ThinkFast: January 22, 2009

This morning, Caroline Kennedy released a statement reading, “I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.” Paterson had planned to announce his Senate choice on Friday or Saturday, but it’s not clear if the timeline has now changed.

After running “the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history,” President Obama’s staffers encountered “a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts” on their first day at their new jobs. “It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

It appears that President Obama will get to keep his Blackberry. More specifically, he’ll get a “spy-proofalternative that is “reportedly capable of encrypting top secret voice conversations and handling classified documents.”

Yesterday, President Obama began “fulfilling his campaign promise to pull combat forces out of Iraq in 16 months” and ordered a new mission to end the war. He “held off ordering a troop withdrawal right away to hear concerns and options from his military commanders.” Also, Gen. Ray Odierno said that if the country held peaceful elections this year, the relative calm that had settled on Iraq would be “irreversible.”


Amnesty International said it found “indisputable evidence” of Israel’s widespread use of white phosphorus “in densely populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north,” a violation of international law. The Israeli military said yesterday that it is investigating the matter.

President Obama is expected to sign executive orders today “directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.”

“Medicaid rolls are surging, by unprecedented rates in some states, as the recession tightens its grip on the economy and Americans lose their employer-sponsored health coverage along with their jobs.” In many states, Medicaid rolls grew by 5 to 10 percent in the last year, often double the growth the previous year. Congress is likely to extend Medicaid aid to states in the upcoming stimulus package.

In a move signaling his “intent to keep one of the most ambitious and politically crucial campaign promises at the top of his agenda,” President Obama will convene a White House working session on health care reform in the late winter or the early spring. The meeting, which could come as early as March, is expected to bring together members of Congress and other stakeholders in health care reform.

President Obama’s ethics rules may slow the nomination of William Lynn, a former Raytheon lobbyist, as deputy defense secretary. “[I]t’s a problem,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who may place a hold on the nomination. “You can’t just recuse yourself from huge programs at the Pentagon if you’re going to do that job.”


And finally: Bill O’Reilly is “kind of an a-hole,” says actress Jessica Alba. “I don’t know how he does it. Maybe he’s born that way.” When pressed for an example of O’Reilly’s a-holeness, Alba said she didn’t have one, “because that means I’m admitting I actually watch Fox.”

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