Hospitals Look to Health Law, Cutting Charity →

Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.

The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.

Driving the new policies is the cost of charity care, which is partly covered by government but remains a burden for many hospitals. The new law also reduces federal aid to hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured people, creating an additional pressure on some to restrict charity care.

Ukraine protests: it is time to go, opposition leaders tell president →

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The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Western nations group has decided to upgrade Israel’s status at the agency, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

Israel has been invited to join the UNHRC’s Western European and Others Group, a development that stands to ease Israel’s isolation within the often-critical UN. Among the group’s members are the U.K., Germany, France and Canada, with the U.S. serving as an observer.

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Haaretz | Israel invited to join UN Human Rights Council’s Western nations group

29 November 2013

The invitation was extended on Friday afternoon at the conclusion of a 48-hour silent procedure that allowed members of the WEOG to voice their reservations and concerns over Israel’s admission. No country submitted an objection.

The group is expected to release an official announcement on the matter on Monday.

"This is a successful conclusion to a diplomatic effort waged by the Foreign Ministry for several months," an official within the ministry said.

Israel’s admission to the Western European and Others Group has been made possible after Israel agreed to resume ties with the UNHRC, ending a boycott that had endured for more than a year and a half. As part of the deal, Israel appeared at the council’s Universal Periodic Review on human rights issues three weeks ago. 

The step also comes in the wake of a diplomatic push by six of Israel’s allies. On November 6, the ambassadors of the U.K., Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the U.S. sent a letter to the UN’s institutions in Geneva and to the ambassador of Spain, who heads the WEOG. In the letter, the six ambassadors wrote that the time had come to bring Israel into the regional group.

“We, the undersigned, would like by this letter to recall Israel’s longstanding request to join the WEOG regional group in Geneva. We are strongly supportive of Israel’s membership at the earliest opportunity. We request that you kindly include this issue on the agenda of the next WEOG meeting in Geneva, to be held as soon as possible,” the letter read.

Police threaten activists, bus companies as anti-Prawer protest intensifies | +972 Magazine →

Saudi police clash with foreign workers after visa raids →

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian police clashed with foreign workers in a poor district of Riyadh on Saturday, nearly a week into a visa crackdown in which thousands have been detained and one man killed by police.

Security forces in riot gear fired into the air and used truncheons to disperse large crowds as scores of men ran through the streets, some throwing stones and other objects at cars and police, according to Reuters witnesses.

Two people were killed of which one was a Saudi while the other one was unidentified, the Saudi police said in a statement late on Saturday after it detained 561 people involved in the disturbances in the Manfuhah neighborhood of southern Riyadh. (cont.)

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On Tuesday, The Cable reported that U.S. officials are basing their assessment that the Assad regime bears responsibility for the strike largely on an intercepted phone call between a panicked Ministry of Defense official and a commander of a Syrian chemical weapons unit. But that intelligence does not resolve the question of who in the government ordered the strike or what kind of command and control structures are in place for the use of such weapons. “It’s unclear where control lies,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable Tuesday. “Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?”

Because of that lack of clarity, Harf took a beating on Wednesday. In a testy exchange during her daily briefing, Harf very nearly admitted that it makes no difference who in the Syrian government ordered the attack, a reflection of the lack of certainty that still shrouds U.S. understanding of the chemical attack that may have left as many as 1,000 people dead.

In effect, Harf was left arguing that because no one else could have carried out the attack it must have been the Syrian government. “The world doesn’t need a classified U.S. intelligence assessment to see the photos and the videos of these people and to know that the only possible entity in Syria that could do this to their own people is the regime,” she said.

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State Dept Admits It Doesn’t Know Who Ordered Syria’s Chemical Strike | Elias Groll

Given that U.N. inspectors with a mandate to investigate chemical weapons use were on the ground when the attack happened, the decision to deploy what appears to have been a nerve agent in a suburb east of Damascus has puzzled many observers. Why would Syria do such a thing when it is fully aware that the mass-use of chemical weapons is the one thing that might require the United States to take military action against it? That’s a question U.S. intelligence analysts are puzzling over as well. “We don’t know exactly why it happened,” the intelligence official said. “We just know it was pretty fucking stupid.”

Foreign Policy has made some pretty big gaffes, but this article has its merits.

 

EU probes reports that Israel blocked aid →

Big arrests since Thursday; lots of them.

Big arrests since Thursday; lots of them.

In other Six Day War commemoration news:
June 5, 2013 | Daily Beast


Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance,yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.” 


Activist Emily Schaeffer explains:  “It’s disturbing to me that the average Israeli or visitor to Israel is able to go about daily life without noticing the occupation and oppression that exist on the other side of the Green Line, and that is because that line has been erased, both literally and conceptually.”


And of course, Israel has erased the international border, the Green Line, in many, many places, all up and down the West Bank, via settlement construction, Israeli-only roads, and the land-grabbing Security Barrier. The simple act of brushing green paint down a Jerusalem sidewalk was intended, activists say, to call attention to the entirety of occupation—not just that in the nation’s capital—on the anniversary of its beginning.


Yet it’s undeniable that the occupation is most easily denied in Jerusalem. Israeli and Diaspora Jews know what and where the West Bank is—they might support Israel’s settlement in that land, but they can’t fool themselves that it’s anything but a military occupation, at least for now. 


But the average Israeli long ago stopped thinking of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, and French Hill as settlements. They’re just neighborhoods. Nice places to live, where the kids can run through the hilly yards behind sandstone apartment blocs.



Reminding them, the Diaspora community, and the world at large that these neighborhoods (and many more like them) are every bit as illegal as the West Bank hilltop communities they see on the nightly news is an important, subversive act.

In other Six Day War commemoration news:

June 5, 2013 | Daily Beast

Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.

Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance,yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.

“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.” 

Activist Emily Schaeffer explains:  “It’s disturbing to me that the average Israeli or visitor to Israel is able to go about daily life without noticing the occupation and oppression that exist on the other side of the Green Line, and that is because that line has been erased, both literally and conceptually.”

And of course, Israel has erased the international border, the Green Line, in many, many places, all up and down the West Bank, via settlement construction, Israeli-only roads, and the land-grabbing Security Barrier. The simple act of brushing green paint down a Jerusalem sidewalk was intended, activists say, to call attention to the entirety of occupation—not just that in the nation’s capital—on the anniversary of its beginning.

Yet it’s undeniable that the occupation is most easily denied in Jerusalem. Israeli and Diaspora Jews know what and where the West Bank is—they might support Israel’s settlement in that land, but they can’t fool themselves that it’s anything but a military occupation, at least for now. 

But the average Israeli long ago stopped thinking of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, and French Hill as settlements. They’re just neighborhoods. Nice places to live, where the kids can run through the hilly yards behind sandstone apartment blocs.

Reminding them, the Diaspora community, and the world at large that these neighborhoods (and many more like them) are every bit as illegal as the West Bank hilltop communities they see on the nightly news is an important, subversive act.

Associated Press says U.S. government seized journalists' phone records →