Morning Briefing: September 28, 2011

Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is single-handedly blocking new safety regulations for oil and gas pipelines out of principle, despite the fact that the industry supports the new rules and “even after a gas pipeline rupture last week shook people awake in three counties in his home state of Kentucky.”

The very first “federal count of same-sex married couples in the USA shows 131,729 gay or lesbian couples who say they’re married,” according to Census data. This does not include data from New York, which legalized same-sex marriage after the Census data was compiled.

Premiums for employee-sponsored health insurance continue to skyrocket even as more workers receive less generous coverage, according surveys released today. Half of all workers at small firms with individual policies had premiums of more than $1,000 — up from 16 percent of workers in 2006 — as employers face rising health costs by requiring workers to pay more out of pocket. TP Health’s Igor Volsky explains why.

As many as 14 people have died from contaminated cantaloupes, health officials say, a death toll that would make it the deadliest food outbreak in the country in over a decade. The Centers for Disease Control “said last week that 55 illnesses and eight deaths were linked to the outbreak” and it comes at a time when some Republicans want to cut food safety regulations.

Two leading House Democrats are crying “foul” over the GOP’s attempt to launch an official investigation into Planned Parenthood. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter yesterday the Republican lawmaker spearheading the effort, saying the GOP has “singled out” the organization “as part of a Republican vendetta” against the organization and family planning.

The Daily Caller is standing by its story that the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a $21 billion expansion, despite multiple outlets reporting that the story isn’t true. Executive Editor David Martosko: “The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What’s ‘comically wrong’ is the idea that half of Washington won’t admit it.”

According to documents just released under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI keeps people on the terrorist watch lists even after they’ve been acquitted of charges. The New York Times reports the database now has about 420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans.

A handful of “House Republicans have introduced legislation to retire the dollar bill and replace it with a mandated dollar coin,” citing cost concerns. Two senators have already introduced legislation to save the paper dollar from the “unpopular $1 coin.”

And finally: It looks like someone in the White House got their rectangular states mixed up when they mocked up a press pass that appears to mark Wyoming as Colorado.

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