Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday the campaign against the beef filler called “pink slime” by food activists is a “vicious smear” and called for a congressional probe after more than 200 Iowans lost their jobs.
Beef Products Inc., which treats the lean beef trimmings with ammonia hydroxide to kill pathogens, has suspended operations at three plants, including one in Iowa, because of consumer concerns about the product.
“There has been a vicious smear campaign run against it, and we think that this is wrong,” Branstad, a 65-year-old Republican, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.” “We think that the public is entitled to know the truth.”
The shuttered plants are in Garden City, Kan.; Amarillo, Texas; and Waterloo, Iowa. The suspension at the plant in Waterloo affects 220 jobs, Branstad said Wednesday. He visited a plant in Nebraska with fellow Republican governors Rick Perry of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas, he said.
“All of the evidence is clear: This is a safe product,” Branstad said.
Students angry over pricey courses pepper-sprayed
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A state agency that oversees California’s community colleges asked the attorney general on Wednesday to assess the legality of a school’s plan to charge students more for popular classes.
The move came the morning after Santa Monica College police pepper-sprayed angry students who tried to push their way into a meeting of the school’s trustees, authorities said.
Officials at the California Community Colleges system chancellor’s office do not believe the plan is allowed under the state’s education law, spokesman Paul Feist said.
Chancellor Jack Scott spoke to Santa Monica College President Chui Tsang, asking that the plan be put on hold but Tsang was non-committal, Feist said.
The plan involves the formation of a nonprofit foundation that would offer core courses for about $600 each, or about $200 per unit, about four times the current price. The extra courses at the higher rate would help students who were not able to get into popular classes that filled up quickly.
3 US soldiers killed in Afghan suicide attack
KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber attacked a group of NATO service members and Afghan security officials in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least six people including three American soldiers, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
The bombing occurred in a city park in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province along the border with Turkmenistan, as NATO service members gathered with Afghan security officials and police, said Abdul Haq Shafaq, Faryab’s governor.
There were conflicting reports on the number dead. Some reports indicated at least 10 people had died, including four Afghan police officers.
A U.S. military official said the next of kin of the slain U.S. soldiers were still being notified Wednesday.
2 Somalia sports officials among 10 killed in blast
MOGADISHU, Somalia — An explosion Wednesday at a ceremony at Somalia’s national theater killed at least 10 people including two top sports officials in an attack by an Islamist group on a site that symbolized the city’s attempt to rise from two decades of war.
The explosion at the newly reopened theater happened as Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was standing at the podium to deliver a speech. The prime minister was unharmed, said Abdirahman Omar Osman, the government spokesman. The president of Somalia’s Olympic committee and the president of its soccer federation were killed.
The blast shattered a tentative peace that had descended on Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after fighters belonging to the Islamist group al-Shabab were pushed out last August by government and African Union troops.
Syria forces assault rebellious towns before truce
BEIRUT — Syrian artillery pounded the rebellious city of Homs and tanks and troops stormed towns in the north and south on Wednesday, deepening doubts that President Bashar Assad will follow through on his commitment to a truce starting next week.
Anti-regime activists cited the new assaults as evidence Assad is trying to crush those seeking to overthrow his regime before the cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan begins on April 10. Activist groups reported more than 50 dead nationwide for the day.
Russia, a key Assad ally, warned other nations not to arm the opposition, predicting such a move would only increase bloodshed without ending Assad’s rule. The international community is sharply divided over how to stop the violence that has left more than 9,000 people dead over the past year.
This week, Assad agreed to implement the cease-fire from April 10. The truce is the keystone of a six-point plan put forward by Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities, followed by a withdrawal by rebel fighters. Then all sides are supposed to hold talks on a political solution.