One of the main issues that the Republicans campaigned on in the 2016 election, both at the national and the state level, was the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Speaker Ryan recently announced what the Republicans in the House will seek to replace Obamacare with and it was Draconian to say the least. Many expected that Republicans in the Senate who had taken more moderate positions on healthcare reform like Susan Collins (R-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would mean that the Senate bill would be less extreme. In a remarkable turn of events the Senate bill is even more harsh on the poor and provides a massive handout to the wealthiest individuals in America. But thankfully the Senate bill has hit a snag.
Coal India is the largest coal mining company in the world and produces 82% of India’s coal every single year. However due to the declining cost of solar power in India the company has announced that 37 mines are going to close on the grounds that they are “financially unviable”. This round of closures amounts to Coal India closing around 9% of the total number of mines that the company operates, and as a result will significantly reduce the amount of coal being extracted per annum. The important aspect of this development, and the growing commercial trend, is that companies are beginning to notice that fossil fuel extraction is, in many cases, more costly than investing in green technology. This needs to be promoted and celebrated as much as possible.
The general election result caught many by surprise but when it became clear that the Tories would fall short of a majority all media attention turned to the prospect of the Tory-DUP agreement to keep the government going. This went into overdrive when Lib Dem leader Tim Farron ruled out any coalition or agreement with the Conservatives. With all other MPs in parties openly hostile to the Tories, with the exception of the DUP, the Conservatives found themselves backed into a corner but there remain problems with what they wish to achieve.
Theresa May is, to quote George Osborne, “a dead woman walking” and today’s Queen’s Speech perfectly exemplified this fact. May had initially intended that the announcement of a date for the speech would be a way of gaining leverage on the DUP but this did not happen and as a result there is not yet a formal arrangement in place to prop up a Tory minority government. Because of this political uncertainty the speech was devoid of serious proposals other than vague statements about Brexit that could be interpreted in different ways depending on one’s views of the EU, and a notable absence of proposals that were in the Conservative manifesto. Continue reading →
Yesterday I wrote a piece about the tentative ceasefire that had been signed in the Central African Republic, but I cautioned that it was highly possible that it may not hold. Specifically I had written: “I fear that a lack of action [by the international community] will allow hostilities to restart in the near future”. Although I wasn’t especially expectant that the peace accord would hold for long, I must confess that we won’t know if my prediction would be correct or not because there was no time for the international community to get involved. After around 24 hours armed groups opened fire on one another and the peace agreement broke down.
The Central African Republic has been dealing with a civil war since 2012 which has culminated in ongoing sectarian violence between different ethnic and religious groups. Aside from the government, the main factions in this conflict are the Séléka, an alliance of militia groups that are predominantly Muslim, and the Anti-balaka, who are mostly Christian. Both sides have been accused of heinous crimes such as deliberately targeting civilians and forcibly converting people to their religion. The latest development is that 13 of the 14 armed groups in CAR along with the national government have signed a peace agreement brokered by the Catholic organisation Sant’ Egidio. It is unclear however if it will hold.
There is still a long way to go when it comes to the march for LGBT equality. There are a number of battles that need to be fought around the world from the embryonic struggle to end the criminalisation of homosexual activity to more complex areas like systemic homophobia in public institutions. In the case of the latter the ultimate symbol of progress is the choice of an LGBT person to become the leader of a country. However it is important to stress that this symbolism has a different significance in different political cultures.