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6 things we loved this week (no politics, promise)

CLOSE 6 things we loved this week (no politics, promise)
6 things we loved this week (no politics, promise)

Puppies are worth celebrating every day but especially today. USA TODAY

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Ava the puppy is training for a very important job. (Photo: The Arizona Republic)

There is a lot happening in Washington this week (and we've got it all covered ). But sometimes you just can't. And that's why, in this politics-free zone,  International Day of Happiness and National Puppy Day aren't the only awesome things we're remembering this week.

When you read way too much into the letters NA_ED

Yes, it was an epic fail. But when a contestant on  Wheel of Fortune  just couldn't get there when presented with the clues "A STREETCAR NA_ED DESIRE,"  it's nothing short of Internet glory . (ICYMI, he asks for a "K.")

Who's happy? We're happy! ... Right?

CLOSE 6 things we loved this week (no politics, promise)
6 things we loved this week (no politics, promise)

Can you guess which country claimed the title of most blissful in this United Nations report? USA TODAY

Norway is one really freaking happy place. That's a fact, according to a United Nations report out Monday . So if you need a ray of sunshine, filter it through some reindeer, fjords and snow. The U.S. dropped one spot from the year before, now ranking 14th happiest in the world.

Mystery, solved: Tom Brady's old Super Bowl jersey was found

Good news for the New England Patriots quarterback: Tom Brady's jersey was found, in Mexico . It was apparently taken by someone with media credentials at some point after the game. Yikes. We also learned that his game-worn jersey from Super Bowl XLIX went missing — that one was found, too. "Hopefully when I get the jerseys back I can make something very positive come from this experience," Brady said in a statement thanking investigators.

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But actually, no one is having a better year in sports than Bill Murray

Let's talk about the NCAA tournament's Cinderella:  Xavier upset No. 2 Arizona on Thursday to advance to the Elite 8. Murray's son Luke is an assistant coach on Xavier’s staff.  He could. not. be. happier . "If you’re here, you better be on your feet and screaming," Murray told USA TODAY Sports. March is winding down, but March Madness is heating up with games tonight and through the weekend. Friday's games :

  • No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Butler, 6:09 p.m., CBS. 
  • No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 UCLA Time, approx. 8:39 p.m. ET, CBS. 
  • No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 7 South Carolina  6:29 p.m., TBS.
  • No. 4 Florida vs. No. 8 Wisconsin  approx. 8:59 p.m. ET, TBS. 

Guess what? Chicken butt — and legs, and feathers, and one big bird

A video of a giant chicken took over the Internet earlier this week. No, that's not a costume ... but it is one big bird. And actually, if you watch the full clip, there are two(!!) of them. After some sleuthing, Twitter users seemed to land on the epic fowl being of the Brahma breed, which can weigh up to 18 pounds.

You don't have to haul 8 gallons of ketchup alone anymore

Why

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Trump grants Keystone permit, declares 'a great day for American jobs'

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Amtrak derailment closes rail service at New York's Penn Station

Bart Jansen and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY

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Fact check: GOP’s Obamacare obituary is premature

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President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010. (Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Republicans repeatedly claim that Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” collapsing of its own weight. This is wishful thinking on their part, with little evidence to support it.

Examples of the GOP line:

  • “[T]he law is collapsing,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said over the weekend on Fox News Sunday .  He cited limited choices in some states and insurance companies pulling out of some markets, and he predicted “massive” premium increases in the future.
  • President Trump said the law is “ just about ready to implode ,” during a March 17 photo-op with the Republican Study Committee members who support the GOP plan. “Obamacare is dead; it’s a dead health care plan.”

In reality the law — specifically the ACA marketplaces for those buying their own coverage — is ailing, but still very much alive.

Federal officials announced a few days ago that 12.2 million people were signed u p to be covered by Obamacare health insurance policies sold through the federal and state ACA marketplaces, or exchanges, this year — down less than 4% from the 12.7 million who signed up during the same period a year earlier . That’s a pretty lively corpse.

Furthermore, this year’s sign-up figure is expected to rise; it doesn’t include “waiting in line” sign-ups that California and three other states allowed for people who had started the enrollment process before the Jan. 31 cut-off. Also, part of the difference is due to Louisiana’s recent expansion of Medicaid, which now covers some who had obtained coverage in 2016 through the Obamacare exchanges.

Indeed, independent experts predict that the Obamacare exchanges — should the GOP Congress fail to repeal the law as promised — likely will remain stable for many years.

“If nothing else changed they would probably stabilize at a lower level of enrollment,” says Mark V. Pauly , a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

That’s also the judgment of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office , which said in its analysis of the House bill to replace Obamacare that the market for individuals to purchase policies “would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the [GOP replacement] legislation.”

Problems, But No ‘Implosion’

It’s true that Obamacare — more formally known as the Affordable Care Act — has serious problems. These were summed up by the health insurance lobby itself in a Jan. 24 statement to the House Ways and Means Committee. America’s Health Insurance Plans said, “The challenges facing the individual exchange marketplace – which have been well-documented – include significant increases in average premiums in 2017, fewer health plan choices, and lower-than-expected exchange enrollment and risk pool stability challenges in some states.”

On average those signing up for ACA policies have been older, sicker and more expensive to care for than many

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TransCanada's Keystone pipeline receives Trump presidential permit

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(Photo: TransCanada)

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