ThinkFast: March 23, 2010

Netanyahu and Obama

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama will meet at the White House today to discuss their differences over Israel’s plan to build new housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem. Last night at the AIPAC conference, Netanyahu adamantly declared the settlements are not a violation of any commitment he had made. “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital,” he told the crowd.

At 11:15 a.m. this morning, President Obama will sign the health care bill into law. Later this week, the Senate is expected to begin work on passing a reconciliation package of legislatives fixes to the law. “Officials unveiled the plan to use a signing ceremony to showcase the benefits of the health-care overhaul.”

The community organizing group ACORN announced that it is “folding amid falling revenues — six months after video footage emerged showing some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.” An ACORN spokesman blamed the “declining revenue” on “attacks from partisan operatives and right-wing activists.”

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), “who will lead Republican efforts” to block health care reform, said he hopes to spark a “backlash against Democrats that will rival the town-hall meetings that almost sank the measure last year.” “It will make last August look like a love fest,” Gregg told Bloomberg.

Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin “handed Democrats a major victory” last night when he ruled that pushing back an “excise tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans until 2018” was allowable under the reconciliation process. Republicans had claimed the provision was “subject to a point of order that would doom the bill in the Senate.”

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) said yesterday that he plans to vote against the upcoming Senate reconciliation package on health care due to the inclusion of landmark student lending legislation. Nelson, whose state of Nebraska houses major student lender Nelnet, claims that cutting private student lenders out of the federal student lending program will lead to major job losses. Blanche Lincoln will also vote no.

The British commission investigating the Iraq war has asked former Bush administration officials to give testimony. “The inquiry sent out emails ‘about three weeks ago’ to senior officials in Mr. Bush’s government including, it is believed, the former president himself.” Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld also reportedly received requests.

Halliburton and KBR have withdrawn their appeal asking the Supreme Court to block a lawsuit by Jamie Leigh Jones, “a former military contractor who says she was raped by KBR co-workers in Iraq.” KBR said that it didn’t want to risk violating a federal provisionintroduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) that “restricts the Defense Department from doing business with companies that prohibit employees from seeking redress for certain crimes through the courts.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said yesterday in remarks commemorating World Water Day that unclean water now kills more people globally than war. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million people die every year because they consumed unsafe or unsanitary water.

And finally: Since health care passed, “two dudes living in Brooklyn” are now raising money to buy Rush Limbaugh a one-way first-class ticket to Costa Rica. Check out their efforts here.

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