ThinkFast: December 3, 2008

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"ThinkFast: December 3, 2008"

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Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) told Politico, “I am considering” a run for Senate, after Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) announced yesterday he would retire in 2010. “A lot of people are calling him and contacting him and encouraging him to look seriously at this,” a source close to Bush said. In an e-mail to ABC’s The Note, Bush wrote, “I am going to think about it for the next month or so.”

CNN reports that President-elect Barack Obama has a “hearty appetite for intelligence.” Obama is receiving intelligence briefings on all seven days of the week, “exceeding the six days given to President Bush.” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell jokingly wondered aloud whether “there’s a little bit of competition” between the men.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson “was awarded a $4 million bonus in 2008” and was granted 225,000 shares of restricted stock. He will also receive a 10 percent increase in his annual salary in 2009, raising his base salary to $2.06 million.

Yesterday, federal prosecutors expanded the corruption indictment against former NYC police commissioner Bernie Kerik. “The main charges — that Kerik accepted free apartment renovations from a would-be city contractor, lied to the White House and filed false income tax returns — remain,” but the indictment adds new details regarding Kerik’s lies about his finances.

Yesterday, the White House approved “one of the most contentious” regulations officials are trying to push through in Bush’s final weeks in office, making it “easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys.” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson argued that the new rule would “protect fish, wildlife and streams.”

Government unions are criticizing a White House executive order signed Monday that bars roughly 8,600 federal employees from joining a union “because they are engaged in intelligence gathering, investigations and other national security work.” Peter Winch of the American Federation of Government Employees called the move “an abuse of discretion in the last few days.”

According to a new annual report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “[t]he rising cost of college — even before the recession — threatens to put higher education out of reach for most Americans.” Tuition and fees “increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007″ while “students from lower-income families…get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.”

The poor state of the U.S. economy is helping the Army’s retention rate. In 2008, “more young members of the Army, Air Force and Navy decided to re-up” and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the “bad news for the economy” may have been “good news for the military.” “We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” said David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Obama will name Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) as his commerce secretary at a press conference today in Chicago. Additionally, Obama has reportedly offered Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) the position of U.S. Trade Representative, but a Becerra spokesperson said, “There’s no announcement.”

And finally: Although District and federal officials expect approximately four million people to descend upon the nation’s capital for Barack Obama’s inauguration, many Republican staffers are planning to “surrender the town for warmer weather and, in some cases, a nice profit.” GOP lobbyist Jason Roe said, “I am hoping to capitalize on the enthusiasm by renting my house for $2,000 a night and spending it in the Virgin Islands.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) aide Gregory Keeley said he would unfortunately likely stay in town for work. “It’s not going to be my favorite place to be, put it that way,” Keeley said. “If there’s a horse out of Dodge, I’d like to be on it.”

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