News Briefs

West Point in the line of fire for major budget cuts

The nation’s premier military academy faces a $92 million budget reduction on March 1, when a federal sequestration bill forcing spending reductions takes effect. In total, the sequestration bill will drop spending on a variety of programs by $85 billion. The bill was passed in 2011 to force an agreement between the executive branch and Congress on some method of slashing the deficit (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Army plans $92 million in cuts at West Point,” 2.19.13).

At West Point, the spending cut may postpone construction of a massive new barracks that would have housed 650 students, the Times Herald-Record reports (“West Points Cuts Would be $92M: Employees may go on furlough,” 2.21.13).  According to an industry notice published on the Federal Business Opportunities database, the barracks has been deemed “critical to the United States Military Academy (USMA) to eliminate overcrowding” (FedBizOpps.gov,“USMA New Cadet Barracks, Industry Day,” 5.30.12). While the academy has not released a statement on exactly how the funding cut would be dealt with, the effects of sequestration on the Department of Defense as a whole are wide-ranging. Members of the House Appropriations Committee indicated that the cuts would require major layoffs of Army temporary workers, as well as a hiring freeze. Of Army permanent employees, 251,000 would be forced to take temporary unpaid furloughs.

The sequestration bill was set to take effect on Dec. 31, but agreement on one of the issues it addressed–tax cuts–by Congress and the White House pushed its deadline back.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Press Secretary James Rahm called on both parties to cooperate to avoid cuts to the academy. Rahm stated that senator was “hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can come together to develop a responsible way to cut spending and reduce our deficit that does not come at the expense of our cadets and local economy” (Times Herald-Record).

­—Ben Hoffman, Guest Reporter

 

Horsemeat scandal calls Europe’s food regulations into question

A meat fraud scandal erupted on Feb. 7 when Britain’s Food Standards Agency discovered horse meat in frozen lasagna products labeled as 100 percent beef. According to industry research, more than 90 percent of European households occasionally buy these frozen dishes. Since then, there have been more discoveries of horse meat in products around Europe. There is no telling how long horse meat has been contaminating these dishes or how much of the horse meat has made its way into meat products being sold around the world. (The Washington Post, “Horsemeat scandal dents Europe’s culinary self-image,” 02.26.13)

French authorities tracked the falsely labeled product and found a small company, called Spanghero, in Castelnaudry in Southwest France. The company bought horse meat in Romania and sold it as beef. These traders eventually sold their meat to Comigel, a large-scale processing firm. (The New York Times, “Ikea Recalls Meatballs After Detection of Horse Meat,” 02.15.13)

Ikea recently joined the list of brands affected by the horse meat scandal and withdrew its Swedish meatballs from its markets. The United States is not affected. Anders Lennartsson, a spokesman for Ikea Food Services, said, “We take seriously the test result from the Czech Republic authorities, indicating presence of horse meat in one batch of our meatballs.” (The New York Times)

After the mad cow disease crisis in the 1990s, there was a lot of regulation and control over the identity and origin of European animals being sold for consumption, but processed meats are rarely checked to see what species it came from. The European Union is undergoing meetings to talk about a solution to this problem. Some solutions include an increase in DNA testing, extended food labeling requirements and simplifying the supply chain. All plausible solutions will require a serious increase in the cost of food production. (The Huffington Post, “Horsemeat Scandal Raises Concerns Over Europe’s Food Quality Control,” 02.10.13)

—­Emily Hoffman, Guest Reporter

 

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