ThinkFast: October 8, 2010

A new Labor Department report released this morning states that unemployment remained unchanged last month, resting at 9.6 percent. Approximately 159,000 government jobs were lost, but the private sector adding 64,000 jobs. Steve Benen produces a chart to depict the trend.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal budget deficit is “slightly less than $1.3 trillion” for fiscal 2010, $125 billion less than the record high of $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009. The deficit is expected to become a key focus of Congress and the Obama administration next year as “they try to rein in spending without jeopardizing the ongoing economic recovery.”

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will spend more than $10 million on political attack ads this week, which is “the biggest of the campaign season by a group other than a national political party.” Having spent “just less than $9 million this year through Monday,” the Chamber is drawing fire from watchdog groups who are asking Chamber-backed candidates to inquire whether the ads receive foreign funds.

Prominent Chinese literary critic and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, but will be unable to attend any ceremony due to the fact he is “currently serving an 11-year term on subversion charges.” “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who advocated for unaffordable tax cuts for the rich during the Bush administration, is now arguing that the resulting deficit would be addressed by cutting entitlements. “You need” austerity, said Greenspan. “We’re going to have to start to cut” from government entitlement programs, he added.

A Senate investigation has found that Afghan private security forces “with ties to the Taliban, criminal networks and Iranian intelligence have been hired to guard American military bases in Afghanistan,” exposing U.S. soldiers to surprise attack and complicating the fight against insurgents. Oversight of Afghan guards is “virtually nonexistent” which allows deals with warlords tied to the insurgency.

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Israel signaled that a compromise may be reached over settlements in the West Bank yesterday. A freeze on new construction recently expired, threatening to derail peace talks with the Palestinians, but “incentives offered by the Obama administration to Israel may allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push through his Cabinet a limited renewal of the 10-month freeze.”

Ethics trials for Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) will take place after the midterm elections in November. Rangel and Waters requested pre-election hearings, which “will determine whether the lawmakers violated standards of conduct. Rangel is accused of financial and fundraising improprieties and Waters is charged with improperly helping a bank where her husband has an investment.”

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that “forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996.” The poll also finds that 60 percent of Americans support allowing gays to openly serve in the military, with only 30 percent opposed.

And finally: While the real Christine O’Donnell tries to distance herself from her occult past with ads proclaiming “I’m not a witch,” a new doll of the Delaware GOP Senate nominee proudly highlights her witchcraft dabbling. Offbeat doll maker HeroBuilders is offering two O’Donnell figurines, one “with a witchy cape and hat for a bargain price of $39.95.”

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