. We want them to exercise because it's fun and they enjoy it. And we want them to learn now how to lead good, healthy lifestyles so that they're not struggling to figure out how to do that when they're older."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"And that's one of the reasons why we're here today, because we know that schools can play an important role in the work that we hope to achieve. And that's why the Department of Agriculture has started this wonderful challenge called Healthier U.S. School Challenge. And the goal of this challenge is to find schools who are going to commit to making fresh healthy food available -- we want them to pledge that, that's part of the challenge -- but in addition to making healthy foods available, getting rid of the junk food in the school, making that pledge, get rid of it, but also to be sure that they're setting aside time for physical activity during the day in the curriculum and teaching kids about healthy food choices during the day."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"In our household, no TV during school days. And only a couple hours during the weekend, I'm sorry. But because the TV is off, my girls get up and they move. Even if they're pushing each other down, they're running. So we're going to need you to help your parents. Turn off the TV on your own. Get up and throw a ball. Run around the house. Don't break anything, but move. Try to go outside if you can."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

"And of course changing old habits is never easy. That's why it's going to take a broader team effort with everyone pitching in, and it's going to take government doing its part."

Newscom/Gary Fabiano/Sipa Press

Senate Democratic leaders have arrived at the White House for what administration officials are calling a "check-in." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) will be meeting with President Obama and (probably) top health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who have been on Capitol Hill all week helping negotiate the merger of the two versions of the Senate health care plan.

A source tells TPMDC there isn't a laser focus on all of the public option news breaking over on the Hill (Brian's latest is here) but rather a talk about everything being floated as a potential compromise.

"I think there are a lot of moving parts here and don't think anything is close to being settled," the source said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had a private lunch with Obama today and aides on both sides are mum on what they discussed.

TPMDC is camped out here at the White House to get a sense of how the talks are going, and we'll keep you posted.

Where did all of this momentum for the public option come from? According to a source close to negotiations, it came from last night's closed door meeting between Senate and White House officials, with the push coming from Democratic leadership.

"It's definitely being considered," the source said, referring to the public option compromise that may end up in the Senate's health care bill.

"It came out at last night's meeting," the source indicated. "It was indicated that based on some surveying that had been done of the moderates, that it doesn't so far seem like they would jump out of their skin as long as they have an opportunity to vote to strip it."

Any provision in the base bill that hits the Senate floor will stay in unless 60 senators can band together to strip it out. That means if a public option is included now, it's almost certain not to go anywhere. According to both Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and other sources, the compromise being considered would create a national public option that pays providers at negotiated rates. Unlike similar so-called "level-playing-field" public option proposals, it would not be operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, but by a separate entity, with a board of directors appointed by the government.

This fact, apparently, didn't sit well with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who is determined to keep Sen. Olympia Snowe's vote.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has made a new change to his "Names of the Dead" Web site, which is meant to catalog a list of people who have died for lack of health insurance, with the sidebar of dead people's names now restored to the site.

The page had originally allowed users to post names that would immediately go live to the site, without any editing, which quickly led to the display of joke names like "Wile E. Coyote" and "Hugh G. Reckshinn." The list was then removed.

A source close to Grayson told me that names will now be cleared through an administrator before going live.

However, I should point out that this approach is also susceptible to prank names if they are obscure enough -- which already happened yesterday with entries such as "Steve Rogers, 90" (Captain America), "Casper McFadden, 12" (Casper the Friendly Ghost), or "Norma Jeane Mortenson, 36" (Marilyn Monroe).

About 400 union activists gathered outside the Capitol Hilton in downtown D.C. this afternoon and called on AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni to take a break from the health insurance industry convention going on inside to meet with seven insurance company customers who say they've each lived through (some of them barely) a nightmare that started when they tried to get their insurer to pay their medical bills.

Ignagni didn't show.

Health Care For America Now!, and organized labor-funded lobbying group, hosted the protest and brought the seven families to DC to meet with Igagni. Executive Director Richard Kirsch told the crowd outside the bad news.

"They're all scared of you," he said of insurance company executives. "They don't want to face us."

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The head of the Justice Department's beleaguered Public Integrity unit is stepping down.

William Welch, who supervised the department's botched prosecution of former Alaska senator Ted Stevens, will remain with DOJ but return to Massachusetts, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

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After a week delay, four Republican lawmakers have formally asked the House sergeant at arms to investigate whether a Muslim advocacy group placed interns in national security committees, a spokesperson for the sergeant at arms confirmed to TPMmuckraker this afternoon.

Spokesperson Kerri Hanley would only say that a letter requesting a probe of the Council on American Islamic Relations was received today and that it is under review.

The letter, which you can read in full here, claims that CAIR is tied to "HAMAS" and cites the new WND-published book Muslim Mafia, written by a man who has labeled President Obama "Muslim":

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After a meeting with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) discussed the status of the public plan in the Senate health care bill with reporters. Here's what he said:

"I think at the end of the day there will be a national plan probably put together not by the federal government but by a non-profit board with some seed money from the federal government that states would initially participate in because of lack of affordability. The question is should there be an opportunity for states to opt out later on and if so, within a year, within two years, within three years?"

How would this plan work? "Among the things that's important," Carper said, "is, one, that this not be a government run, government funded enterprise, two, that there be a level playing field so that this non-profit entity that would be stood up would have to play by same rules basically as for-profit insurance companies--the idea that secretary of Health and Human Services [will be] running or directing the operation of this--no way.

We ought to have a non-profit board--it could be appointed by the President but a non profit board. They'd have to retain earnings, create a retained earnings pool, so that if they run into financial problems later on the financial needs of the plan could be met by the retained earnings, not by the federal government.

Carper suggested that a state's ability to opt out could be determined by the effectiveness and competitiveness of its insurance market. "There should be some standard--how do we say to a state, 'No you've got to participate in it right from day one,' and if so should there be an opportunity later on for you to say, 'Well, it's not working, we don't want to continue to be a part that,' and to opt out."

I pressed Carper on whether this entity would be accountable to taxpayers. He didn't answer directly--clearly there's some interest in de-emphasizing the government's role in the insurance market--he did sugest that the public option, though run by a non-government entity, would answer to the government.

And that would appear to bring it into line with the demands of the largest health care reform campaign in the country.