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Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell speaks at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 13.7 percent. That's the federal student-loan default rate last year, down a full percentage point from the previous year.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: The American dream is hurting, these charts show.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Pre-enrollment Obamacare facts and figures; (2) how the economy is shaking up higher education; (3) the fight from home against the Islamic State; (4) Congress takes its time on hacking, cybercrime; and (5) new actions to protect waters.

1. Top story: Burwell speaks out on Obamacare 

Burwell touts Obamacare coverage expansion with enrollment nearing. "HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said insurance programs created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have reduced the nation’s uninsured population by 26 percent. She called the reduction 'the most important number' to measure the law’s success....This year, Burwell said, 'there are literally deadlines every single day, being met' for the completion of upgrades and testing of the federal insurance exchange healthcare.gov. While the department is 'learning our lessons from last year, both positively and negatively,' she declined to say directly whether the project is on schedule for next year’s open sign-up period that begins on Nov. 15." Alex Wayne in Bloomberg.

Burwell suggests enrollment figures need to be revised. "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which analyzes the effects of federal legislation, has estimated that 13 million people should be in the market in 2015, the marketplaces' second year. But speaking to reporters Wednesday, Burwell suggested that number may not be the right target....She declined to say when a new target might be announced, saying the administration is consulting with insurance industry officials and market analysts to gauge the performance of a new market like that created by the health law." Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times.

Coverage of Latinos has surged, despite early struggles. "Overall, the percentage of Latinos ages 19 to 64 lacking health coverage fell from 36% to 23% between summer 2013 and spring 2014. That parallels a broader increase in coverage that has taken place....The overall uninsured rate for U.S. adults under 65 plummeted from 20% to 15% in the same period, according to the Commonwealth Fund....Other surveys have shown similar declines. But many of the health law's supporters were concerned that the expansion in coverage would not reach Latinos and other groups that have traditionally struggled to access regular medical care." Noam N. Levey in the Los Angeles Times.

ICYMI: The number of insurers providing Obamacare coverage is going up, too. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

ACA — especially its Medicaid expansion — helps reduce hospitals' unpaid bills by $5.7B. "Millions more people with health insurance means fewer uninsured patients are coming through hospitals' doors. That means fewer costs from bad debt or charity care from people unable to pay their bills, which amounted to about $50 billion for the nation's hospitals in 2012....However, officials said they didn't specifically calculate how the lower costs from uncompensated care would show up in the premiums people pay for coverage. The reduction in uncompensated care is much greater in states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, according to the new report." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

ICYMI: Patients falling through the cracks as hospitals cut back on charity care. Alan Bavley in The Kansas City Star.

That finding could further increase pressure to expand Medicaid in GOP-governed states. "White House officials said they wanted to work with Republican governors on Medicaid, as they did with Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, a Republican. They reached an agreement with Mr. Corbett last month on a plan to expand Medicaid by using federal funds to buy private health insurance for about 500,000 low-income people. The administration did not single out other states for special attention, but Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas — all with Republican governors — are obvious candidates. Health policy experts estimate that 3.5 million people could gain coverage if those states expanded their Medicaid programs." Robert Pear in The New York Times.

Small-business SHOP coverage was hard to get last year. But it costs a bit less than insurance elsewhere. "Only a handful of states offered a fully functioning online small business exchange...during year one....But what about that second promise, of more affordable health plans? It appears, based on one new study, that the exchanges are delivering. Health plans available to small businesses on the law’s new health marketplaces are on average about 7 percent cheaper than comparable plans offered elsewhere, according to...a team of researchers at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. For middle-tier plans, for instance, the disparity translates into about $220 in annual premium savings for plans purchased on the SHOP exchanges." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

Firms' health costs rise at slower clip. Will that continue? "On one hand, the slowdown comes as a bit of a surprise....In addition, a new rule requiring many companies to provide comprehensive health plans were expected to increase costs for those that previously offered minimal or no insurance plans to their workers. However, early renewal of existing health plans and a string of delays to that so-called 'employer mandate' have allowed many firms to continue offering plans that do not comply with new minimum coverage requirements in the law. That has likely muted some of the rise in premiums we would otherwise see as employers shift to more robust, and thus more expensive, plans." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

