ThinkFast: January 8, 2007

17,310: Number of Iraqi civilians and police officers who “died violently in the latter half of 2006, according to Iraqi statistics, a sharp increase that coincided with rising sectarian strife since the February bombing of a landmark Shiite shrine.” The Health Ministry’s full death toll was 22,950 for 2006.

President Bush’s new Iraq policy “will establish a series of goals that the Iraqi government will be expected to meet to try to ease sectarian tensions and stabilize the country politically and economically,” the New York Times reports.

White House “insiders” say that Bush had hoped to push for deeper tax cuts “in the next and future budgets, but the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate killed those plans.” Instead, Bush will submit a budget that will leave little room for new add-ons without deeply cutting into defense spending or raising taxes.

Conservatives who supported Bush’s reelection are expressing outrage over the administration’s broad use of anti-terrorism laws to reject asylum for thousands of people fleeing religious, ethnic, and political persecution. Barrett Duke, a public policy analyst for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “I think it’s essentially a reaction of fear to the current terrorist danger.”


“Families earning more than $1 million a year are the biggest beneficiaries of President Bush’s tax cuts,” according to a new study by the Congressional Budget Office. “Households in the top 1 percent of earnings, which had an average income of $1.25 million, saw their effective individual tax rates drop to 19.6 percent in 2004 from 24.2 percent in 2000.”

“Urban planners at three universities are challenging the notion that [New Orleans’] Ninth Ward must be rebuilt from scratch, reporting in a new survey that the predominantly black neighborhoods can be brought back largely as they existed before Hurricane Katrina flooded them.” “That data shows that it can be rebuilt, and rebuilt in a cost-effective way,” one planner from Cornell said. “What is lacking are the resources.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee “to defend the war-strategy shift Bush will outline in a nationally televised speech.” Additionally, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Peter Pace will go before the House Armed Service Committee.

The failure of the 109th Congress to pass new budgets for the current fiscal year “has produced a crisis in science financing that threatens to close major facilities, delay new projects and leave thousands of government scientists out of work, federal and private officials say.” One senior official at the American Physical Society said the “consequences for American science will be disastrous.”

The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service soon will come under heavy scrutiny as the Government Accountability Office prepares a report that will “blame the service’s ‘culture’ for widespread laxity in conducting royalty audits and collecting underpayments from industry.”


And finally: “While Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) played no formal role in the new Speaker’s inaugural festivities Thursday, she did play a key after-hours role at the gay bar Cobalt, where she wound up judging a ‘best package contest.’” One person noted that Sanchez’s role wasn’t necessarily to judge the “best package,” but to determine for whom the crowd cheered loudest.

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