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Week in review
Scripps Howard News Service


May 28, 2006

Personal info stolen on 26.5 million veterans

Veterans Affairs officials announced Monday that personal information about 26.5 million U.S. veterans was stolen from a VA employee's home. The missing computer disks included Social Security numbers, prompting authorities to begin a massive mailing warning veterans to carefully check for credit fraud and identity theft in the coming weeks. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson told members of Congress he's "mad as hell" that he was not informed about the two-week-old theft earlier.




Gonzales says reporters can be prosecuted for printing secrets

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went on the Sunday morning talk shows to warn that reporters who publish or broadcast government secrets may face federal prosecution. "We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected," he said. The United States does not have a British-style Official Secrets Act making the press liable for leaks, but Gonzales may be contemplating the 1917 Espionage Act, never used in press cases.

Lay and Skilling found guilty in Enron collapse

In one of the biggest corporate scandals in history, former top Enron Corp. managers Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud. The two were accused of misrepresenting the financial stability of Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company. The crash ended 5,600 jobs, cost $60 billion in lost stock value and ruined the pensions of thousands of current and former employees.

Senate passed massive immigration-reform bill

The Senate Thursday, on a 62-36 vote, approved a landmark immigration bill that would allow millions of illegal U.S. residents to earn citizenship. But among the Republican majority, the vote was 23 to 32. The measure next goes to a conference committee in hopes of resolving differences with the House version that criminalizes illegal immigration and does not permit earned citizenship. The Senate version "strengthens our security and reflects our humanity," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. But Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions complained it "will not secure our borders."

Hayden easily confirmed by Senate as CIA director

Despite questions of surveillance activities when he ran the National Security Agency, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was confirmed as director of the CIA Friday on a 78-15 vote in the Senate. Hayden promised to operate the agency independently of the Pentagon and has been known to disagree with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But he faced hard questions following disclosures that the NSA has eavesdropped on international calls and obtained telephone-call logs of millions of Americans, all without a court warrant.

Power failure strands thousands on East Coast trains

A major power outage trapped tens of thousands of rush-hour commuters Thursday morning along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington. Several trains were stopped inside tunnels, including three trapped under the Hudson River. Many passengers evacuated their hot cars and walked to nearby stations. The power failed at 8 a.m. and was partially restored at 10:30 a.m. after shutting down one of the world's busiest train corridors. Amtrak officials said they are investigating the cause of tripped circuit breakers at a major substation.

Jefferson refuses to quit key House committee

Stunning details became public this week about the FBI's bribery investigation into Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. Federal authorities said they videotaped Jefferson accepting $100,000 paid in $100 bills from an FBI informant. Agents said they recovered $90,000 when they searched his home freezer. Kentucky businessman Vernon Jackson has already admitted paying more than $400,000 in bribes to Jefferson for business deals for his Nigerian telecommunications company. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California asked Jefferson to resign his post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson, who denies wrongdoing, refused.

Hastert challenges FBI for Capitol Hill search

In a rare show of bipartisanship, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, lashed out this week against an FBI search of the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. Hastert complained the FBI's search violated constitutional protections for an independent Congress. President Bush agreed to put all materials confiscated by the FBI under seal for 45 days while the matter is reviewed. Hastert also accused the Justice Department of trying to intimidate him following an ABC television report that law-enforcement officials had said Hastert was also under investigation.

Cheney could testify in CIA leak case

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicated this week he may call Vice President Dick Cheney to testify about his "state of mind" when he gave instructions to his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who has been indicted for perjury. Shortly before journalists were told the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, Libby testified that Cheney told him, "Let's get everything out." Cheney was angered when Plame's husband published an article disputing White House claims of Iraq's nuclear-weapons capabilities.

Pope visits Poland

In Warsaw, Poland, Pope Benedict XVI attracted 270,000 people who braved heavy rains to celebrate Mass in the same square where his predecessor, John Paul II, in 1979 inspired the Solidarity movement against communist rule. Benedict preached against moral relativism. "The church cannot silence the spirit of truth," he said. The pope also will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, continuing John Paul's outreach to Judaism.

Texas politician Lloyd Bentsen dies at 85

Texan Lloyd Bentsen - who once told future Vice President Dan Quayle "you're no Jack Kennedy" on national television - died Tuesday at the age of 85. Often described as courtly and competent, Bentsen's political career included six years in the House, 22 years in the Senate and two years as President Bill Clinton's treasury secretary. He campaigned against Quayle in 1988, when Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis picked the Texan as his running mate.



Contact Thomas Hargrove at HargroveT(at)
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