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ThinkFast: February 7, 2008

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"ThinkFast: February 7, 2008"

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Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his Mahdi Army “to maintain its six-month ceasefire as members of the militia clashed with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad.” “Some members of Sadr’s bloc are pressuring him not to extend” the ceasefire, “which expires later this month and has been vital to cutting violence in Iraq.”

Top Pentagon officials yesterday testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee “that the Bush administration’s plan to withdraw some 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq this summer will do little to relieve the stress on the Army and Marine Corps.”

“The Iraqi government announced Wednesday that it’s taken initial steps to rebuild the famed Golden Dome shrine in Samarra, whose destruction two years ago helped unleash sectarian warfare between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.”

In 2005, when the CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations, “a federal judge was still seeking information from” the White House “about the interrogation of one of those operatives, Abu Zubaydah, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.” The court documents appear to contradict statements by CIA director Michael Hayden.

$170 billion: Cost of the Iraq war in fiscal year 2009, according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates added that the price tag “will inevitably be wrong, and perhaps significantly so.”

The U.S. Forest Service “has approved a permit allowing a British mining company to explore for uranium just outside” the Grand Canyon. “If the exploration finds rich uranium deposits, it could lead to the first mines near the canyon” in nearly two decades.

“U.S. drivers could enjoy a drop of up to 50 cents per gallon in gasoline prices by this spring as high fuel prices and the threat of a recession force them to conserve, experts said on Wednesday.”

“The crime wave that hit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina shows little sign of abating, more than two years after city officials said taming the outbreak was among their top priorities.”

And finally: “Sen. Arlen Specter’s one-senator war against the New England Patriots has a big problem: The three-time Super Bowl-winning team has its own Senate patron in Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy.” Specter has been pushing an investigation of “Spygate,” the Patriots’ “surreptitious videotaping of opponents’ signals on the field.” Leahy, a die-hard Patriots fan, so far doesn’t seem to be “giving much credence” to the probe, but promises to “do whatever is correct regardless.”

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