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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Detroit Qualifies for Bankruptcy

A federal judge has ruled that Detroit should be granted protection from its creditors, making it the largest public bankruptcy in US history and all but guaranteeing cuts to the pensions of retired city workers (despite a provision in Michigan’s Constitution that explicitly protects them). Appeals are expected to be filed by the end of the week.

In addition to proof of its insolvency, Detroit was supposed to provide evidence that it had tried to negotiate in “good faith” with its creditors. Unions and pensioners’ groups had argued that the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, had not. Although Judge Steven Rhodes agreed that Orr had failed to negotiate in good faith and “mislead the public about the status of pensions in bankruptcy,” he ultimately ruled that Detroit’s problems had made it “impractical” for Orr to even attempt to negotiate concessions. While Orr has argued that pension and benefit cuts are essential to balancing Detroit’s books, it should be noted that his estimate of the pension funding gap – $3.5 billion – seems to be seriously inflated compared to previous findings and is 5 times larger than previously thought.

The city must come up with a plan to exit bankruptcy by March 1st.

Guantanamo Detainees Sue Poland Over ‘CIA Torture’

The European Court of Human Rights will hear its second case – and its first in open court – involving Europe’s role in the CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ of terror suspects. Two men currently held in Guantanamo Bay have accused Poland of human rights abuses, saying they had been kidnapped and transferred to a remote Polish prison where they were then tortured. The men claim to have been subject to waterboarding and mock executions, among others, and were told their families would be arrested and sexually abused. Only one of the men has currently been charged with a crime.

Interrogations at sea have replaced the use of CIA black sites as the US government’s preferred method of holding and questioning terror suspects without access to lawyers.

Militias, Army Clash in Lebanon’s Tripoli

Fighting continued between the Lebanese army and militias supporting opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, after the government told the army to take control of security in Tripoli yesterday in response to weekend clashes between militias that resulted in 10 deaths. The army has arrested 21 fighters and will be in control of the city for six months.

The conflict between a majority Sunni district an an adjacent Alawite one has killed over 100 people this year and the two neighborhoods have been in conflict off and on since the 1980s, but the Syrian civil war has exacerbated tensions and increased the frequency and intensity of the violence.

Kim Jong-Un May Have Deposed Powerful Uncle

Kim Jong-Un seems to have dismissed his uncle, Jang Song-thaek - widely believed to be his No. 2 and a man crucial to Kim Jong-Un’s rise to power – from all posts of influence. Two of Jang’s close aides were executed for corruption and “anti-party activities” last month and many other investigations and purges of those connected to Jang are under way, although it is unclear if Jang himself is incarcerated. The move was likely intended to counter Jang’s far-reaching influence and thus the potential challenge he posed to Kim’s authority. It seems likely to unleash a major shake-up of Pyongyang’s power structure and tip the balance of power in favor of a top political operative from the army.

As with everything in North Korea, if this report is true, its broader implications remain unclear.

Bishops Sued Over Anti-Abortion Directives to Hospitals

The ACLU has announced it will be suing America’s Roman Catholic bishops over their anti-abortion directives to Catholic hospitals, which it says hamper the proper care of pregnant women in medical distress, leading to medical negligence. The suit was filed by a woman who was, essentially, turned away from Mercy Health Partners because she was miscarrying. She claims her water broke when she was 18 weeks pregnant – a situation in which doctors usually induce labor to prevent infection – but the doctors at Mercy Health sent her home twice instead. The third time she returned, she was in extreme distress, had an infection and miscarried. The suit opens a new front in the ongoing clash between religious beliefs and medical care.

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