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ThinkFast: May 9, 2006

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"ThinkFast: May 9, 2006"

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The U.S. Army’s new interrogation manual will ban waterboarding, “the controversial practice of submerging a prisoner’s head in water in an effort to make him talk.” Waterboarding was one of the interrogation techniques reportedly sanctioned by an Aug. 2002 Justice Department memo.

With the May 15 deadline to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug program fast approaching, USA Today reports the program “is being used least by those who could benefit most: poor, often minority Medicare beneficiaries.” Only 24 percent of such beneficiaries have been approved or have enrolled.

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the U.S. commander in charge of day-to-day military operations in Iraq, believes American troops in Iraq have been their “own worst enemy,” unintentionally creating new insurgents by treating the Iraqi people in a heavy-handed or insensitive manner.

The Senate adopts Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) resolution, agreeing that “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other “statements of national unity” should be sung in English. The resolution has no binding effect.

Last March, President Bush signed a bill to raise the national debt ceiling to a record $9 trillion. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. “A $2.7 trillion budget plan pending before the House would raise the federal debt ceiling to nearly $10 trillion,” the fifth such increase under Bush.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has dubbed this week “Health Week.” But instead of taking up universal health care proposals, Frist yesterday pressed a vote “to limit damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits,” a move which would affect private health insurance premiums by just one half of one percent. Democrats blocked the bill.

$500,000: The amount U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan personally donated this week to the U.N.-led relief efforts in Darfur to “highlight — and help alleviate — the severe lack of donations.” The World Food Program is “so strapped for cash it has halved food rations for refugees,” and UNICEF “has received only 16 percent of the donations it requested for Darfur this year.”

Karl Rove turns to judiciary to “rev up the conservative base.” In a meeting yesterday, he “told conservative activists and Senate staff that the administration would soon send the names of more than 20 judicial nominees to Capitol Hill for confirmation.”

For poor criminal defendants in New Orleans, “justice is simply unavailable.” New Justice Department report calls for a major overhaul of the New Orleans’s public defender system, saying the “city needs 70 full-time public defenders, more than six times the number of part-time defenders it has now.”

More than half of U.S. streams are polluted,” according to a new Environmental Protection Agency study.

And finally: Harper’s magazine reprints a 1971 FBI memo documenting a skit about then-director J. Edgar Hoover on the NBC program “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In“: “All in all, this skit pertaining to the FBI was rather typical of the poor fare that is served on this so-called laugh show. … Tasteless, sometimes downright vicious jokes and a great deal of forced humor add up to a more telling commentary on this low-grade show itself than on the FBI.”

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