March 1, 2008 in Nation/World

Nation in brief: Inspectors on leave after beef recall

The Spokesman-Review
 

At least two federal inspectors who worked at the now-shuttered Chino, Calif., plant at the center of the largest-ever beef recall have been put on paid leave, union officials said Friday.

Stan Painter, president of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, said a U.S. Department of Agriculture labor relations representative confirmed to him the administrative leaves of one inspector and one supervisor but would not discuss word of forced leave for another supervisor.

USDA officials said Friday that they would have nothing to say about the case.

“We are unable to comment because of the ongoing investigation,” spokeswoman Angie Harless said.

Forced leaves would mark the first action taken by the department against the inspectors at the plant, Westland/Hallmark. At the time of the recall, USDA officials said employees there failed to follow regulations requiring them to notify federal authorities working at the plant when cattle collapse after the initial pre-slaughter inspection.

MIAMI

Feds appeal Padilla sentence

Federal prosecutors in Miami have appealed the sentences of Jose Padilla and two other men convicted of conspiring to provide “material support” for the global terrorist group al-Qaida.

Prosecutors announced Friday the filing of their appellate notice with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the closely watched terrorism case. Defense lawyers had filed theirs at the beginning of February.

In January, a federal judge rejected prosecutors’ bids for life sentences for Padilla and two codefendants, saying their support for Islamic extremists abroad did not call for the severe punishment given to the nation’s worst terrorists.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke gave Padilla a prison term of 17 years and four months for participating in a South Florida-based conspiracy to aid Muslims in “violent jihad.”

Engineer’s mistake caused blackouts

A mistake by an electrical engineer caused Tuesday’s massive blackouts across wide swaths of the state, Florida Power & Light announced Friday afternoon.

In an attempt to diagnose a damaged switch at a substation in Miami-Dade County, the engineer disabled two protective devices designed to prevent cascading outages, a violation of the utility’s procedures. The engineer, a longtime employee whose name was not disclosed, has been suspended with pay.

The company and the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council, an industry group that enforces federal law, will continue their investigations, which may take months. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may also launch an inquiry into what was one of the nation’s largest blackouts since an Ohio power line outage in 2003 killed power to millions throughout the northeast.

From wire reports


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