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Congress Still Has No Idea How Much the NSA Spies on Americans

CongressThe biggest lie Americans are told about the NSA is that it is subject to "strict oversight." Listening to President Obama, Senator Dianne Feinstein, or most any high-ranking official in the national-security bureaucracy, one gets the impression that the Senate and House intelligence committees are keeping careful tabs on the most technologically empowered spy agency in human history.

The truth is that Congress is alarmingly ignorant about NSA spying. It's not all the national-security state's fault. There are too many issues for every legislator to master them all; surveillance policy is a particularly complicated; and national security is an area many in Congress undermine checks and balances by deferring to the president.

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How members of Congress use a little-known power to shape the military and help their constituents

Congress and the militaryEach year, members of Congress exercise a little-known power to help constituents obtain a nomination to one of the country's four elite service academies, which prepare future officers for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Merchant Marine.

In doing so, they are helping the nominees obtain a highly sought college education worth nearly $500,000 while shaping the leadership of the military.

Those nominations are often secret, sometimes political and always prestigious. In some cases, a USA TODAY examination shows, they go to children of friends, political supporters and donors to the lawmakers' campaigns.

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Senate passes funding for Israel's Iron Dome

Iron Dome

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) got unanimous consent in the Senate Friday for legislation to give Israel emergency funding for its Iron Dome missile defense system.

“This is a good example of us putting aside partisan considerations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after passage.

Israel has been battling the terrorist group Hamas for weeks and the conflict continued Friday after Hamas broke the latest cease-fire agreement.

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Rep. Curt Clawson Mistakes U.S. Officials For Indian Nationals

Curt ClawsonRep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) addressed what he believed were two members of the Indian government at a House hearing on Thursday and assured them that, as a U.S. representative, he would support all efforts to facilitate a better relationship between America and "your country" and "your government."

There was only one problem. The officials testifying before the House Asia and Pacific subcommittee weren't Indian officials at all, but two senior members of the U.S. government.

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House panel opposes giving SEC documents for insider trading probe

SECA U.S. House of Representatives panel said on Friday it should not have to comply with a federal regulator's demand for documents sought for an insider-trading probe involving the staff director of a subcommittee and a lobbyist.

The House Ways and Means Committee argued in a court filing that U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in New York should deny the Securities and Exchange Commission's attempt to subpoena documents from the committee and its healthcare subcommittee staff director Brian Sutter.

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Facebook study manipulated News Feeds in January 2012 to investigate emotional contagion

Facebook-More than 680,000 Facebook users were part of a psychology experiment in January 2012 without their knowledge.

In order to investigate whether the emotions of other social media users could lead "people to experience the same emotions without their awareness," researchers manipulated 689,003 users' News Feeds to show statuses that were especially positive or negative.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in an article called "Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks."

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U.S. student loan refinancing bill fails Senate hurdle

US loan refinance bill failsDemocratic-sponsored legislation to allow student loan borrowers to refinance at lower interest rates failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

The Senate voted 56-38 to end debate and move to a final vote, short of the 60 votes required.

Democrats had said their measure would let holders of both federal and private undergraduate loans - some with rates of 9 percent or higher - to refinance at 3.86 percent.

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