NSA

10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2015

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Boy Scouts board ends ban on gay leaders
The governing board of the Boy Scouts of America voted on Mondayto end the group’s blanket ban on gay leaders and employees. Seventy-nine percent of the national executive board supported the move, saying the policy “was no longer legally defensible.” Churches that sponsor Scout troops still can exclude gay leaders for religious reasons. The Mormon Church said it was “deeply troubled” and that it was reevaluating its relationship with the Boy Scouts.

Source: NBC News, The New York Times

2. Libyan court sentences Saif al-Islam Gadhafi to die
A Libyan court sentenced the late Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, to death for killings during the 2011 uprising that toppled his father’s government. The court also issued death sentences for former Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, former Libyan intelligence chief Abdallah al-Senousi, and six others. It is unclear whether the sentences will be carried out. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who testified via video link, is being held by a militia that refuses to deliver him to the central government.

Source: The Associated Press

3. Olympic Committee ends Boston’s bid to host 2024 Summer Games
Boston lost its chance to be the host city in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s bid for the 2024 Olympics when Mayor Marty Walsh said he was not ready to sign a host-city contract, which would commit Boston to covering budgetary shortfalls. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said the lack of enthusiasm in Boston would make it hard to beat strong bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest, and Toronto. The USOC has until Sept. 15 to propose a replacement, and two-time host Los Angeles is considered the likeliest candidate.

Source: Boston Herald, The New York Times

4. Obama delivers historic address to African Union
President Obama pledged to help raise 50 million Africans out of poverty during his Tuesday address at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — the equivalent of 5 percent of Africa’s population. His speech marked the first time that a sitting American president addressed the African Union. “Many Africans are crowded into shantytowns without power or running water — a level of poverty that’s an assault on human dignity,” Obama said.

Source: BBC News, The Associated Press

5. NSA to destroy bulk phone data collected over 10 years
The National Security Agency will stop reviewing the phone records of millions of Americans, and destroy 10 years of data already collected, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Monday. Congress voted in June to end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records — a controversial program leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden. Since then, the Obama administration had not said what it would do with old data already recorded.

Source: The Washington Post

6. Tech leaders urge ban on autonomous killer robots
Physicist Stephen Hawking, Space X founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and hundreds of other tech luminaries signed an open letter released Monday calling for a global ban on artificial-intelligence-based autonomous weapons. The letter, presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference On Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, warned against the dangers of a global arms race to make autonomous killer robots, which will be “feasible within years, not decades.”

Source: Live Science

7. Obama slams Huckabee for Holocaust reference
President Obama on Monday harshly criticized Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for saying the Obama administration was marching Israelis straight to the “door of the oven” with the Iran nuclear deal. Obama called Huckabee’s comments “part of just a general pattern we have seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.” Obama, speaking during a visit to Ethiopia, said, “It’s not the kind of leadership that’s needed in America right now.”

Source: The New York Times

8. U.S. stocks sink as Chinese markets stoke fears of a global slowdown
U.S. stocks sank on Monday as a market slump in China fueled fears about global economic growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to its lowest level since February. “A significant slowdown in China impacts not just the U.S. but global players as well,” said Horizon Investment Services CEO Chuck Carlson. Chinese stocks remained volatile Tuesday despite government promises to buy shares if necessary to stabilize the market, although European stocks rebounded.

Source: Reuters

9. U.S. takes Cuba off list of countries failing to fight human trafficking
The U.S. is removing Cuba from its list of countries that are not combating human trafficking, according to an annual State Department report released Monday. The move came a week after Cuba and the U.S. formally restored diplomatic relations and opened embassies in each others’ capitals. Under Secretary of State Sarah Sewall said Cuba “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” but has made strides in fighting sex trafficking.

