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Governor defends 'pink slime' as healthy

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called Monday for a congressional investigation into how what he called "a smear campaign" against the meat product "pink slime" got started.

"We have a smear campaign going on against a product that is healthy and safe," he said.

The company that makes what it calls lean, finely textured beef announced last week that it would stop production at three plants amid public outcry.

"Pink slime," coined by a federal microbiologist, has appeared in the media since a critical 2009 New York Times report.

But a recent piece on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's purchase of meat that included "pink slime" for school lunches touched a nerve with Houston resident Bettina Siegel, whose blog "The Lunch Tray" focuses on kids' food.

She started an online petition asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to halt use of "pink slime" in school food, and the USDA announced last month that starting in the fall it would give schools the option of choosing ground beef that doesn't contain it.


Teen's parents want prosecutor investigated

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Trayvon Martin's parents asked federal officials investigating the teenager's shooting death to look further into the prosecutor who stepped down from the case and his role in deciding whether to press charges.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton allege in a letter sent to the Justice Department that State Attorney Norm Wolfinger met with the Sanford police chief within hours of the teen's death Feb. 26 and that together they overruled a detective's recommendation that the shooter, George Zimmerman, be charged with manslaughter.

The letter alleges that a lead investigator filed an affidavit stating he didn't find Zimmerman's story credible.

The prosecutor, Norm Wolfinger, called the allegations "lies" and said no meeting took place. He recused himself from the case two weeks ago.


Mega Millions jackpot grows; still unclaimed

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot climbed to $656 million Monday, but no one holding one of the three winning tickets has come forward to claim a share of the prize, officials said.

Three tickets -- one each in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland -- will split the jackpot, which officials said Monday was higher than previously estimated. It is now at $656 million, after sales from the 44 state lotteries were totaled, up from $640 million.


GSA chief resigns over spending scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A senior government official has resigned after her agency spent lavishly at a training conference for federal workers near Las Vegas.

The White House accepted General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson's resignation after she dismissed two deputies and suspended other career federal employees over an $820,000 conference.

The 300-person event took place in 2010 at the M Resort Spa and Casino in Henderson, Nev., and included $3,200 for a mind reader and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle.

Public Buildings Service chief Robert Peck and Johnson's top adviser, Stephen Leeds, were forced out.

Four GSA employees who organized the four-day conference have been placed on administrative leave pending further action, a White House official said.