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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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SCOTUS rebukes Bush administration on Gitmo, NRCC treasurer charged with embezzlement, Iraq seeks legal protections from Hussein's victims, foreclosures & repossessions rose in May, Zimbabwe arrests opposition leaders.

June 13, 2008

• "A deeply divided Supreme Court" on Thursday "ruled that terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to seek their release in federal court, delivering a historic rebuke to the Bush administration and Congress for policies that the majority said compromised, in the name of national security, the Constitution's guarantee of liberty," the Washington Post reports. "The much-anticipated decision [PDF] was the fourth time the court has ruled against the administration's ambitious attempt to create a framework for detaining and prosecuting terrorism suspects outside the protections the U.S. legal system generally provides."

• "The Bush administration disagrees strongly with" the ruling, AP reports. "Attorney General Michael Mukasey said" today "the deeply divided high court ruling would not affect the Guantanamo trials against enemy combatants and President Bush said he might seek a new law to keep the alleged terrorists in a U.S. prison."

• "The Guantánamo Bay detention center will not close today or any day soon," the New York Times reports. "But the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday stripped away the legal premise for the remote prison camp that officials opened six years ago in the belief that American law would not reach across the Caribbean to a United States naval station in Cuba."

 

• "A unanimous Supreme Court ruled [PDF]" Thursday "that two U.S. citizens accused of terrorism-related crimes in Iraq cannot use American courts to challenge their transfer into foreign custody," the Washington Post reports. "Relatives of Shawqi Omar and Mohammad Munaf, who were captured by military forces on suspicion of terrorism links, had asked federal judges in the District to review their cases, citing the fear that they would be tortured."

• "Pope Benedict XVI gave President Bush a rare peek" today "of the Vatican Gardens, a spot where popes pray privately and only special guests are allowed to stroll," AP reports. "Normally, VIPS are received in the pope's library in the Apostolic Palace.... But in an apparent gesture of appreciation for the warm welcome Bush gave him in Washington in April, Benedict welcomed the president and first lady Laura Bush near St. John's Tower in the lush Vatican Gardens."

• "If there were any doubt about which current European leader is closest to President Bush, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi erased it" in Rome "on Thursday," the Washington Post reports. "Appearing with Bush at a news conference held in a breathtaking Renaissance villa overlooking the Eternal City, the garrulous Berlusconi called Bush a 'personal friend,' a 'very close friend' and a 'very unique person,' and praised his 'vision' and 'courage.'"

• "The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, laid out a plan on Thursday to regulate the high fees that cellphone companies charge consumers for canceling their contracts early," the New York Times reports. "Mr. Martin’s proposal was similar to an industry plan put forward last month."

Congress: NRCC Treasurer Charged With Embezzlement

• "House Republicans" on Thursday "accused their former campaign treasurer of embezzling at least $725,000 in a scheme that federal investigators say involved using the money to cover major home renovations and mortgage payments, and marked the biggest case of political fraud in a generation," the Washington Post reports. "A four-month forensic audit of the National Republican Congressional Committee's books asserted that Christopher J. Ward, who worked in the NRCC's accounting office for more than 12 years, also took $28,000 that should have gone to the National Republican Senatorial Committee."

• "The House approved extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed Thursday, with Democrats capturing a narrow two-thirds majority that could boost chances for action in the Senate," the Politico reports. "Thirteen Republican absentees contributed to the victory, but the 274-137 vote was a lesson in the advantages of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) backing up for a moment and avoiding the short-cuts that failed just 24 hours before."

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "filed cloture Thursday on the motion to proceed to the House-passed, $55 billion tax extender bill, which should come up for a vote Monday," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The vote will be a do-over of Tuesday's 50-44 cloture motion defeat, but Democrats are hoping pressure from business groups and a threat by House Democratic leaders to kill the bill if it is not offset will be enough to turn the tide."

• "Democratic efforts to block a looming 10 percent cut in Medicare fees to physicians hit a roadblock Thursday when a Senate bill failed to win the backing of 60 senators in a procedural vote," The Hill reports. "Legislation sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) came up short because of Republican support for a competing bill... and by key absences from the Democratic caucus."

