In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held companies can defy the Affordable Care Act mandate to cover some forms of contraception if they object on religious grounds.
The Supreme Court says closely held corporations may be exempted from the health law's contraceptive mandate. Here are some questions and answers about the ruling.
Once upon a time, America relied on its own shores for seafood. The state of New York was famous for their fresh oysters; Louisiana and Mississippi were famous for their shrimp. The clean coastal waters allowed us to farm our own stuff. But things have changed.
"More than 85 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported," says Paul Greenberg, author of "American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood".
Greenberg says the biggest shift has been the exchange of oysters for foreign shrimp. Americans used to be able to farm and bring in billions of pounds of oysters per year. But we then lost our natural productive estuaries and traded them for foreign ones. Now, Americans eat more pounds of shrimp per year than tuna and salmon combined.
Although the majority of our seafood is imported, America fisheries export about one-third of what they catch.
"Primarily, it’s Alaska. They send tons of salmon," says Greenberg. "In fact, we actually send as much salmon abroad as we import. The only thing is, we are sending all the wild salmon abroad, and importing all their farmed stuff."
A consequence? Since we are not eating from our own waters, Greenberg says we aren’t taking great care of them -- one reason we have seen so much environmental degradation since the 1950s. However, Greenberg says there has been more hope since the Clean Water Act was passed in the early 1970s.
"We have seen a marked improvement in water quality," says Greenberg. "But the problem is, we’ve turned our markets around so much that we can’t even really seem to figure out how to get our own fish back onto our plates."
Young male African-American teacher trainees learn to "embody hope" for their students.
President Obama has picked Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald will face a difficult task. The VA is is embroiled in a controversy over falsified and lengthy wait times for veterans.
Fiery Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa had sworn that his current term, his third, would be his last. But his ruling party is now moving to remove constitutional term limits, potentially opening the door to a fourth term.
Melissa Block speaks with Steve Pardo, a reporter with The Detroit News, about how and why Detroit is aggressively shutting off water service to residents.
By a 5-4 majority along ideological lines, the Supreme Court has ruled that Illinois can't compel home health aides to pay union dues because it violates the First Amendment. The ruling is a defeat for unions, but it falls short of the kind of sweeping denunciation that could have derailed unions' fundraising and organizing efforts.
Kenneth Feinberg, who also oversaw the Sept. 11 victims fund, is administering the compensation plan for victims of General Motors' ignition switch defect. There is no cap on the total amount GM will spend, and even drivers who were drunk or distracted are eligible for compensation if the defect had any impact on their accident.
The militant group that has swept over much of Syria and now Iraq has renamed itself. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria now wants to be called, simply, "The Islamic State." It's a new and ambitious claim to rule the Muslim world.
An earlier version of the satellite crashed into the ocean near Antarctica shortly after launch. Scientists are keeping their fingers crossed for the second attempt.
Garrado Odigie sat sobbing in his chair.
He’d gotten the most important thing to him in his life, and it meant his life was falling apart. Four months earlier his long, drawn out, international custody battle for his children had finally ended. After several years of separation, his children had been returned to him.
All five of them, ages 5 to 14. To his one bedroom apartment in Flushing.
“These are the things I live for,” Odigie said. “Five kids, one bedroom apartment. I put the girls on the bedroom, then I let the boys sleep on the living room, then I sleep on the floor. Then everybody’s coming down to sleep with daddy on the floor. Nobody wants to sleep on the bed.”
Odigie says he’s been looking for a two or three bedroom in his area of Brooklyn, but most places ask for around $2,000. “I cannot afford that right now.”
In fact, he can’t afford his current rent either now. The rent is a little over $1,000 a month, half of his annual income. A single father accustomed to working two to three jobs late into the evening when his children weren’t with him, Odigie found he needed to quit one job and reduce his hours at the other if he was to take them to therapy, go with them to the doctor’s, or to simply spend time with them.
He’s four months behind on rent. He’s in housing court, on the verge of getting evicted. He says his kids will live at his church for awhile so he can work and save up some money.
“My 11-year-old just told me, ‘Daddy, why are we keeping on moving?’” says Odigie, his voice breaking along with his composure. “‘We tired.’ You know. I’m doin' my best to take up my children.”
People who, like Odigie, sit precariously on the edge of personal calamity don’t need much of a push to slip over. The rent will do it. The rent does do it. Often.
“We see all the time people having to make really terrible choices,” says Judith Goldiner, an attorney in charge of the Civil Law Reform unit at the Legal Aid Society. “Do they feed their kids, do they buy medicine for their kids, do they buy clothes -- or do they pay rent? The rents just keep on creeping higher and higher.”
It is not simply that rents have risen, it is that renter incomes have fallen since the recession. Between 2005 and 2012, median gross rent in the U.S. rose from $868 to $897 (in 2011 it was $902) In the same period, median household income declined from $55,158 to $52,123 in real terms according to data compiled by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
Some landlords, perhaps out of greed, or perhaps out of their own struggles to maintain old buildings, have tried to push lower income renters out.
