ThinkFast: August 22, 2008

“The United States has agreed to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by next June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011 if conditions in Iraq remain relatively stable.” The draft agreement, which “has the support of the Bush administration,” still needs to be “approved by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders before it goes before Iraq’s fractious Parliament.”

The Shiite-run Iraqi government “is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols” that have allied with the U.S., known as the Awakening. “In restive Diyala Province, United States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members” of the Awakening “as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military.” “The state cannot accept the Awakening,” one Parliament member said.

A new Pew study finds that 50 percent of conservatives “think churches and other places of worship should stay out of social and political matters, up from 30 percent four years ago.” For the first time since Pew started this survey 12 years ago, a majority of Americans — 52 percent — also hold that view.

The Bush administration “proposed stronger job protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections.” Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress writes that the regulation could be used to block access to contraception.

On the trail today: Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain have any scheduled public events.

Tackling the “unsexy topic of our soaring national debt,” a new movie called I.O.U.S.A. warns: “America must mend its spendthrift ways or face an economic disaster of epic proportions.” The New York Times reports that it’s “yet another documentary that everyone should see but most will not.”


Despite President Bush’s promise to double the size of the Peace Corps, officials say the agency “is preparing to cut back on new volunteers and consolidate recruiting offices as it pares other costs amid an increasingly tight budget.” The budget shortfall “can be attributed to the declining value of the dollar overseas and the rising cost of energy and other commodities.”

“Federal wildlife monitors spotted nine polar bears in one day swimming in open ocean off Alaska’s northwest coast, and environmental groups say the event is a strong signal that diminished sea ice brought on by warming has put U.S. bears at risk of drowning or dying from effects of fatigue.”

The government’s terror watch list system “is hobbled by technology challenges, and the $500 million program designed to upgrade it is on the verge of collapse, according to a preliminary congressional investigation.” The report finds that the system, which includes as many as 1 million names, also “has problems identifying true potential terrorists.”

And finally: This week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski “celebrated the signing of a missile shield deal…with Georgian wine, a choice sure to leave a bitter taste for Russia.” Poland, however, insisted that the choice of Georgian 2005 Kakhetian Royal wine was “not meant as a slight to Russia.” “(Rice) smiled and, if I remember correctly, said she had had a chance to deal with Georgia and its politicians, but had not tasted its wine,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Ryszard Schnepf.

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