In brief | Nation & World, March 24, 2014


Court considers corporate religious objections to birth control coverage

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and its opponents are renewing the Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama’s health care law in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice.

Two years after the entire law survived the justices’ review by a single vote, the court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law’s preventive care requirement.

Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

Ukraine says air force commander held after base in Crimea stormed

KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian air force commander is being held after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, and the acting president called for his release Sunday.

Col. Yuliy Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over Saturday by forces who sent armored personnel carriers smashing through the base’s walls and fired shots and stun grenades. One Ukrainian serviceman was reported wounded in the clash.

It was unclear if the forces, who didn’t bear insignia, were Russian military or local pro-Russia militia.

Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov, in a statement, said Mamchur was “abducted” by the forces. He didn’t specify where Mamchur is believed to be held.

However, prominent politician Vitali Klitschko said Sunday that Mamchur is being held by the Russian military in a jail in Sevastopol, the Crimean city that is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Spill cleanup blocks traffic to ship channel; residue 12 miles out in Gulf of Mexico

TEXAS CITY, Texas — A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as a quarter of its cargo into the waterway.

Coast Guard officials said that up to 168,000 gallons were dumped and that oil from the ruptured barge had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday afternoon.

“This is a significant spill,” Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston, said.

But he said the emptying of the barge Sunday, a process known as lightering as contents are transferred to other vessels, was equally significant.

“The remaining risk of pollution, we’ve removed that,” he said.

Character actor James Rebhorn dies at 65

NEW YORK — James Rebhorn, the prolific character actor whose credits included “Homeland,” ‘’Scent of a Woman” and “My Cousin Vinny,” has died. He was 65.

Rebhorn’s agent, Dianne Busch, said Sunday that the actor died Friday at his home in South Orange, N.J, after a long battle with skin cancer.

Busch said Rebhorn was diagnosed with melanoma in 1992 but managed to work until the last month.

In five decades of television and film work, Rebhorn amassed more than 100 credits, ranging from a shipping magnate in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” to the prosecutor in the series finale of “Seinfeld,” in which he famously sent the group to jail.

The lanky but piercing Rebhorn, raised a Lutheran in Indiana, often played astringent authorities, like the headmaster in “Scent of a Woman” or the Secretary of Defense in “Independence Day.”

By wire sources