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ThinkFast: January 25, 2008

79 percent: Americans who believe that a recession is likely within the next year, according to a LA Times/Bloomberg poll. Ninety-two percent of people earning more than $100,000 a year “feel safe” financially, “while more than half of those bringing in less than $40,000 a year describe their finances as ‘shaky.’

In testimony yesterday, Pentagon official Jack Bell said that the Defense Department was “not adequately prepared to address” the “unprecedented scale of” the military’s “dependence on” private contractors. As of September, there were “over 196,000 contractor personnel working for the Defense Department in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Economists of “nearly every ideological stripe” have found “substantial fault” with the new economic stimulus plan: “liberals, because it does not expand unemployment benefits or food stamps; conservatives, because it fails to lock in President Bush’s tax cuts beyond their planned expiration in 2010.”

Yesterday, a federal judge “gave the Justice Department three weeks to report in writing whether the destruction of C.I.A. videotapes” violated an order to preserve evidence he issued four months prior to the destruction. The judge’s order “is the first to require the Bush administration to provide information related to the videotapes’ destruction.”

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“With Senate Republicans blocking Democratic attempts to amend the FISA reauthorization bill, the Senate has set a cloture vote from early Monday afternoon, just hours before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address.”

After initially promising to stop charging for access to the Wall Street Journal’s website, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has backtracked, stating that the “really special things” on the website will probably be “more expensive.”

House Republicans begin a three-day retreat at the Greenbrier resort, “diving into what’s likely to be a tumultuous conversation about the future of earmarks.” They are seeking to find consensus on a proposal to instate a one-year moratorium on earmark requests.

The WSJ writes that lobbyists have smoothed the way for a spate of foreign deals. With the help of “shrewd lobbying,” foreign governments have snatched up billions of stakes in Wall Street. “The investments have been carefully designed to avoid triggering close U.S. government oversight.”

And finally: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “has been a reporter’s nightmare” because he is so “soft-spoken.” Reporters have been forced to stick their digital recorders “really close to him to pick up everything.” But at yesterday’s briefing, Reid announced to reporters his New Year’s resolution: “I’m going to try to talk louder.” The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reports that the “press corps broke into loud applause.”

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