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ThinkFast: April 15, 2009

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"ThinkFast: April 15, 2009"

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Forty-one percent of Americans now believe that lower-income people are paying their “fair share” of federal taxes, up from 32 percent last year, according to a new Gallup poll. At the same time, just 23 percent say that upper-income taxpayers pay their “fair share,” while 60 percent say they pay too little.

The Obama administration plans to “disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country.” Administration officials concluded that “keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.” All the banks are expected to pass the “stress tests,” but “some are expected to be graded more highly than others.”

Today, a U.S. ship carrying food aid destined for Kenya “foiled an attack by Somali pirates” who are pledging revenge for their recent defeat by Navy SEALs. The pirates “fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons” at the Liberty Sun, whose crew was not injured.

While details remain vague, “clues are now emerging” that suggest President Obama intends to strengthen President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law by toughening “requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards” and increasing the law’s emphasis on helping failing schools.

The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed” in CIA interrogations, which include stories about head smashing. Top CIA officials and “some in the White House…argue that disclosing such secrets will undermine the agency’s credibility with foreign intelligence services.”

A 21-year-old Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed el Gharani, called Al-Jazeera “to say he was severely beaten for refusing to leave his cell.” Al-Jazeera would not disclose how it managed to speak with el Gharani, whom a judge ordered to be released in January.

Human Rights Watch reports that the government has deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes in recent years, despite its claim to prioritize violent criminals for deportation. “Nearly three-quarters of the roughly 897,000 immigrants deported from 1997 to 2007 after serving criminal sentences were convicted of nonviolent offenses, and one-fifth were legal permanent residents.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today “that he was preparing a new proposal to resolve disputes with the West over Iran’s nuclear program, opening the door to talks with the United States.” Ahmadinejad “did not elaborate on the contents of the proposal,” but his announcement appeared to be a response to the recent U.S. decision to join discussions with Iran on its disputed nuclear program.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told an audience at Morehouse College that “recently we have seen tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing,” noting that housing and consumer spending may be flattening. “A leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward recovery,” he said.

And finally: It seems that fallen governor Rod Blagojevich isn’t quite ready to get out of the spotlight. Since losing his gubernatorial perch, Blagojevich has filled in as a talk radio host on WLS radio in Chicago. Now he may star in an NBC reality tv show called “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here.”

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