ThinkFast: May 24, 2010

Despite President Obama’s recently announced moratorium on all new offshore drilling, “at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.” Department of Interior officials insist that Obama’s moratorium only applied to opening new wells, not doing new drilling at existing locations.

BP has rebuffed demands from government officials and environmentalists to use a less-toxic dispersant to break up the oil from its massive offshore spill,” despite Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demands that it do so. The EPA says it is “evaluating all legal options” that it could use to force BP to make the change.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stepped up his criticism of BP yesterday, threatening to remove the company from its lead role in the effort to contain the Gulf oil spill. “I am angry and I am frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this well from leaking and to stop the pollution from spreading,” said Salazar. “If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way.”

In a commencement address at West Point on Saturday, President Obama “presented a broad view of national security policy grounded in international cooperation,” a view marking the latest repudiation of President Bush’s foreign policy. “America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of cooperation; we have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice,” Obama said.

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak said his country would sever nearly all trade ties with North Korea, deny the North access to South Korean sea lanes, and ask the U.N. to punish Pyongyang for sinking a South Korean warship two months ago. “The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Fears of being associated with terrorism and increasingly harsh restrictions on travel to the U.S. have “prompted many Pakistanis who once had deep ties to the United States to look elsewhere for work, education and travel.” “All these U.S. policies have given a whole generation of Pakistanis the psyche that the United States doesn’t want us,” said Arsalan Ishtiaq, a visa adviser in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.

Since the passage of Arizona’s SB-1070, businesses along the U.S. border are losing “key Mexican clients.” “The people in Mexico have been fairly insulted by this legislation, as have most Latinos in the state of Arizona,” said Bruce Bracker, president of the Downtown Merchants Association in Nogales, AZ. He added that “local shops’ sales fell 40 percent to 60 percent as Mexicans stayed home during the boycott.”

Congress is headed for a showdown this week over government spending,” as Democratic leaders take up budget bills and tax break extensions while “facing stiff resistance in both chambers of Congress” from members of both parties. Meanwhile, President Obama “is sending a proposal to Congress on Monday that would make it quicker and easier to trim ‘wasteful’ costs from congressional spending bills.”

“Key votes pending in Congress this week on whether to repeal” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “remain too close to call, advocates on both sides say.” The Senate Armed Services Committee “is expected to vote by the end of the week on an amendment,” but at least six senators are “undecided.” In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said “she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal.”

And finally: Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia may be impressed by Twitter, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be signing up to tweet anytime soon. At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Breyer said that after his son showed him tweets during the June 2009 uprising in Iran, he “sat there for 2 hours, absolutely hypnotized.” Scalia, however, said that he’s “heard it talked about” but still doesn’t really “know what it is.” “[M]y wife calls me Mr. Clueless,” he added.

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