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Fake front pages placed in USA Today racks in Duluth, other cities

Any newspaper that didn't have Barack Obama on the cover today should have set off alarm bells. Yet that's what pedestrians in parts of downtown Duluth encountered.

Any newspaper that didn't have Barack Obama on the cover today should have set off alarm bells. Yet that's what pedestrians in parts of downtown Duluth encountered.

Turns out that someone tampered with newspaper machines, replacing the front page of USA Today with a counterfeit version bearing the headline: "Capitalism Wins at the Polls: Anarchy Brewing in the Streets."

The prankster attacked not only USA Today racks but six others belonging to the Duluth News Tribune.

In all, about 150 copies of the News Tribune were altered, according to the estimates of Circulation Manager Tim McLoughlin. The front section of all the papers in these machines was removed and replaced with the bogus cover.

The issue came to McLoughlin's attention at about 8 a.m., and the defaced newspapers were replaced within 45 minutes of the first discovery. All the affected machines were located within walking distance of each other in downtown Duluth.

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The same prank was perpetrated in other cities, as well. A blogger dubbed the Catch Up Lady described seeing the identical front page wrapped around USA Today newspapers in Washington, D.C.

There were similar reports of the fake front page showing up in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, N.C. and Lawrence, Kan.

Alex Nelson, a spokeswoman for USA Today, would provide no information as to how widespread the problem was. She acknowledged the company had received reports of counterfeit front pages Wednesday and offered a simple prepared statement, saying: "USA Today is looking into the matter, but at this point we have no further information."

The incident has been reported to authorities, including the Duluth Police Department.

No group has taken public credit for the false front page, which directed readers to several Web sites directed toward anarchists and advocates of prison reform.

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