ThinkFast: August 24, 2006

A House Intelligence Committee report warned that the U.S. is facing “significant gaps” in its intelligence on Iran that could be as serious as the shortcomings in its prewar knowledge about Iraq, leaving Washington ill-prepared to assess Tehran’s military capabilities. “American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran’s nuclear weapons program” to help policymakers at a critical time, the report said.

There is “little doubt that Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East,” according to a new report from a British think tank.

“Three disgruntled state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America,” leaving it with just “a half-dozen strong state chapters and a weak presence in Washington.” The organization was formed in 1989 by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and was formerly run by Ralph Reed.

$50 million: the cost accrued by a recent Medicare error. “About 230,000 Medicare recipients were mistakenly sent refunds last week averaging about $215 for monthly premiums they paid this year for drug coverage.”

In Concord, NH, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its 18th in a series of 21 immigration field hearings today, attempting to convince the public of an enforcement-only approach. “It’s a taxpayer-funded road show,” said Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) of the hearings. So far, the road show appears to have been successful. The Washington Times reports Bush has failed to win his base’s support for his plan.

“Grave sexual violence against girls and women in Darfur continues to worsen,” warned U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A new U.N. report concludes that “thousands of children were still actively involved in conflict between May and July, despite the signing of the 5 May Darfur Peace Agreement and earlier ceasefire deals.”

Things could be worse. “For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.”

Thousands of unexploded cluster bombs from Israeli artillery guns are turning up all over Lebanon, injuring innocent children. “They look like fat torch batteries. So they seem innocuous especially to the curious mind of a child,” said the U.N. Mine Action Service’s Chris Clark. “We find that children unwittingly pick them up and then sadly suffer injuries from them.”

And finally: Not all U.S. lawmakers are able to maintain two households with their $165,200 annual salary. Instead of renting an apartment in Wasington, Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) sleeps on an air mattress in his office. “I see three or four of my colleagues bunking together in a two-bedroom apartment,” said Marshall. “I’ll go for my office any day over that.”

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