Lawfare
July 1, 2014

Like most late-night TV hosts, John Oliver is on vacation this week. But on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, Oliver had the foresight to criticize the Supreme Court's decision — handed down about 12 hours later — in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which a 5-4 court ruled that family-owned companies don't have to comply with a federal requirement to provide female employees health insurance that covers contraception.

Oliver is preemptively unhappy with the ruling, and his dissent is along the same line as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's. Hobby Lobby and co-plaintiff Conestoga Wood argued "that the sincerity of their beliefs should allow them a line-item veto over federal law," he said, "But government is not an à la carte option, where you can pick and choose based on your beliefs. Taxation is more of an all-you-can-eat salad bar: You don't get to show up and go, 'Look, I know it costs $10.99, but I'm only paying $7.50 because I have a moral objection to beets.'"

Oliver's short segment isn't all trenchant legal analysis. There's an amusing bit where he imagines which religions other companies, mostly food sellers, will choose to be. I can't reprint here why Taco Bell is presumably Hindu, but if you don't mind some NSFW language, watch below. Still, Oliver ends with some advice for the U.S. companies newly endowed with some more human rights: "If you really want to be treated like a person, corporations, then guess what: Paying for things you don't like is what it feels like to be one." --Peter Weber

Puppies!
12:39 a.m. ET

Hey, if a German octopus can predict World Cup soccer matches, is using puppies to predict the winner of the NCAA men's basketball tournament so crazy? No, if you are Jimmy Fallon, as he had seven adorable pups preemptively crown a victor on Tuesday night's Tonight Show. Yes, if you are a fan of Duke, which got nothing more than a puppy tease. Watch, for the betting tip or for the puppies, below. —Peter Weber

Iran and the bomb
March 31, 2015
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The six-day marathon of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program went into overtime in Lausanne, Switzerland, blowing past a midnight Tuesday deadline and formally being extended to the end of April 1. Iran and Russia sounded optimistic notes late Tuesday, before talks broke for the night early Wednesday, but the U.S. said it will "walk away" if key elements in the political agreement can't be resolved and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared he will return to France until his presence would be "useful."

"One can say with enough confidence that (foreign) ministers have reached a general agreement on all key aspects of a final settlement to this issue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's TASS news service. "It will be put down in writing over the next few hours, maybe during the day." No other negotiator was quite that upbeat. The main sticking points, Reuters says, are how quickly United Nation sanctions would be phased out, whether they could be automatically re-instated, and if Iran would get the unfettered right to research and develop nuclear centrifuges after a 10-year window.

This just in
March 31, 2015
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Arkansas on Tuesday passed a religious freedom bill largely similar to the one in Indiana that has sparked an intense public backlash and boycott threats. The state's Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, has signaled he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

Like Indiana's law, the Arkansas version goes further than a federal iteration and those elsewhere around the country in that it protects against "burdens" on religious freedom even when the state is not a party in the litigation. Amid unrelenting criticism, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Tuesday said his state would "fix" its law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Abortion
March 31, 2015
Phil Walter/Getty Images

Despite the fact that a large number of Americans find abortion to be morally unacceptable, pro-abortion rights activists are determined to destigmatize the procedure.

Carafem, a new clinic in the Washington, D.C. area, has an unconventional approach to providing patients with the abortion pill. The whole clinic has a "spa-like" feel, The Washington Post reports, and patients are provided with warm teas and soft robes.

While Carafem may aim to create a soothing atmosphere, President Christopher Purdy is unapologetic about the clinic's actual purpose. "We don't want to talk in hushed tones," he said. "We use the A-word."

According to the Post, the pro-abortion rights campaign comes as the movement is struggling politically in the face of anti-abortion activists' growing momentum. Activists hope that clinics like Carafem, coupled with "unapologetic" and "bold" attempts to put a human face to abortion, will help normalize the controversial procedure.

Really?
March 31, 2015
iStock

The secret to finding sewage leaks in rivers could be at your local drugstore.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England are using tampons' absorbent properties to science's advantage. Their study, published in the Water and Environment Journal, found that tampons absorb "optical brighteners" found in common cleaning products, and the particles make the tampons glow under ultraviolet light. By dipping tampons into rivers, the researchers believe they can detect where sewage is seeping into the water stream from nearby households.

The scientists left tampons attached to rods in 16 surface water outlets in Sheffield. After a three-day period, nine of the tampons glowed under UV light. The researchers were then able to identify where the sewage leaks were.

"Sewage in rivers is very unpleasant, very widespread, and very difficult to track down," David Lerner, a University of Sheffield professor who led the study, told The Guardian. "Our new method may be unconventional, but it’s cheap and it works."

The researchers estimate that five percent of English homes have misconnected pipes that cause sewage leakage. Only 17 percent of England's rivers are in "good health," The Guardian notes. The scientists hope to use the "tampon tests" in larger trial areas to help stop sewage pollution.

This just in
March 31, 2015
FBI/Getty Images

Defense lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Tuesday rested their case after attempting to convince jurors that while Tsarnaev participated in the attack, his brother was the mastermind.

The defense called just four witnesses while arguing that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a police chase following the attack, plotted the bombing that killed three and injured 260 more. Tsarnaev's lawyer's never denied their clients' guilt, saying in an opening statement, "It was him."

Tsarnaev faces 30 charges, 17 of which are punishable by death.

cheap read
March 31, 2015
Facebook.com/New York Daily News

Declining circulation and plunging advertising revenue have plagued the tabloid for years, Reuters reports, and despite cable distributors facing industry problems of their own, Cablevision will reportedly still be able to make an offer on the New York Daily News with the whopping bid price of one dollar.

According to Reuters, Cablevision Systems Corp. could make the offer as early as this week. The paper's low value and Cablevision's insanely low bid take into account the News' $30 million annual loss and waning readership.

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