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ThinkFast: January 8, 2010

By ThinkProgress  

"ThinkFast: January 8, 2010"

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The Environmental Protection Agency “proposed the nation’s strictest-ever smog limits” yesterday. The new proposal calls for restricting the ground-level ozone concentration to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, which is a sharp decline from the 75 parts per billion standard that was used under President Bush.

The economy lost more jobs in December and the unemployment rate was unchanged, as a sluggish economic recovery has yet to revive hiring among the nation’s employers,” according to the AP. “The Labor Department says employers cut 85,000 jobs last month, worse than the 8,000 drop analysts expected.”

Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele’s comments this week that he does not think the GOP can win congressional majorities in 2010 and that it is not ready to lead has angered the party’s congressional leaders. “You really just have to get him to stop. It’s too much,” a top Republican congressional aide said.

The New Jersey State Senate rejected a marriage equality measure yesterday, falling seven votes short of the 21 needed for passage. Garden State Equality chairman Steven Goldstein said that the next step will be taking the case to the courts. “We are not waiting out the term of any new Administration to bring equality to same-sex couples in our state,” Goldstein said.

In a paper released yesterday, a group of scientists said that mountaintop coal mining “is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits to do it.” “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, University of Maryland professor and the study’s lead author.

Two former employees of Xe — formerly Blackwater Worldwide — have been charged with murder in the case of two Afghans killed last year. Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff have “been charged with 13 counts including second-degree murder” and may face the death penalty.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad “is planning to double its ranks as it takes over a host of missions for the military there,” Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Ford tells Foreign Policy. “If Congress gives us the money we are asking for, this embassy is going to be twice the size it is now. It’s not going down, it’s getting bigger,” said Ford. The Baghdad embassy is already the largest in the world.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates “plans to remain in his Cabinet post for at least another year.” Gates, the most prominent Republican in President Obama’s Cabinet, told the President in December that “he would stay on at least through the end of 2010.”

And finally: A man was taken into custody yesterday after “after he took off all of his clothes and began a jog a few blocks from the White House. The Secret Service says he ran for “less than a minute before he was apprehended.”

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