ThinkFast: May 15, 2008

Solicitor General Paul Clement, “the government’s voice at the Supreme Court, resigned Wednesday, a sign that the Bush administration’s legal agenda is fading as it prepares to wind down.” Clement served the entirety of the Bush administration in the solicitor general’s office, pushing a legal agenda that included issues such as limiting abortion rights and increasing executive powers.

Since 2002, the U.S. has “detained approximately 2,500 people younger than 18 as illegal enemy combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay,” according to a report filed by the Bush administration with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Though roughly 2,400 of the underage detainees were captured in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, only about 500 of them still remain in custody.

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As part of an overall effort to “boost benefits for service members and veterans,” the House Armed Services Committee approved a defense spending authorization bill early on Thursday that includes “a 3.9 percent pay raise for troops” and “a prohibition on increased health care fees” — benefits that are “more than President Bush wants.”

The California Supreme Court will today “rule on a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn a voter-approved law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, California could become the second state after Massachusetts where gay and lesbian residents can marry.”

At a meeting of the Academy of American Diplomacy yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the U.S. should engage Iran with “a combination of incentives and pressure.” We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them,” Gates said. He added that the U.S. “can’t go to a discussion and be completely the demander.”

According to an “unprecedented study” by experts that included members of the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), “[g]lobal warming is disrupting wildlife and the environment on every continent.” The experts found that “at least” 90 percent “of environmental damage and disruption around the world could be explained by rising temperatures driven by human activity.”

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According to AAA, “Alaska has become the first state” where gas prices are averaging more than $4 a gallon. On Wednesday, regular gasoline averaged $4.006 a gallon, up from $3.983 the day before. Nationwide, gas prices have risen about 67 cents since the end of December.

Leading legal defense groups yesterday of accused the Bush administration “foot-dragging on security clearances that would let civilian lawyers help their military counterparts defend the alleged plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks at Guantanamo.” According to the ACLU, none of the eight lawyers who applied for clearances in recent months have been approved.

McCain claims that that eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax would save “more than 25 million middle-class families more than $2,000 every year.” “But McCain’s ‘middle class’ includes families making up to $200,000 per year,” according to Factcheck.org. “Those earning more money will see the lion’s share of the savings. McCain also leaves out the fact that the proposal could cost as much as $1.6 trillion over 10 years.”

And finally: A candidate for Senate moves mountains. Bob Schaffer, Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, launched his campaign yesterday with an ad proclaiming, “Colorado is my life.” The snow-capped mountain appearing in the background, however, is a photo of Mt. McKinley, which is North America’s highest peak — and which sits in Alaska, not Colorado. Campaign manager Dick Wadhams insisted, “The message is still good.”

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