U.S. Defense Secretary LeonPanetta is greeted by Col. JohnShafer (L) with RTC 6 afterarriving to greet troops at FowardOperating Base Shukvani,Afghanistan March 14, 2012.Credit: Reuters/Scott Olson/PoolByPhil StewartBASTION AIRFIELD,Afghanistan| Wed Mar 14, 20125:04pm EDT(Reuters) - An Afghan mandriving a stolen pickup truck spedonto a runway ramp at an air basein southern Afghanistan and thenemerged from the vehicle ablazeat around the time U.S. DefenseSecretary Leon Panetta wasarriving aboard a military plane,U.S. officials said.The Pentagon chief, making anunannounced visit at a time of high tensions after a U.S. soldiermassacred 16 Afghan villagers onSunday, was not hurt in theincident at Bastion Airfield, aBritish base, and continued onwith his schedule of events.The Afghan man, a civilian whowas not believed to be carryingexplosives, was being treated atthe base for severe burn injuries,U.S. officials said. No explanationwas given for how the man caughton fire.U.S. officials did not rule out thepossibility that the incident insouthern Helmand province wasan attempted attack on Panetta,but said there was no indicationthat this was the case. They saidan investigation was ongoing."There is no evidence right nowthat the driver had any idea whowas on that aircraft," U.S. NavyCaptain John Kirby, a Pentagonspokesman, told reporters inWashington.The incident was a reminder of the tense security situation inAfghanistan more than a decadeafter U.S. forces invaded to topplethe Taliban rulers who hadharbored the al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11,2001, attacks on the UnitedStates.QUESTIONS REMAINMany questions about theincident remained after briefingsby U.S. officials.The Afghan man's vehicle neithercaught fire nor exploded, andthere were not explosives thereeither - raising questions abouthow he came to be on fire,Pentagon spokesman GeorgeLittle said in Afghanistan,denying Afghan media reports.Tensions are high in Afghanistanin the wake of Sunday's massacreand the furor over the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book,the Koran, at a NATO base lastmonth.Reporters traveling with Panettaon his aircraft were not told aboutthe incident for about 10 hoursafter it took place shortly before11 a.m. local time. Panetta carriedon with his schedule, talking totroops at Camp Leatherneck aboutthe importance of the decade-oldwar effort.Shortly before he arrived tospeak, U.S. troops and other allieswere told to put their weaponsoutside the tent - a highly unusualmove that officials downplayedlater. The commander inHelmand, U.S. Major GeneralMark Gurganus, said he wantedforeign troops to be unarmedsince Afghan troops would be.Little said the removal of thefirearms and the incidentinvolving the pickup truck were"absolutely not" linked.Panetta's team apparently becameaware that something was amissshortly before landing at Bastionbut details only came later."We did know that we werediverted to a different runway.And we learned soon after landingthat there may have been anincident," said Little, who wastraveling with Panetta."Again, the security of thesecretary was never in question.He carried on during the event."One NATO service member wasinjured in the apparent car- jacking, U.S. officials said. Thisservice member's nationality wasnot disclosed.The pickup trunk apparentlyapproached the runway ramp -where aircraft park - at high speedbefore ending up in a ditch,according to an initial account.The Afghan man emerged on fire,officials said."For reasons that are totallyunknown to us at this time, ourpersonnel discovered that he wasablaze," Little said."Base personnel put the fire outand he was immediately treatedfor burn injuries and is still beingtreated. He sustained considerableburn wounds," Little added.(Editing By Warren Strobel andWill Dunham)This entry passed through theFull-Text RSSservice — if this isyour content and you're reading iton someone else's site, please readthe FAQ atfivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.FiveFiltersrecommends:Donate toWikileaks.
APFederal regulators say 'pink slime' meets standards for foodsafety. Critics liken it to pet foodand their battle has suddenly goneviral amid new media attentionand a snowballing online petition.ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — "Pink slime" just went from a simmer toa boil.In less than a week earlier thismonth, the stomach-turningepithet for ammonia-treatedground beef filler suddenlybecame a potent rallying cry byactivists fighting to ban theproduct from supermarket shelvesand school lunch trays.Though the term has been usedpejoratively for at least severalyears, it wasn't until last week thatsocial media suddenly explodedwith worry and an online petitionseeking its ouster from schools litup, quickly garnering hundreds of thousands of supporters."It sounds disgusting," said foodpolicy expertMarion Nestle, whonotes that the unappetizingnickname made it easier for thefood movement to flex its musclesover this cause."A lot of people have been writingabout it. Therefore, more peopleknow about it, therefore morepeople are queasy about it,particularly when you startthinking about how this stuff turnsup in school lunches," said Nestle,a professor at New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies andPublic Health.The controversy centers on "leanfinely textured beef," a low-costingredient in ground beef madefrom fatty bits of meat left overfrom other cuts. The bits areheated to about 100 F and spun toremove most of the fat. The leanmix then is compressed intoblocks for use in ground meat.The product, made by SouthDakota-based Beef Products Inc.,also is exposed to "a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas" to killbacteria, such as E. coli andsalmonella.There are no precise numbers onhow prevalent the product is andit does not have to be labeled asan ingredient. Past estimates haveranged as high as 70 percent; oneindustry officials estimates it is inat least half of the ground meatand burgers in theUnited States.It has been on the market foryears and federal regulators say itmeets standards for food safety.But advocates for wholesomefood have denounced the processas a potentially unsafe andunappetizing example of industrialized food production.The epithet "pink slime," coinedby a federal microbiologist, hasappeared in the media at leastsince a critical 2009New York Timesreport. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliverhas railed against itand it made headlines afterMcDonald's and other majorchains last year discontinued theiruse of ammonia-treated beef.But "pink slime" outrage seemedto reach new heights last week amid reports by The Daily andABC News. The Daily piece dealtwith theU.S. Department of Agriculture's purchase of meatthat included "pink slime" forschool lunches.The story touched a nerve withHouston resident Bettina Siegel,whose blog "The Lunch Tray"focuses on kids' food. On March6, she started an online petition onChange.org asking AgricultureSecretary Tom Vilsack to "put animmediate end to the use of 'pink slime' in our children's schoolfood.""When I put it up, I had thismoment of embarrassment," shesaid, "What if only 10 people signthis?"No problem there. Supporterssigned on fast. By Wednesdayafternoon, the electronic petitionhad more than 220,000 signatures.Organizers of Change.org said theexplosive growth is rare amongthe roughly 10,000 petitionsstarted there every month.Meanwhile, Google searches for"pink slime" spiked dramatically.It has become the food version of Joseph Kony, the rogue Africanwarlord virtually unknown in theUnited States until this month,when an online video campaignagainst him caught fire.But why is "pink slime" striking anerve now?Issues can to go from a simmer toan explosion when content withbroad interest — such as like foodsafety — is picked up anddisseminated by widely connectedpeople, said Marc A. Smith,director of the Social MediaResearch Foundation. Thesepeople act like "broadcast hubs,"dispersing the information todifferent communities."What's happening is that thechannels whereby this flood cango down this hill have expanded,"Smith said "The more there arethings like Twitter, the easier it isfor these powder kegs toexplode."In this case, Siegel thinks theadded element of children's schoollunches could have set off thisround."That's what upset me. This ideathat children are passively sittingin a lunch room eating what thegovernment sees fit to feed themand McDonald's has chosen not touse it, but the government is stillfeeding it to them," she said."That really got my ire."TheUSDA— which did notdirectly address Siegel's petition— buys about a fifth of the foodserved in schools nationwide. Theagency this year is contracted tobuy 111.5 million pounds of ground beef for theNationalSchool Lunch Program. About 7million pounds of that is fromBeef Products Inc., though thepink product in question neveraccounts for more than 15 percentof a single serving of ground beef."All USDA ground beef purchases must meet the higheststandards for food safety. USDAhas strengthened ground beef foodsafety standards in recent yearsand only allows products intocommerce that we haveconfidence are safe," agencyspokesman Aaron Lavallee said inan email.Beef Product Inc. stresses that itsproduct is 100 percent lean beef and is approved by a series of industry experts. The company'snew website,pinkslimeisamyth.com, refutessome common criticisms of theproduct ("Myth 4: Boneless leanbeef trimmings are produced frominedible meat").TheNational Meat Associationalso has joined the fight, refutingthat the product is made from
