Winner: Hobby Lobby won't have to pay millions of dollars per day for not offering its employees contraceptive health coverage after a federal deadline passes next week. A federal appeals court in Denver ruled the arts and crafts chain can proceed with its legal case challenging the requirement without having to worry about fines. Hobby Lobby's found and CEO David Green and his family want to run their business according to their Christian beliefs. A lot of private for-profit companies operate under similar principles and are watching this case closely. Significantly, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said Hobby Lobby had a reasonable chance of prevailing against the government.
Winner: Don't plan which songs to sing at the funeral for the printed word quite yet. A Pew Research Center report released this week finds that young people age 16-29 actually spend more time in real brick-and-mortar libraries and read more books than do their elders. Almost all of these young folks are online, and yet 75 percent of them say they have read at least one printed book in the past year, compared to only 64 percent of adults 30 and older. Libraries, apparently, are good places for kids to hang out, study and read. That's good news for people worried about losing the aesthetic and cultural amenities libraries provide. It is, one supposes, bad news for those hoping to save tax dollars in the wake of their demise.
Loser: Where have Orpheus and Eurydice gone? The two characters from Greek mythology, portrayed in valuable statues in front of the production studios of the Utah Opera, were stolen this week. An employee noticed them missing Thursday morning, carefully unbolted from their mounts. Opera officials are puzzled as to the reasons for the theft, noting the statues are made of aluminum and bronze and would have little value as scrap. The thief may have a warped appreciation for the Greek roots of opera or a strange desire for unique lawn ornaments. Either way, the theft, as Utah Symphony and Utah Opera COO David Green said, is "a pretty crazy thing to do."
Winner: Lois Lerner can't hide from testifying any longer. The former head of the Internal Revenue Service's tax-exempt division, a woman with what some say is a history of using her position to advance political agendas, probably knows more than anyone about the scandal involving the IRS and its targeting of conservative groups. She was summoned to testify before a congressional committee last month, where she first read a statement about how she did "nothing wrong," then invoked her Fifth Amendment rights not to testify for fear of self-incrimination. The committee decided this week that she can't do both those things. The decision clears the way for the committee to summon her back and compel her to answer questions. Although this decision was politically controversial, it will be nice to finally get some answers from Lerner.
Loser: If Congress and the president do nothing, student loan rates will double next week. Of course, if they do extend lower interest rates, it will make deficit reduction even harder. The real story, however, is how much debt is swallowing up America's college students. The Joint Economic Committee reports that total student debt has gone from $550 billion in late 2007 to about $1 trillion in the first quarter of 2013. If interest rates rise on federally backed loans, a four-year degree could cost $4,500 more. The irony is that students then would graduate into an economy in which earning enough to pay off those loans is much more difficult than it was in 2007.