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ThinkFast: April 13, 2011

In a profile of ThinkProgress, Politico’s Ben Smith and Ken Vogel report that “the Center for American Progress [Action Fund] newsroom has no parallel on the national stage,” describing it as “liberal infrastructure for reporting, research, and hammering home a message that the right is scrambling to match.” “We report from a progressive perspective. We wear that ideology proudly,” TP editor-in-chief Faiz Shakir said.

“Some Republicans are already squirming” over Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget, which would restructure Medicare to the point of irrelevance, and cut $6 trillion in spending over ten years. A “significant number of Republicans realize that embracing the Ryan plan may be one of the most treacherous votes of the year,” so they’re hedging ahead of an upcoming vote on the plan.

The budget compromise to avoid a government shutdown includes deep cuts in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency. Though Republicans were ultimately unsuccessful in ending the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases, they did cut $1.6 billion from its budget, a 16 percent reduction from last year.

The business lobby “won key concessions” in the budget deal reached last Friday by striking Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) “free-choice” health care voucher program — which passed months earlier — from the bill. According to Wyden, the Business Roundtable — a powerful lobby made up of CEOs from the country’s biggest companies — was driving the elimination of the program in a “textbook case of special interests prevailing.”

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Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will launch the “Joining Forces” campaign, a new initiative to encourage institutions, businesses and individuals to do more to address the needs of military families. Joined by various celebrities, they will travel first to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, then Texas, Colorado, and Ohio “to raise public awareness.”

President Obama penned a letter to federal employees yesterday “thanking them for enduring days of anxiety during the budget crisis that was resolved just in time to avert a government shutdown.” Obama wrote, “You do your jobs without complaint or much recognition. But it is men and women like you who help make America all it is.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) called President Obama’s goal of a nuclear-free world “loopy” yesterday, saying Obama’s nuclear weapons strategy was based on “trying not to offend the Russians.” Kyl, who led opposition to a new START treaty last year, also said it would be a “very large mistake” to partner with Russia on missile defense.

And finally: A good writing utensil is hard to find, as even heads of state know. So when Czech President Vaclav Klaus saw a pen he liked at a signing ceremony with Chile’s head of state, the Czech leader pocketed the pen, a theft caught by TV cameras and now immortalized in a viral YouTube clip. The “last time America paid attention to Klaus, he was denying climate change on Glenn Beck’s TV show.”

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