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Posts tagged politics

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Guantanamo Bay and the state of the US prison system:

Nelson Mandela was a man who emulated forgiveness, and Obama himself praised the “eye-opening” words that the former South African prisoner-turned-president spoke. However, Mandela also said that if you are to truly understand a country, you must be within its prisons - and the United States is not doing so well in the understanding department. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world - 500/100k citizens. We also have a high racial disparity in our prison population. 1/3 of black males can expect to see prison cells compared to 1/17 white males, for instance. Guantanamo Bay is a prime example of what the United States is capable of. There were 240 prisoners when Obama was elected, 24 with the charge of plotting against the US. Today, there are 158 prisoners, 79 cleared for release (yet still imprisoned). Stories of how prisoners were nabbed off the streets are akin to how a more sinister country operates. Obama appointed 3 liaisons in charge of overseeing the process of shutting Gitmo down. Since then, 12 prisoners have been repatriated to their countries. However, Yemen seems to be a particular country that is getting a hold on their detainees: the 2014 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Bill) that was recently signed authorizes the President to repatriate Gitmo prisoners to their countries (but not to another US facility), and 55 Yemenis have been cleared to go home. The caveat here is that the US is demanding the building of a new ‘rehabilitation center’ in Yemen to house the detainees with some claiming this is so that the detainees do not give out their accounts of being poorly treated (which is an understatement). So while the United States and Yemen are disagreeing over how to fund and open this facility, the Pentagon announced a gag order on hunger strikes the detainees are participating in. Last February, there were 106 prisoners committed to the hunger strike. A recent survey has also shown that out of the 603 prisoners released from Gitmo, 3.5% either went back to or are suspected of participating in terrorist activity against the US. How dangerous are the detainees and are we really trying to cover up our mistakes more than anything else?

Guantanamo Bay and the state of the US prison system:

Nelson Mandela was a man who emulated forgiveness, and Obama himself praised the “eye-opening” words that the former South African prisoner-turned-president spoke. However, Mandela also said that if you are to truly understand a country, you must be within its prisons - and the United States is not doing so well in the understanding department.

We have the highest incarceration rate in the world - 500/100k citizens. We also have a high racial disparity in our prison population. 1/3 of black males can expect to see prison cells compared to 1/17 white males, for instance. Guantanamo Bay is a prime example of what the United States is capable of. There were 240 prisoners when Obama was elected, 24 with the charge of plotting against the US. Today, there are 158 prisoners, 79 cleared for release (yet still imprisoned). Stories of how prisoners were nabbed off the streets are akin to how a more sinister country operates.

Obama appointed 3 liaisons in charge of overseeing the process of shutting Gitmo down. Since then, 12 prisoners have been repatriated to their countries. However, Yemen seems to be a particular country that is getting a hold on their detainees: the 2014 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Bill) that was recently signed authorizes the President to repatriate Gitmo prisoners to their countries (but not to another US facility), and 55 Yemenis have been cleared to go home. The caveat here is that the US is demanding the building of a new ‘rehabilitation center’ in Yemen to house the detainees with some claiming this is so that the detainees do not give out their accounts of being poorly treated (which is an understatement).

So while the United States and Yemen are disagreeing over how to fund and open this facility, the Pentagon announced a gag order on hunger strikes the detainees are participating in. Last February, there were 106 prisoners committed to the hunger strike. A recent survey has also shown that out of the 603 prisoners released from Gitmo, 3.5% either went back to or are suspected of participating in terrorist activity against the US. How dangerous are the detainees and are we really trying to cover up our mistakes more than anything else?

Filed under yemen news politics guantanamo bay usa prison terrorism oped

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Civilian Deaths in Iraq at worst levels yet. Three suicide bombers recently killed at least 29 in Baghdad, Youssifiyah, and Latifiyah, targeting pilgrims migrating to Karbala for the holy holiday of Arbaeen. A former Sahwa official and his four family members were also shot dead by military-clad gunman in Abu Ghraib. The death toll in Iraq was 659 in November alone.

Civilian Deaths in Iraq at worst levels yet. Three suicide bombers recently killed at least 29 in Baghdad, Youssifiyah, and Latifiyah, targeting pilgrims migrating to Karbala for the holy holiday of Arbaeen. A former Sahwa official and his four family members were also shot dead by military-clad gunman in Abu Ghraib. The death toll in Iraq was 659 in November alone.

Filed under iraq sectarian violence politics news

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Afghanistan: Latest News

  • Policy circles are looking to back off a deadline in terms of signing a bilateral security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, pulling out US troops by the end of 2014. Karzai has refused to sign any agreements until April elections, and there is internal disagreement in the US about waiting out for Karzai, or not letting him “direct foreign policy”.
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Demsey says he has not fully considered the ‘zero option' of pulling out all US troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year if Karzai doesn't sign the BSA. Karzai, apart from wishing to wait until April elections, wants nighttime raids to end and a peace process with the Taliban to start. If the BSA is signed, US troops may remain in Afghanistan in small numbers until 2024. Karzai himself says that there is no deadline, and the US is holding things up themselves.
  • An Afghanistan National Directirate of Security spokesman says that a blast in a weapons cache today near the United States embassy was an accident caused by an electrical fault. No one was injured.
  • The United States has secretly lobbied India to persuade Afghanistan to sign the BSA.

