What privacy? The Obama administration admitted today it has requested massive amounts of phone records from Verizon Communications, one of the nation’s largest cell phone service providers. A senior White House official said the metadata request included phone numbers and length of calls but not users’ personal information or the calls’ content. Such information is “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It allows counter-terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.” But privacy and free speech advocates say the president has overstepped his bounds, again. Analysts speculate the records request could be related to the investigation into the Boston bombing.
Korean talks. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have cooled considerably in the last few weeks. Today, South Korea announced it will accept the North’s offer of talks aimed at reopening a joint manufacturing facility closed in April. The meeting will take place June 12. The unexpected step is largely thought to be the result of Chinese prodding. But the Gaeseong Industrial Park’s closure cost the Communist nation a steady source of much-needed hard currency, so the decision could also have more to do with self interest than diplomacy. North Korea’s latest battle with the international community started in February after the country’s nuclear tests sparked a new round of sanctions. The escalating war of words culminated in the North closing the joint industrial facility, a symbol of cooperation between the two countries.
Transplant rule overturned. After Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to change the nation’s transplant rules to give a dying 10-year-old girl access to the adult organ waiting list, a Pennsylvania judge has done it for her. After Sarah Murnaghan’s parents filed an emergency lawsuit, a federal judge ordered Sebelius to waive the rule, which says no children under 12 years old can receive adult organs. The order is valid for 10 days and will not guarantee Murnaghan a new set of lungs. But it gives her a chance at life, the only thing her parents asked for. “We have never, ever asked that Sarah get special attention or be placed in front of anyone more severe than her,” her father told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “So if there … is another adult who is more severe, who has a higher lung allocation score, they will still get their lungs first.” Murnaghan has been on the pediatric waiting list for 18 months, but children’s organs are donated much less often than adult’s.
Storm watch. Tropical Storm Andrea is expected to soak much of Florida with drenching rain as it makes landfall later today. The storm, which formed Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, gained strength as it approached shore, spawning six tornados this morning. After raking over Florida, Andrea is expected to move up the East Coast, bringing heavy rain to Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm is the first of the Atlantic season to rate a name.