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Weekly Digest

The following front-page stories received the most comments during the preceding week.

A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries. The massive financial goal was revealed to donors here Monday during an annual winter meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign. read more


Go home. Stay there. Seriously. That's the message government officials across the Northeast offered residents Monday ahead of what could be a blizzard of historic proportions bearing down on the region. "What you're going to see in the (next) few hours is something that hits very hard and very fast and people cannot be caught off guard," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, warning that mass transit options will begin to dwindle as the night wears on.


President Barack Obama's healthcare law will cost about 20% less over the next decade than originally projected, the Congressional Budget Office reported Monday, in part because lower-than-expected healthcare inflation has led to smaller premiums. So far, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by about 12 million. By the end of 2016, 24 million fewer Americans will lack insurance, the nonpartisan budget office forecast. read more


U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released from captivity last year in a controversial Taliban prisoner swap, could be charged with desertion within a week, NBC News reported Tuesday, quoting senior defense officials. The officer in charge of the case, General Mark Milley, is expected to release his public decision soon on whether the findings merit a court-martial or some form of administrative punishment. Bergdahl is stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he is working as a clerk. read more


A Seattle high school teacher said what would have been one of the proudest days of his life turned into a painful violation from Seattle police. Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian says right after giving a speech at a Martin Luther King Jr. rally, police pepper sprayed him. The NAACP filed the claim at Seattle City Hall Wednesday afternoon, against the city of Seattle and Seattle police. The civil rights group says the incident happened on the holiday a week ago, during a demonstration. read more


Mitt Romney said Friday that he would not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016, announcing the decision in a conference call with a small group of advisers. In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Romney said, "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee."


The middle class has been shrinking for almost half a century. In the late 1960s, more than half of the households in the United States were squarely in the middle, earning, in today's dollars, $35,000 to $100,000 a year. Few people noticed or cared as the size of that group began to fall, because the shift was primarily caused by more Americans climbing the economic ladder into upper-income brackets. But since 2000, the middle-class share of households has continued to narrow, the main reason being that more people have fallen to the bottom. read more


As American Sniper continues to spark heated debate on whether the film promotes pro-war sentiments, the film's director Clint Eastwood defended his work as anti-war. "The biggest anti-war statement any film" can make is to show "the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did," Eastwood said during a breakfast Sunday for Producers Guild Award nominees. The movie has grossed $200 million domestically and received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper.


Shortly after declaring that she's "seriously interested" in running for president in 2016, Sarah Palin delivered a confusing speech that was panned by many, even some on the right. Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Saturday, the former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential candidate delivered a speech that John Fund of the National Review described as "meandering and often bizarre." Scott Conroy of RealClearPolitics wrote on Twitter, "I don't say this lightly. This is the strangest speech I've ever seen Sarah Palin deliver." read more


"A mining company employee who refused to submit to biometric hand scanning because he feared the scanner would imprint him with the 'Mark of the Beast,' was awarded $150,000 in damages by a federal jury last week. The employee, who is an evangelical Christian, was told he had to submit to the tracking technology for time and attendance logging. He said using the scanner went against his religious beliefs." -- Boing Boing


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