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.
Syria crosses Obama’s “red line”
President Obama found himself backed into a corner this week when rebel forces revealed that the Syrian military may be deploying chemical weapons against its own people. In the past, Obama had declared that chemical weapons constituted a “red line” in U.S. policy towards Syria. The use of such weapons would provide justification for American involvement in the conflict. That line may not have been as hard and fast as previously believed, though. The White House is claiming that such reports still need to fully investigated, and Obama’s recent statements on red lines now say that “systematic” use of such weapons will constitute a violation, which gives the administration some wiggle room.
Italy swears in new government
Two months after a disastrous election that left it with no clear government and no plan for economic recovery, Italy has finally sworn in a new government. The new cabinet, led by the center-left Enrico Letta, is a surprising coalition between left and right in Italy. Letta’s new government comes after failed talks in mid-April led to the resignation of his predecessor and the re-election of an 87-year-old president, Giorgio Napolitano. Letta’s swearing-in was marred by a shocking shooting that left two officers wounded. The cause behind the attack is not yet known.
Bombings in Pakistan ahead of election
With new elections coming up on May 11, politicians from each of Pakistan’s three major parties have hit the campaign trail. Not far on their heels, however, is the Taliban, which has been targeting the three major secular parties with bombings and attacks to create “a climate of insecurity” ahead of the election. Despite the deaths that have resulted (more than 50 dead since April 11), politicians refuse to stop campaigning, though they now rely on quick, clandestine meetings to avoid the possibility of additional bombings. Issues in the election include the presence of the Taliban, Pakistan’s economic problems and the worsening energy crisis in the country.
France legalizes gay marriage
Following 136 hours of continuous debate, France’s legislature voted to make it the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption. The debate prompted massive protests and demonstrations, including one rally severe enough to require police intervention and tear gas. That was a surprising turn of events for France, a country that is typically liberal when it comes to about issues of sexuality. The conflict over same-sex marriage may have arisen due to widespread dissatisfaction with France’s current government; rather than exposing some essential conservatism in French society, same-sex marriage was just an issue for the right wing to rally around.
Industrial disaster in Bangladesh
Tragedy struck in Bangladesh this week as an industrial building collapsed in the capital of Dhaka this week. The Rana Plaza building, which contained a multitude of stores along with four garment factories, fell in on itself Wednesday, leading to at least 377 deaths and over a thousand injuries. The factory fell apart due to lax safety regulations, which keep the cost of conducting business low. For Bangladesh, which relies on the $20 billion textile industry for 80% of its exports. That puts corporations and consumers in the United States and Europe in a difficult position: Shoppers expect low prices, but those low prices only exist thanks to the terrible conditions that exist in nations like Bangladesh.
Media bonus story
White House has its annual nerd prom
Washington’s elite got dressed up in their finest finery this week as journalists, pols and celebrities flocked to the White House Correspondents Dinner, or as it is sometimes known, “nerd prom”. This year, Kevin Spacey opened with a delightfully snide House of Cards parody, while Conan O’Brien hosted. It would be irresponsible not to note at this point that while the Correspondents Dinner is hilarious and results in some wonderful videos, it also demonstrates the dangerous coziness between the political and media elite of the nation. Of course, it also gave us Obama using “All I Do is Win” as his intro music, so it is not all bad.
The week ahead: the White House tries to handle Syria
It will be an interesting week for foreign policy in America, the White House works out a response to the situation in Syria. It does not seem that Obama has a pressing desire to actually get involved in Syria, thanks in part due to the lingering memory of Iraq in the American consciousness. The administration is worried about the prospect of accidentally entering another conflict based on potentially false intelligence. At the same time, failing to respond to Syria crossing the red line rather defeats the purpose of a red line, as well as allowing Syria to continue violating international conventions on war. Whether the president can find a solution that both assuages American fears while still seeming strong on foreign policy remains to be seen.