Disease specialists puzzled by deadly listeria outbreak

An outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe that has killed up to four people is a mystery to disease specialists who are used to seeing the pathogen in deli meats and soft cheeses.

About 800 cases of listeria are found in the United States each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC said a likely scenario is that listeria – which often lives in wet, muddy conditions – from the farm or packing facility got on the outside of the fruit and then contaminated the edible portions when it was cut.

Victims may have then kept the fruit in their refrigerator for some time, allowing the bacteria to grow. Unlike most pathogens, listeria will continue to grow when refrigerated.

Tauxe said that while rare, listeria can be fatal on average for one in five who fall ill.

Colorado officials said Friday that the contaminated melons were from Jensen Farms in the Rocky Ford, Colo., area, and have been recalled.

Twenty-two people so far have been sickened in seven states: Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. Two deaths have been confirmed by the CDC, one each in Colorado and New Mexico, and two more in New Mexico are under investigation.


Police demand newspaper reveal sources for story

Police are demanding that the Guardian newspaper reveal its sources for the story that reignited Britain’s phone-hacking scandal, setting the stage for a court battle that comes at a tense time for relations between the country’s media and its largest police force.

The Guardian said Friday that London’s Metropolitan Police was seeking a court order that would force the paper to unveil source material for a handful of stories, including a July 4 article that revealed the now-defunct News of the World tabloid hacked into the voicemail messages of a missing British schoolgirl who was later found murdered.

Police confirmed that they were seeking evidence connected to potential breaches of Britain’s Official Secrets Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of state secrets and, in some cases, of police information.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger condemned the use of the law, which is generally associated with espionage and national security issues.

“It’s such heavy weaponry to be used over something that’s not really about official secrets,” he said.


Magnitude-6.6 earthquake shakes east coast of Japan

A magnitude-6.6 earthquake shook the east coast of Japan off Honshu early today, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. No tsunami warning was issued, and no damage or casualties were immediately reported.

The quake was shallow, at 22.6 miles beneath the surface, the USGS said.

The USGS said the quake hit some 67 miles southeast of Hachinohe, in Honshu, Japan, and about 356 miles northeast of Tokyo.


Excavation of shallow grave interrupted by bad weather

The excavation of what authorities have been calling a shallow grave in the central Utah desert stopped Friday afternoon as rain and wind hampered efforts to examine piles of dirt for human remains.

Authorities have been in the area since Monday searching for any clues in the disappearance of Susan Powell, a mother of two who vanished in 2009.

On Thursday, investigators announced they had discovered human remains after cadaver dogs alerted them to the site. But authorities later acknowledged that nothing had yet been found.

New dogs brought to the area Friday hit on the same location, and authorities say they’ll keep digging until the dogs stop signaling.


Thomas: More geographic diversity would benefit court

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says the nation’s highest court would benefit from more geographic diversity among its justices and should hold some sessions outside of Washington, D.C.

The comments came in a speech to University of Nebraska-Lincoln law students Thursday and were reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Thomas, a Georgia native who has worked in Washington for some time, said the court would benefit from a more balanced geographical mix that “reflects the fact this is a big country, not just the Northeast.”

Six of the nine justices have strong ties to Boston, New York and New Jersey. Chief Justice John Roberts is a Midwesterner raised in Indiana, but he went to college and law school at Harvard and has spent his entire professional life in Washington.

Four justices were born or raised in New York City – Brooklyn-born Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Antonin Scalia, raised in Queens; Bronx native Sonia Sotomayor; and Elena Kagan, who is from Manhattan.