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Verizon to publish data on phone records requests

Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 |
Verizon to publish data on phone records requests story image
WASHINGTON (AP) - Verizon Communications Inc. says it will publish information on the number of requests for customer records it received from law enforcement agencies this year.

The announcement Thursday from the country's largest cellphone carrier comes as debate over data-gathering by the National Security Agency intensifies in Washington. The NSA's collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records under secret court order was revealed in June in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Verizon says it will publish its report online early next year and update it twice a year.

A presidential advisory panel this week recommended sweeping changes to the surveillance programs. Those include limiting the bulk collection of phone records by stripping the NSA of its ability to store that data in its own facilities.
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COMCAST-CUSTOMER SUPPORT

CHICAGO (AP) -- Comcast says it is planning to hire thousands and roll out new tools to improve its customer service.

The Philadelphia company has long been dogged by a terrible reputation for customer service. It told a cable industry trade show in Chicago that it will add 5,500 customer service jobs over the next few years, build three new call centers and add technicians.

It also wants to simplify its bills and will begin testing new versions in Portland, Oregon, in June.

CONGRESS-LABOR

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has sustained President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would have scrapped a new government rule on union elections.

The vote Tuesday was 96-3. It marked the second time Congress has failed to override an Obama veto since Republicans took control of the House and Senate in January. Obama earlier vetoed legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Proponents of the union rules say they are modest reforms that would simplify and streamline union elections. They say they would limit the ability of companies to drag out the certification process and buy time to fight the union.

Critics say the new rules would allow unions to ambush companies with demands for votes on representation.

FARMER DRONES

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- A drone large enough to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides has won rare approval from federal authorities to spray crops in the United States.

Officials say the drone, called the RMAX, is a remotely piloted helicopter that weighs 207 pounds. Yamaha Corp. U.S.A. developed the aircraft.

Smaller drones weighing a few pounds had already been approved for limited use to take pictures that help farmers identify unhealthy crops. The RMAX is the first time a drone big enough to carry a payload has been approved.

The drone already has been used elsewhere, including by rice farmers in Japan. The FAA approved it for the U.S. on Friday.

The drone is best suited for precision spraying on California's rolling vineyards and places that are hard to reach from the ground or with larger, piloted planes.

NEW ZEALAND-KIMDOTCOM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Internet file-storage company Mega Ltd., launched in 2013 by indicted entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, failed Wednesday in a bid to list on New Zealand's stock market.

Mega last year announced plans to list through a maneuver known as a reverse takeover.

But TRS Investments, the intended vehicle for the listing, filed a notice with the market today saying Mega had failed to get approval from its shareholders for the takeover.

Dotcom previously founded the file-sharing site Megaupload, which became wildly popular before it was shut down by U.S. authorities in 2012.

U.S. prosecutors are seeking to extradite Dotcom from New Zealand on racketeering charges, accusing him of facilitating massive piracy of songs and movies.

Dotcom says he can't be held responsible for those who used Megaupload for illegal downloading. His extradition hearing has been delayed several times and is now due to be heard some time after Sept. 1.

RESORTS WORLD-VEGAS

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The developer of a sprawling Chinese-themed resort on the Las Vegas Strip says the hotel-casino is expected to open by mid-2018 on the former site of the Stardust Hotel.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and officials from Malaysia-based Genting Group placed golden shovels into hard dirt Tuesday afternoon at the 88-acre site next to Circus Circus, signaling the start of construction for Resorts World Las Vegas.

Genting Group first promised a 2016 opening when it bought the site from Boyd Gaming in 2013 for $350 million.

Boyd Gaming had partially built its proposed Echelon casino-hotel on the site before it stopped construction in 2008 as the economic downturn took hold.

Plans for the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas include 3,500 rooms, an outdoor amphitheater and a possible panda habitat.

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