ThinkFast AM: July 7, 2006

“A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed ‘large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists’ to infiltrate the military.”

House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) “net worth has soared from no more than $290,000 to more than $6 million during his 19-year tenure on Capitol Hill.” Hastert has made most of his money through land deals, sometimes using federal earmarks to turn a profit.

Coal industry veteran Richard Stickler, the man President Bush chose to oversee federal mine safety laws, “has not been able to win Senate confirmation but has gone to work at the Labor Department anyway.”

Allegations of plagiarism in Ann Coulter’s new book are “trivial,” “meritless,” and “irresponsible,” says Steve Ross, SVP of Crown Publishing, which published the book. “The number of words used by our author in these snippets is so minimal that there is no requirement for attribution.”

Contrary to claims in the U.S. media that conditions in Guantanamo have improved, Australian terror suspect David Hicks, who is being held at the prison camp, told relatives that conditions have worsened since three inmates committed suicide last month.

“A diversion of dollars to help fight the war in Iraq has helped create a $530 million shortfall for Army posts at home and abroad, leaving some unable to pay utility bills or even cut the grass.”

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. William Casey tried to calm Iraqi anger by strongly condemning the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime had injured the “Iraqi people as a whole.” Bush added, “People will be held to account if these charges are true. “¦ There will be absolute justice if this person is guilty.”

Russia has cracked down on Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, forcing 60 radio stations to stop broadcasting their news reports. “In a country where the news media increasingly avoid controversial subjects, millions of Russians had made the broadcasts a listening staple.”

Afghanistan’s foreign minister said yesterday that the “confidence of [the Afghan] people in the government to protect them, especially in our southern provinces, is not strong.” After meetings with Cheney, Rice, and Hadley yesterday, the minister added, “I think our government and international community were perhaps a little bit naive about how easy it would be to bring the Afghanistan project to an end.”

And finally: A “bored-looking” President Bush “sprang to life whenever the subject turned to his birthday” during yesterday’s press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Afterwards, Bush invited anyone in the room with a July 6 birthday on stage; Harper “stood off to the side, rubbing his nose, as his photo op [with Bush] disintegrated.”

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