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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Sunday June 15 2008 - (813)

Sunday June 15 2008 edition
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Evangelical Flock Strays From The Republican Fold
2008-06-15 01:50:09

Standing in a cavernous hall in the headquarters of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, Lisa Anderson has some bad news for John McCain. "This is going to be an interesting election," she said with a smile.

The phrase conveys a stark warning to the Republican candidate. Focus on the Family, where Anderson is a director, is one of the most powerful evangelical groups in America. Many of its supporters - and millions of other U.S.  evangelicals - helped elect George W Bush twice, giving him their votes and volunteering for his campaign. McCain, who desperately needs their votes, would like them to support him, too, but many evangelicals neither trust nor like McCain.

Nowhere illustrates McCain's problem with evangelical voters better than Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Dubbed "the Vatican of the evangelical movement", the city is headquarters for more than 100 Christian organizations, ranging from mega-churches with 10,000-strong congregations to Focus on the Family, whose radio broadcasts reach 200 million listeners around the world each day.

Many evangelicals visit Focus's huge headquarters on holiday, inspired by its message of being against abortion, gay marriage and the morality of Hollywood; but one person who has not yet made the pilgrimage is McCain, for Focus's founder, James Dobson, has pointedly not endorsed him, despite backing Bush in 2004. That position is not likely to change. "I don't think we will see the trend in that direction," said Anderson.

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Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Nuclear Weapon
2008-06-15 01:49:40

An international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups.

The drawings, discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen, included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries, the report states.

The computer contents - among more than 1,000 gigabytes of data seized - were recently destroyed by Swiss authorities under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, which is investigating the now-defunct smuggling ring previously led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. 

U.N. officials cannot rule out the possibility that the blueprints were shared with others before their discovery, said the report's author, David Albright, a prominent nuclear weapons expert who spent four years researching the smuggling network.

"These advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world," Albright wrote in a draft report about the blueprint's discovery. A copy of the report, expected to be published later this week, was provided to the Washington Post. 

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MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be Outgoing U.S. Commander Gives Sober Assessment Of Afghanistan
2008-06-15 01:48:54

The outgoing top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Friday that attacks increased 50 percent in April in the country's eastern region, where U.S. troops primarily operate, as a spreading Taliban insurgency across the border in Pakistan fueled a surge in violence.

In a sober assessment, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who departed June 3 after 16 months commanding NATO's International Security Assisstance Force, or ISAF, said that although record levels of foreign and Afghan troops have constrained repeated Taliban offensives, stabilizing Afghanistan will be impossible without a more robust military campaign against insurgent havens in Pakistan.

The Taliban is "resurgent in the region," particularly in sanctuaries in Pakistan, and as a result "it's going to be difficult to take on this insurgent group ... in the broader sort of way," McNeill said at a Pentagon news conference.

Clashes in the east pushed U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan in May to 15, and total foreign troop deaths there to 23, the highest monthly figure since last August.

Indeed, comprehensive data released by the NATO-led command show a steady escalation in violence since NATO took charge of the Afghanistan mission in 2006, spurred in part by more aggressive operations by the alliance and most recently by U.S. Marine battalions in the heavily contested southern province of Helmand. ISAF troops in Afghanistan increased from 36,000 in early 2007 to 52,000 now, while the Afghan army grew from 20,000 to 58,000 soldiers.

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More British Secret Anti-Terror Files Found On Train
2008-06-15 01:48:09

A further batch of British secret government files have been found on a train, it was reported Saturday night.

The Independent on Sunday newspaper said that the papers, which were handed in to it, covered the U.K.'s policies on fighting global terrorist funding, drugs trafficking and money laundering.

The paper said that they were discovered on a train bound for London's Waterloo station on Wednesday.

The documents apparently include briefing notes for a meeting of the international Financial Action Task Force to be held in 11 Downing Street next week.

They contained details of how trade and banking systems could be manipulated to finance illicit weapons of mass destruction in Iran.

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DOH! G-8 Says Rising Oil, Food Prices Pose Threat To World Economy
2008-06-15 01:47:33
Finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations urged oil producers Saturday to boost output to help stabilize record-high oil and food prices, calling the situation a serious threat to global economic growth.

The world economy faces "headwinds" because of the recent rise in prices, the G-8 ministers said in a joint statement at the conclusion of two days of talks here.

"Elevated commodity prices, especially of oil and food, pose a serious challenge to stable growth worldwide, have serious implications for the most vulnerable and may increase global inflationary pressure," said the statement.

