The Morning Buzz | NSA Admits to Spying on Americans

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Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s daily dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers?

Despite earlier claims that the National Security Agency wasn’t spying on Americans, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted this week that the NSA monitored Americans’ communications without a warrant. Clapper justified the surveillance by citing a rule that applies only to foreigners outside of the United States. Senators from Colorado and Oregon are now urging Congress to close this legal loophole. Forty-two percent of Americans say the government has gone too far monitoring private telephone and email conversations of American citizens, and the program should be eliminated, while 31 percent of Americans say the government should continue its current program of monitoring private telephone and email conversations in order to protect American citizens from terrorism and 23 percent are neutral on the matter.

For the first time, the Supreme Court has struck down caps on federal campaign contributions by individuals. In a 5-to-4 ruling, current limits were found to violate the First Amendment.

Are Americans falling out of love with the automobile? A new graphic at the Washington Post shows a steady decline in fuel consumption per household, licensed driver, vehicle and person since 2004. There are a number of reasons that might explain these trends, such as increasing fuel efficiency, the decline of suburban living, and alternative transportation options like bike and car sharing programs.

Riffing on Facebook’s Major League Baseball Fandom Map, Nate Silver goes beyond “likes” to calculate the popularity of MLB teams by compiling Google Trend numbers with the size of each team’s television market.

At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis stressed traditional marriage, saying, “When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is reflected in them.” While affirming the position of the Church, the emphasis on traditional marriage is somewhat at odds with the views of most Catholics who favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

What’s the difference between a Christian television network and a church? According to the IRS, nothing. NPR reports that a number of religious television networks are actually classified by the IRS as churches availing them of numerous tax advantages. Daystar, one of the largest religious TV networks in the country, with $233 million in assets, is classified by the IRS as a church despite offering few services found at typical houses of worship.

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