Source: BBC News

10. Jen Welter hired as first female NFL coach
The Arizona Cardinals announced Monday that they had hired Jen Welter as a coaching intern during training camp and the preseason, making her the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL. “Coaching is nothing more than teaching,” Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians said. “One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.'” Welter was an assistant coach of the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution this year.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Harold Maass

Not Good: Report: Russia, China Crack Snowden Docs

   REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: POLITICS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY MEDIA EDUCATION) - RTR4NZE6

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden appears live via video during a student organized world affairs conference at the Upper Canada College private high school in Toronto, February 2, 2015. | Mark Blinch/Reuters

This result was the catalyst for my opposition to Snowden seeking asylum in a communist country…

THE DAILY BEAST

Russia and China have allegedly decrypted the top-secret cache of files stolen by whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to a report from The Sunday Times, to be published tomorrow. The info has compelled British intelligence agency MI6 to withdraw some of its agents from active operations and other Western intelligence agencies are now actively involved in rescue operations. In a July 2013 email to a former U.S. Senator, Snowden stated that, “No intel­li­gence ser­vice—not even our own—has the capac­ity to com­pro­mise the secrets I con­tinue to pro­tect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my spe­cial­iza­tions was to teach our peo­ple at DIA how to keep such infor­ma­tion from being com­pro­mised even in the high­est threat counter-intelligence envi­ron­ments (i.e. China).” Many in the intelligence agencies at the time greeted this claim with scepticism. Now, one senior British official said Snowden had “blood on his hands,” but another said there’s yet no evidence anyone was harmed. Snowden eventually fled to Russia via Hong Kong after downloading some 1.7 million documents from U.S. government computers and leaking them to journalists out of a desire to protect “privacy and basic liberties.” The revelations of mass spying outraged populations and governments around the world, at least temporarily damaged relations, and eventually led to changes in the mass surveillance policies of the NSA and British GCHQ.

Read it at BBC News >>

NSA releases decade’s worth of damaging intelligence reports in Christmas Eve document dump

Spyware (Shutterstock)

Spyware (Shutterstock

The Raw Story

At approximately 1:30 p.m. EST on Christmas Eve, the National Security Agency responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union by releasing more than a decade’s worth of incriminating quarterly and annual reports, David Lerman at Bloomberg News reports.

According to the heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, intelligence operatives routinely emailed private data on American citizens to unauthorized recipients, stored that data in unsecured computers, and retained it long after laws required it be destroyed.

“The government conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority — surveillance that increasingly puts Americans’ data in the hands of the NSA,” the ACLU’s Patrick C. Toomey told Bloomberg News in an email. “Despite that fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without legislative or judicial oversight.”

In an executive summary, the NSA concluded that “[t]he vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error. [The] NSA goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws and regulations.”

However, in one case, an NSA analyst “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting.” In another, a civilian requested that intelligence be gathered on “the telephone number of his foreign-national girlfriend without an authorized purpose for approximately one month[.]”

In an August 2013 statement to Bloomberg News, the NSA claimed that “[o]ver the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found. [The] NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations — responding as appropriate.”

10 things you need to know today: July 6, 2014

Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis

Netherlands celebrates after advancing to the World Cup semis Michael Steele / Getty Images

The Week

The NSA ensnares far more bystanders than targets, Israel arrests six in connection with Palestinian boy’s death, and more.

1. Report: NSA sweeps snare bystanders far more than intended targets
Surveillance carried out by the National Security Agency led to the collection of significantly more information on “incidental” innocents than on the NSA’s intended targets, according to The Washington Post. Citing files provided by Edward Snowden that detailed collections between 2009 and 2012, the Post found that only about 10 percent of accounts culled in that time period belonged to targets; the rest belonged to people accidentally caught in the agency’s wide search nets. Further, many of the files — a large portion of which belonged to Americans — had a “startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality,” according to the Post. [The Washington PostThe Guardian]

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2. Israel arrests six in Palestinian teen’s death
Israeli police have arrested six suspects in connection with the abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager whose death set off days of violent protests. Police have not identified the suspects, though the newspaper Ha’aretz said law enforcement described the suspects’ motive as “nationalistic.” Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted Wednesday outside his home in East Jerusalem in what Palestinians claimed was revenge for the abduction and murder last month of three Israeli teens. Israel killed five Palestinians and rounded up hundreds more in the search for the missing teens, further inflaming tensions between the two sides. [Associated PressHa’aretz]