Analysis: Federal exchange website costs over $2B. "Spending for healthcare.gov and related programs, including at...other federal agencies, exceeds cost estimates provided by the Obama administration, the analysis found. The government’s most recent estimate, limited to spending on computer systems by the agency that runs the site, through February, is $834 million....The construction of healthcare.gov involved 60 companies, supervised by employees of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instead of a lead contractor....The project was marked by infighting among the contractors, CMS officials and top officials at HHS, the Cabinet-level department that oversees CMS." Alex Wayne in Bloomberg.

Other health care reads:

What the religious right thinks of Republicans' new birth-control platform. Sophie Novack in National Journal.

VA to investigate alleged cover-up involving vet's death. Associated Press.

Long read: How the U.S. screwed up in the fight against Ebola. Brendan Greeley and Caroline Chen in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Key Senate Republican holding up Ebola funding. Andrew Taylor and Donna Cassata in the Associated Press.

White House issues new regulations for dangerous biological research. Donald G. McNeil Jr. in The New York Times.

KLEIN: In conservative media, Obamacare is a disaster. Not in the real world. "Obamacare isn't by any means a perfect law and not everything in it is going right....On the whole, though, costs are lower than expected, enrollment is higher than expected, the number of insurers participating in the exchanges is increasing, and more states are joining the Medicaid expansion. Millions of people have insurance who didn't have it before. The law is working. But a lot of the people who are convinced Obamacare is a disaster will never know that, because the voices they trust will never tell them." Ezra Klein in Vox.

CARROLL: Medicaid expansion gives poor reason to say 'no thanks.' "While Medicaid...has used cost-sharing mechanisms for some time, it has been prohibited from asking people to pay premiums. In the last couple of years, federal regulators have started lifting that prohibition, which is likely to lead to some negative consequences. Cost-sharing mechanisms are specifically intended to encourage people to consume less health care. As I have discussed in previous articles, a large body of research shows that increased cost-sharing leads to decreased utilization. The more you ask people to pay at the point of care, out of their own pockets, the less likely they are to obtain it." Aaron E. Carroll in The New York Times.

Top opinion

KRISTOF: What the Ebola fiasco really tells us. "Our shortsightedness afflicts so many areas of public policy....We spend billions of dollars fighting extremists today, but don’t invest tiny sums educating children or empowering women....At home, we don’t invest adequately in family-planning programs even though pregnancy prevention initiatives for at-risk teenagers pay for themselves many times over....Yet the worst consequence of our myopia isn’t financial waste. It’s that people are dying unnecessarily of Ebola. It’s that some children in the United States grow up semiliterate. And it’s the risk that the cost of leaders’ mismanagement of Ebola will be borne by children going without vaccines." Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

GUILFORD: The economic case for paternity leave. "There’s only one problem with Abe’s plan: It’s targeting the wrong people. More maternity leave might sound like a great idea, but as long as mothers are the only parents taking leave, longer stints at home actually worsen job discrimination against them and makes them less likely to pursue a career. Rather, as the experiences of Sweden, Iceland, and a handful of other countries show, the secret to keeping mothers in the workforce lies not in giving them more time off, but in getting more fathers to stay at home instead. And that, it turns out, depends to a large extent on getting rid of the pay gap that exists between men and women almost everywhere." Gwynn Guilford in The Atlantic.

GROSS: Capitalism is helping save the climate, you hippies. "Of course, Wall Street firms aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their own hearts, although they do like the positive buzz such deals can generate. They’re doing is because they can make money doing so. And this is the real transformation we’ve seen in the last several years. The Occupy-likeprotesters might not like it, but renewable energy, efficiency, and sustainability have become big businesses, with huge needs for capital. You can’t crowdfund your way to stopping climate change." Daniel Gross in The Daily Beast.

