Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
December 19th, 2010
06:57 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

Tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula as South Korea prepares to hold live-fire military drills despite North Korea's warnings of retaliation.  Will other countries persuade South Korea to abandon the drills, and what will North Korea do if the exercises happen? Here's a look at this and some of the other stories we plan to follow this week:

Will North Korea clash with South Korea over drills?

South Korea says it expects to conduct live-fire military exercises in the Yellow Sea on Monday, and North Korea says it will launch a military strike if the drills happen. The South says there is nothing unusual about the drills, which have been executed before. But the plans come almost a month after North Korea shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, killing two military personnel and two civilians in the first direct artillery assault on South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953. The North claims it attacked because shells from South Korean military exercises that month landed in its waters, and tensions have been particularly high since. Russia and China have asked South Korea to reconsider its planned drills, but the South has said the drills will go on, weather permitting. Meanwhile, many residents of Yeonpyeong have been leaving the island, afraid of North Korea's potential response.

Will Senate approve START?

With a tax-cut extension signed and a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal passed, Democrats in the U.S. Senate this week will focus on trying to approve a nuclear arms treaty with Russia before the lame-duck session of Congress breaks up. The treaty would resume mutual inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, while limiting both nations to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers each.

It requires 67 senators to approve the treaty. Although the 58 members of the Democratic appear to be behind it, and Democrats say they should be able to get enough Republicans to vote for it, it's not clear whether Republicans will allow it to come to a vote this year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Sunday that members of his party need more time to consider the START accord. And some Republicans have grumbled that the treaty could affect the United States' ability to develop its missile defense capabilities - something Democrats deny. The Senate is expected to go into a closed session on Monday to discuss classified information related to the treaty, two leadership aides, one from each party, told CNN.

Democrats are pushing for things they favor, such as START, this month because Republicans will control the House and will have a stronger minority in the Senate in January.

Senate expects to avoid government shutdown for now

Congress has another pressing need to attend to this week: Allowing the government to spend money so it can keep running. A previous spending authorization measure keeps government running through Tuesday, and Congress will need to pass another. The Senate this week will consider a proposal to fund the government until March under an agreement worked out by its Republican and Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday. Congress had worked on a spending bill for the entire 2011 fiscal year, but that apparently will be left to the new Congress, meaning Republicans - who will gain control of the House - should have greater control of spending decisions.

"Don't ask, don't tell" repeal to be signed

U.S. President Barack Obama this week is expected to sign the repeal of military's prohibition of openly gay people serving within its ranks. The House and the Senate voted last week to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that current policy will remain in effect while military chiefs are consulted, and a Pentagon official said the process of making changes will take months. Still, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said over the weekend that she believed no man or woman would be outed or kicked out of the military in the meantime.

2010 Census results to be released

The U.S. Census Bureau will unveil the results of 2010 Census on Tuesday. Among the many implications: We’ll find out how many states will gain congressional seats and which one will lose them. The findings will kick off a battle next year between Democrats and Republicans over congressional redistricting, and the results could have a big effect for the next fight for control of Congress in 2012.

Weather woes expected to continue in California, Europe

Much of the U.S. West Coast is expected to see strong storms for the next few days, and flooding and mudslides are possible in parts of California. Heavy rain already was causing flash flooding in a number of California locales Sunday, and flooding in the San Joaquin valley, which includes Fresno and Sacramento, is a firm possibility, CNN Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said. Mudslides are possible in areas near Los Angeles affected by this year's wildfires, where there is no vegetation to hold the soil in place, Wolf said. Also, a winter storm warning is in effect through Monday afternoon for California's Sierra Nevada mountains, from Yosemite to Kings Canyon, with 5 to 10 feet of snowfall likely at elevations above 7,000 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

In the United Kingdom, heavy snow is again expected on Monday, adding to the conditions that caused many flights to be canceled over the weekend. On Saturday, snow, ice and fog left airports from Northern Ireland to Bulgaria with heavy delays or shut them entirely.

How much did U.S. economy grow?

U.S. financial markets will be closed Friday for Christmas Eve, but investors will have plenty to consider before the break, including the final reading on the United States’ third-quarter gross domestic product. The number is expected to improve slightly, showing the U.S. economy grew 2.6% from July to September. But Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke recently said that level of growth isn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate. Also, investors this week will see readings on new and existing home sales for November. The housing market is still one of the weakest parts of the U.S. economy - in October, existing home sales fell by more than 2% from the month previous, and new home sales fell by 8%.

Iraq finally prepared to present partial government

More than nine months after elections, Iraq appears ready this week to announce a partial government. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is expected to present some cabinet choices for a parliamentary vote on Monday, four days before his constitutional deadline to form a government runs out. After the March parliamentary elections, no group could cobble together a 163-seat coalition to form a government, but a power-sharing deal was forged last month between the major blocs, and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi indicated Sunday that he will take part in the new cabinet, effectively ending the stalemate.