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3. Argentina, Netherlands advance to World Cup semis
Argentina topped Belgium 1-0 and the Netherlands outlasted Costa Rica in penalty kicks on Saturday as both teams advanced to the World Cup semifinals. Costa Rica was on paper one of the weaker teams in the entire tournament, but they made a surprising run to the final eight and nearly knocked off the powerhouse Dutch team before succumbing in the shootout. Germany and Brazil already advanced to the semis with wins on Friday. [Fox Sports]

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4. Purported ISIS leader makes first public appearance in new video
A video posted online Saturday claimed to show the leader of the Sunni extremist group ISIS delivering a sermon in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The video, which was purportedly shot Friday, is said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, though so little is known about al-Baghdadi that officials could not immediately confirm it was him on the tape. The video was released through websites and promoted on social media accounts linked to the insurgent group, and the Iraqi government is analyzing it to determine its authenticity. [Associated PressCNN]

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5. Petra Kvitova wins Wimbledon
Petra Kvitova routed Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday to win her second Wimbledon title. Kvitova was so dominant it took her less than an hour to finish off the match. On the men’s side, top-seeded Novak Djokovic will take on seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer Sunday in the title match. [ESPNThe Washington Post]

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6. California swimmer attacked by great white shark
A swimmer was bitten by a great white shark Saturday in Manhattan Beach, California, after swimming too close to the hooked killer. A fisherman had snared the seven-foot shark off a pier and was trying to reel it in when the victim, one of several distance swimmers training in the waters, swam by. The 40-year-old man suffered what a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman called a “moderate” wound to the torso. [CNN]

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7. Nigerian troops kill 53 insurgents
The Nigerian army said Saturday it had killed 53 fighters from the militant group Boko Haram. The army said the insurgents were killed after they attacked a military base in the town of Damboa. Five soldiers and one officer were also killed in the clash. [ReutersBloomberg]

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8. Afghanistan nixes proposed Facebook ban
The Afghan government won’t ban Facebook after all as it sorts out the winner of last month’s contested presidential election. Supporters of the two candidates had exchanged inflammatory threats online, prompting the government to ask Facebook for help scrubbing the comments and to consider a blanket ban. “There are people on Facebook who spread hatred and cause damage to national unity,” Fayeq Wahedi, a government spokesman said, “but after talks the council decided not to ban Facebook.” [The Guardian The Telegraph]

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9. Spain’s Running of the Bulls begins today
Spain’s iconic bull running festival kicks off Sunday in Pamplona. Thousands of revelers packed the main city square to mark the start of the nine-day festival, whose main event involves, as the name suggests, thousands of thrill-seekers dashing madly through the city streets ahead of rampaging bulls. [Associated Press]

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10. Kanye West booed during mid-show rant in London
Rapper and self-described “God” Kanye West was booed during his set at London’s Wireless music festival this weekend. West interrupted his show to assail the media for trying to “dishumanize” him. But as he continued on his five minute tirade, audience members began to heckle him and chant “off, off, off.” [The Independent]

Snowden’s Credibility Problem Worsens as Whistleblowing Email Story Blows Up

snowden_laptops

Edward Snowden | attribution: none

“This is why I say question the message AND messenger- I don’t take the government’s word for everything, but I damn sure don’t/wouldn’t take Snowden’s word for it either…Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.”  Quote from a commenter on the original article.

The Daily Banter

In mid-June of last year, at the vanguard of the Edward Snowden revelations, a Hong Kong attorney named Albert Ho met with Snowden to assist the NSA contractor’s plans to leave the Chinese city-state for points unknown. Following the meeting, Ho told The New York Times, “He didn’t go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer. If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.”

You might also recall a pair of photos taken of Snowden in Moscow holding an open laptop adorned with a pair of stickers: a Tor encryption sticker and an Electronic Frontier Foundation sticker.

snowden_laptops_2

 

The point of noting the existence of at least one laptop in Snowden’s possession is to ask the following: Are we seriously supposed to believe that Snowden fired off a series of emails to various NSA officials, blowing the whistle on what he considered to be illegal and unconstitutional activities, but didn’t bother to retain a single copy of those emails on a laptop which he transported with him while on the lam?

