ThinkFast: July 13, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor today. President Obama called Sotomayor from the Oval Office “this morning to wish her good luck as she completed preparations for her confirmation hearing,” the White House said. The Wonk Room will be live-blogging.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the CIA program concealed from Congress was a secret plan to kill or capture al-Qaida operatives. The targeted assassinations project “hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in charge of forces in Afghanistan, said he “won’t be deterred by administration statements that he cannot have more U.S. troops.” In an interview with McClatchy, he said, “If I change my calculus based on what I think economic or political things are, then they are not benefiting from an absolutely untainted recommendation from me.”

Ambassador Chris Hill, the top U.S. diplomatic envoy to Iraq, “escaped unharmed from a roadside bomb that targeted his convoy in a southern province, the U.S. Embassy said Sunday.” A roadside bomb exploded as an embassy convoy was driving through Thiqar province. No embassy personnel were hurt in the attack.


President Obama’s health care agenda is unlikely to be completed by Congress before the White House’s August deadline. But Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) expressed confidence that the Finance Committee will approve legislation by early August. And, “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she remains optimistic” that Congress will send legislation to the White House before the year ends.

Obama has speeches planned this week in New York and Michigan, and he said he will try to calm anxiety over the health care debate. “My biggest job is to explain to the American people why this is so important and give them confidence that we can do better than we’re doing right now,” Obama said.

After a week of national condemnation, a suburban Philadelphia swim club “has invited children from a largely minority day-care center to come back after a June reversal that fueled allegations of racism against the club.” In a “hastily called Sunday afternoon meeting,” club members “voted overwhelmingly to try to work things out with the day-care center.”

According to new studies of jobless data, “unemployment among blacks in New York City has increased much faster than for whites, and the gap appears to be widening at an accelerating pace.” By the end of March, there were about 80,000 more unemployed blacks than whites.

President Barack Obama is holding a daylong summit at the White House today to help his administration start writing a national policy on urban areas. “Obama in February created a White House Office of Urban Affairs, which has mostly remained out of public sight. Now, former Bronx New York Borough President Adolfo Carrion plans to take a prominent role as the office’s director.”


And finally: Small Business Administration (SBA) staffers noticed that their Internet connections had “slowed dramatically” last Tuesday — coincidentally, at the same time as the Michael Jackson funeral. In response, SBA officials “sent out a notice that everyone’s streaming video capacity was being disabled for the afternoon because so many people were watching [streaming video of] the funeral.”

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