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Obamacare Ruling Attracts Little Comment From Republicans

Some legal observers believe Congress is unlikely to pass a new law while the case is in the courts.

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A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in the San Ysidro district of San Diego,Calif., Oct. 26, 2017. VOA

Republican lawmakers have been mostly silent on Friday’s court ruling that the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. Democrats, however, have said they’ll hold the GOP to its commitment to retain popular provisions of the law, such as guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions.

“The GOP spent all last year pretending to support people with pre-existing conditions while quietly trying to remove that support in the courts,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a tweet Saturday. “Next year, we will force votes to expose their lies.”

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California holds a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 13, 2018. VOA

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who will assume the speaker’s role next year, said the House “will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republican effort to destroy” the law.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire ACA. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the ACA will remain the law during the appeal.

U.S. President Donald Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.

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Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. VOA

‘Great news’

The president took to Twitter Friday night: “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality, affordable health care.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.

Schumer said in a statement Friday that the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning, and hopefully it will be overturned. Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.”

Obamacare, republicans
A person walks by a health care insurance office in Hialeah, Fla. VOA

 

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement Friday. “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.”

New law unlikely for now

Some legal observers believe Congress is unlikely to pass a new law while the case is in the courts. Many senior Republican lawmakers have said they did not plan to also strike down provisions such as pre-existing condition coverage when they repealed the law’s fines for people who can afford coverage but remain uninsured.

Also Read: Obamacare Unconstitutional: U.S. Federal Judge

If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it would be the third time the high court considers a challenge to ACA provisions. The law’s opponents lost the first two cases.

Polls have regularly shown wide public support for the guarantee of health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions, an issue Democrats successfully leveraged in last month’s midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives. (VOA)

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North Korean Authorities Ramping Up The Levels of Strictness at Weekly Self-Criticism Sessions

North Korea experts have suggested that the purpose of these sessions is to instill fear into the public, making them easier for authorities to control.

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Pyongyang citizens in a file photo. RFA

Following the breakdown of talks at the most recent U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, North Korean authorities are reportedly ramping up the levels of strictness at weekly life appraisal sessions.

Known as saenghwal chonghwa, the sessions are self-criticism meetings in which every citizen must individually confess their shortcomings on the political loyalty front.

The confessor must then hear additional criticism from other citizens, then form an action plan to compensate for those shortcomings.

Since the failed late-February Hanoi Summit, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could not come to an agreement on denuclearization for sanctions removal, authorities in the repressive country are becoming increasingly rigid during these weekly meetings.

“These days, there is an air of tension at life appraisal sessions that can’t even be compared with how they were previously. Attendees can’t even cough out loud,” said a Pyongyang resident who recently traveled to China in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service.

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“North Korean citizens are becoming concerned about their future because [they think] this could mean that international sanctions will be even heavier.” Pixabay
The resident explained how the level of seriousness during saenghwal chonghwa ebbs and flows depending on how optimistic the regime feels on the current social climate.

“When there’s a positive social mood, [the sessions] were just perfunctory, but it’s not like that at all [right now],” said the source.

“[The sessions] usually take about an hour, but now it’s getting to be close to two hours,” the source said.

Simply going through the motions as usual is no longer enough, according to the source.

“If they are only moderately critical about themselves, or if their peers hold back, [the authorities] make them stand in front of everyone so that all in attendance can be more direct and more intensely criticize them,” the source said.

“It must feel just as miserable to give out such harsh criticism to colleagues and neighbors as it is to receive it,” said the source.

According to the source, the affair is normally planned out between attendees. Prior to the meetings they mutually agree on what to criticize each other about—usually trivial things.

“But it doesn’t work that way now. They have to harshly criticize each other. Now people are starting to make enemies even with their close neighbors during these life-appraisal sessions,” the source said.

North Korea experts have suggested that the purpose of these sessions is to instill fear into the public, making them easier for authorities to control.

In a recent report by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, author Robert Collins detailed saenghwal chonghwa as one means by which the North Korean government uses the people to deny rights to each other, as a strategy of social control that extends even to the private lives of citizens.

A second source, from North Pyongan province, implied that being stricter at saenghwal chonghwa, is a means of diverting attention from the failed summit by keeping people on their toes.

Hanoi summit
Since the failed late-February Hanoi Summit, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could not come to an agreement on denuclearization for sanctions removal, authorities in the repressive country are becoming increasingly rigid during these weekly meetings. VOA

“As talk about the collapse [of the summit] is spreading, the authorities seem to be intentionally creating tension by being stricter,” the source said.

The source recalled other gossip-worthy events that authorities wanted to silence discussion about.

“Whenever there are huge issues [to talk about], such as the execution of Jang Song-thaek [Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who experts believe was a legitimate challenge to Kim’s power,] the authorities tried to cover the mouths and ears of the public through strict life-appraisal sessions,” the source said.

“[They] are really emphasizing self-reliance more often during the sessions these days,” said the source, adding, “North Korean citizens are becoming concerned about their future because [they think] this could mean that international sanctions will be even heavier.”

The practice of saenghwal chonghwa began in March 1962. Usually 10 to 15 people from the workplace or neighborhood attend the sessions to collectively determine ways for each individual to become better citizens.

Every Saturday a weekly appraisal session is held, with a monthly session on the month’s final Saturday. There are also quarterly and yearly appraisals. The sessions are facilitated by low-level local inminban(neighborhood watch units) and detailed records are kept.

Also Read: “We Fled From Our Village Because We Are Afraid of Government Soldiers,” Weekend Fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine Drives 400 Villagers Homeless

None are spared from self-criticism, as even elites are subject to the weekly sessions.

Thae Yong-ho, a high-profile defector who once served as North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, described the sessions in his memoir as “the most fundamental principle of the North Korean slave state.” (RFA)