► The Korean Central News Agency is reporting that the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been executed for attempting to overthrow the government, CNN reports. On December 9, North Korea’s KCTV released an image of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, being forcibly removed from his chair by two police officials during a meeting in Pyongyang. Jang was regarded as the nation’s second-most powerful figure and had served as vice chairman of North Korea’s top military body. “Kim accused Jang and his allies of double-dealing behind the scenes…and selling the country’s resources at cheap prices, thereby threatening North Korea’s economic development,” CNN reported. Jang was also accused of womanizing, drug use, gambling, eating at expensive restaurants, and undergoing medical treatment in a foreign country.
► A presidential advisory committee concluded that the NSA’s program to collect data on every phone call made in the United States should continue, but under new restraints that would increase privacy protections, according to The New York Times. The committee released a report of its recommendation, which “argues in favor of codifying and publicly announcing the steps the United States will take to protect the privacy of foreign citizens whose telephone records, Internet communications, or movements are collected by the NSA,” according to The Times. The committee further recommended that senior White House officials, including the president, review the list of foreign leaders whose communications are monitored by the NSA. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama apologized to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after news broke that the NSA had been monitoring her calls for the last 10 years. Additional recommendations likely to stem from the review are that the White House conduct a regular review of the NSA’s collection activities similarly to the way it reviews the CIA’s activities and creation of an organization of legal advocates that would argue against lawyers for the NSA in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).
► A budget deal that will avoid a government shutdown for two more years and eases automatic spending cuts, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday by a vote of 332-94, Reuters reports. “The modest deal makes no major dent in the U.S. deficit and does not deal with the nation’s borrowing authority, which could provoke a battle when it needs to be increased by Congress in late February or early in the spring,” according to Reuters. The deal sets spending for two years and won a strong majority of House Republicans. The budget was sent to the Senate, “which is expected to pass it next week despite the objections of conservative political groups that say it violates their core goal of cutting government spending.”