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Friday, Feb 24th

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GAO: What does the US export to Iran? Who knows?

Sloppy records make it hard to tell exactly what the United States is exporting to Iran, despite sanctions meant to ensure only humanitarian goods and no military items go there, congressional investigators say. The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the government needs to produce complete and timely export licensing information to make sure Iran isn't getting weapons or nuclear technology.

Two Democrats — House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman of California and committee member David Scott of Georgia — sought the GAO review after a 2008 Associated Press investigation found a dramatic rise in the dollar value of exports to Iran during President George W. Bush's tenure. The AP found several strange items in U.S. export data, including military rifles. The Bush administration said its data was inaccurate, and the guns actually went to Iraq.

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Salmonella-based food flavoring recall is spreading

An unfolding recall of a commonly used flavoring ingredient found in a wide variety of foods could ripple through the entire food industry, experts say. Four companies have recalled products linked to possible salmonella contamination since Feb. 26. Two were announced Wednesday and one Thursday. Given the broad use of ingredient, more are likely to come.

The product is called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP. Made by Basic Food Flavors of North Las Vegas, Nev., it is used in many processed foods.

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Senator warns against $1B deal with Blackwater

A senior Senate Democrat said Thursday the Pentagon should consider barring Blackwater from a new $1 billion deal to train Afghan police because of "serious questions" about the contractor's conduct.

The comments by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin suggests thinning patience in Congress for the Pentagon's heavy reliance on contractors on the battlefield.  U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan using independent contractors has been a boon for companies like Blackwater and saved money and time for the Defense Department, whose forces are busy in combat.

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Disturbing story of Fallujah's birth defects

Six years after the intense fighting began in the Iraqi town of Fallujah between US forces and Sunni insurgents, there is a disturbingly large number of cases of birth defects in the town. Fallujah is less than 40 miles (65km) from Baghdad, but it can still be dangerous to get to.

As a result, there has been no authoritative medical investigation, certainly by any Western team, into the allegations that the weapons used by the Americans are still causing serious problems. The Iraqi government line is that there are only one or two extra cases of birth defects per year in Fallujah, compared with the national average.

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Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets

Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.

In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”

The bill, which has yet to be voted on, is patterned on even more aggressive efforts in other states to fuse such issues. In Louisiana, a law passed in 2008 says the state board of education may assist teachers in promoting “critical thinking” on all of those subjects.

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Methane bubbles in Arctic seas stir warming fears

Large amounts of a powerful greenhouse gas are bubbling up from a long-frozen seabed north of Siberia, raising fears of far bigger leaks that could stoke global warming, scientists said.

It was unclear, however, if the Arctic emissions of methane gas were new or had been going on unnoticed for centuries -- since before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century led to wide use of fossil fuels that are blamed for climate change.

The study said about 8 million tonnes of methane a year, equivalent to the annual total previously estimated from all of the world's oceans, were seeping from vast stores long trapped under permafrost below the seabed north of Russia.

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Anti-Gay Lawmaker At Gay Club Before DUI Arrest

Sources tell CBS13 a state senator from Southern California was arrested for allegedly driving drunk after leaving Faces, a gay nightclub in midtown Sacramento, early Wednesday morning.

The California Highway Patrol pulled over Senator Roy Ashburn at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday after an officer noticed a black Chevy Tahoe swerving at 13th and L Streets.
Ashburn, a father of four, is a Republican Senator representing parts of Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino Counties with a history of opposing gay rights

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Marine reportedly killed by opium-fueled private contractors

The Pentagon confirmed late Tuesday that it is investigating the death of a 24-year-old Indiana Marine after he was shot to death in Afghanistan, allegedly by several US-paid private security contractors.

The contractors, according to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan who communicated with an investigative reporter in Chicago, were Afghanis who were found with "copious amounts of opium" and had been paid by the United States as guards.

"He was killed by American Hired Local National Contractors that were high on opium the morning of the 19th," the ABC reporter quotes a friend and fellow colleague of Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield as saying in an email message.

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US Govt Admits Man-Made Earthquakes Possible

"some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco- type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves."

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