ThinkFast: January 26, 2010

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"ThinkFast: January 26, 2010"

Ben Bernanke

Forty senators are supporting the reconfirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and 17 are opposed, according to a tally by Dow Jones Newswires. The rest have not disclosed their positions. The vote is “now expected Thursday or Friday.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced a resolution that could end the filibuster, instead allowing the Senate to proceed on matters by a simple majority vote. “[P]artisan rancor and the Senate’s own incapacitating rules often prevent us from fulfilling that duty,” Udall said in his remarks on the floor of the Senate.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today that “Israel’s failure to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians was a greater threat to the country than a nuclear Iran.”

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry warned his superiors in November that Afghan President Hamid Karzai “is not an adequate strategic partner” and “continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden,” according to a classified cable. “Broad outlines” of Eikenberry’s views were previously reported, but the full cables show “just how strongly” he felt about the lack of Afghan leadership. 

President Obama admitted to ABC News’s Diane Sawyer yesterday that health care negotiations haven’t been as transparent as he said they would be as a presidential candidate. “I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s going on,” said Obama.

For the first time in 15 years, “welfare rolls rose in 2009″ but the increase “was dwarfed by spikes in the number of people receiving food stamps and unemployment insurance.” Those on cash-assistance rose from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4 million in 2009, while those on food stamps increased 18 percent and those receiving unemployment benefits more than doubled in the same time period.

The pregnancy rate among teenage girls in the United States jumped 3 percent between 2005 and 2006, the first increase in a decade. Abortion rates also rose for the first time in more than a decade, inching up 1 percent, according to the new Guttmacher report.

Some “lobbyists and representatives for interest groups are engaging in last-minute conference calls and meetings with White House officials hoping to sway what President Barack Obama says” in the State of the Union, Roll Call reports. “Most K streeters, however, are “on the sidelines when it comes to influencing” Obama’s address and are focusing on keeping their clients posted on what Obama might cover.

The EPA “set stricter limits on the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air for short periods of time along busy roads” yesterday, and “is requiring states to install monitoring equipment in big urban areas.” Vehicles are a “major source” of the pollutant, which “can cause respiratory problems.”

And finally: Bush administration lawyer and torture architect John Yoo is keeping his Berkeley law school class secret, holding it in an “undisclosed location” so that protesters can’t disrupt it. “If the protesters want to go, they could always apply for admission as 1Ls and pay the full tuition like everyone else,” said Yoo. “They will find that it is harder to compete for admission with our smart and accomplished students than it is to make a ruckus.”

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