The fundamental factor driving oil prices is the imbalance between rising global demand and supply constraints, the ministers said. They added that geopolitical and financial factors also play a role - a reflection of some ministers' opinions that speculative trading in oil markets is pushing up prices.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., insisted that the problem stems primarily from tight supplies and warned against embracing "short-term solutions."

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Cedar River Recedes, But Iowa's Misery Isn't Over
2008-06-14 16:33:11
As the waters of the Cedar River started to slowly recede in this city overnight, officials in other cities in Iowa were fighting untamed rivers.

Officials in Cedar Rapids said on Saturday morning that the water will probably not recede enough to even begin pumping water out for several days, and it could be weeks before the water goes below flood stage. The record-breaking flood has forced at least 24,000 people from their homes in this city of 120,000.

In Des Moines, about 100 miles to the west, officials ordered the evacuation of more than 250 homes early Saturday morning as the Des Moines River breached a levee in a neighborhood north of the downtown area, according to the Associated Press.

Water was flowing freely through the neighborhood known as Birdland by about 8:30 a.m., according to WHO television in Des Moines. The water moved into the neighborhood quickly, with city streets that 30 minutes earlier had been dry becoming inundated.

The initial levee break occurred about 3:15 a.m., the Des Moines public works director, Bill Stowe, said in a news conference. City workers, assisted by workers from Polk County and the National Guard immediately went to work to put a secondary sand berm in place. That levee failed about 7:45 a.m.

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Editorial: A Moment Of Clarity In Baghdad
2008-06-14 16:32:36
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Saturday, June 14, 2008.

The disconnect between Washington’s stay-the-course Republicans - President Bush and Senator John McCain, in particular - and the Iraqi government has grown too wide to ignore. As the administration pushes for a legal agreement to extend the American military presence in Iraq, the Iraqis are pushing back. That is a positive sign.

The United Nations resolution authorizing the American role in Iraq expires at the end of this year. Since December, the two governments have been quietly negotiating their own deal.

Despite the importance of this issue, the White House is refusing to divulge details of its position. But, according to Iraqi leaders who went public with their complaints this week, Washington has been insisting on keeping more than 50 long-term bases in Iraq. The Iraqis also say that Washington is insisting that American forces have a free hand in launching military operations when and wherever they want.

If true - and a lot of this sounds disturbingly plausible - the Iraqis are right to object, and so should Congress and the American public.

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Rival Turns Up Heat On Musharraf
2008-06-14 16:31:03
The pressure on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to resign escalated Saturday after a senior leader in the civilian government suggested to a large outdoor rally here that Musharraf should be hanged.

During a heated speech televised live in the early hours, the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999 and now leads the party that is the junior partner in the governing coalition, said Musharraf must be held accountable for past misdeeds.

Then he asked, “Is hanging only for politicians?”

The crowd, mostly lawyers seated in the outdoor area adjacent to the presidential building, responded by chanting, “Hang him, hang him.”

A former Pakistani president, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a civilian, was hanged in 1979 during the rule of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, an execution that legal experts have widely described as based on trumped-up evidence.

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At Least 6 Killed In Japan Earthquake
2008-06-14 16:30:21
Rescue squads and military helicopters raced to find 11 people missing after an earthquake in mountainous northern Japan sent hillsides crashing down Saturday, killing at least six and injuring more than 140.

The 7.2-magnitude quake triggered several major landslides, blocking roads and stranding about 100 bathers at a hot spring resort. Crews searching for the missing had to hike mountain trails and dig their way to the worst-hit areas.

''It was the worst quake I have ever felt,'' said Rinji Sato, whose grocery store in Kurihara, near the epicenter, was a mess of shattered bottles and food thrown from shelves. ''We were just lucky this didn't hit a big city.''

Officials said at least 144 people were injured, a number that would surely have been higher if the quake had hit a more heavily populated area. Sato described the temblor as a sharp vertical jolt followed by a powerful sideways swaying.

''It was impossible to stay on your feet,'' he said.

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Argentina Pays Belated Homage To Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
2008-06-14 16:29:33
A towering bronze statue of Ernesto "Che" Guevara will be unveiled on Saturday in the Argentine city of Rosario, where he was born exactly 80 years ago, the first such monument to the revolutionary icon in his homeland.

Hundreds of students and leftist activists descended on the port city of Rosario to pay homage to the long-haired guerrilla fighter. He left his country as a young man to lead armed struggles including Cuba's 1959 revolution alongside Fidel Castro.

"El Che," a national hero in communist Cuba, is one of Argentina's most famous sons; but he has been slow to get recognition as a national figure at home. For years after CIA-backed troops executed him in the Bolivian jungle in 1967, he was still too controversial for public recognition in Argentina.

