ThinkFast: April 3, 2009

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"ThinkFast: April 3, 2009"

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President Obama’s budget passed the House and Senate yesterday, by votes of 233-196 and 55-43, respectively. No Republicans voted for the budget in either chamber. Twenty House Democrats voted against the budget.

The House Republicans’ alternative budget was rejected by a 293-137 vote. Thirty-eight members — or 20 percent — of the House Republican caucus voted against their own party’s budget proposal, written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). By contrast, only 8 percent of Democrats voted against their party’s budget.

Arctic sea ice is melting so fast most of it could be gone in 30 years,” according to a new government-backed study. “The Arctic is often called the Earth’s refrigerator because the sea ice helps cool the planet by reflecting the sun’s radiation back into space,” said researcher Muyin Wang. “With less ice, the sun’s warmth is instead absorbed by the open water, contributing to warmer temperatures in the water and the air.”

A federal judge ruled yesterday that “some prisoners held by the American military in Afghanistan have a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment in United States civilian courts.” The judge said that three detainees at the U.S. Air Force base at Bagram are “virtually identical” to detainees at Guantánamo and so they have the same legal rights that the Supreme Court granted prisoners there last year.

In a symbolic gesture, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will accept one terrorist suspect being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Saying that he was determined to “speak the truth,” Sarkozy said that Guantanamo “was not in keeping with U.S. values.”

Roadside bombs “cause 75% of casualties to coalition forces in Afghanistan, up from 50% two years ago, prompting urgent pleas from commanders there for more armored vehicles to protect troops.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet today with a task force “meant to speed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to war zones.”

In a 19-count indictment yesterday, federal prosecutors charged Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich with 16 felonies, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. Five of Blagojevich’s closest advisers, including his brother, were also charged with crimes.

The leaders of the G20 nations “produced large achievements” at the London summit yesterday, pledging “the first-ever global regulation of hedge funds and private-equity firms,” vowing “to crack down on tax haven nations,” and pledging “$1.1 trillion to the International Monetary Fund and related institutions to help revive the global economy.”

Paul Krugman writes that China’s call for a “super-sovereign reserve currency” was an admission of weakness. “In effect, he was saying that China had driven itself into a dollar trap, and that it can neither get itself out nor change the policies that put it in that trap in the first place,” he writes. But, CAP’s Scott Lilly adds, “China’s accumulation of U.S. debt is unsustainable.”

And finally: “Do you have any hidden desires? Well, if you feel like getting nasty then you came to the right place.” That was the message the White House press corps heard yesterday when it dialed into a conference call expecting to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones discussing the NATO summit. The White House had accidentally sent out the wrong number — one that directed reporters to a sex line. Asked for comment by Fox, Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton said the mishap “is probably one of the stupider things Fox News has covered lately.”

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