ThinkFast: June 7, 2010

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"ThinkFast: June 7, 2010"

Police arrested two New Jersey men at Kennedy International Airport Saturday night who were on their way to Somalia “with the stated intention of joining an Islamic extremist group” to “wage violent jihad.” The men — who “have been under scrutiny by the F.B.I. since 2006″ — said they planned to “join Al Shabab, a group that claims ideological kinship with Al Qaeda.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said on a press call last week hosted by a right-wing pro-Israel organization that he plans to seek the prosecution of any Americans onboard the recent flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli siege of Gaza. Citing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Sherman said he’ll ask “the Attorney General to prosecute any American involved in what was clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization.”

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials are questioning Israeli claims that I.H.H., one of the groups sponsoring the Gaza aid flotilla, has ties to terrorist groups. Israel officials have said I.H.H. is linked to Al Qaeda but the U.S. officials said that available intelligence does not substantiate a significant connection. I.H.H. is not on any U.S. anti-terrorist sanctions list.

A new report by Physicians for Human Rights finds that medical professionals who were involved in the CIA’s “interrogations of terrorism suspects engaged in forms of human research and experimentation in violation of medical ethics and domestic and international law.” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said that “the report is just wrong” and no human research was conducted.

BP said today that the cost of its response to the oil spill has reached $1.25 billion, which doesn’t include the “$360 million for a project to build six sand berms meant to protect Louisiana’s wetlands from spreading oil.” Coast Guard Commander Adm. Thad W. Allen said yesterday that they may still be cleaning up the oil spill in the fall, and Gulf Coast residents are increasingly unhappy with BP’s response to paying out claims.

The number of birds being harmed by BP’s Gulf oil spill has “increased at an alarming rate, indicating the oil is spreading farther into sensitive marshlands.” A local animal rehabilitation group has treated 203 oiled birds, 110 of which have arrived since last Friday. “This really increases the urgency of efforts to shut off the leak,” the group’s executive director said.

The Pentagon has spent at least $500 million to renovate the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since Sept. 11, 2001. The spending “does not include construction bonuses, which typically run into the millions,” or “annual operating costs of $150 million — double the amount for a comparable U.S. prison.” If “clandestine black-budget items” are included, the cost “soars toward $2 billion.”

NATO and American officials are currently investigating the activities of major private security contractors in Afghanistan amid allegations they are bribing the Taliban and even faking attacks to generate business. One NATO official speaking anonymously to the New York Times estimated that “millions of dollars” from the organization’s funds were going to the Taliban.

“The White House plans to ask Congress for new authority,” modeled on the Pentagon’s budgeting, that could help “discourage unnecessary spending by federal agencies.” “The proposed change would let agencies that save money redirect half the savings to other initiatives, with the rest going toward deficit reduction,” instead of forcing them to return money, as current law stipulates.

And finally: Hate radio host Rush Limbaugh wed 33-year-old Kathryn Rogers this weekend at the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, FL. The event included 400 guests — including former Bush adviser Karl Rove, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani — and a performance by LGBT advocate Elton John (who received $1 million for the gig). Gawker rented a plane toting a banner reading “Rush: Congrats on your 4th marriage XO Gawker” that flew over Limbaugh’s mansion on Saturday.

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