Filed under afghanistan news politics international

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Iran: Latest News

  • There was a recent ‘misunderstanding' between the White House and PolitiFact over whether an Iranian missile test would come in defiance of the newly signed temporary agreement between the P5 and Iran. Iran says the missile test is for their space program, while others say it is a test to develop ICBMs capable of reaching the United States.
  • A meeting is set for January 21st between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran to discuss ‘further steps’ to meet transparency requirements in its nuclear program.
  • Developments in Iran’s Parchin base have recently diminished, according to a satellite image, leading some to suspect whether nuclear experiments have been ceased or completed.

Filed under iran news politics

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Obama’s Obamacare headache yesterday:
The President came out and said that insurance companies can continue to offer the same plans they’ve been selling people for one year.
The change is meant to quell fears about people losing their current insurance plans and also to ease the transition to the Affordable Care Act health care system: “Under the old law, if I had bought a plan starting June 1, 2013, then the insurance company would have to no longer offer that plan … Now, that can go for another year.” - White House official.
This creates a million headaches for insurance companies.- Robert Laszewski, insurance consultant:
This means that the insurance companies have 32 days to reprogram their computer systems for policies, rates, and eligibility, send notices to the policyholders via US Mail, send a very complex letter that describes just what the differences are between specific policies and Obamacare compliant plans, ask the consumer for their decision—and give them a reasonable time to make that decision—and then enter those decisions back into their systems without creating massive billing, claim payment, and provider eligibility list mistakes.All by January 1.


Separate risk pools are now developed. This can raise premiums for everyone else, and can cause a longer-term problem with the Affordable Care Act.
Some states are refusing to heed Obama’s order.- Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler:

"In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course," he said in a statement moments ago. "We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington."

Obama’s Obamacare headache yesterday:

  • The President came out and said that insurance companies can continue to offer the same plans they’ve been selling people for one year.
  • The change is meant to quell fears about people losing their current insurance plans and also to ease the transition to the Affordable Care Act health care system: “Under the old law, if I had bought a plan starting June 1, 2013, then the insurance company would have to no longer offer that plan … Now, that can go for another year.” - White House official.
  • This creates a million headaches for insurance companies.
    - Robert Laszewski, insurance consultant:
    This means that the insurance companies have 32 days to reprogram their computer systems for policies, rates, and eligibility, send notices to the policyholders via US Mail, send a very complex letter that describes just what the differences are between specific policies and Obamacare compliant plans, ask the consumer for their decision—and give them a reasonable time to make that decision—and then enter those decisions back into their systems without creating massive billing, claim payment, and provider eligibility list mistakes.

    All by January 1.
  • Separate risk pools are now developed. This can raise premiums for everyone else, and can cause a longer-term problem with the Affordable Care Act.
  • Some states are refusing to heed Obama’s order.
    - Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler:

    "In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course," he said in a statement moments ago. "We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington."

Filed under obamacare affordable care act health insurance news politics obama congress washington aca

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Even if one-child rules were overturned today, leading to an estimated 9.5 million more babies a year, those babies wouldn’t grow up fast enough to replenish China’s shrinking labor force or take care of the growing ranks of the elderly. But that does mean China would have 9.5 million more people every year who need food, water, and housing.
Lily Kuo, Quartz

Filed under news politics china one child policy

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[The Iran sanctions have] very much affected things like medical supplies because although medicine is supposed to be exempt from sanctions there’s no way for the Iranians to pay for the medicine because they can’t transfer funds back and forth because of the banking sanctions. I actually know someone who had cancer and unfortunately she’s passed away because she couldn’t get medicine anymore in Iran… But that’s true of other cancer patients in Iran who have not been able to get medicine, medical supplies and the kinds of drugs that they need.

Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd explains on today’s Fresh Air how the Iran sanctions have affected the lives of citizens

(via nprfreshair)

When you notice the amount of hardship we are dropping onto the citizens of a country, it is worth asking whether our policies are working in this regard. We are against the Iranian regime, not its people. However, this does not translate well into the populace. After all, the burden is on us to explain why we are doing anything to sanction the government. The reasons never seem good enough in hindsight. We are paranoid when it comes to Iran acquiring some form of nuclear weapon. After all, Pakistan and North Korea already have nuclear capabilities, and we do not fret over them the way we do with Iran. No meetings. No diplomacy. Only when the flame starts being lit at the tip of the dynamite, we go into high gear in order to avert disaster.

Filed under iran nuclear sanctions government congress politics news