Monday, February 3, 2014

Published:

Freed by deal with government, Internet firms release new data on NSA surveillance requests

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Freed by a recent legal deal with government lawyers, major technology firms released new data Monday on how often they are ordered to turn over customer information for secret national security investigations -- figures that show that the government collected data on thousands of Americans.

The publications disclosed by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr provided expanded details and some vented criticism about the government's handling of customers' Internet data in counter-terrorism and other intelligence-related probes. The figures from 2012 and 2013 showed that companies, such as Google and Microsoft, were compelled by the government to provide information on as many as 10,000 customer accounts in a six-month period. Yahoo complied with government requests for information on more than 40,000 accounts in the same period.

The companies earlier provided limited information about government requests for data, but a new agreement reached last week with the Obama administration allowed the firms to provide a broadened, though still circumscribed, set of figures to the public.

Seeking to reassure customers and business partners alarmed by revelations about the government's massive collection of Internet and computer data, the firms stressed details indicating that only small numbers of their customers were targeted by authorities. Still, even those small numbers showed that thousands of Americans were affected by the government requests approved by judges of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The data releases by the five major tech firms offered a mix of dispassionate graphics, reassurances and protests, seeking to alleviate customer concerns about government spying while pressuring national security officials about the companies' constitutional concerns. The shifting tone in the releases showed the precarious course that major tech firms have had to navigate in recent months, caught between their public commitments to Internet freedom and their enforced roles as data providers to U.S. spy agencies.

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Cars warning each other of collisions? US to propose new rules in hopes of cutting crashes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Your car might see a deadly crash coming even if you don't, the government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they're plunging toward peril.

The action, still some years off, has "game-changing potential" to cut collisions, deaths and injuries, federal transportation officials said at a news conference on Monday.

A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle's computer would alert its driver to an impending collision. Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver's seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. DATA SHOW SCOPE OF US INTERNET SPYING

Companies such as Google and Microsoft were compelled to provide information on as many as 10,000 customer accounts in a six-month period, newly released figures show.

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Al-Qaida shuns militant group blamed for bloody infighting among Syria's Islamic factions

CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Qaida's central leadership broke with one of its most powerful branch commanders in an apparent attempt to stem the deadly infighting that has erupted in Syria among the militant Islamic factions trying to bring down President Bashar Assad.

More broadly, the announcement Monday appeared to be a move by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri to reassert the terror network's prominence in the jihad movement across the Middle East amid the mushrooming of extremist groups during the upheaval of the past three years.

The dispute is between al-Qaida's central leadership and a faction known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq, formed the Islamic State last spring to expand his operations into neighboring Syria, defying direct orders by al-Zawahri not to do so. Al-Zawahri named a different group, the Nusra Front, as al-Qaida's branch in Syria.

Now, the break is likely to spark a competition for resources and fighters between the two sides in what has become a civil war within a civil war. The test for al-Zawahri's influence will be whether his decision leads fighters to quit the Islamic State.

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Doctor: Philip Seymour Hoffman's death 'epitomizes the tragedy of drug addiction'

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Philip Seymour Hoffman suffered from a chronic medical condition that required ongoing treatment. An admitted drug addict who first sought professional help more than two decades ago, Hoffman apparently succumbed to his illness with an overdose despite a return to rehab last March.

A father of three with a thriving career, the Oscar winner died Sunday with a needle in his arm and baggies of what appeared to be heroin nearby. New York City medical examiners were conducting an autopsy on Hoffman's body Monday as investigators scrutinize evidence found in his apartment, including at least four dozen plastic packets, some confirmed to have contained heroin.

His death, which came after a long period of sobriety that ended last year, "epitomizes the tragedy of drug addiction in our society," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Here you have an extraordinarily talented actor who had the resources, who had been in treatment, who obviously realized the problem of drugs and had been able to stay clean," she said, adding that Hoffman's case shows how devastating addiction can be.

Success has no more bearing on drug addiction than it does on heart failure, doctors say: Both can be fatal without consistent care. And while rehab may be part of treatment, it's no antidote. Amy Winehouse and Cory Monteith had both been to rehab before eventually dying from overdoses.

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Police: Convicted killer who escaped from Michigan prison captured after chase in Indiana

IONIA, Mich. (AP) -- A convicted killer who peeled a hole in two fences with his hands to escape from a Michigan prison before abducting a woman and fleeing to Indiana was captured Monday evening after a chase, authorities said.

