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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mass Release of Immigrants in Attempt to Save Money

Hundreds of detainees have been freed on supervised release today as federal detention facilities across the U.S. prepare for a series of automatic spending cuts due to take effect on Friday. The news was received with anger from Republican lawmakers, who said the releases were a political tactic by the White House to pressure them into a budget deal before the $85 billion “sequester,” as the cuts are known, becomes law. “It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,” said Virginia Congressman Robert Goodlatte,  chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.” The White House did not say how it chose the prisoners for release, but insisted that those convicted of serious crime were not included. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama at the Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard to warn that navy readiness is already being affected by the cuts. “The threat of these cuts has already forced the Navy to cancel the deployment, or delay the repair of certain aircraft carriers,” he said.

Italian Elections Result in Hung Parliament

Italy’s elections resulted in a hung parliament, with the Senate going to former conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the Chamber of Deputies to left-of-center Pier Luigi Bersani. “The winner is: Ingovernability,” read the front page of Il Messaggero, a newspaper in Rome. In order to lead, Bersani would have to work with Berlusconi to create a “grand coalition” or agree on a deal with Beppe Grillo, a former comedian who won 25 percent of the votes after proposing a series of populist measures. Both Berlusconi and Grillo have stood in opposition to the policies of austerity carried out by previous Prime Minister Mario Monti, a technocrat appointed by President Giorgio Napolitano to steer Italy out of the crisis, policies Bersani supported. The result, which created uncertainty over whether Italy will maintain an austerity that has helped maintain borrowing costs low, brought turmoil to the rest of the European Union (EU) as leaders of other euro nations worried about a prolonged recession and a contagion to other countries.

Hagel Confirmed as U.S. Defense Secretary

The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense today after a long and unusually arduous debate in Congress over his fitness for the job. A former Republican Senator from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam war veteran, he faced filibuster by his own party and a series of attacks on his position over Iran and Israel. “I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defense, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people,” said President Barack Obama after only four Republican Senators voted in favor of the appointment. Earlier today, the Senate also confirmed Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Surveillance Law

In a four-to-five vote that fell along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a 2008 law that allows the government to eavesdrop on international communications that involve U.S. citizens. The conservative majority, led by Justice Samuel Alito, decided the plaintiffs, a group of lawyers, journalists, and human rights organizations, did not show evidence they had been harmed by the law, and disagreed on the argument that costs to escape surveillance, such as travel to meet clients and sources in person, were an issue. “They cannot manufacture standing by incurring costs in anticipation of non-imminent harms,” Alito wrote. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent for the liberal minority, saying that the plaintiff’s fear that they would be monitored was not speculative, arguing “is as likely to take place as are most future events that common-sense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen.” The plaintiffs, which include Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and lawyers to Guantánamo detainees, all claimed it violated the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

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