In brief | Nation & World, 07-28-14


Lawmakers reach tentative deal on plan to improve health care for veterans

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., scheduled a news conference Monday to talk about a compromise plan to improve veterans’ care.

Miller chairs the House veterans panel, while Sanders chairs the Senate panel.

A spokesman for Sanders said Sunday the men have reached a tentative agreement. The deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators, and votes in the full House and Senate.

Miller and Sanders said in a joint statement that they “made significant progress” over the weekend toward agreement on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, which has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting VA treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May.

California wildfire destroys 10 homes; fire outside Yosemite park worsens

PLYMOUTH, Calif. — Firefighters in Northern California on Sunday battled a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in the Sierra Nevada foothills, while a fire near Yosemite National Park destroyed one home and grew significantly overnight.

East of Sacramento, the Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills has burned about 3,800 acres, roughly 6 square miles, of steep, rugged terrain near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties since Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire, which has also destroyed seven outbuildings, was 35 percent contained Sunday afternoon, but it threatens hundreds of homes in the drought-stricken region, according to CalFire.

“All of the vegetation in the area is struggling. It’s burning very easily,” spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said. “It causes the fire to be a lot hotter and to spread more easily.”

The Sand Fire has prompted authorities to evacuate about 500 homes and close several roads near the town of Plymouth. Nearly 1,500 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, are working to control the blaze.

Trial in salmonella-tainted peanuts case that killed nine to start in Georgia

ATLANTA — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georgia.

A federal indictment unsealed in February 2013 brought charges against the head of Peanut Corporation of America and several others stemming from the outbreak tied to peanuts processed by the company. It was an unusual move by the federal government, which rarely prosecutes companies in food poisoning cases.

Federal investigators found filthy conditions at the company’s Georgia plant and said the employees even fabricated certificates saying peanut product shipments were safe when tests said otherwise.

Company owner Stewart Parnell invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before a congressional committee in February 2009. Emails obtained by congressional investigators showed that he once directed employees to “turn them loose” after samples of peanuts tested positive for salmonella and then were cleared in another test.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 714 people in 46 states were infected between September 2008 and March 2009. There were three deaths in Minnesota, two in Ohio, two in Virginia, one in Idaho and one in North Carolina.

Family of five found shot to death in Maine; police say no public danger

SACO, Maine — A family of five, including three children ranging in age from 4 to 12 years old, were found shot to death Sunday inside a southern Maine apartment, authorities said.

Investigators said a gun was found near one of the bodies and it appeared someone in the family was responsible for the shootings. A state police spokesman said causes of death would be determined by the state medical examiner. Authorities did not release the names of the family but said the parents were in their 30 and the children were ages 4, 7 and 12.

By wire sources