Compiled by MARLENA IDROBO ’16

Nation and World Columnist


Obama administration says should run smoothly for most users

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday said that “will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.” In the past couple of months, developers have made hundreds of adjustments to the federal health exchange website, which launched on Oct. 1 as part of the rollout of President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. One of the greatest problems with the site, according to a document released in late November, is its failure to deliver all or part of some consumer records to participating insurance companies, which has prevented many users from signing up and receiving coverage. Additionally, officials announced a further setback on Dec. 27 and the administration will push back the opening of a health insurance marketplace for small businesses to November 2014. The report released on Sunday stated that the Obama administration had met its goal in repairing the site, which is now expected to work 90 percent of the time, compared with 40 percent in October. Jeffrey Zients, the advisor Obama appointed to repair the site, cited a shortened webpage loading time of less than one second as one of the repair team’s major improvements. Consumers have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins on Jan. 1.

Senate votes to limit use of filibuster

On Nov. 21, the Senate voted 52-48 to prohibit the minority party’s use of the filibuster during votes on executive- and judicial-branch presidential nominees. It also voted to allow these nominations to pass with a simple majority rather than a supermajority, or 60 of the 100 total votes. The change does not apply to judicial nominations or actual legislation. The vote occurred in response to Senate Democrats’ frustration over Republican senators’ constant stalling of votes to confirm President Obama’s nominees throughout his two terms. Majority Leader Harry Reid described the decision as “adapting the rules to make the Senate work again” and accused Republicans of blocking nominations to counter the results of the presidential election their party lost.

NATO urges Afghanistan’s president to sign pact with U.S. before elections

On Monday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that if Afghanistan does not sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States, the organization will remove its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The security pact details plans for U.S. military presence in the country after 2014. If Afghan president Hamid Karzai does not sign the pact before Afghanistan’s presidential election in April, NATO allies will not be able to proceed with their own agreement with Afghanistan on the terms of an extended military presence post-2014, which includes a training mission of 8,000 to 12,000 NATO troops. Karzai said he plans to delay signing the agreement until after the elections in April and added new conditions to the pact that include the release of all prisoners from the American camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

China adopts less threatening tone over enforcement of air defense zone 

On Nov. 28, China began enforcing its new air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea by sending fighter jets to patrol the area. The zone overlaps a similar one declared by Japan 40 years ago, and South Korea also holds territorial claims over some of the islands. China previously said that it could take military action against noncommercial aircraft entering the zone without advance notification, but clarified its position after South Korea, Japan,and the United States all sent military aircraft into the zone without encountering resistance. On Nov. 27 and 28, spokespeople from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the People’s Liberation Army said that they would decide on a case-by-case basis the type of action China would take if aircraft entered the zone, and stressed that military action would not ensue immediately.

Marlena Idrobo ’16 is majoring in Latin American Studies. Besides writing, she enjoys dancing, eating Mexican food, and visiting Boston’s art museums.

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