ThinkFast: April 14, 2009

“Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting” six Bush administration officials regarding “their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo,” Scott Horton reports. “Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday.” Prosecutors will also ask that Judge Garzón, who managed the case against Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, step aside.

“President Barack Obama is expected to tap Fannie Mae Chief Executive Herb Allison to head the government’s $700 billion financial-rescue program,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Allison, who was a national finance co-chairman for Sen. John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, would replace Neel Kashkari, a holdover from the Bush administration. Allison has only been running Fannie Mae since September.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele has launched a direct attack on President Obama “in a new mass mailing, accusing the president of being part of the ‘blame America first’ crowd.”

President Obama yesterday announced a series of steps aimed at easing travel, gift and business restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. The White House said the U.S. will “lift travel and spending restrictions on Americans with family on the island” and would allow U.S. telecommunications companies “to set up shop in Cuba,” a move that “will flood Cuba with information while providing new opportunities for businesses.”


The Obama administration is preparing to drop “a longstanding American insistence that Tehran rapidly shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of negotiations over its atomic program.” The shift in strategy, which is being discussed with European allies, would be “a sharp break” from the Bush administration approach that demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities in order to initiate negotiations.

Leaders of the nation’s two major labor federations — AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and Joe Hansen, a leader of the rival Change to Win federation — said yesterday that they “have agreed for the first time to join forces to support an overhaul of the immigration system.” The move “could give President Obama significant support among unions as he revisits the stormy issue in the midst of the recession.”

Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino is joining Mark Penn’s public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, as “chief issues counselor.” Penn called Perino “an extremely skilled practitioner” who had weathered “some incredibly difficult experiences.” Perino joins former Bush aide Karen Hughes, who also works at Penn’s firm. said yesterday that “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error” had “caused thousands of books on its site to lose their sales rankings and become harder to find in searches.” Mark Probst — one of the first to notice that sales rankings for gay literature had disappeared — appeared satisfied with’s explanation.

The SEC “is reviewing whether Bank of America broke the law by not telling shareholders about Merrill Lynch’s plan to pay out $3.6bn in bonuses before they voted for a government-backed merger of the two banks.” Federal securities law prohibits institutions from “omitting material facts” regarding the purchase or sale of securities.


And finally: “At Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac in Dearborn, they’re fed up with criticism of Detroit automakers and the UAW by Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby,” reports the Detroit Free Press. The dealership is now “running TV and radio ads that feature clips of Shelby making anti-Detroit Three comments. ‘We’re wasting our time trying to keep them alive,’ he is shown saying in one ad. Co-owner Paul Stanford strikes back, asking: ‘I wonder if the good senator would tell us how much Japanese car companies who make cars in his state gave to his campaign?’” Stanford said that he has “received an enthusiastic response for the ads.”

Sign up here to receive our daily e-newsletter, The Progress Report.