ThinkFast: June 19, 2009

“In his first public response to days of protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opponents [today] to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week’s disputed election was rigged, praising the ballot as an ‘epic moment that became a historic moment.’” “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people,” he said.

Google announced that it would add Farsi, or “Persian,” to its Google Translate service. “The company said it hoped the service, which it rushed because of the turmoil in Iran, would be used by people inside and outside of that country to communicate and stay abreast of events.” The service is available here.

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser last night, President Obama addressed critics of his health care reform proposal. “I sincerely hope that there are members of both parties who will participate in reform,” Obama said, “But for those who simply criticize without offering new ideas of their own, I have to ask — what’s your answer?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein reports that the latest outline of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal does not mention a public plan option “anywhere in the document.” Klein calls the proposal “comprehensive incrementalism” that is neither “radical” nor “root-and-branch reform.” The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky calls it a “nothing burger proposal.”

“Sen. John Ensign helped his mistress’s husband get two jobs during the time the rising Republican senator acknowledges carrying on an extramarital affair, an Ensign spokesman said Thursday.” Ensign also gave his mistress, Cindy Hampton, a pay raise in both of the two positions in which she worked for Ensign. Additionally, the NRSC “made twice-monthly payments, generally $500 apiece, to Brandon Hampton,” Hampton’s son.

At a hearing yesterday, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan “sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration” that former Vice President Cheney’s “statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney’s political enemies or late-night commentary on ‘The Daily Show.’”

According to Army statistics and interviews, “the rate of Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since 2003 — a sign of the growing stress of repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Soldiers diagnosed “with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, such as binge drinking, increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31.”

The Supreme Court said in a ruling released yesterday that prisoners “do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing after their conviction.” The five conservative justices wrote that they believed guaranteeing such tests would overthrow “the established system of criminal justice.”

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. “The Senate’s apology follows a similar apology passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution.”

And finally: Whatever you do, don’t call Rep. Jim McDermott’s (D-WA) scheduler, Elizabeth Becton, “Liz.” An executive assistant at McBee Strategic recently learned this lesson the hard way, e-mailing her and addressing her with the nickname accidentally. The result was an exchange of 19 e-mails, with Becton angrily telling the apologetic assistant, “I think it’s rude when people don’t even ask permission and take all sorts of liberties with your name.”

Sign up here to receive our daily e-newsletter, The Progress Report.