Supreme Court will take up new health law dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law — whether business owners with religious objections to birth control must provide it to their employees or face fines.
The justices said Tuesday they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.
The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.
The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company's claims.
National Cathedral in DC to charge fee to tourists
WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to cover its costs, officials at Washington National Cathedral say they've decided to begin charging admission fees for tourists who visit the church beginning in 2014.
The fee will be $10 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and military. Admission will be free on Sundays, as well as on weekdays for those who visit to worship or pray.
The Rev. Gary Hall is the cathedral's dean, and he says the church will charge for tourism but not for essential services. He says the decision to charge was made reluctantly. But he notes that cathedrals in Europe charge fees to help fund upkeep.
The National Cathedral is working to raise funds to repair earthquake damages from 2011 totaling $26 million. The church still must raise $19 million for repairs.
Thanksgiving-Hanukkah overlap spurs thanks, angst
BOSTON (AP) — This year's rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah presents Jewish Americans with both challenges and opportunities.
Some worry that celebrating the Jewish and secular holidays at the same time will dilute or devalue both.
But Dana Gitell (gih-TEHL'), who lives outside Boston, trademarked the term "Thanksgivukkah" more than a year ago. She then partnered with an artist and the Jewish gift site Moderntribe to create and sell souvenir T-shirts, cards and a poster.
The Jewish calendar makes Hanukkah appear to drift slightly from year to year, but it hasn't coincided with Thanksgiving since 1888, and isn't expected to do so again for more than 79,000 years.
Jewish practice calls for the first candle of eight-day Hanukkah to be lit the night before Thanksgiving Day this year, so technically "Thanksgivukkah" will fall on the second candle night.
Psalm book fetches record $14.2M at NYC auction
NEW YORK (AP) — A tiny book of psalms from the year 1640 has sold for $14.2 million in New York City, setting an auction record for a printed book.
The Bay Psalm Book is believed to be the first book printed in what's now the United States. Only 11 copies survive, in varying degrees of completeness.
The book sold at Sotheby's auction house in Manhattan on Tuesday evening was one of two copies held by Boston's Old South Church, which sold it to increase its grants and fund its ministries.
It was bought by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who plans to lend it to libraries around the country. Its presale estimate was $15 million to $30 million.
Pope bundles up for chilly outdoor audience
VATICAN CITY (AP) — A chilly Pope Francis has cheered the thousands of pilgrims who braved a cold snap belting Italy to attend his weekly general audience, saying they were courageous to come out.
Francis himself was bundled up in a white double-breasted winter coat and scarf, but it wasn't enough. He had to use his sleeves as a muffler to keep his hands warm amid temperatures that on Wednesday dipped to freezing with the wind chill factored in.
For the bulk of the audience, Francis sat on a platform under gray skies in the wind-whipped St. Peter's Square.
Francis cancelled his audiences earlier this month after suffering a cold. The 77-year-old Argentine doesn't enjoy the robust health of his predecessors, having lost most of one lung to an infection when he was younger.