ThinkFast: August 5, 2006

Though the Bush administration “pushed hard for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon” last year, it “paid much less attention” to fostering democracy in the country afterwards. “We did nothing, we did absolutely nothing” to bolster the weak Lebanese government after the Syrian withdrawal, a State Department official admitted.

The office of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte “announced yesterday that it will soon begin drafting an updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq,” a victory for progressive senators who called for a new NIE last week.

If Congress doesn’t act to raise the minimum wage by December 1, “it will be the longest stretch without an increase since the minimum wage was enacted in 1938.”

“July marked a new all-time record for electricity use in the United States, and that was prior to even hotter weather straining the power grid this week.”

30: The percentage of Fort Irwin soldiers who have returned from Iraq “experiencing some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” such as “nightmares, problems sleeping, anger, anxiety, detachment from the outside world and intrusive thoughts or flashbacks.”

Democratic senators blocked several Bush nominees Friday, including two industry-linked officials nominated to oversee mine safety, and an EPA air quality nominee who helped write new rules easing air pollution standards on mercury emissions and elecricity plants.

Israeli airstrikes yesterday killed “at least 33 Syrian Kurdish farm workers” in “one of the single deadliest strikes of the war,” and destroyed “four bridges on a key aid route leading north from Beirut.” Hezbollah militants fired “more than 200 rockets at northern towns and villages, killing three civilians and injuring dozens.”

The AP reports, “Given the determination of both Hezbollah and Israel to look victorious when the conflict finally ends, the worst of the fighting may still lie ahead with the militant Shiite guerrilla fighters perhaps making good on their threat to rocket Tel Aviv and Israel launching an all-out ground offensive.”

And finally: City officials in Oregon, Ill. have agreed to change the name of a monument to agriculture that is scheduled to be put up outside a local judicial center. The original title — “Demeter Over Illinois” — was rejected after “some religious leaders in town” complained that it was “too polytheistic.” The statue’s new name will be “Agriculture, Mother of Civilization.”