ThinkFast: July 22, 2009

AHIP's Karen Ignagni

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The Washington Post reports that the health insurance industry’s “effort to defend its turf has led it to cherry-pick the facts.” For instance, the insurer’s chief lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, is constantly citing a poll to claim that Americans don’t want reform. But the poll actually shows Americans want a public health insurance option.

Using a Bush administration argument, the Obama White House “has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.” CREW asked about visits from 18 executives, but the Secret Service replied that the documents “were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws.”

Attorney General Eric Holder “has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.” Holder’s limited inquiry would initially “review more than 20 abuse cases, including some involving prisoner deaths.”

A report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office said “that the Pentagon had not violated a federal prohibition on propaganda by using retired military officers to promote the Bush administration’s war policies in the news media.” But the report did not examine whether companies received a competitive advantage — and made it clear that “legitimate questions” remain as to whether “defense contractors … received favorable treatment in procurement decisions.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress on Tuesday that he expects “that the jobless rate — now 9.5% — could rise as high as 10.1% later this year before falling to as low as 9.5% by the end of 2010 and as low as 8.4% by the end of 2011.” “Still, Bernanke added unemployment would likely remain ‘well above’ healthy levels through 2011.”

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, said “trade tariffs in a House-passed bill to limit heat-trapping pollution have only served to irritate international negotiations and could undermine U.S. efforts to persuade developing countries to enter into a new global warming treaty.” “This is a dangerous thing, and I think people in Congress must understand this,” said Pachauri.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the U.S. would consider extending a security umbrella to states in the Persian Gulf region if Iran does not bow to international demands to rein in its nuclear program. “[I]f the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region…they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon,” Clinton said.

A new report from Amnesty International criticizes Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, stating that “thousands of Saudi suspects have been detained for years without charge or trial.” The 69-page report describes Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as “shocking” and “dire.”

Right-wing Pastor John Hagee, who came under intense controversy during the 2008 election for his views of Catholics and gays, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep building settlements. Hagee said Netanyahu should “grow and develop the settlements of Israel as you see fit.”

And finally: An attempted auction of the Watergate Hotel has failed to attract any bids. The complex made infamous because it is the site of the 1972 burglary that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation did not attract any offers after bidding opened at $25 million. “The innocent hotel is part of a large condo complex that’s a nice place to live, if you’ve got a bundle. Condoleezza Rice crashed there in between trips to global crises. Hillary Rodham Clinton dined there during a private tutor session with Rice before the inauguration.”