Weekly Review — July 1, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The U.S. Supreme Court weakens the ACA’s contraception mandate; ISIL attempts to legitimize its territorial gains in the Middle East; and Facebook gives you feelings 

Babylonian LionIn a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act contravenes the religious freedom of “closely held” businesses like Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City–based arts-and-crafts retailer that had contested the law’s requirement that it provide female employees with insurance that covers such contraceptives as Ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices. “Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent, “or according women equal pay for substantially similar work.”[1][2][3] In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers must usually obtain court-issued warrants before searching the cell phones of persons they arrest. The ruling vacated the convictions of two men, David Riley and Brima Wurie, whose cell-phone data had provided police in San Diego and Boston, respectively, with evidence of crimes other than those for which the suspects were being detained. “Once an officer has secured a phone and eliminated any potential physical threats,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, “data on the phone can endanger no one.”[4][5][6] Acting under court order, the Justice Department released a heavily redacted version of the memo that provided the U.S. government with legal justification for the 2011 killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in a drone strike in Yemen. “I think even the groups that sharply criticized us would call this a win for transparency,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “The public still knows scandalously little about who the government is killing and why,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jameel Jaffer.[7][8][9] Department of Veterans Affairs appointment scheduler Pauline DeWenter disclosed that a VA facility in Phoenix had excised from medical records confirmations of the deaths of seven veterans who had died while awaiting care. “If you don’t do this my way,” DeWenter recalled being told by her supervisor, “I will personally buy you a pass for the 7th Street bus out of the VA.”[10][11] A line in a full-page New York Times ad offering $300 and free lunch to 1,000 homeless people at a restaurant in Central Park turned out to have been a translator’s error.[12][13]

A plane carrying the Spanish national soccer team home following its first-round defeat in the World Cup was struck by lightning.[14] Colombian midfielder James Rodríguez became the tournament’s leading scorer, with five, after scoring two goals to defeat Uruguay, and star Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez was suspended for nine games after biting an Italian player on the neck in the first round, earning payouts for 39 gamblers on the bookmaking site Betsafe, at odds of 174:1.[15][16][17] Veterinarian Carlos Valderrama was found to have castrated a wild descendant of African hippopotamuses purchased by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar for his personal zoo during the 1980s.[18] In a nationwide sting, the FBI arrested 281 alleged pimps and took into protective custody 168 children who had been trafficked.[19] Militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate near the Iraq–Syria border, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at its head.[20] The Sudanese government reconstituted the janjaweed, the militia accused of fomenting genocide in Darfur, and set free a woman who had been sentenced to death for being a Christian and had given birth in prison while shackled.[21][22] The U.S.-based Fund For Peace placed Sudan atop its 2014 Fragile States Index; ranked last was Finland, where the Helsinki Airport announced plans for a clothing-optional unisex sauna.[23][24]

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Facebook acknowledged that its data scientists had manipulated the newsfeeds of 689,003 users in order to study how social factors influence mood, and had concluded that people respond positively to positive emotion displayed by their friends. “[This] stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts,” said the study, “affect[s] us negatively.”[25] An inquiry into the death of a zoo ostrich in La Teste-de-Buch, France, concluded that the bird had been killed not by a pony, as a zookeeper had claimed, but by the zookeeper himself.[26] In Alaska, a 180-pound black bear fell through a skylight into a private home during a child’s birthday party, ate several cupcakes, went to a different house, and was killed by police. “It was up by the window,” said the child’s mother, “like, ‘I want more cupcakes.’ ”[27][28] Boko Haram gunmen were fleeing snake and bee attacks on their hideouts in the Sambisa Forest of northeastern Nigeria.[29] The Bristol Zoo treated a 32-year-old tortoise for sinusitis.[30] At Dartmoor Prison in Devon, England, inmates who had climbed onto the roof were offered sunscreen by staff. “It’s only going to encourage other inmates to get on the roofs and expect sun cream,” said a correctional-workers union official, “and possibly cold drinks and ice creams as well.”[31] The British Fertility Society warned of a shortage of sperm.[32] In Sydney, two British–Australian dual citizens became the first men to wed in a British consulate, then returned to Australian jurisdiction, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.[33] Astronomers confirmed the existence of a diamond as massive as the sun.[34]


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