ThinkFast: April 6, 2009

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"ThinkFast: April 6, 2009"

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Although nearly half of the American public say that they hold unfavorable views of Islam, 82 percent also believe that it is important for Obama “to try to improve U.S. relations with Muslim nations,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Though the actual unemployment rate is at a high 8.5 percent, Americans feel an unemployment rate closer to 15.6 percent. The larger number includes “those who want a job but have stopped looking for work and those who want full-time positions but have to settle for part-time employment.”

Cities and counties are reporting a sharp increase in homeless families as the economic crisis leads to job loss and makes housing unaffordable,” USA Today reports. The Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted a one-day count in January of the homeless and “of 56 places where figures were available, 35 reported an increase in homelessness; 12 had a drop.”

A coalition of corporate lobby and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, are increasing their efforts to block an “Obama administration proposal to raise taxes on overseas profits.” Proponents of the Obama plan argue that current tax law “encourages American multinationals to add facilities and jobs overseas rather than expanding back home.”

Today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will “propose cuts or delays in weapons programs in an effort to rein in defense spending that has risen 72 percent since 2000.” In response, major defense contractors have been increasing their lobbying efforts in Washington in an attempt to “preserve their programs.”

A suicide bomber “blew himself up at the entrance to a crowded Shiite mosque” just south of Islamabad yesterday, killing at least 26 people. It was “the third suicide attack in Pakistan in 24 hours, in a sign that the Pakistani Taliban are overwhelming the nation’s security forces.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is arming her diplomatic efforts with a new set of tools including Facebook, text messaging, and YouTube. The State Department has hired a new staffer whose job will be to “blend technology with diplomacy in an attempt to help solve some of the globe’s most vexing problems on health care, poverty, human rights and ethnic conflicts.”

The U.N. Security Council met yesterday to discuss North Korea’s rocket launch but “took no immediate action.” The U.S, Japan, and South Korea said the launch violated resolutions banning missile launches by Pyongyang, but China and Russia “were not convinced that the launch…constituted a violation of U.N. rules.”

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said yesterday that Cuba “does not fear dialogue” with the U.S. and praised Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) “for calling for a new U.S. policy of engagement” with Cuba. “We don’t fear dialogue…[n]or do we need confrontation to exist, as some fools think,” Castro wrote in an internet column. Dialogue “is the only way of procuring friendship and peace between peoples,” he said.

And finally: Since his stints as a plumber, war correspondent, economist, and anti-labor crusader have had only mixed results, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher is taking up a new cause: abolishing the IRS. In a video at IRSvote.com, Wurzelbacher says, “I’m here to ask my fellow Americans to join me to make this the last year we ever have to file a tax return. I’m going to give the American people the opportunity to vote the IRS out.” Visitors can then “vote via the Internet, or by sending a text message or making a phone call to a 900 phone number. However, the site warns that they will be charged 99 cents a vote.”

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