Associated Press News Briefs for June 13, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

With doctor shortage, how long new patients wait for a first appointment varies around country

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not just veterans who sometimes have to wait for health care. Depending on where you live and what kind of care you want, in parts of the country it's not always easy for new patients to get a quick appointment.

Need routine primary care? The average wait to see a family physician for the first time ranged from 66 days in Boston to just five days in Dallas, according to a survey in 15 large cities by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins.

And doctors are bracing for new demand from millions of people newly insured through the federal health care law.

"To say it's an easy solution to the VA problem — we'll just have them get care in the community — overestimates the capacity the community has to absorb these folks," said Dr. Yul Ejnes of the American College of Physicians.

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Americans evacuated from Iraqi base; Obama promises more aid to help Iraqis against insurgents

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Less than three years after pulling American forces out of Iraq, President Barack Obama is weighing a range of short-term military options, including airstrikes, to quell an al-Qaida inspired insurgency that has captured two Iraqi cities and threatened to press toward Baghdad.

"We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold," Obama said Thursday in the Oval Office.

However, officials firmly ruled out putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, which has faced resurgent violence since the U.S. military withdrew in late 2011. A sharp burst of violence this week led to the evacuation Thursday of Americans from a major air base in northern Iraq where the U.S. had been training security forces.

Obama, in his first comments on the deteriorating situation, said it was clear Iraq needed additional assistance from the U.S. and international community given the lightning gains by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Republican lawmakers pinned some of the blame for the escalating violence on Obama's reluctance to re-engage in a conflict he long opposed.

For more than a year, the Iraqi government has been pleading with the U.S. for additional help to combat the insurgency, which has been fueled by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are spreading the Syrian war's violence.

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Bergdahl arrives at Texas Army medical center to continue recuperation from years in captivity

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who has been recovering in Germany after five years as a Taliban captive, returned to the United States early Friday to continue his medical treatment.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Bergdahl flew to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio from Ramstein Air Base.

While at the Texas Army base, Bergdahl "will continue the next phase of his reintegration process," Kirby said, adding there was no timeline for the process.

"Our focus remains on his health and well-being," he said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "is confident that the Army will continue to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration," the spokesman said in a statement.

The Idaho native was expected to be reunited with his family in San Antonio. He was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 and released by the Taliban on May 31 in a deal struck by the Obama administration in which five senior Taliban officials were released from detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Sunni militants on the march in Iraq capture 2 more towns in push in northeastern province

 

BAGHDAD (AP) — Al-Qaida-inspired militants who seized large swaths of Iraq's Sunni heartland this week have pushed into an ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad, capturing two towns there, officials said Friday.

The fresh gains by the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant come as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government struggles to form a coherent response after the Sunni militants blitzed and captured the country's second-largest city of Mosul as well as other, smaller communities and military and police bases — often after meeting little resistance from state security forces.

The new reality is the biggest threat to Iraq's stability since the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.

Police officials said militants driving in machinegun-mounted pickups entered two towns in Diyala province late Thursday — Jalula, 125 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and Sadiyah, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi soldiers abandoned their posts there without any resistance, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. The officials also said that Kurdish forces from northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region entered Jalula to secure offices of Kurdish parties in the town but no clashes were reported between the two groups.

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Japanese eels put on endangered species 'red list' as Japan mulls ways to reverse decline

 

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese eel, a popular summertime delicacy that has become prohibitively expensive due to overfishing, has been put on the international conservation "red list" in a move that may speed up Japan's push for industrial farming of the species.

Japan's agriculture minister urged that efforts to boost the eel population be stepped up after the International Union for Conservation of Nature this week designated the Japanese eel as "endangered," or facing a very high risk of extinction.

Other species of eel are also facing various levels of threat due to habitat damage and overfishing.

The decision by the IUCN to put the Japanese eel on its red list could lead to global restrictions. Inclusion on the list can be the basis for trade restrictions under an international treaty on trade in endangered animals and plants.

