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ThinkFast: September 17, 2009

By ThinkProgress  

"ThinkFast: September 17, 2009"

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that “the world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest for any August on record, and the warmest on record averaged for any June-August.” Joe Romm writes that, if the El Niño strengthens, “2010 may well be the hottest year on record.”

President Obama told reporters yesterday that he has chosen to hold off on deciding whether or not he’ll send more troops to Afghanistan. President Obama’s statement comes at a time when Democrats in Congress are increasingly skeptical about a troop increase in that country.

Joining the right-wing chorus of complaints about Obama’s so-called “czars,” Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) sent a letter to the president requesting the White House release information regarding the “roles and responsibilities” of these special appointees. He also requested that the president’s legal advisers prepare a “judgment” on the “czars’” constitutionality.

A new study finds that U.S. states where residents “have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth.” Researchers say that this trend could be because such religious beliefs “may frown upon contraception.” Mississippi ranks at the top of the list for conservative religious beliefs and birth rates, followed by New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said yesterday that she wants changes made to the health care bill unveiled by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). “I wouldn’t vote for a bill that doesn’t have Medicare reform and the public option,” Cantwell said. “What would I tell the people in Washington state?”

The Main Street Alliance, a network of small business organizations in 15 states, has said their interests have been misrepresented by K Street. The group believes “that the choice of a government-administered plan would drive down insurance costs and serve as a backstop for those who cannot afford to offer insurance to their workers.”

The White House will shelve plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that had been promoted by the Bush administration. The decision was based “on a determination that Iran’s long-range missile program hasn’t progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals.”

Federal law enforcement officials have said that the Justice Department is investigating whether Gale Norton, former Interior Secretary under President Bush, “used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her.” The criminal inquiry centers on a 2006 decision “to award three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary.”

More than 50 civil rights, public interest, and grassroots groups sent a letter to the FCC and congressional leaders urging them to speak out in support of FCC associate general counsel and chief diversity officer Mark Lloyd, who has come under attack from the right wing. The letter comes as the FCC commissioners are set to testify to Congress at an oversight hearing today.

And finally: Linda McMahon, the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and wife of wrestling superstar Vince McMahon, has announced that she will challenge Chris Dodd (D) for Connecticut’s Senate seat. The pro-wrestling community seems to be behind McMahon. “I bet she’d be very good,” said “Luscious” Johnny Valiant. Lanny “The Genius” Poffo said she would be “the opposite of Nancy Pelosi.”

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