BRADY: How to save the planet without sacrificing growth. "Whether you call it collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer commerce, players such as Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit have helped millions thrive in tough times. The people who rent out their bikes, bathrooms, ballgowns, and brains through such online matchmakers have made money off assets they own. At the same time, tapping under-used assets is good for the planet and cost-effective for consumers. Americans aren’t unique in discovering those perks....What the U.S. can do is create smart ways to place that activity aboveboard. The difference between a sharing economy and a shadow economy is regulation." Diane Brady in Bloomberg Businessweek.

OFFIT: The anti-vaccination epidemic. "Today the media are covering the next part of this story, the inevitable outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, mostly among children who have not been vaccinated. Some of the parents who chose not to vaccinate were influenced by the original, inaccurate media coverage....Because we're unwilling to learn from history, we are starting to relive it. And children are the victims of our ignorance. An ignorance that, ironically, is cloaked in education, wealth and privilege." Paul A. Offit in The Wall Street Journal.

PETHOKOUKIS: Smart, modern tax reform. "Developing a real-world tax reform plan — one that boosts family incomes, makes American companies more competitive, invests in human and business capital, simplifies the code, increases GDP growth, and achieves revenue neutrality without unrealistic assumptions — is tricky business. The Lee and Rubio plan — at least as outlined — already ticks a lot of those boxes. The senators have fashioned a pro-growth, pro-family, pro-innovation plan rooted in economic and political reality that deserves serious consideration as a key element in any agenda for reenergizing the American economy." James Pethokoukis in AEIdeas.

Animal antics interlude: One dog frees its buddy from the kennel.

2. How the improving economy is affecting young people

The default rate on student loans fell last year, as did college enrollment. "More than 4.7 million borrowers began paying back in the 2011 budget year, and about 650,000 have defaulted, which is about 13.7 percent. A year earlier, the rate was 14.7 percent. If the default rate for students at a specific school is too high, then students there could be barred from participating in federal financial aid programs....Also Wednesday, the Census Bureau said that college enrollment declined by nearly a half-million students between 2012 and 2013, marking the second year in a row for a large decrease. The agency said the two-year drop of 930,000 was larger than any before the recent economic downturn." Kimberly Hefling in the Associated Press.

Education Dept. quietly spares some colleges of punishment for default rates. "The Education Department...will spare some colleges whose high rates would have cost them their ability to award federal student aid....The department told colleges it had 'adjusted' the rates of institutions that fell short of the strict new standard that took full effect this year, excluding some defaulters from the colleges' totals. Colleges...have argued that recent growth in the share of borrowers defaulting on their federal student loans is due in large part to factors the institutions can’t control — a weak economy, for one, and inadequate loan servicing, for another. But student and consumer advocates accused the department of letting underperforming colleges off the hook and of undermining lawmakers’ efforts to hold those institutions accountable." Kelly Field in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

We don't know why default rates fell, but the improving economy offers a clue. "The department touted the expansion of flexible repayment options, such as the Income Based Repayment Plan....The department also said it is looking at ways to better inform students about their repayment options before their bills come due. But analysts and economists say the policy changes don’t fully explain the drop....For one, the economy is improving, Abernathy says....And the drop may not necessarily mean that more people are better about repaying their loans....The lower default rate may be also partly explained by a recent change to the way rates are calculated." Jonnelle Marte in The Washington Post.

How theeEconomy also helps explains enrollment decrease. "Community colleges and trade schools are particularly vulnerable to this trend....Enrollment surged at many community colleges around October 2009....In fact, higher education more broadly became quite attractive during that time....The Federal Reserve hinted in recent months that it would slowly raise interest rates...as economic indicators...point to a slow but steady recovery. That’s good news for job-seekers but not for tuition-dependent colleges, which could find themselves on the cusp of financial failure if they do not attract enough students." Akane Otani in Bloomberg Businessweek.

ICYMI: For young people, money increasingly trumps marriage. Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times.

Liberal think tank: A middle-class squeeze, from child care to housing to college to health care. "A study by the Center for American Progress shows just how heavy the burden has grown: For a typical married couple with two children, the combined cost of child care, housing, health care and savings for college and retirement jumped 32 percent from 2000 to 2012 — and that's after adjusting for inflation. Compounding the pain is that average pay for Americans is barely topping inflation. The figures help explain why many Americans feel stressed even as the economy has strengthened." Christopher S. Rugaber in the Associated Press.

