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ThinkFast: April 24, 2008

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"ThinkFast: April 24, 2008"

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At the trial of Chicago fundraiser Tony Rezko, a “government witness claims Rezko discussed efforts among top Republicans, including former White House political director Karl Rove and GOP national committeeman Robert Kjellander,” to have U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “fired to derail a corruption probe.”

New data suggest that Iraq will “reap an even larger than expected windfall this year — as much as $70 billion” in oil revenue. With oil prices near $120 a barrel, USA Today writes that the news will likely “strengthen the hand of U.S. lawmakers complaining that Iraqis aren’t footing enough of the bill for rebuilding their nation.”

“The CIA concluded that criminal, administrative or civil investigations stemming from harsh interrogation tactics were ‘virtually inevitable,’ leading the agency to seek legal support from the Justice Department,” according to court documents filed yesterday. “”It appears to be a calculated and calibrated effort to justify the unjustifiable,” said Curt Goernig of Amnesty International.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller “recalled warning the Justice Department and the Pentagon that some U.S. interrogation methods used against terrorists might be inappropriate, if not illegal.” “Mueller said some of the FBI’s concerns dated back to 2002, when top al Qaeda detainees were waterboarded by CIA interrogators.”

Yesterday, health experts testified to the House oversight committee that abstinence-only programs “have not cut teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases or delayed the age at which sex begins.” Dr. Margaret Blythe of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that there is even evidence that some of these programs, favored by the Bush administration, are “harmful and have negative consequences.”

Yesterday the House voted “to block the Bush administration from cutting federal spending on Medicaid health care for the poor by $13 billion over the next five years.” The AP reports that “President Bush has threatened a veto, but supporters have more than enough votes to override him in the House, and maybe in the Senate, too.”

Senior U.S. officials are expected to tell lawmakers that “a video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.” The video “played a pivotal role in Israel’s decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6.”

Atmospheric levels of the principal heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, are continuing to rise at an accelerating rate,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “After a decade of stability, levels of an even more potent heat-trapper, methane,” have risen as well. Both gases increased due to “the burning of fossil fuels.”

The congressional leadership offices employ “full-time staffers who serve as liaisons to the political blogging world.” CQ writes that “the largest such operation” may be in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Also, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “has been following the bloggers for a few years now and has actually written a number of his own blog posts.”

And finally: On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman spoke at Brown University about responding to climate change. However, not everyone liked his speech. A few seconds into his address, “environmental activists…stormed the stage” and began “tossing two paper plates loaded with shamrock-colored whipped cream at him. Friedman ducked, and was left with only minor streams of the sugary green goo on his black pants and turtleneck.”

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