- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FDA warns consumers against eating pistachios amid salmonella scare; Calif. plant recalls nuts

PARIS (AP) _ Federal food safety officials warned Monday that consumers should stop eating all foods containing pistachios while they figure out the source of a possible salmonella contamination.

Still reeling from the national salmonella outbreak in peanuts, the Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling a portion of the roasted nuts it has been shipping since last fall. A Setton spokeswoman said that amounts to more than 2 million pounds of nuts.

“Our advice to consumers is that they avoid eating pistachio products, and that they hold onto those products,” said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety. “The number of products that are going to be recalled over the coming days will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers.”

Two people called the FDA complaining of gastrointestinal illness that could be associated with the nuts, but the link hasn’t been confirmed, Acheson said. Still, the plant decided to shut down late last week, officials said.

The recalled nuts represent a small fraction of the 55 million pounds of pistachios that the company’s plant processed last year and an even smaller portion of the 278 million pounds produced in the state in the 2008 season, according to the Fresno-based Administrative Committee for Pistachios.


Obama team applies cold analysis to automakers, tells them to do more or else

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama’s extraordinary auto industry intervention is assertive and coldly pragmatic, with a dose of caution and a sentimental nod to the automobile’s place in the American psyche.

Obama’s curt rejection of General Motors’ and Chrysler’s restructuring plans and his abrupt move to muscle out GM’s CEO set the stage for a major realignment of the U.S. auto industry. He bluntly raised the prospect of a “prepackaged bankruptcy” that would reorganize the companies quickly under court protection.

But Obama did not upend Detroit in one single swoop. He gave each company a second chance at a federal bailout _ 60 days for GM and 30 for Chrysler _ though it was evident that from now on little would remain the same.

“We’ve reached the end of that road,” Obama declared Monday.

The administration’s analysis of the viability of the two auto giants was merciless and remarkably specific in its critique of their business practices. It said GM’s underperforming dealers were a drag on the company and its car of the future, the plug-in Chevrolet Volt, held promise but was too expensive. As for Chrysler, the president said it could only survive with an international partner, the Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.


Obama leaves for Europe with busy agenda, 5 countries on schedule

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In his first presidential trip across the Atlantic, Barack Obama hopes to convince European allies that his young administration can improve the global economy and the United States’ image.

Obama’s eight-day, five-country trip begins early Tuesday, sending him to meet with European leaders who split with the United States over the war in Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay under President George W. Bush.

First up: a summit of the world’s economic powers in London to address the global financial meltdown that has defined the first two months of Obama’s administration.

“The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The main event in London is Thursday’s summit on the global financial crisis among the Group of 20 wealthy and developing nations. Together, they represent 85 percent of the world’s economy.


Pakistani Taliban chief claims responsibility for police academy attack, threatens US assault

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) _ The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on the U.S. capital.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday’s attack outside the eastern city of Lahore was in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

“Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world,” Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone. He provided no details.

Mehsud and other Pakistani Taliban militants are believed to be based in the country’s lawless areas near the border with Afghanistan, where they have stepped up their attacks throughout Pakistan.

The Taliban leader also claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed four soldiers Monday in Bannu district and a suicide attack targeting a police station in Islamabad last week that killed one officer.


International migration group fears about 300 drowned off the coast of Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ Vessels carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of Libya in separate incidents over the last two days and more than 300 people were believed to have drowned, an international migration group said Tuesday.

The International Organization for Migration said Libyan officials reported between one and three ships had sunk in Libyan waters Monday and Sunday. The group confirmed the information with diplomatic sources, spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said.

He said strong winds could have caused the vessels to capsize.

IOM believes the migrants were trying to cross from North Africa to Italy in search of a better life in Europe. According to the group’s figures, some 33,000 people crossed from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa alone in 2008. Many of the boats are not seaworthy and deadly accidents are frequent.

Italy has been pressing Libya to crack down on illegal immigration, including with joint Libyan-Italian patrols against the thousands who try to cross the Mediterranean each year. Rome says that many of the illegal African immigrants who arrive in Italy transit through Libya.


