They’ve gone too far. So says a federal appeals court, ruling that the NSA’s mass collection of phone call data takes the Patriot Act too far. Call it a win for Edward Snowden, whose 2013 leaks brought the issue to public attention. Because lower courts ruled differently, this could end before the Supreme Court, even as the Patriot Act is set to expire June 1. Negotiations are underway to pass new regulations before then, but some groups, like the ACLU, want to see the whole thing lapse into history.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Just in time, but will it hold? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to form a new coalition government seven weeks after winning Israel’s elections, and just an hour before last night’s deadline. But brokering a deal with the right-wing Bayit Yehudi party, which opposes a Palestinian state and supports settlements, only puts Bibi in control of 61 of 120 parliamentary seats. Such little wiggle room for Israel’s leader, analysts fear, could mean the coalition will crumble at the first sign of trouble.
And the exits look grim for the opposition. Though the Labour party had hoped for a turnaround in their favor, the earliest exit polls showed the Conservatives close to a majority at 316 projected seats, something that had seemed an impossibillity for either major party. Other exits followed, and painted a less drastic picture, but still showed the Tories coming out ahead. More accurate data will have to wait — but if David Cameron remains prime minister, the UK is likely looking at an in-out referendum on staying in the EU in 2017.
A Democratic presidential hopeful — for the first time — is fully supporting fundraising groups that can accept unlimited amounts of money to influence national elections. Clinton is taking on big-money Republican opponents by openly courting super PAC donors, upping the ante in what is already expected to be history’s most expensive presidential campaign. Fans hope this will help Priorities USA Action raise up to $300 million, equaling the top GOP-supporting committees, ahead of 2016.
Many see it as an attack on civil rights, and four former prime ministers question it, but Canadian lawmakers — recently attacked themselves — have passed a bill through the House of Commons in favor of controversial new surveillance powers. The Anti-Terrorism Act would expand Canada’s spying capabilities and criminalize the promotion of terrorism while making it easier to detain suspects. The contentious bill, supported by both Conservatives and Liberal Party members, is expected to clear the Senate and be signed into law.
She’s less than exuberant. The Fed chair cautioned investors against high-risk behavior, such as putting faith in the rallying market while ignoring the possibility of an upward jerk in bond yields. Yellen’s prophecies can be self-fulfilling: Anything she says can move markets, and her comments likely played a role in the Dow’s 1.1 percent drop Wednesday (it recovered, closing down 0.5 percent). But there’s a lingering sense that the market has gained too much too soon, and investors are likely to proceed with caution.
Defense presses for sparing Tsarnaev the death penalty. (Reuters)
Tornadoes roar through American Midwest. (CNN)
Whole Foods announces cheaper stores targeting Milennials. (CSM)
Yemen asks U.N. to intervene and save the country. (Al Jazeera)
Study: Babies born at 22 weeks can survive. (NYT)
Iran releases container ship from Marshall Islands. (Reuters)
It’s out of this world. The space agency’s new FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) device, based on technology for detecting alien life, has proven useful here on Earth. The portable radar unit, which senses human heartbeats through 30 feet of rubble or 20 feet of solid concrete, got a real-world test after last month’s earthquake in Nepal, when it located four survivors buried under collapsed buildings. FINDER will soon be available commercially to aid rescue efforts around the globe.
Copenhagen is banking on plastic. It has proposed that some retailers, gas stations and restaurants no longer be forced to accept cash, relying instead on credit card or mobile payments. Currency is already less popular with Danes than more modern methods, and the measure — despite fears that the elderly or digitally deprived will suffer — isn’t expected to meet serious opposition in parliament. It’s likely to be approved and take effect next January, before possibly being extended to other businesses.
Hands off! The Freightliner Inspiration, a high-tech version of Daimler’s popular 18-wheeler, is the first self-driving semi to be licensed in America. In 2012, 330,000 truck collisions caused nearly 4,000 deaths — 90 percent due to driver error. Autonomous big rigs aim to make trucking safer by taking control on the highway and alerting drivers when conditions require the human touch. But they need to log another decades’ worth of interstate miles before hitting the market, so commercialization remains … down the road.
The decades-long legal fight over who owns the late jazz legend’s recordings has hit a low note. An agreement between Simone’s estate, her ex-lawyer and Sony looked somewhat solid — until last week. The entertainment giant has reneged, filing federal court papers to try and secure rights to Simone’s master tracks, not just reproductions. It’s also trying to keep the legal wrangling private, but the upcoming fight promises to bare dirty details — and may blow the whistle on Sony’s royalty practices.
An NFL-commissioned report concluded that it’s “more probable than not” that New England personnel deflated footballs below league standards before their AFC Championship game against the Colts — and Tom Brady knew it. The 243-page document included texts between two locker room attendants, one calling himself “the deflator,” which referenced gifts from Brady in exchange for easier-to-grip pigskins. While the Pats continue to deny culpability, the league is considering discipline that may take the wind out of their sails.