- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

He’s gone: Shinseki resigns under pressure - a ‘distraction’ in fixing VA system’s failings

WASHINGTON (AP) - Beset by growing evidence of patient delays and cover-ups, embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet Friday, taking the blame for what he decried as a “lack of integrity” in the sprawling health care system for the nation’s military veterans.

Obama, under mounting pressure to act from fellow Democrats who are worried about political fallout in the fall elections, praised the retired four-star general and said he accepted his resignation with “considerable regret.” But the president, too, focused on increasingly troubling allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals around the country.

Emerging from an Oval Office meeting with Shinseki, a stone-faced Obama said the secretary himself acknowledged he had become a distraction as the administration moves to address the VA’s troubles, and the president agreed with him.

“We don’t have time for distractions,” Obama said. “We need to fix the problem.”

One of Shinseki’s last acts as secretary was to hand the president an internal accounting that underscored just how big the problems have become. It showed that in some cases, VA schedulers have been pressured to fake information for reports to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.

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Deputy secretary on job at VA since February will run department on temporary basis

WASHINGTON (AP) - After less than four months at the Veterans Affairs Department, Sloan D. Gibson suddenly finds himself in charge of fixing the problems that led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“Sloan, I think, would be the first to acknowledge that he’s going to have a learning curve that he’s got to deal with,” President Barack Obama told reporters Friday after announcing that Gibson would replace Shinseki temporarily.

A career banker, Gibson was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 11 as deputy VA secretary, just weeks before allegations of long waits for doctor’s appointments at VA hospitals nationwide led to mounting bipartisan calls by lawmakers and others for Shinseki to resign.

Gibson, 61, came to the department after serving as president and chief executive officer of the USO, the nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and entertainment to U.S. troops and their families. During his five years at the USO, net fundraising grew by 90 percent and paid for an expansion of programs, according to Gibson’s bio on the VA website.

“I’m grateful that he is willing to take on this task,” Obama said, noting Gibson’s two decades of experience in the private and nonprofit sectors. “He, too, has devoted his life to serving our country and our veterans.”

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US officials say suicide bomber in Syria was an American citizen, a first in civil war

WASHINGTON (AP) - An American from Florida launched a suicide bombing against Syrian government troops earlier this week in what is believed to be the first time a U.S. citizen has been involved in such attacks since the start of the Syrian civil war, U.S. officials said Friday.

The man’s name is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that provided no other details about him. Abu-Salha was thought to be the first U.S. citizen to be involved in a suicide bombing in Syria’s three-year civil war, she said earlier.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told reporters in Miami that the American suicide bomber was from Florida.

At least 160,000 have died in the fighting between government forces and opposition forces seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Opposition forces had identified the man who carried out a May 25 truck bombing outside a restaurant in the government-held northwestern city of Idlib as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki and said he was a U.S. citizen. The name al-Amriki means “the American.”

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NBA owners to vote on sale of Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The NBA has called off a hearing to oust embattled Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling in advance of a vote on a potentially record-breaking deal negotiated by his wife Shelly Sterling to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

The announcement by the NBA came as Donald Sterling’s attorneys filed suit in a Los Angeles federal court against the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver asking for damages in excess of $1 billion.

The suit alleges that the league violated Sterling’s constitutional rights by relying on information from an “illegal” recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also says the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million for those remarks and that it violated antitrust laws by forcing a sale.

Shelly Sterling, who is a co-owner, negotiated the deal to sell to Ballmer late Thursday despite objections expressed through her estranged husband Donald Sterling’s attorneys.

She was able to do so, however, because Donald Sterling was stripped of his ability to act as a co-trustee of the family’s fortunes, including the Clippers, after two neurologists determined he was suffering from dementia earlier this month, according to a person close to the Sterling family.

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Fast negotiation, frantic buyers and big TV dollars may have fueled $2B Clippers bid

A high-profile NBA franchise in a major media market was suddenly available. A handful of power brokers from the technology, entertainment and venture capital fields were lining up for a chance to join the party.

And all the while the clock was ticking on the bidding, with the league waiting and threatening to impose its will on the process if Donald and Shelly Sterling didn’t unload the Los Angeles Clippers.

The result? A $2 billion record bid from former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer that sent sticker shock through the worlds of sport and finance.

