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ThinkFast: March 17, 2009

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"ThinkFast: March 17, 2009"

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A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that American support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is at a new low. Forty-two percent said the U.S. made “a mistake” in sending military forces to Afghanistan — the highest since the start of the war — and up from 30% in February and 6% in January 2002. Thirty-eight percent said the war is going well — “the lowest percentage since that question was asked in Sept. 2006.”

Wall Street firms are looking for loopholes to avoid the bonus caps that come attached to TARP funds. Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley, and other banks are considering increasing base salaries rather than relying on bonuses. Citigroup has received $45 billion in taxpayer relief so far, while Morgan Stanley has received $10 billion.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that he “issued subpoenas for the names of American International Group employees given millions of dollars in bonuses despite their possible roles in the insurance giant’s near-collapse.” Cuomo explained that “his office will investigate whether the…payments are fraudulent under state law because they were promised when the company knew it wouldn’t have the money to cover them.”

Pope Benedict XVI said today that the international community “can’t resolve [the problem of AIDS in Africa] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.” The Pope described the “current crisis as the consequence of ‘a deficit of ethics in economic structures‘” and said that it can give “spiritual and moral” suggestions.

“The Obama administration is considering making veterans use private insurance to pay for treatment of combat and service-related injuries,” a move that has earned widespread criticism from veterans groups. IAVA Director Paul Rieckhoff said the proposal “is bad for the country and bad for veterans,” while Joe Violante, legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, called it “a betrayal.” Watch Rieckhoff discuss the idea with Rachel Maddow here.

Responding to a new report on Rep. John Murtha’s (D-PA) questionable connection to a defense research center, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas writes that it is time to stop tolerating “any corruption in our ranks.” “House Democrats have been blocking an ethics investigation into this matter,” writes Kos. “That has to stop now.”

Republicans have appointed Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to coordinate a broad campaign aimed at defeating the Employee Free Choice Act. Thune is working to fucus “the lobbying power of business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and coalitions such as the Alliance for Worker Freedom against the measure.”

A new Gallup Poll finds that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, favor the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize workers. “Independents lean in favor of such a law, 52% vs. 41%.” Thirty-nine percent oppose the legislation.

President Obama is expected to name his first candidate to an appeals court seat this week, David F. Hamilton, “a highly regarded federal trial court judge from Indiana.” The nomination of Hamilton, a moderate, is indicative of Obama’s aim to reduce “partisan contentiousness” in the confirmation process.

And finally: The Guinness brewing company is lobbying President Obama to declare St. Patrick’s Day an official national holiday. Addressing President Barack “O’Bama,” Guinness writes, “Congratulations. Americans have embraced your platform for change and now it’s time to make decisions.” An official involved with the “Proposition 3-17” campaign admits to Roll Call, “It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek push to make it a national holiday. But you ask somebody to sign it, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, where?’”

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