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Cuts to abattoir meat checks 'will be the next food scandal'

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© Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Experts have warned against cuts which would reduce the checks and inspections of meat used in food sold in supermarkets.
The scandal of horsemeat in supermarket burgers should be seen as a warning of things to come, say experts alarmed that meat producers are to be given more powers to police themselves.

Internal documents from the Food Standards Agency reveal that the UK is to move away from regular inspections of abattoirs to a "risk-based" system that unions representing meat-processing workers say will lead to a drop in standards. As a result, unions warn that abattoirs are the next food scandal waiting to happen. Major food producers have been pushing for slaughterhouses to be subjected to lighter regulation for many years, complaining that the number of inspections is stifling their business.

Unions said public revulsion over the burger scandal illustrated the need to do more to avoid contamination at all levels of the food chain, including where the animals were slaughtered. "The fact that horsemeat has unexpectedly turned up in burgers is not surprising; large parts of the industry will do what they think they can get away with," said Unison national officer Ian Adderley. "Currently things far worse than horsemeat are prevented from going into burgers because of the work of meat inspectors and vets in abattoirs. EU legislation ensures meat is physically inspected by people independent of the industry."

Ambulance

Four climbers killed in avalanche in Scottish Highlands

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© Photograph: Stewart Smith/Alamy
The view from Stob Beinn a' Chrulaiste towards Stob nan Cabar and the Three Sisters in Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.
Four people have been killed and a woman seriously hurt after a group of six climbers were caught up in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.

Emergency services were alerted to the accident on Bidean Nam Bian, in Glencoe, at about 2pm on Saturday and a major search operation involving two mountain rescue teams and police dogs was launched.

Police said four people, two men and two women, were found and have since been pronounced dead.

One male climber, who stayed with the teams to help with the search, is safe and well while a woman is in a serious condition in Belford hospital in Fort William.

Red Flag

Rape cases in New Delhi jump 23 percent in 2012

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Rape cases in New Delhi jumped 23 per cent in 2012 from a year earlier, according to official figures, highlighting rising crime against women in the sprawling metropolis.

The numbers were released as the trial of five men was set to begin on Monday on accusations of murder, rape and kidnapping over the death last month of a 23-year-old gang-rape victim, whose assault sparked nationwide protests,

The case against a sixth defendant, who says he is 17, is being heard separately by a juvenile court.

"The rate of conviction in rapes in Delhi is much higher than the national rate," Delhi police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told reporters on Friday.

Eye 1

Captivated by 'fake girlfriend' hoax, Americans learn about 'catfishing'

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A spectacular hoax involving a popular US sportsman's fake dead girlfriend has put a spotlight on a practice known as "catfishing" and raised fresh concerns about news media fact-checking.

Sports fans learned this week that Manti Te'o, a star linebacker at Notre Dame University and a top prospect in this year's NFL draft, supposedly fell for a fabricated girlfriend he "met" online.

This would have been embarrassing enough, had he not also spoken movingly of the imaginary young woman's sad, but fictional, death - a story many news outlets have repeated and embellished in recent months.

The news drew new attention to the practice of creating a fake persona for an online relationship, a practice described in the 2010 documentary Catfish which inspired an MTV reality show of the same name.

"It's not new that people represent themselves differently in dating situations, but social media makes it easier because you're not physically with the person," said Karen North, head of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the University of Southern California.

Vader

Corruption evil as drugs and prostitution: Interpol

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Global football corruption helps drive the criminal underworld's domination of prostitution, drug-trafficking and gun-running, an international symposium into match-fixing heard on Friday.

Around 200 delegates attending the FIFA, UEFA and Interpol meeting into corruption in the sport, were told that it was crucial the match-fixers felt the full force of the law when cases are prosecuted.

However, it was acknowledged that football needs to convince hard-pushed judicial bodies that illegal betting and results-rigging should be pursued with the same vigour reserved for other high-profile crimes.

"We must convince the authorities," said Interpol secretary-general, Ronald Noble.