Let’s rewind several days.

As we’re all aware by now, Snowden, for the first time ever, revealed to NBC News’ Brian Williams that he in fact tried to go through proper, internal whistleblowing channels before engaging in his plot to abscond with thousands of top secret, sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) files and leak them en masse to Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman. Snowden said NSA has emails to confirm this and called upon Congress to demand to see copies. Here’s how Greenwald reacted to this news:

greenwald_biggest_news

 

The very next day, and in keeping with the 24 Hour Rule, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released an email exchange between Snowden and the agency’s Office of General Counsel. The content of the exchange had exactly nothing to do with material concerns regarding PRISM or bulk metadata collection. Instead it amounted to a basic civics question: does an executive order take precedent over federal statutes?

Suddenly Greenwald didn’t think the emails were such a big deal:

greenwald_irrelevant

Uh-huh. So when the email exchange turned out to be a big nothing, Greenwald’s reactionmagically transformed from “biggest news” to “irrelevant” news. Likewise, the ACLU called the email situation a “red herring.”

Now, if we really parse the hell out of Snowden’s civics question, as Marcy Wheeler dutifully tried last week, it’s possible that he was asking it in reference to whether the president was hiding NSA’s actions from Congress. But that’s quite a stretch and by no means does it illustrate any actual whistleblowing.

Then, responding to ODNI’s release of the email, Snowden insisted there are many other emails that exculpate his revelation to Brian Williams.

Today’s release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance, which believed that a classified executive order could take precedence over an act of Congress, contradicting what was just published. It also did not include concerns about how indefensible collection activities—such as breaking into the back-haul communications of major US internet companies—are sometimes concealed under EO 12333 to avoid Congressional reporting requirements and regulations. […]

I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions — as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied.

Fine. The onus, then, is on Snowden to produce those emails. And if he can’t, he ought to say exactly why not. But for a man whose entire professional life orbited around stealing and organizing TS/SCI files via at least two NSA contractors, and then badgering both Poitras and Greenwald for months, between late 2012 and early 2013, about what he had done, don’t you think he would’ve made it a point to save copies of his correspondence, if for no other reason but to have NSA officials on record responding to his claims? Don’t you think Greenwald, who loves a good Gotcha! quote (ask James Clapper), would kill for such material?

Furthermore, since day one of this affair there’s been an ongoing debate about whether Snowden is a traitorous leaker or a valiant whistleblower. But we’re only now hearing about email evidence proving his attempts to legitimately blow the whistle. Seems as though news about whistleblowing messages to both NSA’s general counsel and the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance should’ve been dumped to the press on the same day as that first video interview in Hong Kong. Or, at the very least, he might’ve mentioned this a long time ago. He’s certainly had plenty of opportunities.

That never happened, of course. Why? Perhaps someone should ask Snowden or his media flak, Greenwald. That is, if they don’t mind walking face-first into the propeller blades.

You know, for a gaggle of people who are so utterly obsessed with transparency, they’re astonishingly and frustratingly opaque about their own decisions and methods.

10 things you need to know today: May 30, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul celebrates after defeating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in May. He's probably pretty happy about the Clippers new ownership news, too. 

Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul celebrates after defeating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in May. He’s probably pretty happy about the Clippers new ownership news, too. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Week

House leaders defend Shinseki, ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer agrees to buy the Clippers for $2 billion, and more

1. House leaders stand up for Shinseki
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should not resign, as that would not solve the problems of long wait times at VA hospitals and clinics. A hundred members of Congress are calling for Shinseki to quit after a scathing inspector general’s report. Shinseki is due to send President Obama the results of an internal audit on Friday. [The New York Times]

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2. Ex-Microsoft chief Ballmer agrees to buy the Clippers
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly has agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling and his estranged wife, Shelly, for $2 billion. The deal, confirmed by several people familiar with the terms, would be a record price tag for an NBA team. The NBA Board of Governors still has to approve the sale. Donald Sterling, who has vowed to fight his lifetime ban from the league over a racist rant, also might have to sign off on it. [CNN]

