This Week in News: December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela, Rights Activist and the First Black President of South Africa, Dies: Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa who helped free the nation from its white minority rule, died this Thursday in his home. He was 95 years old. Mandela’s legacy includes his capacity to forgive, as he forgave the people who imprisoned him for 27 years. Mandela discussed his lack of hatred in an interview in 2007: “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.” Mandela shied away from the public eye towards the end of his life, and spent the last few months in a hospital suffering from a recurring lung infection. Biden Travels to the No-Man’s Land, Just After Hostage Release: Vice President Joe Biden traveled to the border of North Korea and South Korea this Saturday as part of his week-long tour of Asia. Biden’s trip to the border occurred just after the release of Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old tourist and Korean War veteran who had been detained by the North Korean government since earlier this year. Attention has now shifted to Kenneth Bae, another American who is being detained by the North Korean government. Biden visited South Korea this Friday to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and discuss the growing tensions in the region. Geun-hye expressed particular concern over increased aggression from China, as well as the constant threat of North Korea. Biden also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier in the week to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program. Biden and Jinping discussed strategies for pressuring the South Korean enemy to abandon their nuclear program.

Monumental Steps in the Iranian Nuclear Negotiations: Iran and a number of major world powers will meet next week to begin discussing concrete plans for curbing the Iranian nuclear program to allow solely for energy production and prevent weapon capabilities. On November 24, Iran and the United States, as well as France, Germany, Russia, China, and Britain, signed an interim accord to end the program, which is a monumental first step towards resolving the tensions in the region. Iranian representatives have already stated that the agreement is not legally binding, and that, should the other countries fail to uphold their ends of the bargain, they will do the same. This sentiment is a reflection of the extreme distrust that characterizes the relations between Iran and the Western nations.

Pension Fund Ruling in Detroit May Set a Precedent: A judge ruled last week that the city pension fund could be cut as the city restructures its programs with bankruptcy in mind. Some believe that this ruling will prove significant in the coming year, as struggling states such as Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California begin to examine their own underfunded pension programs. Many argue that this will provide more of a basis for cities to cut their own pension programs, and some cities may even use bankruptcy to evade paying pension plans.

Merger between American Airlines and US Airways Will Result in the Largest Airline in the Industry: This Monday, the merger between American Airlines and US Airways will result in the creation of what is expected to be the largest airline in the industry. The companies have managed to continue with the merger in spite of a number of setbacks, including an incident with the Justice Department this past fall that involved an antitrust lawsuit. The companies managed to settle the lawsuit, with the condition that they relinquish some access to major airports, which the Justice Department believes will allow smaller airlines to compete. The merger also overcame a threat from a consumer group, although the Supreme Court declined to review the case, which held that the merger would result in inflated prices and fewer options for consumers.