PHILADELPHIA — Under a change announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, school districts that get food through the government’s school lunch program will be allowed to say no to ground beef containing an ammonia-treated filler derisively called “pink slime” and choose filler-free meat instead.
Several school systems said they will change their cafeteria menus when the move takes effect next fall. It’s not clear how much the switch might cost and whether it could lead to price increases for school lunches.
The change came after a furious online campaign to rid school cafeterias of what the meat industry calls “lean, finely textured beef.” The low-cost filler is made from fatty meat scraps that are heated to remove most of the fat, then treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.
It has been on the market for years, and federal officials say it is safe. The National Meat Association has also noted that ammonium hydroxide is used in baked goods, puddings and other processed foods.
Catholic bishops say contraceptive fight a top priority
Top U.S. Catholic bishops on Wednesday formally made their fight against a White House mandate for reproductive services the church’s top priority, saying, “this struggle for religious freedom” demands their immediate attention.
The statement, issued by the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, came at the end of a closed, two-day meeting and as some close to the bishops say the men are concerned that their campaign is faltering in the public square.
“This dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the government’s forcing the church to provide them,” the statement read.
The statement represents an expanded public relations effort to oppose the mandate that most religious employers provide health-care coverage for employees, including contraception and sterilization, services forbidden by Catholic teaching.
Ex-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich begins prison term
LITTLETON, Colo. — Convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich walked into a federal prison in Colorado to begin a 14-year sentence for corruption on Thursday, the latest chapter in the downfall of a charismatic politician that seemed more like a bizarre reality TV show than a legal battle.
With helicopters and TV news crews broadcasting his every move, Blagojevich stepped out of a black SUV and walked into the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in suburban Denver just before noon. Blagojevich — Illinois’ second ex-governor now in prison for corruption — was convicted on 18 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.
Iran cut off from global financial system
BRUSSELS — Dozens of Iranian banks were blocked from doing business with much of the world as the West tightens the financial screws on a country it wants to prevent from developing nuclear weapons.
The Belgium-based company that facilitates most international bank transfers on Thursday took the unprecedented step of blocking 30 Iranian banks from using its service. The move is likely to hurt Iran’s all-important oil industry and make it difficult for citizens to receive money from relatives living abroad.
The move by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, is part of a broader effort by Western nations to isolate Iran financially and force it to demonstrate that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but officials in many other countries believe otherwise.
SWIFT said it was forced by recent European Union sanctions to discontinue service to the Iranian banks beginning Saturday. SWIFT is a secure private network used by nearly every bank around the world to send payment messages that lead to the transfer of money across international borders.