ThinkFast: January 4, 2010

Airport screening

“Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, who are flying to the United States will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports,” administration officials announced Sunday. But American citizens and most others “will no longer automatically face the full range of intensified security” imposed after the attempted bombing on Christmas day.

The Iraqi government is sending a message that former Blackwater personnel are not welcome in the country and will be pursued. “[W]e don’t like to see them here working in any company,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. “Instructions have been given to check if there is any Blackwater member [in the country]. I advise him to leave Iraq and not to stay in Iraq anymore.”

Three American evangelical Christians, “whose teachings about ‘curing’ homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States,” gave a series of talks in Uganda last year that may have motivated lawmakers there to propose a harsh anti-gay law. The measure would allow the death penalty for some homosexual acts and the three Americans are “now trying to distance themselves from the bill.”

House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally on a final health care reform bill rather than convene a formal conference committee, The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn reports. “There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” said a House staffer. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.”

Food stamp use is at a “record high” as nearly six million Americans are living off of food stamps alone, with no other income. Almost “one in 50 Americans now lives in a household” where the only income is a food-stamp card, the New York Times reports.

Many of the same banks that were bailed out over the past year have made billions of dollars of “trading profits from securities rescued by the government.” “Some of [these banks] created this mess, and they are making a killing undoing it,” managing director of Wilshire Associates, an investing-consulting firm, told the press.

To replace the failing public-private mortgage system, the Center for American Progress has proposed new entities called chartered mortgage-backed securities issuers (CMIs). The Washington Post writes that CMIs would help prevent cheap access to borrowed funds, which executives gambled in pursuit of maximum returns to shareholders.

“Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States…nearly 20 percent are secret,” with “their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision.” The Obama administration says the “secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers.”

“President Obama’s ambitious plan to begin phasing out nuclear weapons” is facing “powerful resistance from officials in the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies.” The officials “have pushed back against Obama administration proposals to cut the number of weapons and narrow their mission,” leading the White House to step “up their involvement in the deliberations” over the next Nuclear Posture Review.

And finally: “Rush Limbaugh: the Musical” is coming to Chicago.

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