ThinkFast: December 19, 2008

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"ThinkFast: December 19, 2008"

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The investigating judge in the case of Muntader al-Zaidi says the Iraqi journalist shows signs of being beaten after being arrested for throwing a shoe at President Bush. CBS News reports that Zaidi has also “been kept completely out of the reach of his legal representation and his family.” In a letter to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Zaidi has apologized for his actions and asked for a pardon.

President Bush will announce today that his administration will “come to the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler by providing them with low-interest loans” using money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. In exchange, “the automakers will need to restructure, getting tough concessions from creditors, suppliers and the labor union.”

In a first, a declaration “seeking to decriminalize homosexuality won the support of 66 countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.” The United States did not support the nonbinding measure, joining the ranks of Russia, China, the Roman Catholic Church, and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson issued a memo yesterday declaring that “[o]fficials weighing federal applications by utilities to build new coal-fired power plants cannot consider their greenhouse gas output.” “The current concerns over global climate change should not drive E.P.A. into adopting an unworkable policy of requiring emission controls” in these cases, Johnson said.

In a press conference today, President-elect Obama will announce Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) as transportation secretary. It is unclear whether Obama will announce other appointments today that have been recently reported, such as Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) for labor secretary and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. trade representative.”

Obama has reportedly selected Adm. Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence which oversees “the federal government’s 16 intelligence agencies” and supervises the president’s daily intelligence briefing. Previously, Blair commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific, served on the National Security Council, and worked on counterterrorism at the Pentagon.

Federal regulators adopted new rules governing the credit card industry yesterday. The rules, which take effect in July 2010, “will allow credit card companies to raise interest rates only on new credit cards and future purchases or advances, rather than on current balances.”

In a move that might give him “more room to pursue energy and environmental legislation,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced “an unusual power-sharing arrangement” with former chairman Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). Dingell will take the lead role in drafting health reform legislation and will become “chairman emeritus” of the committee.

A new DOJ audit concludes that the FBI encouraged agents posted in Iraq from 2003 through 2007 to improperly claim overtime pay, resulting in $7.8 million in cost to taxpayers. Due to a “faulty” policy, agents billed work hours when they were “watching movies, exercising, and attending parties.”

And finally: Capitol Hill offices are “a little more Scrooge-like this year,” according to the DC Examiner. Most offices are missing the traditional holiday decorations. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), however, has a real 15-foot Christmas tree in his office, but his staff admits that the tough economy forced them to downsize on the decorations. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) gave up decorations altogether and donated the funds to a needy family in his home state. The office Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), who recently lost her race for re-election, is also noticeably empty. “We’re in a period of transition,” an aide to Dole said.

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