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.
Insurers allow more time to pay under health law WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumers anxious over tight insurance deadlines and lingering computer problems during the holidays will get extra time to pay their premiums under President Barack Obama's health care law, insurers announced Wednesday. The board of the industry's biggest trade group - America's Health Insurance Plans - said consumers who select a plan by Dec. 23 will now have until Jan. 10 to pay their first month's premium. That's 10 extra days beyond a New Year's Eve deadline set by the government.
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Bipartisan budget agreement clears Congress WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress sent President Barack Obama legislation Wednesday scaling back across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system, adding a late dusting of bipartisanship to a year more likely to be remembered for a partial government shutdown and near-perpetual gridlock. Obama's signature was assured on the measure, which lawmakers in both parties and at opposite ends of the Capitol said they hoped would curb budget brinkmanship and prevent more shutdowns in the near future.
Witness describes car crash before woman was shot DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) - A young, drunk woman fatally shot on a man's porch in suburban Detroit was hurt, scared and confused a few hours earlier when she crashed her vehicle into a parked car, a witness testified Wednesday. Carmen Beasley provided details about the hours preceding the death of Renisha McBride, 19, who was shot in the face by a 54-year-old homeowner in the dark, early morning of Nov. 2.
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.
Improving US economy leads Fed to ease stimulus WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve on Wednesday sent its strongest signal of confidence in the U.S. economy since the Great Recession, deciding that the nation's economic prospects are finally bright enough to withstand a slight pullback in stimulus spending. Yet the Fed also made clear that it will keep supporting an economy that remains less than fully healthy. It will continue to keep interest rates low and try to boost unusually low inflation, which can be a drag on spending and borrowing.
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.
Egypt's Morsi to face new trial on terror charges CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian prosecutors on Wednesday announced a new trial of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and the top leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of conspiring with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran's Revolutionary Guard and militant groups to carry out a wave of terrorism to destabilize the country. The charges, which carry a potential death penalty, are the most sweeping and heaviest accusations yet in a series of trials against the Brotherhood. The new trial of Morsi, the three top Brotherhood leaders and 32 other defendants appeared aimed at decisively crippling the top echelons of the group that dominated Egypt's political scene during Morsi's one-year presidency.
Officials ready up for winter-weather Super Bowl EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Standing amid giant piles of snow in the shadow of MetLife Stadium, Super Bowl organizers said Wednesday that they're prepared to deploy thousands of trucks and tons of salt to prevent snowy weather from interfering with the biggest football game of the year. Officials held the press conference to assure the public that snow or ice will not hinder the game on Feb. 2, when it will debut as the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in NFL history.