ThinkFast: October 4, 2006

“Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in [Baghdad] ‘for commemoration of success’ in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the NYT reports. “Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.” But in the spending bill approved last week, conservatives rolled the $20 million over into 2007.

The Dow Jones Industrial average closed at 11,727.34 yesterday, besting the previous record in January 2000, though “[i]f inflation is taken into account, the Dow has to rise another 2,150 points before it will set an all-time high.”

“Members of the House ethics committee will return to Washington, D.C., on Thursday and are expected to approve an investigation” into the scandal involving Mark Foley.

“Congress has set a 2007 termination date for the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction,” Stuart Bowen, “at the behest of the Bush administration, removing the source of a series of audit reports that have emboldened critics of the president’s war polices. Bowen has said post-war reconstruction planning in Iraq was “insufficient in both scope and implementation.”

“Democrats are renewing their vow to impede the annual congressional pay raise until the minimum wage is increased,” The Hill reports, “but their options for a successful block during the lame-duck session likely depend on the outcome of the Nov. 7 midterm election.”

39 percent: President Bush’s approval rating, a drop of three points since September, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.

“In the second month of a security crackdown” in Baghdad, U.S. military casualties appear to be rising,” according to military officials. “At least 17 troops have been killed in combat since Saturday, including eight U.S. soldiers who died in gunbattles and bomb blasts Monday in Baghdad — the most killed in a single day in the capital since July 2005.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed the first challenge to legislation passed last week that stripped detainees of their centuries-old right to challenge their detention. CCR’s habeas petition was filed on behalf of a detainee held in “secret CIA detention for 3 1/2 years and subjected to ‘alternative interrogation methods’ that amount to torture.”

“Security weaknesses have left millions of elderly, disabled and poor Americans vulnerable to unauthorized disclosure of their medical and personal records,” according to a federal investigation of the computer system used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Extreme drought will affect about a third of the planet and spread across half of the earth’s land surface by 2100 because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain’s leading climate scientists.

And finally: Students at Bush Elementary School in Stockton, CA, were surprised yesterday when President Bush stopped by for a visit, after initially sending his regrets. “I think the president was happy. He was smiling a lot,” said Brandom Zarate, 8. Richard Therman, 7, recalls that the President told him “You guys, read a lot.”

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