ThinkFast: October 6, 2009

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

A new poll indicates 68 percent of Americans believe the U.S. will not win or lose the Afghanistan war, which will go on without resolution. Yesterday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that leaving Afghanistan is “not something that has ever been entertained.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Charlie Rose yesterday that she believes it would be very difficult to get her fellow Democrats to support a surge in Afghanistan. “Their constituents don’t like an escalated war in Afghanistan. They’d like to see a different approach,” she told the TV host.

Politico reports that the Obama administration “misread the congressional mood” in wanting to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. “It was a widespread breakdown on the political, legislative, policy and planning fronts that contributed to what is shaping up as one of Obama’s most high-profile setbacks.”

“With unemployment expected to rise well into next year even as the economy slowly recovers, the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are discussing extending several safety net programs as well as proposing new tax incentives for businesses to renew hiring.” Among the ideas up for consideration are the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and extra unemployment assistance.

New rules announced Monday by the Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to disclose payments they received in return for product reviews. “The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement,” said the agency. “Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

President Obama will speak at the annual dinner of a leading gay rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, on Saturday. Obama’s appearance will come “a day before thousands of people are expected to march on Washington in a demonstration calling for greater legal protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered Americans.”

Hospitals and health insurance companies “are pushing back against changes to the latest Senate health-care bill that ease the penalties for Americans who don’t carry health insurance.” The changes would affect two million fewer people which hospitals say leave too few people covered under the bill and “could undermine a cost-cutting pledge by the industry.”

The Obama administration is expected today “to unveil an outline of sweeping changes for the nation’s immigration-detention system, saying it will decide whom to lock up and for how long based on the danger and flight risk posed by detainees.” The administration plans to revise Bush-era detention standards “and will turn to the private sector for ideas, asking for proposals to construct two model facilities.” 

Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department’s special master on compensation, “is planning to clamp down on compensation at firms receiving large sums of government aid by cutting annual cash salaries for many of the top employees.” “Instead of awarding large cash salaries,” he “is planning to shift a chunk of an employee’s annual salary into stock that cannot be accessed for several years.”

And finally: Levi Johnston, the ex-boyfriend of Bristol Palin, is now starring in an ad for Wonderful pistachios. “In the spot, he is shown sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with a map of his home state, escorted by a bodyguard and dealing with paparazzi — one of whom inquires, ‘How’s the baby?‘ As Johnston cracks open a nut, a voiceover intones, ‘Now Levi Johnston does it with protection.'”

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