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ThinkFast: December 13, 2006

“Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq,” the New York Times reports. “King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran.”

“As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to ‘double down’ in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

54: Percent of Americans who believe “Bush will be judged as a below-average or poor president, more than double the negative rating given any of his five most recent predecessors. Just 19 percent expect him to be seen as outstanding or above average, placing him last among the six.” “Federal prosecutors are backing away from some of the aggressive tactics they have employed against corporate crime.” The Justice Department said yesterday prosecutors “will largely refrain from demanding that companies refuse to pay for the legal defense of executives who are under investigation, and significantly limit their demands for privileged attorney-client communications.”

Americans overwhelmingly say the growing gap between rich and poor has become a serious national concern. “Almost three-quarters of Americans believe inequality is a major issue, versus 24 percent who don’t think so, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll.”

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The Bush administration “asked an appeals court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that could require…a redesign of the nation’s currency so paper money could be more easily used by the blind.” The administration said the changes “would be too expensive and could cause undue hardships on the vending machine industry.”

25,000. Number of U.S. troops dead or wounded in Iraq.

28 percent. Number of Americans who approve of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war. Just 34 percent believe the United States is winning the war.

And finally: “Sen. Ted Kennedy and wife Vicki slipped into penguin suits for their annual Capitol Hill holiday office party. Performing a sketch inspired by the animated movie “Happy Feet,” Ted played the Elijah Wood role of Mumble, even doing a little penguin dance.”

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