ThinkFast: May 8, 2009

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"ThinkFast: May 8, 2009"

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New employment data from the Labor Department released this morning shows that employers shed 539,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9 percent. Economists had anticipated a drop of 600,000 jobs.

For the first time, Afghanistan war funding will surpass the outlay for Iraq in next year’s proposed defense budget, “demonstrating a shift in priorities that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seeks to execute.” War funds for the fiscal 2010 budget request “includes $65 billion for Afghanistan operations and $61 billion for Iraq. For 2009, $87 billion was requested for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday that getting Dawn Johnsen confirmed to head the Office of Legal Counsel is “probably my top priority.” At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing, Holder said the office requires the “solidity and continuity” of a Senate-confirmed assistant attorney general.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) announced that he won’t run for Senate. “[M]y desire and intention is to help my party craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace,” he said. “My hope is to raise the level of civility in public debate and raise the bar on outcomes that serve our citizens fully, fairly and equally.”

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has backed out of plans to attend the White House Correspondents’ annual dinner on Saturday, to which she was invited as a guest of Fox News. Due to “a state of emergency because of record flooding in Eagle, Alaska,” Palin will be unable to make the trip to DC, and has also had to pull out of co-hosting a dinner in Virginia for the Republican Governors Association.

The Congressional Black Caucus is “launching a campaign to persuade President Obama to appoint one of their members,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), to replaced Justice David Souter’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said yesterday that “Pakistan would launch a full-scale offensive against Pakistani Taliban guerrillas who’ve seized control of the vast Swat valley.” He said the government had tried peaceful negotiation but the strategy failed. Pakistan will no longer “bow our heads before the terrorists,” Gilani said in a TV address to the nation. 

In his FY2010 budget, President Obama boosted his commitment to immigration enforcement, calling “for extra money to build an employee-verification system and to pay for more personnel and equipment to patrol the border.” “If the American people don’t feel like you can secure the borders,” he said last week, “then it’s hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows.”

FEMA will be taking away the temporary housing they provided to Louisiana residents after Hurricane Katrina at the end of May despite the fact that many residents have just received money to rebuild in the last six months or “are struggling with inadequate grants or no money at all.”

And finally: Project Runway’s Tim Gunn was on Capitol Hill earlier this week making it work. Gunn met with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), telling the congressman, “You look great!” Smith then “lined up his staff” and had Gunn critique their outfits. One female staffer was “complimented on her grey skirt and sweater paired with a light brown belt. Gunn said, ‘This outfit is all about the belt and it works.’” A male staffer fared less well, however, when he was “was scolded and told to buy a properly fitting suit jacket.”

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