ThinkFast: June 25, 2008

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"ThinkFast: June 25, 2008"

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Last night, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the FISA reform bill. “Either the companies and the President acted outside of the rule of law, or they followed it,” he said. “Either the underlying program was legal or it wasn’t. Because of this legislation, none of the questions will be answered.” Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said they would filibuster the bill “as long as it provides retroactive immunity” for the telecoms.

David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff and architect of the administration’s torture program — along with former Justice Department official John Yoo — are scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay this Thursday, June 26.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen left yesterday on a trip that will take him to Israel, “just as the Israelis are mounting a full court press” to urge the Bush administration to strike Iran. “Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-à-vis Iran,” said CBS consultant Michael Oren.

Last December, the White House refused to open an e-mail from the EPA that declared global warming emissions to be a pollutant regulated under the Clean Air Act. Today, the agency will release a watered-down ruling that strips the agency’s finding that tough regulation of car emissions “could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years.”

On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will host a private meeting in Chicago with business leaders from across the country and a wide array of industries, including Ford Motor Co. president and CEO Alan Mulally. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will travel to Las Vegas to deliver an energy speech at UNLV.

“Barack Obama’s Senate staff has requested an intelligence briefing on the latest in Iraq and Afghanistan from aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggesting the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate could be gearing up for a trip abroad.”

A bipartisan group of 200 former government officials, retired generals and religious leaders will issue a statement today “calling for a presidential order to outlaw some interrogation and detention practices used by the Bush administration over the last six years.” The group, which includes former Reagan secretary of state George Schultz, seeks to outlaw secret detentions and rendition to countries that torture.

New military data shows that “insurgent activity is increasing sharply in Afghanistan and has spread into once stable areas, with attacks up almost 40% in the eastern provinces alone.” The violence marks “the latest in a series of troubling developments that have led to markedly higher U.S. casualties” and has prompted military leaders to review strategies on “how to make do with limited numbers of American troops.”

Yesterday, in a surprise victory, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill “to prevent a 10 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors that was scheduled to take effect July 1.” Backers of the legislation warned that such a cut “would lead to many physicians opting out of treating Medicare patients.”

The Senate confirmed five new commissioners for the Federal Election Commission last night, “ending a six-month partisan standoff between the White House and Senate Democrats and putting the campaign watchdog back in business.” The fight began last year when Democrats refused to bring up the nomination of controversial former Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky.

And finally: Persons with disabilities have been frustrated by the cafeteria in the new Department of Transportation, which has fixtures that are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. As a remedy, Assistant Secretary Linda Washington issued a memo on April 22 with guidance, including telling employees needing assistance to “politely” ask a cashier: “Could I hold your elbow for sighted guide assistance?” “Could you assist me with getting a salad or hot entree?” She also told employees to “consider visiting the cafeteria with a co-worker.” Naturally, many employees found the memo patronizing, and Washington was forced to apologize.

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