ThinkFast: March 7, 2011

Ahead of Rep. Peter King’s Islamophobic hearings this week, White House deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough visited a mosque yesterday to reassure American Muslims that “we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few.” McDonough, however, refused to condemn King’s hearings.

Wisconsin Democrats who fled the state said Sunday “they planned to come back from exile soon” and “let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s [R] ‘budget-repair’ bill,” which includes anti-union provisions. Democrats said that, while their return will allow the bill to pass, the “disastrous” bill has hurt Walker’s popularity and will “give Democrats more leverage to seek changes in a broader two-year budget bill.”

According to a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll, 65 percent of Wisconsinites want Walker to compromise with Democrats on the anti-union bill. The poll also found that “just more than half” surveyed have an “unfavorable view” of Walker and that 59 percent hold a favorable view of unions.

Hundreds of protesters marched in Kabul, outraged at the deaths of nine children in a NATO air strike. “The civilian casualties are a main cause of worsening the relationship between Afghanistan and the US,” said Afghan president Hamid Karzai. “The people are tired of these things and apologies and condemnations are not healing any pain. On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, I want you to stop the killings of civilians.”

“Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi launched air strikes on a rebel-held town Monday to check the rebels’ advance west toward the capital, as the United Nations called on Libyan authorities to end hostilities and appointed a special envoy to the country.” The strikes come after a major weekend setback for the rebels, when they were ambushed on the road to Tripoli.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, who’s currently being detained in Quantico, Virginia over suspicion of leaking classified information to Wikileaks, is being stripped naked every night by prison officials. His attorney suspects that this treatment, which is highly unusual, may be the result of a “sarcastic quip” Manning made to officials.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) are teaming up to promote a measure to allow money for home-state projects, or earmarks, if they are first authorized by Senate committees. The move was “unexpected” because Inhofe, a fervent defender of the earmark process, has criticized McCain’s crusade against earmarks in the past. “He’s using one thing to make him look conservative,” Inhofe said last year.

White House chief of staff William Daley said yesterday that the Obama administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to rapidly rising prices due to the turmoil in the Middle East. However, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “We don’t want to be totally reactive so that when the price goes up, everybody panics, and when it goes back down, everybody goes back to sleep.”  

And finally: The British government released 35 previously classified UFO files documenting sightings, abductions, and encounters with unidentified aircraft dating back to the 1950s. The Ministry of Defense files, which contain known hoaxes as well as unexplained events, reveal the military investigates every UFO sighting report it receives.

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