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U.S. suspends Brazilian beef imports over safety concerns

All imports of fresh beef from Brazil have been halted because of recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Thursday.

The suspension of shipments will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action which the USDA finds satisfactory.

The action comes three months after a major scandal erupted in Brazil over allegedly corrupt inspectors at slaughter and processing facilities. Brazilian officials said then that meat companies paid inspectors to overlook violations and certify tainted or rotten meat or not make inspections at all.

>> Read more trending news

However, before the crackdown, rotten meat was distributed in Brazil and exported to Europe.

Since March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving in the United States from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products.

That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world. Since the implementation of the increased inspection, FSIS has refused entry to 106 lots (approximately 1.9 million pounds) of Brazilian beef products due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues. It is important to note that none of the rejected lots made it into the U.S. market.

The Brazilian government had pledged to address those concerns, including by self-suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the United States. Today’s action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension.

Secretary Perdue issued the following statement:

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and it’s one we undertake with great seriousness. Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers. That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef. I commend the work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for painstakingly safeguarding the food we serve our families.”

>> Read the full news release here

The U.S. is not a major importer of beef from Brazil because the U.S. produces more beef and veal than Brazil does. This year, U.S. beef and veal production are expected to grow 5 percent to more than 12 million tons, reaching a nine-year high, according to USDA reports.

In 2016, the U.S. exported $6.3 billion in beef and beef products globally. The major importers of beef to the U.S. are Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, with Brazil ranking fifth.

In May, Brazil re-opened its doors to U.S. fresh beef exports after a 13-year hiatus, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service reported.

In 2003, Brazil closed its market fresh beef imports from the U.S. over concerns about bone spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Farmers Union applauded the decision to suspend the importation of Brazilian beef and said it has long had concerns about the importation of fresh beef from Brazil.

“Since the 2015 repeal of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), food safety scandals can undermine consumer confidence in the entire beef industry, harming American producers’ bottom line. This incident underscores the importance of COOL to protect American beef producers and consumers alike,” NFU officials said in a statement.

Monday, several cattle-ranching groups sued the USDA in Spokane, asking that it overturn its decision to not require country-of-origin labeling on meat imports. Without the labeling, imported meat can be sold as a U.S. product.

London tower blocks evacuated over fire concerns

Thousands of residents in a north London housing complex were evacuated from their apartments Friday night after fire checks revealed the buildings were unsafe, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

The checks were done in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14.

Residents, along with their children and pets were removed from five tower blocks and headed to a local sports center to sleep on air beds, Reuters reported.

“I know it’s difficult but Grenfell changes everything,” Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, said in the statement. “I don’t believe we can take any risks with our residents’ safety.”

The London Fire Brigade said it had found a number of fire safety issues at the Chalcots Estate in Camden and advised residents to leave the building until they were resolved, Reuters reported.

Hugh Grant offering reward for WWII vet's lost medals

Actor Hugh Grant is offering a $1,100 reward for the return of a blind British World War II veterans medals after the 95-year-old man lost them at a service station.

>> Read more trending news

D-Day veteran Alfred Barlow landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944. Barlow, who was a corporal when Allied forces attacked the French coast, attended this year’s Memorial in Normandy, the Manchester Evening News reported.

However, Barlow lost his medals at the service station near Walsall during his return to his home in Stockport on June 8.

Barlow released images of the lost medals -- the 1939-1945 Star, the France and Germany Star, the 1939-1945 War Medal and the Palestine Medal -- through the Blind Veterans UK charity.

Grant tweeted his support, including a contact number and said that anonymity would be guaranteed, the Evening News reported.

Barlow said the incident was “very distressing.”

“These medals are worth very little to sell but to me they are priceless,” he told the Evening News. “I had intended to pass all of my medals on to my grandson, which makes it even more upsetting.”

Barlow turns 96 on Sunday and said the medals’ return would be a great birthday gift, Fox News reported.

Queen Elizabeth II reported to police for not wearing seat belt

A sharp-eyed observer noticed that Queen Elizabeth II, riding in a car en route to the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday, was not wearing a seat belt. So the person decided to dial 999, which is Great Britain’s emergency telephone line, The Telegraph reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The call was taken by the West Yorkshire Police Customer Contact Centre, according to the Telegraph. While a tape of the call has not been released, police spokesman Tom Donahue said “I cannot stress enough that the 999 number is for emergencies only.”

In the UK, it is mandatory to wear a seat belt -- but the 91-year-old monarch is immune from civil or criminal actions, the Telegraph reported.

A statement on the British Monarchy’s website noted that the Queen “is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.”

The West Yorkshire police had fun with Twitter on Thursday, bidding good morning while tweeting “Let’s hope the queen is behaving today.”

Group starts petition to have Dennis Rodman kicked out of Hall of Fame

Dennis Rodman’s recent trip to North Korea did not sit well with a human rights group, which wants the former NBA star kicked out of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

>> Read more trending news 

The group Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation began a petition on change.org to have Rodman expelled from the basketball shrine, CNN reported. It comes on the heels of the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who arrived in the United States last week in a coma after being detained for 17 months in North Korea. Warmbier died Monday.

“Otto Warmbier was murdered by the North Korean regime,” Marion Smith, director of the human rights group, told CNN. 

Rodman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011. He has visited North Korea several times and has praised dictator Kim Jong-un, whom he called “a friend for life.”

Smith accused Rodman of "coddling" Kim.

"Removing Rodman from the Hall of Fame will send a message that all Americans are united against this regime," Smith told CNN.

Police considering manslaughter charges in Grenfell Tower fire

Police said Friday that they are considering manslaughter charges in the Grenfell Tower fire in London, adding that the blaze started in a refrigerator freezer, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The police investigation is focusing on how the fire began, how it spread and who should be held responsible, Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona McCormack told a press briefing. Documents already have been seized, CNN reported.

