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Fox News lashed back at the White House for calling the cable channel "a wing of the Republican Party," releasing a statement calling the remarks "self-serving."

"It's astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming. It seems self-serving on their part," said Michael Clemente, a senior vice president at Fox News.

It was an interesting choice of phrase: Earlier today, a White House spokeswoman called a report released by the insurance industry "self-serving." The report claims health care reform would increase premiums.

On Sunday, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn went after Fox News, saying, "Let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is," and describing Fox as President Obama's "opposition."

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The White House announced today that President Obama will hold a Tribal Nations Conference on November 5, with the 564 federally recognized Native American tribes.

"I look forward to hearing directly from the leaders in Indian Country about what my Administration can do to not only meet their needs, but help improve their lives and the lives of their peoples," Obama said in a statement. "This conference will serve as part of the ongoing and important consultation process that I value, and further strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship."

The White House said each of the 564 tribes will be invited to send one representative to the November conference, to meet with the President and administration members. Obama first mentioned the conference in June, in an address to the 2009 National Congress of American Indians Mid-Year Conference.

On a conference call with the Deeds campaign and reporters just now, TPM asked Deeds adviser Mo Elleithee for comment on Republican candidate Bob McDonnell's upcoming rally with Sheila Johnson -- the McDonnell supporter who publicly insulted Deeds for stuttering.

"Well, we'll be anxious to see if he finally uses this as an opportunity to apologize," said Elleithee. The McDonnell campaign had originally not apologized, though Johnson herself later issued a statement apologizing, after a day of media criticism.

"I think most people agree that her comments were in poor taste. People are confused about why he would not distance himself from those comments," Elleithee added. "It really was a telling moment in this campaign. It was the only time in this campaign so far when one candidate launched a truly negative personal attack against another."

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The Columbus Day holiday hasn't kept politically powerful organizations from slamming AHIP today over the group's new report criticizing the health reform bill up for a final vote in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow. In the past hour, powerful lobbying groups representing nurses, seniors and progressives have put out statements blasting the AHIP report.

From the California Nurses Assoc., the largest nurses union in the country: "Our legislators should respond to this bullying and stop coddling a useless industry whose sole function is to make enormous profits from the pain and suffering of patients while providing little in return."

From the AARP: The AHIP report is not "worth the paper it's written on."

From Americans United For Change: "The bottom line is that the insurance industry wants to kill health insurance reform so they can continue to be free to exclude people with pre-existing conditions, free to rescind policies when people get sick, free to use their exemption from the anti-trust laws to monopolize markets, free to continue increasing profits for Wall Street -- and free to give their CEO's tens of millions in compensation. "

With the unraveling of the deal for the shadowy American Private Police Force to take over and populate an empty jail in Hardin, Montana, it's pretty clear that the small city got played by an ex-con and his (supposed) private security firm.

But an investigation by TPMmuckraker into how Hardin ended up with the 92,000 square foot facility in the first place suggests that, long before "low-level card shark" Michael Hilton ever came to town, Hardin officials had already been taken for a ride by a far more powerful set of players: a well-organized consortium of private companies headquartered around the country, which specializes in pitching speculative and risky prison projects to local governments desperate for jobs.

The projects have generated multi-million dollar profits for the companies involved, but often haven't created the anticipated payoff for the communities, and have left a string of failed or failing prisons in their wake.

"They look for an impoverished town that's desperate," says Frank Smith of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes prison privatization. "They come in looking very impressive, saying, 'We'll make money rain from the skies.' In fact, they don't care whether it works or not."

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Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said on MSNBC a few moments ago that he prefers a "trigger" option on health care reform -- of the sort favored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) -- to the new "opt-out" compromise -- which would allow states to individually opt out of a public health insurance option -- that is gaining favor with some Democrats.

"I think it ought to be available in all markets, each of the states," Nelson said. "The idea is, let the free market competition really determine what the rates are."

Nelson said the "trigger" plan "would be more important" than the "opt-out" compromise, saying that "otherwise you could have a state (that) would say, well, the insurance companies lobbied that state and they just completely did what the insurance companies wanted and took away the public option."

Nelson also said he expects the Baucus bill to pass the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow: "All the Democrats will vote for it to get it out of the committee. And I'm very hopeful and I'm very optimistic that Olympia will as well."

Nelson also had harsh words for the health insurer trade group AHIP's audit of the Baucus bill, saying that "you have to look at who produced the report -- the insurance industry did."

AHIP president Karen Ignagni says her group's new report criticizing the Baucus health care bill is "very consistent" with the insurance industry's support for reform.

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Igagni said the report was part of that supportive effort and did not suggest a shift in rhetoric on reform on the part of the nation's health insurers. She said the industry supports reform that "levels out" what she called "the cost curve" of health care -- reforms that Ignangi said include insuring everyone.

"We've said from the beginning that members of Congress need to take on the cost curve," she told reporters. "We've been nothing but consistent about those points."

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At a town hall at the University of Pennsylvania last Friday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) surprised students by showing up alongside basketball Hall-of-Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Johnson and Specter met by chance right before the town hall.

"This young man is a person who really cares about America," Johnson said. "I only hope to do half as much as he's done."

Johnson endorsed Specter and also said he's a "treasure."

And Specter's obviously proud of the endorsement: He just tweeted about it.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) spoke to the Florida Democratic Party convention this past weekend, and was sure a hit with the party activists.

"I want to say a few words about what it means to be a Democrat," said Grayson. "What it means to be a Democrat. It's very simple: We have a conscience."

"You know, scientists have studied for years this difficult question of why some people have a conscience, and some people don't," Grayson later explained. "Some people are called Democrats, and some people are called Republicans."



Late Update: NRCC spokesman Andy Seré gives us this comment: "Some people are called serious-minded public servants, and other people are called self-obsessed creatures of the fringe who have no business representing 800,000 Central Floridians."

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