ThinkFast: June 30, 2009


Nearly three-quarters of all Americans support the plan to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns, even though most believe that the troop movements will lead to an increase in violence in that country,” according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll. “This plan has widespread bipartisan support,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Al Bolani writes in the Washington Post today that while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from major Iraq cities “must provide some relief to many Americans, whose sacrifice has been extraordinary,” “none of us can be lulled into believing that Iraq is a ‘mission accomplished.'” “June 30 is not an historical endpoint,” but “the beginning of a highly uncertain chapter in Iraqi democracy.”

The health insurance lobby plans to hold more than 75 townhall and other events around the country this week to rally their supporters on health care reform. “We have really ramped up our efforts to engage the health plan community,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for AHIP. “We are encouraging health plan employees from across the country to get involved, reach out to their Member of Congress, talk about what they do and the value they’re adding to the health care system.”

The House Intelligence Committee approved legislation meant to strengthen congressional oversight of sensitive intelligence matters. The committee “proposed doing away with provisions that allowed a president to limit disclosure of sensitive intelligence activities to the ‘Gang of Eight.'” Instead, the committee “gave each intelligence committee, rather than the president, the legal authority to limit briefings to its own members.” 

Bernard Madoff was sentenced to the maximum 150 years behind bars, one of the stiffest penalties ever given for a white-collar crime, which averages out to a year in prison for every $333 million Madoff cost investors. “The penalty sparked a burst of applause in a courtroom packed with victims of the fraud,” while the judge labeled Madoff’s Ponzi scheme “extraordinarily evil.”

After “quickly finishing a partial vote count,” Iran’s Guardian Council “formally certified the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second four-year term, saying there was no validity to charges of voting fraud.” The decision “touched off scattered protests in Tehren” last night. “It is a divided country now,” said an unnamed Iranian political analyst.

The Obama administration is “developing plans to seek up to 1,500 National Guard volunteers to step up the military’s counter-drug efforts along the Mexican border, senior administration officials said Monday.” Some officials worry such a move will be “seen as militarizing the region.”

Yesterday, Center for American Progress President John Podesta and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle “joined to promote a plan to get roughly one-third of the $1.2 trillion from new tax revenues and the rest from savings in Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other health-care providers.” The two said that taxing some employer provided benefits may be necessary.

The Obama administration is moving forward with lifting “a 1987 U.S. ban on travel and immigration by foreign nationals” infected with HIV. Last year, President Bush signed into law a provision to remove HIV from the list of banned diseases, and yesterday, the Obama administration published the official rule in the Federal Register. There is now a 45-day comment period before it can officially become law.

And finally: Although First Lady Michelle Obama is well-known for her fashion-forward sensibilities, President Obama is beginning to influence men’s clothing too. Anthony Asaf has been a tailor to “the high-powered, high-profile men in Washington for years” and says that more of his clients are now asking for an “Obama-like” fit. “We are seeing a much slimmer suit, and a narrower, almost tapered pant leg,” said Asaf. “The shoulder is also much softer, with less padding in it than before.”

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