ThinkFast: May 28, 2010

The Afghanistan war is reaching two milestones, with the American death toll eclipsing 1,000 just as the conflict is set to pass Vietnam and become America’s longest-ever war. On June 7, the war will complete its 104th month.

BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, who has insisted that the oil spill’s impact on the Gulf would be “very, very modest,” finally conceded today that the ecological consequences will be far worse. He upgraded his assessment of the impact of the oil spill to an “environmental catastrophe.”

Journalists from publications like the New Orleans Times-Picayune, CBS News, and Mother Jones are “complaining that their efforts to document” the oil spill “are being thwarted by local and federal officials — working with BP — who are blocking access to the sites where the effects of the spill are most visible.” BP is also reportedly pressuring fishermen and charter boat captains to not work with the press.

Facing increasing criticism over his administration’s handling of the Gulf Coast oil spill, President Obama will head to Louisiana today to “review efforts.” The trip will be his second to the region since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and unleashed an environmental disaster.

House Republican leaders introduced a bill yesterday to “repeal and replace the sweeping health care law adopted in late March.” The measure would replace the Democratic Affordable Care Act with the plan Republicans offered in November. The bill is largely a “campaign tool,” as chances are “slim” that Republicans could even get a floor vote, let alone pass.

The House voted yesterday to allow the Defense Department to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly. The repeal will be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report (due Dec. 1) reviewing of the ramifications of allowing openly gay servicemembers is complete. Five Republicans joined 229 Democrats in voting for repeal; 26 Democrats voted against.

Philip Alston, a senior U.N. human rights official, is expected to call on the U.S. to stop CIA drone strikes against Al Qaeda suspects. He said he will deliver a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council declaring that the “life and death power” of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies. He said there is more “accountability” at DOD “when a bombing goes wrong.”

Two-thirds of those surveyed in a new USA Today/Gallup poll described themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the country, and said by a nearly 2-1 margin that “they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience.” Despite that, “Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy,” the poll found.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has pulled his state out of competition for Race to the Top federal education funding, saying he prefers local Virginian standards to federal ones. “Our standards are much superior. … So once again, a federal mandate to adopt a federal common core standard is just not something I can accept, nor can most of the education leaders in Virginia, nor can most of the legislators,” said McDonnell.

Despite opposition from President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates, Congress voted to “keep funding a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.” Gates has recommended to Obama that he veto any defense spending bill that contained the engine.

And finally: Vice President Biden and former President Bill Clinton greeted the U.S. World Cup Soccer Team at the White House yesterday. “I want to be on this team just for the shoes,” Clinton said, “marveling at the light brown numbers worn by the players and coaches, decked in white and blue warm-ups and tan dress slacks,” according to the White House pool report. “This is the only team that I’ve ever seen that had these cool shoes.”

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