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ThinkFast: June 6, 2007

A bipartisan group of senators, including “several conservative Republicans,” introduced legislation Tuesday to use the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations “as the foundation for future U.S. policy in Iraq.” The bill aims to “begin the withdrawal of U.S. combat brigades by early 2008 if certain benchmarks are met.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has approved a proposal that would allow an independent outside panel to decide which ethics complaints merit investigation by House ethics committee. “This is gigantic,” said Sarah Dufendach of the watchdog group Common Cause. “If they really do this, it will be a very serious step forward.”

The House oversight committee is expanding its investigation “into ties between jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House and have contacted several Abramoff associates recently about testifying to Congress.”

“International family planning groups cut off from aid because of their position on abortion could gain access to U.S.-donated contraceptives under legislation approved by a House panel Tuesday.” The bill also “gives Bush and future presidents the right to waive current law that requires that one-third of U.S. aid for HIV/AIDS prevention be spent on abstinence programs.”

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“The United States will refuse to agree to targets and timetables for cutting greenhouse gases” at G8 summit, President Bush’s science adviser reiterated yesterday. “At this point in time we are not prepared to adopt that proposal,” James Connaughton told reporters.

Iraq and Afghanistan “have overstretched the U.S. foreign service, damaging its staffers’ morale and threatening its performance around the world,” diplomats’ advocates charge. They say the State Dept. needs 1,100 new foreign service officers “simply to restore the capabilities it had” when Condoleezza Rice took her post in 2005.

Yesterday, the House unanimously passed a resolution calling on China to “act consistently with the Olympic standard of preserving human dignity in Darfur, Sudan and around the world.” It urges China to “stop selling Sudan arms and suspend economic cooperation with Sudan until Sudan ‘stops its attacks on civilians’ in Darfur.”

“Oman and Iran girded for heavy flooding and winds today as the strongest cyclone ever recorded by scientists in the northwestern Arabian Sea began to hit coastlines that have little experience with such powerful storms.”

Ignoring a veto threat, a House spending committee yesterday approved a homeland security bill that includes “about $50 million more for customs and border protection than Bush sought and $2 billion more than his February request for security preparedness and disaster relief.”

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And finally: Does David Hyde Pierce’s (best known as Niles on the television show “Frasier”) accent in the new Tony-nominated show “Curtains” sound familiar? Pierce said he based his “highly acclaimed Boston accent” on Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). “It sort of comes from almost an English accent — you lose your R’s and your A’s get a little bent,” said Pierce. Markey’s reaction? “He sounds like me, but I don’t know if that is good or bad.”

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