ThinkFast: July 7, 2010

Hawaii governor Linda Lingle (R) vetoed a bill legalizing civil unions between same-sex couples, saying that she prefers the issue be voted on as a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot. “It seems like she is taking us back 100 years if we are going to decide civil-rights issues by majority rule,” said state senator Les Ihara Jr. (D).

President Obama is granting a recess appointment to health policy expert Dr. Donald M. Berwick to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A White House spokesman said Obama was acting because “many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.”

“More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells” may be leaking in the Gulf of Mexico, but neither industry nor government is checking. Some wells are decades old, “raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing,” while other wells were never permanently plugged, as oil and gas companies “routinely” circumvent requirements that they do so within a year of abandonment.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that his government will appoint an independent inquiry into allegations that MI5 and MI6 colluded with the CIA in the rendition and torture of terror suspects held in foreign prisons after the 9/11 attacks. “It’s time to clear this matter up once and for all,” Cameron said.

The EPA “proposed new air-quality rules on Tuesday for coal-burning power plants that officials said would bring major reductions in soot and smog from Texas to the Eastern Seaboard.” The “new rules would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by hundreds of thousands of tons a year and bring $120 billion in annual health benefits,” according to EPA official Gina McCarthy.

Though RNC Chairman Michael Steele is unlikely to lose his job over his Afghanistan comments, “many Republican leaders have lost confidence in his ability to head the GOP and are working around him to keep it on track for the midterm elections.” “Some Republican strategists say privately that Steele’s troubles have weakened the party in an all-important election year.”

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Arizona yesterday to challenge its harsh new immigration law, “arguing that it would undermine the federal government’s pursuit” of criminals. The suit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, “argues the law would divert federal and local law enforcement officers by making them focus on people who may not have committed crimes.”

Arizona’s draconian immigration law is derailing the annual conference of governors of U.S. and Mexico border states. The gathering is usually used “to celebrate border bonhomie,” but Arizona’s new law is “inspiring bitter recriminations among Mexican governors and rancor among some American ones.” Mexican border governors have threatened to boycott if the conference is held in Phoenix as planned.

Israel lifted certain restrictions of its Gaza Strip embargo this week, allowing consumer goods to pass through to the Palestinian territory, but retaining limits on construction materials. “These changes are significant and, once implemented, should have a dramatic influence on the daily lives of the people of Gaza,” said international Mideast envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

And finally: For years, a “Volkswagen Jetta with a George W. Bush bumper sticker, covered in dirt and cobwebs” has been parked in the Congressional Longworth House Office building parking garage with no one claiming it. ABC News has now confirmed that the car belongs to former congresswoman Melissa Hart. While federal lawmakers “are allowed to park or store their cars in House parking garages free of charge indefinitely,” they are barred from doing so if they become lobbyists. Hart is a lobbyist, and therefore her car has been parked illegally. She said, however, that she has no plans to reimburse taxpayers for the spot, which is valued at about $200/month.

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