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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

US Senate Reaches Deal, House Republicans Concede

Demonstrating exactly how pointless the ongoing government shutdown and the manufactured debt ceiling crisis have been, the Senate reached a ‘deal’ today to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling: returning to the former status quo. Despite the best efforts of House Republicans, the government will be funded through January 15th at sequestration levels, the debt limit is extended until February 7th and a budget conference has been established to come up with long-term plans by December 13th. The Republicans got almost none of their myriad demands, while for Democrats, the budget conference will likely just lead to more cuts instead of a long-term budget (again).

Horrifyingly, Congressional Republicans’ main regret is not that they tried to force concessions from Democrats by endangering the global economy, but that they focused on the wrong concessions. Their insistence on crisis-driven governing has cost the US almost 1 million jobs and .3 percentage points of GDP per year since 2010.

In more encouraging news, after merely 1 year, The Houston Chronicle has officially retracted its endorsement of Ted Cruz.

Thousands Protest Flood Response in China

In the eastern city of Yuyao, residents were enraged over the government’s failure to respond to the area’s worst flooding in decades. Floods caused by Typhoon Fitow last week  killed at least six people, cut off 11 million from water and power and caused $2 billion in damages. Fueled by the state-run media’s praise for the government’s relief efforts, protesters gathered outside of the local government’s headquarters, throwing stones, overturning police cars and even prying the Community Party’s mantra – “Serve the People” – off the building. An unspecified number of people have been arrested for “radical acts” and riot police have been sent to prevent further protests.

Greece Strips Golden Dawn MPs of Immunity

Greece’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to lift the immunity of six Golden Dawn lawmakers, which will allow prosecutors to lay fresh charges against the men if enough evidence is found. They have been charged with criminal association and if convicted, could face 10 years in jail. More than 30 arrest warrants have been issued to Golden Dawn members since the murder of a left-wing rapper and police searches have uncovered homemade shields, knives, bats, some firearms, Nazi memorabilia and an anti-tank shell.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis that spurred the party’s initial popularity remains – unemployment is at 28% and more spending cuts are likely.

“Unprecedented Levels of Violence” in Central African Republic

Medecins Sans Frontieres, one of the few organizations working in conflict-ridden areas of CAR, say its workers have witnessed the execution of a healthcare worker, multiple violent attacks on its staff, and “appalling scenes of murder.” Villages are routinely burnt to the ground by Seleka, the Islamist rebel group that ousted the previous government of the mostly-Christian country; the villagers then face reprisals by the Christian militias that have sprung up in response to Seleka’s attacks. Despite its conflicted history as CAR’s former colonizer, CAR’s citizens celebrated France’s decision to boost its number of troops in the country. “We’ve seen coups before,” said one journalist, “but nothing like this.”

Optimism on Iran Nuclear talks

Nuclear talks between Iran, the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany adjourned on an optimistic note today. Iran’s foreign minister spoke of a possible “new phase” in international relations, while White House spokesman said the proposals contained a “level of seriousness and substance we have not seen before.” Few details have been released, but Iran indicated it may be willing to scale back its uranium enrichment and allow snap inspections of its nuclear sites. Talks are scheduled to resume at the beginning of November, but any potential deal will have to work out a solution to the sheer scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment labs and the stockpile of material it has already produced.

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