Today’s Headlines – Nov. 1, 2012

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including highlights from the campaign trail, from the top of the ticket to some of the attention-grabbing Senate races across the country, as well as a report that the Obama administration will not oppose efforts to reopen the religious challenge to the health law.

The Wall Street Journal: Fiscal Cliff Forces All Sides To Jockey
Lawmakers, CEOs, business groups and charities are scrambling to shape the debate over tax and spending policy after the November elections, staking out negotiating positions for what could be a fast-paced brawl. The jockeying is intensifying as Election Day approaches, despite a halt in talks between party leaders about how to avoid a total of $500 billion in annual tax increases and federal spending cuts set to begin in January, a double-whammy known as the fiscal cliff (Paletta, 10/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Administration Says It Won’t Oppose Reopening Religious Challenge To Health Care
The Obama administration told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it does not object to reopening a Christian college’s challenge to President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul. In court papers, the Justice Department said it does not oppose allowing a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to consider the claim by Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that Obama’s health care law violates the school’s religious freedoms (10/31).

For more headlines …

The New York Times’ Political Memo: In Dwindling Days Of The Race, Romney Takes A Softer Tack
There are plenty of carry-overs, of course: he dings President Obama’s health care law as cumbersome and bemoans the size of the federal debt as immoral, as he has since 2011, when he entered the race. But even if the extent of the evolution is up for argument, there is little debate that Mr. Romney is finishing the presidential campaign as a milder candidate than when he started (Barbaro, 10/31).

The Washington Post: Romney Forces See Pennsylvania, Michigan And Minnesota Ripe For Turning Red
After a season dominated by talk of Ohio, Virginia and Florida, Campaign 2012 suddenly shifted focus to a new trio of states Wednesday amid a new verbal battle about which candidate is better positioned to win on Tuesday (Balz, Merkon and Kane, 10/31).

The New York Times: Trying To Tip Virginia Senate Race With Pinpoint Door Knocking
The state Democratic Party runs a “coordinated campaign” to augment the Obama team’s efforts and promote Mr. Kaine and other Democratic candidates, with hubs in Alexandria, a Washington suburb; Richmond, the capital; the Hampton Roads area, a military center; and Charlottesville, a student bastion. On the periphery are separate get-out-the-vote, rally-the-faithful efforts motivated by Mr. Obama but carrying along Mr. Kaine’s message. Canvassing has been going on for months, financed by at least three unions, Planned Parenthood and Virginia New Majority. … Republicans boast of similar operations (Weisman, 10/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Democrat Donnelly Walks Careful Line After Foe’s Abortion Comment In Indiana Senate Campaign
Seeking to capture an Indiana Senate seat Democrats haven’t held for four decades, Joe Donnelly’s television ads depict him as an earnest moderate while slamming his tea party-backed Senate opponent for an abortion remark that ignited a firestorm of criticism from members of both parties. What the ads don’t mention … is that last year he backed a measure that would have denied federal abortion funding even in cases of rape and incest. Donnelly explains that while he opposes abortion he didn’t initially realize the bill would have gone that far, yet the issue has made it difficult for him to capitalize on Republican Richard Mourdock’s comment in a televised debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended.” The abortion policy similarities between the two candidates and an electorate with deeply rooted social conservative beliefs have muted the impact of Mourdock’s words in Indiana (10/31).

Politico: Dem Poll Shows Mourdock Tanking, Donnelly Up 9 In Indiana
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly has established a clear lead over Republican Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Senate race, according to a poll taken for Donnelly’s campaign in the wake of Mourdock’s damaging comments about abortion and rape (Burns, 10/31).

USA Today: Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate Race Is Bitterly Contested
The contentious race for the U.S. Senate between former Republican governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin is growing even more intense in its final days, reflecting the closeness of the contest and its importance. … Their records and disparate political philosophies on the economy, health care and the federal deficit were fodder for most of their disagreements, but in the final days of the campaign the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their responses to them have become flash points (Keen, 11/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Nation’s Costliest Senate Race, GOP’s Brown, Dems’ Warren Make Final Appeals
Brown and Warren both describe themselves as “pro-choice,” but Warren has repeatedly pointed to Brown’s support for an amendment that would have let employers and insurers refuse health coverage for services they say violate their moral convictions, including contraception. Brown said he was defending the religious rights of Catholics, but Warren warned a vote for Brown could help put a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, endangering abortion rights. Brown has countered by arguing Warren supports higher taxes, including those in the 2010 Affordable Care Act signed by Obama. Brown supports repealing what he calls “Obamacare” and has taken a no new taxes pledge (10/31).

The Washington Post: Ad Watch: Pro-Obama Group Ties Romney To Medicare Fraud
What it says: “[Rick] Scott ran a company that paid a record fine for committing Medicare fraud. Then, as governor, Scott cut millions from health care. Romney was director of a company that stole millions from Medicare. Now, Romney’s plan would end Medicare as we know it.” What it means: A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that Romney is closing the gap with President Obama on who would better handle Medicare. This ad seeks to widen it by linking Medicare cuts to Medicare fraud (Weiner, 10/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Medical Start-Ups Challenged By Health-Care Reform
Investment in medical start-ups has dwindled of late as companies have struggled to go public and deliver returns to venture capitalists. The Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform bill signed into law in 2010, would seem to be the salve these companies need. Starting in 2014, most Americans will have to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. This promises to create millions of new, paying customers for medical companies (Gormley and Maltby, 10/31).

USA Today: Harsh Punishments Rare For Drug Compounding Mistakes
The legal landscape is littered with charges of negligence and misconduct by compounding pharmacies such as the one implicated in the nation’s ongoing meningitis outbreak, but they rarely result in tough punishments, an examination of legal records shows (Eisler, 10/31).

NPR: Cancer, Heart Research Threatened By Power Outage At NYU Hospital
ABC News and the New York Daily News are reporting that cells, tissues, mice and rats used for medical research may have been lost as New York University Hospital approaches its third day without power. The losses could set researchers back years (Barclay, 10/31).

NPR: Sandy Leaves Long List Of Health Threats
Public health officials are warning that people in areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy face many risks in the aftermath and are urging people to protect themselves from health threats in the water, air and even their refrigerators (Stein, 11/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Texas Retains Old Women’s Health Program With Planned Parenthood For Now
Planned Parenthood will continue to receive funds from a joint Texas and federal program providing health care to low-income women, despite the state’s promise to exclude its clinics by Nov. 1 because they are affiliated with abortion providers (10/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Michigan Hospital Systems In Merger Talks
Two of Michigan’s largest hospital systems announced plans to merge, the latest reordering of a competitive health-care market still reeling from the impact of auto-industry layoffs. The proposed combination of Beaumont Health System, based in Royal Oak, and Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, would create an organization with $6.4 billion in annual revenue, 10 city and suburban hospitals, and 100 other patient-care sites (Dolan and Rogers, 10/31).