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ThinkFast: July 31, 2008

Exxon Mobil broke its own record for “the highest-ever profit by a U.S. company,” as second-quarter profits rose 14 percent. “Net income in the quarter rose to $11.68 billion, or $2.22 a share, from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, last year.”

Citing reductions in violence in Iraq, President Bush said this morning that “combat tour lengths for U.S. troops will be reduced to 12 months from 15 months.” While 147,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, Bush said troop reductions might be possible because the “terrorists are ‘are on the run.’”

Senate conservatives debated yesterday whether to threaten a government shutdown as a way to force a vote on offshore drilling. Congress would have to pass a continuing resolution in September to keep the government functioning, and conservatives are mulling a filibuster.

The Department of Health and Human Services is “reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity” that does not allow employees to opt out of providing birth-control pills, IUDs, and the Plan B contraceptive. The draft considers certain contraceptives as destroying “the life of a human being.”

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On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will be in Cedar Rapids, IA visiting with flood victims, and then will host a town hall meeting on the economy. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will host a town hall meeting today in Racine, WI.

Iraq and the U.S. “are close to a deal on a sensitive security agreement” that satisfies Iraq’s “desire to be treated as sovereign and independent.” The agreement “guarantee[s] that there would no longer be foreign troops visible on their land — and leaves room for them to discreetly ask for an extended American presence should security deteriorate.”

11: The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq this month. That is “the lowest monthly toll since the 2003 invasion, according Pentagon figures, highlighting what US commanders say is a marked drop in overall violence.”

More than 3.7 million Americans have had their full-time jobs cut to part time because of weak business, which is “the largest figure since the government began tracking such data more than half a century ago.” The loss of pay has reinforced “the downturn gripping the economy” for millions of American families because “paychecks are shrinking just as home prices plunge and gas prices soar.”

Govs. David Paterson (D-NY) and Martin O’Malley (D-MD) write that state governments are stepping up where the Bush administration has fallen down. States are addressing economic problems by doing “more with less,” but “no matter how prudent states are, they cannot solve the nation’s economic problems on their own.” The governors advocate “a second stimulus package that includes investments in our nation’s infrastructure.”

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California, New York City, three other states and a coalition of environmental groups will file notice today that they plan to sue the EPA “to push it to regulate pollution from ocean ships and aircraft that is causing global warming.” Under the Clean Air Act, “a U.S. district court can compel the EPA to take action to protect the public’s welfare if the agency delays doing so for an unreasonably long time.”

And finally: Grassley prescribes a legislative laxative. Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) complained about “Democratic leaders stymieing his tax-extenders legislation” by using “a metaphor to which many of his silver-haired colleagues could relate.” “Issues are building up,” said Grassley. “The Senate is constipated. This body needs a…laxative.”

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