No delay needed? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified again before Congress this morning, repeating her defense of Obamacare and denying the need to delay the enrollment period. Americans must have health insurance by the end of March, or pay a fine. During questioning by members of the Senate Finance Committee, Sebelius said people still have plenty of time, despite the problems with the federal healthcare exchange website. Sen. Max Baucus, the moderate Democrat who helped write the Affordable Care Act and said earlier this year he feared its launch would be a “train wreck,” chastised Sebelius for not warning lawmakers of the impending trouble: “When we asked for updates on the marketplaces, the responses we got were totally unsatisfactory. We heard multiple times that everything was on track. We now know that was not the case.” Obama administration officials insist the website will be running smoothly by the end of November, two months after its launch date.
Stalled negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to Israel in hopes of jumpstarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. After a promising beginning three months ago, negotiations have stalled and leaders on both sides have expressed pessimism about their future. Kerry plans to meet separately today with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. According to Israeli media sources, Kerry plans to propose his own peace deal in January if Netanyahu and Abbas can’t reach an agreement. But on Monday, Kerry said he had no such plan at this point.
Seeking legal fees. The South Carolina couple who spent years fighting for custody of the little girl they planned to adopt are now seeking $1 million from her biological father to help pay their legal team’s expenses. Matt and Melanie Capobianco finally won custody of Veronica in September after her father, Dusten Brown, dropped all claims to her. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation and teamed up with the tribe to sue for custody of his daughter under the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is designed to keep Native American children with their biological family. But the Capobiancos took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and won, racking up quite a legal bill. Although the four firms working on the case didn’t charge the couple, they now want to recoup some of their losses from the Oklahoma Indian tribe, which has deep pockets.
Starting over? The GED test is getting an upgrade next year, and people who started taking the five-part exam this year are scrambling to finish before the new requirements take effect. Education analysts estimate about 1 million people could be forced to start over with the new test come January. Under the new high-school equivalency-testing program, tests are harder, longer, more expensive, and must be taken by computer. Critics say the new format will only make it harder for those trying to improve their employment and educational prospects. People who have started working toward getting their GED certificate this year, must start all over again next year if they haven’t passed all five tests by Dec. 31.