The Week in Review: Nuclear threats and happy whales

One month after the East Palestine incident, history repeats itself. There’s been another train derailment in Ohio and one in Alabama, and again Norfolk Southern is the culprit. The latter incident occurred just hours before Norfolk’s CEO testified in the Senate. I recall Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg demanding the company take measures to ensure this sort of thing didn’t happen again. In fact, I remember it as vividly as though it were a couple of weeks ago.

The former president again makes the news roundup. According to a poll at the CPAC, 62% of attendees named Donald Trump their preferred presidential candidate for ’24. During his speech, he said the GOP had changed irreversibly since the Bush administration. No matter your politics, there’s a decent chance we can all agree on that.

Last week, South Korea and the U.S. announced a sequence of military drills planned to begin on the 13th. North Korea hasn’t warmed to the proposition. They’ve instead threatened war should any of their test missiles be taken out of commission. A North Korean spokesperson said the military is prepared to “take proper, prompt, and overwhelming actions any time according to judgment.” From what we’ve seen in recent years, their missiles are pretty adept at taking themselves out of commission, so let’s hope there are no mix-ups.

But it isn’t just the North Koreans that have a bone to pick with the U.S. right now. The heat continues to emanate from China, with the Russo-Ukraine war and the balloon saga fanning the flames. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang didn’t mince his words, warning, “If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation.”

Back in the States, five women are suing the state of Texas seeking clarity on the medical emergency exception in the state’s abortion law. Four plaintiffs said they had to go out of state to obtain abortions to avoid fatal complications. The fifth states she was not permitted an abortion until a severe infection put her in intensive care. Under the current law, doctors can be sentenced to 99 years for performing an abortion. The lawsuit argues this has created a fear of prosecution that prevents doctors from performing lawful abortions in medical emergencies.

Just yesterday, the White House proposed a budget aimed at cutting the deficit by $3T over the next decade. “By raising taxes,” the opposition adds. According to Biden, the money will come from having the “wealthiest and biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share” and “cutting subsidies for special interests.” Specifically, he plans to increase federal taxes for individuals earning more than $400,000 per year and order corporations to pay a rate of 28%. 

Apparently, Iran has been enriching uranium to beyond 60% (a big no-no, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency). IAEA head Rafael Grossi confirmed that Iran is allowing an inspection at their Fordow plant after a recent reading detected uranium levels at 84%. However, Grossi specified that Iran wasn’t accumulating enriched uranium stocks and that these readings could be perfectly normal. 

However, this situation in Iran is far from the most worrying in terms of its potential for nuclear disaster. A series of Russian missile strikes on Ukraine have knocked out Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia. This marks the sixth time the plant has been forced to run on its emergency diesel generators. “Each time we are rolling a dice,” said Grossi. “And if we allow this to continue time after time then one day our luck will run out.”

On a positive note (for whales and ocean lovers), the UN finalized a legal framework on Saturday that will designate 30% of the world’s oceans as protected areas. It’s exciting times, as talks on the High Seas Treaty have been ongoing for nearly two decades. The Treaty aims to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

And Chuck Norris turns 82 today. It’s also the day the Cryogenian ice age began, 850 million years ago {citation needed}.

Have a great weekend.

Ben Byrne, News Editor