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Schools may serve irradiated ground beef

As of January, school cafeterias will have the option of serving irradiated ground beef. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last month that the National School Lunch Program, which buys food and donates it to schools, will start distributing irradiated meat during the next school year.

The USDA didn't have much choice: The federal farm bill passed last year by Congress barred the department from prohibiting approved food-safety technologies such as irradiation. The USDA first gave the green light in 1997 to meat and poultry irradiation, a process by which meat is exposed to radiant energy such as gamma rays or electron beams in order to kill bacteria.

School districts will decide individually whether to order and serve the meat and how to notify parents and children about the options, USDA undersecretary Eric Bost said in a press release. While the USDA says studies show irradiation is safe, consumer groups argue that not enough evidence is available to be sure. "School cafeterias are not the place to begin large-scale consumption of irradiated food," says Arthur Jaeger of the Consumer Federation of America.

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Teens grill Fed chairman in their class

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan showed his whimsical side last week, telling a class of inner-city students it's all right to be wrong. "It's OK to make mistakes but it's not OK not to try," Mr. Greenspan told a rapt young audience of about two dozen in one of the city's tougher areas, about four miles from the gleaming dome of the nation's Capitol.

Greenspan and Richmond Federal Reserve President Alfred Broaddus visited Philip Sousa Middle School as part of a joint effort with the nonprofit group Operation Hope to expand education about banking, credit, and the use of money.

He also fielded some pointed questions about interest rates and tax cuts. Student Sean Davis asked slyly whether "the next time you're on TV, is the interest rate going to be higher or lower?" Amid laughter, Greenspan smiled and answered "Yes."

Web Smarts

http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/

What: This British site reveals the history and meaning behind more than 1,000 English phrases and sayings, and it offers up a list of fun word books as well as access to an online thesaurus and a discussion group.

Best Points: "Meanings and origins of phrases and sayings" is divided into eight components: proverbs, quotes, Shakespearean phrases, misheard song lyrics, euphemisms, popular fallacies, trivia, and words that originate in the Bible.

Learn that "scot free," meaning "to escape or get off without payment," comes from the old Scottish term for tax; "posh," meaning swanky or rich, meant "dandy" in the 19th century; and Davy Crockett was actually a man with three ears: a right ear, a left ear, and a "wild frontier."

Don't forget to try out the thesaurus search engine. Type in a word such as "money" and peruse dozens of terms, from "a bull market" to "penny pinching" and "worth one's weight in gold."

What you should know: The site's only ads appear throughout the book list, but not everything is free. The thesaurus is for members only, and subscription rates start at $45 a year.

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