ThinkFast: September 12, 2008


As “Greater Houston faces the real possibility of a direct hit” from Hurricane Ike, “the National Weather Service issued a stern warning to people living in small houses on Galveston Island that they faced ‘certain death’ from flooding if they remained in their homes.”

The House will vote on a bill to allow expanded offshore drilling as early as next week, as part of an energy package that would also repeal tax breaks for oil companies and invest in renewable energy sources. “So we’re saying: OK, you want to drill, this is how it will be. No more subsidies,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The next president “will be confronted with slow growth, high unemployment and an economy teetering toward recession, say 51 private economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal,” making “pumping up the economy will the first challenge facing either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain.”

McCain has tapped a prominent Washington lobbyist “to conduct a study in preparation for the presidential transition.” In 2008, The lobbyist, Walter E. Timmons of Timmons and Company, lobbied “for a wide range of companies and trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Medical Association, Chrysler, Freddie Mac, Visa USA, and Anheuser-Busch.”

On the trail today: John McCain appears on “The View” and “The Rachel Ray Show.” Barack Obama will stop in Dover, NH to discuss tax relief for the middle class and then will appear later at a “Change We Need” rally at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.

Foreclosure filings last month “increased 27 percent compared to the same month a year ago.” Senate Democrats are urging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to immediately implement 90-day foreclosure freeze on mortgages they hold.

“The U.S. trade deficit soared in July, the Commerce Department said, as oil imports hit an all-time high. … The Labor Department also reported that new applications for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week as the struggling economy continues to take a toll on workers.”

The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases.” The changes give agents “the ability at a much earlier stage” to conduct physical surveillance and solicit information through friends and informants without the approval of a supervisor.

An unusually-detailed study of people newly infected with H.I.V. in the U.S. “has confirmed that the majority of new cases occur among gay and bisexual men and that blacks are most at risk.” The study — reported yesterday by the CDC — also found that whites and blacks tend to be infected with the H.I.V. virus at different times in their lives.

And finally: Speaking to Working Mother Media on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) told a story about a sexist former classmate from her days at Harvard Law School. The guy asked her why she was there, insinuating that she just wanted to land a rich husband. “Don’t you know that there are men who…will actually use their legal education?” he asked her. Dole said that this man is now a powerful DC attorney and that she now “loves to tell the story in front of him” — “just to make him squirm.”

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