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ThinkFast: December 7, 2009

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"ThinkFast: December 7, 2009"

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Iraq Deputy Parliament Speaker Khalid al-Atiya

Iraqi lawmakers pulled their country “back from the brink of a constitutional crisis on Sunday night, brokering a last-minute compromise that will allow for the first national elections since 2005.” Failure to achieve a deal in the past underscored “the deep sectarian divide that remains in Iraq.” “It is a great achievement for Iraq,” said Khalid al-Attiya, a deputy speaker of Parliament.

A landmark conference on climate change opened in Copenhagen” today, “with grim warnings…for mankind if world leaders fail to agree a way to save future generations.” Delegates will be crafting a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and establishing “a funding mechanism able to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor nations most exposed to the effects of climate change.”

While the U.S. military is scrambling for supplies to support the troop increase in Afghanistan, “it is donating passenger vehicles, generators and other equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government.” Under new guidelines, the military “may now donate to the Iraqis up to $30 million worth of equipment from each facility they leave, up from the $2 million cap established” in 2005.

The Obama administration said yesterday that the cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program is estimated to be $200 billion less than originally projected. “The fact that they are spending less TARP money means that recovery is better and stronger than expected, and that’s all positive for growth,” said Mitul Kotecha, a Hong Kong-based banker and industry expert.

Despite rule changes meant to curb congressional junkets, “some lawmakers and even their families continue to take trips hosted by private groups and companies that revel in their access to Washington power brokers.” An examination by The New York Times “of 1,150 trips shows that some of them bent or broke rules adopted in 2007 to limit corporate influence in Washington.”

A new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds that children of military parents deployed overseas have a “far greater number of emotional and behavioral problems than children of civilians.” The study concludes that children of military families are twice as likely as children from civilian families to report “getting frightened for no apparent reason or feeling that they couldn’t be alone.”

$10 million a day is smuggled out of Afghanistan,” the country’s finance minister Omar Zakhilwal told the press yesterday. “Corruption is a stronger threat than terrorism for Afghanistan,” said Zakhilwal.

Over the weekend, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) “defended recommending his girlfriend for appointment as Montana’s U.S. attorney.” He said that Melodee Hanes, his former state office director, was “highly qualified,” although they eventually decided it would be “best” for her withdraw from consideration.

And finally: Watch out for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in coffee shops.

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