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Posted: Aug. 8, 2010

Most Missourians vote down health insurance rule

Compiled from reports by Free Press news services

Voters in Missouri declared overwhelming opposition last week to the federal government requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance. The vote set no legally binding precedent, but will help mobilize foes of President Barack Obama's agenda in the fall midterm elections.

That could make a difference in states with close congressional races -- Michigan will have at least two -- which could in turn shape the balance of power in Washington.

In Missouri, 71% of voters said yes to a state measure to bar the government from requiring people to carry health insurance, and penalizing those who don't. That approach is at the heart of the federal health care law that Obama signed in March, to take effect in 2014.

There's little chance that Missouri can wall itself off from the insurance requirement, since federal law usually supersedes state law. But sponsors of the ballot measure were looking to send a message.

"It will help rally people who oppose the Obama administration to go to the polls in the fall elections," said Robert Blendon, a Harvard public health school professor who tracks opinions on health care. "It shows the debate is still alive, and that's what the sponsors wanted to do."

At least two other states -- Arizona and Oklahoma -- already have similar measures on the ballot in November.

Meantime, the annual report from the trustees of Medicare came out Thursday, showing the system of national health care for the elderly is in better shape because of Obama's sweeping health care overhaul and will stay afloat a dozen years longer than earlier projected.

In what amounted to a dissenting opinion, top Medicare actuary Richard Foster warned that the report's financial projections "do not represent a reasonable expectation."

The trustees projected the Medicare Hospital trust fund would be exhausted in 2029, or 12 years later than estimated last year.

The news wasn't as rosy for Social Security, which will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes for the first time in decades this year and next year. The Social Security trust funds are expected to be exhausted in 2037.

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'Extra virgin' olive oil not as pure as marketed

A group of prominent California restaurateurs and chefs, including a contestant from Bravo's "Top Chef" reality competition, has sued olive oil distributors and retailers over a study that found many of the oils were not as pure as they were marketed.

The lawsuit cites a recent study from University of California-Davis, in which a random selection of olive oils were sampled and 69% of the imported oils branded as extra virgin did not meet international standards for such a label. Also, 10% of California oils sampled did not meet the standards.

The "extra virgin" designation indicates that the oil was extracted without the use of heat or chemicals; is pure; satisfies a taste test, and falls within chemical parameters established by the International Olive Council.

The suit filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court seeks punitive damages, as well as reimbursement for profits made from alleged false marketing and advertising using the extra-virgin label. Joining in the lawsuit is former "Top Chef" contestant David Martin.

WikiLeaks sources not covered in Schumer bill

The sponsor of a bill to protect journalists' confidential sources in U.S. courts says he will make certain the WikiLeaks Web site will not be protected.

Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday that the existing "media shield" bill includes language that likely would exempt WikiLeaks from the protection. But the New York Democrat says he will write new language as an extra safeguard.

WikiLeaks made public last month more than 76,900 secret Afghanistan war records.

The news media shield proposal was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009 and is pending before the Senate.

16 die as heat wave grips Southeast states

Eighteen states were gripped for most of the week by a heat wave that wasn't just stifling but also deadly. In Mississippi and Tennessee, 16 deaths were linked to the hot, humid weather that blanketed the South and East.

Authorities also said the heat was a factor in the deaths of two police dogs and, at a zoo in Mississippi, a rhinoceros.

In Arkansas, fire departments were volunteering to hose down overheated cattle, and residents were warned not to skin hogs because of dangerous bacteria that thrives in the heat.

High school football teams and marching bands in many states practiced indoors or canceled altogether.

Winner turns loser via self-imposed casino ban

A man who won the equivalent of $44,000 playing poker at an Auckland, New Zealand, casino was refused the jackpot because he had banned himself from the premises for gambling too much.

Sothea Sinn, 28, won the prize playing poker at Skycity Casino on Wednesday but casino staff refused to pay, saying he was banned at his own request in 2004.

"I was absolutely gutted," Sinn told the Dominion-Post.

Dan Flynn, who leads the Olive Center at UC-Davis, pours olive oil into a sampling glass. Analysts say the extra-virgin label is often misused.   (2008 photo by RICH PEDRONCELLI/AP)

Dan Flynn, who leads the Olive Center at UC-Davis, pours olive oil into a sampling glass. Analysts say the extra-virgin label is often misused. (2008 photo by RICH PEDRONCELLI/AP)

A version of this story appears on page 20A of the Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010, print edition of the Detroit Free Press.

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