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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Veterans To Be Protected From Identity Theft

Veterans Affairs Department Offers Free, Post-Theft Credit Monitoring

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — The government said Wednesday it would provide free credit monitoring to millions of veterans whose personal information was stolen last month, acknowledging it was not close to catching the thieves.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said the agency would seek to protect millions of vets and military troops against identity theft after names, Social Security numbers and birthdates were taken from a VA data analyst's home on May 3.

Those eligible for one year of credit monitoring will be any of the 17.5 million people who are known to have had their Social Security numbers compromised. The VA has said up to 26.5 million could be affected, although some of them appeared to be duplicate names.

"It's not going to be cheap," Nicholson said at a news briefing, adding that authorities were not any closer to finding the stolen data. "Free credit monitoring will help safeguard those who may be affected, and will provide them with the peace of mind they deserve."

He said those who have already received letters from VA saying they are at risk will receive additional information — probably in early August after the VA solicits bids from contractors — on how to sign up for the free monitoring.

The VA also will hire a company for data analysis to look for possible misuse of the personal information. There have been no reports so far of any identity theft stemming from the burglary in suburban Maryland.

Veterans groups and lawmakers from both parties have blasted the VA for the theft, which occurred after several years of warnings by auditors that information security was lax. The data analyst — who has since been dismissed — had taken the information home for three years without permission.

On Wednesday, veterans advocates praised the announcement as a good "first step."

"Any resources expended to address the VA data breach must not be taken from the VA's current budget but rather should be new funds, as veterans and military families must not be punished for the administration's failures," said Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, agreed. "We fully expect the Congress and the administration will provide the additional funding so that no VA program is negatively impacted," he said.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Notes from the Trail

Geneseo Illinois, Father's Day 2006:

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert was in Geneseo to do a little campaigning and to ride his fire truck in the big annual parade. The Speaker also held a reception at the park gazebo, talking with the long lines who
waited to welcome him to town, or to get a signature on his book or their visor, or to give him a piece of their mind. It was politics American-style served up Americana-fashion, right along with the cookies and lemonade.

What could possibly better represent our nation than when a high school wrestling coach becomes the third most powerful man in the entire United States? And when that man represents our neighboring district, the 14th, in Congress? When he wrestles now with national issues and world affairs; but then grabs the wife and heads to a festival that obviously fills him with delight? "Great crowd!" he enthused.

I was in on that Sunday-afternoon reception with the Speaker, and couldn't help reflecting on one other time I had walked and talked with him for a bit. That time, it was in Tampico and he had just attended a hometown memorial service for Ronald Reagan. Everyone walked the several blocks to Reagan's boyhood home in a light mist. Then, just as rain began to pour down in SHEETS, the Speaker stepped to the podium and bareheaded, not even indicating that he knew it was raining, delivered a ringing tribute to the great man from the Midwest. That was quintessentially American too.

Will see the Speaker again in Washington in a few days. I think he really wants us to win!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Outline For A National Energy Plan

Andrea Zinga, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in the 17th district, speaks to the media Thursday afternoon at the Knox County Courthouse.

Zinga outlines energy plan
Candidate calls for new refineries, coal gasification

Friday, June 9, 2006

GALESBURG - While agreeing alternative fuels are important to the 17th Congressional District, Republican candidate Andrea Zinga said Thursday new refineries should be built in the U.S., plants should be built to convert coal into diesel fuel and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may be something she can support. Zinga, standing at a picnic table on the east side of the Knox County Courthouse, outlined short- and long-term solutions to the nation's energy problems. She said one short-term solution is to stop buying oil for the Strategic Oil Reserve.

"It would be wise to sell a portion of it while prices are high and buy it back when prices are low," Zinga said. The former TV news anchor said one set of "tough" national environmental regulations should be developed to replace the 16 regional rules now in place. Admitting that ethanol and wind power are important to this area, Zinga said "this is just nibbling on the edge of the problem."
Zinga said the last oil refinery built in the United States was during the Gerald Ford administration. "Refinery technology has improved so much," she said. "We can and should build refineries. We could also create some jobs."
She said those jobs would not be in this area, but pointed out new jobs, even in other areas of the nation, are important.

Coal gasification also was touched upon. "We have vast reserves of coal in this country," Zinga said. Coal mining is a source of jobs in the southern portions of the 17th District. As for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, "I would not drill in ANWR until I have all the information Congress has," Zinga said, but it is apparent she is leaning in that direction. Zinga said that out of 20 million acres of land in the wildlife refuge, drilling would take place on only 2,000 acres. She said that would produce about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day.

"That's what we import from Saudi Arabia," Zinga said as she stood in the sunshine in front of a handful of reporters... She said many people said the Alaskan Pipeline would not withstand earthquakes and would harm wildlife, such as caribou. Zinga said the pipeline has done fine and, based on what she now knows, she thinks the result would be much the same in the Arctic. She said she is tired of people saying what will not work.

"I get very tired of people having the 'we can'ts,'" she said. "We can do what we set out to do."

Although Zinga said it is probably not realistic to ever expect the U.S. will be 100 percent energy independent, she said coal gasification, ethanol, new refineries, etc., could lead to a day when "we're not at the mercy of the Mideast."