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Republicans, Democrats Fight to Strengthen US Health Care Law

That went against the administration's earlier position that while some parts of the ACA should be struck down, not all of it should be thrown out

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FILE - The Dome of the US Capitol building is visible on the morning of the State of the Union, Feb. 5, 2019. VOA

Health care has re-emerged as a major focus of U.S. political parties with the Trump administration advocating striking down the entire Affordable Care Act and Democrats introducing legislation to strengthen the law that has been in place since 2010.

The Justice Department on Monday backed a federal court ruling declaring the entire ACA unconstitutional on the basis that without the fines for not having health insurance, which a Republican-led Congress passed last year, the mandate for having coverage should not be allowed.

That went against the administration’s earlier position that while some parts of the ACA should be struck down, not all of it should be thrown out.

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FILE – People wait in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the orders being issued, in Washington, U.S. March 18, 2019. VOA

Trump told reporters Tuesday he wanted alternatives to the law, which was one of the chief policies enacted under his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The Republican Party will become ‘The Party of Healthcare!'” he wrote on Twitter.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled his party is happy to take on the issue, especially following the end of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign. Schumer said issues such as healthcare and climate change are much more important to voters.

The issue was a key part of the party’s 2018 congressional election strategy, which put Democrats back in control of the House of Representatives.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, walks to a Democratic Caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, March 26, 2019. VOA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled Democratic proposals she says would improve upon the existing law, while accusing Republicans of working only to “destroy the affordable health care of America’s families.”

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The legislation would seek to make health insurance plans more affordable by boosting subsidies to lower-income households, provide more protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and boost outreach and enrollment efforts to help people better understand what insurance options exist for them.

The legal battle over the existing law could end up at the Supreme Court, which previously upheld the individual mandate with its financial penalties as a legal tax Congress was allowed to impose. The five justices in the majority on that case remain on the court. (VOA)

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Facebook Urges US Police to Stop Using Fake Accounts

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook's policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency's page to inform users of the law enforcement policy

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facebook should take new steps, including issuance of alerts to users, to address the proliferation of fake accounts operated by law enforcement agencies in the US, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties not-for-profit organisation.

A report in the Guardian earlier revealed that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) violated Facebook’s guidelines by creating fake profiles on its platform tied to the University of Farmington — a sham institution that left many students, most of them Indians, in detention.

Facebook’s policy prohibits all users, including government agencies, from making fake accounts. But despite this, law enforcement agencies created fake accounts to spy on users, EFF said.

Police departments in Ohio, New York, Georgia and Nebraska said they had policies allowing investigators to use aliases and undercover profiles on social media, the Guardian reported on Monday.

“Facebook’s practice of taking down these accounts when they learn about them from the press (or from EFF) is insufficient to deter what we believe is a much larger iceberg beneath the surface,” EFF’s Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass wrote in a blogpost.

Facebook
Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. VOA

“We often only discover the existence of law enforcement fake profiles months, if not years, after an investigation has concluded,” Maass said.

In addition to suspending fake accounts, Facebook should publish data on the number of fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts identified, what agencies they belonged to, and what action was taken, EFF said.

According to EFF, when a fake/impersonator account is identified, Facebook should alert the users and groups that interacted with the account whether directly or indirectly.

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Facebook should further amend its “Amended Terms for Federal, State and Local Governments in the United States” to make it explicitly clear that, by agreeing to the terms, the agency was agreeing not to operate fake/impersonator profiles on the platform, Maass said.

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook’s policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency’s page to inform users of the law enforcement policy, Maass said. (IANS)