Democrats appear to have pushed through a final version of the health care reform bill. Final vote on the bill is expected tonight. The bill will impose new limits on health insurance companies, including ending the practice of denying coverage based on pre-exisiting conditions. It will also require individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty. Details of the final bill, Reuters. Passage of the bill was boosted by concessions by President Obama and Democrats that ensure health care reform will exclude federal payments for abortions. Text of the President’s statement, CNN. Timeline of the past 100 years of American health care reform, New York Times.
Two weeks after elections in Iraq, the votes are still being counted. Iyad Allawi’s secular coalition narrowly leads over current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s mainly Shi’ite coalition. Maliki has called for a recount but Iraq’s electoral commission ruled that a recount is not necessary. About 95 percent of the votes have been counted, Reuters.
Two Palestinians were shot by Israeli military in the West Bank today. The military says the men had attempted to stab a soldier, Al Jazeera.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has called for Israeli to end its blockade of the West Bank, BBC News.
According to polls, Evo Morales, the incumbent president of Bolivia is poised for reelection. Morales previously sponsored a referendum that allowed him to seek a second term. Morales is the country’s first indigenous president, BBC News.
A run-off vote for president was held in Romania today. Current President Traian Basescu is running against former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. Geoana was leading in the polls going into the election. The run-off election follows a November 22 election that was marked with fraud. The third place finisher in that election dropped out and gave his support to Geoana in the run-off, Bloomberg.
Political instability continues in Honduras. Though conservative Porfirio Lobo Sosa won last Sunday’s vote, some countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Spain, are still not recognizing the legitimacy of the election because ousted President Manuel Zelaya was not returned to power before the election. The voter turnout numbers are now being analyzed to see if an argument can be made that the election represented the will of the citizens of Honduras, CNN.
Iraq’s parliament has missed a deadline that would have approved elections for January 2010. Iraq has two vice presidents who both have veto power and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vowed to not approve new election rules unless greater representation for Iraq’s Sunni population was included. Iraq does not currently have reliable census information. The UN has suggested February 27 as a new target date for an election, Al Jazeera.
Protesters clashed with police in Athens, Greece on the 1st anniversary of the police shooting of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Two officers charged with his death will begin trial next year, BBC News.
21 journalists and civilians are dead after being abducted on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines where the politicians were filing papers to register for next year’s election. The group was going to file papers for Ismael Mangudadatu for his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao province. Mangudadatu was not among the group which included lawyers, journalists, aides, and his wife. The murders were conducted on behalf of local clan leader Datu Andal Ampatuan whom Mangudadatu will be challenging for office, BBC News. More on the clan linked to the killings, BBC News. Statement from Reporters without Borders.
A vote in the Iraqi parliament has paved the way for elections in 2010. The law still must go to the presidential council where it may be vetoed by Sunni Arab Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi. Elections were originally scheduled for January 2010 but have been held up due to a previous veto by al-Hashemi, Reuters.