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.
Economy sees some recovery
Mixed reports about the American economy emerged this week. April’s jobs report turned out better than expected, as the economy added 165,000 jobs. That, in turn, pushed the Dow Jones above 15,000 for the first time ever, meaning that investors are feeling confident about the state of the economy. At the same time, though, numerous states are cutting unemployment benefits, and GDP continues to lag. What all that means for the recovery and your future job prospects is up for debate.
Israel launches airstrikes into Syria
The conflict in Syria widened in scope this weekend as Israel launched multiple air strikes at Damascus. Israel claims it was targeting weaponry being transferred from Iran to Hezbollah, with the aim of defending itself from potential missile strikes. The move drew condemnation from the Arab League, which fears that Israel’s actions could cause the conflict to spill out beyond Syrian borders. Some U.S. politicians, on the other hand, are using the Israeli attacks to justify potential American involvement in the region, saying that Israel has demonstrated the possibility of intervening without putting boots on the ground.
Hunger strike draws attention to Guantanamo
An ongoing hunger strike by the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is threatening to cause a scandal for the Obama administration this week. Reports from prisoners indicate that the strike began as a protest against a “shakedown” in the prison that included the confiscation of prisoners’ Korans. The strike has already necessitated additional guards, a prison raid and now a regimen of twice-daily force-feedings to keep the prisoners alive. The strike is an embarrassment for Obama, who would much rather forget about his failed pledge to close Guantanamo.
American citizen sentenced to hard labor in North Korea
American citizen Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean prison camp this week. Bae owned and operated a Chinese tour group that specialized in tours of North Korea. He was arrested last year on unclear charges, a little over a month before the North Korean government created international furor over a rocket launch. A similar incident in 2009 was resolved when former President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang personally. North Korean officials have been adamant that Bae will not be released.
Chicago homicides fall in April
April showers brought good news to Chicago as homicides in the first third of the year fell to their lowest level since 1963. Violence spiked early in the year thanks to unseasonably warm winter weather, but the rain that kept April gloomy also kept homicide numbers unusually low. Unlike last year, when Chicago hit 100 homicides in late March, murders stayed under triple digits until early May. The weather is not the only thing keeping gun crime low: A new overtime pay program for officers who volunteer to work in the most dangerous areas on their days off has helped as well. Of course, that program has not been cheap; The department has already burned through two thirds of its overtime budget for the year.
Retrospective bonus story: UN report declares that Somalia famine was preventable
A report on the 2010-12 Somalian famine released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that the crisis could have been prevented if the global community had acted more decisively. The famine that claimed 260,000 lives, half of them children, had its roots in a 2010 drought that dried up most of the Horn of Africa. Famine was not officially declared until July of 2011. The final report indicates that a variety of factors resulted in the famine. Terrorist group Al-Shabab diverted a number of shipments, but foreign aid to Somalia also slowed because international aid groups feared the United States would accuse them of aiding a terrorist organization.
The week ahead: Pakistani elections on Saturday
Pakistan will hold its National Assembly elections this Saturday, May 11. The campaigns have already caused serious strife across the country; conservative religious militants have been launching systematic attacks against candidates they see as dangerous for the country. Those militants may also be behind efforts to keep women from voting in the election. The election has also been marred by former President Pervez Musharraf’s party, whose members have decided to boycott the election. Between the dangerous and tense campaign and the increasing independence of Pakistani voters, the outcome of Saturday’s election is difficult to predict.