The leaders of the country's 1976-83 "dirty war" dictatorship banned his image, and attackers bombed the middle-class Rosario apartment building where Guevara was born in 1928 after the local council put up a commemorative plaque there.

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Taliban Attack Frees Hundreds From Afghanistan Jail
2008-06-14 01:25:36
Hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in southern Afghanistan on Friday after Taliban fighters blew off the gates in a suicide attack that killed several police officers, according to a U.S. military official.Many of those freed were apparently Taliban suspects.

The attack occurred in the evening in the southern city of Kandahar, a longtime stronghold of the Taliban insurgency, when attackers drove an explosives-laden vehicle toward the city jail, according to a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Prisoners breached the walls of the prison when a barrage of rocket and gunfire followed the initial attack.

A prison official at the scene said the bloody skirmish at the jail had left it nearly empty. Soldiers with NATO forces in the region were working with members of the Afghan national police to cordon off the area.

Government officials declared a state of emergency in Kandahar early Saturday.

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Judge Declares Mistrial In L.A. Obscenity Case
2008-06-14 01:25:06
A federal appeals court judge today recused himself from a closely-watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles, three days after acknowledging that he had posted sexually explicit material on a publicly accessible personal website.

"In light of the public controversy surrounding my involvement in this case, I have concluded that there is a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial," said Alex Kozinski, chief judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "I will recuse myself from further participation in the case and will ask the chief judge of the district court to reassign it to another judge."

The obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the Los Angeles Times reported about the images on his website.

Kozinski, one of the nation's highest-ranking judges, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore "a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a ...  sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here."
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In U.S., Wave Of Easy Money Reveals Rough Consequences
2008-06-15 01:49:58
Part 1 - Boom

The black-tie party at Washington, D.C.'s swank Mayflower Hotel seemed a fitting celebration of the biggest American housing boom since the 1950s: filet mignon and lobster, a champagne room and hundreds of mortgage brokers, real estate agents and their customers gyrating to a Latin band.

On that winter night in 2005, the company hosting the gala honored itself with an ice sculpture of its logo. Pinnacle Financial had grown from a single office to a national behemoth generating $6.5 billion in mortgages that year. The $100,000-plus party celebrated the booming division that made loans largely to Hispanic immigrants with little savings. The company even booked rooms for those who imbibed too much.

Keven Connelly, a loan officer who attended the affair, now marvels at those gilded times. At his Pinnacle office in Virginia, colleagues were filling the parking lot with BMWs and at least one Lotus sports car. In its hiring frenzy, the mortgage company turned a busboy into a loan officer whose income zoomed to six figures in a matter of months.

"It was the peak. It was the embodiment of business success," said Connelly. "We underestimated the bubble, even though deep down, we knew it couldn't last forever."

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Editorial: Foreclosures And The Election
2008-06-15 01:49:15
Intellpuke: This editorial appeared in the New York Times edition for Sunday, June 15, 2008.

There is much still uncertain about the future course of the home mortgage debacle, but one thing is now clear: Congress and President Bush have done so little for so long that they will never manage an effective response. Like so many other problems, the foreclosure crisis will be dumped on the next president and the next Congress.

The bad lending of the bubble years continues to wreak havoc. Foreclosures were up sharply again in May, and the continuing surge in defaults shows that more are in the pipeline. The pain goes beyond the ruin of individual families. Foreclosures are causing house values to plummet, local tax revenues to decline and credit to remain tight.

That, in turn, is prolonging the housing slump and deepening the broader economic slowdown, threatening the well-being not only of lenders and borrowers whose greed and misjudgment provoked the crisis, but of everyone. And, still, there has been no cogent response from Congress or the Bush administration.

The current Congress may manage to pass a foreclosure aid bill before July 4, which, at best, would prevent up to 500,000 foreclosures over the next few years. That would be an accomplishment. But even if the bill passes - and if President Bush signs it - the potential relief will not prevent or confine the damage from what is shaping up to be millions of foreclosures continuing well into the next administration.

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Bush Cautions Britain's Prime Minister On Plan To Cut Iraq Force
2008-06-15 01:48:34

George Bush flies into London Sunday with a warning for Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to announce a timetable for a British pull-out from Iraq, and expressing deep skepticism about the Prime Minister's high-profile strategy for bringing down world oil prices.

The stern message to the Prime Minister was delivered during an exclusive interview with The Observer, and contrasted with praise for Tony Blair whom Bush is scheduled to meet for breakfast tomorrow ahead of talks in Downing Street. Bush said Blair had never been his "poodle", but a leader who shared his view that the world is in an "ideological struggle" and that "ultimately freedom has to defeat the ideology of hate".

