ThinkFast: December 16, 2008

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"ThinkFast: December 16, 2008"

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70 percent: The share of Americans who say that President-elect Obama “should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months.” Two-thirds continue to believe that the war in Iraq is not worth fighting, whereas a majority supports the efforts in Afghanistan. As the Washington Post notes, these views “appear to largely dovetail with the views expressed by Obama.”

The Interior Department’s inspector general “has found that agency officials often interfered with scientific work in order to limit protections for species at risk of becoming extinct, reviving attention to years of disputes over the Bush administration’s science policies.” The report “found serious flaws in the process that led to 15 decisions related to policies on endangered species.”

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) has accepted a Cabinet appointment as Interior Secretary pending the outcome of a background check. Salazar, who was the Colorado Attorney General before becoming a senator, has been an outspoken critic of environmentally-destructive energy policies like oil shale development.

Minnesota’s state canvassing board will start inspecting as many as 1,500 disputed ballots one-by-one beginning today. “Both campaigns had pledged to abandon many of the challenges lodged during the recount.” Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by 188 votes at this time.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced committee chairmanships for the next Congress yesterday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will lead Intelligence, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) will lead Appropriations, while Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will take over for Vice President-elect Biden as head of Foreign Relations. See a complete list of committee assignments here.

The Illinois House, by a vote of 113 to zero, authorized a bipartisan committee to explore the possibility of ousting Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “But lawmakers did not move forward with a bill to create a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.”

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered an appeals court to reconsider a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials, brought by three former Guantanamo detainees (all British citizens) who say they were tortured there. The appeals court should reconsider its dismissal of the case in light of last summer’s Boumediene v. Bush decision, allowing Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detentions, the order said.

Former defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who gave more than $1 million in gifts to former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison yesterday. District Judge Ricardo Urbina gave Wade “a break,” as the D.C. resident “had faced nine to 11 years under federal sentencing guidelines.”

Citing a new Treasury Department report on the government’s financial outlook, leading conservative Democrats said yesterday that “they want the economic stimulus package to call for the creation of a new commission on the nation’s long-term fiscal health.” Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, said he hopes the new report will get Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) attention.

And finally: The White House has released its final “Barney Cam” holiday greeting, this year starring Olympic gymnasts Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin, in addition to President Bush’s beloved “lump.” This year, “Barney is shown in cutout animation as an Olympic vaulter, swimmer and synchronized diver with fellow terrier Miss Beazley, both in red swimsuits. He also dreams of sinking the final putt to secure the Ryder Cup, with the entire U.S. Ryder Cup team chanting ‘Barney, Barney, Barney!’” Watch it here.

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