Today’s edition of quick hits:
* A trusted hand: “Jeff Zients, who’s been named President Barack Obama’s next top economic adviser, will help clean up the jammed health insurance marketplaces, the administration said Tuesday. Zients, former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, won’t start his job as director of the National Economic Council until the end of the year, when Gene Sperling steps down. So he has a few months free to try and tidy up the logjammed health insurance exchanges.”
* Taking the good with the bad: “Three weeks after its launch, [the state of] Washington’s online insurance marketplace continues to set a strong pace for enrollment. To date, more than 35,500 Washington residents have enrolled in coverage through the state’s online insurance marketplace, Healthplanfinder, according to data released Monday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. That figure is up about 10,500 from the week before.”
* Syria: “The United States and 10 Arab and European nations expressed support on Tuesday for the convening of a peace conference next month in Geneva to begin negotiations on a political settlement to end the bloody civil war in Syria. But Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the moderate Syrian opposition had not yet decided whether it would attend.”
* Extraordinary fires rage in Australia: “Australian firefighters worked desperately on Tuesday to contain massive wildfires burning in mountains west of Sydney, but with forecasts of high winds and dangerously hot weather, authorities fear more houses and lives will be lost.”
* A dumb lawsuit is ongoing: “A federal judge in Washington, D.C., will give opponents of the Affordable Care Act another chance to unravel President Obama’s healthcare law, using an obscure provision its supporters say is little more than a drafting error.”
* IRS: “Here’s more fallout from the government’s partial shutdown: Early tax filers will have to wait an extra week or two to get tax refunds next year. The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday it will delay the start of next year’s filing season by up to two weeks to give programmers time to finish updating the agency’s computers. The 16-day shutdown interrupted their work.”
* The good news is, U.S. carbon emissions fell sharply in 2012. The bad news is, it doesn’t appear to be the start of a new trend, and it’s not expected to last.
* Consumer Reports ran a piece on the Affordable Care Act’s exchange website, which the right then manipulated for its own purposes. The magazine isn’t pleased.
* Remember when the political world occasionally talked about job creation? Robert Greenstein, the head of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, hasn’t forgotten.
* And today’s must-read piece comes by way of Sam Stein and Ryan Grim, who have a behind-the-scenes look at how President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cleared the air, got on the same page, stuck together, and prevailed in the recent fight over the government shutdown and debt ceiling.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.