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An outbreak of cholera tests a much-praised health system in Cuba

Food vendors in CubaIs Chinese style privatization Raul Castro's solution?

July 14.─ Cholera was eradicated in Cuba more than half a century ago. But on July 3rd the government announced that the disease had returned, infecting 53 people and killing three in the south-eastern province of Granma. Since then unconfirmed reports have said that up to 15 may have died, and that the outbreak has spread to Havana, at the opposite end of the island.

The most likely source is Haiti, which since 2010 has suffered an epidemic that has killed more than 7,000 people, plus 363 in the Dominican Republic, its neighbour.

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Saudi Arabia: Dissent is Alive and Well but not in public

Riyadh polices its streets and cafes with a fearsome rigor but it doesn't seem to know how to shut down the chatter on Twitter and Facebook

Middle East map

Riyadh, July 12.─ Every Tuesday night, a few dozen people squeeze into Waleed Abu Alkhair's living room in the port city of Jidda, Saudi Arabia. Over tea and dates, they share opinions that could get them arrested if uttered in public. "If you ask people they are afraid, because they know the costs are very high" Says Alkhair, a former civil rights lawyer and activist. "You can see this is a very small house, but we don't have any other place."

The topics jump from religion to revolutions, "We are not far away from the uprisings that are happening in other countries" exclaims one a young man wearing the traditional Saudi thobe. His statement ignites a debate about the state of free speech in Saudi Arabia, where thousands lie behind bars for simply speaking out against the government. "We live in a prison," one patron comments from a cramped love seat, "the cell has gotten a little bigger, but it's still a prison."

The conversation is broken up by the ring of the doorbell, injectinh a moment of tension into the otherwise friendly conversations. Read more ...

Relevant US Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare's judgement and other related issues

  • The Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the health law on June 28th
  • The Medicaid portion of the ruling does not interfere with the enactment of most of the law

Washington, July 4 (─ In 2010, Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable CareAct in order to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care. One key provision is the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to maintain "minimum essential" health insurance coverage. (26 U. S. C. §5000A).

For individuals who are not exempt, and who do not receive health insurance through an employer or government program, the means of satisfying the requirement is to purchase insurance from a private company.

US Supreme Court

On June 28, 2012, Chief Justice Roberts announced the judgement of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court on these terms:

"Today we resolve constitutional challenges to two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase a health insurance policy providing a minimum level of coverage; and the Medicaid expansion, which gives funds to the States on the condition that they provide specified health care to all citizens whose income falls below a certain threshold. We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enactthe challenged provisions."


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Was Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat poisoned?

Polonium was found to have caused the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London (2006) two years after Arafat died

Yasser ArafatBern, July 4.─ Scientists in Switzerland claim to have found traces of polonium in the effects of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Test results presented in a television documentary for Al Jazeera showed his clothes, toothbrush and headscarf exhibited surprisingly high levels of the poisonous element.


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Burmese Suu Kyi Makes Historic Address to British Parliament

Aung San Suu KyiLondon, June 21.─ Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi asked for practical help in completing Burma's journey towards democracy, during a high-profile visit to London's Westminster Hall. The Nobel laureate addressed both houses of Britain's parliament.

Aung San Suu Kyi said Burma must grasp the opportunity it has for democracy. "It is an opportunity for which we have waited many decades," she said. "If we do not use this opportunity, if we do not get things right this time round, it may be several decades more before a similar opportunity arises again."

The Nobel laureate spoke at Westminster Hall, the 11th century venue typically reserved for heads of state. Read more ...