ThinkFast: April 10, 2009

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"ThinkFast: April 10, 2009"

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The CIA announced it would close the secret overseas prisons where terrorists suspects were tortured. However, “in a statement to employees, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, said agency officers who worked in the program ‘should not be investigated, let alone punished‘ because the Justice Department under President George W. Bush had declared their actions legal.”

Yesterday, Obama said that “his administration will create an electronic record for veterans that will ‘contain their administrative and medical information from the day they first enlist to the day that they are laid to rest.’” “When a member of the armed forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center,” Obama explained.

President Obama has asked Congress “to act quickly on his $83.4 billion request for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” With a time line for withdrawal from Iraq in place, Democrats “are sure to pass his request.” The Congressional Research Service notes that the measure “would push the cost of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, yesterday said that the U.S. military “will increase its presence near the Horn of Africa within 48 hours,” as a hostage stand-off with Somali pirates continues. American ship captain Richard Phillips “tried to escape by jumping into the sea, but was quickly recaptured” by the four pirates who have been holding him.

“Economists in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey expect the recession to end in September, though most say it won’t be until the second half of 2010 that the economy recovers enough to bring down unemployment.” They predicted that unemployment will keep rising, reaching 9.5 percent by December.

“Slowly but surely,” President Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package “is beginning to percolate nationwide, six weeks after” he signed the legislation. Some of the money is arriving quickly, such as $337 million for community health clinics, but “White House officials say the bulk of the money will start hitting the streets later this year and early next.” The goal is to spend 70 percent of it by the summer of 2010.

The ailing financial and retail sectors showed tentative signs of strength yesterday, as financial markets “surged” with the news that Wells Fargo had earned record profits from January to March. Though yesterday’s data offer “some hope that the darkest days of the recession could be ending,” the recession “remains severe, and economists stress that the worst for U.S. workers is still to come.”

A new study by Environment America predicts that global warming “could rob the U.S. economy of $1.4 billion a year in lost corn production alone.” The study, based on government and university data, “projects that warming temperatures will reduce yields of the nation’s biggest crop by 3% in the Midwest and the South compared with projected yields without further global warming.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday that “[e]fforts to reduce the number of food-borne illnesses in the United States have stalled in the past three years, and some illnesses are on the upswing.” The CDC found that “the rate of infection for several bacteria had been dropping until about 2004, when the numbers began rising again or leveled off.”

And finally: Stephen Colbert has hurt Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-FL) feelings. Last month, Posey introduced legislation requiring presidential candidates to present a valid birth certificate before running for office. His bill — inspired by right-wing hysteria over Obama — has yet to receive a co-sponsor. Colbert recently lambasted Posey, saying that he should take a DNA test to prove he isn’t “part alligator.” Posey is now upset, telling the Orlando Sentinel, “I expected there would be some civil debate about it, but it wasn’t civil. Just a bunch of name-calling and personal denigration. … There is no reason to say that I’m the illegitimate grandson of an alligator.”

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