Workers have felt the squeeze the past five years, too, survey finds. "One in five U.S. workers was laid off in the past five years and about 22% of those who lost their jobs still haven't found another one, according to a new survey that showed the extent Americans have struggled in the sluggish labor market since the Great Recession ended. Those who did find work had a difficult time with their job search and the effects of unemployment, the survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found." Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.

Fed economist wants 'urgency' on addressing unemployment. "Andrew Levin, currently on leave from the central bank while working at the International Monetary Fund, downplayed the idea that much of the weakness in the job market is due to demographic trends that are not amenable to policy solutions....Mr. Levin’s message countered that of Fed staff economist William Wascher, co-author of a recent paper that found the decline in the share of Americans holding or seeking jobs is largely the product of demographic factors, such as a rising number of retirees, rather than weak demand in the aftermath of a particularly awful recession." Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.

Although new-home sales rise, young adults' struggles may keep them from entering housing market. "New home sales jumped 18.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000 units, a second straight monthly gain that took them to the highest level since May 2008, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday....The National Association of Realtors said on Monday that sales of previously owned homes fell in August for the first time in four months as the investors who had been supporting the market stepped away. Economists hope their departure will leave an opening for first-time buyers, but worry still-high unemployment and sluggish wage growth will continue to constrain sales." Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.

Other economic/financial reads:

New rules make corporate-tax inversions less lucrative, experts say. David Gelles in The New York Times.

Fed to keep refining its exit tools as it tightens monetary policy. Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.

Kids say the darndest things interlude: Watch these kids debate the weather.

3. The fight against the Islamic State on the home front

Treasury clamps down on 11 linked to Islamic State with sanctions. "The sanctions are aimed at the funding streams that have allowed the terrorist organizations to flourish and recruit fighters from the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. The impact of the sanctions is unclear, particularly since the Islamic State largely circumvents the international banking system and traditional commerce, deriving much of its wealth from black-market oil sales, extortion and kidnappings for ransom. But the action is also designed to publicly expose key players in the group, with the goal of isolating them and restricting their access to money and freedom of movement." Julie Hirschfeld Davis in The New York Times.

The airstrikes' effect, according to the FBI and Homeland Security. "There is no indication of advanced al-Qaida or Islamic State group terror plotting inside the United States, but airstrikes in Syria may have temporarily disrupted attack planning against U.S. or Western targets, according to a security bulletin Tuesday from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department....The government warned that airstrikes targeting the al-Qaida-linked Khorasan and Islamic State groups could also embolden homegrown violent extremists inside the United States who already have grievances about the U.S. because of military action in predominantly Muslim countries." Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan in the Associated Press.

Mass shootings on the rise, FBI report says. "The number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or a school, according to an FBI report released Wednesday....An average of six shooting incidents occurred in the first seven years that were studied. That average rose to more than 16 per year in the last seven years of the study....The majority of the shootings occurred either at a business or a school, university or other education facility....Other shootings have occurred in open spaces, on military properties, and in houses of worship and health care facilities." Eric Tucker in the Associated Press.

At the U.N., Obama invokes Ferguson: ‘We welcome the scrutiny of the world.’ "The shooting prompted weeks of protests calling for Wilson’s arrest, with protesters clashing at times with heavily-armed police officers, prompting several international groups and foreign governments to condemn the police action....Obama directly addressed those critics....Obama’s remarks Wednesday come just one day after Attorney General Eric Holder — who often serves as Obama’s surrogate on issues of race and ethnicity — said the nation was at a 'moment of decision' following the Ferguson shooting and called for the country to 'reassess' the way law enforcement interacts with minorities." Wesley Lowery in The Washington Post.

Other legal reads:

The 2016 fight for marijuana legalization begins in California. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

D.C. becomes latest city to try out body cameras. Mike DeBonis and Victoria St. Martin in The Washington Post.

Court rulings mean judges will get extra $1B in pay and benefits. Billy House in National Journal.

