ThinkFast: April 4, 2008

On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., “several scholarly reports have been released charting the nation’s uneven social and economic progress during the past 40 years,” specifically focusing “on the two issues — war and poverty — that were consuming him at the time of his death.”

80,000: Number of jobs the U.S. economy shed in March, “the biggest monthly job decline in five years. … The March unemployment rate jumped to 5.1% from 4.8%, highest since a matching rate in September 2005.” These numbers were “more bleak than expected”; economists had predicted a decline “of 60,000 in non-farm payrolls and a rise in the unemployment rate to 5%.”

“Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s.” The new survey found that “81 [percent] of respondents said they believed ‘things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,’ up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.”

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) have asked DNI Mike McConnell “to release an unclassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate” before Gen. David Petraeus testifies on April 8. The public does not “have the essential information needed for an informed public debate,” they wrote.


A new report has found that Improvised Explosive Devises (IED) — common in Iraq and Afghanistan — are on the rise in other countries, prompting concerns by military experts that the tactic is becoming the weapon of choice by terror groups worldwide. There are 200 to 300 IED attacks each month outside Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, the House voted “to triple to more than $10 billion a year U.S. humanitarian spending on fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa and other stricken areas of the world.” Tom Coburn (R-OK) has now said that he will block the bill in the Senate, calling it “irresponsible” to spend so much on these humanitarian issues “in the middle of a war.”

“A bipartisan group of 20 senators unveiled a $6 billion bill that would extend renewable-energy tax credits for one year” that could “save as much as $20 billion in new project investment planned by renewable-energy companies.”

The Senate killed a housing proposal sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) by a vote of 58–36 “that would have provided the most direct aid to homeowners facing foreclosure,” instead “keeping alive a delicate compromise on a sweeping housing bill.” “Members of Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the onset of the Iraq war,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And finally: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has “returned from Libya with a new pair of sunglasses courtesy of his host, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. … En route to Tripoli, Boehner’s plane was diverted to Surt, Gaddafi’s hometown on the Gulf of Sidra.” Boehner eventually met the colonel inside “a big white tent” in the desert. At one point, a Gaddafi aide “entered the tent with a box of sunglasses.” Gaddafi told Boehner that the “desert [is] not kind to blue eyes.”What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.