ThinkFast: August 4, 2008

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) is opposing a decision by the Bush administration to allow a New England Little League team to visit Cuba this week, arguing such trips run counter to the U.S. policy of isolating the Cuban government. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) fired back at Diaz-Balart: ‘’He should pick on someone his own size.”

Planned layoffs at U.S. companies jumped 26 percent from June to July, which is an indication of “further deterioration in the labor market.” In July, planned layoffs totaled 103,312, compared to 81,755 in June. “From January to July, planned layoffs totaled 579,260, up 33 percent from the same period a year ago.”

Neither President Bush nor Congress “has acted to appoint members to a commission intended to boost U.S. energy independence in the three years since Congress enacted a law establishing the panel.” During that time, “oil prices have more than doubled to $125 per barrel from $60, and the price of a gallon of gasoline has increased from about $2.25 to nearly $4.”

After two years of spiraling defaults, “problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off.” However, homeowners with good credit are now “falling behind on their payments in growing numbers.”


On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who is celebrating his 47th birthday today, will unveil his “New Energy for America” plan in a speech in Lansing, MI. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will arrive at Philadelphia Airport this morning on his way to a four-hour visit to the National Label Company before flying to South Dakota for an appearance in the evening.

“Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday failed to settle a dispute over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and pass a provincial elections bill viewed as vital for national reconciliation, despite intense pressure from the United States and the United Nations.” One Kurdish legislator said President Bush “is pressing the Iraqi politicians to make a fast deal,” but “[t]here’s no way to find a solution to a 100-year-old problem in days.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, “who was targeted in the 2001 anthrax attack,” said “the American people deserve more of an accounting on this investigation,” referring to the suicide of a reported suspect. Daschle said it is “unfortunate” he has not been briefed on the latest developments.

According to a new Government Accountability Office report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “is putting millions of Medicare dollars at risk by authorizing fictitious sellers of wheelchairs, prosthetics and other medical supplies to submit reimbursement claims with only limited review,” despite promises since “at least 2005” to fix the problems.

And finally: On Friday, rapper Jay-Z received “applause and wild cheers” from the crowd as he closed the Africa Rising Music and Fashion Festival at the Kennedy Center. The noise was the loudest though when the show turned political during “Minority Report,” which criticized the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. The song concluded with an “expletive” about President Bush. When a “giant picture” of Bush flashed across the screen, the “crowd helped him boo” Bush.

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