World and Nation

Shorts (left)

In Fight Against Tainted Beef, Trial Begins for Cattle Vaccine

Jason Timmerman coaxed a balky calf into a chute on his feedlot one recent afternoon and injected the animal with a new vaccine to make it immune to a dangerous form of E. coli bacteria.

The calf and thousands of others are part of a large-scale test to see whether animal vaccines are an answer to one of the nation’s most persistent food-safety problems.

The test has been a long time coming. Bureaucratic delays in Washington stalled the arrival of the vaccines for years, even as people continued to sicken and die from tainted beef. And now, even if the vaccines prove successful in the ambitious tests that are just getting under way, they face an uncertain future as farmers and feedlot owners worry about who will pick up the extra cost.

Scientists are fairly sure that vaccines will not, on their own, wipe out the dangerous strain of E. coli known as O157:H7. But if they prove effective, they could significantly reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that cattle carry into slaughterhouses, which means that safeguards already in place there would have a greater chance of eliminating the remaining germs from the beef supply.

3 Secret Service Agents Put on Leave in White House Gate-Crashing

Three Secret Service agents have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into how two uninvited guests managed to crash President Barack Obama’s first state dinner last week, the director of the service said Thursday.

The director, Mark Sullivan, told the House Homeland Security Committee that an initial investigation had shown it was “human error” that allowed two aspiring reality television contestants, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, to penetrate security around the White House.

“I’ve asked myself these questions a thousand times over the last week,” a beleaguered Sullivan said to legislators. “And what I keep coming back to is that we didn’t follow procedures.”

Legislators at the packed hearing expressed outrage at the potential risk posed by the security breach at the nation’s most important address on such an exclusive occasion. They brought up security problems that arose during Obama’s inauguration, and asked whether there were systemic problems at the Secret Service.

Report Examines Civil Rights Enforcement During Bush Years

When the Bush administration ran the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, career lawyers wanted to look into accusations that officials in one state had illegally intimidated blacks during a voter-fraud investigation.

But division supervisors refused to “approve further contact with state authorities on this matter,” according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office auditing the activities of the division from 2001 to 2007. Congress is set to release that report, which did not identify the state in question, on Thursday as the House of Representatives takes up its first oversight hearing of the Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration.

The 180-page report, obtained by The New York Times, is densely packed with statistics about civil rights enforcement by the division’s sections. The accountability office also examined a sampling of matters that were closed without further action, finding several cases in which supervisors rejected the recommendations of career lawyers to go forward.