Five & One: March 14, 2011

 

5. Despite public outrage, Wisconsin passes collective bargaining bill

The tense, three week impasse between Wisconsin state democrats and Governor Scott Walker ended Wednesday with the passage of a bill which slashes public-union collective bargaining rights. On Saturday, the previously absent senate democrats returned to the capitol city to a welcoming crowd. These recent events have potential repercussions for states considering similar bills, as well as for Tea Party, GOP, and Democratic party dynamics.

4. Illinois abolishes the death penalty

On March 9, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made “the most difficult decision” he has faced so far in office when he abolished the death penalty. The bill also commutes the sentences of 15 death row inmates. As could have been predicted, Quinn’s decision was met with mixed reaction.

3. Protests emerge in Saudi Arabia

Sparked in part by recent unrest in other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia grappled with its own popular protests last week. While the planned “Day of Rage” failed to solidify in the capital city of Riyadh, but police did open fire on protesters in eastern Saudi cities. Instability in the world’s largest oil producing state at a time of already elevated prices could be catastrophic.

2. Hearings incite anger among Muslim Americans

Last week, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King began a set of highly controversial hearings on the radicalisation of American Muslims. Protesters argued that the hearings wrongly singled out one section of the population, inciting “Islamophobia” and hearkening back to the days of Japanese internment during World War II. While the hearings were intended for national security purposes, they may have unwittingly created an Islamic population more isolated and less willing to cooperate with the American government.

1. In quake aftermath, Japan struggles with nuclear power plants

A massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated parts of Japan last week. Several nuclear reactors experienced serious cooling problems and one was only shut down after being pumped full of seawater. The loss of power from these plants could be a major problem but massive economic disruption is less likely because of measures taken to diversify industrial and consumer supply chains after the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

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0. Obama prepared to use strategic oil reserve

Amid domestic criticism stemming from the recent spike in gas prices and unrest in the Middle East, President Barack Obama stated that his administration is ready to tap the strategic oil reserve if necessary. However, President Obama may not have intended to point out the threat of actually using reserve oil as much as use it as an opportunity to talk about his energy policy.