The nation in brief

Trump OKs funds for vets' medical care

BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- President Donald Trump has signed an emergency spending bill that will pump more than $2 billion into a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense.

Trump, who made improving veterans care a central campaign promise, signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act on Saturday while at his New Jersey golf club. The bill, which addresses a budget shortfall at the Department of Veteran Affairs that threatened medical care for thousands of veterans, provides $2.1 billion to continue funding the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek private care.

Another $1.8 billion will go to core VA health programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

"Today is another milestone in our work to transform the VA where we're doing record-setting business," Trump said.

The Choice program was put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal that was discovered at the Phoenix VA hospital and spread throughout the country. Veterans waited weeks or months for appointments while phony records covered up the lengthy waits.

The program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait at least 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, the Choice program would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care for thousands of veterans.

Immunity slows Zika's spread in Florida

MIAMI -- The waning of Zika outbreaks in the Caribbean and South America has helped slow the spread of the mosquito-borne virus in Florida this year, according to health officials.

Herd immunity, when enough people in an area are infected with a virus and develop resistance to it, likely has contributed to Zika's decline outside the continental United States, Dr. Henry Walke, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's incident manager for Zika response, was quoted as saying in the Miami Herald.

"People that were infected before can't be infected again. That's our understanding," Walke said. "So you don't have as much of the virus circulating. That's true not only in Puerto Rico but throughout the Caribbean and throughout South America."

However, experts warn that herd immunity elsewhere won't stop the virus from re-emerging in the U.S. That has happened in Florida with other mosquito-borne viruses in recent years.

By the end of 2016, state health officials had confirmed 1,456 Zika infections in Florida, including 285 cases spread by mosquitoes in Miami and Miami Beach. The infections caused the CDC to issue an unprecedented domestic travel advisory warning pregnant women to avoid Miami-Dade County because the virus can cause severe birth defects.

There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, which can also spread through sexual contact.

Illinois eatery sells $393M lottery ticket

PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The Illinois Lottery said a suburban Chicago barbecue restaurant sold the winning ticket for a $393 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot.

The Illinois Lottery said Saturday that someone bought the ticket at Nick's Barbecue in Palos Heights.

The $393 million jackpot from Friday's drawing is the largest in Illinois history. It's the fifth largest in Mega Millions history. The estimated cash value is $256 million plus a $500,000 selling bonus for the retailer.

Lottery officials urged the winner to "immediately sign the back of the ticket and keep it in a safe place" until the winner takes it to one of the state's five prize centers. Winners have one year from the date of the drawing to claim their winnings.

The jackpot started April 28 and rolled over 30 times.

Vandals target black church in Texas

WACO, Texas -- Authorities were investigating vandalism at a predominantly black church in Texas that included the use of ketchup and mustard to write "Satan" and "Trump" on its fellowship hall floor, in addition to the drawing of a swastika.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports that Willow Grove Baptist Church near Waco sustained $3,000 in damage. Pastor Kenneth McNeil called authorities after finding the damage Tuesday, which included bleach strewn over a choir room and hallway, removal of a door's deadbolt, ransacking of an office and a broken window. Nothing was stolen.

The church, which has about 30 members, was founded in 1871 by former slaves.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said detectives have no information about who is responsible or possible motivation.

A Section on 08/13/2017

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