ThinkFast: June 20, 2008

“Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes.”

While House Democrats are “eagerly preparing” for testimony from former White House spokesman Scott McClellan today, “Republicans seem unsure of how to handle the president’s unlikely critic.” Members of both parties “fully expect the hearing to extend far beyond the leak of a CIA agent’s name and delve fully into McClellan’s charges” about the Iraq war.

Yesterday, the House passed, “by a wide margin,” a “bill to enhance parental leave benefits for federal employees.” “Under the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, federal and congressional employees would receive four weeks of paid parental leave after birth or adoption, or taking in a foster a child.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill.

Responding to an ABC News/Washington Times investigation, “the Veterans Administration plans to inform 32,000 veterans that they are using a drug linked to suicide or violent behavior.” The ABC/Times investigation revealed that the VA waited three months to notify Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in a VA experiment of the possible side effects from the anti-smoking drug Chantix.


On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will meet with Democratic governors in Chicago and then travel south to attend a fundraiser in Jacksonville, FL. Sen. John McCain will address “an elite business gathering” at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Canada.

As the Bush administration approaches its end, “Vice President Dick Cheney has won his battle to withhold records from the public.” “He has managed to stonewall everyone,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). “I’m not sure there’s anything we can do.”

The “dirty truth about clean coal” is that it is “more a catchphrase than a reality,” writes BusinessWeek. “Despite the eagerness of the coal and power industries to sanitize their image and the desire of U.S. politicians to push a healthy-sounding alternative to expensive foreign oil and natural gas, clean coal is still a misnomer.”

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) sought assurance that the Pentagon “is taking action to prevent accidental electrocutions among U.S. troops in Iraq.” In January, one of Casey’s constituents, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth died of cardiac arrest “after being electrocuted while showering at his barracks in Baghdad.” At least 11 other troops have also been electrocuted.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that “more than 27,000 nursing homes, hospitals, physicians” and other Medicare providers “flouted the tax system while collecting Medicare fees in 2006.” One nursing home operator “filed $15 million in Medicare claims while owing $7 million in unpaid taxes” and using a charity to buy luxury cars for the owner’s personal use.


Americans United for Separation of Church and State “filed a federal lawsuit Thursday asking that South Carolina not be allowed to produce license plates that feature a Christian cross with the phrase ‘I Believe.’” Approval of the plate “was a clear signal that Christianity is the preferred religion of South Carolina,” said the group’s director.

And finally: Last week, “baby-faced lawmaker” Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) “was seen with a brand-new, well-groomed mustache and goatee.” He explained to The Hill that over the recess, he “went fishing a couple of days and decided to let the facial hair that would grow, grow.” He added that his daughter has taken to calling him “Captain Jack” from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and with the goatee, he no longer gets carded.