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ThinkFast: October 10, 2008

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"ThinkFast: October 10, 2008"

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said his panel “would investigate claims by two military eavesdroppers that they routinely listened in on private calls home from American military officers, aid workers and journalists stationed in Iraq.” Rockefeller called the accusations “extremely disturbing.

Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) has repeatedly denied that she dismissed Alaska’s public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, over her family’s dispute over one of his troopers, Michael Wooten. But the New York Times reports that “the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Mr. Wooten three dozen times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials.”

In an effort to preempt “a potentially embarrassing state ethics report” on Sarah Palin, McCain campaign officials released a report yesterday that they say “clears her of any wrongdoing” in the firing of her public safety commissioner. Spokesman Taylor Griffin said the campaign report “was based on public filings and Todd Palin’s affidavit.”

The watchdog group CREW has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to examine whether John McCain violated federal laws by failing to list gambling winnings on his Senate financial disclosure forms. The group says that, given McCain’s regular gambling habit, “it is nearly impossible to imagine that he never won over $200, the amount that triggers the reporting requirement.”

On the trail today: Barack Obama will hold a rally today in Chillicothe and Columbus, OH. Joe Biden will campaign in Springfield, MO. John McCain is in La Crosse, WI, and Sarah Palin is in Cincinnati, OH.

Global stocks plummeted Friday after the rout a day earlier on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 7 percent,” with European markets falling more than 10 percent at the opening. On Saturday, President Bush will meet with “finance ministers from the world’s richest countries at an unusual White House meeting to swap ideas” as to how to address the global credit crisis.

The global financial crisis is turning into a bigger drain on the U.S. federal budget than experts estimated two weeks ago.” The 2009 budget deficit could be close to $2 trillion, according to David Greenlaw, Morgan Stanley’s chief economist. “Two weeks ago, budget analysts said the measures might push deficit to as much as $1.5 trillion.”

Despite declining prices, gas consumption across the U.S. has continued to fall as a result of the faltering economy. Last week, “gas demand was off 5.5% versus last year,” while the national average for gasoline fell to $3.40 a gallon.

Yesterday, President Bush created a special council “to guide the transition to a new administration, another step toward the end of Bush’s eight tumultuous years in office.” Under an executive order Bush signed, “a newly created Presidential Transition Coordinating Council will meet Wednesday to begin mapping out an orderly handoff” to Barack Obama or John McCain.

“An Iraqi member of Parliament from Moktada al-Sadr’s political movement was killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad” yesterday. The legislator, Saleh al-Ugaili, “was the second Iraqi member of Parliament to be killed in violence in 18 months.” Followers of Sadr, including his chief spokesman, are blaming the United States for the attack.

And finally: “There’s no doubt what Vladimir Putin’s favorite birthday present is this year — a rare Ussuri tiger cub,” the AP reports. Putin was seen on Russian state television affectionately petting the two-month-old female cub, who “weighs only about 20 pounds and sleeps in a wicker basket at Putin’s residence outside Moscow.” He has not yet settled on a name, but is leaning toward Mashenka or Milashka, and plans to find a home for her in a zoo or wildlife preserve. Fewer than 400 Ussuri tigers live in the wild.

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