ThinkFast: July 2, 2009


The U.S. economy lost a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June, according to a new Labor Department report out this morning. Unemployment rose to 9.5 percent, the highest rate in 26 years.

Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years,” according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, “involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.” This travel spending “is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001.”

In the first major push in the U.S. military’s new counteroffensive strategy, “[t]housands of Marines and hundreds of Afghan troops moved into Taliban-infested villages with armor and helicopters early today” in Helmand province. The goal “is to clear insurgents there before the nation’s Aug. 20 presidential election.”

The U.S. military is reporting that “insurgents have captured an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan.” The soldier, missing since Tuesday, “wasn’t taking part in the major military operation launched in the southern Taliban stronghold of the Helmand River Valley.” Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the military is using “all our resources to find him and provide for his safe return.”

Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged the 60 members of the Democratic Caucus to support cloture on legislation that would reform the nation’s health care system. “I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster,” he said.

Much of South Carolina’s Republican establishment is now seeking Gov. Mark Sanford’s resignation. Fourteen GOP state senators have called for him to step down, joining a list that includes 11 Republican members of the state House and six big state newspapers. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Gresham Barrett spoke frankly with Sanford yesterday. Barrett asked him to resign.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), an Iraq war veteran, will take the legislative lead in the congressional effort to reverse the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians in the military. Murphy will take over from former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who retired last week to take a job at the State Department. Tauscher proposed legislation repealing the policy earlier this year.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) have teamed up to place a hold on President Barack Obama’s first appointment to the Federal Election Commission in an effort to shake up the FEC. “[T]he lawmakers signaled they would release the hold only if Obama taps two additional nominees to fill expired seats on the six-member independent panel.”

The Obama administration “launched investigations of hundreds of businesses around the country” yesterday “as part of its strategy to focus immigration enforcement on the employers who hire illegal workers.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun notifying more than 600 businesses of “plans to audit employment eligibility documents that employers fill out for every worker.”

And finally: Meghan McCain hasn’t released a memoir yet (it’s due next spring), but as the New York Daily News notes, “she’s already planning the movie version.” “I want Hilary Duff to play me. I think she’s really hot — hotter than me — but I’d still want her to play me,” McCain said. “Really, I’d take anyone who’s blond,” she added. She also said that she thinks “Bradley Cooper is so hot” and would love him to be in her film too.

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