By Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At 3:59 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the National Security Agency and telecommunications companies will begin mothballing a once-secret system that collected Americans' bulk telephone records, shutting down computers and sealing off warehouses of digital data. If the U.S. Congress fails to act, key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will lapse in a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era. Intrusive government powers, created and wielded in the name of preventing another mass-casualty terrorist attack, would be at least partly scaled back, proponents and critics of the surveillance say.
(Reuters) - Rain showers caused flooding on roads in parts of Texas early on Saturday, an official said, after severe weather killed at least 21 people earlier in the week, prompting U.S. President Obama to declare a disaster in the state. Texas has endured record rainfall for the month of May. This week, flooding turned streets into rivers, ripped homes off their foundations, swept over thousands of vehicles and trapped people in cars and houses. Obama signed a disaster declaration late on Friday to free up federal funds to help rebuild areas of Texas affected by the storms.
By Patricia Zengerle and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Friday that surveillance powers used to prevent attacks on Americans could lapse at midnight on Sunday unless "a handful of senators" stop standing in the way of reform legislation. Obama said he had told Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators that he expects them to act swiftly on a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would renew certain powers and reform the bulk collection of telephone data. "I don't want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time, those authorities go away and suddenly we're dark and heaven forbid we've got a problem," Obama told reporters in the Oval Office.