News in Brief: Wisconsin Assembly Representatives Pass Anti-Union Budget in Surprise Vote, and More

Wisconsin Assembly Representatives Pass Anti-Union Budget in Surprise Vote

The Wisconsin State Assembly passed Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill on a slim majority, leaving 28 members of the 96-representative House unable to vote. After a 61-hour debate, the Republican-controlled chamber used a procedural rule to bring debate to an end early. Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R) announced a voice vote on final passage at 1 AM; Republicans immediately shouted aye while Democrats booed, attempting to be recognized to demand a seperate motion, reported Talking Points Memo. Kramer called the vote, and with 51 ayes and 17 nays, the bill passed to the Senate. Democrats from the upper chamber remain in exile in Illinois to avoid a vote on the bill.

CIA Contractor in Pakistan Charged With Murder

Raymond Davis, accused of killing two men in Lahore last month, was charged with murder by a Pakistani court Friday. The US has repeatedly called for the CIA contractor's repatriation, arguing he acted in self-defense and has diplomatic immunity, but Pakistan has so far dismissed the demands, reported Reuters. Davis faces possible execution. The case has strained relations with Pakistan, which has allowed the US to fire missiles from drones into Afghanistan on its side of the border and is seen as a key ally in the region.

Protests Continue to Spread as Iraq Holds “Day of Rage” and Rebels Close in on Gaddafi in Libya

Iraq's “Day of Rage” turned violent as security forces fired on demonstrators, killing at least five in the largest protests in the country since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world. Fueled by anger over unemployment, corruption and scarce public services, the organizers had hoped for a peaceful protest, but the nervousness of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki led to a virtual lockdown in the center of Baghdad, reported The Washington Post, and heavy-handed use of security.

Meanwhile, Moammar Gaddafi's grip on power continued to weaken as rebels closed in on Tripoli, and residents in the capital planned a mass demonstration, reported The Wall Street Journal. In the past few days, opposition forces have gained control of the coastal city Misrata and the oil-rich town of Al-Zawiya. Libya, which for decades was closed to foreign journalists, recently opened its gates, but said any reporters entering illegally would be considered al-Qaeda conspirators. Despite the threats, reporters have flooded in and coverage on the continuing unfolding of events has increased dramatically.

White House Taking Lobbyists Off Grounds to Avoid Record of Meetings

Lobbyists meeting with aides from the Obama administration say meetings are taking place at a complex just off the White House grounds to keep the meetings from being noted on Secret Service logs and eventually released to the public. Though the White House had dismissed this narrative, at least four lobbyists have disclosed to Politico that they had the distinct impression the administration was knowingly keeping their meeting off the books. The release of visitors' logs to the public has been touted as a step by the Obama administration toward greater transparency.

Fourth-Quarter Growth Rate Lower Than First Expected

The economy grew more slowly at the end of last year than originally expected, as cutbacks by state and local government took their toll and consumer spending decreased. According to the government, activity by businesses increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the October-December quarter, reported dfcv Press, down from the estimate of 3.2 percent.