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10 things you need to know today: January 18, 2014
Obama order changes to NSA data collection, Putin speaks to gays attending the Olympics, and more
 
The president says he has big changes in store for the NSA.
The president says he has big changes in store for the NSA. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

1. Obama orders changes to NSA data collection
After six months of NSA-related controversy, the president called for significant changes to the agency's collection of phone records in a speech Friday. "Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three," Obama said. "And I have directed the attorney general to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency." [The Washington Post]

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2. FLOTUS turns 50
Michelle Obama marked the big 5-0 with a birthday celebration at the White House Friday. "I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman," she told Parade last summer when asked about her approaching birthday. [CNN]

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3. Top Christie aides subpoenaed in Bridgegate investigation
A New Jersey state Senate panel is investigating the recent controversy surrounding seemingly politically motivated traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge. The panel issued subpoenas to several of Gov. Chris Christie's top aides. [Reuters]

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4. Syrian government proposes exchange of prisoners
Syria's foreign minister is offering a prisoner exchange with rebels of the Syrian National Coalition. The proposition coincided with a meeting in Istanbul, in which the opposition is deciding whether to attend next week's peace conference. Despite pressure from Western nations, many members of the Syrian National Coalition have already pulled out. [BBC]

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5. Taliban attack on Kabul restaurant kills 21
A popular Lebanese restaurant in Afghanistan's capital was terrorized by a "commando-style attack by Taliban insurgents" on Friday evening, resulting in the deaths of at least 21 people. Two Americans were among the dead. The attack, carried out by a suicide bomber and gunmen, was among the deadliest in Kabul in years. [Washington Post]

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6. Anti-government protest in Thailand bombed
Two explosions hit a rally in Bangkok Friday, wounding dozens of people. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a series of rallies named the "Bangkok shutdown." [CNN]

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7. Google reveals 'smart contacts'
Google is testing a contact lens that tests glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip. The tech giant is also working to incorporate miniature LED lights to illuminate when glucose levels are high. While the firm says the lens has nothing to do with Glass, some speculate the two products are related. [BBC]

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8. Pennsylvania strikes down voter ID law
A Pennsylvania judge overturned a law requiring voters to provide photo identification to cast a ballot. The case will likely move to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. [Think Progress]

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9. Putin speaks about gays attending Sochi Olympics
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from the site of the Winter Olympics, told gay people attending the games that they should "feel calm, at ease, but leave the children in peace, please." His words reflect Russia's controversial anti-gay legislation. [The LA Times]

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10. India unveils a gun for women after wave of sexual assaults
India is promoting a .32-caliber revolver named Nirbheek, designed to help women protect themselves in the wake of highly publicized rapes. The weapon is named for the victim of an infamous gang rape aboard a bus in New Delhi. [NPR]

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Monica Nickelsburg is a digital producer for TheWeek.com. She has previously worked for Transient Pictures, The Daily Beast, NBC, and Forbes. Follow her @mnickelsburg.

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