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News roundup: AT&T, Verizon charge big bucks for govt snooping

Phone companies making cash on gov't wiretaps. Lawmakers consider in-house changes. Chaffetz frustrated at DoD.

Happy Wednesday. Americans were shocked to learn that phone companies were handing over info about their calls but wait 'til they learn that Verizon, AT&T and others can actually make money on government wiretaps. Turns out, it'll cost the government $325 to tap an AT&T phone and $775 to activate a wiretap on Verizon. Snooping, it appears, doesn't come cheap. [AP]

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Topping the news: Utah lawmakers are considering several changes to how the Legislature operates. [UtahPolicy]

-> Rep. Jason Chaffetz is becoming increasingly frustrated that the Defense Department won't release information on the whereabouts of Col. George Bristol, a key witness in the terror attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. [DailyMail]

-> Sen. Orrin Hatch has said he is likely to support a bill that would extend federal employment protections against discrimination to LGBT workers because it exempts religious organizations. [NYTimes]

Tweets of the day: From @moorehn: "To have broccoli play a quasi-scandalous roles in two administrations teaches us why America has so much further to go." (See related story: [WaPost])

From @mollyesque: "Full disclosure: I love broccoli, but my actual favorite food is artichokes. It's ok, I never wanted to be president."

From ‏@UtahGOP: "We don't like broccoli. We like Spanish sweet onions - the Utah state vegetable - and sugar beets - the state historic vegetable. Who knew?"

Happy birthday: to former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.

In other news: Sen. Orrin Hatch unveiled new legislation that attempts to achieve retirement income security for state employees. His plan would allow states to contract with life insurance companies to pay workers an annual annuity for their retirement. [Trib]

-> Utah Radiation Control is considering doubling the fine that companies would have to pay for violating standards regarding the handling of radioactive waste. The maximum fine per violation would double from $5,000 to $10,000. [Trib]

-> The Guardian newspaper, which broke the NSA snooping story based on Edward Snowden's leaks, looks at the privacy-minded operation of Pete Ashdown, head of Utah's XMission. [Guardian]

-> Pat Bagley gives his take on the issue surrounding the political action group Big Game Forever. [Trib]

-> Paul Rolly discusses the issue of recognizing students' religious beliefs in schools. [Trib]

-> The Census Bureau's list of fastest-growing counties across the nation features six from Utah. [DNews]

-> Utah drivers with smartphones can now take advantage of the Utah Department of Transportation's traffic app, which advises on traffic jams, planned construction and the weather. [DNews]

-> The group Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment is warning that dust pollution is just as much of a health hazard as smog, and that lawmakers need to take notice. [ABC4]

Nationally: More than a week after the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans automatically doubled, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized both the House bill and the bipartisan Senate plan to resolve the issue, arguing that both would end up costing students more than no action at all. [Politico]

-> It costs almost twice as much on average to win a seat in the House today as it did in 1986, despite most House races being less competitive than they were in the past. Victors in safe districts spend an average of $1.3 million, while those in swing states spend around $2.3 million. [NYTimes]

-> President Barack Obama is facing criticism from both sides for his lack of strong leadership on key issues currently facing the White House, from the situation in Egypt to immigration reform. [TheHill]

-> Bloggers on the Washington Post's The Fix offer a guide to understanding the different factions of the Republican Party within the House. [WaPost]

-> A meeting of House Republicans to discuss immigration reform is set for Wednesday. Recent differences of opinion within the party on key issues predict that a compromise will be hard to reach. [WaPost]

Where are they?

  • Rep. Rob Bishop meets with the Utah Retail Merchants Association, attends the Republican Study Committee weekly meeting and hosts the annual USU intern seminar.
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz attends an oversight hearing on tracking money and performance in federal government, meets with executives from Sinclair Oil, talks to officials from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, meets with the Utah Retail Merchants Association and joins a GOP conference meeting on immigration.
  • President Barack Obama discusses immigration reform with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, awards the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal and meets with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Got a tip? A birthday, wedding or anniversary to announce? Email us at cornflakes@sltrib.com. If you haven't already, sign up for our weekday email and get this sent directly to your inbox. [Trib]

-- Thomas Burr and Isobel Markham

Twitter.com/thomaswburr and Twitter.com/i_markham



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