Fast Five: March 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 theFast Five.

    Congress fails to head off spending cuts

    Washington proved every negative stereotype imaginable about American politics correct this week as Congress failed to meet yet another deadline. The sequester, a set of across-the-board spending cuts, was set to go into effect this past Friday. Congress failed to reach a compromise that could have averted the cuts, and as a result approximately $85 billion is set to be cut from the remainder of the year’s budget. With the sequester out of the way, Congress must now turn to a far more interesting battle: the PR fight between Democrats and Republicans over who is at fault for this.

    Supreme Court hears oral arguments over Voting Rights Act

    The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Over the course of the arguments, a majority of justices seemed to indicate that they considered Section V of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that certain areas of the United States clear changes to their voting regulations with the Department of Justice. The conservative wing of the Court, led by Justice Scalia, seems to think the law is discriminatory, while swing voter Justice Kennedy questioned the continued necessity of the law. The challenge has progressive voters worried over what they see as the erosion of discrimination protection.

    Nuclear talks with Iran resume

    For the first time in eight months, Iran has returned to the table for nuclear negotiations. Though no obvious progress was made in the deals, aside from a commitment on both sides to come back to the table in the next few weeks, the deal does keep alive the possibility of a peaceful solution. Tehran's subsequent announcement that more new nuclear centrifuges would be installed did undercut the diplomatic progress made, but the fact that a peaceful solution remains viable is a huge step forward from earlier this week. Israel, unsurprisingly, remains unconvinced.

    Further rifts emerge in the GOP

    More fissures in the Republican Party were exposed this week in a national conversation over gay marriage. The debates started on Monday, when a number of prominent Republicans signed a brief supporting gay marriage. Though the bill has been gaining support, only a dozen signatories are or were in Congress, and no governors have signed. The divide between the signatories and the national party becomes clear when the brief is contrasted with the fact that CPAC, one of the largest and most importnat conservative conferences, failed to invite GOProud, which in turn angered the Log Cabin Republicans. Those two groups are the most notable pro-gay rights Republican groups. They also didn’t invite Chris Christie, but that’s more of an electoral politics thing.

    Bangladesh rocked by violent clashes

    A war crimes trial in Bangladesh sparked off deadly protests this week when Islamist politician Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death for his role in the 1971 war of independence. Supporters of Sayedee have clashed with government forces across the nation, causing a death toll that so far has risen to 58 people. Supporters of Sayedee claim that police have provoked the confrontations and intentionally killed protesters, while the government alleges that protesters have been causing property damage and assaulting police officers. The protests are threatening to lead to a national shutdown, as the political coalition Sayedee was part of has been pushing for a nationwide strike.

    Basketball bonus story
    Dennis Rodman becomes friends with Kim Jong-Un

    Children’s book author, professional wrestler and five-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman added another achievement to his long list this week when he became the first American to have a one-on-one meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Rodman joined the Harlem Globetrotters and Vice magazine for a series of exhibition games in the isolated Asian nation, where he allegedly engaged in some “basketball diplomacy.” The trip attracted criticism from the State Department as well as various media outlets. The former Bulls power forward maintains that the North Korean dictator is his friend, which is a real sentence you can now write.

    The week ahead: policy-making in China

    China’s new government is finally taking official control this week in the National People’s Congress. The event is widely expected to be low-key, thanks to recent concerns over government excess and the lack of a clear policy consensus among the incoming leaders. Nevertheless, some observers believe that major changes could be on the way, thanks to increasing discontent among the Chinese middle-class. President-to-be Xi Jinping certainly seems to be interested in shoring up his authority, which may indicate some weakness in the incoming government. The next week or so of Chinese politics could provide some useful clues as to the next decade of Chinese policy, so keep an eye out.


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