FRESNO, Calif.

McDonald’s, USDA boycott meat plant in cruelty probe

The federal government and McDonald’s Corp. suspended purchases of meat Wednesday from a California slaughterhouse under investigation for animal cruelty and possible health issues.

The fast-food chain joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture in severing ties with Central Valley Meat Co.

The suspensions occurred after an animal welfare group’s covert video showed cows that appeared to be sick or lame being beaten, kicked, shot and shocked in an attempt to get them to walk to slaughter.

“There are behaviors in the video which appear to be unacceptable and would not adhere to the standards we demand of our suppliers,” McDonald’s said in release.

Federal officials say nothing they have seen so far in the video shows meat from cows that may have been sick made it into the food supply, but interviews with employees were ongoing.

The video was shot in June and July by an undercover operative for the group Compassion Over Killing who worked at the plant and also gave a written statement to the USDA about events not on tape.

CAMDEN, N.J.

Mother calls 911 to admit decapitating son, kills self

The 911 call from Chevonne Thomas was rambling and incoherent, but authorities said she made one thing clear: Her 2-year-old son had been stabbed, and “I did it.”

What police found at her Camden rowhouse early Wednesday was even more horrifying. Thomas had decapitated her son and placed his head in the freezer.

The 33-year-old mother later fatally stabbed herself after hanging up on emergency dispatchers, a violent end to a troubled life.

Thomas only recently regained custody of son Zahree after allegedly leaving the boy unattended in a car, telling police she had smoked marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP and blacked out in a nearby park.

Distraught family members who arrived at the scene late Wednesday morning, shocked expressions on their faces, declined to comment. Some neighbors described strange behavior by Thomas, who had just moved to the street from elsewhere in the city. Others saw no evidence of problems.

“Because, had we known something was up, I’m quite sure all the neighbors on this block would have talked to her,” said Tayari Horcey, who lives a few doors from Thomas. “But, you know, people hold stuff in. You don’t know what’s going on.”

The state’s child welfare agency said in a statement that Thomas had been receiving counseling and support services since a court-ordered reunification with her son April 3.

LOS ANGELES

Mars rover moves forward, sends back images of tracks

After two weeks taking stock of its surroundings, the Mars Curiosity rover has taken its first “baby steps” and sent back images of its first tracks, officials at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Wednesday.

The rover ended up a grand total of about 20 feet from its landing spot over the course of about 16 minutes, said lead rover driver Matt Heverly. During the test, the car-sized machine moved forward about 15 feet, turned 120 degrees in place, then backed up about 3 feet. As it rolled along the Martian surface, the rover’s boxy head turned from side to side, taking shots of its wheels in the process.

As expected, the tracks indicated that the soil is firm and didn’t cause the rover to sink much.

“We should have smooth sailing ahead of us,” Heverly said.

Curiosity is set to begin its first extended drive within the next several days. Engineers will navigate to a spot called Glenelg, about 1,300 feet east-southeast of the landing site, which sits at a point where three types of terrain meet. Glenelg could be the first site where the rover uses its drill.

PHILADELPHIA

Penn State’s ex-president denies Sandusky cover-up

Ousted Penn State president Graham Spanier and his lawyers attacked a university-backed report on the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal on Wednesday, calling it a “blundering and indefensible indictment” as they fired a pre-emptive strike while waiting to hear if he’ll be charged in the case.

Lawyer Timothy Lewis called Louis Freeh, the former FBI director and federal judge behind the report, a “biased investigator” who piled speculation on top of innuendo to accuse Spanier in a cover-up of early abuse complaints.

“The Freeh report, as it pertains to Dr. Spanier, is a myth. And that myth … ends today,” Lewis said at a downtown Philadelphia news conference.

Spanier did not attend. But he told media outlets in stories published hours later that he never understood the early complaints about Sandusky, who this year was convicted of molesting 10 boys, to be sexual.

“I’m very stunned by Freeh’s conclusion that — I don’t think he used the word ‘cover-up’; but he uses the word ‘concealed,’ ” Spanier told The New Yorker magazine. “Why on earth would anybody cover up for a known child predator? Adverse publicity? For heaven’s sake! Every day I had to make some decision that got adverse publicity.”