TPM News

You might not necessarily think that health care reform would end up in the crosshairs of the gun lobby. But you'd be wrong. Gun Owners of America have been raging against the Senate health care bill for all sorts of imagined threats to the Second Amendment, and now the White House has taken notice.

What exactly are their concerns? Well, for instance, "Special 'wellness and prevention' programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles -- and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier."

The White House says: "Section 2717 section creates guidelines for insurers to report on initiatives that improve quality of care and health outcomes, and it specifically lists what types of programs would be involved - such as smoking cessation, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention. There is no mention of guns, and there is no language that could result in higher premiums for gun owners or lower premiums for people who do not own guns."

You can read the gun owners' gripes here, and the fact-check here.

Google is using a house ad to explain why an offensive image of First Lady Michelle Obama is the first result in an image search.

Search Engine Land reports that complaints about the image appeared in a Google help forum last week. A Google employee responded to the complaints on Wednesday, explaining that Google does not remove results "simply because the content is in very poor taste or because we receive complaints concerning it."

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During a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, President Obama addressed his upcoming announcement on his Afghanistan troops decision.

"I will be making an announcement to the American people about how we intend to move forward," the president said. "I will be doing so shortly."

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From federal prosecutor to accused violent gangster, pimp, and drug-dealer...That's the unusual career trajectory taken, say the Feds, by Paul Bergrin, who was indicted earlier this month in a 39-count racketeering indictment.

In a drama that could have been made for HBO, Bergrin -- a white-collar defense lawyer who once represented, pro bono, a solider accused of abusing Abu Ghraib detainees -- seems to have allowed his gangster clients to drag him into a world of violent crime. And he may have gone a lot further than Maury Levy ever did for Stringer Bell.

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When President Obama likes a magazine article, White House staffers had better read it.

Obama's must-read is Ron Brownstein's Saturday blog post "A Milestone in the Health Care Journey" at the Atlantic's political Web site.

Politico noted today that Obama found the article, which lauds Max Baucus' approach to health care, a good summary of the cost controls in the health care bill.

An administration official tells TPMDC that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel assigned the article as homework during a recent meeting.

According to the official, Emanuel told senior staffers "not to come back to the next day's meeting if they hadn't read the article."

Staff of the Southern Voice, a gay weekly in Atlanta and one of the handful of publications shut down abruptly by parent company Window Media last week, have received a $12,000 matching grant to start a new publication.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation, which provides grants to organizations in the LGBQT and leather communities, will provide the matching grant to the Voice's founder and former owner, Chris Cash, and its erstwhile editor, Laura Douglas-Brown.

Cash and Douglas-Brown have been raising money through a new web site, SaveSoVo.com. Their yet-to-be-named publication will have both print and online editions.

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Doug Hoffman, the unsuccessful Conservative Party candidate in the recent NY-23 special election, will reportedly not ask for a recount in the race, says News 10 Now.

I called Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan, asking for confirmation or other comment, and he said simply that a statement will be released later today.

The latest results, with 628 absentee ballots left to be counted, have Democrat Bill Owens beating Hoffman by 48.3%-46.0%, with a raw-vote margin of 3,397 votes.

Owens was sworn in two and a half weeks ago, after Hoffman had conceded the election. The correction of routine clerical errors, however, narrowed Owens' margin from 5,000 votes to about 3,000, leading Hoffman to take back his concession. Wednesday night, Hoffman charged that the election was stolen: "ACORN, the unions and Democratic Party were scared, and that's why they tampered with the ballots of voters in NY-23."

Pretend for a moment that you're Michael Steele. You won the RNC chairmanship earlier this year, and have been at the helm of the GOP for months as it has waged a fierce internal battle over the future of the party. You also have a reputation for being a bit of a buffoon. So the off-year elections roll around, and things go OK. Dede gets Scozzafav'd, but for the most part the media trains its eyes on gubernatorial pick ups in New Jersey and Virginia and declares victory for the GOP.

You might think that's a pretty good outcome. But Steele apparently wanted more credit for the Christie and McDonnell wins. So what's a political chief to do?

According to Politico the answer he arrived at was 'fire my communications director and fill the void with CNN's celebrity GOP talking head Alex Castellanos."

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