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The one-year appointment as poet laureate is meant to raise national appreciation of poetry. It comes with a $35,000 stipend and a $5,000 travel allowance.

Most of the work will be conducted from Mr. Merwin’s home in Hawaii.


Republicans object to adding to deficit

The House approved Thursday an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed amid signs of a continued weak U.S. jobs market, but its fate appears uncertain in the Senate.

The House voted 270-153 to restore benefits for more than 1 million people whose payments ran out in early June. The measure would extend the federal long-term jobless-aid program through November and retroactively restore benefits to eligible people.

But the Senate has rejected several attempts to extend jobless benefits amid worries about record budget deficits, and it is not scheduled to address the issue again until mid-July.

“For every job available, there are five unemployed workers,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin. “This issue is fundamentally an emergency for our country and our economy.”

Republican opponents argued that the $34 billion cost should be offset by taking unspent money from last year’s economic-stimulus program.


Secretary: Medical mistakes ‘unacceptable’

ST. LOUIS | The Veterans Administration said Thursday that the chief of dental services at a St. Louis VA Medical Center has been placed on administrative leave after the hospital urged nearly 2,000 veterans to return for blood tests because inadequately sterilized equipment may have exposed them to viral infections during dental procedures.

An independent board will also investigate how employees failed to properly sterilize the dental equipment that potentially exposed veterans to infections, including hepatitis and HIV, the administration said.

“The mistakes made at the St. Louis VA Medical Center are unacceptable, and steps have been and continue to be taken to correct this situation and assure the safety of our veterans,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.

The VA sent letters out Monday to 1,812 veterans who had dental procedures at the St. Louis center from Feb. 1, 2009, through March 11 of this year, saying reviews determined that some sterilization steps in preparing dental instruments were not in compliance with standards.

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