Pink Slime producer closes 3 of 4 factories as boycott grows

The maker of “pink slime,” a low-cost blend of ammonia-treated bits of leftover meat, suspended operations at three of four plants on Monday, saying officials would work to address public concerns about the product.

Craig Letch, the director of food safety and quality assurance for Beef Products Inc., said the company suspended operations in Amarillo, Tex.; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa. The plant in Dakota Dunes, S.D., will continue to operate…

Federal regulators say the product meets food safety standards. So do steam-cleaned chicken toenails.

Critics say it could be unsafe – and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production

As people realized what crap was being used to extend fast food for schools and retail vendors, the reaction went viral and loud. Parents shouted at local school cafeterias – and the Feds. The Department of Agriculture caved in and will let school districts to stop using it this month regardless of existing contracts and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves.

We can thank bloggers and the Web for getting the word out. Our elected and appointed officials knew about this adulteration from the first contract they signed for it. Our beancounters as always cared only about cost.

What if the guy who freaks out on a flight — is the pilot?

A JetBlue captain who ranted about Iraq and Afghanistan and claimed that a bomb was on a Las Vegas-bound flight was locked out of the cockpit, tackled and restrained by passengers Tuesday, passengers said.

The captain of Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport had a “medical situation,” and the co-pilot, who subsequently took command of the aircraft, diverted the plane to land in Amarillo, Texas, around 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement…

Tony Antolino, a 40-year-old executive for a security firm, said the captain walked to the back of the plane, that he seemed disoriented and agitated, then began yelling about an unspecified threat linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They’re going to take us down, they’re taking us down, they’re going to take us down. Say the Lord’s prayer, say the Lord’s prayer,” the captain screamed, according to Antolino…

Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb on board the flight.

“He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down,” Schonzeit told the Amarillo Globe-News…

Antolino, who said he sat in the 10th row, said he and three others tackled the captain as he ran for the cockpit door, pinned him and held him down while the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That’s how we landed,” he said. “There were four of us on top of him… Everybody else kind of took a seat and that’s how we landed…”

JetBlue said the ill captain was taken to a medical facility in Amarillo. As a result of the incident, the FAA will review the captain’s medical certificate — essentially a good housekeeping seal of approval that the pilot is healthy. All pilots working for scheduled airlines must have a first class medical certificate. The certificates are required to be renewed every year if the pilot is under 40, every six months if 40 or over.

Woo-hoo! How’s that for an exciting flight?

I won’t even make any jokes about spending the day in Amarillo.

Brits will tax food depending on whether it’s hot – or not!

George Osborne has been mocked by MPs over his “pasty tax” after it emerged people could avoid paying VAT on hot baked goods if they wait for them to cool in the shop.

The tax status of Cornish pasties has caused an unexpected backlash against the Chancellor, after he imposed VAT on hot baked goods bought from supermarkets and bakers in the Budget.

Greggs, the high street chain, has warned extra VAT on the hot snacks will cause a decline in sales, while businesses in the south-west are claiming there could be job losses in the Cornish pasty industry…

MPs on the Treasury Select Committee also made fun of the fact the Chancellor “can’t remember” when he last bought a pasty from Greggs. “That sums it up,” said Mr Mann, implying the Chancellor’s experience of hot snack consumption on the high street may be limited.

Raising one potential problem, John Mann, a Labour MP, said a lukewarm pastry would be taxable in warm weather, but not in cold weather, because of different “ambient temperatures”.

Mr Osborne insisted the tax made sense, but said the Government would not check the temperature of every pasty sold…

“The way we operate with companies and large retail chains and the like is that we don’t do a check on every product sold. We come to an agreement with companies over what proportion of their products are sold hot.”

The clown prince is appearing before elected representatives in Parliament – not only trying to defend this silly regulation; but, I presume he’ll detail each differentiation according to weather, demographics, seasoning, fat content and – no doubt – who’s winning the football match where it’s being consumed.

North Sea offshore well disaster worsens — poisonous explosive gas continues to spread

Total’s Elgin platform

A cloud of explosive natural gas boiling out of the North Sea from a leak at Total’s abandoned Elgin platform forced wider evacuations off the Scottish coast on Tuesday as the French firm warned it may take six months to halt the flow.

Dubbed “the well from hell” by a Norwegian environmentalist who said the high pressure of the undersea reservoirs in the field made it especially hard to shut off, a plume of gas was visible over the platform, officials said, and a sheen of oil, also produced from the rig, was spreading over the water.

Officials imposed an air and sea exclusion zone around the platform, which had been pumping 9 million cubic meters of gas per day or three percent of Britain’s natural gas output and lies some 150 miles east of the city of Aberdeen.

A senior Total manager said the firm was looking at two main options – drilling a relief well, which could take six months, or the faster – potentially riskier – alternative of sending in engineers to “kill” the leak affecting a platform that also accounts for some 5.5 percent of Britain’s total oil production…

“We are exploring all the options and we are looking at what-if scenarios…” What if the whole thing blows up?