USA

Same-sex military couples struggle for recognition

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© AP Photo/Allison Hanson
In this undated photograph made available by Allison Hanson, Hanson, left, poses with her partner, Sgt. Karen Alexander. Alexander, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., married Hanson in Washington. The U.S. Army has denied the couple housing allowance and other family-friendly benefits. Pentagon officials say their hands are tied by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than between a man and a woman.
Sgt. Karen Alexander fought for her country in Iraq, but back home she often feels the U.S. Army is fighting against her.

Married to another female soldier with a 4-year-old son, Alexander is denied the same housing allowance and other family-friendly benefits she would be entitled to if married to a man. As far as Uncle Sam is concerned, she's still single.

"I'm married to my best friend, who just happens to be of the same sex as me," said Alexander, 29, who is stationed at Fort Bragg. "We fight for everyone else's rights, but we're treated as second-class citizens."

Nearly a year and half after President Obama and Congress ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," same-sex couples are faced with daily reminders of the conflict inherent in serving openly as gays and lesbians under a government that still refuses to acknowledge their relationships.

People 2

People without gene for underarm odor still wear deodorant

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© Image: everystockphoto
About 75 percent of people without the "smelly underarm" gene wear deodorant daily, a new study finds.
Societal norms often dictate the products people use even if they don't need them

For most, putting on deodorant is a necessary ritual on par with brushing teeth or washing hands. But for people who produce no armpit stench, it is totally unnecessary.

Despite that, nearly three-quarters of those people still use deodorant daily, a new study finds.

The findings, published January 17 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, show just how much a person's daily life is dictated by what's considered normal.

"They're spending their money, exposing their skin to what may in a few instances not be good for their skin. It sort of suggests to me that there are a lot of conformists around," said study co-author Ian Day, a genetic epidemiologist at the University of Bristol.

Question

Why are the British revolted by the idea of horsemeat?

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Horsemeat has been found in beefburgers on sale in UK and Irish Republic supermarkets. But why do the British have such a revulsion over the idea of eating horsemeat?

The discovery of horse DNA in burgers in major supermarkets such as Tesco and Iceland has been met with alarm among consumers.

Horse-eating, or hippophagy, spread in Europe in the 19th Century, after famines caused several governments to license horse butcheries.

The meat is still commonly consumed in France and Belgium, as well as parts of Central Asia and South America.

So why are the British so squeamish about eating horse?

Red Flag

'Kindergarten terrorist': 5-year-old girl suspended over bubble-gun 'threat'

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© Reuters / Darren Staples
A 5-year-old girl was suspended from a Pennsylvania kindergarten after telling another girl that she was going to shoot her. The weapon she was going to use was a pink toy gun that blows soapy bubbles.

Mount Carmel Area School District officials questioned the student without her parents present, deemed the girl a "terrorist threat" and suspended her for 10 days, according to attorney Robin Ficker, who was hired by the family to fight the suspension.

The incident happened on January 10 as the preschoolers were waiting in line for a schoolbus, Ficker told news website PennLive.com.

The girl, who has not been identified, said something like "I'm going to shoot you and I will shoot myself," referring to the toy. She did not have the bubble gun on her person at the time.

Evil Rays

Fish with radiation over 2,500 times safe levels found near Fukushima plant

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© Reuters / Pool New
The unit No.1 (L) and No. 2 reactor building of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are seen through a window in a bus while Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspects the nuclear power plant power plant in Fukushima Prefecture December 29, 2012.
A fish containing over 2,500 times Japan's legal limit for radiation in seafood has been caught in the vicinity of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the facility's operator reported.

A 'murasoi' fish, similar to a rockfish, was caught at a port inside the plant, according to AFP. Plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) indicated that the amount of cesium measured 254,000 becquerels per kilogram - 2,540 times Japan's legal limit for radiation in seafood.

In October, TEPCO admitted that radiation leaks at the plant had not fully stopped.

In 2011, after a March earthquake and tsunami devastated the region, Japan barred beef, vegetables, milk, seafood and mushrooms grown near the affected area from both domestic markets and exports over safety concerns.