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Schwarzenegger: Outsource prisoners to Mexico

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger went a little off-script yesterday and floated a novel solution for his state's overcrowded prison system:

"We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. ... And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons," Schwarzenegger said, predicting it would save the state $1 billion that could be spent on higher education.

About 19,000 of the state's 171,000 prisoners are illegal immigrants, according to the most recent statistics available online. The state spends more than $8 billion a year on the prison system.

Aaron McLear, spokesman for the governor, said later that Schwarzenegger's comments did not represent a concrete proposal, but "a concept somebody mentioned to him" and he could not say where the governor came up with the $1 billion figure.

Aside from the troubling fact that Schwarnegger seems to have just made up the $1 billion figure and not consulted anyone before bringing up this idea, his timing is a bit unfortunate given that just five days ago 23 Mexican inmates were killed in a prison riot in Durango. Two other riots last year killed at least 20 inmates each. Here's how the Los Angeles Times described the country's penal system:

Mexican prisons have grown more crowded and dangerous as the government carries out a war against cartels, with more than 67,000 drug arrests in three years. The increased incarcerations have often created an incendiary mix by jamming members of rival gangs inside the same walls.

The penal facilities also have seen dramatic breakout attempts as drug gangs seek to rescue captured members, sometimes with success. In May, a convoy of men dressed in what appeared to be police uniforms cruised into a prison in the northern state of Zacatecas and calmly led 53 inmates to freedom as surveillance cameras rolled. Authorities said it was an inside job.

Yes, definitely sounds like a place that could use another 19,000 prisoners. 

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Trouble ahead for Merkel?

Oskar "The Red" Lafontaine, the polarizing leader of Germany Left party is stepping down to fight prostate cancer. Der Spiegel explains why this could be bad news for Angela Merkel's Conservative coalition:

Lafontaine's departure has robbed the party of its biggest electoral asset and is set to provoke a power struggle between its pragmatic eastern German wing and the more ideological westerners. It has also raised the likelihood of a broad-left wing "Red-Red-Green" alliance between the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens to challenge Angela's Merkel's center-right coalition in the 2013 general election, and in a string of regional state elections leading up to it.

Lafontaine, a populist who called former President George W. Bush a terrorist and questioned Western efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, is a hate figure in the SPD because he abandoned the party in 1999, when he ditched his job as finance minister in a dispute with the SPD chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder. [...]

Media commentators say Lafontaine's exit creates a power vacuum in the Left Party and removes an obstacle to Red-Red-Green alliances. But they warn that major policy differences remain between the SPD and Left Party, and that the SPD cannot expect a major rebound just because the Left Party's heaviest hitter has quit the stage. The damage, commentators argue, has already been done.

Even with all the Left's votes, a Red-Red-Green coalition still wouldn't have beat the alliance between Merkel's CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats in the last election, but given the fragility of Merkel's coalition, this is certainly not welcome news.

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