Editor's Note: The continued debate surrounding health care town hall meetings and protests generated the most feedback on Friday’s American Morning. Evenly split between the two camps, those in favor of the protests did not believe they were part of an “organized” or “grassroots” effort on behalf of the Republicans. Those opposed to the disruptions adamantly argued that such activities were indeed planned by Republicans opposed to President Obama’s proposed health care plan.
(CNN) - Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee told Ling's sister they were treated humanely in North Korea, and they believe they weren't sent to hard-labor camps because they have medical conditions, Lisa Ling said Friday.
The sister, speaking on CNN's "American Morning," did not elaborate on the medical conditions, but said her sister will soon tell her story.
"Laura is eager to tell the story about what happened. I want to let her do so, but right now, she's really getting reacclimated. The processes are slow. She's very, very weak," Lisa Ling said, adding that the stories she's heard so far are "jaw-dropping."
Laura Ling and Lee were working for California-based Current TV, a media venture of former Vice President Al Gore, when they were arrested in March for crossing the border between China and North Korea.
Lisa Ling said that before they left the United States, the pair never intended to cross into North Korea. They have acknowledged that they briefly did, however, and they were convicted of entering the country illegally to conduct a "smear campaign" against the reclusive Communist state.
They were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labor. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, pardoned the women Tuesday after meeting with former President Bill Clinton. They arrived home the following day.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/07/chernoff.fraud.cnn.art.jpg caption="Theresa Langlois says when she read her insurance statement she knew her podiatrist had been cheating Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan."]
When Theresa Langlois read her insurance statement she knew her podiatrist had been cheating Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
"It was like robbery," said Langlois.
She had visited Dr. Jeffrey Cooke to have her discolored big toe examined. Cooke billed the insurance company thousands of dollars, claiming he had surgically removed dozens of warts.
"I turned the bill over and there was a fraud hot line, directly to Blue Cross to report fraud. So I called that immediately," said Langlois.
The insurer audited Cooke's billings, interviewed Langlois and other patients who had seen Cooke, then contacted law enforcement, which ultimately led to Cooke's arrest, conviction on health care fraud charges, and imprisonment. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan won a restitution award of $273,000.
"We open about 1,500 cases a year for in-depth investigation," said Greg Anderson, who heads Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's Special Investigative Unit devoted to tracking down corrupt doctors and pharmacists. "They're taking money out of our pocket and depriving people who need the actual service. There's only so much money in the pie to go around when people are taking it."
Health care fraud – perpetrated by physicians, hospitals, medical equipment providers and even organized crime gangs – is rampant. A Senate investigation found Medicaid between 2000 and 2007 paid nearly half-a-million claims to people posing as doctors who were dead.
Such fraud costs every American; driving up prices for medical insurance, treatment and drugs.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/07/art.treadmill.gi.jpg caption="Whether because exercise makes us hungry or because we want to reward ourselves, many people eat more — and eat more junk food, like doughnuts — after going to the gym."]
As I write this, tomorrow is Tuesday, which is a cardio day. I'll spend five minutes warming up on the VersaClimber, a towering machine that requires you to move your arms and legs simultaneously. Then I'll do 30 minutes on a stair mill. On Wednesday a personal trainer will work me like a farm animal for an hour, sometimes to the point that I am dizzy — an abuse for which I pay as much as I spend on groceries in a week. Thursday is "body wedge" class, which involves another exercise contraption, this one a large foam wedge from which I will push myself up in various hateful ways for an hour. Friday will bring a 5.5-mile run, the extra half-mile my grueling expiation of any gastronomical indulgences during the week.
I have exercised like this — obsessively, a bit grimly — for years, but recently I began to wonder: Why am I doing this? Except for a two-year period at the end of an unhappy relationship — a period when I self-medicated with lots of Italian desserts — I have never been overweight. One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight. But I exercise all the time, and since I ended that relationship and cut most of those desserts, my weight has returned to the same 163 lb. it has been most of my adult life. I still have gut fat that hangs over my belt when I sit. Why isn't all the exercise wiping it out?
It's a question many of us could ask. More than 45 million Americans now belong to a health club, up from 23 million in 1993. We spend some $19 billion a year on gym memberships. Of course, some people join and never go. Still, as one major study — the Minnesota Heart Survey — found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%.
And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government's definition. Yes, it's entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less. But like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don't. Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?
Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/07/wingnuts.jefferson.macguffie.art.jpg caption="William Jefferson (L) and Bob MacGuffie (R)."]
Politics is getting heated in the month of August, as health care debates cause the "tea party" activists to hijack town halls and a former Democratic congressman finds himself heading to the cooler for corruption. It’s all in this edition of "Wingnuts of the Week."
Cartoonish corruption is a stereotype often associated with big city Democrats from Boss Tweed to Rod Blagojevich. Former New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson officially entered the "ring of dishonor" this week with his conviction of using his public office to enrich himself.
The eight-term Democratic Congressman and member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee was accused of having taken more than $400,000 in bribes tied to business ventures in Africa, including an infamous $90,000 in cold, hard cash found in his home freezer.
Undaunted by the evidence and embarrassment, Jefferson ran for re-election in 2008 and was defeated despite his attempts to play the victim of a government sting.
Jefferson's lawyer offered the defense that his client was stupid and unethical, but not criminal. The jury decided otherwise.
During the trial, Mr. Jefferson's team also tried to play the race card by arguing that the congressman was disadvantaged by the trial's location in Virginia, where the cold cash was found. While the congressman’s wife was at his side during all six weeks of the trial, it appears that she was still being paid for her position at a state college in Louisiana – adding insult to the taxpayers’ injury.
Sentencing will proceed in October, but it's likely that former Rep. Jefferson will be joining his money in the cooler for a long time.
Here are the big stories on the agenda today: