Nation roundup for March 29


Leadership cited in nuke scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) — A basic contradiction lies at the root of an exam-cheating scandal that decimated the ranks of an Air Force nuclear missile group, investigators say: Commanders were demanding perfection in testing and ethics but also tacitly condoned rule-bending or even willfully ignored cheating.

An Air Force investigation concluded that no commanders participated in or knew about the specific forms of cheating in which 91 missile officers were implicated at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. But nine commanders, representing nearly the entire operational chain of command in the 341st Missile Wing, were fired and the wing commander, Col. Robert Stanley, was allowed to resign.

“From the perspective of a young company-grade officer looking up the chain of command, leadership has delivered conflicting messages” on integrity and test performance, the report said. Leaders pressured young officers to achieve high scores “while tacitly condoning” acts that “take care of” crew members who might otherwise fall short of the expected perfect result, it said.

This “blurs the line between acceptable help and unacceptable cheating,” it said.

Malmstrom is home to one of three Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile wings, each responsible for 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles. The other wings are the 90th at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and the 91st at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Beyond the investigation at Malmstrom, the Pentagon is undertaking two broader reviews of problems inside the ICBM force, including training failures, low morale and security lapses that the AP documented over the past year. One of those reports is due in April, the other in June.

Many kids have high cholesterol

Associated Press

There’s fresh evidence that a lot of young people could be headed for heart trouble. A large study of preteens in Texas found that about one-third of them had borderline or high cholesterol when tested during routine physical exams.

The results seem to support recent guidelines that call for every child to have a cholesterol test between 9 and 11 — the ages of the 13,000 youths in this study. Many doctors and adults have balked at screening all children that young, but researchers say studies like this may convince them it’s worthwhile.

“A concerning number of children” are at risk of heart problems later in life, and more needs to be done to prevent this at an earlier age, said Dr. Thomas Seery of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine.

He led the study, which will be presented at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington this weekend.

Estimates are that by the fourth grade, 10 to 13 percent of U.S. children will have high cholesterol. Half of them will go on to have it as adults, raising their risk for heart attacks, strokes and other problems.

High cholesterol rarely causes symptoms in kids. Many genes and inherited conditions also cause high cholesterol but not obesity, so it can be missed especially in youths who are slim or athletic.

Meat labels win in appeals court

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court is allowing labels on certain cuts of meat to say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The appeals court decision issued Friday dismissed an attempt by the meat industry to block the rules, which took effect last year and require packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to include country of origin labels. The industry has long fought the labels, saying they are costly and provide no health benefits to the consumer.

In court, the meat industry said the rules go beyond what Congress intended and violate First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The industry argued that the rules violate the U.S. Constitution because they force meat producers to provide information about their products, and that the information is of no real value to the consumer.

Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled those claims were unlikely to succeed in court and refused to block the labeling rules, agreeing with a lower federal court.

Williams wrote that the labeling “enables a consumer to apply patriotic or protectionist criteria in the choice of meat,” and “enables one who believes that United States practices and regulation are better at assuring food safety than those of other countries.”

or indeed the reverse, to act on that premise.”

He said those goals are worthy of what he called a “minimal” intrusion on the meat industry’s First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was led by the American Meat Institute, which represents the nation’s largest meatpackers, and joined by other meat industry groups. In a statement, the American Meat Institute said it was disappointed by the ruling and disagreed with it. James H. Hodges, interim president and CEO of AMI, said the group is “evaluating our options moving forward.”

The meat industry has argued that the paperwork to make the labels possible is burdensome and that it’s not practical to keep cattle and hogs from other countries separate from domestic animals.

The labeling rules have support from consumer groups, environmental groups and some farm groups. Cattle ranchers who raise cattle near the northern border and compete with Canadian ranchers have been most supportive of the rules, which Congress first wrote in 2002 and later revised in 2008 after years of haggling with the meat industry.

Under the rules, labels must specify that a meat product was “Born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “Born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

The Agriculture Department has also prohibited meat processors from mixing meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered in other countries with meat from the U.S.

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