Hobby Lobby Redux
July 4, 2014

The Supreme Court on Thursday evening unveiled its latest ruling around birth control and religious freedom — and if you disliked the Hobby Lobby decision earlier this week, you're going to hate this one.

The latest ruling allows Wheaton College to skirt ObamaCare's contraceptive provisions as long as the evangelical school informs the government of its religious objections to providing its staff and students with any type of birth control. Previously, the government required a non-profit with religious objections to sign a form handing over responsibility of providing contraceptive coverage to its insurer or health care plan administrator — now, presumably, the government would handle the hand off.

Saying the decision "undermines confidence in this institution," Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent, accusing the court of backtracking key elements of its Hobby Lobby decision. "Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word," Sotomayor wrote. "Not so today."

She said the ruling set up unworkable regulations that risked "depriving hundreds of Wheaton's employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage" and allowed "hundreds or thousands of other objectors" a similar way out.

She was joined in her dissent by the court's two other female justices. In fact, the decision broke down completely across gender lines — the court's male justices comprised the majority opinion — suggesting that the court's battle over religious freedom and reproductive rights is only going to get more contentious. Nico Lauricella

This just in
5:28 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Nebraska became the first conservative state to repeal the death penalty in decades on Wednesday, as state lawmakers narrowly voted to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' (R) veto of the bill.

The Omaha World-Herald notes that 30 of Nebraska's 49 senators must vote to overturn a gubernatorial veto; the state's senators voted 30-19 to override Ricketts' veto. The repeal marks a victory for independent Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha (pictured), who has spent four decades lobbying for the death penalty's abolishment.

Nebraska joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C. in banning the death penalty. Sarah Eberspacher

Political candidates: They're just like us!
4:15 p.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Us Weekly, the tabloid that regularly provides readers with content like this full slideshow of "Hollywood's Most Eye-Catching, Ogle-Worthy Bulges," netted a celebrity of a different sort this week to participate in its trademark "25 things you don't know about me" questionnaire. Tabloid readers hungry for the latest tidbits of celebrity trivia (Ariana Grande thinks Bruce Almighty is "the greatest movie ever"! John Stamos eats crackers in bed!) will have to settle for some fun facts from GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul, who shared everything from his favorite drink (root beer float) to his most unlikely hobby (composting) with the magazine.

Like a true politician, the 25 facts are a carefully calculated smattering of humanizing personal details ("I love working in the yard on my days off. Mowing the lawn is very therapeutic for me") and overt ideological pandering to his libertarian-leaning fan base ("Growing up, my parents did not enforce a curfew. They believed excessive rules can have unintended consequences"). Apparently a bald eagle even lives in a nest near his backyard.

The most confusing item — aside from the fact that he cut his own hair on his wedding day — is the last one on the list:

25. One thing I never travel without: my Ray-Ban sunglasses. It's important to protect your eyes from the sun. [Us Weekly]

Despite the fact that Rand supporters can't actually get their hands on Ray-Bans branded for his 2016 campaign, at least this proves the former ophthalmologist-turned-GOP hopeful is loyal to his favorite brand of sunglasses.

Read the full list of Rand Paul facts at Us Weekly. Samantha Rollins

This doesn't look good
3:50 p.m. ET
iStock

Only 63 percent of Americans have saved any money for retirement within the past year, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.

The survey of 5,800 Americans, conducted last fall, found that 31 percent of Americans have no retirement savings or pension plans. And among adults older than 45, almost 25 percent of respondents didn't have retirement savings. Thirty-eight percent of respondents, meanwhile, said they don't plan on retiring and will "keep working as long as possible," USA Today reports.

The results weren't all bad, though: 29 percent of respondents surveyed last year expected their income would be higher in 2015, an increase from 21 percent in 2013. And 65 percent of adults surveyed said their families are "living comfortably" or "doing okay," compared with 62 percent in 2013. Meghan DeMaria

Discoveries
3:10 p.m. ET

A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One describes what was likely a grisly murder — and it happened 430,000 years ago.

A skull found in Spain's "Pit of Bones" in the Atapuerca Mountains is evidence of the world's first murder. It dates to the Middle Pleistocene time period and belonged to a young adult.

The skull is covered in red clay and was shattered into pieces. Forbes explains that the skull also showed two depression fractures, proving the victim was subject to blunt force trauma to the head. The researchers explain that the skull fractures were not accidental, since both fractures were likely caused by the same object and are found on the skull's facial region. They believe the victim's death was "the result of interpersonal violence."

Nohemi Sala of the Complutense University of Madrid, author of the study, explains in the paper that the find is significant because it "represents the earliest clear case of deliberate, lethal interpersonal aggression in the hominin fossil record." According to Sala, the find proves that murder was "an ancient human behavior," rather than a more recent development. Meghan DeMaria

Really?
2:00 p.m. ET
Johannes Simon/Getty Images

A proposed U.K. bill, expected to be published later this week, includes a "blanket ban" on legal highs, and the current legislation is worded to make the ban so broad that alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee are included unless specific exemptions are issued.

Queen Elizabeth announced the legislation on Wednesday, and the bill would ban "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect." The legislation would carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence for offenders, The Guardian reports. The bill would first ban all psychoactive substances and then explain which substances are government-permitted.

Ireland and Poland have similar bans, but their legislation stipulates that substances must produce "significant" effects, so the laws don't include caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. The U.K. legislation is designed to prohibit chemically engineered drugs that are legal until explicitly banned. Meghan DeMaria

Quotables
1:46 p.m. ET
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There are plenty of things in this world that are undeniably cool — leather jackets, motorcycles, rebellious teens in rock bands, for example. But if you're Scott Walker, you can add mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women seeking abortions to that list.

In an interview that surfaced on Talking Points Memo Tuesday, presumed presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) defended his support of a 2013 bill that required pregnant women seeking abortions to first get ultrasounds. The governor said, "I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound," whether they're pro-life or not. "It's just a cool thing out there."

"We just knew if we signed that law," Walker continued, "more people [...] would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child."

You can listen to audio from the interview here. Stephanie Talmadge

Extreme weather
1:00 p.m. ET
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

El Niño may be wreaking havoc in Texas and Oklahoma with deadly floods, but the climate cycle, which brings warmer-than-average temperatures to the Pacific Ocean, will likely suppress the hurricanes that typically hit the coastal areas in the southern and eastern parts of the country. El Niño is already affecting wind and pressure patterns and is expected to last through the season that runs June 1 through November 30.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls it a "below-normal" hurricane season, which means there is only a 70 percent likelihood that six to 11 named storms will develop.

But that "doesn’t mean we're off the hook," a NOAA administrator cautions. As many as six of those storms could become hurricanes and even tropical storms can cause serious destruction. Experts also point out that the "below-normal" 1992 season had only seven storms, but the first was Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida. Lauren Hansen

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