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NOTRE DAME SUES OVER BIRTH CONTROL MANDATE

Wednesday, 04 December 2013 05:16 Published in Health & Fitness

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday filed another lawsuit opposing portions of the federal health care overhaul that forces it to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control, saying it contravenes the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in South Bend claims the Affordable Health Care Act violates Notre Dame's freedom to practice religion without government interference. Under the law, employers must provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.

The lawsuit challenges a compromise, or accomodations, offered by the Obama administration that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, said that wasn't enough.

"The government's accommodations would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the university cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission," he said in a statement.

Notre Dame says in the lawsuit that its employee health plans are self-insured, covering about 4,600 employees and a total of about 11,000 people. Its student health plans cover about 2,600 students. The lawsuit says the health plans do not cover abortion-inducing products, contraceptives or sterilization.

"The U.S. government mandate, therefore, requires Notre Dame to do precisely what its sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit - pay for, facilitate access to, and/or become entangled in the provision of objectionable products and services or else incur crippling sanctions," the lawsuit says.

Notre Dame argues that the fines of $2,000 per employee if it eliminates its employee health plan, or $100 a day for each affected beneficiary if it refuses to provide or facilitate the coverage, would coerce it into violating its religious beliefs.

Daniel Conkle, an Indiana University professor of law and adjunct professor of religious studies, said Notre Dame's arguments are similar those in a case last month where a federal judge in Pennsylvania granted the Pittsburgh and Erie Catholic dioceses a delay in complying with the federal mandates.

The Obama administration argues that the burden on the Catholic entities is minimal, Conkle said. Notre Dame and other Catholic groups say it's substantial.

Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America, said the administration's accommodations "are sufficient to protect the Catholic conscience for administrators of these plans at Catholic universities." But he said the lawsuits were still needed.

The accommodations "really rest on the good graces of the administration and those good graces could disappear with a new administration," he said.

Notre Dame argues that it is not seeking to impose its religious beliefs on others, but that it just wants to protect its right to the free exercise of its religion. The lawsuit argues that the government could pay for contraception through the expansion of its existing network of family planning clinics or by creating a broader exemption for religious employers.

Notre Dame filed a similar lawsuit in May 2012. U.S. District Judge Robert Miller Jr. dismissed that case last December, saying the university wasn't facing any imminent penalty or restrictions because the federal government was reworking some of the coverage regulations.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to consider two cases in which business have objected to covering birth control for employees on religious grounds. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, won its case in lower courts, while Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets, lost its claims in lower courts.

About 40 for-profit companies have requested an exemption from covering some or all forms of contraception.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

SURVEY: US COMPANIES ADD 215K JOBS, MOST IN YEAR

Wednesday, 04 December 2013 08:07 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey shows U.S. businesses last month added the most jobs in a year, powered by big gains in manufacturing and construction.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies and small businesses added 215,000 jobs in November. And ADP said private employers added 184,000 jobs in October, much stronger than its initial estimate of 130,000.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. Last month, the Labor Department said private businesses added 212,000 jobs in October. The Labor Department will report on November job growth Friday.

Still, the figure suggests that hiring remained healthy in November after picking up in the prior three months. Manufacturing and construction firms each added 18,000 jobs. That was the biggest gain for manufacturers since early this year.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said the figures show that employers shook off the partial government shutdown in October and kept hiring, despite a drop in consumer confidence.

"That's very encouraging as we make our way into next year," Zandi said.

Employers of all sizes added jobs, the report found. And services firms added 176,000 jobs, the most in a year.

The government's reporting shows that public and private employers added an average of 202,000 jobs a month from August through October. That was up from an average of 146,000 from May through June.

At the same time, growth picked up. The economy expanded at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. But analysts expect growth to slow in the current quarter to a 2 percent rate or below.

AP SOURCE: YANKS, ELLSBURY REACH $153M, 7-YR DEAL

Wednesday, 04 December 2013 06:57 Published in Sports

NEW YORK (AP) -- Free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off winning the World Series with Boston, reached agreement with the rival New York Yankees on a seven-year contract worth about $153 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday night.

Ellsbury is the second major free-agent addition in the Yankees' offseason rebuilding after missing the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. The center fielder was to take a physical in New York on Wednesday that he must pass before the deal can be finalized, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

The Yankees also had been negotiating with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who like Ellsbury is represented by agent Scott Boras.

Earlier Tuesday, New York finalized an $85 million, five-year contract with All-Star catcher Brian McCann.

There is a long history of stars moving from Beantown to the Big Apple during their careers. Babe Ruth was the most famous, and Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Johnny Damon followed.

Ellsbury, who turned 30 in September, led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being hobbled late in the season by a broken right foot. The lefty-hitting leadoff man batted .298 with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium should boost his power numbers.

Ellsbury's deal includes a $21 million option for the 2021 season, with a $5 million buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would be worth $169 million over eight years.

His agreement may not be finalized this week, and it's possible he could be introduced by the Yankees during a news conference at the winter meetings next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The move would raise the Yankees' luxury tax payroll to about $138 million for 10 players. The Yankees hope to get under the $189 million tax threshold next season, which includes about $177 million for salaries for the 40-man roster and approximately $12 million for benefits.

New York also has been speaking with the agents for Robinson Cano, their All-Star second baseman. The Yankees, who rebuffed his request for a 10-year deal worth more than $300 million, believe he has been in talks with the Seattle Mariners.

Ellsbury won a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox and was an All-Star in 2011, when he finished second to Detroit's Justin Verlander in AL MVP voting. He has reached the postseason four times and is a career .301 hitter in those 38 games.

After their playoff absence, the Yankees are undergoing a major transformation. Closer Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are retiring, Phil Hughes is leaving to sign with Minnesota and New York appears to be making little effort to retain outfielder Curtis Granderson.

McCann, a seven-time All-Star, is to be introduced at a news conference Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

He receives $17 million in each of the next five seasons, and the Yankees have a $15 million option for 2019 with no buyout. The option becomes McCann's if he has at least 1,000 plate appearances combined in 2017 and 2018, has at least 90 starts at catcher in 2018 and does not end the 2018 season on the disabled list.

His deal includes a full no-trade provision, meaning he cannot be dealt without his consent.

McCann, who turns 30 in February, hit .256 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs in 102 games this year, when he missed the first month following offseason surgery on his right shoulder. He has a .277 average in nine big league seasons with 176 homers and 661 RBIs.

Following the departure of Russell Martin last offseason, Yankees catchers combined for a .213 average, eight homers and 43 RBIs, according to STATS, down from .220, 22 and 64 in 2012.

"We feel we have made a significant improvement to a key position, while adding a high-character presence to our clubhouse," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans."

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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