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More companies join recall of peanut butter snack foods

WASHINGTON : The company that sells Little Debbie snacks announced a recall yesterday of peanut butter crackers because of a potential link to a deadly salmonella outbreak. The voluntary recall came one day after the government advised consumers to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods with peanut butter until health officials learn more about the contamination. The announcement by McKee Foods Corp. of Collegedale, Tenn., about two kinds of Little Debbie products was another in a string of voluntary recalls after the most recent guidance by health officials. Also yesterday, the South Bend Chocolate Co. in Indiana said it was recalling various candies containing peanut butter from Peanut Corp. of America.

German chancellor's party off to winning election-year start

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives won a closely watched state vote yesterday, months before national elections, while their center-left rivals suffered a crushing defeat. The result for Merkel's party in Hesse, which includes Frankfurt, was somewhat lackluster but easily good enough to form a center-right coalition with its preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, who made big gains. Yesterday's was the first in a string of votes - regional, European and presidential - that culminate in the Sept. 27 national election in which Merkel will seek a second four-year term. Merkel hopes the Free Democrats will replace the center-left Social Democrats in Germany's governing coalition after the national vote. "This is a wonderful start to this election year," said Ronald Pofalla, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Britain set to bail out financial institutions again

LONDON : Britain is bailing out its banks. Again. Only three months after the government put 37 billion pounds (now about $55 billion) into shoring up its shattered financial system, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he's about to announce new measures to help Britain's banks stay on their feet. At the root of the problem lies what Brown's treasury chief, Alistair Darling, said yesterday were "blockages in the system" that have prevented the money pumped into the financial sector from seeping into the wider economy. Interest rates on mortgages remain high, and the number of loans remains low. This time, Darling said, the money will have to be passed on. He told Sky News television that banks would have to "enter into binding agreements to make sure that, if we put additional money into the system, that it goes to the people and businesses it is designed to support." Just how much money Brown is prepared to insure, and the exact mechanism involved, isn't clear.

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