Shipping was ordered to come no closer than two miles from the Elgin platform and aircraft no nearer than three miles if they flew lower than 4,000 feet – effectively shutting out helicopters but not affecting airline traffic.

British officials said the gas, containing poisonous hydrogen sulphide – familiar from the smell of rotten eggs – should disperse in the atmosphere. But it poses a risk to anyone close to the source, making capping the well complex.

Poison in the gas could also threaten fish and other marine life nearby, although the rate at which it dissipates in air and water meant it was not a significant threat to people on landYet.

Populations in and around the North Sea haven’t forgotten the Piper Alpha platform fire 24 years ago. That stands as the world’s deadliest offshore oil disaster. 167 people were killed.

Everyone following the coverage of this disaster – on your world-leading network TV channel? That’s what I thought.

Another bizarre result from a Supreme Court that doesn’t care how decisions affect human beings

Dozens of suits against drug companies have been dismissed in federal and state courts because of a decision by the Supreme Court last year that makes it virtually impossible to sue generic manufacturers for failing to provide adequate warning of a prescription drug’s dangers. This outrageous denial of a patient’s right to recover fair damages makes it imperative that Congress or the Food and Drug Administration fashion a remedy.

This situation is particularly bizarre because patients using the brand-name drug can sue when those using the generic form of the drug cannot…In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that a Vermont woman who had her hand and forearm amputated because of gangrene after being injected with a brand name antinausea drug could sue the manufacturer for inadequate warning of the risks; she won $6.8 million from Wyeth.

In 2011, the court ruled that similar failure-to-warn suits could not be brought against makers of generic drugs. As a result, an Indiana woman who was also forced to have her hand amputated because of gangrene after being injected with a generic version of the same antinausea drug had her case dismissed.

Same drug. Same devastating health consequences. Opposite results. This injustice will affect more people as generics, which already dominate the market, expand even more under the pressure to control health care costs…You buy what you can afford.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in 2011, acknowledged that the distinction “makes little sense” in the eyes of consumers, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing the dissent, predicted “absurd consequences” depending on the “happenstance” of whether a prescription was filled with a brand-name or generic drug.

Congress should fix the disparity by amending the law to make it clear — as Representative Henry Waxman, a co-author of the statute contends — that the act did not intend to pre-empt all failure-to-warn claims. Alternatively, the F.D.A. should fix the liability problem by amending its regulations to allow generic manufacturers to change the warning labels.

And the Supreme Court should fix their priorities by learning to pass down sensible decisions affecting the lives of we ordinary mortals who get screwed-over enough by corporate sleaze.

Leaving people’s lives in jeopardy, in the way of physical harm and poverty because of a disagreement over labeling regulations which either do or don’t require FDA approval – is the saddest excuse for an incompetent court I ever heard.

Teen access to Plan B uneven – either from ideology or ignorance

Since 2009 the Food and Drug Administration has mandated that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription to women age 17 and up. In reality, a new study suggests, a 17-year-old’s access to these drugs can be uncertain.

In the study, two female research assistants at Boston University called every commercial pharmacy in five major cities and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question “If I’m 17, is that okay?”

At that point, 19% of the pharmacy workers told the young women that contraception would not be available to them. When researchers posing as doctors called the same pharmacies on behalf of a (fictional) 17-year-old patient, however, just 3% of pharmacies said the drugs weren’t available.

Pharmacies, moreover, incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the “girls” and 39% of the “doctors,” according to the study — which appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics…

Timely access to these drugs is important, Wilkinson and her colleagues say, since they’re most effective in the 24 hours following unprotected sex or a contraception failure. The odds of getting pregnant rise by about 50% every 12 hours after the event, according to the study…

The faulty information about age recorded in some of the other calls might be due to a combination of “confusion, misinformation, and maybe personal beliefs,” Wilkinson says, although she and her colleagues stress that the study is silent on this matter. A pharmacy’s location and whether or not it was part of a chain did not appear to play a role…

The “misunderstanding among the public, pharmacists, and doctors about this being an abortion pill” is an “ongoing dilemma,” Dr. Jean Amoura says… Ignorance in America is an ongoing dilemma.

“It’s unclear if the pharmacy workers who provided incorrect information to the study callers were simply unfamiliar with the law, but one of the unfortunate results of the age restriction is that it requires drugstores to keep emergency contraception behind pharmacy counters,” Dr. Deborah Nucatola said in a prepared statement. “As the research shows, that restriction creates access barriers for women of all ages and these barriers can in turn result in preventable unintended pregnancies.”

“Preventable unintended pregnancies” still is a panic button for Americans whose education, awareness, concern for themselves and others is trapped in the Dark Ages. It is part of a simple answer to a question of being responsible for your own decisions. As a starter.

Add in additional causes of unintended pregnancies – like rape – and the posturing of religious fundamentalists is criminal.