ThinkFast: March 22, 2011

An American F-15E fighter jet crashed in Northeast Libya overnight due to a technical malfunction, marking “the first operational blemish of the campaign.” Both crew members ejected and were safety recovered by allied forces, the Defense Department said today.

Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly “accepted a proposal by his adversaries to plan his departure from office by the end of the year,” a move clearly designed to appease the country’s growing protest movement. Saleh has faced multiple defections in recent days, including by his country’s most powerful military officer.

According to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have pledged to block any tax increases offered to rein in the deficit. Norquist also said Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who are drafting a deficit reduction package, also “promised not to vote any tax increases” into the plan.

The sour economy has pushed the Social Security disability fund to the brink of insolvency, the Wall Street Journal reports. Government auditors say the fund will run dry in four to seven years, following a huge wave of applicants in recent years.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said yesterday that she will sell her private plane and pay back nearly $300,000 in back taxes that she owes. McCaskill was in hot water for charging tens of thousands of dollars to taxpayers for private trips while also being delinquent on her taxes.

The Supreme Court refused to hear a Republican lawsuit challenging limits on party spending in federal elections. The suit, brought by the Republican National Committee, argued that rules limiting how much the party could spend in coordination with candidates violated its First Amendment rights.

Afghan security forces will take charge of seven areas around the nation beginning in July, Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced Monday. It’s the first step in achieving Karzai’s goal of having Afghan police completely in charge by the end of 2014. Karzai also urged the Taliban to join the peace process and called for an immediate end to civilian deaths.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was briefly hospitalized yesterday in Rome after experiencing a “fainting spell.” Aides pointed to a series of long plane flights returning from a trip to Afghanistan as the cause. She was released later in day and said she is feeling fine. “Thanks to everyone for your well wishes,” she tweeted.

And finally: This weekend marked the festive Jewish holiday of Purim, in which adults and children traditionally dress up in costumes, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski showed up to synagogue in his street clothes. “Somebody suggested I come dressed as a cellphone. But of course phones these days are touch-screen — and I thought that could lead to some awkward moments,” he explained.