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ThinkFast: April 28, 2008

An audit from Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen reveals that “of 47,321 reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars found that at least 855 contracts were terminated by U.S. officials before their completion, primarily because of unforeseen factors such as violence and excessive costs.” But “many reconstruction projects were being described as complete” when they were not.

U.S. and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad “have been targeted with 251 improvised bombs this month — nearly double the monthly average — as fighting in and around Sadr City intensified.” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mike Milano said that “[s]ome of the attacks involved deadly armor-piercing bombs that the U.S. military has linked to Iran.”

In a letter issued Friday to Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes, Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairmen Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) contended that CNN “is skewed in favor of anti-immigration efforts.” Many of CNN’s news programs have adopted “the language Lou Dobbs uses,” Menendez said, referring to Dobbs’ heavy anti-illegal immigration rhetoric.

Across the country, “lawyers who represent suspects in terrorism-related investigations complain that their ability to do their jobs is being hindered by the suspicion that the government is listening in, using the eavesdropping authority it obtained — or granted itself — after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.” The Justice Department “does not deny” that such monitoring has taken place.

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With Americans facing record levels of credit card debt, “financial institutions have sharply raised rates for credit card customers — even those who pay on time — as they grapple with losses from other bad consumer loans.” Banks are also imposing higher fees for late payments and ATM withdrawals to boost profits.

“As the Federal Reserve completes work on rules to root out abuses” by mortgage lenders, the mortgage industry “has begun an intensive campaign to fight back.” “[T]he industry’s criticism has already prompted the Fed to consider narrowing the scope of the plan so it applies to fewer loans.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai “escaped unhurt” yesterday from an assassination attempt by suspected Taliban insurgents at the Afghan national day military parade in central Kabul. “The ability of the attackers to get so close” to Karzai has turned the failed assassination attempt “into a moment of national embarrassment” for the Afghan government.

Oil prices “hit an all-time high near $120 a barrel” today after a refinery strike closed a British pipeline system. At the same time, U.S. retail gas prices “also hit a record for the 13th straight time” with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded costing $3.603, according to AAA. Gas prices are up four-tenths of a cent from yesterday.

The Air Force will call this week “for the world’s top scientists to come together in a 21st-century Apollo-style programme to develop greener fuels and tackle global warming.” The project aims “to calculate the overall carbon footprint of the world’s energy sources, rather than merely measure their direct emissions.”

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And finally: At his final White House correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, President Bush poked fun at his potential successors. Explaining why none had attended the dinner, Bush said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “probably wanted to distance himself from me,” adding that “Hillary Clinton couldn’t get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama’s at church.”

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