ThinkFast: April 24, 2006

With little more than a month left until hurricane season begins, the levees in New Orleans remain “flawed.” “Flood walls are too weak in some places; earthen levees are too short in others. Locals say the only thing that will save the low-lying region from more flooding this summer is not getting hit with a strong storm.”

A review of “at least six joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers, most of them run by Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry,” found evidence of prisoner abuse at all of them. Some of the abuse was “severe,” including cigarette burns and missing toenails, but unlike in the past, abused detainees were not removed from the centers, “prompting concerns that they could be victims again.”

$2.91: The national average gas price for self-serve regular. Gas prices have shot up nearly 25 cents per gallon over the past two weeks. As crude oil hovers around $75 per barrel, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said, “You know and I know that the reason for the price being where it is is not shortages of supply.” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) explained that oil companies “get together, reduce the supply of oil, and that drives up prices.”

“House Republican leaders have stripped out language” from the ethics bill “forcing lobbyists to provide detailed disclosure of fundraising activities and contacts with lawmakers,” Roll Call reports.


2,000. Estimated number of Iraqi women who have been victims of sex trafficking since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., noted presidential historian and former adviser to President John F. Kennedy, warns of the final thousand days of Bush’s presidency — “days filled with ominous preparations for and dark rumors of a preventive war against Iran.”

No excuse for media’s failure to cover genocidal violence in Chad. NYT’s Nicholas Kristof: “[Unlike in Sudan,] we can get visas to Chad, and now there are more than 200,000 people who have fled Darfur and are in Chad and are telling their stories to anybody who will talk to them. I must say that newspapers and magazines, I think, have done a better job in covering this. The people who have really dropped the ball, frankly, is television.”

After almost two years of reports of human-trafficking by contractors of foreign workers on U.S. bases, the U.S. military has ordered changes. Among other reforms, contractors can no longer confiscate worker passports and must provide workers with a signed copy of their employment contract.

A medical services company headed by former Bush Veteran Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi “could receive fees exceeding $1 billion from the Veterans Administration, much of it on contracts approved and amended while he ran the government agency.”


And finally: Political polarization seeps into the last bastion of “bipartisan civility” — the Congressional Softball League. Conservative teams have accused the league commissioner “of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship,” and have started their own league. Teams include the “traditional Republican powerhouse Fat, Drunk & Awesome from the House Homeland Security Committee” and Moderately Sober from Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s (R-NY) office.

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