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News Briefs

Gore Pushes ‘Lockbox’ For Medicare Funds


With his running mate at his side, Vice President Al Gore took another political scalpel to the issue of health care Wednesday and chastised his opponent’s proposed use of the federal budget surplus for tax cuts rather than for meeting the United States’ social needs.

On a day set aside to highlight the problems of Medicare, Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman instead spent more than an hour at a downtown campus meandering through myriad health care issues with local residents, from Medicare’s shortfall in treating one woman for a stroke to the need for diabetes research.

Recording it all was a film crew seeking material for Gore campaign commercials.

The theme woven throughout the program: that Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, would send the excess money in the federal budget back to the wealthiest taxpayers while Gore would devote the surplus to shoring up programs for health and other issues.

“The other side has placed its top priority on taking virtually all of this projected surplus and giving it in the form of a giant tax cut mainly to the wealthy,” Gore said. “For every $10 that the wealthiest 1 percent would receive, middle class families would get one dime, lower income families would get one penny.

FBI Makes Arrests in Major Identity-Theft Ring


Underscoring concerns about the nation’s fastest growing type of crime, the FBI arrested two people Wednesday and sought a third in what they described as an “identity theft” ring that used other people’s names to steal more than $700,000.

Federal authorities said that the three, using a host of aliases and addresses, masterminded the second-largest identity-theft ring ever uncovered in the United States.

As agents made the arrests, federal and local authorities were across town, testifying at a congressional hearing on the subject of identity theft.

They promised to do much more to combat it, both with legislation and increased law enforcement.

In morning raids, the FBI arrested alleged ringleaders Derrick Lionel Davis, 37, and Demond Lamont Walker, 31, both of Inglewood. A third suspect, Ramiah Latiece Lewis, 25, of Covina was still at large Wednesday night.

Authorities accused the three of stealing the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of more than 120 unwitting employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles during the past 18 months.

But once they obtained the names, they used them to get credit cards and go on wild spending sprees -- buying such things as big-screen TVs, refrigerators, Victoria’s Secret lingerie, cellular phones and even a boa constrictor, FBI affidavits allege.

U.S. Agencies To Be Sued over Princess Diana’s Car Crash


In the latest chapter of what promises to compete with the JonBenet case and the death of Alexander the Great for the title of history’s most well-worn coroner’s inquiry, Egyptian tycoon Mohamed al-Fayed vowed Wednesday to sue a half a dozen U.S. agencies to try to uncover new information about the 1997 deaths of his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Fayed, owner of London’s Harrods department store and the Ritz Hotel in Paris, repeated statements accusing the United States of withholding information about an alleged plot by British intelligence to murder his son and the princess.

And the U.S. government reprised its previous response: sympathy for a grieving old man but ridicule for the notion that there was anything new to tell about the automobile crash that killed Fayed and Diana three years ago Thursday in Paris.

“We knew there was obviously an interest in the tragedy of three years ago, but not necessarily this much interest,” said an apologetic Mark Zaid, a Fayed lawyer who has also represented victims’ relatives in the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 and a Washington car crash involving a Georgian diplomat that killed a 16-year-old girl.