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Obamacare Hearing Made Easy, Thinking Robots and Why You're a Republican (or Democrat)—THE EDGE Obamacare Hearing Made Easy, Thinking Robots and Why You're a Republic...

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The Edge

Obamacare Hearing Made Easy, Thinking Robots and Why You're a Republican (or Democrat)—THE EDGE

October 24, 2013

By Patrick Reis (@Patrick_C_Reis) and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz)

TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: Contractors responsible for designing painted a picture today of a rushed rollout in their testimony to Congress. The contractors blamed the administration for the site's problems, but they also blamed each other, swapping accusations over which parts of the website were to blame for its struggles. Elsewhere, Janet Yellen is preparing her push to be confirmed as head of the Fed, and she plans to begin meeting with senators next week. And overseas, key U.S. allies remain incensed over revelations of spying on foreign leaders.


THE HEALTH CARE HEARING—What We Know: did not undergo a complete test run, start to finish, of the application and enrollment process prior to launch, contractors who worked on the site—including a CGI Federal official—told a House committee today.


The contractors blamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency tasked with overseeing the implementation of the federal exchange. But when asked what specifically about the site was failing, contractors could only agree on one thing: It was the part that somebody else designed.

Much of the blame for the initial bottlenecks in accessing the website was laid on the decision to nix the site's "window shopping" feature, which would have allowed consumers to browse available insurance plans without creating an account—a call allegedly made just weeks before launch. The CGI Federal representative said it was likely the call of Henry Chao, Health and Human Services' deputy chief information officer, or a member of his team. (by Sophie Novak)

THE HEALTH CARE HEARING—What We Still Want to Find Out: Despite repeated inquiry by lawmakers, CGI Federal and others were mum on who made the decision to push ahead with the launch date despite only running micro-tests on the site's functionality. And everyone is waiting to hear HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is scheduled to appear before the committee Wednesday. One question she'll likely face again and again: How much did she know about the site's problems, and how much of that information found its way to President Obama?

OBAMACARE'S SILVER LINING: The "data services hub," responsible for storing sensitive insurance information, was pegged as an area of the site likely to encounter a host of challenges. But the hub is humming along without a hitch so far—which could be a life-saving boon for Obamacare as the enrollment period chugs along. (Sam Baker, NJ)

GOVERNMENT BLEW IT WITH THE SITE. BUT WOULD ANYONE ELSE HAVE DONE BETTER? The government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may have mismanaged CGI Federal and other contractors working on the development of the Obamacare site, but the government has also tried to outsource that management role in the past. The results have often been just as rocky, if not worse. That's a reality the Defense Department knows all too well. (Lydia DePillis, WaPo)

OBAMA'S IMMIGRATION PUSH: 'IT IS TIME. LET'S GO GET IT DONE.' But, as he admitted in his own words, campaign-style enthusiasm only goes so far: "This is Washington, after all." (Marina Koren, NJ)

2 SHOT AT NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY: Authorities report that the shooter, "a recruiter who had been relieved of duty", is now in custody. Both wounded soldiers were taken to the hospital, and their injuries were not thought to be life-threatening. (Adrian Sainz, AP)

YELLEN PLANNING MEETINGS WITH SENATORS: Obama's administration is planning meetings for the Fed chief nominee to meet with members of the Senate Banking Committee. At least one such tete-a-tete is expected next week with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is on the calendar for Nov. 6. (Peterson/McGrane, WSJ)

TOMORROW IN ONE PARAGRAPH: The House and Senate are out of session. Obama will speak in New York about the next generation of middle-class workers and entrepreneurs. In the evening he will speak at a DCCC event and attend a DNC event before returning to Washington. John Kerry will meet with Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, at 2:30 p.m. Kathleen Sebelius is in San Antonio.


MERKEL: The German Chancellor said trust needs to be restored between her country and America after claims of the U.S. tapping her cell phone surfaced. Allies continue to grow angrier. (Baetz/Moulson, AP)

HILLARY: Billionaire George Soros is already publicly endorsing a Clinton run at the White House in 2016. He's already pledged $25,000 to the Ready For Hillary PAC. (Gabriel Debenedetti, Reuters)

VOTER ID LAWS: They could actually end up disenfranchising Republican women, which could be very bad for the GOP. (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate)

JPMORGAN SETTLEMENT: The $13 billion deal the bank has tentatively agreed to shell out to the Justice Department means CEO Jamie Dimon is no longer invincible. (Nick Summers, Bloomberg Businessweek)

POLITICAL GENES: Certain personality traits exhibited during early childhood can accurately predict conservatism in adulthood, a thread that transcends other cleavages like economics, environment, and upbringing. (Avi Tuschman, The Atlantic)


THE LONELY PURSUIT OF INVENTING THINKING ROBOTS: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter is on a mission to redefine artificial intelligence within the context of real, human thinking. He intends to do that by writing the mind as a piece of software. (James Somers, The Atlantic)

THE ORIGIN OF AMERICA'S SUPER-MAX PRISONS: The raison d'etre extends back 30 years, when a prison gang murdered two corrections officers at a penitentiary in Illinois. But prisons have since developed harsh tactics deemed by many human-rights groups to be unnecessary and tortuous. Have U.S. prisons overcorrected? (Justin Peters, Slate)


LAST NIGHT'S LATE-NIGHT FUNNIES IN UNDER 3 MINUTES: Colbert, on It's a "techno-turd-taco." And fake Twitter accounts run amok in the leak-prone White House. (Reena Flores, NJ)

WHO IS THAT MYSTERIOUS GIRL ON THE OBAMACARE WEBSITE? BuzzFeed is on the case. (Andrew Kaczynski, BuzzFeed)

BACKFLIPPING OVER A GIANT CANYON GAP NEVER LOOKED SO EASY: And now for your daily dose of adrenaline. Kelly McGarry strapped a camera to his helmet and then went for a ridiculous bike ride down a dusty, narrow canyon before launching himself in air for a full 360 backflip. And he nailed the landing. (YouTube)
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