U.S.-Russia Meeting Over Syria Put on Hold

Aug 27, 2013, 9:28 am EDT

Tensions between the world powers over reports of possible chemical weapons against Syrian rebels have grown sharper as the likelihood of some type of U.S. intervention in the conflict has increased. On Monday, the U.S. announced that senior American diplomats would not attend a previously scheduled meeting with Russian officials in The Hague, the Telegraph noted.

Russia’s foreign minister expressed regret that the meeting had been cancelled. Russia has been the primary supporter the regime of Bashar al-Assad during the conflict, which has raged for two years.

American officials say that there is evidence that the Assad regime was behind the use of chemical weapons, which may have killed as many as 1,300 last week. However, Russia disputes the accusation, asserting that the attack may have been faked by the rebels themselves. Read 

Treasury Sees American Debt Hitting Cap in October

Aug 27, 2013, 9:09 am EDT

Jacob Lew, U.S. Treasury Secretary, predicts that the government debt will hit its cap in mid-October.

Lew is asking Congress to increase the government spending cap, which is currently at $16.7 trillion. He says that if the limit isn’t raised, then by mid-October the government will be left with $50 billion in cash. Lew says that this won’t be enough to take care of Social Security payments, military personnel salaries, Medicare and other programs for a prolonged time, reports MSN Money.

“We think the $50 billion cash balance indicates that Lew is right to raise the borrowing authority before mid-October,” Steve Bell, economic policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told The Washington Post. “People may think it’s a big number, but these intergovernmental transfers that are paid every month to Social Security and Medicare are as big as $30 billion in one day.” Read 

How One City is Dealing with its Homeless

Aug 26, 2013, 2:50 pm EDT

Columbia, S.C. is exiling homeless people who live in the downtown area of the city.

The plan to exile the homeless was unanimously approved by the Columbia City Council. The plan will create police patrols that will search the downtown area of the city for homeless people. Once found the homeless are given one of two options; Go to jail or go to a homeless shelter outside the city. While the second option doesn’t seem so bad at first, further details paint a different picture. Homeless can only leave the shelter is they set up an appointment, and then they have to be transported via a van. If homeless people leave the shelter and try to walk back to town, they will be stopped by a police officer that will patrol the road that leads back into the downtown area. The shelter, which has 240 beds and it open 24 hours, won’t likely be able to hold the 1,518 homeless people living in the Columbia area, reports MSN Money.

“The underlying design is that they want the homeless not to be visible in downtown Columbia,” Susan Dunn, South Carolina ACLU’s legal director, told MSN Money. “You can shuttle them somewhere or you can go to jail. That’s, in fact, an abuse of power.” Read 

Taxpayers Spent $1.3B on Failed Health Record System for Veterans

Aug 26, 2013, 12:27 pm EDT

The U.S. Defense Department can wage war all over the world and develop high-tech weapons capable of smiting enemies, but apparently it cannot build a computer system to share files with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

After spending a minimum of $1.3 billion on the new system, the two departments still cannot access each other’s records, leaving a steadily growing mountain of veteran disability claims waiting for review. The Defense Department also spent $2 billion on an equally unsuccessful bid to upgrade its current digital health records system, NBC News reports.

In 2011, the departments began collaborating on a new single system that would combine and integrate their records. But that effort was cancelled earlier this year for unspecified reasons. Now the departments plan to enhance their internal record systems. They say they will eventually develop a software solution to permit record-sharing. Read 

Country Adds Third Gender Option to Birth Certificates

Aug 23, 2013, 1:03 pm EDT

Germany is allowing parents that have children born without a clear gender to classify them as “other” starting Nov. 1.

The change to allow parents to not classify their child as male or female is meant to protect intersex babies. Government figures from 2007 show that there are at least 150 intersex babies born ever year in the country. The figures also state that 8,000 to 10,000 people have ”serious variations” that make them different when compared to male and female genders. Currently parents with intersex babies are forced to decide what the child gender will be almost immediately. The operations that take place to make a child a certain gender aren’t always safe and can be scarring. The German government says that this doesn’t mean there is a third gender in the country. The government claims that adding a third gender would complicate the country’s laws on marriages and partnerships, reports Reuters.

Some don’t think the new law does enough. Read 

Obama Rails Against High College Prices

Aug 22, 2013, 6:44 pm EDT
Obama Rails Against High College Prices

President Barack Obama has taken aim at rising college tuition costs during his tour of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, revealing plans to tie federal assistance to colleges to their attempts to keep costs down for students.

In a visit today at the University of Buffalo, Obama said, “Colleges are not going to just be able to keep on increasing tuition year after year and passing it on to students. We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of college.”

Obama said part of the reason for rising prices at universities was the distribution of $150 billion in federal assistance to students. The president said he wants to reward schools that keep their costs down by increasing their share of the aid pie, while cutting funding to those schools who allow tuition to skyrocket. Read 

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