Fast Five: Feb. 4, 2013

    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.

    Immigration reform takes center stage

    Earlier this year, rumors from the White House suggested that Obama would pursue immigration reform this term. This past week, immigration reform proposals materialized, but not from the expected place. A bipartisan group of senators snatched the momentum on immigration reform away from Obama when they unveiled a blueprint for immigration reform the day before the president was scheduled to speak on the subject in Nevada. In that Nevada speech, Obama embraced the senators’ plan while noting that if the measure fails in Congress, the White House will push forward with different legislation. If either plan succeeds, it will be the first major immigration reform since 1986.

    Hagel caught in confirmation battle

    Former Senator and prospective Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel went up before the Senate Armed Services committee this week. In a surprisingly vicious hearing, Hagel came under fire for a perceived weakness on Iran, alleged hostility towards Israel and his opinions on the “surge” strategy in the Iraq war. The war in Afghanistan and the suicide rate among soldiers, though among Hagel’s actual concerns, were not heavily covered. Hagel did himself few favors with a weak performance at the hearings, though his nomination will likely go through regardless. Hagel’s opinions on Iran and Israel, it should be noted, do not really matter, because as Secretary of Defense, he would not be responsible for foreign policy, only military policy.

    Protests erupt in Egypt

    An ongoing political crisis in Egypt is worsening under the stress of continuing protests and violence in Tahrir Square. The current wave of protests, which began following a controversial verdict for rioters, have resulted in violent confrontations between protestors and police across Cairo. These clashes, many of which have been caught on tape, have fed the ongoing conflict between angry young Egyptians and security forces. An Egyptian general said that the continuing unrest could lead to the collapse of the state, a statement which has resurrected fears of military intervention in Egyptian governance.

    Israel strikes Syrian convoy

    Conflict is brewing in the Middle East over an Israeli strike on a Syrian convoy. Israel claims the convoy was carrying weapons to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, a statement corroborated by the United States. Syria has responded by delivering a letter to the United Nations arguing that it has the right to retaliate. Israel has not helped matters by tacitly confirming the strikes, which occurred inside the Syrian border. Israel says the attack illustrates its commitment to preventing Hezbollah from obtaining additional weaponry, a possibility that both Israel and the United States fear.

    Boy Scouts may change policy on homosexuality

    The Boy Scouts of America may be changing a long-standing policy on membership this week. A national campaign started by Weinberg sophomore Will Oliver aimed at convincing the National Geographic Channel to distance itself from the BSA's anti-LGBT policies, along with the defection of several hign-profile donors, has caused BSA leadership to reassess their controversial policy on homosexuality in scouting. Currently, openly gay scouts and scout leaders are banned under national policy, though the strictness with which this policy is enforced varies from area to area. President Obama has publicly called on the BSA to eliminate the policy, which is seen by many as outdated and discriminatory. Though several high-profile members have called on the BSA to maintain its current policies, the financial cost of continuing current policies is likely to prompt change.

    Medill-oriented bonus story
    Chinese military hacks the New York Times?

    The New York Times is claiming that for the past four months their computer systems have been “persistently attacked” by hackers using techniques commonly employed by the Chinese military. The attacks apparently relate to an investigation published by the paper last October about the potentially shady business dealings of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The attacks were apparently conducted using a technique called “spear-phishing,” which targets specific employees and attempts to get them to click a link or download an attachment that will install malware on their machines, thereby proving that the power of computer security pales in comparison to the gullibility of the human mind.

    The week ahead: scandal in the Senate

    Scandal may be coming our way out of New Jersey this week, as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez comes under fire for his links to a Florida eye surgeon. The surgeon, a major donor to Menendez’s political campaigns, owns a private jet that Menendez has flown on several times, mostly for personal reasons. Regardless of whether or not Menendez had sex with underage Dominican prostitutes on these trips (stories like this from anonymous tipsters tend to be unreliable), those free rides still qualify as a gift. By keeping it secret until now, Menendez may have violated ethics rules in the Senate. As he comes under investigation, key legislation he is backing could be hurt, most notably the bipartisan immigration reform plan.


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