- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Raw-roasted mix feared in pistachios

TERRA BELLA | The salmonella scare that prompted a blanket federal warning against eating pistachios may have erupted because contaminated raw nuts got mixed with roasted nuts during processing, the company at the center of the nationwide recall said Tuesday.

Lee Cohen, the production manager for Setton International Foods Inc., said the company does not think that pistachios were contaminated by a human or animal source in its plant. He said the company suspects that some roasted pistachios sold to Kraft Foods Inc. - roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria - may have become mixed at Setton’s plant with raw nuts that can contain traces of the bacteria.

The pistachios were processed at central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., which is in the corporate family of Commack, N.Y.-based Setton International Foods Inc.

Kraft spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati said her company’s auditors “observed employee practices where raw and roasted nuts were not adequately segregated and that could explain the sporadic contamination.”

FLORIDA

Turnpike killers to be executed

WEST PALM BEACH | A jury has recommended death for two men convicted of shooting a family of four along Florida’s Turnpike to settle a drug debt.

The federal jury said Tuesday that Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez Jr., both 25, should be executed. The sentence marks the first federal death penalty recommended in Florida since Congress reinstated it in 1988.

The men were convicted March 5 of killing Jose Luis Escobedo, 28; his wife, Yessica Guerrero Escobedo, 25; and their two young sons. Their bodies were found along the Florida Turnpike in October 2006.

District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley will formally sentence the men at a later hearing.

MASSACHUSETTS

John Hancock Tower sold at half-price

BOSTON | The John Hancock Tower, New England’s tallest office building, was sold in a foreclosure auction Tuesday for $660 million, about half what the sellers paid three years ago, underscoring the crumbling state of the U.S. commercial real estate market.

The building, a distinctive presence on the Boston skyline, was bought by Normandy Real Estate Partners and Five Mile Capital Partners, investors that had previously snapped up distressed loans on the property.

The building, designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei and officially named Hancock Place, went into foreclosure in January after its owner, Broadway Partners, defaulted on the mezzanine loans it used to finance the $1.3 billion sale in late 2006.

NEW JERSEY

Philippine spy gets commutation

NEWARK | A federal judge Tuesday reduced the sentence of a former Philippine National Police officer who pleaded guilty to receiving classified U.S. government documents.

Michael Ray Aquino, 42, still faces a court battle over whether he will have to return to the Philippines to face murder charges. He has been in prison since his arrest in 2005 for accepting the documents from a former U.S. Marine who once worked as an aide to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney.

Prosecutors say the documents were stolen as part of a plot to overthrow the government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

NORTH DAKOTA

River drops below sandbag levee level

FARGO | The Red River on Tuesday dropped to a level below most of Fargo’s sandbag levees, taking some pressure off the makeshift floodwalls as engineers and National Guard troops watched for signs of leaks during a blinding snowstorm.

The river fell to 37.98 feet, an important threshold because the city’s permanent levee system is built to about 38 feet in most spots, with temporary sandbags piled up to 43 feet.

Still, forecasters think the river will eventually begin rising again after more snow begins to melt, so they do not think the city is in the clear yet. The National Weather Service said the bloated river is quickly draining because cold temperatures are limiting the amount of snow and ice that normally would melt and flow into the waterway.

“This should give us a sigh of relief,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

OHIO

DUI charged in bar stool crash

NEWARK | Authorities in Ohio say a man has been charged with drunken driving after crashing his motorized bar stool.

Police say when that they responded to a report of a crash with injuries on March 4, they found a man who had wrecked a bar stool powered by a dismantled lawn mower.

Kile Wygle, 28, was hospitalized for minor injuries. Police say he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he told an officer at the hospital that he had consumed 15 beers. Mr. Wygle told police his motorized bar stool can go up to 38 mph.

Mr. Wygle has pleaded not guilty and has requested a jury trial.

WASHINGTON

Microsoft abandons Encarta project

REDMOND | Microsoft Corp.’s digital encyclopedia, Encarta, might have pushed its printed competitors off the shelves in some homes. Now Encarta itself has fallen victim to changes in technology, made all but obsolete by the Internet.

Microsoft said it will shut down the online version of Encarta in October and will discontinue sales of the PC software by June.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,” the Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement on its Web site.

Encarta was first sold to computer users as a CD-ROM-based encyclopedia in 1993. Encarta gained an edge over bound volumes in the early days of the Web because it included sound and had more images, plus users could download updated content while its printed competitors’ articles grew stale.

But CD-ROM reference materials quickly turned to relics as high-speed Internet access spread and Web search improved.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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