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Saturday, September 30


Saturday, September 30

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a press conference


Repealing Obamacare gets more complicated

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a press conference
Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Republican disunity has again set back efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Special budget provisions used to speed through the proposed legislation expire today.

Despite controlling the Senate 52-48, the opposition of four Republican senators forced the vote to be postponed. Republicans had hoped to pass the bill using the reconciliation instructions, which allow a bill to be passed with 51, instead of the usually required 60, votes.

Health care stocks surged following news of the bill’s sidelining. Hospital operators and insurers are concerned about reduced funding for Medicaid – the publicly funded health care system – with proposed cuts of $772 billion over 10 years and a rise in the number of uninsured Americans from 26 million to 49 million.

The expansion of Medicaid under Obama and the increase in insurance coverage saw health insurers pocket an extra $13.1 billion in 2016, up 46% from 2015.

Moving forward, President Trump has declared his intention to work with Democrats to pass a bill by early next year. Should that fail, Republicans can pass a new set of reconciliation instructions. In either case, compromises will have to be made before a new deal can manifest.


The AFL grand final is quite the spectacle…in Australia

AFL Grand Final
Photo: The Age

Australia stops to witness the Australian Football League (AFL) grand final between the Richmond Tigers and Adelaide Crows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

As one of the biggest days in the country’s sporting calendar, the match is expected to fill the MCG’s 100,000 seats. Neither team has won a premiership for at least 19 years, and none of the players have ever played a final. First on the ladder, the impressively offensive Crows are tipped to win. In third, the Tigers have dominated in defence, but their having historically finished below the fifth lends today a sense of destiny.

Despite domestic popularity, AFL’s  growth internationally has suffered for many reasons including the lack of revenue to spend on promotion, low emigration rates, and difficulties breaking into Asian markets. Having just hosted the International Cup with 18 countries including Ireland and Papua New Guinea, the skill gap between Australia and the world remains the sport’s biggest challenge.


Sweden’s Nordic Resistance Movement marches on Yom Kippur

Sweden’s Nordic Resistance Movement demonstrates
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Today on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) a Swedish neo-Nazi group, is set to march in Gothenburg.

Dubbed “Revolt against the traitors”, the march aims to protest Sweden’s acceptance of refugees, which peaked in 2015 when 160,000 crossed the border fleeing Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan among others. Initially planned to pass a synagogue, a court ruling has rerouted the demonstration amidst an outcry by concerned local faith leaders. Existing on the political fringe for decades, the NRM has capitalised on the far-right Sweden Democratic Party’s 49-seat-grip out of the national legislature’s 349 seats.

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Energised by the wave of populist discontent towards immigration, economic hardship, and terrorism, Scandinavia has witnessed the growth of far-right movements. Facing tougher asylum laws and anti-migrant sentiment, over 4000 refugees withdrew their applications to the historically progressive and socially liberal Sweden. This has been largely replicated in the US as the recent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville demonstrate.

Still reeling from the Stockholm truck attack in April, and with 40% of the public seriously concerned about immigration, Swedish leaders like those in other Scandinavian countries, are adapting to this new reality.


China’s bitcoin crackdown, EU agencies leaving Britain

Authorities in China are claimping down on Bitcoin exchanges
Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip

One of China’s top Bitcoin exchanges, BTC China, will cease trading today. BTC is the first cryptocurrency exchange to close after financial authorities in Beijing ordered all such platforms to shut down. Bitcoin is “increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities”, according to a website set up by central bank authorities in China. Bitcoin trades could also be used to dodge Beijing’s tightening rules on money leaving the country—known as capital flight.

The European Commission will publish a report assessing 19 bids from EU cities to host the relocated European Medicines Agency. The EMA, responsible for approving new drugs and medical treatments, is currently based in London but must leave the UK post-Brexit. Bids from Dublin, Amsterdam and Stockholm are considered favourites. The EMA is one of a number of EU agencies that must be moved due to Brexit—the other major one is the European Banking Authority.

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