Washington, D.C.

Senators air concern about attack on grid

Four U.S. senators concerned about the sabotage of Silicon Valley's power grid and phone lines last April asked federal officials on Friday if mandatory security standards are needed.

The question was contained in a letter sent to federal energy regulators by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Al Franken of Minnesota.

They are asking if requiring power companies to comply with what are now voluntary security standards would improve grid safety.

The letter was sent days after former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said the attack on the grid was an act of terrorism. The incident is under investigation by the FBI, which says it has found no indication of terrorism.

Reports: NSA collects under a third of calls

The National Security Agency collects less than 30 percent of calling data from Americans despite the agency's massive daily efforts to sweep up the bulk of U.S. phone records, two U.S. newspapers reported Friday.

Citing anonymous officials and sources, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal both said the NSA's phone data collection has had a steep drop-off since 2006. According to the newspapers, the government has been unable to keep pace since then with a national surge in cellphone usage and dwindling landline use by U.S. consumers.

The Post said the NSA takes in less than 30 percent of all call data; the Journal said it is about or less than 20 percent. In either case, the figures are far below the amount of phone data collected in 2006, when the government extracted nearly all of U.S. calling records.

U.S. government nears borrowing limit

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Friday in a letter to lawmakers that he will run out of cash to pay the nation's bills by Feb. 27 unless Congress acts to raise the federal debt limit.

Unlike previous crises, Lew said the accounting strategies known as "extraordinary measures" will not buy him much time.

If the government has to stop borrowing, it will continue to take in money from taxes and other revenues. But its expenses are unusually large this time of year, due in part to income tax refunds, increasing the risk of default -- and financial market chaos.

Pennsylvania

More than 250,000 still without power

A small army of electricity restoration crews labored Friday to reconnect more than 250,000 customers in Pennsylvania and Maryland who lost power in an ice storm, and utility companies warned some will have to wait several more days.

The lion's share of the outages are in the Philadelphia suburbs, where many schools were closed for a third day.

Utility companies reported about 240,000 customers without power in Pennsylvania, most of them in the five-county Philadelphia area. In Maryland, service had been restored to all but about 16,000 homes and businesses.

Associated Press and Washington Post