News Midday Update: South Georgia counties report 6 Equine Encephalitis cases; Obama opts out of public campaign finance system; CDC counts 383 salmonella cases from tomatoes

The Georgia Division of Public Health has confirmed six positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses in five south Georgia counties.

South Health District spokeswoman Courtney Sheeley says nine cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed in horses in Georgia so far this year. She said Thursday that's up from a total of six cases in the state for all of last year.

Sheeley says the most recent cases were two in Lowndes County, with one case each in Berrien, Brooks, Cook and Lanier counties. Earlier cases were in Brantley, Long and Wayne counties.

Lowndes County Manager Joe Pritchard says the Public Works Department began increasing mosquito spraying in the areas of the outbreak as soon as the county was notified.

— Associated Press

Obama opts out of public campaign finance system

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday he'll bypass the federal public financing system in the general election, abandoning an earlier commitment to take the money if his Republican rival did as well.

Obama, who set records raising money in the primary election, will forgo more than $84 million that would have been available to him in the general election. He would be the first candidate to do so since Congress passed 1970s post-Watergate campaign finance laws. Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in waiting, has taken steps to accept the public funds in the general election.

Obama officials said they decided to take that route because McCain is already spending privately raised funds toward the general election campaign. Obama has vastly outraised McCain, however, and would likely retain that advantage if McCain accepts the public money.

The public finance system is paid for with the $3 contributions that taxpayers can make to the presidential fund in their tax returns.

"It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama told supporters in a video message Thursday. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."

Obama has shattered president campaign fundraising records, raking in more than $265 million as of the end of April. Of that, nearly $10 million was for the general election. McCain, on the other hand had raised nearly $115 million by the end of May.

- Associated Press

CDC counts 383 salmonella cases from tomatoes

Federal health officials have learned of 106 more cases of salmonella linked to tainted tomatoes, putting the outbreak's toll at 383 on Wednesday and counting.

"We do not think the outbreak is over," said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of this newest influx of cases were people who got sick weeks ago but hadn't been counted yet. Some states began doing a better job of checking for salmonella as the outbreak has dragged on, while part of the surge comes from test results that had been backlogged in jammed laboratories.

What hasn't changed is that the earliest known victim got sick on April 10, and the latest on June 5.

But New Hampshire and Pennsylvania reported their first cases, bringing to 30 the number of states - plus Washington, D.C. - that have reported sick residents, although some may have been infected while traveling. At least 48 people have been hospitalized.

It might be impossible to trace the ultimate source of the tainted tomatoes, the Food and Drug Administration's food safety chief warned Wednesday.

– Associated Press


– Summertime means watermelons in Cordele, which bills itself as the Watermelon Capital of the World. The southwest Georgia city marks the first full day of summer on Saturday with a parade, a seed-spitting contest and free slices of the sweet fruit. We'll tell you more about it.

– There's a hearing tonight at Macon City Hall about speed tables. We'll let you know what happens.


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