OBAMA PROMISES ACTION ON A TRIO OF CONTROVERSIES
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama tried to defuse a trio of controversies Thursday, pledging to work with Congress to ensure the IRS doesn't abuse its power, urging legislators to provide more money to strengthen security at U.S. diplomatic outposts and promising to seek "a balance" between national security and a need to protect freedom of the press.
"I think we're going to be able to fix it," Obama said, speaking in particular of the IRS' targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny. He vowed to make sure the agency is "doing its job scrupulously and without even a hint of bias."
Trying to steer clear of Republican criticism of the administration's response to the terror attacks that killed four Americans last year in Benghazi, Libya, the president called on Congress to work with the White House to provide more money to strengthen U.S. diplomatic missions' security.
"We need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world," Obama said. "That's how we learn the lessons of Benghazi. That's how we keep faith with the men and women who we send overseas to represent America."
Obama also was asked about the government's seizure of telephone records of reporters and editors of The Associated Press in an investigation of news leaks. The president said he would not comment on that specific case but said that "leaks related to national security can put people at risk." At the same time, he said, the government has an obligation to be open. He said the challenge was to find an appropriate balance between secrecy and the right to know.
GOOGLE'S PRODUCTS DIG DEEPER INTO PEOPLE'S LIVES
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- For Google CEO Larry Page, happiness is a warm computer.
"Technology should do the hard work so people can get on doing the things that make them happiest in life," Page told a crowd of 6,000 software developers and entrepreneurs who flocked to San Francisco Wednesday for the opening day of Google's annual showcase for its latest breakthroughs.
In the latest display of its technological prowess and sweeping ambition, Google is rolling out another wave of products and services that will test how much more people want computers to control their lives and enhance their perceptions of reality.
This year's event mostly consisted of upgrades to existing Google services that have already become daily habits for millions of people - one of Page's main goals. The new features assume most people want more help managing their lives from Google's brainy engineers and the sprawling data centers that house its millions of computers around the world.
A virtual assistant called Google Now will now be able to deliver reminders to pick up the milk when a person is in a grocery store or call certain friends when visiting certain cities. Google Now also has been programmed to understand more spoken questions so it can be even more helpful. The technology is being expanded to work on Chrome Web browsers so it can be accessed on personal computers, extending its reach beyond smartphones and tablets. With the wider availability, the Google Now technology is likely to be used more frequently, enabling Google's engineers to gain an even better understanding of human behavior. In turn, they can deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to do a better job of anticipating users' needs.
Google Plus, the company's social networking answer to Facebook, is getting a facelift. The new look will include several automated features that promise to figure out appropriate hash tags for each post on the service and identify the best photos uploaded by individual users. What's more, Google Plus will offer to automatically touch up photos so users won't have to bother. The alterations will include red-eye removal, the smoothing of wrinkles, and sharpening of landscapes.
All of Google Plus' automated tools can be turned off.
Contrary to speculation leading up to the conference, Google didn't unveil the next generation of a mini-tablet called the Nexus 7 that sells for $199.
In his talk, Page hinted that Google prefers taking big risks rather than releasing incremental upgrades. "We should be building great things that don't exist," he said.
POWERBALL JACKPOT QUICKLY JUMPS TO $550 MILLION
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The Powerball jackpot has jumped to $550 million, a major climb less than a day after the latest drawing produced no winning ticket.
The announcement Thursday by the Multi-State Lottery Association means ticket sales have soared as the frenzy grows for a chance to win the big prize.
Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, says the latest jackpot number has the potential to break the record for largest jump between drawings. That still belongs to a Powerball jackpot in November 2012, when the jackpot jumped $260 million to reach the all-time Powerball jackpot record of $587.5 million.
The latest jackpot has climbed nearly $200 million since Wednesday's drawing, which was an estimated $360 million.
The new jackpot has a $350.1 million cash option. The next drawing is scheduled for Saturday.