The President's comments on Brown's Iraq troop plans followed a report last week that a final British pull-out could be announced by the end of the year.

The President revealed that he had already had "discussions" with Brown on the troops issue and was "appreciative"  that Brown was in frequent touch with the Americans about "what he and his military are thinking". Yet, while he said both allies obviously wanted to bring their troops home, this could only be "based upon success".

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U.S. Senator Conrad Says Loan Favortism Possible
2008-06-15 01:47:54

U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, said Saturday that he would donate $10,500 to charity and refinance a property loan after suggestions that he and other prominent Washington figures received preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Though Conrad, chairman of the Budget Committee, said he was not aware of any favoritism shown by the lender that has come under scrutiny in the mortgage crisis, he said a review of e-mail traffic suggested that the loan fee for a beach house may have been reduced because of his status, while a second loan called for an exception by the company.

“Although I did not ask for or know that I was receiving a discount, and even though I was offered a competitive loan from another lender, I do not want to have received preferential treatment,” said Conrad, adding that he is giving $10,500 to Habitat for Humanity. The amount was equivalent to estimates of what Conrad saved through a reduction of one point on a $1.07 million mortgage.

The dealings of Countrywide with Washington officials have come to light in the past week after James A. Johnson, a former head of Fannie Mae, was forced to give up an influential advisory role with the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama following suggestions that Johnson got special treatment from Countrywide. Johnson was leading the search for a vice-presidential candidate.

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Mugabe: If I Lose The Election We Will Wage War
2008-06-15 01:45:29

A defiant President Robert Mugabe yesterday vowed he would "go to war" if he lost the presidential run-off due to take place in less than two weeks.

Describing the opposition as "traitors", he claimed Zimbabwe would never "be lost" again. Speaking at the burial of a veteran of the independence war, Mugabe said he would never accept the Movement for Democratic Change taking over. "It shall never happen ... as long as I am alive and those who fought for the country are alive,' he said. 'We are prepared to fight for our country and to go to war for it."

The threat was seen as an angry response to the pressure mounting on the government from other African leaders over the regime's harassment of the MDC leadership and supporters in the run up to the 27 June election.

Saturday, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested again and held for three hours as he tried to campaign in the countryside. There was also a stand-off between lawyers and police in Harare's high court before Tsvangirai's deputy, Tendai Biti, finally appeared before a judge.

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Charging By The Byte To Curb Internet Traffic
2008-06-14 16:32:55

Some people use the Internet simply to check e-mail and look up phone numbers. Others are online all day, downloading big video and music files.

For years, both kinds of Web surfers have paid the same price for access but, now, three of the country’s largest Internet service providers are threatening to clamp down on their most active subscribers by placing monthly limits on their online activity.

One of them, Time Warner Cable, began a trial of “Internet metering” in one Texas city early this month, asking customers to select a monthly plan and pay surcharges when they exceed their bandwidth limit. The idea is that people who use the network more heavily should pay more, the way they do for water, electricity, or, in many cases, cellphone minutes.

That same week, Comcast said that it would expand on a strategy it uses to manage Internet traffic: slowing down the connections of the heaviest users, so-called bandwidth hogs, at peak times.

AT&T also said Thursday that limits on heavy use were inevitable and that it was considering pricing based on data volume. “Based on current trends, total bandwidth in the AT&T network will increase by four times over the next three years,” the company said in a statement.

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Disease Grips Prized Alaska Salmon, Global Warming A Factor
2008-06-14 16:32:24
The fish has been a rare success story among exploited fisheries, but locals report that much of the Yukon River population is peppered with ‘white spot disease,’ or Ich. A crash could be disastrous.

With a sickening thud, another hefty and handsome salmon lands in the waste barrel, headed for the dogs.

"See, it's all of the biggest, best-looking fish," said Pat Moore, waving a stogie at the pile of discards. "It breaks my heart. My dogs cannot eat all that. The maggots will get them first."

More Alaskan salmon caught here in Tanana, Alaska, end up in the dog pot these days, their orange-pink flesh fouled by disease that scientists have correlated with warmer water in the Yukon River.

The sorting of winners and losers at Moore's riverbank fish camp illustrates what scientists have been predicting will accompany global warming: Cold-temperature barriers are giving way, allowing parasites, bacteria and other disease-spreading organisms to move toward higher latitudes.
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A Year Under Hamas Alters Life In Gaza
2008-06-14 16:30:50
Cursing God in public here in Gaza - a fairly common event in this benighted and besieged strip of Palestinian land - can now lead to prison. So can kissing in public. A judge ruled last week that a bank could not collect its contracted interest on a 10-year-old loan because Islam forbids charging interest.