Officials were stunned by the brazen escape Sunday night of Michael David Elliot, who had a record of good behavior during his 20 years in custody. He wore a white kitchen uniform to evade security and blend in with snow at the Ionia Correctional Facility in western Michigan, prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz said Elliot was captured in LaPorte County after a police chase.

That chase began after authorities there got a report of a car stolen from a factory in the city of LaPorte, said sheriff's Maj. John Boyd. A deputy who happened to be nearby spotted the stolen Chevrolet Monte Carlo "within a few seconds," Boyd said.

Authorities chased the car through the city and into a rural area of Kankakee Township several miles away, where law enforcement used stop sticks to disable the vehicle.

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First of a one-two weather punch sweeps through eastern US with wet, heavy snow

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A winter storm dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow on parts of the eastern United States on Monday, snarling commutes and Super Bowl fans' trips home, closing schools and government offices and cutting power.

Fat flakes fell in Philadelphia and New York, creating slushy sidewalks and streets and all but erasing all memory of Sunday's temperatures in the 50s. The storm began moving out of the region Monday afternoon, making way for another system expected to sweep in from the Plains with ice and snow late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The National Weather Service reported about 8 inches of snow near Frostburg, Md., while parts of southern Ohio and West Virginia got about 10 inches. Totals in the Philadelphia area ranged from 3 to 9 inches; New York saw as much as 7 inches by 3 p.m.

Government offices, courts and schools closed in parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and scattered power outages were reported throughout the region. Speed limits were reduced on many major highways.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency with travel conditions hazardous. Nonessential government employees were dismissed early.

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California educator charged with 16 counts of sexual abuse in case made public on YouTube

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California school administrator who quit her job after a former student aired sexual abuse allegations on a YouTube video that has since been seen nearly a million times was charged Monday with 16 counts of sexually abusing two girls, prosecutors said.

Andrea Cardosa, 40, was charged with five counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child and 11 other counts of abuse and could get life in prison, the Riverside County District Attorney's office said. She was arrested by deputies in the city of Perris soon after the charges were filed, and was expected to be arraigned Thursday, district attorney's spokesman John Hall said.

Cardosa's lawyer, Randy Collins, said after charges were filed that he couldn't immediately comment because prosecutors hadn't informed him yet. In a second attempt to reach him after the arrest, Collins' phone was not accepting messages, and he did not immediately reply to an email message.

The case came to light after a now 28-year-old woman posted the video on YouTube Jan. 17 showing her making a call to confront Cardosa about the abuse allegations that she said began when she was 12 and Cardosa was her basketball coach.

The video also was sent to the Alhambra Unified School District, where Cardosa was working as an assistant principal. The superintendent immediately referred the case to police, and Cardosa resigned the same day.

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Sugar linked to heart disease deaths in national study; most eat too much & soda's a culprit

CHICAGO (AP) -- Could too much sugar be deadly? The biggest study of its kind suggests the answer is yes, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.

It doesn't take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.

Having a cinnamon roll with your morning coffee, a super-sized sugary soda at lunch and a scoop of ice cream after dinner would put you in the highest risk category in the study. That means your chance of dying prematurely from heart problems is nearly three times greater than for people who eat only foods with little added sugar.

For someone who normally eats 2,000 calories daily, even consuming two 12-ounce cans of soda substantially increases the risk. For most American adults, sodas and other sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar.

Lead author Quanhe Yang of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention called the results sobering and said it's the first nationally representative study to examine the issue.

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Super Bowl is most-watched TV event; sets records for streaming, tweeting

NEW YORK (AP) -- For the fourth time in five years, the Super Bowl has set a record for the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 111.5 million viewers even though the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos wasn't really competitive.

The ratings record is further evidence of how live events are becoming dependable and valuable properties for broadcast television at a time the audience is fragmenting and ratings for regular entertainment shows continue to fall.

"Big-event television is a great way for people to have a communal event, to talk about it socially and to talk about it as a group," said Bill Wanger, executive vice president for programming and research at Fox Sports. "You see that in the Super Bowl numbers of the past four or five years. They've just gone up to a different level."

The game also set standards for the most-streamed sports event online and, with 24.9 million tweets, the biggest U.S. live TV event on Twitter.

The Seattle victory eclipsed the 111.3 million viewers who watched the 2012 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, according to the Nielsen company. Until last year's game dipped slightly to 108.7 million, the Super Bowl had set ratings records for the previous three years in a row.