ThinkFast: August 28, 2008

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"ThinkFast: August 28, 2008"

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“The United States is spending more money than ever on private security contractors in Iraq as thousands of troops return home amid steady declines in insurgent attacks.” Over $1.2 billion will have been spent this year on “contractors, who protect diplomats, civilian facilities and supply convoys.”

A Washington law firm “filed a lawsuit yesterday against KBR, one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, alleging that the company and its Jordanian subcontractor engaged in the human trafficking of Nepali workers.” The firm says 13 Nepali men were recruited for kitchen work in Jordan only to have their passports seized upon arrival and “told they were being sent to a military facility in Iraq.”

According to a new survey, 65 percent of American workers believe that this is a “bad time to find a quality job,” matching “the level of the 2001 recession.” In addition, “one third of workers said they often don’t have enough money to make ends meet.”

CNN reports that the number of people and businesses heading to bankruptcy court has spiked. “Bankruptcy filings surged 29% in the 12 months that ended June 30, according to government figures released Wednesday.”

On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president with a speech at Invesco Field tonight in Denver. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has no public events.

Prosecutors for the Department of Justice “asked federal judges in Washington and Florida to shave years off the sentence” of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, “citing his work in an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that sent numerous people to prison and contributed to the Republican Party’s loss of Congress.”

The Iraqi Embassy in Beijing said “China and Iraq have signed a $3 billion deal revising an earlier agreement for China’s biggest oil company to help develop the Ahdab oil field.” The deal was signed yesterday by Chinese officials and Iraq’s Oil Minister and restores “a project canceled after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.”

House Democrats are scheduling a Sept. 11 hearing “that would put former White House counsel Harriet Miers under oath.” Justice Department lawyers “said they would go to court as soon as today to block a ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates that forces the White House to cooperate” with the attorneys scandal investigation.

Speaking to the American Legion yesterday, Vice President Cheney defended the administration’s use of “tough interrogations.” “The policies of our country comply with our law, which prohibits torture. We’re proud of our country and what it stands for,” he said.

Private contractors account for more than one-quarter of the core workforce at U.S. intelligence agencies,” according to new numbers released by the government. The figures illustrate “how much of the nation’s spying work has been outsourced” since 9/11.

And finally: Some lawmakers have “buyer’s remorse” over ethics rules they passed last year. “It’s a pain in the ass!” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA).”Members of Congress used to not have to worry about finding lunch or dinner at conventionn,” notes The Hill. “I bought my own fried chicken and french fries instead of gong to a catered event,” said Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).

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