Morning Briefing: May 7, 2012

Left-leaning François Hollande defeated conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday in a runoff election. Meanwhile, Greece’s parliamentary elections this weekend dealt major blows to both leading parties. The elections, along with other recent votes on the continent, suggest Europeans are growing increasingly frustrated with austerity programs pushed by Sarkozy and others that have failed to deliver economic recovery.

The House returns from recess this week, and the GOP plans to introduce a budget bill that cuts $380 billion, mostly from social programs in order to protect military budgets. The programs that are on the GOP’s chopping block include food stamps, child tax credits and Medicaid.

The gender gap between President Obama’s supporters and Mitt Romney’s is growing, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll of swing states. There is a 20-point gap between presidential preferences of men and women, up from 12 percentage points in February, the poll shows.

For several years, the United States has secretly released high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan. The “strategic release” program was part of negoations with insurgent groups, acting as a live diplomatic channel for U.S. officials who pursued a peace deal with the Taliban.

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is out with an op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times in which he hits his own party for its pursuit of “ideological purity,” and says that Ronald Reagan “would have been appalled” at today’s party.

Former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian Party nomination for president on Saturday. Johnson had earlier sought the GOP nomination, but struggled and was excluded from most of the party’s debates.

A new rule proposed by the Obama administration to help regulate the practice of “fracking” by oil and gas companies would place disclosure requirements on the chemicals used in the fracking fluid, but would also allow companies to delay those disclosures until after they are put to use says the New York Times.

Vladimir Putin was sworn in today for another six years as Russia’s president, after spending the past four years as the country’s prime minister. Several thousand opposition activists protested Putin’s return to the presidency, and riot police detained dozens of demonstrators along Putin’s motorcade route to the Kremlin.

And finally: President Obama famously sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at The Apollo, but how did Green himself think the commander in chief did? “His singing would be, I think, a B+. But I don’t want him to take my job,” the singer told CNN at the New Orleans Jazzfest this weekend. “He was good, though, honestly, he was good. He sounded great.”