National briefs: VA hopeful drops out

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WASHINGTON -- The CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who was approached by the White House about heading the Department of Veterans Affairs, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Delos "Toby" Cosgrove said in a statement Saturday that he was "humbled and honored" to have been asked about the post but has decided to stay at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Cosgrove, a heart surgeon, served as a surgeon in the Air Force in Da Nang, Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal.

Middle ground on gays

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of United Methodist pastors have signed a proposal aimed at avoiding a schism over homosexuality in a denomination that has, until recently, largely sat out the gay equality movement.

The proposal, "A Way Forward," offers churches and regional bodies the option to make up their own minds on such issues as affirming gay clergy and same-sex marriage. United Methodist doctrine says "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

Maya Angelou memorial

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Eighty-six years of creativity, audacity and perseverance were acknowledged in 21/2 hours of joy Saturday morning, as 2,000 people came to Wake Forest University to celebrate the life of Maya Angelou.

First lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and members of Angelou's literal and extended family -- by blood, by scholarship, by the influence she left on them -- flocked to hear speakers share anecdotes and singers raise the rafters of Wait Chapel. The poet/autobiographer was on the Wake Forest faculty for 32 years until her death May 28.

Retail coffee prices rising

NEW YORK -- Kraft Foods Group Inc said Saturday it raised U.S. retail prices for its well-known Maxwell House and Yuban roast and ground coffee brands by an average of 10 percent due to rising green bean costs, effective June 6.

The move follows J.M. Smucker Co's price increase of around 9 percent to Folgers and Dunkin' Donut roast and ground retail brands earlier last week.

Beetles drain budgets

DENVER, Colo. -- Beetles are obliterating forests throughout Colorado and the West, draining budgets as property values decline and threatening tourism at national parks, including the home of Mount Rushmore.

Voters in Colorado communities raised taxes to protect ski resorts that bring in $3 billion annually to the economy. The pine beetles, each the size of a rice grain, have devoured 25 percent of the woods in South Dakota's Black Hills, where the mountain with massive carvings of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt is the linchpin of a $2 billion-a-year tourism industry.

Chemical use addressed

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration stopped short of forcing chemical plants to use safer compounds in a review prompted by the 2013 fatal blast at an fertilizer depot in Texas, leaving safety advocates hoping for tighter rules in the future.

Federal agencies announced several steps Friday, including a drive for stiffer penalties and procedures for handling volatile substances, to improve oversight of fertilizer plants, refineries and chemical manufacturers. President Barack Obama ordered the review after 15 people were killed in the blast in West, Texas.


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