Fast Five: May 13, 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.

    Turning point in Syria

    Over the past week, the situation in Syria has gone even further downhill. The situation began to worsen last weekend, when Israel conducted several airstrikes in and around Damascus, allegedly to destroy a shipment of Iranian weapons headed to Lebanon. Lebanese Political party/paramilitary group Hezbollah then announced that it was purchasing weaponry from Syria, explicitly as a check on Israel. That was followed up by an announcement by American officials that Russia intends to sell anti-air missiles to Syria, a move which would severely limit the options available if the United States wanted to intervene militarily. Between that declaration and news from Turkey that strong evidence exists of chemical weapons use, it seems the White House is running out of time to decide whether or not to intervene in the Syrian crisis.

    IRS comes under fire

    The Internal Revenue Service found itself the subject of major scrutiny this week as senior officials admitted the agency inappropriately singled out conservative groups for additional investigation and scrutiny. According to the IRS, employees at the Cincinnati processing center automatically flagged any group applying for tax-exempt status with “tea party” or “patriot” in their name for further review. Though the IRS insists this was a single incident that occurred at low levels, recent reports indicate that senior officials may have known of this practice as early as 2011. Depending on how many senior officials were aware of this policy, this could prove to be a serious scandal for the Obama administration.

    Pakistan begins first civil transition

    Pakistan is poised to mark a major moment in its history this week, after the successful completion of a diplomatic election. The country has seen a number of elections since its founding in 1947, but this will be the first time a civilian government, having completed its entire term without being interrupted, will hand power to another party peacefully. Fittingly, the new prime minister is likely to be Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in a coup back in 1999. The Sharif government will likely make economic reform its first priority, with a visit to the International Monetary Fund being the first item on a long to-do list.

    Benghazi hearings intensify again

    The attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya has once again made its way onto the front page. The controversy centers around the explanation U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered about the attacks on the Sunday morning talk show rounds. The State Department had previously claimed that the memos given to Rice were edited primarily by the intelligence community. However, new e-mails that the State Department was clearly involved in the editing process, and was responsible for excising several references to terrorism in the memo eventually given to Rice. Whether or not this has any long-term political implications depends on who you ask.

    Same-sex marriage makes gains at the state level

    It has been a banner week-and-a-bit for supporters of LGBTQ rights, as a number of states have taken steps to legalize same-sex marriage. Last week, it was Rhode Island that signed same-sex marriage into law, becoming the 10th state to do so. This week, Delaware finalized its same-sex marriage law, while the Minnesota Senate is expected to pass a same-sex marriage measure on Monday, leaving only Governor Mark Dayton to sign off on the bill. Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is trying to pressure the Illinois House into voting on the issue, but continuing uncertainty on the success of the measure is keeping supporters from ending debate.

    Environmental bonus story
    Carbon in the atmosphere hits shocking new levels

    The world hit an unfortunate milestone this week as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm). Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, and it has not been this highly concentrated since well before humans ever evolved. The exact concentration is primarily symbolic; the difference in warming rates between 399 ppm and 400 ppm is very small, but the United Nations would like to keep concentrations under 450 ppm. That goal may be impossible to reach, though, barring swift and decisive action from the world’s leaders.

    The week ahead: Bloomberg LP under investigation for potential breach of privacy

    Bloomberg LP, the mammoth media group whose financial data terminals are everywhere on Wall Street, is coming under investigation for a potential major breach of privacy. The possible crime has to do with those same terminals; apparently, Bloomberg employees could see usage statistics and other information about data terminals licensed out to various partners. Since those partners include both the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of Treasury, it is possible a severe breach of privacy has occurred. Whether this apparent breach will turn into a major scandal remains to be seen.


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