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| NEWS | RULES FOR ENGAGEMENT
When the meat lobby got part of the sequester rescinded last month, it got its way in part because the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut spending on a program to upgrade kitchen equipment in public schools.
The Agriculture Department and other federal agencies suffered a 5 percent across-the-board cut last month.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack insisted the cuts would mean that federal meat inspectors would be unable to work, The Washington Post reported, forcing him to shut down the meat-production industry nationwide for 11 days.
An alarmed Senate wrote an exception into the rules, thus saving the meat-inspection service. But to do so, the USDA took money from a program that hadn't been funded in several years and pays for upgrades to school kitchens.
Those upgrades have only become more critical with the adoption of new standards for school meals the USDA put into place this school year that require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and cut salt, fat, and calories.
The USDA raid didn't leave the grant program cupboard entirely bare. In the continuing resolution signed by President Barack Obama to keep the government running through September, the USDA left $10 million untouched.
— Nirvi Shah
| NEWS | CURRICULUM MATTERS
Knowing how to spell words like "guetapens" and "cymotrichous" won't be enough to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, now less than 50 days away. In a change to the 86-year-old competition announced last week, the competition will now include an "evaluation of vocabulary knowledge," according to a press release.
Organizers of the bee announced that the new format will include a multiple-choice vocabulary test taken during the preliminary round, which, the Associated Press reports, will make it easier to identify which competitors will advance to the semifinals and then the championship finals.
During the oral competition, spellers will still be able to ask for the word's definition to help them spell it.
— Gina Cairney
| NEWS | INSIDE SCHOOL RESEARCH
In the latest installment of the overwhelming evidence against a vaccine link to autism, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a new study late last month that found that even multiple vaccines administered at the same time don't cause autism.
A team of researchers from the Atlanta-based CDC and Abt Associates, of Bethesda, Md., analyzed records of 1,008 children born from 1994 to 1999 (256 of whom were identified with autism spectrum disorders). They calculated both the single-day and cumulative exposures to immune-triggering antigens for children who followed the CDC's full schedule of immunizations, which include those against devastating illnesses such as polio, whooping cough, and measles. Nearly one in 10 American parents refuse or delay childhood vaccines out of a concern that giving "too many, too soon" can lead to autism, the CDC noted, but its researchers found no difference in either the single-day total or overall vaccine exposure of children up to age 2, regardless of whether the children had been diagnosed with autism. The researchers also found no connection between the amount of antigens children were exposed to and the risk of developing individual disorders along the spectrum.
— Sarah D. Sparks
Vol. 32, Issue 28, Page 10Published in Print: April 17, 2013, as Blogs of the Week