- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009


Rep. Melancon challenges Vitter

NEW ORLEANS | Rep. Charlie Melancon, a leading “Blue Dog” Democrat from coastal southeastern Louisiana, says he’ll challenge first-term Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter in next year’s elections.

Touting himself as a pro-life, pro-gun centrist Democrat, Mr. Melancon said in his written announcement Thursday that he is running against Mr. Vitter because Louisiana needs a more bipartisan approach in the Senate.

Mr. Melancon’s announcement had been anticipated. For weeks, Mr. Vitter has been attacking Mr. Melancon in Internet ads and e-mails to supporters, casting the Democrat from Napoleonville as a supporter of President Obama’s health care plans, even though Mr. Melancon voted against the Democrat-backed health plan in a House committee.

Mr. Melancon, the only Democratic member of Louisiana’s House delegation, is in his third two-year term in the House. He is a former state legislator and a businessman whose resume includes a stint as president and general manager of the American Sugar Cane League, which lobbies on behalf of sugar cane farmers and processors.


Cindy Sheehan now dogs Obama

OAK BLUFFS, Mass. | After spending weeks dogging George W. Bush’s presidential vacations, antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan is now trying to make life uncomfortable for President Obama.

Ms. Sheehan used to pitch a peace camp near Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, becoming a symbol of the antiwar movement after her son Casey died in action in Iraq.

On Thursday, she and a band of antiwar protesters turned up outside the media center used by journalists covering Mr. Obama’s vacation on the well-heeled East Coast resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.

“The reason I am here is because … even though the facade has changed in Washington, D.C., the policies are still the same,” Ms. Sheehan told a handful of journalists, against a backdrop of her “Camp Casey” banner.

She told peace activists to wake up and protest Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and complained that despite the president’s antiwar stance, U.S. troops remained in Iraq.


Bernanke account struck by ID theft

No one is safe from identity theft, not even the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ben S. Bernanke’s personal checking account became entangled in an elaborate identity-theft scheme after his wife Anna’s purse was stolen last August at a Capitol Hill Starbucks. According to a D.C. police report, it contained her Social Security card, checkbook, credit cards and IDs.

It’s not been revealed how much money was stolen from the Bernankes’ account. But someone started cashing checks on their bank account just days after the purse was stolen from Mrs. Bernanke’s chair. The thefts helped fuel an ongoing investigation into a sophisticated ring.

Losses from the fraud totaled more than $2.1 million and involved at least 10 financial institutions, court documents said. Clyde Austin Gray Jr. of Waldorf, Md., a suspected ringleader in the scheme, pleaded guilty on July 22 in Alexandria federal court.

The banks bore primary responsibility for the losses and the victims’ accounts, including the Bernankes’, were most likely made whole.

“Identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year,” Mr. Bernanke said in a statement. “Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring. I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who patiently and diligently work to solve and prevent these financial crimes.”

Prosecutors wrote that Gray hired pickpockets then made counterfeit IDs for the participants. The co-conspirators conducted the bank transactions, and Gray took a cut of the proceeds.

At least one check from the Bernankes’ account for $900 was deposited Aug. 13, 2008, into the account of another identity theft victim at a Bank of America branch in suburban Maryland, according to an affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court. Authorities said George L. Reid, 41, of Washington, cashed checks that day amounting to at least $9,000 in a string of transactions after the fake deposits inflated the related account balances.


Milwaukee mayor eyes governorship

MILWAUKEE | Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who has been hailed as a hero since he was beaten while coming to the aid of a grandmother calling for help, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he isn’t ruling out a run for governor.

But Mr. Barrett said he doesn’t expect to make a decision for at least a month and is focusing on his health and his mayoral duties.

“I’m flattered that people have mentioned my name in conjunction with that, but I’ve got to heal myself before I even start thinking about that,” he said.

Gov. James E. Doyle, a Democrat, announced last week he would not seek another term, clearing the way for others to seek the party’s nomination in 2010.

Mr. Barrett, 55, was attacked by a man with a metal pipe nearly two weeks ago while coming to the aid of a woman who was screaming for help in a domestic dispute. Police said the woman was protecting her 1-year-old granddaughter from the baby’s father, who was drunk and behaving belligerently.

The beating left Mr. Barrett with serious injuries to his head and hand, and the mayor said the knuckle of his right middle finger was damaged so severely he’s concerned about regaining its full use.


Groups decry federal program

LOS ANGELES | Immigrant and civil rights advocates are asking the Obama administration to put an end to a federal program that allows local police and sheriff’s departments to enforce the country’s immigration laws.

More than 500 organizations signed a letter urging President Obama to end the program, which they claim has exacerbated racial profiling.

The program has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office and led to a Justice Department investigation of the Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff’s office.

The government last month announced plans to revamp the program.

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