ThinkFast: September 2, 2009

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"ThinkFast: September 2, 2009"

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The White House is “putting the final touches on a new strategy” to push health care reform that will have President Obama specifying what he “wants to see in a compromise health care deal and directly confronting other trouble spots.” “We’re entering a new season,” said senior adviser David Axelrod. “We’re going to approach it in a different way. The president is going to be very active.”

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the stimulus appears to be “helping the US climb out of the worst recession in decades.” Economists say that the stimulus funding is fueling growth well above where it would be without government action.

In “another piece of evidence that the economy was pulling out of recession,” the U.S. manufacturing sector grew in August after 18 months of severe struggles. President Obama called the numbers “a sign that we’re on the path to economic recovery.”

Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage,” according to a new study of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. “The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.”

In a declaration to a federal court on Monday, the C.I.A. refused “to make public hundreds of pages of internal documents about the agency’s defunct detention and interrogation program” by invoking national security. “There’s really no distance at all between this declaration and the declarations the C.I.A. was filing during the Bush administration,” said ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer.

57 percent: Americans who oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. The number is a new all-time high, “up 11 points since April.” The opposition is highest amongst Democrats and independents, while Republicans strongly support the war.

A U.N. report released today finds that the opium cultivation in Afghanistan has fallen sharply. The report notes that the decline is largely due to “an excess supply” of the drug. The Obama administration has also “changed course on its opium policy here, moving away from eradication efforts favored by the Bush administration that senior officials now say wasted millions of dollars.”

The State Department has renewed a contract with controversial military contractor Xe, formerly known as Blackwater. Xe’s subsidiary Presidential Airways will continue to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees in Iraq as the State Department works to implement a new contract with another security organization, Dyncorp International.

And finally: Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of CLSA, a Hong Kong-based brokerage. Many observers were questioning why Palin, who lacks significant foreign policy knowledge, would be invited. Business Insider now reports that CLSA — well-known for its “cheeky takes on investment research” — may be playing a practical joke. In the past, they’ve polled Asian fortune tellers for index targets” and “hired anime cartoonists to draw Japanese research. … They are a real research firm, it’s just that they love to sprinkle in some hilarity every now and then as a smart marketing gimmick.”

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