Slatest PM: All Eyes on Kennedy During SCOTUS Birth Control Hearing

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 25 2014 4:23 PM

Slatest PM: All Eyes on Kennedy During SCOTUS Birth Control Hearing

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Activists supporting Hobby Lobby talk outside the Supreme Court March 25, 2014 in Washington, DC

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

A Court Divided: Washington Post: “A divided Supreme Court seemed inclined to agree Tuesday that the religious beliefs of business owners may trump a requirement in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that they provide their employees with insurance coverage for all types of contraceptives. ... [I]t was difficult to predict a precise outcome from the spirited 90-minute argument. A majority of the justices seemed to agree that the family-owned businesses that objected to the requirement were covered by a federal statute that gives great protection to the exercise of religion. That would mean the government must show the requirement is not a substantial burden on their religious expression, and that there was no less intrusive way to provide contraceptive coverage to female workers."

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The Swing Vote, as Usual: Associated Press: “The outcome could turn on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote. Kennedy voiced concerns both about the rights of female employees and the business owners. Kennedy asked what rights would women have if their employers ordered them to wear burkas, a full-length robe commonly worn by conservative Islamic women. Later in the 90-minute argument, he seemed troubled about how the logic of the government's argument would apply to abortions. ‘A profit corporation could be forced in principle to pay for abortions,’ Kennedy said. ‘Your reasoning would permit it.’”

PSA: Court watchers and the media often read too much into oral arguments (see: Obamacare), so we won't know anything for sure until the court issues its decision.

It's Tuesday, March 25thwelcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter @k_tunney and the whole team @Slatest.

NSA Reforms: Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would like to overhaul the National Security Agency's phone-records program by ending government collection and storage of mass amounts of such phone-call data. Mr. Obama also said a proposal he is advancing would require a judge to oversee each data search. The announcement ... comes just days before a Friday deadline established by Mr. Obama for proposals from intelligence and law-enforcement officials for restructuring the phone program, which collects millions of U.S. phone records a year. ... Until Congress passes legislation, however, Mr. Obama will continue to renew a court order authorizing the current NSA phone program, based at the agency. The current legal authority expires at 5 p.m. Friday."

The Washington Mud Slide: New York Times: “The search for survivors at the site of a massive landslide continued Tuesday with the growing fear that rescue workers will find more bodies beneath the several stories of mud with the consistency of freshly poured concrete. Officials in Snohomish County say they now have had 176 reports of people unaccounted for — up from 108 on Monday — since a wall of mud came cascading down a mountain slope Saturday onto the tiny community of Oso. At least 14 people have been killed. Fifty Washington members of the state National Guard arrived Tuesday to aid in the search, along with search-and-rescue teams from around the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was setting up a command center in the area to help coordinate the work, a spokeswoman said. Mortuary assistance teams have also started to arrive, officials said.”

Navy Base Shooting: Associated Press: "A civilian approaching a Navy destroyer at the world's largest naval base late at night took a weapon from a sailor who was standing watch and used it to shoot and kill another sailor who was trying to help his embattled colleague, Navy officials said Tuesday. Navy security forces then killed the suspect, who was authorized to be on Naval Station Norfolk and did not bring his own weapon on base, according to Capt. Robert Clark, the base's commanding officer. ... No other injuries were reported from the encounter, which occurred Monday about 11:20 p.m. on the USS Mahan, a guided-missile destroyer. It wasn't immediately clear why the civilian approached the ship or if he ever had access to it previously."

Copenhagen Zoo Kills Four More Animals: Guardian: "A Danish zoo that prompted international outrage by putting down a healthy giraffe and dissecting it in public has killed two lions and their two cubs to make way for a new male. 'Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves,' Copenhagen zoo said. The 10-month-old lions would have been killed by the new male lion 'as soon as he got the chance', it said. The four lions were put down on Monday after the zoo failed to find a new home for them, a spokesman said. All four were from the same family. He said there would be no public dissection of the animals since 'not all our animals are dissected in front of an audience'."

That's all for today. See you back here on tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.

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