ThinkFast: January 15, 2009


In an interview with the New York Times, Vice President-elect Biden said that he wants to “restore the balance” of the vice presidency after Cheney’s unprecedented expansion of power while still remaining influential. “The only value of power is the effect, the efficacy of its use,” said Biden. “And all the power Cheney had did not result in effective outcomes.”

In a 289-139 vote yesterday, the House approved an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Obama asked the Senate to act with the “same sense of urgency so that it can be one of the first measures I sign into law when I am president.”

While continuing to shell Gaza today, Israeli forces hit “the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that assists Palestinian refugees and another occupied by several media organizations.” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon responded with “strong protest and outrage” during a visit to Jerusalem.

U.S. foreclosure activity jumped 81 percent in 2008, with one in every 54 households getting at least one filing notice,” RealtyTrac reported. “Nearly 3.2 million foreclosure filings on 2.3 million properties were made last year,” a 225 percent jump from 2006 levels.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture “met with officials from the Obama transition team on Wednesday afternoon and emerged saying they were optimistic about the prospects” of reversing the Bush administration’s torture policies. The group’s president explained that doing so on day one would, “be a very, very important statement to the nation and the world.”

Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the release of a detainee at Guantanamo for the second time, “ruling that the government’s evidence is too weak to justify the man’s continued confinement.” “A mosaic of tiles this murky reveals nothing about this petitioner with sufficient clarity” to justify his detention, Leon ruled.

A federal judge ruled yesterday that “White House employees must allow their computers to be searched, and they must turn over any devices that may contain some of the possibly millions of e-mail messages that have apparently disappeared.” Hours later, a Justice Department official told the court the roughly 14 million e-mails had already been found. A representative of CREW, the group filing the lawsuit, said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The United States’ use of the phrase “war on terror” may have “unif[ied] groups with little in common,” writes British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. “The idea of a ‘war on terror’ gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate.”

The Bush administration announced yesterday “plans to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes and northern Rocky Mountains regions from the federal endangered species list.” The administration’s previous attempts to “remove wolves in both regions from the endangered list…have been overruled by courts.”

And finally: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) made good on his bet over college football’s national title game with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), after the University of Florida Gators beat the Oklahoma Sooners. Yesterday, Coburn sang Elton John’s “Rocket Man” to Nelson, who is considered a congressional expert on NASA. Coburn asked his staff to join him, but they declined. Nelson eventually joined him instead. Watch it here.

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