By Mark Hosenball and Alina Selyukh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's plan for overhauling the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program could force carriers to collect and store customer data that they are not now legally obliged to keep, according to U.S. officials. One complication arises from the popularity of flat-rate or unlimited calling plans, which are used by the vast majority of Americans. While the Federal Communications Commission requires phone companies to retain for 18 months records on "toll" or long-distance calls, the rule's application is vague for subscribers of unlimited phone plans because they do not get billed for individual calls. That could change if the Obama administration pushes through with a proposal to require carriers - instead of the NSA - to collect and store phone metadata, which includes dialed numbers and call lengths but not the content of conversations. Under the administration's proposal, the phone companies would be required to turn over the data to the NSA in response to a court-approved government request. U.S. officials said the carriers might be forced to create new mechanisms to ensure that metadata from flat-rate subscribers could be monitored. They said these issues will require further discussion between the White House, Congress and industry. "These are very complex systems," said one industry source familiar with data storage policies. "I doubt there are companies out there that have a nice, neat, single database that can tell you how long records are kept universally." To great fanfare last month, the Obama administration unveiled a proposal to end the NSA's bulk collection of millions of records of phone calls. But the announcement glossed over key practical issues in implementing the new procedures. The potential gap in records for flat-rate subscribers, as well as the telecommunications companies' strong opposition to onerous data retention requirements, underscores the still-fluid nature of the NSA reforms. "We applaud these proposals to end Section 215 bulk collection, but feel that it is critical to get the details of this important effort right," Verizon Communications Inc General Counsel Randal Milch said in a blog post last week, referring to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law that authorized the NSA program. "At this early point in the process, we propose this basic principle that should guide the effort: the reformed collection process should not require companies to store data for longer than, or in formats that differ from, what they already do for business purposes," Milch wrote. Obama's proposal, whose full details have yet to be formally released, is a response to public outcry over revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the spy agency's bulk collection of phone records. A senior Obama administration official said: "As questions arise with respect to the proposal, we look forward to working through them with Congress and relevant stakeholders." CHANGING BUSINESS NEEDS One former senior U.S. official said that because of the growing popularity of unlimited-calling plans, over the years the NSA program ended up collecting less and less of the metadata it was legally authorized to acquire. This former official, and a non-government expert who had access to details of the NSA program, said that the agency recently had only been collecting 25 percent to 33 percent of the total U.S. metadata it was authorized to collect. "The change in the nature of billing data means that there's a lot less such data than there used to be," said Stewart Baker, a former senior official at both the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security. Another former U.S. official said he believed phone companies were still obliged to supply the NSA with some kind of record of the metadata other than billing records. The NSA can request business records from phone companies, and carriers do generally keep some phone records for business purposes, such as to manage traffic flow in networks or monitor traffic exchanges with other carriers, said the first industry source. However, those databases are fluid, complex and rarely comprehensive, as they are driven by constantly changing network needs. And that has become a key concern for phone companies in the proposed changes to NSA surveillance. "It strips from us the ability to make business decisions as the technology evolves," the industry source said. "It would cause us to continue to collect stuff that we don't need." If NSA wants to search flat-rate subscribers' metadata, it would only be able to do so on calls going forward from the date that the search is requested, since no earlier data could easily be retrieved, officials said. Under the proposal, the NSA would have to get approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to examine phone data for information about calls made to or from a U.S. number. A bill drafted by the House Intelligence Committee would allow the NSA itself to directly request metadata from a phone company under a broad authorization from the FISA court. But the court would later be required to review metadata NSA collected to see if the spying had been legitimate. AT&T Inc declined to comment. Sprint Corp said, "We are reviewing the Obama administration's proposal with great interest and look forward to seeing additional details." (Editing by Warren Strobel and Tiffany Wu)
During an interview, he recalls his colleague ‘taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.’ Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) revealed he witnessed Congresswoman Lauren Boebert leading a group through the Capitol building in the days before the riot. “We saw Congressman Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th,” Cohen remarked on CNN.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- Associated Press
A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a record prison term of 43 years and six months for breaching the country's strict law on insulting or defaming the monarchy, lawyers said. The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country’s lese majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said. “Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.
- The Telegraph
A woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol is accused of stealing a laptop belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi which she hoped to sell to a Russian spy agency, according to the FBI. There is no indication Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old careworker from Pennsylvania, took a laptop from Ms Pelosi's office. The FBI, which is working off a tip, said in the court record the "matter remains under investigation." The complaint, filed late Sunday in US District Court in Washington, sought the arrest of Williams on grounds including "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds." Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 riot, an FBI agent said Williams was seen near the office of Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker. A witness, identified in the court document only as W1 but who claimed to be "the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams," alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency. That sale "fell through for unknown reasons, and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the affidavit says.