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3. NSA releases emails to discredit Snowden
The Obama administration released an email exchange on Thursday to refute National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s claim that he raised concerns about the agency’s mass surveillance programs before fleeing and leaking secret documents. In the email, Snowden merely asks an NSA lawyer if executive orders override laws. Snowden said the emails released by the NSA were “incomplete,” because they didn’t include messages he sent to other NSA offices. [ZDNetThe Washington Post]

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4. Ukraine’s Poroshenko vows to punish rebels behind helicopter attack
Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to punish pro-Russian rebels who downed a Ukrainian military helicopter on Thursday, calling them “bandits.” The attack killed an army general and 11 others. Ukraine’s acting defense minister said Friday the government would continue its offensive against rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russia has started pulling troops from near the border and urged Kiev to “start a real national dialogue.” [BBC NewsVoice of America]

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5. CDC warns measles is hitting unvaccinated Americans
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that measles cases reached a 20-year high in the first five months of 2014. Sixty of the cases occurred in California, and 138 struck in Ohio Amish communities, where people brought the disease home from service trips abroad. Ninety percent of those sickened had not been vaccinated, a sign that measles anywhere in the world could reach unvaccinated Americans, CDC officials said. [Los Angeles Times]

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6. Obama tries to increase awareness of head injuries in contact sports
President Obama convened sports executives, athletes, and medical experts on Thursday to address the rising problem of concussions in football and other contact sports. Obama said part of the problem was the lack of “solid numbers” on how widespread the problem is. The NFL and other leagues face lawsuits from retired players who say officials downplayed the danger of head injuries, turning on-the-field safety into a high-profile cause. [The New York Times]

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7. SpaceX unveils manned space capsule
SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled the re-useable Dragon V2 spaceship late Thursday. The company is hoping the craft, which can land anywhere “with the accuracy of a helicopter,” will beat out competitors from Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp to become the first private spaceship to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA has been without a U.S.-based spacecraft to get people to and from the orbiting lab since the shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. [New Scientist]

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8. Southwest fined for advertising non-existent fares
The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 on Thursday for advertising $59 flights from Atlanta to Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles last year, even though it didn’t really offer any tickets at such a low fare. The DOT also reinstated a $100,000 fine from 2013, bringing the cost of the case to $300,000. “Consumers have rights,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. Southwest blamed an error in its TV ads. [Los Angeles Times]

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9. Rangers beat Canadiens to reach Stanley Cup finals
The New York Rangers won a spot in hockey’s Stanley Cup finals on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in game six of the Eastern Conference finals. Dominic Moore sealed the win with the game’s lone goal late in the second period. It will be the Rangers’ first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals since 1994. The Rangers will face either the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals’ first game on June 4. [The New York Times]

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10. Two boys share the National Spelling Bee title for the first time in 52 years
For the first time since 1962, two students have been declared co-champions of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Ansun Sujoe, 13, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, both got through the entire 25-word list of words without making a mistake in a tense final round Thursday night. Both boys will get the $30,000 prize. The final word, nailed by Sujoe, was F-E-U-I-L-L-T-O-N — a section of a European newspaper meant to have wide appeal. [ABC News]

10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2014

A prison guard in the electric chair room at Sing Sing Prison, New York, in 1951. This technology may be making a comeback in Tennessee.

A prison guard in the electric chair room at Sing Sing Prison, New York, in 1951. This technology may be making a comeback in Tennessee. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The Week

The House approves limits on NSA spying, Tennessee brings back the electric chair, and more

1. House approves sharp limits on NSA surveillance
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would prevent the National Security Agency from mining Americans’ phone records in the hunt for terrorists. Facebook, Google, and Apple withdrew support because they said the bill had been watered down with amendments allowing the continued collection of bulk internet data. Supporters said the bill constituted progress toward ending abuses exposed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. [San Jose Mercury News]

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2. States consider alternatives to lethal injection
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill Thursday allowing the use of the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are not available, making the state the first to bring back the chair in cases where condemned inmates can’t choose their method of execution. The move came after President Obama called for reviewing lethal injections due to Oklahoma’s botched April execution. Wyoming is considering using a firing squad. [The Associated Press]

