ThinkFast: June 15, 2009

After initially declaring hailing the Iranian election outcome as a “divine blessing,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “ordered a probe” into the vote over concerns of fraud and irregularities. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad rejected speculation that he might take a more moderate line during a second term. “It’s not true. I’m going to be more and more solid,” he said.

Iran’s reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has called off a major rally to protest last Friday’s election results. Mousavi said, “I am under extreme pressure to accept the results of the sham election. They have cut me off from any communication with people and am under surveillance.” Responding to those concerns, Ahmedinejad dismissed them: “He ran a red light, and he got a traffic ticket.”

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Dennis Ross will be relieved of his duties as U.S. envoy to Iran in the coming days and speculates that his removal may be a result of “Iran’s persistent refusal to accept Ross as a U.S. emissary given the diplomat’s Jewish background as well as his purported pro-Israel leanings.” But, a diplomatic source in Jerusalem suggested that perhaps Ross is looking for a “more enhanced role” at the National Security Agency.

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, in a major foreign policy speech yesterday, “offered conditional support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and refused to bring a halt to divisive expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Despite reports calling the move a “concession,” it is “simply a recognition of Israel’s past commitments.”


In a speech to the American Medical Association (AMA) today, Obama will “endorse the creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan operating alongside private coverage while maintaining existing relationships between doctors and patients.” The AMA has been critical of such an approach in recent days.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said there were not enough Senate votes to pass a public health insurance plan like the one President Obama has pushed for. “In a 60-vote environment, you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all the Democrats together, and that, I don’t believe, is possible with a pure public option. I don’t think the votes are there,” Conrad said.

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan is offering federal cash incentives to achieve one of his priorities: developing national standards for reading and math to replace a hodgepodge of benchmarks in the states.” Duncan announced yesterday that the federal government would provide $350 million to help states develop tests to assess “common, internationally measured standards for student achievement.”

“Democratic allies remain at odds over provisions of a House climate bill and a Senate energy bill, even as congressional leaders and Obama administration officials are pressing to complete work on the legislation.” Various Democratic lawmakers are pushing for expanded offshore oil drilling, greater giveaways to the agriculture business, and either a stricter or looser renewable electricity standard.

After spending seven years at Guantanamo Bay and “four days after their surprise predawn flight to Bermuda,” four Uighur Muslim men are basking in their new-found freedom. “I went swimming in the ocean for the first time ever yesterday, and it was the happiest day of my life,” said Salahidin Abdulahat, 32.


And finally: Roll Call digs through the latest financial disclosure forms of members of Congress to find some interesting tidbits. For example, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) won $2,500 in the New York lottery. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) reported receiving a painting from noted artist Jamie Wyeth worth more than $5,000. “Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) got two presents that sounded lovely from nonpolitical family friends: a ‘glass pumpkin’ worth $675 and a ‘seahorse ruby and diamond brooch’ worth $2,250.”

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