RSS
10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2013
The administration hires tech experts to fix HealthCare.gov, New Jersey mayors hold the state's first gay weddings, and more
A happy couple celebrates in Lambertville, NJ. 
A happy couple celebrates in Lambertville, NJ.  (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

1. HHS launches a "tech surge" to patch its ObamaCare site
The Department of Health and Human Services said Sunday that it was calling in outside IT experts to help fix the ObamaCare website, which has been plagued with glitches since launching October 1. HHS says this "tech surge" aims to patch bugs in off-peak hours and prevent new problems. "HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people," the agency said in a blog post. "We are committed to doing better." [Computerworld]
………………………………………………………………………………

2. New Jersey mayors officiate at the state's first gay weddings
Mayors in four New Jersey cities opened their city halls at midnight Monday to perform the state's first same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for gay couples to apply for marriage licenses after it rejected Gov. Chris Christie's request to delay a lower court ruling until the top court hears the state's appeal in January. [Reuters]
………………………………………………………………………………

3. New Snowden spying leaks anger France and Mexico
France and Mexico are fuming over the latest spying revelations from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. French daily Le Monde and German weekly Der Spiegel said the NSA secretly recorded millions of phone calls in France, and hacked into former Mexican President Felipe Calderon's email. France, whose interior minister on Monday called the reports "shocking," summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain. [Economic Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

4. Republicans face a backlash, says a new poll
The government shutdown and debt-ceiling battle did serious damage to the GOP brand, according to a new CNN/ORC International survey conducted after Congress ended the crisis. A little more than half of respondents say it's bad for the country that Republicans, who helped trigger the crisis by demanding that any deal defund ObamaCare, control the House. Six in 10 Americans also say House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should be replaced. [CNN]
………………………………………………………………………………

5. Arab League announces dates for Syria peace negotiations
As a series of suicide bombings killed dozens in Syria over the weekend, the Arab League announced Sunday that proposed peace talks between President Bashar al-Assad and opposition leaders would be held on November 23 and 24 in Geneva. The divided rebel factions have not said yet whether they will participate, however, and the United Nations and Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the talks will remain in the air until they do. [TIME]
………………………………………………………………………………

6. Cyanide ruled the cause of Bulger enemy's death
Massachusetts officials said Sunday that Stephen Rakes, an alleged extortion victim of Whitey Bulger who died while the Boston mobster was on trial, was killed with cyanide. Rakes had hoped to testify that Bulger forced him at gunpoint to sell his family's liquor store for a pittance. A business associate of Rakes allegedly poisoned his iced coffee, and authorities say the killing had nothing to do with Bulger, who was convicted in August of murder and racketeering. [Reuters]
………………………………………………………………………………

7. Former official has unique justification for attacking Iraq
An anonymous former senior official from George W. Bush's administration gave New York Times reporter Peter Baker an unexpected new explanation for why the U.S. invaded Iraq: "The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody's ass to kick." The official explained further, saying, "Afghanistan was too easy." The account is included in Baker's new book, Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House. [Politico]
………………………………………………………………………………

8. Study finds some donated breast milk to be tainted
Sharing human breast milk through the internet has become increasingly popular, but a new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that milk bought from two popular websites was often contaminated with high levels of bacteria, even salmonella in a few cases. Kim Updegrove, president of a milk bank association that screens donors, says getting milk from unscreened strangers is "playing a game of Russian roulette." [New York Times]
………………………………………………………………………………

9. Authorities search for parents of girl found in Greece
A Roma man and woman are due to appear in a Greek court Monday to face charges of kidnapping a 4-year-old blonde girl known as Maria. Authorities spotted the child last week in a raid on a Roma settlement. DNA tests revealed the child was not related to the couple, and investigators searching for her biological parents have received at least 8,000 calls from around the world. The couple's lawyer says they adopted her. [BBC News, CNN]
………………………………………………………………………………

10. Carol Burnett's comedy honored at Kennedy Center
Carol Burnett was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday night. Burnett, 80, helped pave the way for women in the male-dominated world of comedy with her popular sketch series, The Carol Burnett Show. "She's a very important woman in American culture," said Tina Fey. Amy Poehler agreed, saying, "She kind of taught us about not being afraid to be silly." [USA Today]

Get '10 things you need to know today' in your inbox each morning. Sign up for the email version here.

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week