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In this Jan. 18, 2012, file photo, Alexes Garcia makes cinnamon rolls for student's lunch in the kitchen at Kepner Middle School in Denver. The rolls are made using apple sauce instead of trans fats. Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade as nutritionists have criticized them and local governments have banned them. (AP Photo/Ed Andriesk)

FDA TO BAN ARTERY-CLOGGING TRANS FATS
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.
 
The FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to gradually phase out artificial trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.
 
Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York City and other local governments have banned them.
 
The agency isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but it will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take. Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to find a substitute.
 
"We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food "industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do."
 
Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including in some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs, cookies, biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.
 
MALALA PLOTTER CHOSEN AS PAKISTANI TALIBAN CHIEF
 
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) -- The ruthless commander behind the attack on teenage activist Malala Yousafzai as well as a series of bombings and beheadings was chosen Thursday as the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, nearly a week after a U.S. drone strike killed the previous chief.
 
The militant group ruled out peace talks with the government, accusing Pakistan of working with the U.S. in the Nov. 1 drone strike. Islamabad denied the allegation and accused Washington of sabotaging its attempt to strike a deal with the Taliban to end years of violence.
 
Mullah Fazlullah was unanimously appointed the new leader by the Taliban's leadership council, or shura, after several days of deliberation, said the council's head, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhitani. Militants fired AK-47 assault rifles and anti-aircraft guns into the air to celebrate.
 
The previous chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by the drone in the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border. He was known for a bloody campaign that killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and security personnel, a deadly attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan and was believed to be behind the failed bombing in New York's Times square in 2010. The U.S. had put a $5 million bounty on his head,
 
Mehsud's killing had outraged Pakistani officials. The government said the drone strike came a day before it planned to send a delegation of clerics to invite the Pakistani Taliban to hold peace talks, although many analysts doubted a deal was likely.
 
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: MATH, READING SCORES UP SLIGHTLY
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sometimes the best isn't good enough: Most American fourth and eighth graders still lack basic skills in math and science despite record high scores on a national exam.
 
Yes, today's students are doing better than those who came before them. But the improvements have come at a snail's pace.
 
The 2013 Nation's Report Card released Thursday finds that the vast majority of the students still are not demonstrating solid academic performance in either math or reading. Stubborn gaps persist between the performances of white children and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts, who scored much lower.
 
Overall, just 42 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. In reading, 35 percent of fourth graders and 36 percent of eighth graders hit that mark.
 
Still, as state and federal policies evolve in the post-No Child Left Behind era, the nation's school kids are doing better today on the test than they did in the early 1990s, when such tracking started, with more improvement in math than in reading. Students of all races have shown improvement over the years.
 
The results come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which is given every two years to a sample of fourth and eighth graders.

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