ThinkFast: May 18, 2010

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"ThinkFast: May 18, 2010"

President Obama will announce the formation of a commission to determine what caused the BP oil drilling catastrophe in the Gulf. The commission will be established by executive order, possibly this week, and will have no current government officials among its members. The idea of a commission was first proposed by the Center for American Progress’s Dan Weiss.

Transocean is “boosting its lobbying and public-relations team” as it comes under harsh scrutiny for its role operating the oil rig at the center of the Gulf Coast spill. It has hired FD Public Affairs and the Capitol Hill Consulting Group, which includes a former “top energy adviser” to Tom DeLay. BP has also “beefed up its Washington team,” retaining a “public-relations powerhouse.”

The Pentagon has “ordered the videotaping of all detainee interrogations conducted by military and defense personnel if the questioning is aimed at gathering ‘strategic intelligence’ and is conducted on major U.S. military bases.” The new regulations, issued last week, exclude combat situations where soldiers are interested in “ground-level enemy tactics.”

A suicide car bomber attacked an American convoy in Afghanistan this morning, killing at least five American soldiers and twelve civilians. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which also left scores of people with serious injuries.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier “likes to bash bloated government as he courts support of the conservative tea-party movement for his primary-election campaign,” but “Didier himself has cashed in on one big government aid program.” The Seattle Times reports that Didier “has received nearly $273,000 in federal farm subsidies since 1995.” Didier said “he favors weaning farms off such payments.”

The U.S., Europe, and Russia responded with extreme skepticism to a deal in which Iran would send about half of its nuclear fuel to Turkey, saying they would continue to push for new sanctions against Iran. Foreign officials said the deal, negotiated with Brazilian and Turkish leaders, “was a deftly timed attempt to throw the sanctions effort off track.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last night filed for cloture to end debate on the Wall Street overhaul bill, meaning the Senate could vote on it as early as Wednesday. It is still “unclear” whether Republicans will seek to prevent a final vote, but Reid said, “This cannot be delayed any longer.” The White House expects President Obama could sign the bill by July 4.

“A new analysis being published by two antimissile critics, at M.I.T. and Cornell, casts doubt on the reliability” of the SM-3 missile at the center of President Obama’s anti-missile strategy. The SM-3 missile, they say, may have a success rate of only between 10 to 20 percent, far less than its reputed 84 percent success rate.

At least three senators who want to end the practice of placing secret holds on nominees and legislation have holds of their own, according to a survey by The Hill.” Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Max Baucus (D-MT) and James Inhofe (R-OK) “are collectively blocking two Obama administration nominees and two bills.” Only Feingold had announced his hold publicly before The Hill’s survey.

An “ironic subtext has emerged” in the legal battle over Arizona’s new anti-immigration law. In 2002, Jay Bybee at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a document concluding that state police officers have “inherent power” to arrest undocumented immigrants for violating federal law. The opinion could potentially complicate any Obama administration lawsuit against the law.

And finally: “What would you pay to dance with Tom DeLay?” The former GOP House Majority Leader — and one-time “Dancing with the Stars” contestant — “persuaded two women to pay $2,300 each for a turn with him on the dance floor” at a recent charity event. They said he was “very good.”

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