ThinkFast: September 4, 2009

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The Obama administration plans to reverse the Bush policy of keeping the names of White House visitors secret. The announcement, scheduled for today, “follows a lengthy legal review. … News organizations and watchdog groups had sought to make the records public to show who was influencing administration policy on health care, financial rules and other issues.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is pushing back on signals from the White House that it will back a health care bill without a public option, saying any bill “without a strong public option will not pass the House.” “Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition and bring down costs,” Pelosi said. “If a vigorous public option is not included, it would be a major victory for the health insurance industry.”


Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) seemed to indicate his support for a public plan trigger. “If we don’t see more competition in the system, we might revisit it [a public option] down the road,” he said. Warner said he aligns himself with moderate Democrats in the Senate, whom he calls “radical centrists.”

For the second time in recent days, White House environment adviser Van Jones apologized for a previous statement he made. Yesterday, Jones explained that he does “not agree” with a statement he signed that suggested the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Jones earlier apologized for calling Republicans “a**holes.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units deep into the West Bank before slowing down construction, two of his aides said. The move comes at a time when U.S. policy is to call for a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank without exception.

Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike early Friday in the northern region of Afghanistan killed at least 80 people, many of them civilians. While NATO officials maintained that they were targeting insurgents, local Afghan officials pointed out that the airstrikes were directed against two fuel tankers that many civilians were siphoning gasoline from.

South Carolina State Sen. Jake Knotts (R) is alleging in a letter that Gov. Mark Sanford (R) is behind a whisper campaign suggesting that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is gay. Sanford’s office denied the claims contained in Knotts’ letter “as bizarre as many of the other claims and attacks of recent weeks.”


A California legislative effort to honor Harvey Milk, the state’s first openly gay elected leader, is meeting stiff resistance. Conservatives are pushing hard for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to veto legislation which would proclaim Milk’s May 22 birthday “a day of recognition and encourage schools to consider commemorating his life.”

And finally: Who is Miyuki Hatoyama, Japan’s new first lady? The UK Independent notes that last year, Hatoyama wrote a book in which she revealed that she was once abducted by aliens. “While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus,” she said. “It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green.” She also claims that she knows actor Tom Cruise “in a former incarnation — when he was Japanese.” “I believe he’d get it if I said to him, ‘Long time no see’, when we meet,” she said in a recent interview.

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