National news briefs: 5/19/14

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Obama angry at falsified data

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is "madder than hell" about reports that some medical facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs have falsified data to hide substantial delays for veterans to see doctors, and he has demanded that the department's leaders "fix these things," the White House chief of staff said in an interview aired Sunday.

"The president is madder than hell, and I've got the scars to prove it, given the briefings that I've given the president" on the subject, the chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation."

He said that the White House had "deployed additional staff over to the Veterans administration to dig into this, to find out if this is a series of isolated cases or whether this is a systemic issue that we need to address with wholesale reform."

Gas falls to $3.69 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. -- The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps fell 3.49 cents in the past two weeks to $3.6876 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the period ended May 16. It's based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company.

The average retail price is 3.10 cents higher than a year ago, Lundberg said. Gasoline has risen 34.17 cents since Jan. 10.

Facebook cashes out stock

NEW YORK -- Facebook's insiders and executives have cashed out of a bounty of stock since the company's initial public offering. Their reward: $7.2 billion.

On the eve of the social network's second anniversary as a public company, an analysis by Bloomberg News shows that the company's top holders have executed transactions totaling at least 186 million shares over that period, reaping them $7.2 billion. Eleven holders have each sold more than $100 million of stock, including Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook underwriter Goldman Sachs and early investor and director Peter Thiel.

Middle Eastern virus spreads

WASHINGTON -- An American who had contact with an Indiana health-care worker infected with a potentially lethal Middle Eastern virus was found to have the disease, though he had no symptoms and didn't require medical care.

The latest case, located in Illinois, is the third confirmed on U.S. soil, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

The original U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, involved a person who returned April 24 from Saudi Arabia.

Cargo ship returns to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The commercial cargo ship Dragon returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing back nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment for NASA.

SpaceX's Dragon splashed into the Pacific, just five hours after leaving the orbiting lab.

Drug can slow lung disease

SAN DIEGO -- For the first time, researchers have found drugs that can slow the decline of people with a fatal lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Studies of two experimental drugs were published in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented Sunday in San Diego at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society. The drugs did not make patients better, but slowed the rate at which lung function got worse.

The odds of death increase as lung function decreases, so researchers hope that by stabilizing it, the drugs will prolong survival.

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