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Meek, Rubio, Crist in U.S. Sen. showdown

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek and Republican ex-state House Speaker Marco Rubio were winners in Florida's U.S. Senate primary election Tuesday, returns showed.

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Their victories set up a three-way battle for the general election, as Gov. Charlie Crist -- who dumped the GOP to run as an independent -- waited on the primary sidelines.

With 51 percent of precincts reporting, Meek had 54 percent of the Democratic votes to 33 percent for billionaire Jeff Greene, 7 percent for Glenn Burkett and 5 percent for Maurice Ferre. CNN said the spread was enough to give the win to Meek.

Rubio easily bested two Republican opponents, raking in 84 percent of the votes. William Kogut had 9 percent and William Escoffery had 7 percent.

In Florida's gubernatorial primaries, CNN projected state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink had won the Democratic primary, while early results showed Naples businessman Rick Scott leading Attorney General Bill McCollum.

With 48 percent of precincts reporting, Scott held a 46 percent to 43 percent margin over McCollum. Mike McCalister was third with 10 percent.

Sink was breezing to victory with 77 percent to 23 percent for Brian Moore.

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A recent poll commissioned by The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times and two cable news channels shows Crist capturing at least 32 percent of the vote in November against Rubio and Meek.


U.S. military confirms cyberattack

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. officials have confirmed a significant breach of military computers caused by a flash drive plugged into a laptop computer in the Middle East in 2008.

In an article set for publication Wednesday, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III says malicious code placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. military's Central Command, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

"That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control," Lynn says in the article to appear in Foreign Affairs. "It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary."

Declassifying an incident officials had kept secret reflects the Pentagon's desire to raise congressional and public awareness of threats facing U.S. computer systems, experts said. The article says the Pentagon's 15,000 networks and 7 million computing devices are probed thousands of times daily by attackers who are difficult to identify.

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Infiltrating the military's computer system is significant, a former intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.

"This is how we order people to go to war. If you're on the inside, you can change orders. You can say, 'turn left' instead of 'turn right.' You can say 'go up' instead of 'go down.'"

Now, he said, the "Pentagon has begun to recognize its vulnerability and is making a case for how you've got to deal with it."


Justice Dept. to appeal stem cell ruling

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department Tuesday announced it is appealing a judge's ruling striking down an Obama administration policy on embryonic stem cell research.

Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Monday an executive order issued in 2009 by President Barack Obama violated a ban on the use of federal funds to destroy embryos. The ruling put tens of millions of dollars in grants in legal limbo.

Democrats in Congress were considering legislation that would put the funding back on the table, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The administration will ask the district court to put its ruling, which has already taken effect, on hold while an appeals court considers the challenge, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.

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Research proponents were pushing Democrats hard to pass legislation that would overturn the judge's ruling.

"At some point members of Congress have to decide they're going to stand up for something," Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said.

Lamberth's ruling also put the issue of stem cell research back on stage in many contests in the fall elections, as candidates consider how to deal with the issue, the Journal said.

If congressional Democrats push the issue onto the September agenda after Congress returns from its summer break, it could benefit Democratic candidates, as polls indicated a majority of Americans support stem cell research.

But some Republicans doubt the issue will figure very much in any campaigns.

"This is basically background noise given the emphasis on jobs and employment in this campaign," former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once ran the Republican House campaign committee, said.

Dwelling on stem cells could hurt Democrats if they are seen as losing focus on the economy, Republican strategist Kevin Madden said.

"Any day you miss an opportunity to talk about the economy is a day that is potentially wasted in this election," Madden said.


Biden touts Recovery Act's effects

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden crowed Tuesday that federal stimulus is re-energizing the U.S. economy despite Republican naysaying.

The Democratic vice president touted a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office, saying it is "further confirmation of what we've been hearing from leading economists, the nation's governors and families across the country: The recovery act is working to rescue the economy from eight years of failed economic policy and rebuild it even stronger than before.

"When the CBO, Congress's top watchdog and an institution widely respected on both sides of the aisle, says that because of the Recovery Act as many as 3.3 million Americans are on the job today and the unemployment rate is as much as 1.8 percent lower, it's impossible for even the most cynical, bent-on-rooting-for-failure critics to deny," Biden said.

"So while Republicans in Congress -- the same party that got us into this mess in the first place -- may want to turn back the clock and drive us back into the same ditch we're making our way out of, it's now clearer than ever before that we can't afford to go backward; we have to keep moving forward and build on measures like the recovery act that are creating jobs and making us competitive in the 21st century economy."

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Biden picked the higher end of ranges provided in the report, which said gross domestic product had been raised by 1.7 percent to 4.5 percent; unemployment had been lowered 0.7 percent to 1.8 percent; and the number of jobs increased by 1.4 million to 3.3 million.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has invested more than $100 billion in a spectrum of programs from energy to health information technology, speeding up the pace of innovation and helping to establish the United States as a global leader in competitive, high-growth industries, the White House said.

"We're turning this around," Biden said. "Now, it's not happening as fast as any of us would like. … But there isn't any doubt -- we're moving in the right direction."

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