President-elect Barack Obama is moving forward with his transition. According to most observers, he’s been meticulous in his vetting but has taken a pragmatic rather than partisan approach in selecting his cabinet. Many of the most important positions have not yet been filled, but speculation is that Tim Geithner will be named Treasury Secretary and Hillary Clinton will be named to State. A number of names have also been floated for other key positions in the administration.
Here’s five stories you might have missed during the extensive speculation about Obama’s presidency:
1. The French left appears to be in disarray after Saturday’s leadership contest. Martine Aubry narrowly won the contest fort the position, but Segolene Royal, the party’s candidate in the last presidential election, refused to concede defeat and demanded an immediate revote. Observers fear that the leadership contest could result in the collapse of the French Socialist party.
2. The increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia is having a dramatic impact on global trade. Last week, pirates seized a Saudi oil supertanker carrying an estimated $100 million worth of crude oil. The attack was a high-profile illustration of the dangers associated with shipping near Somali waters. But Somalia is located along the Suez-canal transit path, one of the world’s busiest canals and part of a key shipping route between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Shipping companies are now re-routing traffic around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa to avoid the pirate infested water, adding to the cost of shipping.
3. President Bush and President-elect Obama advanced competing economic plans this week. President Bush appealed to the global community to embrace free trade, expressing his disappointment in Congress its refusal to approve new free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea before adjourning. President-elect Obama announced his intention to develop a new public works program, echoing Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program which helped to bring the United States out of the Great Depression. The program would focus on job creation, particularly in the areas of construction and the green economy.
4. The status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraqi signed last week faced its first real challenges, as thousands of protestors backed by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets on Friday in protest. The rally of at least 10,000 peple demanded the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. However, al-Sadr’s group does not appear to have the ability to defeat the agreement.
5. Local elections on Sunday in Venezuela are projected to presenet a challenge to incumbent president Hugo Chavez. The president’s party rode a tidal wave of support in 2004, when it won all but two governorships in the country. But opinion polls suggest he could lose between six and nine seats, undermining the president’s ability to deepen his revolutionary transformation of Venezuela.