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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

US Government Shutdown and Obamacare

The Shutdown:  The entirely preventable shutdown of the US government happened today and seems to be no closer to being resolved. Government operations ground to a halt and the US economy will lose about $250 million a day in lost wages alone. House Republicans are bemoaning that the Democrats now have “100% of the leverage,” which begs the question of why they caused the shutdown in the first place.  Around the world, this crisis has been rightfully met with bemusement, concern and contempt.

The Affordable Care Act’s state-level insurance marketplaces opened to the public today, and enrollment is currently beating all expectations. 2.8 million Americans have visited the health.gov site since it launched this morning – although the high demand seemed to overwhelm the system early in the day. This is partly caused by the 36 states (mostly Republican-controlled) that refused to run their own exchanges or help their own citizens navigate the process, leaving the federal government to do so for them.

Sectarian Violence in Myanmar

In the latest flare-up of sectarian violence in Myanmar, some 700 rioters torched 70-80 Muslim-owned houses and stabbed a 94-year-old Muslim woman to death. President Thein Sein is visiting the region in an attempt to find a long-term solution to what has become a widespread anti-Muslim campaign, fueled by radical Buddhist monks. The increased security presence did not deter the attackers, however, and witnesses say soldiers and police made no effort to interfere.

The clashes have killed 237 Muslims and caused 150,000 to flee their homes since last June.

Syria Aid Updates

The UN is planning to shift its aid efforts in Syria to provide long-term help to neighboring countries struggling to cope with the humanitarian crisis. The goal is to combine emergency humanitarian aid with long-term infrastructure support for areas like education, health and housing.

Meanwhile, 17 countries – 12 European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and Mexico – have agreed to participate in UNHCR’s program to resettle Syrian refugees by setting up special quotas to accommodate them. Unfortunately, the resettlement programs offered by all 17 only cover 10,000 people thus far. There are 2.1 million refugees of Syria’s civil war.

Bosnia Holds Its First Post-War Census

Bosnia’s first census in 22 years began today, among rising tensions between ethnic groups and may change the delicate power-sharing system that helped end the country’s 1992-1995 war. Each ethnic group’s share of power is based on the size of its population according to the 1991 census and each group fears being politically weakened. The census will be the most detailed revelation to date of the effects of the ethnic expulsions and massacres from 1992-1995, in which 100,000 people were killed and another 2 million fled their homes.

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