ThinkFast: March 26, 2009

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"ThinkFast: March 26, 2009"

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U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are “drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, part of a U.S. review of the drone program.” Pakistani officials want the program to target domestic extremists. Adding to the “fragility of the situation,” the U.S. believes Pakistan’s intelligence agency is supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner plans to propose “a sweeping expansion of federal authority over the financial system, breaking from an era in which the government stood back from financial markets and allowed participants to decide how much risk to take in the pursuit of profit.” The plan would regulate derivative trading for the first time, as well as hedge funds and large insurers like AIG.

Despite the focus on Wall Street executives and their bonuses, “This is a blue-collar recession, just like we saw in ’81,” Andrew Sum, professor of labor economics at Northeastern University, told the Washington Times. “In fact, we’ve seen no net loss among college graduates. At least not yet.” Close to 70 percent of the 5 million jobs lost in the recession belonged to blue-collar workers, Sum said.

Melting glaciers in the Alps may prompt Italy and Switzerland to redraw their borders near the Matterhorn,” according to new legislation being prepared in Rome. “This draft law is born out the necessity to revise and verify the frontiers given the changes in climate and atmosphere,” Franco Narducci of Italy’s Democratic Party said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered “a blunt mea culpa,” in Mexico yesterday saying that U.S. “anti-narcotics policies have been a failure and have contributed to the explosion of drug violence south of the border.” “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” she said, adding, “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border” arms the drug warriors.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated yesterday that he’s willing to use the budget reconciliation process “to move sweeping health care legislation through the Senate” without the chance of a filibuster. “I think it’s something we need to consider,” said Reid on a conference call with reporters. Reid cautioned though that he wanted to give Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-MT) bipartisan effort “a shot” first.

Yesterday, an Air Force F-22 crashed at Edwards Air Force base in California, killing the test pilot who was a contractor with the aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. The F-22, while in service overseas, has not been used in missions over Iraq or Afghanistan and Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently questioned their usefulness.

“The military is racing to inspect more than 90,000 U.S.-run facilities across Iraq to reduce a deadly threat troops face far off the battlefield: electrocution or shock while showering or using appliances.” According to military documents, approximately “one-third of the inspections so far have turned up major electrical problems.”

During a Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III urged Congress “to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, calling them ‘exceptional’ tools to help protect national security.” Mueller particularly advocated for a provision that “helps authorities secure access to business records.” Civil liberties groups oppose the provision.

And finally: On Tuesday, ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich guest-hosted a Chicago radio show, where he “didn’t waste any time before blasting his successor’s proposal to increase the income tax.” Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass said he came off as an “angry jester” and a “hairy Johnny Carson in the morning.” For his part, Blaojevich seemed to have trouble accepting his new situation, stumbling over his title as “former governor” when he introduced himself at the show’s start.

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