Panel: Shrink primary schedule
Democratic Party leaders are trying again to shorten the presidential primary process, which lasted 11 months last year.
An advisory commission recommended Wednesday that 2012’s earliest voting, such as the Democratic Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, not occur before Feb. 1. All but a handful of party primaries would take place after the second Tuesday in March under the recommendations by the Democratic Change Commission.
Last year, the Iowa caucus was held on Jan. 3, and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8. Many party activists and ordinary voters say the presidential selection process starts too early, but states have resisted past efforts to limit their powers to pick primary dates.
The recommendations will be reviewed by the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee, and later by the full DNC.
U.S. hits detention of Russian dissident
The White House on Thursday expressed “dismay” at the detention of 82-year-old Russian dissident Ludmila Alexeeva and voiced concern about reports of her mistreatment.
“The United States expresses dismay at reports that authorities in Moscow prevented Russian citizens from exercising their right to assemble peacefully,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
“In particular, the United States notes with concern the detention of protesters, including prominent human rights defender Ludmila Alexeeva, and reports of their mistreatment by authorities while in custody.”
Ms. Alexeeva, a prominent rights activist who has won the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, was arrested earlier Thursday along with leftist leader Eduard Limonov.
The arrests were made during an opposition rally in central Moscow.
Immigration prosecutions rise
Immigration prosecutions rose to record levels in 2009 as the Obama administration kept up aggressive enforcement that began under President George W. Bush.
Nearly 27,000 people faced serious federal charges relating to immigration in 2009, according to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s annual year-end report on the judiciary. More than three-fourths were accused of illegally re-entering the United States after having been sent home before.
Immigration cases increased by about a fifth over the previous year and made up a third of all new criminal filings in U.S. district courts in the government spending year that ended Sept. 30. The statistics were compiled by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Wendy Sefsaf, spokeswoman for the pro-immigrant Immigration Policy Center, said she expects the number of prosecutions to remain high until Congress passes a law that gives the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants a way to remain in the United States legally.
Obama veto a technicality
HONOLULU | President Obama has rejected his first piece of legislation from Congress, a stopgap spending bill that never had to take effect.
The White House on Wednesday said Mr. Obama exercised his right to send back to the Capitol a temporary appropriations bill that lawmakers passed in case a winter storm about two weeks ago would have prevented them from approving a final measure to fund the Pentagon next year. The Dec. 19 blizzard didn’t keep them away from the Capitol, and they approved the $626 billion defense spending bill before the previous budget expired.
The White House described the move as a technicality that the president took out of an abundance of caution, and that it was his first veto.
10 banks win taxpayer funds
The Treasury Department said Thursday it has pumped $29.3 million into 10 banks, which will be the last to receive investments as part of the taxpayer-funded program to shore up the financial system.
The aid comes from a $700 billion financial bailout program created last year during the height of the financial crisis.
The investments in the 10 banks are the last under Treasury’s so-called Capital Purchase Program, Treasury officials said. By law, the Treasury must report the transactions — which occurred on Tuesday — within two business days.
Although the government anticipated winding down support for banks, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently extended the publicly derided bailout program, saying it will now focus on helping homeowners avoid foreclosures and small businesses get loans.
The banks receiving the latest outlay are Atlantic Bancshares Inc. in South Carolina; Union Financial Corp. in New Mexico; Mainline Bancorp Inc. in Pennsylvania; FBHC Holding Co. in Colorado; Western Illinois Bancshares Inc. in Illinois; DeSoto County Bank in Mississippi; Lafayette Bancorp Inc. in Mississippi; Private Bancorporation Inc. in Minnesota; CBB Bancorp in Georgia; and Illinois State Bancorp Inc. in Illinois.
Blogger given time on leak info
The Transportation Security Administration backed down Thursday from its demand that an Internet travel writer immediately provide information on how he obtained an airline security directive.
Anthony Elia, attorney for writer Chris Elliott, said the TSA extended the response period through Jan. 20. The TSA subpoena, dated Tuesday, originally demanded a response by New Year’s Eve.
Mr. Elia now has the option of challenging the subpoena in federal court or negotiating a settlement with the TSA.
Mr. Elliott said TSA agents had showed up at his house, demanding that he reveal who leaked the security directive that followed a Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. The directive included security measures that quickly became apparent to many travelers.
The administrative subpoena - a demand for information issued without a judge’s approval - is a civil, not a criminal document. If Mr. Elliott refuses to comply, the TSA could ask a judge to hold the writer in contempt.
TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, had no immediate comment Thursday.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said her organization is supporting Mr. Elliott.
Another travel blogger who received a subpoena, Steve Frischling, said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his laptop computer.
Mr. Frischling said the agents threatened to interfere with his contract to write a blog for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn’t cooperate and provide the name of the person who leaked the memo.
Hutchison says race is ‘dead even’
AUSTIN, Texas | U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she’s in a “dead even” Republican primary race against Gov. Rick Perry.
Appearing at an Austin news conference about transportation issues Wednesday, Mrs. Hutchison discounted widely leaked poll results from Perry pollster Mike Baselice.
The results, contained in an internal Perry campaign memo circulating on blogs and among political operatives, show Mr. Perry winning 49 percent to 36 percent against Mrs. Hutchison, with 10 percent undecided and 5 percent going for another Republican contender, libertarian-leaning Debra Medina.
Mrs. Hutchison said the campaign is a “horse race” and that people are just beginning to tune in.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports