White House task force urges limit on NSA snooping WASHINGTON (AP) - A presidential advisory panel has recommended sweeping changes to government surveillance programs, including limiting the bulk collection of Americans' phone records by stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store that data in its own facilities. Court orders would be required before the information could be searched. In a 300-page report released Wednesday, the five-member panel also proposed greater scrutiny of decisions to spy on friendly foreign leaders, a practice that has outraged U.S. allies around the world.
Ga. woman has 1 of 2 winning lottery tickets ATLANTA (AP) - A Georgia woman who bought just one ticket and used family birthdays and lucky No. 7 to choose her numbers was one of two winners of the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot, the second largest in U.S. history. Lottery officials in Georgia identified the winner as Ira Curry, of Stone Mountain, which is east of Atlanta. Curry will take a lump sum of about $120 million after taxes, Georgia Lottery chief executive Debbie Alford said.
Syrian air raids exact high toll on Aleppo BEIRUT (AP) - In a withering four-day air assault, the Syrian government pummeled opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo, leveling apartment buildings, flooding hospitals with casualties and killing nearly 200 people. Rebels say the unusually intense airstrikes have prompted civilians to flee to the countryside and could portend a government ground offensive against the opposition-held half of the city, which has been divided for a year and half by grueling fighting.
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Executions in US drop close to 20-year low in 2013 WASHINGTON (AP) - Reliance on the death penalty continues to decline with 39 people executed this year, only the second time in 19 years that fewer than 40 people were put to death, a private group reported Thursday. The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes executions and tracks the issue, also said the number of new death sentences was near its lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s. There have been 80 new death sentences so far this year, three more than in 2012 and down from 315 in 1996, the group said.
Fewer deportations big issue for Asians, Hispanics WASHINGTON (AP) - With immigration legislation stalled in Congress, Hispanics and Asian-Americans say getting relief from deportations is more important for many of the 11 million immigrants here illegally than creating a pathway to U.S. citizenship, a new study finds. Two polls released Thursday by the Pew Research Center expose a potential conflict for two minority groups that voted overwhelmingly last year for President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Obama is under pressure from immigration supporters to use his executive power to stop deportations.
Egypt's Muslim Sisterhood takes lead in protests CAIRO (AP) - They tirelessly hold rallies, whether at night or under cold rain, chanting for the return of Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. They clash with police, hurling back fuming tear gas canisters and getting dragged by their veils and thrown behind bars. At protests in universities, they get into fistfights with rival female students. Women supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have stepped into the front line of Islamist protests, once of the few branches of the organization not crushed by a heavy crackdown since Morsi's removal in a July 3 coup.
Defense bill gives Obama rare Guantanamo victory WASHINGTON (AP) - Up to half the terror suspects held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay could be closer to heading home under a bipartisan deal reached in Congress that gives President Barack Obama a rare victory in his fight to close the prison. The deal would lift the most rigid restrictions Congress previously imposed on detainee transfers overseas and is part of a broad compromise defense bill awaiting final passage in the Senate this week. The House approved the measure last Thursday.
Higher blood pressure threshold OK in older adults CHICAGO (AP) - Many older adults with high blood pressure can be treated less aggressively, which could mean taking fewer pills to get it under control, according to new treatment guidelines from an expert panel. But not all experts are on board with the advice - including the federal agency that appointed the group. Panel members stressed that they are not changing the definition of high blood pressure: 140 over 90. For adults aged 60 and older, they are recommending a higher treatment threshold, prescribing medicine only when blood pressure levels reach 150 over 90 or higher.
Patriarch off 'Duck Dynasty' after gay comments LOS ANGELES (AP) - "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson is off the hit A&E reality series indefinitely after disparaging gays as sinners akin to adulterers and swindlers, the network said. A&E announced Wednesday what it called a "hiatus" for Robertson, 67, after he disparaged gays in the January edition of GQ magazine. He also said that, growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights movement, he never saw mistreatment of blacks.
Late run lifts Heat past Pacers 97-94 in showdown MIAMI (AP) - For so much of the night, just about everything was going wrong for the Miami Heat. They were missing every 3-pointer, arguing plenty of calls, even screaming at one another. Then one quick burst changed everything.