ThinkFast: February 15, 2011

The South Dakota House is considering a bill that could “make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions.” The GOP-backed bill, which passed out of committee, would alter that state’s definition of justifiable homicide to allow killing if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of a person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child.

ThinkProgress’ reporting on the ChamberLeaks scandal receives coverage in both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The Post’s Dan Eggen writes that the “e-mails reveal plans for a dirty-tricks-style campaign against critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” while the Times’ Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold report that the effort was intended to “monitor and discredit the chamber’s critics.”

Riot police officers in Iran beat protesters and fired tear gas yesterday across the country, “as security forces around the region moved — sometimes brutally — to prevent new unrest in sympathy with the opposition victory in Egypt.” Witnesses and reports said around 30,000 protesters took to the streets.

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed Patriot Act provisions to extend the government’s authority to conduct “roving wiretaps of suspected terrorists,” to access suspected terrorists’ business and other records, and to monitor so-called “lone wolf” suspects. After failing to pass these provisions earlier this month, the House voted 275-144 to extend these measures until Dec. 8, 2011.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is appealing to fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill to scrap plans to build an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Gates has been trying to stop funding for the project, which he has described as “emblematic of wasteful government spending.”

Common Cause sent a letter to the Supreme Court yesterday asking for a clarification: though a Court spokeswoman previously said Justice Clarence Thomas only did a “brief drop-by” to a conservative, Koch-organized event in 2008, Thomas’ financial disclosure report reveals four days of accommodations, paid for by the conservative Federalist Society. “I don’t think the explanation they’ve given is credible,” said Common Cause vice president Arn Pearson.

President Obama unveiled a $3.7 billion budget yesterday that “would trim or terminate more than 200 federal programs next year,” while also maintaining spending on a number of public investments. “The cuts target defense, heating assistance and the environment.”

An Ecuadorian court has ordered oil giant Chevron to pay $8.6 billion to clean up pollution it caused in local rain forests. Chevron denies it caused the pollution, but the judge has ordered the fine be doubled if the company doesn’t publicly apologize within 15 days.

A group of California political activists calling themselves the The Third Lantern plan to launch a website called the Issa Files where they will publish investigations into the “personal and business history” of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The group also plans an aggressive TV advertising campaign aimed at the new chairman.

And finally: Former First Lady Barbara Bush, watching her husband get choked up talking about his affection for her, quipped that he was acting like noted weeper John Boehner. “You know what?” Barbara told George. “You could be Speaker of the House.”

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