Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 15, 2014

1

Second sign-up season begins on HealthCare.gov website

A little more than a year after ObamaCare's rocky rollout, the federal health insurance exchange website opened on Saturday for its second sign-up season. President Barack Obama used his weekly video address to urge Americans to get covered, or re-enroll if they had already used HealthCare.gov. "In part because this law is working, health care prices have grown at their slowest rate in nearly 50 years," Obama said.

2

Chinese officials deny Hong Kong's pro-democracy leaders entry to Beijing

Hong Kong student leaders Alex Chow, Eason Chung, and Nathan Law planned to take their demands for free, local elections to the mainland on Saturday, but Chinese authorities instead revoked the men's return-home cards, barring them from boarding a Beijing-bound flight. The trio represents the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which, along with several other groups, is protesting the Chinese Communist Party's decision that all candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive position in 2017 must pass a vetting process.

3

Defense Department to boost nuclear spending by nearly $10 billion

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Friday that the Defense Department will increase spending on nuclear forces by 10 percent per year for the next five years, which comes out to nearly $10 billion. Hagel ordered two reviews of the U.S. nuclear forces in February, one by Pentagon officials and one by outside experts following reports alleging lapses in leadership, morale, and safety. "The… reviews show that a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses," Hagel said.

4

Vladimir Putin stations warships off Australia's coast ahead of G-20 summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin directed four warships to be stationed off the northeastern coast of Australia, in advance of his scheduled attendance at a G-20 summit this weekend in Brisbane. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded by sending three warships of his own to monitor the Russia ones, which are technically in international waters. Abbott accused Putin of "trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism."

5

House passes bill approving Keystone pipeline construction

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday 252-161 allowing the federal government to go ahead with building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would move petroleum from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. But the Democrat-controlled Senate is not expected to give the 60 votes necessary on Tuesday, and even if the bill did reach President Barack Obama's desk, he has indicated he'd likely veto the legislation.

6

USPS names first female Postmaster General

The United States Postal Service announced on Friday that Megan Brennan will take over for retiring Patrick Donahoe as Postmaster General in February. Brennan began working for USPS in 1986 as a letter carrier and rose to chief operating officer in 2010. Brennan will be tasked with leading an agency that suffered a $5.5 billion net loss this fiscal year.

7

Top U.S. general arrives in Baghdad to review ISIS operations

General Martin Dempsey arrived in Iraq on Saturday, his first trip there since President Barack Obama approved U.S. troop deployments to the region. "I want to get a sense from our side about how our contribution is going," Dempsey said, referring to the U.S. military operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition to air strikes, U.S. forces are carrying out training for Iraqi troops. Obama authorized sending up to 1,500 more U.S. troops to the region, in addition to the roughly 1,500 that are already deployed.

8

Four out of 10 new marriages involve remarriage

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that 42 million adults married in 2013 had been married before, almost double the number from 1980. Forty percent of all new marriages include at least one previously married spouse. The study credited the results to a rise in divorce rates, but also an aging population, "which not only increase the number of widows and widowers available to remarry, but means people quite simply have more years in which to make, dissolve, and remake unions."

9

Extreme storms on Uranus baffling astronomers

A team at the University of California, Berkeley reported on Wednesday that eight storms over the course of two days in August unexpectedly took place on Uranus. One of the storms was the brightest ever captured on the planet, lighting the usually "boring blue dot" up. "Why we see these incredible storms now is beyond anybody's guess," Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, said.

10

Conde Nast settles lawsuit with former interns for $5.8 million

Conde Nast agreed on Thursday to pay $5.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of former interns who say they were underpaid during their time at the company. Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, the lead plaintiffs, could receive about $10,000 each, while about 7,500 former interns dating back to June 2007 could receive payments ranging from $700 to $1,900. The company canceled its internship program in June 2013 after the lawsuit was filed.

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