ThinkFast: October 25, 2006

War on West shifts back to Afghanistan: Counterterrorism officials say Iraq is “drawing fewer foreign fighters as Muslim extremists aspiring to battle the West turn their attention back to the symbolically important and increasingly violent turf of Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, the “British military wants to withdraw troops from Iraq within a year, and London wants to focus on the war in Afghanistan,” a Pentagon official told the New York Times.

The College Board reports that the cost of obtaining a four-year university degree continues to outpace inflation. Tuition and fees at four-year public universities rose 6.3 percent from 2005 to 2006. At the same time, the amount of federal financial aid available through Pell Grants declined to a new low.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said yesterday that he “might need to call for an increase in American troop levels in Baghdad” to stem the violence there, and that Iraqi troops would not be able to take over combat operations for 12–18 months.


36: The percentage of Americans who have reduced the amount they save for retirement due to the burden of rising healthcare costs, up from 25 percent in 2004. In 2006, healthcare premiums for employers and their workers climbed two times faster than both wages and inflation.

The Bush administration “is seeking to sharply restrict communication between defense lawyers and inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison.” The administration is seeking approval to control the numbers of lawyer visits, the topics that can be discussed, and the types of information that can be exchanged through the mail.

The last throes of “last throes.” When asked about his infamous quote about the Iraq insurgency, Vice President Cheney told NPR, “I would have expected that the political process we set in motion…would have resulted in a lower level of violence than we’re seeing today. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t say that we’re over the hump in terms of violence, no.” Federal authorities are investigating whether Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) “introduced legislation that benefited a military contractor that employs his father.” In a separate probe, U.S. attorney is determining whether “Renzi helped promote the sale of land that netted a former business partner $4.5 million.”

The inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found “overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq,” leaving “far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.” A Halliburton subsidiary spent 55 percent of its budget on overhead on a critical oil project.

And finally: The President will have a grilled-cheese with your finest Kraft singles. Walter Scheib III, the former White House executive chef, has written a book about his time cooking for the first families. Scheib “confesses that the job had become boring to him because President and Mrs. Bush weren’t particularly adventurous eaters.” During his time with Bush, Scheib “made many an enchilada and grilled-cheese sandwich on white bread with Kraft singles for President Bush.”

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