- The Independent
In further snub, Melania Trump has not given Jill Biden traditional tour of family wing of White House
Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * The letter also orders Lindell to "preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company." * Lindell also must preserve all communications with any member of the Trump campaign, in addition to communications with Rudy Giuliani, Powell, Jenna Ellis and Lin Wood. The big picture: Lindell met with Trump last week and was caught by photographers with notes referencing martial law and Sidney Powell. The CEO has become known for pedaling election-overturning conspiracies and last year promoted a fake cure to the coronavirus. What they're saying: Dominion's letter reads... "Despite knowing your implausible attacks against Dominion have no basis in reality, you have participated in the vast and concerted misinformation campaign to slander Dominion ... Litigation regarding these issues is imminent."A spokesperson for My Pillow did not immediately return a request for comment. Read the full letter here: Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
At the outset of the pandemic, the government undertook a deliberate effort to reduce economic activity in what was widely thought to be a necessary measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. Whereas most recessions call for policy that stimulates the economy, the COVID-19 recession called for the opposite — measures that would enable workers and businesses to hit pause until a vaccine or therapeutic became widely available. Now that vaccines are being administered, policy-makers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark. The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place. Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work. Meanwhile, Biden’s proposed minimum-wage increase to $15 nationally would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million jobs, hitting low-income states hardest. In Mississippi, where the median wage is $15, as many as half the state’s workers would be at risk. A minimum-wage hike may be high on the Democratic wish list, but it does not belong in an emergency-relief bill. The Biden plan isn’t all Democratic priorities, though. He took a page from Trump’s book and proposed $1,400 checks to households, bringing the second-round total to $2,000. With household income now 8 percent above the pre-pandemic trend, additional checks would do little more than pad savings accounts. Indeed, 80 percent of the recipients of last year’s checks put the money into savings or debt payments, not consumption. The flagship item in Biden’s plan would do little to spur economic growth even on Keynesian assumptions. The same goes for state and local aid, for which Biden is seeking $370 billion on top of $170 billion in public-education grants. The total of $540 billion far surpasses the roughly $50 billion hit to state and local tax revenues last year. As we wrote in December, states and cities are slow to spend federal grants, so the lion’s share of this stimulus would not show up until 2023. Rather than attempting to stimulate the economy, Biden is hoping to launder bailouts of profligate Democratic states through COVID-19 relief. Other parts of the bill — expansions of the earned-income and child-tax credits — are defensible long-term structural reforms, but as year-long emergency measures, they will have the same muted effect as direct checks. By including a slew of proposals unrelated to the pandemic, Biden has weakened his hand in negotiations and made it less likely that urgent measures pass quickly. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic policy-makers rose to the occasion. Following an unprecedented external shock, the U.S. economy has emerged in relatively good shape, with less unemployment and bankruptcy than most feared. But the policies implemented to curb COVID-19 are not suited for what will begin to become, over the course of this year, a post-pandemic economy. Biden may have campaigned during a recession, but he is taking office during a recovery. He should govern accordingly.
The United States called on China on Monday to allow an expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO) to interview "care givers, former patients and lab workers" in the central city of Wuhan, drawing a rebuke from Beijing. The team of WHO-led independent experts trying to determine the origins of the new coronavirus arrived on Jan. 14 in Wuhan where they are holding teleconferences with Chinese counterparts during a two-week quarantine before starting work on the ground. The United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of its initial outbreak, has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.
Yosemite National Park officials are asking the public’s help for any information regarding a 41-year-old Asian woman who went missing after going on a day hike to the Upper Yosemite Fall last week. The woman was identified as "Alice" Yu Xie, a Chinese national living in the United States, according to a post shared by the park on Saturday. “If you were on the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls on January 14 or 15, 2021, even if you did not see this individual, or have any information regarding this individual, please call 209/372-0216 during business hours, or Yosemite Emergency Communications Center at 209/379-1992 after hours,” the park said.
- The Independent
The latest updates from the White House and beyond on 17 January 2021
- Associated Press
Pakistan’s prime minister reacted angrily Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances for reelection. Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.
- National Review
A caravan of thousands of migrants from Honduras headed to the U.S. southern border clashed with Guatemalan authorities on Sunday after they crossed the countries’ common border on their journey north. An estimated 7,000 migrants have entered Guatemala in recent days hoping to make their way to the U.S. border. The caravan clashed with only about 3,000 Guatemalan officers near the village of Vado Hondo, about 34 miles from the border of Honduras, Reuters reported. Security forces attempted to block their way by using tear gas and beating the migrants back with sticks. Several were injured in the confrontation Sunday morning. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the Guatemalan president’s office said of the influx of traveling migrants. Meanwhile, a senior Biden transition official is warning migrants hoping to cross the southern border into the U.S. during the early days of the new administration that “now is not the time” to come. “The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight,” the official told NBC News, and migrants seeking to gain asylum right away “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately.” The Biden administration plans to loosen the Trump administration’s more stringent restrictions on who is eligible for asylum. However, any immigration legislation proposed by the Biden administration is expected to focus on the status of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. rather than new migrants arriving at the border. The migrant caravan may have been encouraged to make the trek by the incoming Biden administration’s rhetoric promising to roll back some of the stricter Trump administration immigration policies. Caravans of migrants set out every year from Central America hoping to make the dangerous journey north and ultimately gain entry to the U.S.
