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House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida. (Getty Images)

Lawmakers Reach Deal Intended To Fix VA System In Crisis

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 28, 2014

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Eyder Peralta

Lawmakers in Washington have reached a deal to overhaul the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, multiple news organizations are reporting.

The Washington Post reports the deal struck by the chiefs of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees would "provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals." The New York Times reports the deal calls for new facilities, upgrading the scheduling system and allowing "veterans who live far from a V.A. facility or who face wait times that exceed a certain duration to see private doctors, and have those visits paid for by the government."

As we've been reporting, the VA has been engulfed in controversy over allegations that the agency falsified documents and allowed sick veterans to languish in its bureaucracy.

Quoting an unnamed aid, Politico reports that the deal struck by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, will touch "both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA."

NPR's Ron Elving tells Morning Edition that this may only be "an agreement to agree." There are still many unanswered questions; the big one is how Congress would pay for a bill like this.

Politico explains:

"Negotiations hit a snag last week over disagreements with how to offset portions of the bill, which will likely cost between $10 billion and $25 billion, and also how to handle a last-minute request from acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson for $17.6 billion to hire more doctors and make improvements to VA centers.

"While Sanders and Senate Democrats prefer the bill's costs to be treated as emergency spending, there is a strong push from Republicans to raise revenue or make other cuts to offset the bill's costs as much as possible.

"Even before the deal was struck, lawmakers like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) were pressing to make sure there was a clear portrait of the bill's final price tag before it gets a vote in either chamber. The Senate's original bill flew through the chamber before the Congressional Budget Office could give a precise estimate of the bill's fiscal impacts. The CBO's preliminary numbers contained the eye-popping estimate that veterans seeking additional care could cost the government an additional $50 billion a year, a number that was disputed by some senators."

The lawmakers are expected to present their proposal this afternoon.

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Fans dressed as storm troopers from Star Wars attend this year's Comic-Con event in San Diego. (Getty Images)

Book News: The Clash Of The Comic(-)Cons

by Annalisa Quinn
Jul 28, 2014

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The nation's biggest comic book convention has issued a cease-and-desist letter to the nation's third-biggest comic book convention over the use of the name "Comic Con," The Associated Press reports. A lawyer for San Diego's Comic-Con wrote to the Salt Lake City Comic Con (whose name doesn't have a hyphen): "Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of 'Comic Con' in connection with your convention will incorrectly assume that your convention is in some way affiliated with [ours]." In a statement quoted by the AP, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr said, "We're puzzled why Salt Lake Comic Con was apparently singled out amongst the hundreds of Comic Cons around the country and the world." And the story notes that Salt Lake event co-founder Bryan Brandenburg says San Diego Comic-Con tried and failed to trademark "Comic Con" in 1995. [On a related note, check out this report on cosplay from NPR's Petra Mayer from San Diego's Comic-Con.]
  • "One Saturday night, Tsukuru and Haida were up talking late as usual when they turned to the subject of death." — Slate has an excerpt of Haruki Murakami's upcoming book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
  • Alice Bolin writes about Joan Didion, Los Angeles and sensationalism in an essay in The Believer: "It seems that murder stories inspire Didion with a special dread: attempting to lay thematic order over dumb chaos and cruelty starkly and distastefully reveals the cheapness of narrative."

Notable Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Yelena Akhtiorskaya's messy, charming debut novel Panic in a Suitcase follows a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant family in their journey from the cramped apartments and grey beaches of Odessa all the way to the cramped apartments and grey beaches of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Nasmertovs try to leave Odessa behind but find that they "hadn't ventured bravely into a new land, they'd borrowed a tiny nook at the very rear of someone else's crumbling estate to make a tidy replication of the messy, imperfect original they'd gone through so many hurdles to escape, imprisoning themselves in their own lack of imagination."
  • Sgt. Lester Ferris is stationed on the fictional island of Mancreu, trying to keep a semblance of order while island society disintegrates around him. After meeting a comics-obsessed teenager, he decides to try to turn things around in the guise of Tigerman. For NPR, Jason Sheehan calls Tigerman the "kind of good that makes you wonder why every book isn't this smart and joyous and beautiful and heartbreaking; that makes you a little bit pissed off that you ever gave away bits of your life to reading worse books, and sad that so many trees get wasted on authors with less grace, less surety, less confidence than this man who can throw comic books, video games, post-colonial guilt, the longing ache of the childless, murder, tea drinking and mystical tigers all together in a big hat, shake it vigorously, and draw from the resultant, jumbled mess something so beautiful."
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Palestinian Saeb Afana, 12, stands on the edge of a large crater from an Israeli missile strike that destroyed several graves, as he carries flowers at a cemetery in Gaza City,on Monday. (AP)

Conflict In Gaza: Here's What You Need To Know Today

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 28, 2014

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A U.N. graphic showing fatalities in the current conflict in Gaza.

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In a resolution overnight, the United Nations Security Council called for an "immediate and unconditional" cease-fire in Gaza.

As USA Today reports, the Security Council called on both Israel and Hamas to "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond."

Despite that call, fighting continued. The AP reports that Israeli jets continued their offensive in Gaza and Hamas militants continued to launch rockets into Israel.

With that, here's what you need to know as the conflict enters its 21st day:

— The death toll has reached more than 1,000 in Gaza; 40 Israeli soldiers have been killed along with three civilians.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has this graphic, which breaks down casualties as of July 26 (the red represents Palestinian deaths):

President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement," the White House said in a readout of the conversation.

— NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Israelis are shrugging off international pressure.

She tells us:

"Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., criticized the US administration on Israeli Army Radio, saying that it treated Hamas as a legitimate organization.

"Oren says Israel doesn't need international backing. 'It has to be made unequivocally clear that it is in our interest to restore security to Israel's citizens by all possible means. And even if we have to stand alone sometimes, we are a very strong people, there is a national consensus, we can take it.'"

On Morning Edition Soraya reports that recent polls show about 80 percent of Jewish Israelis support the military operation.

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Palestinian Saeb Afana, 12, stands on the edge of a large crater from an Israeli missile strike that destroyed several graves, as he carries flowers at a cemetery in Gaza City,on Monday. (AP)

Colorado Rockies Hand Out Free Jerseys — With A Typo

Jul 28, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Palestinian Saeb Afana, 12, stands on the edge of a large crater from an Israeli missile strike that destroyed several graves, as he carries flowers at a cemetery in Gaza City,on Monday. (AP)

Calif. Gets A Lesson In Succession: 4 Governors In 4 Days

Jul 28, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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