ThinkFast: May 16, 2007

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"ThinkFast: May 16, 2007"

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“Households are spending about $1,000 more per year for gasoline than they were just five years ago, an 85 percent increase” according to consumer groups’ analysis prepared for the House Judiciary Committee. “In the past five years the oil industry has picked consumers pockets for 200 billion in excess profits,” said the Consumer Federation of America.

“Nearly two dozen officials who received hefty performance bonuses last year at the Veterans Affairs Department sat on the boards charged with recommending the payments.”

“Navy veteran David Miller said that when he checked into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, he didn’t realize he would get a hard sell for Christian fundamentalism along with treatment for his kidney stones.” Miller, an Orthodox Jew, “said he was repeatedly proselytized by hospital chaplains and staff in attempts to convert him to Christianity during three hospitalizations over the past two years.”

“Two federal appeals court judges appeared to support giving detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, access to all the evidence against them when challenging their designation as enemy combatants. The Bush administration proposes to limit detainees’ lawyers to the evidence presented to the U.S. military tribunal that made the determination.”

92 percent: Proportion of the world’s opium that Afghanistan now produces. Bush administration officials acknowledge that until recently, “fighting drugs was considered a distraction from fighting terrorists.” The problem has become so severe that American officials now “hope that Afghanistan’s drug problem will someday be only as bad as that of Colombia.”

“For the first time,” the Senate is expected to vote today on measure sponsored by Sen. John Warner (R-VA) “that would force President Bush to report to Congress how he intends to revise U.S. strategy if the Iraqi government fails to meet certain benchmarks.”

“Warm temperatures melted an area of western Antarctica that adds up to the size of California in January 2005, scientists report,” noting “clear signs that melting had occurred in multiple distinct regions, including far inland and at high latitudes and elevations, where melt had been considered unlikely.”

41: Number of Iraqis killed in violence yesterday. At least 125 people were wounded.

“A Texas businessman listed as a major fundraiser for President George Bush has made millions of dollars in profits from a federal reading program that critics say favored administration cronies at the expense of schoolchildren.”

And finally: Do people love Vice President Cheney more than they love President Bush? In 2006, Cheney received at least 15 presents totaling $21,674, many reflecting his “love of outdoor pursuits.” Bush received at least 20 gifts worth just $12,364. Gifts for Bush included “two wooden benches” and “jackets.” At Christmas, Bush gave Cheney “$667 worth of instruments to measure temperature, barometric pressure and tides.”

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