- - Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Treasury Department will begin taking steps this week to delay hitting the government’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit. Without doing so, the debt limit would be hit on Dec. 31.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a letter to Hill leaders that the department will take several accounting measures to save approximately $200 billion beginning next year. The government borrows about $100 billion a month, so that would keep the government from reaching the limit for two months.

Mr. Geithner says it is harder to predict how long the delay would last because ongoing negotiations over tax and budget policies make it hard to forecast what tax revenue and government spending will be next year.

NEW YORK

Starbucks cups to come with a political message

NEW YORK — Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C., area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultz says the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks’ U.S. cafes have been asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

COURTS

Sotomayor refuses Hobby Lobby bid to delay contraception mandate

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday denied a request to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and contraception.

Hobby Lobby Stores and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

In an opinion, Justice Sotomayor said the stores fail to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts.

Company officials say they must decide whether to violate their religion or face a daily $1.3 million fine starting Jan. 1 if they ignore the law. In ruling against the companies last month, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton, a 2001 appointee of President Bush, said churches have been granted protection from the birth-control provisions but that “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.”

STATE

U.S.: Russian bill to halt adoptions is ‘misguided’

The State Department is criticizing an effort by Russian lawmakers to halt adoptions of Russian children by American parents.

Russia’s parliament has approved a bill to ban Americans from adopting Russian children, and President Vladimir Putin indicates he will sign the measure.

It’s seen as retaliation for U.S. sanctions against human rights violations in Russia, which were included in a wide-ranging trade bill recently signed into law by President Obama.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell says the U.S. regrets that parliament approved the adoption ban instead of embracing an agreement the two countries reached last month.

Mr. Ventrell says, “It is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations.”

The State Department says Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children in the past 20 years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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