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Beef recalled over E. coli contamination

The country's biggest meat-packing company is recalling more than 282,000 pounds of ground beef after the discovery of contamination with a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria.

The tainted sample was found during routine testing conducted by the Agriculture Department on a single 20-pound package of beef produced April 14 at IBP Inc.'s plant in Joslin, Ill.

The recalled amount represents that entire day's production and was shipped across the country, said Jacque Knight, spokeswoman for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Officials, however, identified these states as having definitely received the product: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

One military shipment of 215 cases destined for Europe is being retrieved.

IBP, based in Dakota City, Neb., said 50 retail and food service customers it did not identify have been asked to return the meat to IBP. The beef is typically processed further by grocers and restaurants, so there are no product codes for consumers to check.

In fact, Knight said, it is likely because the beef was fresh and produced more than two weeks ago that much of it already has been consumed.

"To our knowledge, there has been no illness associated or reported on the product from this date," the IBP statement said.

Prosecutor: DNA links

defendant to Cosby

SANTA MONICA, Calif. _ Newly obtained DNA evidence links the man accused of killing entertainer Bill Cosby's son to the alleged murder weapon, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

In another blow to the defense, a judge ruled that jailhouse letters allegedly written by defendant Mikhail Markhasev about the case could be used as evidence at his trial, which is set to begin June 16.

Defense attorneys say the letters were forged by another inmate to gain leniency in his case.

At an evidence hearing Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls said that she would be turning over to the defense the results of DNA tests and that those tests are "coming back to the defendant."

The DNA was apparently taken from a knit cap that was found wrapped around the .38 caliber revolver prosecutors say was used in the Jan. 16, 1997, slaying of Ennis Cosby.

The gun was found in a field a month after the killing, and reportedly bore no usable fingerprints.

Ennis Cosby, 27, was shot and killed alongside a Southern California freeway while he was changing a flat tire.

Report: VA slow to

examine veterans' families

WASHINGTON _ The Veterans Affairs Department has been slow and ineffective in carrying out a program to examine the health of the spouses and children of gulf war veterans, a congressional report said.

The General Accounting Office said at the beginning of 1998 the VA had completed only 872 of 2,802 requests for medical exams. The program began in November 1994 and expires at year's end.

Thousands of veterans returned from the 1991 war with hard-to-diagnose health problems, and many have said their families have since come down with similar maladies.

Elsewhere . . .

WASHINGTON _ The FBI is preparing to add Eric Robert Rudolph, charged with the nation's first fatal bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., to its 10 most wanted list and offer a $1-million reward for his capture.

The House, by a vote of 413-8, approved a Republican proposal for an independent commission to recommend changes in Social Security, despite the misgivings of Democrats.

The Senate Banking Committee voted for formation of an advisory commission to locate and identify artwork, gold, jewelry, bank accounts and other valuables that were stolen from Holocaust victims and ended up in this country.

The Senate has confirmedArmy Secretary Togo West as secretary for Veterans Affairs.

MINEOLA, N.Y. _ Attorneys for Amy Fisher, the Long Island, N.Y., woman serving time for shooting the wife of her ex-lover, Joey Buttafuoco, have asked for a trial saying the district attorney reneged on her plea bargain.

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