ThinkFast: February 23, 2009

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"ThinkFast: February 23, 2009"

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President Obama will host dozens of advisers and adversaries at the White House today for a fiscal responsibility summit, “the first meeting toward a strategy to address the long-term fiscal health of the nation.” “I will convene a fiscal summit of independent experts and unions, advocacy groups and members of Congress,” Obama announced in his weekend radio and Internet address.

Seventy-three percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say they’re very or somewhat scared about the way things are going in the United States. That’s six points higher than in an October poll.” Nearly eight in 10 say things are going badly in America.

As the number of widows in Iraq has swelled during six years of war, “their presence on city streets begging for food or as potential recruits by insurgents” has begun to symbolize the breakdown of Iraqi self-sufficiency. Government and social service organizations “say the women’s needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country’s tenuous social structures.”

A secret task force of more than 70 American military advisers has been training Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary troops “in an effort to root out Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilizing Pakistan.” The program, which started with the approval of the Pakistani government last summer, is “a much larger and more ambitious effort than either country has acknowledged.”

President Obama plans to announce the appointment of Earl Devaney, the inspector general of the Interior Dept. and a former Secret Service agent, as chairman of the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. Devaney’s investigation led to Steven Griles pleading guilty for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Supporters of D.C. voting rights “believe that they are on the verge of their biggest victory in at least 30 years.” “I think the votes are there. I think it’s going to pass the Senate,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), referring to the bill that would create a full House seat for the District, set to be taken up by the chamber this week

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has landed a “three-book deal with Crown Publishers, starting with a memoir about her years in the administration of President George W. Bush.” The agreement is worth at least $2.5 million, and her first book is planned for 2011.

A measure legalizing same-sex civil unions passed the state House in Hawaii last month and “now goes before the Senate, where a divided committee is scheduled to vote on Tuesday.” Gov. Linda Lingle (R) “has declined to comment on the bill, and it is unclear whether she would veto it.”

Army Emergency Relief (AER), which is the biggest charity inside the U.S. military, “has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet,” the AP reports today. Though AER “grew into a $345 million behemoth” between 2003 and 2007, the charity spent just $64 million on direct aid to military families in that time period.

And finally: Education Secretary Arne Duncan has acknowledged the negative impressions surrounding No Child Left Behind and called for giving it “a new name.” This announcement has prompted “scores of educators, policy wonks and assorted rabble-rousers” on the site Eduwonk to come up with some not-so-serious suggestions: the Act to Help Children Read Gooder, Rearranging the Deck Chairs Act, Could We Start Again Please Act, and the Double Back Around to Pick Up the Children We Left Behind Act.

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