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3. Thailand’s military leader calls talks after coup
Thailand’s army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, tightened his grip on power on Friday, announcing a travel ban for leading politicians. Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the caretaker prime minister who replaced her met with Prayuth after he summoned them and other political leaders for talks. Prayuth staged a bloodless coup on Thursday, vowing to restore stability after months of protests and political deadlock. [CNN]

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4. Wildfire erupts near Arizona tourism center
A rapidly spreading Arizona wildfire is threatening to force more than 3,000 people out of their homes. About 300 homes were evacuated as the fire engulfed 4,830 acres near Slide Rock State Park outside the tourism and retirement hub of Sedona. About 840 people were fighting the blaze, which was totally uncontained as of late Thursday. [CNN]

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5. Obama touts tourism at Baseball Hall of Fame
President Obama on Thursday became the first sitting president to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He used the stop to launch an effort to boost tourism — particularly visits to the U.S. by foreigners. Obama has called on federal agencies to streamline the process of getting foreign tourists through airports. “If they come into LaGuardia faster, then they can get to Cooperstown faster,” Obama said. [New York Daily News]

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6. IRS delays hearing on rules regarding tax-exempt groups’ political work
The Internal Revenue Service postponed a Thursday hearing on controversial new rules regarding the political activities of tax-exempt groups, saying it needed to revise the rules. The IRS has faced sharp criticism from conservatives who say the Obama administration wants the rules to silence critics, and liberals who think the proposals go too far. The agency got more than 150,000 comments during a public input period that ended three months ago. [The Washington Post]

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7. HP announces deep job cuts
Hewlett-Packard is laying off up to 16,000 employees — on top of 34,000 already cut — as CEO Meg Whitman steps up efforts to turn around the personal computer maker. The announcement came Thursday after HP reported its 11th straight quarterly sales decline. HP, which employed 317,500 worldwide at the end of 2013, is the world’s biggest PC maker, but competition from smartphones and tablets have been cutting into its sales. [The New York Times]

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8. Postal Service starts selling Harvey Milk stamp
The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday unveiled a stamp honoring slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the nation’s first openly gay elected officials. Crowds lined up to buy the stamps in Milk’s old neighborhood. “It was just like when Elvis Presley went on sale,” a postal worker said. Milk passed the nation’s first strict gay-rights ordinance before he and mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall in 1978. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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9. China sentences billionaire to death
A Chinese court on Friday sentenced billionaire businessman Liu Han to death, calling him and his brother “deeply evil” and saying they led a “mafia-style” gang responsible for nine murders over two decades. “Their impact on society was extremely bad,” the court said. The condemning of Liu, who was once chairman of one of the biggest companies in southwest China, came as part of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption. [The Washington Post]

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10. Landon Donovan cut from U.S. World Cup team
Landon Donovan — widely considered the greatest U.S. male soccer player ever — was cut from the U.S. World Cup team on Thursday. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said excluding Donovan, 32, from the roster in what would have been his fourth World Cup was the toughest decision of his coaching career. Donovan, the team’s all-time leading scorer, said he was crushed but would be cheering on his teammates when play begins in Brazil next month. [USA Today]

Supreme Court Will Likely Rule On NSA Programs, Antonin Scalia And Ruth Bader Ginsburg Suggest

The Huffington Post

Two members of the U.S. Supreme Court indicated on Thursday night that the court will ultimately have to decide the legality of National Security Agency surveillance activities.

The two justices, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, made the comments during a public event at the National Press Club in Washington. They were responding to questions posed by journalist Marvin Kalb about whether the court would take up cases arising from the recent disclosures about NSA surveillance, most notably by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The justices did not discuss specific NSA programs. There are various lawsuits pending around the country challenging the government’s widespread collection of telephone records. A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in December that the program was probably unlawful, while a judge in New York held later that month that it was not. Both cases are now on appeal.

Scalia, a leading conservative justice, said the court was not the best body to decide major national security issues because of its lack of expertise. But he indicated that the court would likely decide the issue of whether widespread gathering of telecommunications data violates the Fourth Amendment, which bars unlawful searches and seizures.

“The institution that will decide that is the institution least qualified to decide it,” Scalia said. The legal question is about “balancing the emergency against the intrusion” on the individual, he said.

Nine justices serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberal members, said the justices would have little choice but to decide the matter should it come before them.

“We can’t run away and say, ‘Well, we don’t know much about that subject so we won’t decide it,'” she said. 

10 things you need to know today: March 25, 2014

Relatives of those missing on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 protest in Beijing. 

The Week

Obama will propose curbing NSA data collection, Malaysia says Flight 370 crashed, and more

1. Obama will reportedly push to end NSA bulk phone surveillance
The Obama administration plans to propose an overhaul of National Security Agency spying that would end its mining of bulk phone recordsThe New York Times reported Tuesday. The law would leave the data under phone-company control. The NSA would have to get a warrant from a judge to examine specific records. An ACLU spokesman said the U.S. can track terror suspects “without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.” [The New York Times]
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2. Authorities in Malaysia conclude that Flight 370 crashed
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that satellite and flight data indicated that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing on March 8, “ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” with no survivors. The announcement touched off despair among the loved ones of the 237 people who were on board the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Search crews are still looking for traces of the plane. [The Washington Post]
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3. Washington mudslide death toll rises to 14
The death toll from a weekend mudslide in Washington state climbed to 14 on Monday, after search and rescue crews found another six bodies. As many as 176 people have been reported missing. The devastated area covers a square mile, in which about 30 homes were destroyed. Authorities described the prospects for finding survivors as grim. “We have not found anybody still alive on this pile since Saturday,” said a local fire chief. [King5.com]
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4. The U.S. and its allies kick Russia out of the Group of 8
President Obama and allies in six major industrialized nations effectively booted Russia out of the Group of Eight on Monday as punishment for Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Britain agreed to boycott a planned June G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, and meet in Brussels as the Group of Seven instead. They also threatened tougher sanctions. [The New York Times]
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5. Former Madoff aides convicted in connection with his Ponzi scheme
Five former aides of Bernard Madoff were convicted Monday on 31 fraud and conspiracy chargesconnected to the imprisoned financier’s $17.5 billion scam — the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence, insists he acted alone. One juror said however that “the facts spoke for themselves.” She said the defendants collected hefty pay from Madoff for decades and were his “soldiers.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]
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6. Polluted air blamed for millions of deaths
Air pollution was the world’s biggest health hazard in 2012, killing seven million people, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. The estimated toll was twice as high as previously estimated. If accurate, it meant that one in every eight deaths was linked to dirty air. “The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” said the WHO’s Maria Neira. [Reuters]
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7. Disney buys YouTube programmer Maker Studios
Disney announced Monday that it had agreed to buy YouTube content provider Maker Studios for $500 million. Disney also said it would pay up to $450 million more if Maker hits targets for performance, bringing the potential value of the deal close to $1 billion. The move marks an attempt to connect to the youthful audience that turns to short-form videos. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
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8. U.N. says 2013 was the sixth warmest on record
The United Nation’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization, reported Monday that 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record. The WMO’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, said the warming probably contributed to last year’s extreme weather patterns, including droughts and tropical cyclones. Rising sea levels, for example, increase damage from coastal flooding in major storms like November’s deadly Typhoon Haiyan, he said. [The Associated Press]
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9. Men arrested for parachuting off of 1 World Trade Center
Three men accused of parachuting off the 104-story One World Trade Center construction site in September turned themselves in at a New York City police station on Monday, as did an alleged accomplice. A defense attorney said the men — Marko Markovich, 27; Andrew Rossig, 33; Kyle Hartwell, 29; and James Brady, 32 — were “professional thrillseekers.” He said they would plead not guilty to burglary and reckless endangerment charges. [Reuters]
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10. Girl Scout beats a decades-old record for cookie sales
An Oklahoma City girl, Katie Francis, has broken the record for Girl Scout cookie sales. Francis sold 18,107 in the seven-week fundraiser, which ended Sunday night, beating the old high mark of 18,000, set in the 1980s. Francis sold 12,428 boxes last year. Her trick, she says, is devoting a lot of time to the project, and making a sales pitch to every person she meets. [The Associated Press]

 

10 things you need to know today: March 19, 2014

Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow. 

Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The Week

Putin signs a treaty annexing Crimea, Obama awards overdue Medals of Honor, and more

1. Putin signs a treaty making Crimea part of Russia
Russian-backed forces stormed Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea on Wednesday and raised the Russian flag, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty annexing the Crimean Peninsula. A Ukrainian serviceman was killed Tuesday as a base in the main Crimean town of Simferopol was attacked — the first death in fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russia forces since Moscow sent in troops three weeks ago. [The Washington PostReuters]
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2. Obama awards top medal to soldiers overlooked due to discrimination
President Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who investigators said were passed over due to their race, religion, or ethnicity. The honorees — 17 Hispanic, one black, one Jewish, and five white — served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Only three are still alive. “No nation is perfect,” Obama said. “But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past.” [The New York Times]
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3. NSA can record every call made in a foreign country
The National Security Agency surveillance system can record “every single” telephone call in a foreign country, according to people familiar with the latest documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA can even replay conversations up to a month old. A classified summary says the system can collect a country’s every call — billions of them — and store them in a 30-day buffer offering a look “into the past.” [The Washington Post]
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4. Judge rejects KSM testimony in bin Laden relative’s trial
A judge ruled Tuesday that jurors in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, would not hear the testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. From Guantanamo Bay prison, Mohamed told the defense that Abu Ghaith “was not a military man” in al Qaeda. Judge Lewis Kaplan said a defense request to admit the testimony was “entirely baseless.” [Reuters]
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5. Court delays Oklahoma lethal injections due to drug shortage
An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday postponed two inmates’ executions, a day after the state said it had run out of two drugs it uses in lethal injections. The executions of convicted killers Clayton Locket and Charles Warner were pushed back one month to give the state time to find an adequate supply. [The Associated Press]
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6. TV station helicopter crashes in Seattle, killing two
A news helicopter crashed in Seattle on Tuesday near the city’s famous Space Needle, killing the pilot, Gary Pfitzner, and a photographer, Bill Strothman. The helicopter was taking off after refueling at a helipad on top of Fisher Plaza, which houses KOMO-TV. It made what a witness described as a “whining” sound, then spiraled down, landing on a car and igniting a fireball that injured a driver. [The Seattle Times]
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7. Toyota is expected to settle safety investigation for $1 billion
The Justice Department is expected to announce Wednesday that Toyota has agreed to pay $1 billion — one of the largest fines ever for an automaker — to settle a criminal investigation into its handling of unintended-acceleration complaints. For several years, Toyota did little more than change floor mats before recalling millions of cars in 2009 and 2010. Toyota says it has made changes to be more responsive. [CNN]
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8. Two winners share the third largest Mega Millions jackpot ever
Two winning tickets were drawn in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions lottery, which had a jackpot estimated at $400 million. The payoff is the third largest in the history of the game, which is available in 43 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The winning tickets were sold in Maryland and Florida. The record prize, $656 million, was split by three winners in 2012. [Chicago Tribune]
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9. California town approves the nation’s highest minimum wage
The Richmond, Calif., City Council voted late Tuesday to raise the local minimum wage to $12.30 an hour by 2017, which would give the city the highest minimum wage in the U.S. Richmond is just north of San Francisco, which currently holds the record at $10.74 an hour. Opponents said such a hike would drive businesses out of town; supporters said Richmond’s current minimum, $8 an hour, is not enough to live on. [NBC Bay Area]
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10. Rolling Stones cancel tour
Mick Jagger honored his late girlfriend, fashion designer L’Wren Scott, on Tuesday, as his legendary rock group, the Rolling Stones, canceled a seven-day tour of Australia and New Zealand after her death. “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way,” Jagger wrote. He praised Scott, 49, for her “great presence” and talent, and said, “I will never forget her.” [The Associated Press]