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ThinkFast: May 19, 2006

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"ThinkFast: May 19, 2006"

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The House yesterday voted to repeal $7 billion in subsidies for oil companies drilling in publicly owned waters. The vote was “approved 252 to 165 over the objections of many Republican leaders,” and now goes to the Senate. “In a separate defeat for energy companies, the House voted 279 to 141 to reject a provision that would lift a 25-year ban on oil drilling in coastal areas outside the western Gulf of Mexico.”

“In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country. In the last 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and a quarter of the country’s estimated middle class.”

“The head of a group of Federal Air Marshals says the service is badly broken” and that it currently “cannot protect the public.” Air marshal management has reacted to the criticism by “retaliat[ing] against him, with four separate investigations, including one for misuse of his business card.”

The United Nations Committee Against Torture issued a report yesterday which called on the U.S. to “close any secret ‘war on terror’ detention facilities abroad and the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba.” The report also said “detainees should not be returned to any country where they could face a ‘real risk’ of being tortured.”

In a 63-to-34 vote, the Senate yesterday designated English as America’s national language. The Senate also approved a measure by Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) declaring English the “common unifying language of the United States,” but mandated that nothing in that declaration “shall diminish or expand any existing rights” regarding multilingual services.

Big Pharma up to no good: “The Justice Department is accusing Abbott Laboratories of vastly inflating prices of its drugs as part of a fraudulent billing scheme alleged to have cost government health programs more than $175 million over 10 years.”

During hearings yesterday, CIA Director nominee Gen. Michael Hayden “shed some new light” on the inception of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program, “noting that he was asked by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide a list of NSA’s capabilities after the al-Qaeda attacks, even those that Hayden believed would not be permissible under the law. Hayden suggested the scope of the program may go beyond what is publicly known.”

“You get a lot more authority when the workforce doesn’t think it’s amateur hour on the top floor,” Hayden also said yesterday in a “not-so-veiled reference to since-disappeared CIA chief Porter Goss.”

The past two days in Afghanistan have had some of the “deadliest violence since the Taliban was driven from power in late 2001.” As many as 105 people were reportedly killed.

The Travel Industry Association of America yesterday said that high gas prices will add “$30 and $50 to the gasoline cost of a typical trip this summer.” The group also predicted that prices “will limit travel growth this summer to less than 1%.”

And finally: “In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America’s coastline this year.” “There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest,” Robertson predicted. We sure hope the recent Pacific Tsunami Warning System test went off without a hitch.

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

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