ThinkFast: April 27, 2009

A new Star Tribune Minnesota poll found that “[n]early two-thirds of Minnesotans surveyed think Norm Coleman should concede the U.S. Senate race to Al Franken.” Sixty-four percent said Coleman “should accept the recount trial court’s April 13 verdict that Democrat Franken won the race by 312 votes. Only 28 percent consider last week’s appeal by Coleman to the Minnesota Supreme Court ‘appropriate.’”

Today, the U.S. and Iraq will begin negotiating “possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul” and parts of Baghdad. In the rest of Iraq’s cities and towns, the withdrawal of all United States combat troops “is on schedule to finish by the June 30 deadline.”

“[T]he White House and Congress must not give up on trying to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, even if it may be politically difficult,” former president Jimmy Carter writes in a New York Times op-ed today. “We can’t let the N.R.A.’s political blackmail prevent the banning of assault weapons — designed only to kill police officers and the people they defend.”

Republicans are accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of “amnesia” for demanding investigations in 2009 “after failing to raise objections seven years ago when she first learned of the legal basis for the program.” House Democrats are countering that the “criticism of Pelosi is nothing compared with the long-term damage done to Republicans by the disclosure of Bush administration interrogation abuses.”


Fifty of the nation’s largest electric utilities “amped up spending on lobbyists by 30% late last year to influence the debate in Congress just underway on one of the biggest issues facing lawmakers: climate change.” The companies “spent a total $51 million in the last six months of 2008, $12 million more than the same period in 2007.”

As diplomats from the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters meet in Washington today, the Obama administration will emphasize its break from the policies of the Bush years. “They were not fundamentally looking for an international agreement,” U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern said. “We are looking for an international agreement, and we’re looking for cooperation at a significant, we hope, transformative level.”

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert says that in the fall of 2006 a “whistleblower” alerted him to the fact that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) had been recorded on a NSA wiretap of a suspected Israeli agent. Hastert’s efforts to learn more were “rebuffed” by the Bush administration despite a long-standing agreement that congressional leaders be notified when “their members became ensnared in a national security investigation.”

Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that “the Justice Ministry was amending a controversial law which contains harsh provisions on women that critics have called a step back toward Taliban-era controls.” Yesterday, he also told a group of women activists that although he signed the law in March, “he did not fully [understand] it at the time.”

“In the weeks since the Pentagon ended an 18-year ban on media coverage of fallen soldiers returning to the U.S., most families given the option have allowed reporters and photographers to witness the solemn ceremonies that mark the arrival of flag-draped transfer cases,” the AP reports. Though critics warned that lifting the ban would be problematic, “so far the coverage has not caused problems.”


And finally: President Bush is getting used to receiving standing ovations when they dine out in Dallas. That’s what happened on Friday night, when he and Laura Bush went to Mercury Grill. When the couple walked in, “the dinner crowd rose to its feet and applauded. This was much to the consternation of my non-Bushie friend watching the NBA playoffs at the bar. ‘I’m trying to watch LeBron James,’ he muttered.”

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