- The Telegraph
A beauty firm executive has been ordered to pay £600 costs after his Irish Setter puppy mauled a deer in Richmond Park leading bystanders to form a human shield around the wounded animal. Franck Hiribarne was training his pet Alfie in the royal park in south-west London when the gun dog gave chase to the deer forcing it to run onto the road where it was struck by a car. Footage shared on social media showed Alfie circling the injured deer before biting and dragging in front of bystanders who responded by attempting to protect the animal by forming a human shield around it.
- Reuters Videos
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may end the Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, a source familiar with his thinking told Reuters it could happen as early as day one. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president when Barack Obama rejected the $9 billion project in 2015. Then two years later, Donald Trump issued a presidential permit that allowed the line to move forward. Since then the project has seen opposition by environmentalists seeking to check Canada's oil industry and Native Americans whose land faced encroachment. Construction of the pipeline is well underway and if completed, would move oil from Canada's Alberta province to the U.S. state of Nebraska. In his 2020 run for president, Biden vowed to scrap its permit once elected. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday, the words 'rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit' appeared on his list of Biden's executive actions likely scheduled for his first day. Biden's team did not respond to a request for comment, but Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said she looks forward to a decision that fits both countries' environmental protection plans. In a statement, Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said: "There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition." Meanwhile Alberta's Premier tweeted he was "deeply concerned" by the report, adding the decision would kill jobs, increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and weaken U.S.-Canada relations.
- The Independent
Trump news – live: Biden team hits back at decision to reopen travel to UK and Brazil despite Covid surge
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Uganda's government spokesman accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to subvert last week's presidential elections after the U.S. ambassador attempted to visit an opposition leader being held under house arrest. The military surrounded the home of popstar-turned-legislator Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, shortly after he cast his ballot in Thursday's presidential elections. Incumbent Yoweri Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared winner of the poll with 59% of the vote against Wine's 35%.
Kevin McCarthy warned members to not call out colleagues by name, citing potential political violence
Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence. Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.That's what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP conference chairperson, after she said she would support impeaching President Trump. * She and several other members had to increase their security and take extra precautions because of death threats and other alarming warnings after their colleagues singled them out in their complaints.What McCarthy said: The House minority leader issued his warning during a conference call last Monday. He said his concern was driven by the FBI briefings he receives. * "It doesn’t matter which side of the position you were: I respect it, I respect why you did what you did. But what we are saying on television, when we say a member’s name. ... This is not the moment in time to do it." * "You can incite something else. The country is very divided and we know this. Let’s not put any member, I don’t care who they are Republican, Democrat or any person not even in Congress. Watch our words closely. I get these reports on a weekly basis. I’ve seen something I haven’t seen before.”Several minutes later, McCarthy repeated the message: “Emotions are high. What you say matters. Let’s not put other people in danger. Let’s watch what words we’re using and definitely not be using other members' names in any media.”Days later, some GOP members ignored him and openly criticized their colleagues * Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted that the name of his Republican colleague, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, "will be one forgotten by next January." * Rep. Lauren Boebart (R-Colo.) mocked Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the House's new mask fines.One of the most blatant attacks, leading to a media firestorm, was when several members of the House Freedom Caucus went after Cheney for voting to impeach Trump. * On the day of the vote, the members circulated a petition to remove her from her leadership role. * Cheney is now fielding a series of threats against her, many from fiery Trump supporters angered by her vote, a source with direct knowledge of the threat said. * “We don’t comment on security matters,” Cheney’s communications director, Jeremy Adler, told Axios.What we’re hearing: McCarthy's team told Axios he isn't looking for repercussions. Spokesman Matt Sparks said the leader wants to lower the temperature and is encouraging members to be mindful of the current environment.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
A memorial for San Francisco hit-and-run victim Hanako "Hana" Abe has reportedly been vandalized multiple times, raising concerns about "larger issues" present in the city. Abe, 27, was one of the two women who died after being struck by a speeding car in the South of Market neighborhood on New Year's Eve last year. Friends recall Abe as someone who embodied "resilience, bravery and hope."
- The Telegraph
Pfizer vaccine recipients are unlikely to transmit the virus to others, according to the author of an Israeli study. Participants in the survey developed up to 20 times more antibodies within a week of receiving the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The survey, which reviewed data from 102 of about 1,000 of the Sheba Medical Centre’s medical staff who have received both shots, showed that only two subjects have developed low amounts of antibodies - one of the subjects suffered from a compromised immune system. There was no explanation for why the second person did not develop antibodies, and the hospital said it was investigating the matter. The rest - 98 per cent - have developed levels of antibodies that were even higher than patients who have recovered from a serious coronavirus-induced condition, the hospital said in a statement released on Monday.
"This is also a desire that's shared by other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," he told Bloomberg TV https://bloom.bg/369WLz9 in an interview. The Qatari foreign minister added that his government was supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard early this month.