VIDEO: Today's Headline News from Associated Press

NSA SPYING UNDER FIRE: 'YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM'

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a heated confrontation over domestic spying, members of Congress said Wednesday they never intended to allow the National Security Agency to build a database of every phone call in America. And they threatened to curtail the government's surveillance authority.

 

Top Obama administration officials countered that the once-secret program was legal and necessary to keep America safe. And they left open the possibility that they could build similar databases of people's credit card transactions, hotel records and Internet searches.

 

The clash on Capitol Hill undercut President Barack Obama's assurances that Congress had fully understood the dramatic expansion of government power it authorized repeatedly over the past decade.

 

The House Judiciary Committee hearing also represented perhaps the most public, substantive congressional debate on surveillance powers since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Previous debates have been largely theoretical and legalistic, with officials in the Bush and Obama administrations keeping the details hidden behind the cloak of classified information.

 

That changed last month when former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents to the Guardian newspaper revealing that the NSA collects every American's phone records, knowing that the overwhelming majority of people have no ties to terrorism.

 

Civil rights groups have warned for years that the government would use the USA Patriot Act to conduct such wholesale data collection. The government denied it.

 

HEAT BLANKETS MUCH OF US AS SUMMER SIZZLES

 

NEW YORK (AP) -- From South Dakota to Massachusetts temperatures surged to potentially dangerous levels Wednesday as the largest heat wave of the summer stretched out and stagnated, with relief in many parts of the country still days away.

 

Most states in the U.S. had at least one region where the temperature hit 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, though the worst heat was in the Midwest to Northeast. Humid air just made it all feel worse, with heat indexes in some places over 100.

 

In New York City, where it was 96 degrees, sidewalk food vendor Ahmad Qayumi said that by 11 a.m., the cramped space inside his steel-walled cart got so hot, he had to turn off his grill and coffee machine.

 

"It was just too hot. I couldn't breathe," he said, turning away a customer who asked for a hamburger. "Just cold drinks," he said.

 

Amid the heat, officials in Washington D.C.'s Maryland suburbs worked to keep a failing water main from cutting off hundreds of thousands of people, just when they needed it most. People in Prince George's County were asked not to run their faucets, water their lawns or flush toilets to keep the water system from emptying during emergency repairs.

 

Firefighters in southern California faced brutally hot - but dangerously dry - conditions as they battled a wildfire outside Palm Springs. Temperatures could go as high as 105 and humidity could go as low as 1 percent by the afternoon, said Tina Rose, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire has already consumed seven homes.

 

It was hot enough to buckle highway pavement in several states. Firefighters in Indianapolis evacuated 300 people from a senior living community after a power outage knocked out the air conditioning. The state of Illinois opened cooling centers. The Environmental Protection Agency said the heat was contributing to air pollution in New England.

 

STUDY: DEAD STARS COLLIDING FORGED GOLD ON EARTH

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A strange glow in space has provided fresh evidence that all the gold on Earth was forged from ancient collisions of dead stars, researchers reported Wednesday.

 

Astronomers have long known that fusion reactions in the cores of stars create lighter elements such as carbon and oxygen, but such reactions can't produce heavier elements like gold.

 

Instead, it was long thought that gold was created in a type of stellar explosion known as a supernova. But that doesn't fully explain the amount of the precious metal in the solar system.

 

About a decade ago, a team from Europe using supercomputers suggested that gold, platinum and other heavy metals could be formed when two exotic stars - neutron stars - crash and merge. Neutron stars are essentially stellar relics - collapsed cores of massive stars.

 

Now telescopes have detected such an explosion, and the observation bolsters the notion that gold in our jewelry was made in such rare and violent collisions long before the birth of the solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago.

 

People "walk around with a little tiny piece of the universe," said lead researcher Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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