Showdown over landmark housing law looms at Supreme Court. Greg Stohr in Bloomberg.

Interview: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she's not going anywhere. Jessica Weisberg in Elle Magazine.

Science interlude: What causes brain freeze.

4. Congress is ignoring the growing threat of cybercrime

Feds say unhappy employees hacking employers on the rise. "The workers use services like Dropbox Inc.’s cloud storage or software that lets them gain remote access to corporate networks and steal trade secrets and other data, the agencies said....Companies victimized by current or former employees incur costs 'from $5,000 to $3 million,' the agencies said without naming specific companies or incidents. The thefts have 'resulted in several significant FBI investigations' in which individuals used their access to destroy or steal data, obtain customer information and commit fraud using customer accounts, according to the notice. The alert comes as Home Depot Inc. (HD) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) have confronted hacking attacks suspected of coming from outside the companies and shows that companies need to be alert to insider threats." Chris Strohm in Bloomberg.

After Home Depot breach, fraud emerges. "A large data breach at Home Depot Inc. has started to trigger fraudulent transactions that are rippling across financial institutions and, in some cases, draining cash from customer bank accounts, according to people familiar with the impact of the hacking attack. The fraudulent transactions are showing up across the U.S., as criminals use stolen card information to buy prepaid cards, electronics and even groceries, these people said. In some cases, the fraudulent transactions have been tracked to batches of cardholder accounts that are tied to specific ZIP Codes, they said. Financial institutions are also stepping up efforts to block the transactions by rejecting them if they appear unusual." Robin Sidel in MarketWatch.

Congress' response: Ask us again next year. "Lawmakers have indicated that they are already preparing ways to protect against the scourge of data breaches, even though they have largely failed to mount a successful response to major attacks at stores like Target and Home Depot....Last week, Home Depot confirmed that hackers had also stolen data about from about 56 million cards used in their stores — 16 million more than Target’s massive breach. In response to those hacks — as well as other incidents from JPMorgan Chase to eBay and the theft of hundreds of intimate photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton — Capitol Hill has responded with little more than talk." Julian Hattem and Kevin Cirilli in The Hill.

Cyber criminals eye financial markets for a better return on investment. "Cyber criminals could turn to the financial markets to make money — using tricks such as shorting stocks before attacking listed companies, buying commodities futures before taking down the website of a large company or breaking into computer systems to steal confidential mergers and acquisitions information before playing the markets. These are some of the ways advanced hackers could manipulate the financial markets, a threat security experts are warning is just over the horizon." Hannah Kuchler in The Financial Times.

In response, industry launches platform to thwart cyberattacks. "The financial services industry in the US is spearheading an effort to encourage banks and other critical infrastructure companies to improve the sharing of information on cyber attacks, in the face of a rising threat of hacking. This first widespread not-for-profit intelligence service has been accelerated with extra funding from 12 large companies, as the financial sector and others...confront an ever more sophisticated online adversary....Beginning with a pilot of 45 organisations, it will be used to share information about attacks and attempts at attack at a speed that they hope will prevent hackers from deploying the same cyber weapons against several companies consecutively." Hannah Kuchler in The Financial Times.

Your medical records are worth more to hackers than your credit cards. "Your medical information is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market. Last month, the FBI warned healthcare providers to guard against cyber attacks after one of the largest U.S. hospital operators, Community Health Systems Inc, said Chinese hackers had broken into its computer network and stolen the personal information of 4.5 million patients. Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features." Caroline Humer and Jim Finkle in Reuters.

Related: The FDA wants to talk about medical-device cybersecurity. Andrea Peterson in The Washington Post.

Other tech reads:

Tech giants more to protect wearables. Ashley Gold in Politico.

"Streisand effect" makes cameo appearance in Google EU privacy case. Aoife White in Bloomberg.

FBI gags state and local police on capabilities of cellphone spy gear. Craig Timberg in The Washington Post.

Slow-motion interlude: Tattooing in slow motion.

