ThinkFast: January 12, 2010

President Obama walks across the room

A new CBS News poll finds President Obama’s job approval rating has slipped to 46 percent, the lowest rating yet. Also in the poll, “57 percent of Americans approve of the way the Obama administration has responded to the attempted attack, and 29 percent disapprove.”

A number of Republican senators have stepped up to defend Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in the wake of his racially-insensitive remarks. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Today Show that Reid is not racially insensitive. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) said it was wrong for Republicans to call for Reid’s resignation. “It pains me that Republicans are saying Harry Reid ought to step down,” added Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

In an interview with a local news station, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) criticized Reid and suggested he may consider calling on the Majority Leader to step down. Feingold said the topic will come up during next week’s caucus meeting.

A new ABC News/BBC/ARD poll has found that nearly 70 percent of Afghans support the U.S. presence in their country and 61 percent favor the surge of 37,000 U.S. and NATO forces. The poll also found that about 70 percent think Afghanistan is headed in the right direction.

The Federal Reserve “made record profits in 2009” while propping up the financial industry and will “return about $45 billion to the U.S. Treasury,” according to Washington Post calculations. “The numbers are good news for the federal budget and a sign that the Fed has been successful, at least so far, in protecting taxpayers.”

Obama “will try to recoup for taxpayers as much as $120 billion of the money spent to bail out the financial system, most likely through a tax on large banks.” The levy would help reduce the deficit, discourage the excessive risk-taking that led to the financial collapse in 2008 and also dispel Americans’ anger as big banks report record profits.

Though Obama told union leaders in a private meeting yesterday “that he remained committed to taxing high-cost insurance policies as a way to drive down health costs,” he also “signaled that he was willing to amend the proposal to ‘make this work for working families.'” “It was a frank conversation about the excise tax,” said a senior administration official.

“The CIA had 25 agents in Germany after the September 11 attacks and planned to ‘rendition’ illegally al-Qaeda subjects without informing the German government,” the German magazine Der Spiegel reports. “We were planning stuff that was totally illegal,” one former CIA agent told Der Spiegel.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says that “the suicide rate has gone up among 18- to 29-year-old men who have left the military.” Between 2005 and 2007, “the suicide rate for these veterans went up 26 percent.” “It’s assumed that most of the veterans in this age group served in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

And finally: The Vatican does movie reviews. The official newspaper and radio station of the Vatican has registered its disapproval with the movie Avatar. “So much stupefying, enchanting technology, but few genuine emotions,” said Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which devoted three articles to “Avatar” in its Sunday editions. Vatican Radio criticizes Avatar’s portrayal of nature as “a divinity to worship.”

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