ThinkFast AM: June 22, 2006

In an effort to meet recruiting goals, the Army has raised its maximum enlistment age to 42. The move “marked the second time this year the Army has boosted the maximum age for new volunteers.”

The House delayed a vote on extending the landmark Voting Rights Act. Texas lawmakers objected to the bill, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, because of its federal oversight and multilingual voting requirements. “I don’t think we have racial bias in Texas anymore,” explained Rep. John Carter (R-TX).

41.2 million: The number of Americans who lacked health insurance last year, 14.2 percent of the population. 8.9 percent of American children did not have coverage.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the international community to reassess its approach to the war on terror, claiming that there has not been enough focus on the roots of terrorism itself. “I strongly believe … that we must engage strategically in disarming terrorism by stopping their sources of supply of money, training, equipment and motivation,” he said.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) “helped funnel at least $179 million in U.S. government contracts over the last six years to companies that gave to” his family-run charity, tax records and other documents show.

The Pentagon waited nine months after completing an investigation into the deaths of two U.S. soldiers before notifying the families that the men were killed by Iraqi troops.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) isn’t the only one apparently turning taxpayer-funded earmarks into personal profit. The Washington Post finds others, like Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who “received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away.”

“Middle-class neighborhoods, long regarded as incubators for the American dream,” are disappearing rapidly across the country, a new study shows. “In their place, poor and rich neighborhoods are both on the rise, as cities and suburbs have become increasingly segregated by income.”

It’s official. “Californians will vote in November on a ballot measure proposing a constitutional amendment that would tax oil production to fund a range of alternative energy efforts.” Californians for Clean Energy gathered 1,143,365 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.

And finally: Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has apologized to 85-year-old veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. Remarking on Abu Musab Zarqawi’s death last week, King said, “There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he’s at. And if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas.”

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