“What has occurred here in the last couple of days is a clear reflection on how complicated and dangerous this situation is and how unpredictable it is.” – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the U.S. decision to suspend all non-lethal aid to Syria’s rebel forces on December 12, 2013
Nation: Budget deal on its way to the Senate.
A bipartisan budget deal has moved quickly through Congress since its announcement by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan on Tuesday. The deal passed 332-94 in the House Thursday night, and now moves to the Senate for approval. In addressing initial negative reactions from his party, Speaker John Boehner didn’t pull any punches. “Are you kidding me?” he said, “There comes a point where some people step over the line. When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.” Needless to say, Boehner wasn’t willing to back them up this time.
World: Kim Jong-un’s purge.
North Korea executed leader Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong-un, on Friday for trying to stage a military coup. “He lost his mind due to his greed for power,” said the North Korean news agency announcing the information. “He persistently plotted to spread his evil design into the military, believing that he could overthrow the leadership if he could mobilize the military.” North Korea stripped Jang of his powerful posts and expelled him from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea during a meeting of the Political Bureau of the party’s Central Committee on Sunday, but many analysts doubted Kim would go so far as to execute a member of his own family.
Politics: Senate won’t pass new Iran sanctions.
Banking Committee Chair Sen. Tim Johnson announced Tuesday that he would hold off on moving new Iran sanctions through the committee to give negotiators time to secure a final deal. Johnson argued, “A new round of U.S. sanctions now could rupture the unity of the international coalition against Iran’s nuclear program.” He announced that he does have a bill and will bring it to the floor if Iran backs out on the deal, but not before then. This is a big win for the Obama administration, which has been lobbying for a delay in sanctions since the deal was signed in late November. But it doesn’t mean the possibility of new sanctions is gone. Senate Republicans could find another way to push the legislation through when the chamber returns in January.
Business: No Santa rally.
The new U.S. budget deal, and the chance that the Federal Reserve will start to scale back its support for the economy soon, left investors skittish this week. A third straight day of falling stocks led some to predict that we might not see a typical pre-Christmas rally in the markets. More bad news for investors? The Department of Labor said initial jobless claims rose to 368,000 last week. That’s higher than expected, but still has investors holding off on any big moves before the Fed’s policy meeting next week.
Health: No more antibiotics in your food.
Fearing the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the FDA announced this week that it would be phasing out the use of certain antibiotics in food production. Under the plan, antibiotics could only be used in food-producing animals under a veterinarian’s orders – you know, the way you’re supposed to use antibiotics. But not quite the way they’re being used now, which is often to aid in an animal’s growth. “It is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary,” the FDA said on its website. “Governments around the world consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health.” Glad to hear we are finally onboard.
Women’s Affairs: The auto industry’s first woman CEO. Ever.
Longtime General Motors executive Mary Barra will be the company’s new CEO, making her the first woman CEO in the auto industry ever. Barra, who is currently the executive vice president of global product development and global purchasing, will take over for Dan Akerson, GM’s outgoing CEO, on Jan. 15. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose former position as Speaker of the House was another female first, called the appointment a “very big deal” and insisted that gender equality at the top isn’t due to a lack of qualified candidates. “It’s not about lack of talent, that’s for sure,” Pelosi said.