One year ago, gunmen from Hamas, an Islamist anti-Israel group, took over Gaza, shooting some of their more secular Fatah rivals in the knees and tossing one off a building. Israel and the West imposed a blockade, hoping to squeeze the new rulers from power. Yet today Hamas has spread its authority across all aspects of life, including the judiciary. It is fully in charge. Gazans have not, as Israel and the United States hoped, risen up against it.

“The Palestinian criminal code says there should be no improper behavior in the streets,” the new chief justice, Abed al-Raouf Halabi, explained in an interview, pulling the code book from his breast pocket.

“It is up to judges to interpret what that means,” he said. “For us that means no cursing, no drinking and no kissing in public. In the past these things were ignored.”

Gaza has always been poor and pious, distinct from the more secular and better off West Bank, but a year of Hamas rule has made it more so. The notion of Gaza as an enduringly separate entity is solidifying, making it less likely that Palestinians might agree even among themselves on peace with Israel.

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4 U.S. Servicemen Killed In Afghanistan By Roadside Bomb
2008-06-14 16:30:08
A roadside bomb exploded near a United States military vehicle on Saturday, killing four American servicemen in western Afghanistan in the deadliest attack against United States forces in Afghanistan this year, said officials.

The attack occurred a day after a prison break in Kandahar, in which hundreds of inmates escaped during a Taliban  bomb and rocket attack. The police chief of Kandahar Province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said Saturday that 390 Taliban prisoners were among those who fled the prison during the attack.

The roadside bomb was aimed at American personnel in Farah Province helping train Afghanistan’s fledgling police force, said Lt. Col. David G. Johnson, an American military spokesman. An American serviceman was wounded in the attack.

U.S. Marines from the Second Battalion, Seventh Regiment, which is based in Twentynine Palms, California, arrived in Afghanistan this year and were sent to southern and western regions to train police officers. Colonel Johnson said he could not immediately confirm that the four Americans killed were Marines.

The four deaths on Saturday brought to at least 44 the number of American servicemen killed in Afghanistan this year, according to a count by the Associated Press. No more than two Americans have been killed in any single attack in Afghanistan this year, said that tally.

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U.S. Foreclosure Filings Continue To Rise
2008-06-14 01:25:48

Soaring foreclosures continue to raise questions about the mortgage industry's claims that lenders are making a dent in the housing crisis.

Foreclosure filings last month were up nearly 50 percent compared with a year earlier, according to one company's count released yesterday. Nationwide, 261,255 homeowners received at least one foreclosure-related filing in May, up 48 percent from the same month last year, and up 7 percent from April, said foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac.

Those numbers come as criticism mounts that efforts by government and lenders to stem the tide of foreclosures aren't keeping up with the rising number of troubled homeowners. Critics say a Bush administration-backed mortgage industry coalition, called Hope Now, is falling short.

"It's clear that these voluntary efforts in and of themselves cannot really make a dent," said Allen Fishbein, director of credit and housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "Government intervention is going to be necessary."

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Unnamed Restaurant Chain Linked To 9 Cases Of Tomato-Borne Salmonella
2008-06-14 01:25:20
Nine people sickened by a salmonella outbreak linked to fresh tomatoes ate at two restaurants from the same chain, federal officials confirmed Friday.

The chain's name and restaurant location are confidential, said David Acheson, the associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, during a conference call with reporters. A spokesman for the agency also declined to provide the time frame for the cases - or say whether the restaurants were in the same state.

The Chicago Department of Public Health identified nine people who ate at a restaurant in May and came down with salmonella, though Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the department, said he did not know whether the nine cases were the same ones Acheson referenced Friday.

None of the nine Chicago victims were hospitalized. Hadac said the department was withholding the name of the restaurant, which he said had several related restaurants in the city but was not part of a national chain.

FDA officials stressed that the locations where the illnesses were reported were not an indication of where the contaminated tomatoes originated.

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Sunken Ship From American Revolutionary War Found In Lake Ontario
2008-06-14 01:24:49
A team of underwater explorers has found the remains of the HMS Ontario, a 22-gun British warship that sank in a storm on the southern shore of Lake Ontario during the last years of the American Revolution.

The 80-foot-long brig-sloop is one of the oldest shipwrecks discovered in the Great Lakes and one of the best preserved, its finders said Friday.

The ship is sitting upright and leaning to one side in 500 feet of water between Niagara and Rochester, New York, with both of its masts still in place, announced explorers Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville.

The team located the wreck early this month after three years of searching with side-scan sonar, then explored and filmed the remains with a remotely operated vehicle designed and built by Scoville.
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