ThinkFast: September 19, 2008


Homeless advocacy groups and city agencies across the country are “reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.” These tent cities — reminiscent of Hoovervilles during the Great Depression — continue to grow with “with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.”

Though it was near completion a month ago, an agreement to extend the American military mandate in Iraq beyond this year “has stalled over objections by Iraqi leaders and could be in danger of falling apart.” The major point of contention is whether American troops and military contractors will be “subject to the country’s criminal justice system for any crime committed outside of a military operation.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit yesterday against Bush administration officials, “seeking to halt what it describes as illegal surveillance of Americans’ telephone and Internet traffic.” The lawsuit parallels legal action EFF sought against AT&T in 2006 that was derailed this year when Congress granted immunity to telecom companies that had assisted the surveillance program.

Federal officials told the Associated Press that after a “lengthy investigation into his lurid messages to underage congressional pages,” no charges will be filed against former Rep. Mark Foley (R).

On the trail today: John McCain will deliver a speech on the economy in Ashwaubenon, WI. Sarah Palin will start in Green Bay, then travel to Blaine, MN, and finish her day in Orlando, FL. Barack Obama will attend a rally focusing on women’s issues at the University of Miami, and Joseph Biden will campaign in Sterling, VA.

The LA Times writes that Sarah Palin said “yes, thanks, to a road to nowhere in Alaska.” Palin approved the construction of a 3.2-mile-long, $26 million gravel “road to nowhere” on a small island that was supposed to connect to the “bridge to nowhere.” In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, Palin specifically defended the project.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne “pledged yesterday to squelch the ‘ethics storm’ exposed by investigators who said agency workers rigged bids, accepted gifts, and had sex with energy company officials doing business with the government.” Inspector General Earl Devaney told Congress he was disappointed that two now-retired employees were not prosecuted by the DOJ.

According to a UN Development Fund study released yesterday, “women have entered politics in greater numbers than ever in the past decade, accounting for 18.4 percent of parliament members worldwide” — a seven percent increase since 1995. Advocates said the rise “was driven by women realizing that they needed to attain power rather than just lobby for change.”

The federal government is now “embracing the need for a comprehensive approach to the financial crisis.” Regulators are considering a number of proposals that would “take bad assets off the balance sheets of financial companies.” Congressional leaders and regulators met yesterday to discuss the plan which would “require what several officials said would be a substantial appropriation of federal dollars.”

And finally: “People who startle easily in response to threatening images or loud sounds seem to have a biological predisposition to adopt conservative political positions on many hot-button issues,” according to a study published yesterday. It concludes that people “who adopt political views you disagree with are not be stupid or irrational. Rather, they may arrive at their positions in part because they are predisposed to be more or less worried about risk.”

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