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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

4:22 p.m. ET

While joblessness among recent college graduates is finally on the decline, the problem of "underemployment" seems to be on the rise: Think the young, overeducated barista working at your local coffee shop. Underemployment — that is, a college grad working in a job that doesn't require a college degree — is higher today than it has been at any other point in the 21st century, The Atlantic reports, and the number of "non-college" jobs opening up for newly minted adults is rising at a faster rate than jobs that require higher education.

A large gap has opened between those with humanities degrees and those with STEM training. Underemployment afflicts more than 50 percent of college graduates with majors in history, communications, political science, and philosophy, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Graduates with degrees in math, science, and engineering typically have much better job prospects and starting salaries.

But as The Atlantic points out, college graduates still reap benefits overall, no matter what major is written on their diploma. The college-educated are still more likely than those without a degree to have higher wages, get married, and have kids that also go off to college. Kelly Gonsalves

4:05 p.m. ET
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The Senate on Wednesday averted a government shutdown with the passage of a spending bill that will keep the government funded through Dec. 9. The bill, which pledges $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus and $500 million in flood relief to Louisiana, passed in a 72-26 vote. It will next move to the House, where it's expected to be approved, and will then hit President Obama's desk.

Senate Democrats initially blocked the measure Tuesday because it did not include aid for the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan; however, the bill moved forward Wednesday after Republicans agreed Tuesday night to consider Flint aid in a future measure, to come after the presidential election.

Many government agencies were set to run out of funding Friday, as the fiscal year ends at midnight Oct. 1. With the stop-gap bill, such a shutdown is avoided. Becca Stanek

3:49 p.m. ET

It has not escaped the notice of female Democratic senators that Donald Trump is rather out-of-bounds when it comes to his treatment of women. Just this week, it was revealed Trump humiliated former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by inviting reporters to film her working out after she gained some weight following her beauty pageant win. Trump has also repeatedly questioned Hillary Clinton's health and "stamina," demanding she release detailed health records.

In response, Sen. Claire McCaskill fired back a taste of Trump's own medicine:

For what it's worth, Trump is in "astonishingly excellent" health, according to his doctor. Jeva Lange

3:37 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, the House seconded the Senate's vote to override President Obama's veto of a controversial bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government for its alleged role in the terrorist attacks. Just hours after the Senate agreed 97 to 1 to override the veto, the House also rejected Obama's move, 348 to 77. Congress' decision marked the first veto override of Obama's presidency; the president has vetoed 12 bills, including the 9/11 bill, during his tenure.

Obama vetoed the legislation Friday on the grounds it would disrupt U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and end the immunity from American lawsuits granted to other countries by a 1976 law. Proponents of the bill argue it allows victims' families to achieve a sense of justice.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied it was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Becca Stanek

3:19 p.m. ET

Hell hath no fury like a cheated music store owner — and it looks like this could be just the start of a whole new round of small business owners saying they got ripped off by Donald Trump.

In a guest column in The Washington Post published Wednesday, retired store owner J. Michael Diehl of Freehold Music Center tells the story of how his small New Jersey store got swindled by Trump way back in 1989, on a $100,000 order for pianos at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

"I asked my lawyer if I should ask for payment upfront, and he laughed," Diehl wrote. "'It's Donald Trump!' he told me. 'He’s got lots of money.'"

Bad move, it turned out:

When I requested payment, the Trump corporation hemmed and hawed. Its executives avoided my calls and crafted excuses. After a couple of months, I got a letter telling me that the casino was short on funds. They would pay 70 percent of what they owed me. There was no negotiating. I didn’t know what to do — I couldn’t afford to sue the Trump corporation, and I needed money to pay my piano suppliers. So I took the $70,000. [J. Michael Diehl, via The Washington Post]

The loss of $30,000 in revenue seriously damaged Diehl, he wrote, in terms of both his personal salary and the capital to further grow his business: "Because of Trump, my store stagnated for a couple of years. It made me feel really bad, like I’d been taken advantage of. I was embarrassed."

"It's a callous way to do business," Diehl concluded of Trump's wheeling and dealing ways. Read his whole account at The Washington Post. Eric Kleefeld

2:30 p.m. ET

Donald Trump rather famously complained that climate change is just an elaborate Chinese hoax, and has used New York's frigid winter storms to mock global warming. But according to a new study in Atmospheres, New York's brutal winters are actually evidence of the growing impact climate change is having on the United States — and it is a trend that is going to continue throughout the century.

Researchers have observed what they call a "North American winter temperature dipole," meaning East Coast winters have brought snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, while the West Coast has roughed mild, dry winters that bring on droughts due to the lack of snow. "We're in this new world that's much, much warmer with much less sea ice and that's changing the way the atmosphere behaves," said climate scientist Jennifer Francis. "It's an interesting time to be studying this, but the bad news is, we're watching this planet fall apart."

The occurrence of warm West/cold East winters began as early as 1980, but "has become more frequent ... a trend that reflects the influence of global warming on the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere," Inside Climate News writes. The pattern will continue for the rest of the century but eventually "level off as the East becomes too warm for extreme weather conditions." Hooray? Jeva Lange

2:28 p.m. ET
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The U.S. plans to send roughly 600 more troops to Iraq to "further enable" local forces in the fight to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Wednesday. The additional troops will join the 4,565 military personnel already in Iraq, and will assist with training and advising the Iraqi military.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had requested additional troops to "provide support for security forces," and the Obama administration had agreed to provide them. In a statement posted to his official website, al-Abadi stressed that the role of American troops would remain strictly advisory, and that Iraqi troops would complete the combat mission.

The Associated Press reported that a victory in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and ISIS's "last major urban stronghold" in the country, would be both "symbolic and strategic." If Iraqi troops could successfully reclaim Mosul, The Associated Press reported, the U.S. and its allies believe that could pave the way for defeating ISIS in Raqqa, the terrorist group's stronghold in Syria. Becca Stanek

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