Compiled by MARLENA IDROBO ’16
Nation and World Columnist
Federal ruling extends benefits to same-sex couples
The federal government will soon extend certain benefits to married same-sex couples. Currently, same-sex couples are not treated the same as heterosexual couples with respect to filing for bankruptcy, testifying in court and prison visiting privileges. The changes will award same-sex couples “spousal privilege” in courts, which prevents spouses from being forced to testify against each other. The process of extending benefits to same-sex couples began last June when the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to same-sex couples. Since the ruling, married same-sex couples have been awarded the right to file taxes together and receive Medicaid. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has championed the rights of same-sex couples in the federal court and hopes to eliminate all discrimination based on sexuality within the federal government, which has 1,100 regulations that are affected by marital status. However, the federal government has no effect on state laws, which same-sex couples are still subject to.
The House votes to raise the debt ceiling unconditionally until 2015
After three years of the looming threat of national debt default and government shutdowns brought on by the divide between political parties, the House of Representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling without any conditions in March 2015. Democrats carried the winning vote of 221 against 201, of which 28 Republicans supported the higher debt ceiling and two Democrats did not. The last increase to the debt ceiling that was not attached to any sort of legislation occurred in 2009. Surprisingly, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner of Ohio not only dropped the original package to raise the debt ceiling but also repealed the cuts made to military retirement pensions approved last December, and proposed an unconditional increase to the debt ceiling. Most Republicans seem satisfied to move beyond the debt ceiling debate to focus on the 2014 campaigns and corner President Obama back into budget negotiations.
Russia opens Sochi Olympic games with “Dreams of Russia” ceremony
On Friday, Russia hosted the opening ceremony for the 2016 Winter Olympics in Sochi, kickstarting what will purportedly be the most expensive Olympic games in history. The three-hour event was divided into 18 chapters and featured classical musical pieces, opera, ballet and a performance by the pop duo t.A.T.u, which markets itself as a lesbian couple. Another chapter of the ceremony reenacted Russia’s history, paying homage to Russian writers such as Leo Tolstoy and scientists including Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. In a speech, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, addressed the recent laws banning defamation, religious insult and gay “propaganda,” stating that the Olympic games should set an example for “human diversity and great unity.”
U.S. debates drone strike on terrorism suspect in Pakistan
It remains unclear whether the United States will authorize a lethal drone strike against an unnamed U.S. citizen currently residing in Pakistan. The details surrounding the suspect and his alleged terrorist activities remain unclear, although officials have stated that he is suspected of actively planning terrorist attacks. Drone strikes against U.S. citizens can be authorized if the suspect is shown to pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States. Since the beginning of Obama’s term, four U.S. citizens have been killed as a result of a drone strike, although the White House maintains that only one citizen was purposefully targeted. However, the White House has transitioned away from conducting drone strikes through the C.I.A; drone operations are now conducted by the Pentagon in order to make them more transparent, although there can be exceptions to the policy.