Insulation on the building also failed tests, the BBC reported.  CNN reported that investigators are focusing on the role that cladding, apparently used in recent renovations of the tower, may have played in the blaze.  McCormack said the cladding samples sent for analysis failed safety tests.

Seventy-nine people are missing or presumed dead after the fire on June 14 destroyed 150 homes, the BBC reported. Police confirmed the fire had not been started deliberately.

McCormack said the department’s priority was “to understand who was in Grenfell Tower,” and wanted to hear from anyone who was in the building on the night of the fire.

“I do not want there to be any victims of this tragedy that we do not know about,” she told the BBC.

Report: Russian warships fire missiles at ISIS targets in Syria

Russian warships fired six missiles at ISIS targets in Syria on Friday, according to the country’s state media.

According to CNN, a statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry that was posted to RIA said that the missiles were fired  from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The Cailber missiles were fired from the frigates “Admiral Essen,” “Admiral Grigorovich,” and the submarine “Krosnodar,” the RIA said.

Dramatic video shows aid worker, Texas Aggie rescuing child from ISIS gunfire

Among the many things that are required of a freshman in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — from buzzed hair, to shined shoes to elaborate rituals for nearly every situation — is to memorize a simple Bible verse, John 15:13.

“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

These are not hollow words in Aggieland. It happened famously in Corregidor; tragically in Fallujah; in the trenches of World War I and mountains of Afghanistan.

>> Read more trending news

Texas A&M graduate David Eubank knew this when he saw a girl of about 5 amid the remains of her family, slain in the ruins of the streets of Mosul, Iraq.

The girl was alive. There was a wall between her and deadly ISIS snipers.

For one little Iraqi girl, Eubank was prepared to stretch the definition of greater love. 

“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,’” he later told the Los Angeles Times.

His dramatic rescue was caught on video and can be seen on Youtube. (Warning: The video contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Eubank’s heroism is hardly out of character. He was a Texas toddler when he knew he wanted to be a soldier and a third-generation Aggie. After completing A&M’s Corps of Cadets, the class of ‘83 graduate served 10 years in the U.S. Army. He was a Ranger and, ultimately, a Special Forces commander.

If that seems like enough service for most, Eubank was just getting started. The son of missionaries, in 1997, he founded the Free Burma Rangers to help those displaced by the civil war in Burma. He moved his wife and kids across the world to help provide food, medical care and Christian outreach to those in need.

Nearly 20 years later, the Free Burma Rangers shifted their focus to Iraq, Syria and the victims of Islamic State terrorists.

That brings us back to Mosul, where this month’s dramatic rescue happened.

Nabih Bulos, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, described how it unfolded:

As clouds from the smoke canisters swirl about, he prepares to dash from behind the tank to save the girl. He’s wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest over a black T-shirt. He runs out as his colleagues, armed with machine guns, give covering fire. He scoops up the girl with his right arm, stumbling as he runs back. He’s gone and back in 12 seconds. The girl’s hair is in pigtails, secured with what appear to be pink ribbons.

It wasn’t quite a Hollywood moment. Another toddler seen alive disappeared in the chaos. A wounded man didn’t make it. As for Eubank? He’s not playing the part of action hero. Instead, he works to keep the humility of a Christian aid worker.

“I believe God sent me here, and I don’t think about security,” he told the Times. “... but I always ask myself if I’m doing it out of pride.”

Read the Los Angeles Times interview with Eubank about his rescue and work in Iraq.

Read a Texas Aggie magazine story from 2012 on the Free Burma Rangers.

Read a Washington Post story about the Eubank family and their work in Iraq.

Popular fitness model killed in freak whipped cream accident

A popular French fitness model was killed in a freak accident involving a whipped cream dispenser, her family says.

>> Read more trending news

Fox News reports that Rebecca Burger, who has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, was killed when a defective whipped cream dispenser exploded and hit her in the chest.

She was 33 years old.

Burger did receive medical attention but died of cardiac arrest, according to reports.

Now her family is warning others not to buy the defective dispensers, claiming thousands of faulty devices are still being sold, according to Fox News.

Read more here.

Prince Harry opens up about Diana's funeral, doesn't think any royals want to be king or queen

When he was just 12 years old, Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died in a car accident, and participating in her highly publicized funeral is something the now 32-year-old royal will never forget.

>> Prince George, Princess Charlotte steal the show at Queen’s Trooping the Color parade

“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he recalled the emotionally difficult moment to Newsweek. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”

>> PHOTOS: Prince Harry through the years

Harry went on to live several years in “total chaos” as he tried to deal with his grief, acting out and ignoring his emotions. But finally one day, he realized he needed professional help and decided he wanted to “to fix the mistakes” he felt he was making. Now, he sees his position as royal as a “force for good” and enjoys getting to help other people going through tough situations.

>> Pippa Middleton ties the knot with James Matthews in ‘almost royal’ wedding

"My mother died when I was very young. I didn’t want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good,” he said. “I am now fired up and energized and love charity stuff, meeting people and making them laugh. I sometimes still feel I am living in a goldfish bowl, but I now manage it better. I still have a naughty streak, too, which I enjoy and is how I relate to those individuals who have got themselves into trouble.”

>> Read more trending news

As he and brother Prince William prepare to take on more royal responsibilities, they want to make sure to “carry on the positive atmosphere that the queen has achieved for over 60 years” by continuing Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy of charity work.

>> PHOTOS: Charming Princess Charlotte, Prince George at Trooping the Color parade

“We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy,” Harry said. “We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people […] Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

Read more here.

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