Thursday Must Reads: Obama Administration Collects Verizon Phone Records; Costco Frozen Organic Berries Cause Hepatitis A Outbreak



Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The National Security Agency has been collecting all phone records from Verizon, the Guardian reports, citing a federal warrant that the newspaper obtained. The warrant, approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, shows that the Obama administration is currently collecting the phone records of all of Verizon’s customers regardless of whether they are suspected of wrongdoing, including the phone numbers they call, where they’re making calls, and the time of the calls and their duration — but not the actual phone conversations. Both the White House and Verizon declined to comment but civil libertarians are expressing outrage.

2. Tainted frozen organic berries with pomegranate seeds sold at Costco have been linked to a nationwide outbreak of Hepatitis A, the Chron$ reports. The Oregon company that makes the product — Townsend — recalled them earlier this week. At least two women — from Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties — have been sickened by eating the product. Health officials say it’s the pomegranate seeds — not the berries — that were infected with the Hepatitis A virus.

3. A top lawyer for the California Public Utilities Commission, who used to work for PG&E, has reassigned the two attorneys who led the investigation of PG&E’s deadly San Bruno blast, the Chron$ reports. The two attorneys who were reassigned apparently disagreed with the PUC’s recommendation that PG&E not be fined for the blast, and instead be required to spend $2.25 billion on pipeline upgrades that it already had completed, was planning to complete, or should have completed. The top lawyer — Frank Lindh — who reassigned the two attorneys had earlier recused himself from the case because of his close ties to PG&E.

4. George Shirakawa Jr., a former Santa Clara County supervisor who has already been convicted of corruption, is now charged with a new felony for allegedly impersonating another politician, the Mercury News reports. South Bay prosecutors say they found Shirakawa’s DNA on stamps used to mail an illegal hit-piece in 2010 that made it look as if a candidate was associated with communism and made it look as if the candidate sent the mailer herself.

5. And the FBI corruption probe of state Senator Ron Calderon of Southern California is focusing on federal grants used for a questionable water deal involving his brother, former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon, the LA Times$ reports.