Compiled by SARA RATHOD ’15
Nation and World Columnist
Last day of enrollment for Obamacare brings flood of applicants
This Monday at midnight was the official deadline for the first annual enrollment period under the new healthcare law, before those without insurance are charged a fine. The surge in applicants on Monday stalled the healthcare.gov website, as more than 100,000 people at a time tried to purchase health insurance through the exchange. Federal health officials announced the the deadline will be extended for those who tried to enroll before the deadline but were unable to do so because of technical problems. As the deadline neared, enrollment figures were approaching 7 million, the number of sign-ups which the White House predicted before the health exchange website crashed in October when it opened. In addition to the final enrollment-tally, there is an unknown number of people who have enrolled in health insurance directly through insurers, rather than through the health exchanges. However, it will be some time before it is clear how many people follow up by paying their premiums, how many were previously uninsured, and how many end up happy with their new coverage. National polls indicate that the Affordable Care Act remains controversial, and Republicans continue to blame the law for hurting the economy, raising the cost of health care, and depriving individuals of their choice of doctors.
General Motors recalls 1.5 million more vehicles on eve of congressional hearing
General Motors has been criticized for recalling 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year for dangerous ignition switch problems linked to 13 deaths. It now faces a congressional inquiry into why its employees continually approved the faulty ignition switches. On Tuesday, GM officials testified in front of a House subcommittee, having announced the day before the recall of an additional 1.5 million vehicles. The automaker revealed Monday that the newly recalled cars may experience a sudden loss of electrical power steering. Several of the models were also linked to the earlier ignition-switch recall. GM has admitted that it first became aware of the ignition-switch problem in 2001. House members are also expected to ask government investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration why they didn’t spot the ignition-switch flaw, when consumer complaints, early warning data, special crash investigations, and manufacturer information about the inner workings of the vehicles were available to them. GM CEO Mary Barra is expected to apologize to the families and friends of crash victims on Tuesday and announce the appointment of the first vice president for global vehicle safety.
UN climate change report urges lawmakers to mitigate before it is too late
The United Nations released a report on Monday which warned that if lawmakers do not take action to mitigate climate change now, the number of options for resilience in the future will soon be diminished. Vicente Barros, the co-chaiman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated that “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face.” The IPCC report predicted that throughout the coming decades, climate change will lead to food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality as a result of extreme events and severe and irreversible impacts on species. It is also expected to escalate security concerns by causing mass population displacement from coastal regions and increased violent conflict over land and other natural resources. The effect of climate change will have the greatest impact on the world’s poorest nations, which already suffer from lack of food and water, poverty, and conflict. Taking steps to reduce carbon emissions, the report concluded, could allow for more time to adjust to a warmer climate. Several hundred authors contributed to the report, which is expected to weigh heavily in the next year, when nations are scheduled to come together and agree on a new global climate treaty.
Russia pulls some troops from Ukraine border, pours money into Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he wished to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis, agreeing with President Obama on a meeting between top American and Russian diplomats to discuss a peaceful resolution. The announcement came in the midst of rising tensions between Russia and the West after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine earlier this month, following a Crimean vote to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart met on Sunday but did not appear to come to any kind of agreement. However, on Monday Putin reportedly ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine, a move which may ease tensions with Western nations, who increasingly feared that the Russian buildup of troops signalled an invasion of other Ukrainian territories. However, the troop withdrawal has not been officially confirmed by Russian officials. At the same time, Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev paid a surprise visit to Crimea, in defiance of Ukraine and the West, promising to pour money into the region so that Crimeans will begin to see positive changes from the Russian annexation. Already, the Kremlin has almost doubled the pension paid to retirees in Crimea and increased salaries for public sector workers like teachers and doctors.