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.
Breaking: Boston Marathon bombing leaves three dead, at least 130 injured
Two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon at about 2:50 p.m. EST Monday afternoon. The blast left three dead, including an eight-year-old boy, as well as over 100 wounded. The nature of the bombings is unknown, though the White House is treating it as an "act of terror". According to the Boston Police Department, no suspects have been taken into custody. If someone you know was in Boston at the time, a variety of tools have been set up to help locate people after the blast.
China and America strike deal on North Korea
The Koreas make their way into the Fast Five for the third week in a row, as China and the U.S. try to end the conflict on the peninsula. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi released a public statement this week pledging to pursue the denuclearization of East Asia. Kerry hinted that the U.S. may remove its missile defenses from the region if China begins cracking down on North Korea, though China has made no solid policy commitments. Though China remains the only country with any influence over North Korea, it has yet to take clear steps to reduce tensions on the peninsula.
President Obama unveils a new budget
The President managed to irritate both his opponents and his allies this week when he unveiled a new budget request for fiscal year 2014. The new budget is meant to bring Republicans to the table by bringing in entitlement reform to balance Obama’s desired tax and spending increases. That entitlement reform mostly takes the form of a switch in how Social Security benefits are calculated. The change in calculation amounts to a reduction, which has angered many of Obama’s allies on the left. Unions in particular have found his new stance on entitlements and spending to be frustrating. Whether Obama’s compromise or other Democrat’s hardline approach will win out remains to be seen.
Venezuela elects a new president
Following the death of longtime leader Hugo Chávez last month, Venezuela had a special election to decide on his successor. After an intensely personal election that was overshadowed by the spirit of Chávez, his hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro has emerged as Venezuela’s new leader. Maduro faces a difficult task in running the country; crime has risen sharply (Venezuelan homicide rates are 10 times that of the U.S.), and the petroleum sector continues to suffer under mismanagement. His victory was also very narrow and could incite controversy. His opponent Henrique Capriles has already demanded a recount, while some of Maduro's chavismo allies question whether Maduro is capable of controlling his own party.
Senate begins work on gun control legislation
The Senate made it partway to fulfilling Obama’s State of the Union to give gun violence victims “a vote” this week, as senators finally voted to allow discussion on gun control. On Thursday, the Senate voted to end a filibuster on the matter, which means the next week or so will be taken up by debating the merits of a new compromise coming to the Senate floor. The current bill, sponsored in part by Illinois’s own Sen. Mark Kirk, aims to expand background checks and close the so-called “gun show loophole”. This is a popular compromise: 91 percent of all Americans would back a law that requires criminal background checks for all gun sales.
Japan’s new stimulus program starts to take effect
Japan is seeing a potential breakthrough in its efforts to get out of an economic funk that has lasted over two decades. The new head of the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda, has laid out a plan remarkably similar to the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing of the past few years. This new inflationary policy is having a positive effect on public attitudes, and Japan’s economy has seen a boost. The move has prompted fears from other major economies, however, that devaluation in the yen could damage international markets.
Sports bonus story
NHL begins anti-homophobia initiative
The National Hockey League made history this week when the league announced a new campaign to fight homophobia. The league has signed a three-way contract, the first of its kind, with the players’ union and You Can Play, an organization that promotes equal opportunity for LGBT athletes. Non-discrimination has been a part of NHL policy since 2005; the new deal focuses on education and outreach rather than simple legal protection. Under the new agreement, formal anti-homophobia training will be provided for all incoming players. The league will also make some changes to its current health program to provide a confidential outlet where players can discuss issues of sexual health and sexual orientation.
The week ahead: political uncertainty in Palestine
Tensions within the Palestinian Authority came to a head this week when Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned his post. This news is unwelcome for the U.S.; given that the U.S. is attempting to revive dialogue between Israel and Palestine, and that Fayyad was a key player to preparing the Palestinian Authority for independence, his departure presents serious issues in the peace process. From the Palestinian perspective, however, his tenure was marked by rising prices and disappointing economic performance. Fayyad’s departure leaves the Palestinian Authority in chaos, at least until President Mahmoud Abbas appoints a new Prime Minister.