Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told Congress on Thursday that he would not endorse an outright ban on "downer" cows entering the food supply or back stiffer penalties for regulatory violations by meat processing plants in the wake of the largest beef recall in the nation's history.
Appearing at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Schafer said the department is investigating why it missed the inhumane treatment of cattle at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., and announced interim steps such as more random inspections of slaughterhouses and more unannounced audits of the nearly two dozen plants that process meat for federal school lunch programs. But Schafer said downer cattle could occasionally enter the food supply safely, in accordance with USDA rules, after an additional inspection by a veterinarian.
States reach deal for $640M span over river
Missouri and Illinois ended years of bickering over how to pay for a new Mississippi River bridge and at what cost, announcing a deal for a four-lane, $640-million span meant to ease congestion at one of the nation's busiest crossings. The bridge, scheduled to be open by about 2015, would have two lanes in each direction as the fifth span between St. Louis and its Illinois suburbs. The bridge will be toll free.
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Bridge disaster leads to official's ouster
Legislators threw Minnesota's transportation commissioner out of office Thursday, nearly seven months after the Minneapolis bridge collapse crystallized discontent over her leadership. State senators voted 44-22 against confirming Carol Molnau, who remains lieutenant governor.
Blamed in backlog, vets' aide steps down
The Veterans Affairs Department said Thursday that its undersecretary responsible for benefits is leaving. The agency has been besieged by complaints about its backlog in claims, which have escalated, in part, because of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking assistance.
Daniel Cooper, a retired Navy vice admiral, departs April 1. A VA spokesman said Cooper, who faced criticism by veterans' advocates for the backlog, was leaving for personal reasons.
Housing aid plan stalls in Congress
Using their filibuster powers, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bid to let bankruptcy courts ease the burden on borrowers who can't make mortgage payments.
Cribs recalled: Safety officials recalled 24,000 Indonesia-made cribs and warned parents not to put babies to bed with pillows and other soft bedding. The cribs were imported by Munire Furniture and sold from November 2005 to November 2007. No injuries have been reported.
Drifter charged: Gary Michael Hilton, a drifter serving life in prison for killing a hiker in Georgia, was indicted in the slaying of a nurse whose body was found decapitated in Florida's Apalachicola National Forest on Dec. 15.