"We must speed up efforts to build large-scale production systems," Yoshimasa Hayashi, the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told reporters after the IUCN's decision was announced.

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AP review shows that Spain props up soccer teams amid crushing austerity

 

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — At the height of Spain's crushing economic crisis, the Villareal soccer club sported an eye-catching logo across its jerseys: Aeroport Castello. The local government paid the club 20 million euros ($27 million) to promote what was to become Spain's most notorious "ghost airport" — one that hasn't seen a single flight since it opened in 2011.

The deal illustrates one of the peculiarities of Spain's meltdown: As austerity measures sap the life from health, education and welfare programs, Spain's soccer teams have been receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in government aid. The government says soccer subsidies are simply part of a policy of supporting sports around the country.

An Associated Press review of official documents shows that Spain's highly autonomous regions are helping to keep some soccer teams alive through massive direct cash injections. The financing has some politicians and ordinary Spaniards questioning the support.

The 20 clubs in Spain's top soccer league received at least 332 million euros in direct public aid between 2008 — the beginning of Spain's financial meltdown — and 2012, according to the AP review. The funds were allocated through public agencies and companies run by the country's 17 regional governments. In the same time period, the clubs have also benefited from an additional 476 million euros in indirect aid, such as allowing clubs to run up tax and social security debts.

That makes the total 810 million euros in the years reviewed — $1.1 billion.

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From slums to space, world tunes in to World Cup

 

From the stadium in Sao Paulo to sofas in Germany, from a pub in Nairobi to a cafe in Miami, from a Rio slum to outer space, nearly half the world's population was expected to tune in to the World Cup, soccer's premier event which kicked off Thursday in Brazil.

Even football-loving Pope Francis got a touch of World Cup fever. He sent a video message on Brazilian television before the match, saying the world's most popular sport can promote peace and solidarity.

The inaugural game had everything aficionados love — passion, drama, spectacle, goals and a refereeing controversy. Here are just a few of the billions of spectators who got caught up in it all.

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Person familiar with legal strategy: Donald Sterling hires 4 private investigators

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's team of lawyers has hired four private investigation firms to dig up dirt on the NBA's former and current commissioners and its 29 other owners, said a person familiar with Sterling's legal strategy.

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league's finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn't authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

"The gloves are off, as they say," the person said. "Have them dig up all the dirt they can find."

The 80-year-old Sterling is suing the NBA for $1 billion in federal court after the league tried to oust him as Clippers owner for making racist remarks to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. Silver fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.

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Spurs beat Heat 107-86 in Game 4 of NBA Finals to take 3-1 lead

 

MIAMI (AP) — Here they are again, back on the brink of a championship.

It slipped away from the San Antonio Spurs last year, but it would take something special — historic, actually — to stop them now.

The Miami Heat would have to make the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history.

"They're the two-time champs, they're a great team, and there is still one more game," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "We have to win one more game."

Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and the Spurs routed the Heat again, winning 107-86 on Thursday night to open a commanding 3-1 lead.

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Eric Hill, children's book author known for Spot the Dog series, is dead at 86

 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Eric Hill, whose effort to entertain his young son with a simple drawing of a mischievous dog named Spot blossomed into a popular series of children's books that have sold more than 60 million copies, has died at his home in central California. He was 86.

Hill died Friday at his home in Templeton after a short illness, said Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children's Group.

His first book, "Where's Spot?" — with its clean design, whimsical characters, and bold, bright colors — was an instant success with preschool children when it hit store shelves in 1980. It told the gentle tale of Spot's mother, Sally, as she goes on a search for him around the house — but finds a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.

But before his first triumph, Hill faced a number of rejections because so many publishers were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — an innovation that was considered unusual at the time. In one case, for instance, a child could lift a flap in the shape of a door to reveal a grizzly bear gobbling up honey in the hallway.

"Familiar as we are today with a children's book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s," Minchin said in a statement. "At that time, Eric's idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot."

 

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