ThinkFast: March 6, 2006

Experts monitoring the $1.6 billion levee reconstruction project in New Orleans “say large sections of the rebuilt levee system will be substantially weaker than before the hurricane hit.” They cite shortcuts in the construction process and “weak, substandard” building materials.

DHS Irony Level: Elevated. The Department of Homeland Security is “having difficulty safeguarding its own headquarters” because of “inadequate training, failed security tests and slow or confused reactions to bomb and biological threats.”

More than 90 percent of Sadr City residents suffer from psychological disorders, “including depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,” though only about 75 psychiatrists remain in the war-torn country.

Detainees in Iraq are still being tortured, receiving electric shocks and beatings with plastic cables,” according to a new report by Amnesty International. Thousands of Iraqis continue to be held without charge or trial.

The White House is “quietly pushing” Dubai Ports World to “significantly restructure” and partner up with a U.S. firm to keep the port deal from sinking. The U.S. company “best equipped to partner with DP World”: Halliburton.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will introduce legislation to take authority away from the Treasury Department over transactions such as the Dubai ports deal. Collins’ bill would “give the Homeland Security Department the lead in approving foreign takeovers of companies that touch on national security.”

Kenya is starving. The United Nations says a “‘catastrophic’ number of Kenyans will starve to death unless immediate donations arrive to buy food for 3.5 million people facing prolonged drought.” (Donate here.)

Shortly after Hamas won a majority of seats to take control over the Palestinian Authority Legislative Council, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming.” Apparently, Rice simply wasn’t paying attention. “A State Department-commissioned poll taken days before January’s Palestinian elections warned U.S. policymakers that the militant Islamic group Hamas was in a position to win.

Parental notification laws “do not appear to have produced the sharp drop in teenage abortion rates that some advocates hoped for.” The NYT study “found no evidence that the laws had a significant impact on the number of minors who got pregnant, or, once pregnant, the number who had abortions.”

And finally: North Carolina rebuts criticism that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol by holding an “all white” celebration at the state House chamber, singing “Dixie” and saluting “a Civil War-era state flag.”