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ThinkFast AM: June 23, 2006

The Bush administration has gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. “Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records.” The program has not received specific Congressional approval or authorization.

Congratulations Paris Hilton. Yesterday, the House voted to cut the estate tax, exempting from taxation “individual estates up to $5 million and couple’s estates up to $10 million.”

Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Iranian support for extremists inside Iraq has shown a “noticeable increase” this year. “We are quite confident that the Iranians, through their covert special operations forces, are providing weapons, IED technology and training to Shia extremist groups in Iraq,” he said.

In April, President Bush blamed high gas prices on “boutique fuels,” localized fuel blends that help states meet clean air rules. But a new EPA task force study proves Bush wrong.

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In the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, passing a constitutional amendment to ban flag burningdilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered.”

Representatives of three intelligence agencies downplayed claims by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) that they had found the WMD in Iraq. The intelligence officials said the munitions had been produced prior to the ’91 Gulf War, that they had been degraded, and that there is no evidence of post-’91 munitions. Meanwhile, “a lone American” continues to wage his private battle to locate the WMD.

The Federal Trade Commission — the agency charged with fighting identity theft — has “lost two government laptops containing sensitive personal data.” Data of approximately 1,100 people were on the laptops stolen from an FTC attorney’s locked car 10 days ago.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that businesses can be held financially liable if they retaliate against employees who file discrimination complaints.

Goverment ethics group CREW has released 108 pages of Department of Labor (DOL) documents showing extensive contacts between DOL officials and conservative lobbyist and executive director of the anti-union group Center for Union Facts, Richard Berman.

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And finally: After his recent conviction in the Abramoff scandal, former White House official David Safavian is feeling “rather numb — sort of an emotional paralysis.” But don’t worry, it isn’t all sadness for Safavian: “Just this morning, I even found myself laughing, as Katie [daughter] danced to ‘The Wiggles.’ So I am keeping some degree of perspective.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.