ThinkFast: March 13, 2009

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"ThinkFast: March 13, 2009"

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In their much-anticipated face-off, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart told CNBC’s Jim Cramer, “I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a f**king game.” Lobbing a series of tough questions at Cramer, Stewart got increasingly upset over CNBC’s complicity in sheltering a financial industry built on lies and deceit. “Who are you responsible to? The people with the 401(k)’s or the guys on Wall Street?” Stewart asked. (Watch the videos here, here, and here.)

Two judges in California recently said that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to deny benefits to legally married same-sex couples. OPM has “instructed insurers not to provide the benefits,” citing the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama — who promised to “fight hard” for the rights of same-sex couples — has not yet said whether he will side with OPM or the judges.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is not ruling out running as a Democratic candidate in his reelection race in 2012,” The Hill reports. However, though Lieberman said being an “independent Democrat” gives him “options,” when asked whether he would be more likely to run as a Democrat in 2012, he replied, “I wouldn’t reach that conclusion.”

The Federal Reserve said yesterday that the “wealth of American families plunged nearly 18% in 2008,” a loss totaling $11 trillion. The bust follows an “extraordinary boom” which saw “household wealth more than [double] from 1990 to 2000, and then, after a pause, [rise] nearly 50% before the bust of 2008.”

According to the Wall Street Journal’s most recent forecasting survey, in a poll of 49 economists, “more than 40 percent of respondents thought a second large stimulus package is necessary to jump-start the economy.”

A new Government Accountability Office report released today says that “[f]raud and abuse helped boost Medicare spending on home health services 44% over five years as some providers exaggerated patients’ medical conditions and others billed for unnecessary services or care they did not provide.” In 2008, ‘Medicare spent about $16.5 billion on home care for the services reviewed by the GAO.”

Democratic lawmakers in Texas have “vowed to try to overturn” Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) decision to turn down $555 million or expanded unemployment benefits from the federal stimulus package. State senator Wendy Davis (D) said, “After declaring his unconscionable decision today…Gov. Perry will be resting comfortably tonight in a home paid for by Texas taxpayers.”

A bipartisan group of nine U.S. senators “is nearing an agreement on the broad strokes of a health care reform bill.” After meeting for nine months behind closed doors, the group is “hammering out the finer points as they prepare to enter the drafting phase of the negotiations.” The talks have been held in parallel to negotiations with outside groups orchestrated by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

The world is facing an increasing risk of ‘irreversible’ climate shifts because worst-case scenarios warned of two years ago are being realized,” according to a new report. The report, which came at the close of a three-day conference where nearly 2,000 researchers gathered to discuss climate change, calls on “policy-makers to use all tools available to reduce dangerous emissions of greenhouse gases.”

And finally: “With the world swirling about it, the House took a moment Thursday to honor pi, the Greek letter symbolizing that great constant in mathematics representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter,” reports Politico. “I’m kind of geeked up about it,” said Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA). Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) was a little less into it, saying, “We were never good at math in my family. I thought I was voting for p-i-e.”

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