FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 17, 2014

Since the start of the year, Republican leaders have insisted their party would soon put forward a health care alternative to ObamaCare. That day may almost be here, as The Washington Post's Robert Costa reports the GOP leadership is finally unifying behind a conservative plan "in part to draw an election-year contrast" with Democrats and ObamaCare.

The plan includes an expansion of high-risk insurance pools, promotion of health savings accounts and inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together.

The tenets of the plan — which could expand to include the ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations — are ideas that various conservatives have for a long time backed as part of broader bills. [Washington Post]

Coming after years of GOP threats to repeal ObamaCare and revert to the old health care system, the mere fact that the party may soon offer a true, unified alternative underscores how far the policy debate has shifted since the health care exchanges went live in October. With more than 4.2 million people having now enrolled in new insurance plans via ObamaCare, calling for repeal alone would mean advocating for those millions of newly insured to lose their coverage. And polls have consistently shown that the public's general opposition to the law does not translate into support for repeal. As Jonathan Chait put it last week, Republicans "have won the public relations war over ObamaCare, and they have lost the public relations war over repealing ObamaCare." Jon Terbush

2:16 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The State Department marked 81 of more than 500 Hillary Clinton emails released Saturday as confidential, The Hill reports. Another three were upgraded to "secret" status, and none were marked "top secret," the highest designation.

None of the emails released Saturday had been marked confidential when they were originally sent.

The State Department still has more than 3,000 emails to release from Clinton's private server, which she used as secretary of state. Julie Kliegman

1:24 p.m. ET

In case the Rubik's Cube isn't already challenging enough to solve, one puzzle maker just made it physically demanding, too. Tony Fisher constructed a monstrous cube, spanning just over 5 feet in either direction and weighing in at about 224 pounds.

Fisher believes his creation could be the biggest functional Rubik's Cube in the world, and he hopes to get it recognized as such by Guinness World Records.

On his YouTube page, he notes that the cube broke shortly after he shot the surreal video below, but he's working on getting it fixed. Julie Kliegman

12:36 p.m. ET
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Singer Katy Perry has attended the Grammys for eight years straight. But for Monday's show, she's doing something a little different — watching from home, she told The New York Times.

Perry will be rooting for The Weeknd "in my pajamas, eating matzo ball soup. No makeup, glad I'm not in a corset. Vicks cream on."

With 13 nominations, Perry has yet to win a Grammy of her own. Julie Kliegman

11:53 a.m. ET
Achilleas Zavallis/AFP/Getty Images

Refugees are arriving in Europe by boat at a faster rate in 2016 than at the beginning of 2015, the United Nations Refugee Agency said in a report released Friday.

In the first six weeks of 2016, more than 80,000 refugees have arrived in Europe. That's more than in the first four months of 2015.

Many European countries, including Turkey, say they're struggling to keep taking in refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in Syria.

More than 400 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean so far in 2016. Julie Kliegman

11:10 a.m. ET
iStock/Getty Images

Across 10 programming languages, women are considered better coders than men, a new study published by computer science researchers shows.

Researchers examined 3 million pull requests, or contributions to projects, on GitHub, an open-source software community, and found that code written by women was accepted at 78.6 percent to men's 74.6 percent.

But there's a catch, The Guardian reports. Women's work was only accepted more than men's if their GitHub profiles were gender neutral. When users clearly identified as women, their acceptance rate was lower than that of their male peers. Julie Kliegman

10:35 a.m. ET
Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images

More than 5,000 pregnant women in Colombia have been infected by the Zika virus, the country's national health institute said Saturday. In the nation, 31,555 people in total have the virus, Reuters reports.

The Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency, is thought to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect. So far there are no cases of microcephaly linked to Zika in Colombia.

The mosquito-borne virus, which has been traced back to Brazil, has spread to more than 30 countries. Julie Kliegman

9:36 a.m. ET
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

The mother of Dylan Klebold, one of two boys who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999, gave her first televised interview Friday. Speaking to ABC's Diane Sawyer, Sue Klebold said she missed warning signs her son was depressed.

"I think we like to believe that our love and our understanding is protective, and that 'if anything were wrong with my kids, I would know,' but I didn't know, and I wasn't able to stop him from hurting other people," she said.

Klebold's interview, which you can watch here, comes as she promotes her Feb. 15 memoir, A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. Julie Kliegman

See More Speed Reads