ThinkFast: August 11, 2008

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"ThinkFast: August 11, 2008"

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The Russian military has expanded its attacks on Georgia, bombing the capital, Tibilisi, and “moving tanks and troops through the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and advancing toward the city of Gori in central Georgia.” The maneuvers “suggest that Russia’s aims in the conflict had gone beyond securing the pro-Russian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to weakening the armed forces of Georgia.”

The White House stepped up its criticism of Russia for escalating the conflict in Georgia, with President Bush warning Monday that Russia’s ‘disproportionate response‘ is unacceptable and Vice President Cheney adding that the crisis threatens long-term relations between Moscow and Washington.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari “insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a ‘very clear timeline’ for the departure of U.S. troops.” Zebari “said U.S. and Iraqi negotiators were ‘very close’ to reaching a long-term security agreement that would set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq” after the UN mandate expires at year’s end.

Iraq’s private sector, particularly its small non-oil economy, “has so far failed to flourish as its American patrons had hoped.” As a result, the Iraqi government “has been sustaining the economy the way it always has: by putting citizens on its payroll.

On the trail today: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in Erie, PA with former governor and campaign co-chairman Tom Ridge. Today they will tour a GE Transportation locomotive plant and speak to employees in a town-hall format. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is currently on a week-long vacation in Hawaii.

“Through June, 57% of active-duty soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen had served in or near Iraq and Afghanistan,” up 50 percent from 2006, part of an attempt to “spread the burden on forces strained by multiple deployments.”

The Department of Homeland Security “swept aside evaluations of government experts and named Mississippi…a top location for a new $451 million, national laboratory to study some of the world’s most virulent biological threats.” Experts had ranked the site “14th among 17 sites in the U.S.,” but it is “home to…lawmakers with sway over the agency.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) plans to hold a fundraiser next week in Atlanta with Ralph Reed, the founder of the Christian Coalition and onetime associate of Jack Abramoff.

A group of activists is trying to register tens of thousands of newly eligible felons, stating that “former offenders have been unfairly disenfranchised for decades. … Despite massive registration efforts, the presidential campaigns of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have not designated anyone to go after the group.”

And finally: Over the weekend, President Bush met with some American athletes competing at the Olympics, including volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. After a “good play, in the tradition of female volleyballers, May-Treanor turned, bent over slightly and offered her bikinied rear-end for the 43rd president to slap. ‘Mr. President,’ she said, ‘want to?’” The LA Times reports that Bush “wisely chose instead to brush his hand across the small of May-Treanor’s back.”

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