ThinkFast: January 24, 2011

Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) congressional hearings next month on domestic Muslim radicalization are engendering “a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community” over the potential inflammation of Islamophobia. Long Island Muslims from King’s district recount how their congressman used to be an ally, but now no longer sets foot in their Islamic Center.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will speak to the House Tea Party Caucus today at a closed door meeting of the group founded by right-wing firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Scalia will speak on the separation of powers in Tea Party Caucus lecture series that may include Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Andrew Napolitano in the future.

Economists are increasingly confident about economic recovery and have upgraded their outlook for 2011. Nine in 10 economic experts said they are more optimistic than they were three months ago, according to a USA Today survey, and expect the economy to grow at an annual rate of 3.2 percent to 3.4 percent each quarter this year.

A review by the New York Times finds that “since the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers have spent more than $160 million defending the mortgage finance companies and their former top executives” in civil lawsuits related to fraud. $24.2 million has been spent on three top executives alone.

The Afghan government is applying heightened scrutiny to private security contractors, leading many Western officials to believe President Hamid Karzai may accelerate efforts to push the contractors out of the country. Karzai’s special committee investigating the companies found 18 of them committed “major offenses,” and the government is also auditing many of the companies to ensure they’ve paid taxes.

Al Jazeera and the Guardian have obtained 1,600 pages of leaked documents detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. One of the shocking revelations contained within is that Palestinian negotiators “secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Daniel Hernandez, one of the heroes of the Tucson tragedy and an intern in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ) office, will attend the State of the Union address tomorrow as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. After the shooting, Hernandez pulled Giffords into his lap, “holding her upright against him so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood.”

And finally: In a show of bipartisan civility, many lawmakers plan to sit with members of the opposition party at tomorrow’s State of the Union address, but while they “haven’t quite broken out the corsages — yet,” some lawmakers may be scrambling for dates. Perhaps after not being asked by that senator he’s eyed in committee hearings, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) grumpily said yesterday, “I’m going to sit where I usually sit.” Asked if it was like the prom, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said “yes!” and laughed. Easy for her to say, she’s sitting with hunky Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

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