ThinkFast: January 7, 2008

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"ThinkFast: January 7, 2008"

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With the push to close the Guant¡namo stalled, “a similar effort to scale down a larger and more secretive American detention center in Afghanistan has been troubled by political, legal and security problems.” The Red Cross warned that some prisoners at the site “were kept from its inspectors and sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

Martin Feldstein, former chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, “said the odds of a recession have risen to more than 50 percent after a report showing unemployment jumped in December. ‘We are now talking about more likely than not,’ Feldstein said.”

Blacks in the United States are “consistently” more likely than whites to receive “inferior cancer treatment.” According to the findings published in the journal Cancer, the problem was “just as bad in 2002 as in 1992.”

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Indiana’s voter ID law, “the strictest in the nation.” The Court will issue its decision by late June, “in time to affect the November elections.”

President Bush is preparing to head to the Middle East tomorrow — “his first extended presidential visit to the region” — amid “low expectations.” One Arab diplomat expressed “disbelief that the president will use the trip to renew his drive for Middle East democracy. ‘Is that still on?‘ the Arab official replied sarcastically.”

The Washington Post writes that President Bush “intends to use his first extended tour of the Middle East to rally support for international pressure against Iran, even as a recent U.S. intelligence report playing down Tehran’s nuclear ambitions has left Israeli and Arab leaders rethinking their own approach toward Iran and questioning Washington’s resolve.”

Al Qaeda operative “Azzam the American” told his followers to welcome President Bush “with bombs and traps” upon his upcoming visit to the Middle East. Israeli officials in Jerusalem are to deploy more than 10,000 police officers in a vast security operation ahead of the arrival.

Pakistan will not allow any country to conduct military operations on its territory, officials said on Monday, rejecting a report that said the United States was considering authorizing its forces to act in Pakistan.” “This has been conveyed at the highest level,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq.

“In another sign of a weakening job market,” the number of Americans working part-time hours increased to 2.8 million in 2007 “because of slower business conditions” up 231,000, or 9%, from 2006. “Since August of 2007, the upward trend has accelerated, and it ticked up again in December to 3.1 million people, the highest monthly figure in four years.”

And finally: Critics often attack the United Nations as a “web of bureaucracy.” To battle that image and inform children of the body’s humanitarian work, the United Nations has teamed up with the comic book company, Marvel, to print a special comic that will feature Spiderman fighting “alongside UN aid workers and peacekeepers.” Outspoken United Nations critic former U.N. ambassador John Bolton called the comic an “act of desperation.”

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