ThinkFast: August 17, 2009

The White House signaled yesterday that it would be willing to drop the public option in order to reach a compromise on health care reform. On CNN, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said a public plan was “not the essential element” and raised the idea of a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate Finance Committee.

Also on CNN, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) “suggested that the public option might be a deal breaker for at least some House Democrats.” “It would be very, very difficult” to support a bill without the public option, said Johnson.

In meetings at the White House this week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to say that Arab nations are “unwilling to abide Mr. Obama’s call to make good-faith concessions to Israel until Israel takes tangible steps like freezing settlements.” The Obama administration is reportedly “coming closer to announcing its vision on how to achieve peace and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The top U.S. commander in Iraq announced today that “he would like to station American troops along disputed areas in northern Iraq to build rapport between Iraqi government troops and those under the command of the autonomous Kurdish government.” Gen. Ray Odierno says that Iraqi and Kurdish officials “have been receptive to the idea, which could be implemented this fall.”

The Obama administration “is persuading state after state to rewrite education laws to open the door to more charter schools and expand the use of student test scores for judging teachers.” States are competing for $4.3 billion in stimulus dollars that the Education Department “will soon award to a dozen or so states.”

A new USA Today/Gallup poll has found that 57 percent of those surveyed “say the stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse,” while 60 percent “doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead, and only 18% say it has done anything to help improve their personal situation.”

In a report to be released today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) will urge that the “Iraqi government do more to protect gay men, saying militiamen have killed and tortured scores in recent months as part of a social cleansing campaign.” “The government has done absolutely nothing to respond,” said Scott Long, director of HRW’s gay rights program.

Following a meeting with Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) on Saturday, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the leader of Myanmar’s military junta, agreed to release American John Yettaw, who was recently imprisoned there for “intruding at the home of the pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” Yettaw was deported on Sunday and allowed to travel home along with Webb.

And finally: State Department officials invited to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Monday morning senior staff meeting “were taken aback by the person doing the inviting. It was signed: ‘Secretary Rice.’” An e-mail a few minutes later explained that it was all just an error: “Yikes! My apologies to all.

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