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – TheAmerican soldier accused of shooting 16 Afghan villagers in apre-dawn killing spree was flownout of Afghanistan on Wednesdayevening, theU.S.military said.• By Ted S. Warren, AP Asoldier from Joint Base LewisMcChord in Washington state,pictured here, is accused of shooting 16 villagers in Kandahar,Afghanistan.By Ted S. Warren, APA soldier from Joint Base LewisMcChord in Washington state,pictured here, is accused of shooting 16 villagers in Kandahar,Afghanistan.The soldier was taken out of Afghanistan "based on a legalrecommendation," said NavyCapt.John Kirby, a Pentagonspokesman."We do not have appropriatedetention facilities inAfghanistan," he said, explainingthat he was referring to a facilityfor a U.S. service member "in thiskind of case."The soldier was taken aboard aU.S. military aircraft to a "pretrialconfinement facility" in anothercountry, a U.S. military officialsaid, without saying where. Theofficial, who spoke anonymouslybecause he was not authorized torelease the information publicly,would not confirm if that meantan American military base oranother type of facility.Kirby said the move did notnecessarily mean the trial wouldbe held outside Afghanistan, butthe other military official saidlegal proceedings would continueelsewhere. The soldier has not yetbeen charged.Afghan lawmakers haddemanded that the soldier bepublicly tried in Afghanistan toshow that he was being brought to justice, calling on PresidentHamid Karzai to suspend all talkswith the U.S. about an long-termmilitary presence here until thathappens.Many fear a misstep by the U.S.military in handling the casecould ignite a firestorm inAfghanistan that would shatteralready tense relations.The alliance betweenAfghanistan and the U.S. militaryalready appeared near thebreaking point last month whenthe burning of Qurans in agarbage pit at a U.S. base sparkedprotests and retaliatory attacksthat killed more than 30 people,including six U.S. soldiers.In recent days, the two countriesmade headway toward anagreement governing a long-termAmerican presence in the country,but the shootings in Kandaharprovince on Sunday have calledall such negotiations intoquestion.The soldier who allegedly shotvillagers was caught onsurveillance video that showedhim walking up to his base, layingdown his weapon and raising hisarms in surrender, according to anAfghan official who viewed thefootage.The official said late Tuesdaythat U.S. authorities showed theirAfghan counterparts the video toprove that only one perpetratorwas involved in the shootings onSunday, which have furtherstrained already shaky relationsbetween the two countries. Karzaisaid nine of the dead werechildren.Any major discrepancy betweenthe official Afghan and U.S.accounts of the events on Sundayis likely to deepen the distrust.One member of an Afghangovernment delegationinvestigating the killings saidWednesday that the group hasconcluded the shooting spree wascarried out by more than onesoldier. Parliament memberSayeed Ishaq Gilani said thedelegation had heard fromvillagers who said they saw morethan 15 troops at the scene.But it is unclear whether thesoldiers the villagers saw werepart of a search party that left thebase to look for the U.S. soldierwho was missing. The delegationis slated to formally release theresults of its investigation laterWednesday.On Tuesday, the delegationvisited the two villages insouthern Kandahar provincewhere the shootings took place.Two villagers who lost relativesinsisted that at least two soldierstook part in the shootings.U.S. military officials have so farinsisted that only one soldier wasinvolved."We are still receiving, reviewingand investigating all leads inconnection with this terribleincident, but at this timeeverything still points to oneshooter," said Lt. Col. JimmieCummings, a spokesman for theU.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.The surveillance video, takenfrom an overhead blimp that filmsthe area around the base, shows asoldier in a U.S. uniformapproaching the south gate of thebase with a traditional Afghanshawl hiding the weapon in hishand, the Afghan official said. Hethen removes the shawl as he layshis weapon on the ground andraises his arms in surrender.The official, who requestedanonymity because he wasdiscussing a private briefing, saidthat there were about two to threehours of footage covering the timeof the attack but the U.S. militaryhad only provided the video of thesurrender. The Afghan delegationin Kandahar is asking for the U.S.to provide the full footage, theofficial said.Copyright 2012 The AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. Thismaterial may not be published,broadcast, rewritten orredistributed. For moreinformation aboutreprints &permissions, visit our FAQ's. Toreport corrections andclarifications, contact StandardsEditor Brent Jones. Forpublication consideration in thenewspaper, send comments firstname.lastname@example.org. Includename, phone number, city andstate for verification. To view ourcorrections, go tocorrections.usatoday.com. 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