10 things you need to know today: November 17, 2014

Peter Kassig delivering supplies
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Courtesy Kassig Family, File))

1. Obama calls Kassig's beheading "pure evil"

President Obama confirmed Sunday that the self-proclaimed Islamic State had beheaded American aid worker Peter Kassig, an aid worker and former Army Ranger kidnapped more than a year ago in Syria. Obama called the murder of Kassig — the fifth Western hostage killed by ISIS — "an act of pure evil by a terrorist group." Kassig adopted the name Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam in captivity. The video of his death was not as slickly produced as previous ones, suggesting sustained U.S. attacks are taking a toll on ISIS, analysts said.

The Dallas Morning News

2. Number of homeless children spikes to record

The number of homeless children in the U.S. jumped by eight percent in one year to an all-time high in 2013, according to a report released Monday. Nearly 2.5 million American kids — about one child in 30 — were homeless for at least part of the year, the investigation by the National Center on Family Homelessness concluded. The group compounded data from the Department of Education, which estimates there are 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, and estimates of pre-school children from other sources.

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Aljazeera America

3. Obama denies ObamaCare design was deceptive

President Obama on Sunday pushed back against a former adviser's claim that parts of ObamaCare were sugarcoated to take advantage of the "stupidity" of voters. "I think it's fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated," Obama said. Despite denying the controversial claims made by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, Obama acknowledged making some regrettable statements, such as insisting Americans happy with their health coverage could keep it, when in fact plans deemed inadequate under the law were canceled.


4. Nearly 200 stricken with norovirus on cruise ship

An outbreak of norovirus aboard the Princess Cruises' Crown Princess has infected 172 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The ship docked in Los Angeles on Sunday after sailing to Hawaii and Tahiti on a 28-day cruise. The number of cases of the illness, commonly called stomach flu, increased in the last few days before the ship returned to port.


5. Japan tax plans on hold as country enters recession

Japan slipped into a recession in the last quarter, according to fresh economic data. The unexpected news appears likely to prompt Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to announce that he will dissolve the House of Representatives, possibly as early as Wednesday, and hold a snap election. Abe also is expected to delay a plan to raise a consumption tax from 8 percent to 10 percent. The tax was just increased from 5 percent in April.

Bloomberg The Japan Times

6. Politician survives suicide bombing in Afghanistan

Shukria Barakzai, a prominent Afghan women's rights advocate, survived a suicide bombing on her convoy in Kabul on Sunday. The attacker rammed a car into one of the vehicles in the convoy and detonated explosives, killing three civilians and wounding others. Barakzai, who was lightly injured, is an ally of the country's newly installed president, Ashraf Ghani. The attack came a week after another suicide bomber got inside a heavily fortified area and attacked the offices of Kabul's police chief.

BBC News

7. Okinawa voters pick governor opposed to U.S. base plans

Voters on the Japanese island of Okinawa on Sunday overwhelmingly elected a governor opposed to a U.S. Marine base there. The winner, Takeshi Onaga, promptly said he would fight construction of a new U.S. airfield, stating flatly, "The new military base will not be built." Tokyo, which had backed the incumbent, Kirokazu Nakaima, and the U.S. had been hoping the vote would show signs that resentment over the large U.S. presence had begun to fade.

The New York Times

8. Romania's prime minister suffers stunning defeat in presidential election

Underdog Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German former mayor, defeated Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta in a presidential runoff on Sunday. Iohannis, who finished a distant second in the first round, promised thousands of cheering supporters "a deep change" in Romania, one of Europe's poorest countries. Ponta conceded defeat but said he wouldn't quit as prime minister, vowing that his Social Democrat alliance would stay in power at least until 2016 parliamentary elections.


9. State Department becomes fourth federal agency targeted by hackers

The State Department announced Sunday that its computer systems had been hacked. It was the fourth government agency to confirm it had been targeted in a cyberattack over recent weeks. State Department officials said they were forced to temporarily shut down public websites and an unclassified email system. Investigators could not immediately confirm whether the security breach at State was related to recent cyberattacks on the White House, the U.S. Postal Service, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The New York Times

10. Chocolate makers warn of coming shortages

The planet could be headed for a major shortage of something many people can't do without — chocolate — according to two of the world's biggest chocolate makers, Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut. The reason: Consumption is rising while production is stumbling due to a fungal disease called frosty pod that has destroyed 30 to 40 percent of global cocoa production. Last year, people ate 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than was produced, and the deficit could reach two million metric tons by 2030.

The Washington Post

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Harold Maass

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 Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.