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ThinkFast: August 28, 2009

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"ThinkFast: August 28, 2009"

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A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has found that 55 percent of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling energy issues and nearly 60 percent support changes in U.S energy policy being proposed by Congress and the administration. Fifty-two percent support a cap-and-trade system.

Business lobbying groups are launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to defeat climate change legislation. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are targeting the Waxman-Markey bill “as a threat to the economy” by claiming it would raise energy costs.

The astroturf grassroots lobbying firm Bonner & Associates, which sent fake letters to congressmen on behalf of coal companies, is now blaming the embarrassing incidents on a temporary employee. The firm claims it was “the victim of a fraud” perpetrated by a temp who joined the firm “with the pre-determined intent of engaging in fraudulent activity.”

The latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows that President Obama’s overall approval rating has fallen to 50 percent, down 19 points since his inauguration in January. Obama’s sliding numbers coincide with “growing unrest about his healthcare plans.”

Special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke had an “explosive” meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week about the country’s elections. The BBC reports that Holbrooke “raised concerns about ballot-stuffing and fraud” and “twice raised the idea of holding a second round run-off because of concerns about the voting process.”

A new essay by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen offers a “searing critique of government efforts at ‘strategic communication’ with the Muslim world,” saying that the U.S. needs to focus more on its actions. “Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise,” writes Mullen, “we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”

Speaking to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that passing the Employee Free Choice Act has “fallen off the Senate’s radar for now.” “We have too many other things on our plate,” said Reid. He also said he’d give bipartisan health care talks two weeks after the Senate reconvenes before deciding about whether to use reconciliation or not.

Yesterday, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) wrote in a letter to President Obama that he is “deeply disappointed” the administration has not repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Arguing the military cannot afford to lose soldiers when more troops are being requested in Afghanistan, Hastings encouraged Obama “to come up with a new policy that doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

Pentagon officials are reviewing The Rendon Group’s work rating reporters seeking to embed with U.S. troops abroad. “I haven’t seen anything that violates any policies, but again, I’m learning about aspects of this as I question our folks in Afghanistan,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. “If I find something that is inconsistent with Defense Department values and policies, you can be sure I will address it.”

And finally: Slate’s Christopher Beam takes a look at what “happens in congressional offices when the boss is gone.” He spotted two congress staffers “in a back hallway locked in a passionate embrace, the gentleman gripping the lady’s pearl necklace between his fingers and — NSFW — licking it aggressively. On being caught, the pair disbanded.” In August, people also start “picking up hobbies” — like watching re-runs of the show “Melrose Place,” although some offices are still busy working on health care reform.

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