Clinton says diplomacy, defense and development are key to Afghanistan’s future

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Diplomacy must be packaged with military action and civilian development to rescue Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday.

Clinton spoke as more than 70 nations gathered to reinvigorate international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan’s lawless western border region.

The hastily convened one-day conference in this Dutch city brings together all the countries bordering Afghanistan, including Iran, and all nations contributing troops to the NATO-led international force fighting Taliban insurgents.

It will be opened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“We have great expectations,” Karzai said after arriving Monday night.


Preparing to take power in Israel, new premier Netanyahu is playing up his pragmatic side

JERUSALEM (AP) _ During the election campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed peace talks with the Palestinians, supported expanding West Bank settlements and warned that concessions only embolden Israel’s enemies.

But preparing to become Israel’s prime minister Tuesday, Netanyahu adopted a more conciliatory tone, reflecting the same pragmatic streak that in the past allowed him to navigate complex domestic and global politics.

He has embraced peace negotiations since being tapped as the country’s leader after the Feb. 10 elections. He also says Israel should not rule Palestinians, although he has remained vague on the details and never said the words “Palestinian state.”

“The government I am about to form will do all it can to achieve a just, long-lasting peace with our neighbors and the entire Arab world,” he said Monday. “Each of our neighbors truly willing to move toward peace will find an outstretched hand.”

While Netanyahu had enough support in Parliament to form a hard-line government, he worked to bring the centrist Labor Party into the ruling coalition and entrusted its leader, Ehud Barak, with Israel’s security as defense minister.


With snowstorm on top of flooding, battered Fargo residents wonder: When will it end?

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Dick Schafer hoisted his shovel and scraped away ice on his driveway as heavy, wet snowflakes fell from the sky _ painful reminders of the epic struggle with Mother Nature this city is facing.

“I don’t like it. They say it’s not going to affect the level of the river, but it just makes everything miserable. People here are expecting anything now,” Schafer said.

The blizzard that walloped North Dakota on Monday brought several inches of snow and powerful wind gusts that threatened to pound the patchwork levee system protecting Fargo from the raging torrents of the Red River. The snow was a big downer for the city after a weeklong threat of cataclysmic flooding and an unexpectedly happy couple days after drops in the river level.

City officials compared the situation to an action thriller where the hero stares down one disaster after another: “You kind of feel like it’s a Bruce Willis film with the next challenge, next challenge, next challenge,” said city commissioner Tim Mahoney, adding hopefully “he usually wins.”

While the winds picked up late Monday, there were no reports of problems with waves or leaks by early Tuesday.


HEALTHBEAT: Huge chemo dose used in experiment to limit spread of cancer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bill Darker grinned as he headed into the operating room for a dramatic experiment: A super-high dose of chemotherapy dripped directly into his cancer-ridden liver, 10 times more than patients normally can tolerate.

Not to fear. Working through small puncture holes, doctors sealed off Darker’s liver and washed most of the toxic medication from his blood so it didn’t poison the rest of his body.

It’s a rigorous effort to fight a notorious killer, cancer that has spread to the liver from elsewhere in the body and left patients with few options and little time.

“I’ve always wanted to treat this cancer very aggressively since I know the prognosis is very dim,” said Darker, 46, who managed to save his eye from ocular melanoma only to have the cancer spread tentacles in his liver. “I just take the gloves off and go for it.”

Three times, so far, he has flown from his home in Imperial Beach, Calif., to the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington to repeat the experimental therapy. Before his last round, Darker’s liver tumors had shrunk by about a third.


Dwight Howard scores 22 points, grabs 18 rebounds to lead Magic to 101-95 win over Heat

MIAMI (AP) _ On the night Miami retired Alonzo Mourning’s number, Orlando’s big man wrecked the party.

Dwight Howard scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest NBA player to reach the 5,000-board mark, and the Magic kept their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the Heat 101-95 on Monday night.

Rashard Lewis scored 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining for Orlando (55-18), which stayed five games behind Cleveland and percentage points ahead of defending champion Boston in the East race.

Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat (39-35), whose edge over Philadelphia for the East’s No. 5 seed was trimmed to one game.

The series has been one-sided, with Orlando having won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the clubs.

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