• "Lawmakers voted Thursday to subpoena nine companies responsible for analyzing the most dangerous food entering the country as part of an investigation that gained more urgency with an outbreak of salmonella from tomatoes," AP reports. "For months, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has investigated the possible circumvention of government import alerts."

• "More than a year after Congress pledged to curb pork barrel funding known as earmarks, lawmakers are gearing up for another spending binge, directing billions toward organizations and companies in their home districts," the Washington Post reports. "Earmark spending in the House's defense authorization bill alone soared 29 percent last month."

• "Despite some earlier momentum, House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller [D-Calif.] on Thursday proclaimed a bill to increase disclosure of retirement-account fees dead for the year," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "'We're not going to move it,' Miller said. 'We don't see the president signing it.'"

Iraq: Govt. Seeks Legal Protections From Hussein's Victims

• "The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said he would ask the United Nations Security Council" today "to start exploring ways to protect his government from an avalanche of financial claims from people harmed by Saddam Hussein’s government," the New York Times reports. "Iraq has been immune to such lawsuits under the terms of the Security Council mandate that kept foreign forces there, but that mandate is to expire Dec. 31."

• "New U.S. proposals have failed to overcome Iraqi opposition to a proposed security pact, two lawmakers said" Thursday, "and a senior government official expressed doubt that an agreement could be reached before the U.S. election in November," AP reports. "Iraqi reinforcements, meanwhile, arrived in the oil-producing southern city of Amarah" Thursday "as the military geared up for another crackdown against Shiite militia fighters, officials said."

• "Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for restraint in an apparent bid to exert control over his Mahdi Army militia fighters," AP reports. "A statement read after Friday prayers in the holy city of Kufa says the Shiite militia will continue to resist U.S.-led forces in Iraq but fighting should be limited to a select group."

• "A Marine charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi detainee during 2004 combat operations in Fallujah was jailed Thursday for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury," the San Diego Union Tribune reports. "Sgt. Ryan G. Weemer appeared in uniform before U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson and was found in contempt of court."

• "The U.S. military, which has been part of a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo for nine years, views its mission as a model for its presence in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Washington Times reports. "The more than 16,000-strong force, known as KFOR, includes more than 1,000 Americans. It has managed to keep Kosovo largely peaceful, because 'problems get worked out before they become an issue that results in violence,' said Brig. Gen. John E. Davoren, the U.S. commander."

Nation: Louisiana Demands Answers From FEMA

• "Louisiana officials are demanding that hurricane supplies the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave away be returned to help victims of Hurricane Katrina," CNN reports. "Their request comes after a CNN story Wednesday revealed that FEMA had given away $85 million in supplies that lingered on storage shelves while hurricane victims suffered without the items they needed. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Sen. Mary Landrieu [D] demanded answers from FEMA."

• "All it took to bilk the federal government out of $105 million was a laptop computer. From her Mediterranean-style townhouse, a high school dropout named Rita Campos Ramirez orchestrated what prosecutors call the largest health-care fraud by one person," the Washington Post reports. "Health-care experts say the simplicity of Campos Ramirez's scheme underscores the scope of the growing fraud problem."

• "They said" Cedar Rapids, Iowa, "would never flood.... They thought they were safe. They were wrong," the New York Times reports. "Cedar Rapids is experiencing the worst flooding in the city’s history. And the water is still rising."

• "The tainted-tomato outbreak has spread to six more states, federal health officials said on Thursday, even as they acknowledged to lawmakers that they had yet to nail down major aspects of a food-safety plan released seven months ago," the New York Times reports. "A total of 228 people in 23 states... have been reported sickened by salmonella-tainted tomatoes, Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, announced."

• "Despite a little firefighting help from Mother Nature and the governor's office, a wind-blown blaze in Butte County," Calif., "spread to more than 8,000 acres Thursday, destroying about 30 homes and forcing more than 9,000 residents in a rural enclave to flee the flames," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R] declared a state of emergency in the counties of Butte and Santa Cruz, where another blaze threatened homes."

Economy: Foreclosures & Repossessions Rose In May

• "Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal are expressing more confidence in the Federal Reserve and Chairman Ben Bernanke, though they foresee slow growth and suggest it is likely the U.S. is in a recession or will soon tumble into one.... Recent comments Mr. Bernanke made on inflation may have helped burnish his reputation."

