ThinkFast: February 21, 2006

ThinkFast is a new feature of ThinkProgress. Coffee and donuts not included. (It’s still a work in progress – let us know what you think.)

Investigations into suspected Iraqi death squads are now focusing on a 1,500-member Iraqi highway patrol force with close ties to Shiite militia groups, which U.S. officials suspect of being “deeply involved in illegal detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings.” Also: “We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian.”

Despite the U.S. having spent $1.4 billion on power supply, ordinary Iraqis “will have to wait another five to seven years for a reliable electricity supply that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week across the country.”

Jack Abramoff was paid $1.2 million to arrange a meeting between former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Bush. The Rove connection: Abramoff contacted Karl Rove “on at least four occasions to help arrange a meeting, according to an eyewitness to the activities.” When the meeting was finalized, “Rove’s office called to tell Abramoff personally.”

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) appears to be using campaign contributions for personal expenses: 66 trips to Starbucks, 11 meals at Arby’s and ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.

Problems with the Medicare prescription drug program‘s implementation continue, with only 1.4 million people out of 8 million eligible low-income seniors enrolled thus far. The Bush administration has spent $400 million urging people to sign up, and according to some calculations, the program might end up costing $250 for every person who eventually enrolls.

Cingular Wireless: among telecom firms, it singularly bucks the antiunion trend.

The Observer looks at the 37 million Americans (12.7 percent of the population) living in poverty and notes that during President Bush’s administration, an “extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line.” But the number below the poverty line may actually be as high as 19.4 percent. The Miami Herald imagines a world where ExxonMobil gives back, by providing heating oil to the low-income.

McMansions wear out their welcome. Communities around the country place limits on square footage.

The U.S. Forest Service is taking heat for its plans to auction off 300,000 acres of scenic Colorado lands. “I don’t think you sell off the family jewels just for convenience,” said Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO). “This is about paying off a debt with priceless assets.”

Carbon monoxide pumped into your steak.

The World Health Organization “is urging countries to brace for a ‘mild to moderate’ [bird flu] pandemic likely to kill 2 million to 7.4 million people.” On Sunday, health officials and farm workers in western India began slaughtering hundreds of thousands of chickens, hoping to stop the spread of the deadly bird flu virus. But bird flu worries didn’t stop former President Bill Clinton from digging into chicken kebabs when in India over the weekend.

Scientists have gained a powerful ally in their criticism of the Bush administration’s policies on intelligent design, global warming, and creationism: the clergy. “The intelligent design movement belittles God,” said Vatican Observatory Director George Coyne, an astrophysicist who is also ordained. More: A coalition of U.S. churches condemns Bush’s war in Iraq.

Space travel for $995 to $5,300. Only one caveat: you have to die first.

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.