10 worst ideas of the week: Feb. 7 

Bacteria is found in packaged lettuce, Edwards supporters feel duped, China passes US in green manufacturing, and an Obama official apologizes to the Special Olympics.


1. License to kill

Intelligence OK’d to kill American terrorists abroad

The details: Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House intelligence committee that government agencies have the authority to go after, and possibly kill, U.S. citizens abroad who are involved in terrorist activities "taking action that threatens Americans." Blair said he was speaking out to reassure Americans that intelligence agencies and the military "follow a set of defined policy and legal procedures that are very carefully observed" in the use of lethal force against U.S. citizens.


2. ‘Right’ turns wrong

Before arrest, activist filmmaker urged right-wing students to ‘take risks’

The details: Conservative guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe III called for right-wing students to "take more risks" during a Web site interview. A few days later he was arrested on federal felony charges for attempting to tap Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office phones. O’Keefe, 25, gained national attention last year for surreptitiously taping himself posing as a pimp who sought advice from ACORN about how to evade taxes for a sex-trafficking ring.


3. Followers led astray

Missionary group tries to illegally take children from Haiti

The details: The good intention of helping children orphaned by the Haitian earthquake took a bad turn when a U.S. missionary group from Idaho tried to rescue 33 victims. The 10 group members were charged with child kidnapping and criminal association after they were arrested at Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic. Group leader Laura Silsby has said they were trying to take orphans and abandoned children to an orphanage and had not sought permission from Haitian officials, but said they just meant to help victims of the quake.


4. Medical magic

Man accused of posing as doctor, doing fake work

The details: Timothy Syed Andersson, 66, is set to be arraigned Wednesday for allegedly conning 38 people out of at least $75,000 by masquerading as a dermatologist and treating them with painful procedures and bogus creams. Between 2004 and 2007, Andersson performed fake medical examinations and injected patients with unknown substances, said Craig Stewart, senior investigator of the Medical Board of California. Andersson advertised his services through the Internet and on Indian radio stations. He is a career con man with a history of committing fraud in Sweden, where he lived before migrating to the U.S., Stewart said.


5. Not so fresh

Bacteria found in bagged salad

The details: Lab tests on bagged salad greens run by Consumer Reports found that 39 percent of those tested had unacceptable levels of coliform and Enterococcus bacteria. The magazine reported that the bacteria found were common indicators of "poor sanitation and fecal contamination." Recommendations are to wash salad even if the package says prewashed or triple-washed, and to buy salad as far from its use-by date as possible, but it’s best to use greens that are not prepackages.


6. Duped

Women’s causes donated $352K to disgraced Edwards

The details: The women’s issues lobby contributed $352,000 to John Edwards’ presidential campaign during the 2008 election cycle. That was before it was discovered that Edwards paid off a former mistress from his campaign staff and fathered a child with her while his wife was struggling to overcome cancer. Former Edwards supporters said they felt particularly betrayed by his long denials of the affair and his out-of-wedlock paternity.


7. Catch up, Phil

Groundhog might predict weather, but he needs help texting

The details: Groundhog Day star Punxsutawney Phil’s text on the weather — six more weeks of winter — came two hours late to the masses who were waiting by their cell phones to hear their meteorological fate. The accuracy of Phil’s predictions fluctuates between 39 and 90 percent, depending on who you ask — but weather or not, he’s going to have to overcome the lack of opposable thumbs and get those texting chops up to speed.


8. Made (green) in China

US falls behind in manufacturing clean-energy hardware

The details: China has become the world’s No. 1 maker of wind turbines and solar panels in the past two years. This means the West could someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on renewable energy technology equipment manufactured in China — including nuclear reactors and state-of-the-art coal power plants. China’s green-industry jobs are expanding quickly — topping 1 million in 2008 and adding 100,000 a year.


9. Twacked

Twitter hit by phishing attack, becomes hacker magnet

The details: Popular microblogging site Twitter acknowledged forcing some users to reset their passwords this week after a phishing attack. Users were urged to remove any updates they had not posted themselves, scan their computers for viruses and malware and remove privileges for any third-party applications they don’t recognize. Reports of malware on social networks such as Twitter have increased 70 percent in the past 12 months, with hackers being drawn in by the rising popularity of the medium.


10. Rather ripped

Actor found drunk with a gun in a closed bank

The details: Rip Torn, 78, was charged with burglary, criminal trespass and weapons offenses after he was found drunk and armed with a loaded gun in a Connecticut bank in his hometown. His lawyer said the actor was disoriented and believed he was at home; having been released on $100,000 bond, he now plans to enter rehab.


Dim bulb of the week

Rahm Emanuel

What: The White House chief of staff drew fire this week from figures including Sarah Palin for referring to a group of liberal activists as "f---ing retarded." He used the slur in a closed-door strategy meeting over the summer, but it was reported in the Wall Street Journal this week.

Why: Emanuel apologized to Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver for using the word, marking the second time the Obama administration has had to offer Shriver such an apology. The first time came when President Barack Obama compared his bowling skills to those of Special Olympians.


Sinking ship

According to a McAfee, Inc. poll of 600 international executives, overseas hackers have already breached the computer networks of the U.S. power grid and other infrastructure systems. The hackers may be state-sponsored, and their online mischief could cause very real crises such as power outages, floods, oil leaks and sewage catastrophes.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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