Popular pope: Time magazine announced today its selection of Pope Francis as its Person of the Year for 2013. Calling him “The People’s Pope,” Time wrote, “He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.” The Vatican welcomed the news, with the director of the Holy See press office saying, “We think that the declaration of the pope as the man of the year is a positive sign, because it is a very prestigious declaration, given to a man that announces the love of God and the peace for all.” Runners-up for the honor were National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the “matriarch of the gay-rights movement” Edith Windsor, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Rounding out the top 10 were Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Miley Cyrus, President Barack Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Risky business. Although she wasn’t Time’s Person of the Year, Secretary Sebelius was again the center of attention on Capitol Hill this morning. Appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee, the HHS secretary answered more questions about the botched launch of HealthCare.gov, saying she would ask the inspector general at HHS to investigate the problems that led to the website’s troubles, including the department’s contracting practices. She also announced the creation of a new position within the department: a chief risk officer, who would oversee “risk management practices associated with major agency initiatives.” Sebelius’ appearance before lawmakers came as the Obama administration said that nearly 365,000 people have signed up for Obamacare and 1.9 million have found out whether they qualify for subsidies, a long way away from the administration’s goal of 7 million insured by the end of March, the deadline for open enrollment.
Michigan revisits abortion law. Pro-life activists in Michigan have collected 315,000 signatures to have the state legislature revisit a law banning abortion coverage in the state’s Obamacare exchanges. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed an earlier bill, but the state’s constitution allows citizens to petition the legislature to take up the bill again. If it passes, it would become law without the governor’s signature and would make Michigan the 24th state to ban abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges.
Faking it? As world leaders paid their respects with speeches during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, an interpreter for the deaf stood by their sides signing away. But was he making it up as he went along? Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, tweeted during the service, “Please get RID of this CLOWN interpreter, please!” Nicole Du Toit, a sign language interpreter told the Associated Press, “It was horrible, an absolute circus, really really bad. Only he can understand those gestures.” The South African government is investigating the matter. UPDATE (6:03 p.m.): The bill passed in both the Michigan House and Senate this afternoon.