ThinkFast: August 19, 2006

The Iraqi government has imposed a two-day vehicle ban in Baghdad, “in an effort to avoid bloodshed during a major Shiite festival this weekend.” During last year’s festival, approximately 1,000 pilgrims died as a crowd stampeded across a bridge after rumors spread that a suicide bomber was among them.

Mosque attendance is “plummeting” in Iraq as tens of thousands of Iraqis choose to pray at home out of safety concerns. “Gatherings at Friday Prayer are sometimes one-tenth the size of what they once were, and parents no longer send their children to mosques for spiritual lessons.”

680,000. Number of refugees pouring back into Lebanon, creating a “humanitarian emergency.”

“The estimated costs for the development of major weapons systems for the US military have doubled since September 11, 2001,” even though these weapons would have “little direct role” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Lawmakers are concerned that defense officials are simply “using the conflicts and the war on terrorism to fulfill a wish-list of defense expenditures.”

Blaming high gas prices, Ford is planning to halt production at 10 plants by the end of the year, its largest production cuts “since the industry’s crisis of the 1980’s.”

FEMA has less than 84 percent of its authorized personnel, even though in March, the agency’s chief said that “he wanted his manpower strength to be at 95 percent by the start of hurricane season June 1.”

Hurricane Katrina “exposed the soft underbelly of America as it relates to dealing with race and class. … And I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, California, if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami, it would have been a different response,” said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin yesterday in a speech.

And finally: Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) caught on camera napping during the U.S. Senate Farm Bill Field Hearing. Good night, Senator.

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