The decision was unanimous and equivocal. Faced with 4-4 deadlocks after the February death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the court “punted” the case challenging Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate back to federal appeals courts. The decision urges the government and non-profit religious groups challenging the mandate to work out a compromise — with the result of respecting religious convictions while providing birth control to the groups’ employees, something likely to require difficult negotiations, while increasing pressure on the U.S. Senate to act on Obama’s nomination to fill Scalia’s seat.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Another bully’s entering Bashar Assad’s playground. The late Osama bin Laden’s organization is reportedly turning its sights on ISIS in Syria. Al-Qaida operatives have been instructed to set up an alternate headquarters there for the possible establishment of an emirate with their affiliate, the Nusra Front — a new move for the group, which has resisted creating a formal state in the past. This would help al-Qaida challenge ISIS’ territorial claims while boosting the terror groups’ bloody rivalry and putting even more extremists within striking distance of Europe.
Time to make a world of difference. That’s the message from the UN high commissioner for refugees. “Pushing people away won’t work,” Filippo Grandi warns, noting that less than 1 percent of last year’s 20 million refugees have been resettled in new nations. The burden is falling unevenly on a few to host the influx, and a handful more to foot the bill, Grandi said. Jolie backed up this plea, noting that it’s a “once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together.”
Who’s got the blues? A new poll shows Donald Trump neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in Georgia, a state that’s gone red since 1996 but now boasts rising minority electoral clout. But Democrats are on the defense in America’s Rust Belt, with one survey showing a virtual tie in Pennsylvania, which has not gone red since 1988. Interestingly, Bernie Sanders performs better than the former secretary of state in several key states — like Florida, Georgia and Ohio — when pitted against the Donald, providing some ammunition to his flickering campaign.
It would be bad for business. So say Europe’s financial elite ahead of Britain’s June 23 vote over whether to leave the EU. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of European firms think a Brexit would hurt business, while nearly half of international companies say they’d reduce their U.K. investment. Leaving could hike up the cost of EU-U.K. trade, opening the door to possible tariffs and other barriers, and some fear it’ll also add unneeded instability to the Continent, which is already struggling with a massive influx of refugees.
Kerry Says World Powers Favor Arming Libyan Government, Ex-West Point Prof Casts Doubt on Jessica Lynch Rescue Medals
U.S. officials ready to arm Libyan government to fight Islamic State. (BBC)
Expert questions medal citations for rescuers of Jessica Lynch in Iraq. (USA Today)
Source says she was misrepresented in Times story about Trump sexism. (NBC)
Woman shows up at Florida hospital with shark attached to her arm. (ABC)
Obama awards Medal of Honor to 13 police officers, one posthumously. (USA Today)
‘Suicidal’ Irish singer Sinead O’Connor lost and found near Chicago. (Rolling Stone)
It isn’t brain surgery, but still … Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons, who completed the nation’s first genitourinary reconstructive transplant last week, aren’t feeling cocky but are “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome. Patient Thomas Manning, 64, who lost his penis to cancer in 2012, reported little pain and hoped his success would encourage other men stigmatized by similar amputations. The organ, from a deceased donor, could take months to become as functional as the world’s first successfully transplanted penis, which helped father a child after being attached in South Africa in 2014.
Let’s call them early arrivals. Researchers have uncovered evidence of humans who lived near Tallahassee 14,550 years ago and hunted mastodon. That puts the first North Americans on the map at least 1,500 years before anthropologists previously believed. And they probably arrived even earlier, given that stone knives and other artifacts were found in a Florida sinkhole — far from the Alaska land bridge where ancient men and women crossed from Asia. More research is needed to determine whether these early arrivals contributed to the extinction of the mammoth and mastodon.
Can it keep the peace? This Tanzanian town isn’t a big tourist attraction, but it’s finding its feet as a hub for peacemaking. The Arusha Accords of 1993 ushered an end to Rwanda’s genocidal war, and now Tanzania’s recently elected president John Magufuli is trying to bring Burundian leaders to the same table to negotiate an end to civil strife sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s unconstitutional third term. Many see Tanzania as the region’s best hope for a peaceful leader, even as some worry about preferential treatment for longstanding Burundian allies.
They may not be feeling lucky. Some reports say the European Commission plans to hit the Internet search giant with a record fine of about $3.4 billion as a penalty for abusing its alleged monopoly. Google says it hasn’t promoted its own shopping results over those of other companies, but if the reports turn out to be true, the company will have to change its practices as well as cough up cash. The commission is expected to announce its findings — and the fine — as early as next month.
It spies a decision. British bookmaker Coral says a massive bet on Tom Hiddleston to fill 007’s impeccable shoes has prompted it to suspend betting on the Bond enterprise. Idris Elba, Damien Lewis, Tom Hardy and Hiddleston have all been rumored as potential Daniel Craig successors. But bets on The Night Manager star — reportedly spotted with Bond director Sam Mendes — in recent weeks have made him the 2-1 favorite. “There’s no smoke without fire,” Coral’s spokesperson says, of a selection that’s sure to shake and stir the film industry.
Don’t mess with Texas. Toronto star Jose Bautista’s aggressive slide into second base sparked an eighth-inning brawl yesterday, punctuated by Texas second baseman Rougned Odor punching the Santo Domingo native square in the jaw. Bautista had taken offense to being hit by a pitch on the previous play. A feud between the AL powers has been stewing since October, when Bautista dramatically flipped his bat in the air after a playoff-series-winning home run. Several players were ejected for the bench-clearing melee, and suspensions are likely.