ThinkFast: March 2, 2009

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"ThinkFast: March 2, 2009"

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Last night the federal government agreed to provide an additional $30 billion in taxpayer money to the American International Group. AIG is expected to report a $62 billion loss today, the biggest quarterly loss of any company in history. The U.S. government already owns 80 percent of AIG’s holding company as the result of four previous financial interventions totaling $150 billion.

President Obama is putting his effort to pass health-care-reform legislation into high gear this week. “The president will announce Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his choice to head HHS on Monday afternoon, and he may also name a new director of the White House office on health reform.” Later in the week, the White House will host a summit to discuss overhauling the health care system.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Arabs, Israelis and the international community “to break the cycle of Mideast violence” at a conference in Egypt today and said that the U.S. will pledge $900 million to provide humanitarian assistance in the Gaza strip and to boost the Palestinian economy. Clinton added that none of the money would go to Hamas.

The Washington Times reports that the pharmaceutical industry has directed large sums of money to a charity that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) helped found. “The donations, $172,500 in all, came at the same time that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was paying one of Mr. Hatch’s sons, Scott, to be its lobbyist in Congress.”

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA) will introduce legislation today to overturn the ban against gay men and women serving openly in the military, a Tauscher aide told Politico. In January, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama was “committed to following through” on his promise to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

OMB Director Peter Orszag said yesterday that “the White House would consider using a Senate procedural tactic so that only 50 votes would be required to pass major healthcare and energy reforms.” Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Orszag said the administration would prefer not to use the budget reconciliation process to push the reforms through, but added, “We have to keep everything on the table.”

President Obama’s web team is struggling to work in a White House that does not have the technology to send out mass e-mails or text messages to supporters from President Obama. “Beyond the technological upgrades needed to enable text broadcasts, there are security and privacy rules to sort out involving the collection of cellphone numbers.”

A Gallup poll of Muslims in the United States has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving.” The poll also finds that Muslims “are the least content religious group, when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Roman Catholics.”

Former CAP staffer and Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts has been chosen to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “which has been beset by shrinking staff, plummeting morale and a growing backlog of job discrimination cases to investigate.” Butts “would provide a much-needed spark” to the commission.

And finally, late last week, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) got stuck in an elevator for about 20 minutes with a dozen Samoan students. “Flake and Speier did what they do best: They worked the elevator,” talking to the students about their experiences in Hawaii and Samoans in their districts. The students were part of a Close-Up visit to Washington. “That’s a close-up experience, all right,” Politico noted.

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