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10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2014

Harold Maass
A prison guard in the electric chair room at Sing Sing Prison, New York, in 1951. This technology may be making a comeback in Tennessee. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
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House approves sharp limits on NSA surveillance

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would prevent the National Security Agency from mining Americans' phone records in the hunt for terrorists. Facebook, Google, and Apple withdrew support because they said the bill had been watered down with amendments allowing the continued collection of bulk internet data. Supporters said the bill constituted progress toward ending abuses exposed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. [San Jose Mercury News]


States consider alternatives to lethal injection

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill Thursday allowing the use of the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are not available, making the state the first to bring back the chair in cases where condemned inmates can't choose their method of execution. The move came after President Obama called for reviewing lethal injections due to Oklahoma's botched April execution. Wyoming is considering using a firing squad. [The Associated Press]


Thailand's military leader calls talks after coup

Thailand's army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, tightened his grip on power on Friday, announcing a travel ban for leading politicians. Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the caretaker prime minister who replaced her met with Prayuth after he summoned them and other political leaders for talks. Prayuth staged a bloodless coup on Thursday, vowing to restore stability after months of protests and political deadlock. [CNN]


Wildfire erupts near Arizona tourism center

A rapidly spreading Arizona wildfire is threatening to force more than 3,000 people out of their homes. About 300 homes were evacuated as the fire engulfed 4,830 acres near Slide Rock State Park outside the tourism and retirement hub of Sedona. About 840 people were fighting the blaze, which was totally uncontained as of late Thursday. [CNN]


Obama touts tourism at Baseball Hall of Fame

President Obama on Thursday became the first sitting president to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He used the stop to launch an effort to boost tourism — particularly visits to the U.S. by foreigners. Obama has called on federal agencies to streamline the process of getting foreign tourists through airports. "If they come into LaGuardia faster, then they can get to Cooperstown faster," Obama said. [New York Daily News]


IRS delays hearing on rules regarding tax-exempt groups' political work

The Internal Revenue Service postponed a Thursday hearing on controversial new rules regarding the political activities of tax-exempt groups, saying it needed to revise the rules. The IRS has faced sharp criticism from conservatives who say the Obama administration wants the rules to silence critics, and liberals who think the proposals go too far. The agency got more than 150,000 comments during a public input period that ended three months ago. [The Washington Post]


HP announces deep job cuts

Hewlett-Packard is laying off up to 16,000 employees — on top of 34,000 already cut — as CEO Meg Whitman steps up efforts to turn around the personal computer maker. The announcement came Thursday after HP reported its 11th straight quarterly sales decline. HP, which employed 317,500 worldwide at the end of 2013, is the world's biggest PC maker, but competition from smartphones and tablets have been cutting into its sales. [The New York Times]


Postal Service starts selling Harvey Milk stamp

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday unveiled a stamp honoring slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the nation's first openly gay elected officials. Crowds lined up to buy the stamps in Milk's old neighborhood. "It was just like when Elvis Presley went on sale," a postal worker said. Milk passed the nation's first strict gay-rights ordinance before he and mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall in 1978. [San Francisco Chronicle]


China sentences billionaire to death

A Chinese court on Friday sentenced billionaire businessman Liu Han to death, calling him and his brother "deeply evil" and saying they led a "mafia-style" gang responsible for nine murders over two decades. "Their impact on society was extremely bad," the court said. The condemning of Liu, who was once chairman of one of the biggest companies in southwest China, came as part of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption. [The Washington Post]


Landon Donovan cut from U.S. World Cup team

Landon Donovan — widely considered the greatest U.S. male soccer player ever — was cut from the U.S. World Cup team on Thursday. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said excluding Donovan, 32, from the roster in what would have been his fourth World Cup was the toughest decision of his coaching career. Donovan, the team's all-time leading scorer, said he was crushed but would be cheering on his teammates when play begins in Brazil next month. [USA Today]

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