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.
South Korea anticipates North Korean missile launch
The situation on the Korean Peninsula remained tense this week, as North Korea appeared to ready itself for conflict. It started on Thursday, as the US moved a missile defense system into Guam in response to Kim Jong Un’s aggressive rhetoric. North Korea responded by moving a missile to its east coast and closing down the Kaesong industrial zone, a joint economic venture between the two Koreas. On Friday, the North’s Foreign Ministry declared that their foremost concern was “not whether, but when a war would break out on the peninsula,” and advised foreign embassies to consider evacuating. South Korea seems to agree with the North for once; they released a statement saying they expect a missile launch later this week.
Nuclear talks with Iran fail
In other rogue nuclear state news, European Union negotiations with Iran have come to a halt this week. Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy representative who has led the talks so far, announced that the fifth round of talks this year ended with the two sides “far apart on the substance.” No further talks have yet been announced. In response to the failure of talks, Secretary of State John Kerry implied that the window for a diplomatic solution would eventually close. The talks allegedly stalled due to a haggling over terms: Iran wants a full lifting of international nuclear sanctions if it is to end its nuclear program, a concession the global community is not yet willing to make.
Gun control efforts face setbacks
With the majority of Americans favoring stricter controls on firearm sales, Congress is expected to make some effort towards reforming gun laws in the next legislative session. A roadblock to that reform sprang up this week in the form of 13 Republican senators who have threatened to filibuster any law that places further restrictions on firearms. In response, the White House is attempting to guilt Republicans into supporting stronger gun safety laws. That effort will swing into full force this week as President Obama visits Connecticut, where new gun laws have been passed following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Avian flu spreads in Shanghai
In a troubling turn of events reminiscent of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, a new strain of avian flu has hit China. Since this is the first time that the H7N9 flu strain has been detected in human beings, fears of a new pandemic are growing. Chinese sources say that six people have died of the 21 infected since March. China insists that it is capable of halting the spread of H7N9 and is scaling up efforts appropriately. However, the average Chinese citizen might find it difficult to follow all health directives. Avoiding dead livestock can be tough when rotting pigs are found in some water sources.
UN approves arms trade treaty
The United Nations completed a seven-year-long process this week as all but three countries voted to approve the first international arms trade treaty. The treaty is aimed at making arms sellers consider the human rights records of their customers before finalizing a sale. The goal of the treaty is to prevent situations like the one that currently exists in Syria. Russia is legally selling weapons to the Syrian government, despite knowing that the country will use them on its own people. The treaty only targets arms merchants who trade over international lines and should have no impact on existing domestic gun laws. That has not stopped a group of senators from pledging to oppose it on the basis that it infringes upon second amendment rights.
Entertainment bonus story
Roger Ebert passes away
Chicago icon and renowned film critic Roger Ebert passed away this past Thursday. Ebert began his career as the Chicago Sun-Times film critic in 1967, where he worked until his death. He rose to national prominence in 1978, when his weekly review show with co-host Gene Siskel was picked up for national distribution by PBS. Ebert was lauded for his bitingly funny and artfully poignant writing, which was considered insightful by his audience. For more information on his life and work, read NBN's full coverage.
The week ahead: Obama releases budget proposal
President Obama is set to unveil a new budget plan this week, and it is not likely to win him any new fans. Leaked details of the plan have aggravated both democrats and republicans; the right is put off by his intent to increase taxes while the left is furious over cuts to entitlement programs. The pushback from republicans is unsurprising but the opposition from his own party hints at a larger internal conflict that might be looming for democrats. The furor over the budget may be short, however. Speaker of the House John Boehner seems unwilling to even discuss the proposal;it may never make it to the House floor.