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macon.com Midday Update: Ike crashes into western Cuba; Bush says he's keeping Iraq troop levels mostly steady; KFC shoring up security for secret recipe

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say the eye of Hurricane Ike has powered ashore in western Cuba’s province of Pinal del Rio.

The center of the Category 1 storm hit land in the extreme southeastern part of the Cuban province around 10:30 a.m. today. At least 1.2 million people have evacuated the island nation, and the storm is ravaging homes and fragile buildings.

Residents in Texas and northern Mexico are bracing for a possible weekend hit from Ike. The storm is being blamed for at least 79 deaths in the Caribbean and four in Cuba.

Cuba is getting pounded by Ike on the heels of Hurricane Gustav. Gustav tore across western Cuba as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 30 and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Associated Press

Bush says he's keeping Iraq troop levels mostly steady

President Bush announced today that he will keep the U.S. force strength in Iraq largely intact until the next president takes over, drawing rebukes from Democrats who want the war ended and a bigger boost of troops in troubled Afghanistan.

The president said he will pull home about 8,000 combat and support troops by February — a drawdown not as strong or swift as long anticipated. No more Army combat brigades will withdraw in 2008, the final year of a Bush presidency that has come to be dominated by the war.

Bush’s announcement, in a speech at the National Defense University, is perhaps his last major move on troop strategy in Iraq. He said more U.S. forces could be withdrawn in the first half of 2009 if conditions improve in Iraq.

But by then, he'll be out of office. His successor will be making the wartime decisions.

There are about 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Here is the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight," Bush said.

Still, most of the U.S. forces are staying. Bush chose to emphasize that he was moving forward with "additional force reductions."

Democrats quickly shot back that Bush isn't doing enough to get troops out of Iraq, and into Afghanistan, where violence is rising.

Associated Press

KFC shoring up security for secret recipe

Pssst. The secret’s out at KFC. Well, sort of.

Colonel Harland Sanders’ handwritten recipe of 11 herbs and spices was removed today from safekeeping at KFC’s corporate offices for the first time in decades. The temporary relocation is allowing KFC to revamp security around a yellowing sheet of paper that contains one of the country’s most famous corporate secrets.

The brand’s top executive admitted his nerves were aflutter despite the tight security he lined up for the operation.

"I don’t want to be the president who loses the recipe," KFC President Roger Eaton said. "Imagine how terrifying that would be." The recipe that launched the chicken chain was placed in a lock box that was handcuffed to security expert Bo Dietl, who climbed aboard an armored car that whisked away with an escort from off-duty police officers.Eaton’s parting words to Dietl, "Keep it safe." So important is the 68-year-old concoction that coats the chain's Original Recipe chicken that only two company executives at any time have access to it. The company refuses to release their names or titles, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents. Dietl, a former New York City police detective, assured Eaton that the iconic recipe would be safe.

"There's no way, shape or form ... that anybody is going to get their hands on this recipe," he said. "And if they get their hands on this recipe, they have to take me with them."

His security firm is also handling the security improvements for the recipe at headquarters, but he wouldn’t say what changes they're making.

Associated Press

WHAT'S COMING UP ON MACON.COM

- We'll update you on the latest information in the Telfair County double murder-suicide.

- Warner Robins' acting Mayor Clifford Holmes will preside over a work session of City Council, where we should get a look at how things are going to work in the official absence of Mayor Donald Walker. We'll let you know how it goes.

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We invite you to check out our Web site again tomorrow for the Midday Update. Monday through Friday, Online Editor Beth MacFadyen will bring you timely information about what Telegraph staffers are working on, plus news we think you need to know immediately. Send feedback to bmacfadyen@macon.com

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