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ThinkFast: April 9, 2009

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"ThinkFast: April 9, 2009"

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The Obama administration said yesterday that the U.S. would join Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China in talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program — a further step toward direct American engagement with Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said he welcomes talks with the U.S. should President Obama prove to be “honest” in his outreach to Iran.

Attorney General Eric Holder “began a series of personnel moves yesterday” aimed at restoring “public confidence in the nation’s highest law enforcement operation.” Holder appointed Mary Patrice Brown to head the Justice Department’s internal ethics unit while moving the unit’s former head, H. Marshall Jarrett, over to lead the executive office of U.S. attorneys.

Four Somali pirates are holding an American ship captain hostage after briefly seizing a cargo ship Wednesday. A U.S. Navy destroyer is now keeping watch over the small lifeboat to which the pirates fled with their hostage, after the American crew retook the cargo ship yesterday.

On a “mostly party-line 46-53 vote,” the Virginia General Assembly “rejected $125 million in federal stimulus money Wednesday that would have provided additional unemployment benefits to thousands of jobless Virginians.” Gov. Tim Kaine (D) was “visibly angry” after the vote. Virginia’s unemployment rate is at 6.6 percent.

President Obama “plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal,” says director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House Cecilia Muñoz. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May and will hold working groups over the summer “to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.”

The White House is “open to compromise on certain key elements of its climate-change agenda, including whether businesses could get some emissions allowances for free.” An Obama administration spokesman said the president prefers a “100% auction” but “will be flexible during the policy-making process as long as those larger goals” of a clean-energy economy are met.

A coalition of liberal groups called Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which includes the AFL-CIO, Campaign for America’s Future, and MoveOn.org, is “waging a national grassroots campaign this week to demand that all Americans be given access to government-run public health insurance plans.” They are also pushing centrist senators like Evan Bayh (D-IN) to allow health care legislation to pass through budget reconciliation.

The team organizing the Chicago Tea Party protest has rejected RNC Chairman Michael Steele as a speaker. Eric Odom, the event’s organizer, explained: “[W]e prefer to limit stage time to those who are not elected officials, both in Government as well as political parties.”

And finally: The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles has turned down a vegan driver’s license plate request for “ILVTOFU.” According to the agency, “the plate might be offensive to some people.” “We don’t allow FU because some people could read that as street language for sex,” explained a spokesman for the Department of Revenue. Kelley Coffman-Lee, the woman who requested the personalized plate, said that she simply wanted to show her love for tofu, a “staple” for her vegan family.

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