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In brief: Obama angered over VA service shortages

Los Angeles – With pressure mounting over the Veterans Affairs scandal, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that President Barack Obama was “madder than hell” over allegations of inadequate medical care for veterans.

Although McDonough voiced confidence in embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s ability to resolve the matter, he stopped short of offering a full vote of confidence. Shinseki faces numerous calls to step down after complaints about long waiting times for treatment at VA medical facilities in several cities and attempts by VA employees to cover up the delays.

“Gen. Shinseki continues to work this every single day,” McDonough said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And he will continue to work these issues until they’re fixed.”

Asked if Shinseki had the “full confidence” of the president, McDonough avoided the question, saying only that Obama expected Shinseki to continue working to address the problems.

“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it,” he said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of those things, fix them and ensure that they don’t happen again.”

McDonough said the White House has deployed additional staff at the VA to examine whether the problems are a “series of isolated cases or whether this is a systemic issue that we need to address with wholesale reform.”

Pfizer raises offer for rival AstraZeneca

NEW YORK – U.S. drugmaker Pfizer said Sunday that it has raised its offer for British rival AstraZeneca for a third time, hiking its stock-and-cash offer by 15 percent to $118.8 billion, or 70.73 billion pounds.

If the deal disclosed Sunday is accepted – and it’s no sure thing, given opposition to date from AstraZeneca and the British government – it would be the richest acquisition ever among drugmakers and the third-biggest deal in any industry, according to figures from research firm Dealogic. It would be Pfizer’s fourth deal worth $60 billion or more since 2000.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s second-biggest drugmaker by revenue, has been courting No. 8 AstraZeneca PLC since January, saying their businesses are complementary and would be stronger together.

Pfizer’s offer comes amid a surge of other deals as drugmakers look to either grow or eliminate noncore assets to focus on their strengths. Those deals include Switzerland’s Novartis AG agreeing to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s cancer-drug business for up to $16 billion, to sell most of its vaccines business to GSK for $7.1 billion, plus royalties, and to sell its animal health division to Eli Lilly and Co. of Indianapolis for about $5.4 billion. Canada’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals has made an unsolicited offer of nearly $46 billion for Botox maker Allergan, which has turned it down, so far.

Blogger accused of exploiting woman

A magistrate in Mississippi has scheduled a preliminary hearing Thursday for a conservative Mississippi blogger who is accused of photographing the bedridden wife of Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran without permission.

City Magistrate Dale Danks kept bond at $100,000 for Clayton Kelly, 28, at a hearing Sunday, Assistant Police Chief Robert Sanders said. Police were also looking into the possibility that other people were involved.

“That is certainly one of the focal points of the investigation,” Sanders said in an email.

Kelly was arrested Friday on a charge of exploiting a vulnerable adult. He’s accused of using an image of Cochran’s wife, who suffers from dementia and has been in a nursing home since 2000, in an online video.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging the six-term senator in a GOP primary in June, said he does not have any ties to Kelly.

Kelly voluntarily took down the video about 90 minutes after uploading it last month and is cooperating with investigators, said his attorney, Kevin Camp.

Cochran attorney Don Clark said Saturday the photo of Rose Cochran was taken near her bedside. Kelly’s attorney said it was taken through an open door during visiting hours.

Judge rules couple not liable for bad review

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge has ruled against an online retailer that tried to force a Utah couple to pay $3,500 over a critical online review.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson entered a default judgment on April 30 in favor of John and Jen Palmer of Layton after failed to respond to the couple’s lawsuit.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports he ruled the Palmers owe nothing to, but the company owes them an amount of money to be determined at a court hearing in June.

The couple say John Palmer never received two gifts he ordered for his wife, and Jen Palmer then posted a critical review about the company’s customer service on

Michigan-based told the Palmers they had 72 hours to remove the negative review or pay $3,500 because they violated a “non-disparagement clause” in its terms of use with customers.


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