ThinkFast: February 5, 2009


Yesterday, the Obama administration “canceled 77 leases its predecessor sold to oil and gas companies that wanted to explore beneath the red rock country of Utah, the first of several expected steps to reverse the Bush administration’s Western legacy.” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the U.S. needs to be independent from foreign oil, but added that “we need to do so in a thoughtful and respectful way.”

Two British High Court judges “ruled against releasing documents describing the treatment of a British detainee” at Guantanamo Bay saying the Bush administration “had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public.” The judges expressed dismay that “there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States government.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) said yesterday that he will introduce the Employee Free Choice Act “soon.” Miller said that the bill will be “unveiled in a matter of days or weeks.” Though Miller couldn’t say how many co-sponsors he has on the bill, he said that the process is “going very well.” The Senate HELP Committee will also be voting on Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor today.

“This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education,” Obama writes on the stimulus plan in the Washington Post today. “Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.”

Incoming Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is “launching a top-down review of his embattled department” in order to ensure “highest levels of integrity, transparency and performance.”

Robert Sussman of the Center for American Progress is returning to the Environmental Protection Agency to become senior policy counsel to Administrator Lisa Jackson, “advising her on climate and environmental issues across the agency.” In the past, Sussman has blogged on the Wonk Room.

Americans “are waiting longer than they should for unemployment benefits at a time when they need the money the most because rising joblessness is overwhelming claims offices, records show.” The problem is compounded by cuts in federal funding and, with jobless claims up by 35,000 from last week, the problem will likely get worse.

A new study tracking 9/11 responders who “became ill after working at the World Trade Center site found many had lung problems more than five years later.” The researchers said the results prove that “toxic dust” resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers caused “long-term” and “persistent” illnesses.

And finally: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “was the star at last night’s annual congressional press dinner.” Noting the potential takeover of the New York Times by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, Klobuchar quipped that “this could be the first time Lou Dobbs tries to deport an entire newspaper.” “So much for Democrats being against torture,” joked Klobuchar about the Purple Tunnel of Doom Inauguration Day debacle.

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