ThinkFast: October 26, 2010

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) broke with many GOP leaders and said he was against a government shutdown because it would endanger U.S. troops. “Well, I think as long as you’ve got men and women deployed in harm’s way in Afghanistan, the last thing in the world is you shut down the support system for those men and women,” he said.

Independent groups have so far spent $257.7 million to influence political campaigns this year, “nearly quadrupling such interest groups’ total spending in the last midterm election.” Conservative groups are outspending progressive ones by 2 to 1. The “2010 spending spree is shattering records” largely because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last January.

BP CEO Bob Dudley defended potentially dangerous deepwater drilling yesterday, claiming that BP is “one of only a handful of companies with the financial and technological strengths” able to perform such operations. It was Dudley’s first address since taking over the company, though he has once again declined to testify before a 
key House energy subcommittee.

The Iraq High Tribunal sentenced Saddam Hussein’s longtime foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, to death by hanging today “for persecuting members of Shiite religious parties under the former regime.” Already imprisoned for his role in the 1992 execution of 42 merchants and the forced displacement of Kurds in Iraq, the 74-year old has 30 days to appeal because the law dictates execution within 30 days of the final decision.

Jury selection will begin today in the money laundering trial of former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay was charged with laundering and conspiracy in 2005 for allegedly illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee to help elect GOP Texas legislative candidates in 2002.

The Obama administration announced new rules yesterday “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants by requiring greater fuel efficiency for big trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles starting with 2014 models.” The new regulations call for a 20 percent reduction in heavy-vehicle emissions by 2018. Such vehicles make up 4 percent of the U.S. fleet, but consume 20 percent of all vehicle fuel.

At her rally yesterday, gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R-CA) said she would only appoint judges who support the death penalty. While politicians “rarely commit to litmus tests,” Whitman said she’d “treat the death penalty as a litmus test” for all judicial nominations after criticizing her opponent Jerry Brown (D) for his “long history of judges that were very liberal.”

And finally: Vuvuzelas around the world will play in solemn remembrance of Paul the Octopus, who passed away today after accurately predicting the result of every German soccer match as well as the final in this year’s World Cup in South Africa. “Paul inspired people of all continents,” Paul’s owner Stefan Porwoll said in the statement. “He won all our hearts, and we will sorely miss him.”

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