Irin Carmon: White House Issues New Fix For Contraceptive Coverage
The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act. The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
BREAKING: The Obama Administration just announced new rules to ensure women have access to birth control coverage: on.msnbc.com/1toydbB
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. “The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
AP: Bank Of America Agrees To Nearly $17B Settlement
The government has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The deal calls for the bank, the second-largest in the U.S., to pay a $5 billion cash penalty, another $4.6 billion in remediation payments and provide about $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners. The settlement is by far the largest deal the Justice Department has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
In the last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to a $13 billion settlement while Citigroup reached a separate $7 billion deal. At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said the bank and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch subsidiaries had “engaged in pervasive schemes to defraud financial institutions and other investors” by misrepresenting the soundness of mortgage-backed securities. The penalties, Holder said, go “far beyond the cost of doing business.”
Bloomberg: Housing Starts Rebound In U.S. As Inflation Eases
Home construction rebounded in July and the cost of living rose at a slower pace, showing a strengthening U.S. economy has yet to generate a sustained pickup in inflation. A 15.7 percent jump took housing starts to a 1.09 million annualized rate, the strongest since November, and halted a two-month slide, the Commerce Department said in Washington. The consumer price index increased 0.1 percent after rising 0.3 percent in June, the Labor Department also reported. An improving job market and cheaper borrowing costs are helping revive residential real estate, helping boost sales at companies such as Home Depot Inc. (HD) As inflation continues to run below the Federal Reserve’s target, it gives the central bank room to keep interest rates low well after the projected end of its bond-buying program in October.
The pickup in housing starts in the U.S. exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of 75 economists. The median projection called for 965,000, within a range of 898,000 to 1.03 million. The Commerce Department also revised June’s reading up to a 945,000 pace from a previously reported 893,000. The report also indicated the building industry will probably consolidate gains in coming months as permits for future projects advanced 8.1 percent to a 1.05 million pace, about in line with the current level of starts. The gain reflected the most applications for single-family dwellings since November.
Bloomberg: Job Market Tilts Toward U.S. Workers In Virtuous Cycle
The balance of power in the job market is shifting slowly toward employees from employers. Bob Funk sees it firsthand from his position as chief executive officer of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals. “We’re short of people in a number of cities,” he said. So he’s changing the focus of his $2.5 billion, Oklahoma City-based business. Instead of concentrating on finding jobs for those who want them, Express Employment is putting more effort into finding workers for companies that need them. “We’re back in the recruiting market again,” Funk said. The 74-year-old industry veteran isn’t the only one to notice the change. Americans who have been hunting for employment for more than six months
are finding they’re having better luck landing a job, while people who had given up looking are returning to the labor force to resume their search. Companies, meanwhile, are beefing up their in-house recruiting teams and increasingly using complicated computer algorithms to scour the Web for prospective job candidates. This is all good news for the economy, according to Nariman Behravesh, the Lexington, Massachusetts-based chief economist for IHS Inc. He said the U.S. has entered a “virtuous cycle” where job gains are leading to increased household expenditures, encouraging employers to hire more workers. Consumer spending rose in June by the most in three months, according to Commerce Department data published Aug. 1.
I keep coming back to what seems to me to be the most inhumane thing of all, the inhumane thing that happened before the rage began to rise, and before the backlash began to build, and before the cameras and television lights, and before the tear gas and the stun grenades and the chants and the prayers. I keep coming back to the one image that was there before the international event began, before it became a television show and a symbol in flames and something beyond what it was in the first place. I keep coming back to one simple moment, one ghastly fact. One image, from which all the other images have flowed.
They left the body in the street.
Dictators leave bodies in the street.
Petty local satraps leave bodies in the street.
Warlords leave bodies in the street.
A police officer shot Michael Brown to death. And they left his body in the street. For four hours. Bodies do not lie in the street for four hours. Not in an advanced society. Bodies lie in the street for four hours in small countries where they have perpetual civil war. Bodies lie in the street for four hours on back roads where people fight over the bare necessities of simple living, where they fight over food and water and small, useless parcels of land. Bodies lie in the street for four hours in places in which poor people fight as proxies for rich people in distant places, where they fight as proxies for the men who dig out the diamonds, or who drill out the oil, or who set ancient tribal grudges aflame for modern imperial purposes that are as far from the original grudges as bullets are from bows. Those are the places where they leave bodies in the street, as object lessons, or to make a point, or because there isn’t the money to take the bodies away and bury them, or because nobody gives a damn whether they are there or not. Those are the places where they leave bodies in the street.
AS the predominantly black, disproportionately poor community of Ferguson, Mo., erupted in protest after the shooting death of Michael Brown, critics excoriated President Obama for his failure to empathize. Michael Eric Dyson, for example, called the president’s statement about the case on Monday a “stunning epic failure.” Mr. Obama’s defenders point to his second-term commitment to issues that touch the lives of poor communities of color, especially his initiative to assist young minority men, My Brother’s Keeper. But what both sides are ignoring is the president’s first-term record.
A true measure of a president’s priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century. … …. Even after accounting for the higher numbers of poor people caught in the Great Recession, Mr. Obama’s record outshines his predecessors’. His proposed first-term spending per poor individual was $13,731 to Mr. Clinton’s $8,310 and Mr. Carter’s $4,431, in 2014 dollars.
Kyle Niere, 23, was arrested on Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, for “refusing to disperse” as he attempted to leave the QuikTrip station, where hundreds have gathered to protest the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. As he later relayed to NBC News, Niere, along with 12 other protesters, was arrested after cops told him and his friends that they “looked like the type that were going to stir up drama and go start looting.” According to Niere, police officers dragged him “face-first on the ground” and were “stepping on the back of our heads.” Niere and the others were held overnight and released. This has been the pattern for more than a week: Dozens of legitimate protesters arrested for essentially doing it wrong, which can be variously described as protesting about issues of race, refusing to stop protesting about issues of race, and in many cases, perhaps most outrageously, protesting while black.
It’s virtually impossible to square the law enforcement definition of illegal protest with the snuggly warm vision of political protest put forth by a unanimous Supreme Court only two months ago in McCullen v. Coakley. That was the case in which the high court struck down a Massachusetts law barring any protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. That law was passed after two clinic workers were shot and killed at clinics in 1994. But there is a crucial difference between the abortion opponents whose speech rights were feted by the court in McCullen and the garden variety protesters who can still be rounded up in free speech pens and summarily arrested on the streets of Ferguson: The court was careful to explain that the protesters in Massachusetts are not actually “protesters.” They are “counselors.” This presents an obvious solution for the outraged citizens who have taken to the streets of Ferguson and been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and incarceration: rebranding. From this day forth you should consider yourself “sidewalk counselors.”
Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider. For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found.
He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.
Nick Timiraos: Foreclosed-Property Sales Fall to Lowest Levels Since 2008
Thursday’s home-sales report offers the clearest evidence that the housing market is moving out of the emergency ward and into a rehab facility. The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales rose for the fourth straight month in July to the highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since last September. But the real sign that the housing market is out of critical condition comes courtesy of a separate survey the NAR does of its members. That survey estimates the share of distressed home sales in July fell to 9% of all sales, the lowest level since the trade group’s tally began in October 2008.
the drop in foreclosed-property sales deserves attention. Sales of non-distressed homes, using crude estimates derived from the NAR’s survey, are up slightly from a year ago. Prices are still rising, but not as sharply as they were a year ago. And higher prices could be drawing out more sellers. Inventories are at their highest levels in nearly two years—and this time, they appear to be rising because Joe and Jane Homeowner, not a bank or mortgage-processing company, wants to sell.