Lunar eclipse on Tuesday morning

People in the continental United States are about to have their last chance to see a lunar eclipse until April 2014, though they'll have to stay up late or wake up early to see it. Tuesday's eclipse is expected to last about three and a half hours, starting as a partial eclipse about 1:33 a.m. ET and finishing at 5:01 a.m. ET, according to NASA. The start of the total eclipse is expected about 2:41 a.m. The eclipse will fall on the same date as the 2010 winter solstice.

"For eclipse watchers, this means that the moon will appear very high in the night sky, as the solstice marks the time when Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun," NASA said.

Send your images and video of the eclipse to iReport.

Let Eatocracy help you prepare for Christmas

Christmas is just days away. This week, visit our Eatocracy blog to get you chilled out and cheery as the holiday approaches. Eatocracy will offer recipes, mantras (it's just a meal ... it's just a meal) and tips for making merry.

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Filed under: Ahead of the curve
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Jeff Frank

    If South Korea goes on a military maneuver for strike preparedness, and North Korea starts playing the independant oppressing tyrants they want to be....then the United States can hit North Korea from the East and Russia can simultaneously hit North Korea from the west. A joint venture to kick the "punks" on the block.

    December 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • ::::::::: BreakingNewsBlog ::: http://x.co/J9cm

      NK is dangerous because it seems they have nothing to lose
      for news sites about Korea http://www.afternic.com/name.php?domain=koreawar2.com

      December 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |

    till north korea nukes j-apan or somebodyelse.

    December 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Christine Ahn

    It isn't North Korea who violated international law. The disputed territory in which South Korea shot shells is North Korean territory–see Bloomberg article (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-16/defending-korea-line-seen-contrary-to-law-by-kissinger-remains-u-s-policy.html). Kissinger wrote in a secret memo in 1975 that the Northern Limit Line, which the US unilaterally drew in 1953 to contain South Korean aggression, that it is "clearly contrary to international law." We are about to go to war when the US-ROK military crossed the line.

    December 19, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Claude

      Is it really that simple? There has to be more than that. Regardless, the ship is about to hit th sand out there.

      December 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. john

    North korea is just a puppet of china. Want to stop n korea? Go talk to china

    December 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Colin C

    A lunar eclipse on the winter solstice? It can only mean The End! I wonder if any loony (Luny?) cults will commit mass suicide ahead of the generally agreed-upon 2012 apocalypse?

    December 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      @Colin C, why don't you and your family start it. I like to see it on TV. Merry Christmas to you.

      December 20, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |

    hey were broke we can't afford anymore wars. maybe instead of sanctions we should send them some jobs and have them make some useless stuff we dont need.

    December 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. djonas

    Actually John, if you want to destroy NK just do it, China has too much invested in America to fight it and risk never getting paid back, so they will help fight NK

    December 19, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • KhmerNY

      Who will loose everything when the war break out? South Korean will loose everything. The North did not care about their people, why would they care about the South. Seoul is the largest city in the world and it is only a few miles from the border. South Korea should not take anyone's side. Some of the South Korea's friends only add fuel into the fire.

      December 20, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. trinatate

    We submitted a request for a mortgage quote and received 3 great offers at "123 Mortgage Refinance". Thank you for helping us lower our house payment with 3.14% mortgage refinance rate. Highly recommend and best place for mortgage refinance.

    December 20, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. shopkeep

    Nice commercial, wrong forum.

    December 20, 2010 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sherri WW

    I do not want to hear 1 more mean thing about Gov Richardson an Wolf B going to N Korea to try an calm things down.It is hard to tell WHAT would have happened without them being there this weekend.And now NK has agreed to let UN inspectors back in. For those who make remarks to let NK go ahead an do things and we and others will go after them/WE DONT EVEN WANT TO THINK OF GOING THERE MUCH LESS ACTUALLY DOING IT.That mess wd make the Wars we are in now seem simple by comparison.Instead of saying mean things we better thank Gov.Richardson for caring enough to do this. AND there was a lot of nonsense put out by Repubs to stop the Gov.from joining Pres.Obamas team but he really had many good things to offer.It is the same plan as Repubs ruining the START treaty to get at Pres.O/They wont be satisfied until this country is unfit for ANYONE rich OR poor.But they best remember that will include THEIR CHILDREN AN GNDCHILDREN AS WELL before this path of destruction continues. OBAMA 2012 TO KEEP AMERICA SAFE FOR ALL

    December 20, 2010 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. phil

    @Collin...there are over a dozen ancient Mayan calandars. Why pick the only one that ends at 2012?

    December 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. puzzled

    why is there nothing listed anywhere about the unknown california missile launch that brought down a supposed ufo ???

    March 6, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |