HealthCare.gov signups reach 75 percent of target
According to the government, over 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance plans through federal and state marketplaces in January, increasing the number of people who bought insurance through HealthCare.gov to 3.3 million since the Website went live on Oct. 1. This figure is slightly below the Obama administration’s goal of 4.4 million signups. A quarter of those who signed up were young people between the ages of 18 and 34. While the Obama administration said these numbers showed the Affordable Care Act’s promise, experts noted that they will not be able to assess the effectiveness of the law until a few more years have passed.
Obama calls for new limits on truck pollution
Obama requested yesterday that the White House administration create new regulations to cut truck pollution without sending the request through Congress. The Transportation Department of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would draft new fuel economy standards for truck by March 2015. Carbon emissions from transportation represent the second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. According to Obama, trucks represent four percent of vehicles on the road, yet they cause 20 percent of the pollution contributed by the transportation sector. Car and truck manufacturers have lobbied firmly against new regulations, which could increase vehicle prices and reduce vehicle safety features. The White House plans to work closely with the EPA to minimize these effects. Obama also called on Congress reduce yearly tax breaks for the petroleum industry by $4 billion and lend some of the money to a new “energy trust fund” to increase research on alternative vehicle technologies.
Violence in Kiev dissolves hope of amnesty between government and protesters
Yesterday, violence erupted in Kiev’s Independence Square as Ukrainian protesters broke through the barricades around their designated zone and reoccupied City Hall, which they had vacated on Sunday in accordance with an amnesty deal set forth by government authorities on Jan. 29. Three protesters were killed by police, according to statements by antigovernment activists that were quoted by news agencies. Protesters had been camped out in and around City Hall since December, after president Viktor Yanukovych decided to pass up a trade agreement with the European Union and instead accept aid from Russia. On Monday, Russia bought $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds, ending the freeze on its promised aid that was enacted in response to the conflict in Kiev.
Opposition leader turns himself in to Venezuelan National Guard
Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year old Harvard-educated economist and opposition leader, turned himself in to the National Guard in Venezuela yesterday. He is wanted for murder and inciting violence, though he claims that the nation is using him as a scapegoat for all other protesters. Student demonstrations against president Nicolas Maduro have grown more violent recently, with four deaths occurring within the last week. Maduro was elected into office after the past president, Cesar Chavez, died last year. The opposition party is demanding that Maduro resign, as they blame him for 56 percent inflation, spikes in crime and shortages in goods. Socialist Party supporters of Maduro, many of whom are members of the working class or are oil workers, held a demonstration yesterday. If the Socialist Party loses power, many Venezuelans anticipate the loss of oil-funded welfare programs. To maintain control over the nation, the government has cracked down on national media outlets, limiting protest coverage and harassing newspaper union members.