ThinkFast: July 18, 2006

“President Bush is apparently ready to end his boycott of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, with a possible speech Thursday before the group’s national convention.”

Despite soaring gas prices, automakers “have made no progress in improving vehicle fuel economy over the past year” — stuck at 21 mpg for 2006-model vehicles — “continuing a nearly 25-year trend of industry stagnation on gasoline mileage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.”

In an analysis of 13 American cities, the Brookings Institution found “the nation’s working poor households pay much more than moderate- and high-income households for life’s essentials.”

U.S.-led troops are facing “intense resistance” in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have recently captured two towns and are now believed to “operate freely.” The violence “forced police and government officials to flee.”

“Rising seas caused by climate change could destroy half the mangroves on some Pacific islands,” reports one new study, while massive droughts in Brazil are threatening the Amazon basin, “drying up tributaries more than a mile wide.”

House conservatives have “organized a communications ‘war room’” to push their hard-line, enforcement-first strategy on immigration reform “during the remaining months of the 109th Congress.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), “who comes from a long line of family military service,” has proposed a bill that would deduct $1,000 from Donald Rumsfeld’s salary for every day after Jan. 1, 2007 that a military sexual-assault tracking system is not active. The Pentagon “has had 18 years to implement” the system.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker “is worried that the Army cannot repair vital equipment fast enough because supplemental budget requests have been too little, too late.” Congress has started to push back on the White House, trying to force the appropriations into the Pentagon’s regular budget.

And finally: Bush rubbed the German Chancellor Angela Merkel the wrong way at the G8 summit. The Los Angeles Times reports, “Bush headed directly behind the chancellor, reached out and, placing both hands on the collar of her gold jacket, gave her a short massage just below the neck. She smiled.” Yet, according to the video evidence, it’s pretty clear the chancellor wanted nothing to do with the massage. Watch the video here.

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