ThinkFast: May 16, 2011

Today, the U.S. government hits its $14.292 trillion debt limit. The Treasury Department has said it can use a series of maneuvers to delay the country from defaulting on its debt — an unprecedented event — until August 2, allowing 11 weeks to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The administration and leading economists have warned that a default would plunge the U.S. into another financial crisis.

The “crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of private security firm Blackwater Worldwide,” asking him to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign forces to help “thwart internal revolt.” The move appears pre-emptive, as the UAE has so far not faced the unrest that is rocking much of the rest of the region.

According to an iWatch News review, almost a third of Blue Dog Democrats who retired or were defeated in 2010 are now lobbyists. Good government advocates like Common Cause view this “revolving door” with skepticism as “it often appears that members of Congress are using their public service as a steppingstone to a far more lucrative job.”

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart will debate Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on O’Reilly’s show tonight regarding rapper Common’s invitation to the White House. O’Reilly challenged Stewart to the debate on the faux-scandal last Thursday “because it’s important,” he said. Stewart referred to those upset by the “two-time Grammy-winning vegetarian’s invite” as “twits.”

Famous guitarist Carlos Santana this weekend criticized political leaders in Georgia and Arizona for “cruel laws” targeting illegal immigrants. Santana, a native Mexican, received the Beacon of Change Award at Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game in Atlanta, where he told the crowd that Georgians and Arizonans “should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Shirley Sherrod, who was forced out of the USDA after being smeared last year, will return to the agency in a different position soon. Sherrod’s new position will be based around helping “the USDA improve its dismal civil rights record.”

During a Sunday interview on Meet the Press, newly minted Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came out against Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial plan to end Medicare, calling it “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” An increasing number of Republicans have backed away from the plan in the face of a national backlash.

The arrest of International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges in New York City came at a critical time as the agency seeks to control Europe’s spiraling debt crisis, “cast[ing] uncertainty” over the agency’s ability to operate effectively. Kahn was charged with attempting to rape a hotel maid after being pulled off a plane bound for France.

And finally: Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) brought a toy alligator to the House floor Friday to seriously endorse President Obama’s facetious joke that Republicans call for a moat filled with real gators on the U.S.-Mexico border. “You know what Mr. President? A moat might not be a bad idea, and I wonder how many of these alligators it would take to secure the border,” Walsh said.

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