Each week, NBN Politics recaps the top five news stories from the past week and brings you a look at the week ahead. Welcome to the Fast Five.
Supreme Court hears arguments in marriage equality cases
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week over two cases closely linked to marriage equality issues. The first case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, involved the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that had banned gay marriage. The justices seem unlikely to make a broad ruling on the issue; Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the Court could even dismiss the case entirely. The second case, United States v. Windsor, deals with whether or not the federal government can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that have been recognized by a state. Here, the majority of justices seem to have come down on the side of the states.
North Korea announces intent to defy nuclear sanctions
Kim Jong-Un, also known as Dennis Rodman’s new BFF, declared Sunday that North Korea will no longer allow its nuclear arsenal to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations. The recent declaration represents a continuation of a hardline stance that North Korea has been implementing over the past few years. Unsurprisingly, the announcement has attracted a largely negative response from foreign powers. The United States and South Korea ran joint military drills as a show of force to intimidate the rogue state, though the White House Press Secretary has noted that North Korea has not actually mobilized its military. It seems more likely at this point that North Korea is really just looking for attention.
President Obama visits the Middle East
As Northwestern students were heading off for Spring Break last week, President Obama was wrapping up his own overseas trip to the Middle East. On this visit to Israel, the first in his presidency, Obama strove to repair his damaged reputation among Israeli politicians but did not attempt to lay down a new initiative for peace between Israel and Palestine. He followed that up with a major diplomatic victory, as he convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to finally begin patching up relations with America’s other major Middle Eastern ally, Turkey. In Jordan, Obama signaled his commitment to procure financial aid to help Jordan support a large influx of refugees from neighboring Syria. He also reaffirmed that the United States will not be entering the conflict in Syria at this time.
Financial crisis rocks Cyprus
The Mediterranean nation of Cyprus suffered a partial financial meltdown this week, in part due to the very bailout meant to save it. The island country, commonly considered a tax haven for rich Russian investors, reached an agreement last Monday under which the European Union and the International Monetary Fund would loan it 10 billion euros in return for some financial restructuring. This includes the closure of the nation’s second largest bank, Laiki, as well as heavy monetary losses for uninsured depositors that were saving more than 100,000 euros in either Laiki or the country’s largest bank, Bank of Cyprus. To prevent a bank run that could have led to total financial collapse, the government mandated the closure of both Laiki and Bank of Cyprus for several days.
Immigration reform moves forward
Bipartisan efforts to reform America’s immigration policy are moving full steam ahead, as outside lobbying groups have begun to unite behind a single plan. AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of labor unions, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reached an agreement this week over how to determine how many work visas would be distributed under a guest worker program. This makes a bipartisan bill much easier for politicians from both sides to back, as their respective interest groups have already agreed on the major components of the bill. Despite this, some opposition still remains, mainly in the form of Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Though he was part of the initial group of senators that backed immigration reform, Rubio has suddenly started signaling that he feels the process is moving too quickly.
Sports bonus story
For those of you who live under a rock, or maybe just don’t pay attention to sports, you should probably know that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, usually referred to as March Madness, is currently underway. And until last week, it was totally awesome, primarily thanks to the efforts of the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles. The first 15-seed to ever make it to the Sweet Sixteen (the fourth round of the playoffs), FGCU gained notoriety nationwide for the high-flying act that was Dunk City. Sadly, FGCU saw its glorious Cinderella story cut short by the boring old University of Florida, and then March Madness got even more depressing when Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a serious injury in Sunday’s game against Duke. Still, Dunk City lives on; in our minds, in our hearts and in major merchandising deals.
The week ahead: keep paying attention to North Korea
Over the next week, the conflict on the Korean Peninsula should tell the world quite a bit about the character of Kim Jong-Un. Is he, like his father and grandfather before him, simply acting out in order to get policy concessions and international aid for North Korea? Or should the world actually be worried about the possibility of North Korea lashing out, as Russia’s recent statements seem to imply? For all that North Korea has been blustering this week, they have yet to do much in the way of actual military actions in recent weeks. What they do next, and how the Obama and Park administrations respond, should offer a fairly clear indication of how things will play out on the peninsula over the next few years.