The offer, which comes after recorded racist comments made by owner Donald Sterling prompted the NBA to force a sale of the Clippers, is among the highest amounts ever paid for a pro sports team. It roughly ties the $2 billion paid for baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and exceeds the $1.47 billion paid for soccer’s Manchester United in 2005.

A perfect storm may have inflated the price.

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2 police officers fired; Indian state official mocks reporters for asking about gang-rape case

LUCKNOW, India (AP) - Facing relentless media attention and growing criticism for a series of rapes, state officials in north India have fired two police officers for failing to investigate the disappearance of two teenage cousins, who were gang-raped and later found hanging from a tree.

But in a country with a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, the firings Friday also came as the state’s top official mocked journalists for asking about the attack.

“Aren’t you safe? You’re not facing any danger, are you?” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said in Lucknow, the state capital. “Then why are you worried? What’s it to you?”

The gang rape, with video of the girls’ corpses hanging from a mango tree and swaying gently in a breeze, was the top story Friday on India’s relentless 24-hour news stations. But in just the past few days, Uttar Pradesh has also seen the mother of a rape victim brutally attacked and a 17-year-old girl gang-raped by four men.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, with nearly 200 million people.

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Police knew of murderer’s disturbing videos but didn’t watch them during welfare check

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Law enforcement officers who visited Elliot Rodger three weeks before he went on a deadly rampage in a California college town knew he had posted disturbing videos but didn’t check them out because, when they visited him at his apartment, he seemed to be OK.

And even if they had watched them, experts say it’s unlikely they’d be able to do anything.

“There are a lot of videos that might seem disturbing or offensive depending on who views them,” says Tom Mahoney, who co-chairs the Justice Studies department at Santa Barbara City College.

Only in hindsight is it clear that Rodgers, 22, was an extremely dangerous young man who would go on to kill six students, himself, and injure 13 more last Friday night.

Rodgers had posted at least 22 videos prior to the attack, but none were overtly suicidal or violent until his final “retribution” video the night of the attack. Many featured him driving in silence with 80s pop music - Whitney Houston, Steve Perry, George Michael and others - playing in the background, while in others he talked straight into the camera about his loneliness and despair.

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Report: Clinton challenges GOP critics on Benghazi, won’t be part of ‘political slugfest’

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton dismisses her critics and defends her handling of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in her new book, offering fellow Democrats a guide for how to talk about the fraught issue through the 2016 presidential race.

The former secretary of state’s “Hard Choices” is a rebuke to Republicans who have seized upon the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Should Clinton run for president in 2016, her four years as secretary of state and the Benghazi attack in particular are certain to be the subject of driving criticism from Republicans. She’s already trying to blunt the issue.

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling congressional investigators and misleading the public about the nature of the attack in the weeks before the presidential election. Republicans used the attack to try to undermine President Barack Obama’s re-election and, now, to tarnish the still-uncertain Clinton bid to replace him in early 2017.

“Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,” Clinton writes in a 34-page chapter, obtained by Politico.

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A win for young breast cancer patients: Drug helps preserve fertility after chemo, study finds

CHICAGO (AP) - Doctors may have found a way to help young breast cancer patients avoid infertility caused by chemotherapy. Giving a drug to shut down the ovaries temporarily seems to boost the odds they will work after treatment ends, and it might even improve survival, a study found.

“They’re really exciting findings” that could help thousands of women each year in the United States alone, said the study’s leader, Dr. Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic.

“This has implications far beyond breast cancer,” for young women with other types of tumors, too, added Dr. Clifford Hudis, breast cancer chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

He is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which featured the study at its annual conference in Chicago on Friday. More than 30,000 cancer specialists from around the world are attending.

Chemotherapy often causes premature ovarian failure, or early menopause. Doctors think that active ovaries are more susceptible to chemo damage, and that making them go dormant and stopping a woman’s monthly cycles might help shield them from harm.

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Julia Collins wins 20th game on “Jeopardy!’ to take the No. 2 spot behind Ken Jennings

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Julia Collins can count another “Jeopardy!” victory and another milestone.

The TV game show said Collins won her 20th game Friday, putting her alone in second place for most consecutive non-tournament victories.

When she scored her 19th win on Thursday, she was in a second-place tie with season 22 contestant David Madden.

The top “Jeopardy!” player is Ken Jennings, who won 74 straight games in season 21 for a total of $2.5 million in prize money.

The 31-year-old Collins already has set a record as the winningest female “Jeopardy!” contestant ever, both in money and number of games.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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