“Sometimes we see landlords who cut off services, take people to housing court even if they don’t owe any money, tell people they don’t have the right immigration status and so they have to leave or they’ll call INS – all kinds of bullying,” says Goldiner.
Rent burden is the share of a renter’s income spent on gross rent – the lump sum to the landlord, plus utilities and other fees. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) labels rent burden “between 30 and 50 percent of household income on gross rent as “moderate,” and anything above 50 percent as “severe”.
Last year was the first year more than half of households in New York City were rent burdened, meaning they pay more than a third of their income in rent. In 2011 37 percent of renters in Philadelphia were severely rent burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income towards rent. Sixty-two percent of all renter households in Los Angeles were severely (50 percent going towards rent) or moderately rent burdened.
“The largest increases in the share of households that are rent burdened are actually happening at the moderate and middle income level,” says Max Weselcouch, director of the Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy at NYU.
The forces behind all of this are, it turns out, fairly simple: supply and demand.
“There’s been very little production of new housing,” says Weselcouch. “Even though new housing construction has begun to rebound a little bit in 2012 and 2013, it’s still at lower levels than we’ve seen since at least 1960.”
Simply put: During the Recession, people made less money and built fewer places to live. After the Recession, people are still here, there are more of them, and they still need places to live. Many of them are moving to cities – 200,000 to New York City in the past three years alone – further piling onto demand.
“This is kind of a classic economic problem,” says Weselcouch.
Some of the strategies cities have used to address the problem are under strain.
Many cities offer developers incentives to build temporarily affordable units, though many of these agreements are now expiring (In New York, 25,000 expired since 2007 and another 50,000 will be eligible to do so in the next ten years). New York’s new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, has promised to create 200,000 new affordable units in ten years.
One approach is rent stabilization. For 34 percent of rental units in New York, a politically-appointed board determines by how much rents can rise each year. Several cities do this. Many landlords do not like it.
“To try and micromanage the increases each year is ludicrous,” says Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, the largest trade group for residential building owners in New York. He says landlords suffer when they can’t raise rents by as much as they’d like.
“When you own a building, there are big expenses that pop up from time to time. Could be the roof, could be the boiler, you don’t know what it is, but when big things break, they cost a lot of money,” Ricci says - and half of all residential buildings are over 75-years-old. His opponents argue landlord incomes have been rising faster than operating expenses for nearly a decade.
Property taxes and fees put more pressure on landlords as well, says Ricci. Property taxes on rental units in New York City, which are higher than those for homeowners, are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.
There are many ingredients that go into the acrid crucible of the real estate market for renters. Supply, demand, taxes, investors, summering jetsetters, declining incomes, greed, desperation.
At the end of the day the exact recipe is of little consequence to people like Garrado Odigie, who is still searching for a way to keep a roof above himself and his children.
Over the past three decades, facets of Amish culture have been shifting toward a more modern take on life - one that includes iPhones, mansions and millionaires.
“It’s also very new for them. This has all happened within the last three decades or so... this massive shift from agriculture to business, and it turns out they’re great businessmen.”
The shift towards business has also caused some changes within the community. Now, some Amish are using cell phones to conduct business:
“So many Amish have a cell phone for business, but I see these guys talking on the phone a lot… and they’re not always talking about business. And it’s this slow creep of technology that they themselves acknowledge is kind of terrifying, because it is so radically changing.”
Banbury says it's difficult for people in this community to adapt to changing culture. It takes a lot to adapt their well-established rules. The church has a process to reprimand someone if they do something ostensibly out-of-bounds, like buying a fancy propane-driven fridge. But if the church does nothing, then everyone else in the community jumps on board and buys one of these fridges.
"[They're] really struggling to intigrate it into their life in a way that does not destroy the essence of their Amishness. But they're aboslutely changing. There's no question they're changing and the question is 'how far are they going to go?'"
Listen to the full interview with Banbury in the audio player above.
General Motors announced Monday that it will recall 8.4 million cars manufactured between 1997 and 2014 due to a defect in ignition switches. Yes, that's 8.4 million more recalled vehicles for the embattled company.
In a statement, GM says they are aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities possibly related to the defect:
"GM expects to take a charge of up to approximately $1.2 billion in the second quarter for the cost of recall-related repairs announced in the quarter. This amount includes a previously disclosed $700 million charge for recalls already announced during the quarter...
Until the ignition recall repairs have been performed, it is very important that customers remove all items from their key ring, leaving only the vehicle key, and always use their seat belts. The key fob, if present, should also be removed from the key ring."
As we've learned: This could be a big deal for our key-carrying Marketplace listeners.
More Marketplace coverage:
The move comes about a week after Republican House Speaker John Boehner threatened to sue the president over his use of executive actions. Obama said the majority of Americans want immigration reform.