5. New environmental actions to protect waters

Obama to create world’s largest protected marine reserve in Pacific Ocean. "By broadening the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama has protected more acres of federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in at least 50 years and makes the area off-limits to commercial fishing. The proclamation will mean added protections for deep-sea coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that administration officials believe are among 'the most vulnerable' to the negative impacts of climate change...The new designation is a scaled-back version of an even more ambitious plan." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

And the EPA unveils second phase of Great Lakes damage-reversal plan. "The federal government issued a new blueprint Wednesday for its efforts to restore the Great Lakes, including plans to clean up 10 contaminated rivers and harbors and step up its attack on poisonous algae blooms that coat parts of three lakes each summer. The program will include a new attempt to buffer the lakes against the effects of climate change. It will require, for example, that new wetlands include plants that can thrive in warmer temperatures....The government says the project is the largest conservation program in the nation’s history, involving 15 federal agencies and the eight Great Lakes states." Michael Wines in The New York Times.

Inside Big Oil's fight over Arctic drilling rules. "Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips are pressing White House officials on upcoming standards for drilling operations in Arctic seas....The White House is currently reviewing Interior's Arctic drilling standards, which could soon be proposed in draft form. Interior officials say the harsh Arctic climate, limited infrastructure, the subsistence hunting needs of native communities, and other factors warrant special rules for the seas. The rules are part of a high-stakes political and legal battle over drilling in Arctic seas that Interior estimates could contain more than 23 billion barrels of recoverable oil." Ben Geman in National Journal.

Financial relief finally comes to victims of toxic waters at Camp LeJeune. "The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that it will soon start to cover out-of-pocket health-care costs for Marine dependents who contracted cancer and other illnesses from toxic water at Camp Lejeune, as promised two years ago by law....Under the 2012 law, VA immediately offered full care for veterans who had been stationed at ­Lejeune, but it told their dependents who suffered from covered illnesses that they would have to wait to be reimbursed. The announcement of final rules on Tuesday meant that later this year the agency will start to reimburse family members under the 2012 law for costs since March 26, 2013, that were not covered by insurance." Renee Schoof in McClatchy Newspapers.

Judge denies BP request to recoup overpayments to Gulf spill victims. "Judge Carl J. Barbier rejected BP’s request that it be allowed to claw back the extra money paid out under an old accounting method. BP had successfully argued last year that the accounting methods that determined claims payments were too generous, and earlier this year, Judge Barbier ordered the office that processes claims to adopt an accounting procedure more to the company’s liking. But in a ruling from the bench, Judge Barbier said the earlier claims 'were paid under the settlement’s terms as it was interpreted by the claims administrator and the court at that time.'" John Schwartz in The New York Times.

Other environmental/energy reads:

Study: Natural gas reliance an impediment to renewables. Bobby Magill in Climate Central.

Forest Service wants to charge $1,500 to take photos on federal wild lands. Hunter Schwarz in The Washington Post.

An exodus of tech giants leaving conservative group ALEC amid climate flap. Dustin Volz in National Journal.

Crude-oil train safety regulator steps down. Curtis Tate in McClatchy Newspapers.

More animals interlude: 31 dog reactions for everyday situations.

Wonkblog roundup

Federal student loan defaults are down — but it’s not clear why. Jonnelle Marte.

HHS: Obamacare coverage is reducing hospitals’ unpaid bills. Jason Millman.

Natural gas won’t save us from global warming, study confirms. Max Ehrenfreund.

Guess who’s losing faith in the American Dream? Everyone. Christopher Ingraham.

Alaska legalized weed 39 years ago. Wait, what? Christopher Ingraham.

New home sales hit six-year high, but they’re still struggling. Dina ElBoghdady.

Et Cetera

Report: Treasury OKs big pay raises for GM, Ally. Marcy Gordon in the Associated Press.

Feds expand family detentions despite criticism. Daniel González in The Arizona Republic.

Congregations open doors to undocumented immigrants. Elise Foley in The Huffington Post.

FAA said to be planning to let filmmakers operate drones in populated areas. Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post.

After NIH funding "euphoria" comes the hangover. Richard Harris in NPR.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.