ThinkFast: November 19, 2008

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"ThinkFast: November 19, 2008"

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According to two legal sources close to the presidential transition, President-elect Barack Obama “has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department.”

Senate Democrats called on President Bush yesterday to “halt any effort by his administration to place political appointees in career jobs just weeks before his team leaves office.” Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to Bush urging him “to keep his pledge of a smooth transition without partisan maneuvering.

Despite formal dissents from half of the agency’s 10 regional administrators, the Environmental Protection Agency “is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas.” The proposal would make it so spikes in pollution during periods of peak energy demand would no longer violate the law.

Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “challenged chief executives and other business leaders Tuesday night to join the new administration in a push for universal health care, saying incremental increases in coverage won’t be acceptable.” “I’m challenging you today, we’re going to have to do big, serious things,” Emanuel told the WSJ’s CEO Council. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

“The number of young people considering a military career has significantly increased for the first time in about five years, buoyed by more positive news out of Iraq. Military officials predict interest will rise even further because of the worsening economy,” USA Today reports.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called “20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terror plot,” will face new war-crimes charges despite “claims that his harsh interrogation would make a prosecution impossible.” Military documents show Qatahni was subjected to “prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold,” among other harsh interrogation methods.

In a televised address Tuesday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki defended the new security pact promising U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. Maliki characterized the pact as “a strong beginning to get back the full sovereignty of Iraq in three years.” There is considerable opposition to the agreement among Sunni lawmakers and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen said in an interview yesterday that “[s]tress on U.S. troops from repeated combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan is ‘extraordinary’ and may be worsening even as fighting eases in Iraq.” Mullen “expressed hope that the strain will be relieved gradually as the Marine Corps and Army expand the pool of available forces.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Tuesday that Democrats will not push to reinstate a ban on offshore oil drilling next year. “I don’t think there is any intent at this point in time…to return to the same position we were in” before the ban was lifted, Hoyer said.

And finally: It’s “bettin’ time” in the Senate. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) will settle a friendly wager with Sens. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) on the 2008 World Series. “The Florida Senators will deliver on their end of the bet with a box of citrus, Cuban pastries, Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish and copies of the Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook,” according to a release.

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