ThinkFast: August 24, 2009

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility “has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects.”

President Obama “has approved the creation of an elite team of interrogators to question key terrorism suspects,” which will be “made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies.” The interrogators will be required to “stay within the parameters of the Army Field Manual when questioning suspects.”

Seven months into Obama’s presidency, only 43 percent of the 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation have been filled. The New York Times reports that the vacancies are “a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees and a legislative agenda that has consumed both.”

The health insurance industry has so successfully lobbied Congress “in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall.” “It’s a bonanza,” one health insurance executive said of plans to require all Americans to have insurance, adding that the industry’s reaction to negotiations thus far can be “boiled down to one word: ‘Hallelujah!’”


U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan “told President Obama’s chief envoy to the region this weekend that they did not have enough troops to do their job, pushed past their limit by Taliban rebels who operate across borders.” The possibility of more troops poses problems for Obama in dealing with an unpopular war, “compounded by new questions over the credibility of the Afghan government.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said that the situation in Afghanistan is “serious” and “deteriorating.” He warned that “the Taliban insurgency has gotten more sophisticated while the Afghan people increasingly fear for their safety.”

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered his most optimistic outlook since the financial crisis started, saying the economy is on the cusp of recovery. But despite his upbeat tone at the annual Fed conference in Jackson, WY, Bernanke cautioned that the recovery is likely to be “relatively slow at first.”

In an e-mail interview with Roll Call, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), a member of the “Gang of Six,” claimed that some health care legislation would allow the government to decide who lives or dies. “The real concern people should have is with the comparative effectiveness [of the] provisions of the HELP Committee and House bills, which would give Washington bureaucrats the power to decide literally whether patients would live or die by rationing newer, more expensive therapies,” Enzi said.

Energy-rich states are facing budget crunches as gas prices plunged to a record low Friday. In Texas, revenues from taxes on gas production fell 43%, resulting in a loss of over $1 billion in revenue.


And finally: While many Martha’s Vineyard residents are excited about the Obama family’s vacation plans, “the island’s small cadre of marijuana farmers” are nervous. “The word was that some of the island marijuana growers actually had to get their crops in early,” said Mike Seccombe, a senior writer for the Vineyard Gazette. “They thought the helicopters scoping the place out for the president may have had something to do with drug enforcement.”

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