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ThinkFast: March 14, 2008

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"ThinkFast: March 14, 2008"

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Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday that “Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political difference.” Petraeus said “no one” in the U.S. and Iraqi governments feels Iraq’s leaders are making “sufficient progress.

After President Bush “intervened at the 11th hour” to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s new smog standards, “Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA’s past submissions to the Supreme Court…As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard.”

Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, “tens of thousands of miserable homeowners are still waiting for their government rebuilding checks, and many complain they can’t even get their calls returned.” However, ICF International — the company contracted to distribute the checks — “is doing quite well for itself” by posting “strong profits,” going public, and landing “additional multimillion-dollar government contracts.”

Alaska’s Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens “introduced legislation Thursday that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if the price of oil hits $125 a barrel.” Both senators hope “to capitalize on consumer concern” about rising gas prices.

The House and the Senate narrowly passed a $3 trillion spending plan yesterday, which would “increase spending on domestic programs like education, health care, veterans benefits and new energy technology,” while allowing President Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans to expire in two years.

A Justice Department report reveals that the “FBI has increasingly used administrative orders to obtain the personal records of U.S. citizens rather than foreigners implicated in terrorism or counterintelligence investigations.” The FBI relied on “national security letters” to skirt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The media continues to repeat the false claim that President Bush sought cooperation from telecommunications companies to conduct domestic spying only after 9/11. In fact, the Bush administration approached telecommunications carriers months before 9/11.

Anti-Semitism, including government-promoted hatred toward Jews and prejudice couched as criticism of Israel, has risen globally over the last decade, the State Department said on Thursday.”

And finally: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes that yesterday, conservatives were acting like “like schoolgirls whispering among themselves in class” as they plotted their “secret” session on wiretapping. “Because of my clearance level, I’ve seen the secret information and information at other levels as well,” bragged Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who was organizing the meeting. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), however, was not impressed. “I was here for the secret sessions,” said Obey. “And given the mumbo jumbo that I heard,” he added, the main purpose was “to demonstrate the total uselessness of secret sessions.” Laughter erupted.

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