• "Bank repossessions more than doubled in May and foreclosure filings rose 48 percent from a year earlier as previously foreclosed properties dragged down housing prices, RealtyTrac Inc. said in a report today," Bloomberg News reports. "One in every 483 U.S. homeowners lost their houses to foreclosure or received either a default warning or notice that their home would go up for sale at auction, RealtyTrac said."

• "Banks and mortgage firms are providing questionable information about the number of subprime mortgage borrowers they are helping and the rate at which homeowners are falling into foreclosure, according to the top regulator for the nation's largest banks," the Washington Post reports. "Those details are crucial for regulators to gauge the severity of the housing crisis and evaluate the effectiveness of the steps lenders are taking to address the problems."

• "U.S. consumer prices probably rose in May by the most since November as Americans paid more for food and fuel, a government report today may show. The cost of living increased 0.5 percent, according to the median forecast of 84 economists in a Bloomberg News survey."

• "Retail sales picked up last month as Americans received more than $50 billion in stimulus checks," the New York Times reports. "Investors took the report as an encouraging sign for the resilience of the economy, even as some analysts wondered how long the uptick would last."

• "The rising cost of shipping everything from industrial-pump parts to lawn-mower batteries to living-room sofas is forcing some manufacturers to bring production back to North America and freeze plans to send even more work overseas," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "In Washington, financial speculators have fat targets on their backs," the New York Times reports. "They are being blamed for high gas prices, soaring grocery bills and volatile commodity markets, and lawmakers are lashing out at market regulators for not cracking down on them more vigorously."

World: Zimbabwe Arrests Opposition Leaders

• "The Zimbabwean government's crackdown on political opponents took an ominous turn Thursday with the arrest of the opposition party's No. 2 official, who was charged with treason and could face the death penalty," the Washington Post reports. "Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was also arrested Thursday, in a pattern of harassment two weeks before he is to face President Robert Mugabe in a presidential runoff election."

• "Faced with outrage from a key ally, the U.S. military on Thursday released footage of a clash between coalition forces and Taliban militants that Pakistan alleges killed 11 of its soldiers," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The unusual move by military officials was clearly designed to soothe anger in Pakistan and to bolster the U.S. account of what happened in the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border region Tuesday, when American warplanes dropped bombs during a battle with militants in the area."

• "Thousands of Pakistani lawyers and workers neared Islamabad" today "on the final leg of a 'long march' to demand the reinstatement of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf," Agence France-Presse reports. "Cheering crowds turned out in towns along the route to welcome the cavalcade of around 400 cars and buses, which left the eastern city of Lahore late Thursday."

• "Early counting suggests Irish voters have rejected the Lisbon treaty throwing the entire project of reshaping the EU into turmoil," the London Guardian reports. "Initial tallies from constituencies around the country are revealing a very strong show by the no vote, the Irish state broadcaster said."

• "Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked international donors to maintain their help for his war-torn country, and they responded with at least $20 billion in new pledges, half of it from the U.S.," Bloomberg News reports. "Speaking at a conference in Paris, Karzai said that while Afghanistan has made a 'major transformation,' lasting peace and development are being prevented by violence, narcotics and corruption."

• "Representatives of China and Taiwan agreed" today "to start weekend charter flights next month between the two sides, taking the first step toward establishing regular transportation links that could ease relations," the New York Times reports. "The representatives also agreed Thursday to establish permanent offices in each other’s capitals to help coordinate discussions about closer relations."

• "An Israeli envoy engaging in Gaza cease-fire talks returned without a deal late Thursday, after another day of bloodshed in the coastal territory that included seven Palestinians being killed in an explosion that Hamas indicated was an accident," AP reports.

• "Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and companies, including several facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Burmese magazine with close ties to the government," the Washington Post reports.

Campaigns: You Say You Want A Revolution?

• Although Republican Ron Paul ended his campaign for president Thursday night, he intends to form a "Campaign for Liberty" movement to give libertarians a bigger say in the GOP. Earlybird's Campaign News section has details.

Commentary: Honoring Habeas Corpus

• Most commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section cheer the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Guantanamo Bay prisoners' rights, yet some fear the decision's potential repercussions.

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