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In Brief | Nation & World 8-3-13

FDA links stomach illnesses to two restaurant chains

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration says an outbreak of stomach illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska is linked to salad mix served at local Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants and supplied by a Mexican farm.

The outbreak of cyclospora infections has sickened more than 400 people in 16 states in all. The agency says it is still working to determine whether the salad mix is the source of illnesses in the other 14 states.

“It is not yet clear whether the cases reported from other states are all part of the same outbreak,” the agency said in a statement. “The investigation of increased cases of cyclosporiasis in other states continues.”

Both Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants. In a statement, Darden spokesman Mike Bernstein said the FDA’s announcement is “new information.”

“Nothing we have seen prior to this announcement gave us any reason to be concerned about the products we’ve received from this supplier,” Bernstein said.

Supreme Court refuses to delay release of 10K California inmates despite safety warning

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates by year’s end despite warnings by Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials that a public safety crisis looms if they’re forced to open the prison gates.

A majority of justices refused an emergency request by the governor to halt a lower court’s directive for the early release of the prisoners to ease severe overcrowding at California’s 33 adult prisons.

The decision was met with concern by law enforcement officials in the state.

Covina Police Chief Kim Raney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said the justices ignored efforts already underway to reduce prison populations and “chose instead to allow for the release of more felons into already overburdened communities.”

Brown’s office referred a request for comment to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where Secretary Jeff Beard vowed that the state would press on with a still-pending appeal in hope of preventing the releases.

Authorities: Alleged Bulger extortion victim was poisoned

WOBURN, Mass. — Cyanide-laced iced coffee led to the death of a man who’d just found out he wouldn’t get to testify against reputed Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, authorities said Friday, but linked the man’s death to a business associate who owed him money, not to Bulger.

The body of 59-year-old Stephen Rakes of Quincy was found in the woods July 17, just a day after he learned he wouldn’t take the witness stand against Bulger — a man he’d openly despised and blamed for seizing control of his business to use as headquarters for Boston’s Irish mob decades ago.

Bulger ran the city’s feared Winter Hill Gang before fleeing in 1994 after a corrupt FBI agent tipped him off he was about to be arrested. He was captured in California two years ago and is on trial, accused of participating in 19 murders.

But authorities believe the suspect in Rakes’ death, 69-year-old William Camuti, acted alone on the afternoon of July 16 when he lured Rakes to his death by arranging a meeting at a McDonald’s in Waltham to pitch him a fake real estate deal, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said.

Camuti, of Sudbury, pleaded not guilty Friday after his arrest on charges including attempted murder. Authorities said the medical examiner still is awaiting toxicology test results to determine Rakes’ exact cause of death, and prosecutors could file a murder charge later.

By wire sources.