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ThinkFast: May 19, 2008

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"ThinkFast: May 19, 2008"

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The on-air feud between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly “has triggered back-channel discussions” involving Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker, and GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Ailes warned that if Olbermann didn’t halt attacks against Fox, “he would unleash O’Reilly against NBC.” The appeals failed, and O’Reilly has escalated his criticism of GE in recent weeks.

A top U.S. commander in Baghdad apologized to “local leaders and tribal sheiks” this weekend after it was discovered that “a soldier had used a Koran” as a target at a shooting range. Though the soldier has been “disciplined and sent out of Iraq,” a major Sunni political party called for “tough government action” against the soldier.

President Bush arrived back in Washington yesterday “with little to show” for his trip to the Middle East. “Saudi Arabia rebuffed his plea for help with soaring oil prices, Egypt’s leader questioned his seriousness about peacemaking and there was not enough progress in the peace talks to warrant a three-way meeting of Bush with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.”

Before breaking for Memorial Day, senators will be taking up a series of Iraq-related measures, including a “complex series of votes on the war money, a new G.I. education benefit, aid for the unemployed, immigration and even health care.”

Yesterday, Tom Loeffler resigned from Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign, after Newsweek reported he had been lobbying for foreign interests, including Saudi Arabia. At the outset of the campaign, Loeffler was prepared to give up his clients at the behest of campaign strategist John Weaver. “But McCain, trusting Loeffler to know where the boundary lines lay, overruled Mr. Weaver; Loeffler got to keep his clients.”

Career staff members at the Department of Housing and Urban Development “say problems in the agency’s contracting process run much deeper than” former HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who resigned recently amid a criminal probe. According to the staff, other officials “promoted certain companies while rebuffing concerns about their performance and qualifications.”

Google Earth launches a new project today, Climate Change in Our World, that will allow users “to see how climate change could affect the planet and its people over the next century, along with viewing the loss of Antarctic ice shelves over the last 50 years.”

“As the Democratic presidential race unfolds in coal country this week and with John McCain’s recent rollout of a global-warming initiative, coal industry officials and environmentalists are unsure which candidate to endorse.”

Federal courts have largely rejected the Bush administration’s attempts to “significantly rewrite America’s bedrock conservation laws, particularly the Clean Air Act.” Of the “78 federal court rulings and settlements in species cases resolved since January 2001, the Bush administration won just one.” Judges have also often scolded the administration for its “disregard for the law and science.”

And finally: This weekend, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “chased after the youth vote” by participating in two cameo appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president?” joked McCain in a political parody ad. “Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old.” He also riffed on his supposed crusade against earmarks, stating, “When I entered the Senate in 1987, Arizona had 47,000 miles of paved roadway. Today it’s less than 900.”

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