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News Briefs

Bush Campaign Receives Mixed Support From Arab-Americans

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Wealthy Arab-Americans and foreign-born Muslims who strongly back President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq are adding their names to the ranks of “Pioneers” and “Rangers,” the elite Bush supporters who must raise $100,000 or more for his re-election.

The new crop of fund-raisers comes as some opinion polls suggest support for the president among Arab-Americans is sinking, and at a time when political strategists from both parties say Bush has lost ground among Arab-Americans. These money-raising efforts are coming in spite of criticism of Bush by some Arab-Americans who feel they have been singled out in the fight against terrorism and who are uneasy over the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian policies.

The terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq have been a catalyst for some wealthy Arab-Americans to become more involved in politics, but some have a more practical reason for opening their checkbooks: access to a business-friendly White House. Already, their efforts have brought them visits with the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, as well as White House dinners and meetings with top administration officials in Washington.

The fund-raisers are people like Mori Hosseini, the Iranian-born chief executive of ICI Homes, a home builder based in Daytona Beach, Fla. Hosseini is a Ranger, gaining the top designation after raising $200,000 from his family and acquaintances. (The minimum level of money raising for a Ranger is $200,000, while it takes $100,000 to be a Pioneer.)

In Bid To Defuse Election Issue, Halliburton Stops Pentagon Bills

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Seeking to defuse a growing election-year issue, the Halliburton Co. said Monday that it had stopped billing the Pentagon for the cost of feeding American troops in Iraq and Kuwait until a dispute over the number of meals served is resolved.

The Houston-based company said in a statement that its Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary was withholding bills totaling $174.5 million for meal planning, food purchase and meal preparation costs incurred by subcontractors.

The company said it would also defer further billing to the Defense Department for meal costs until the Army and Kellogg Brown & Root resolved their differences. The company has not disclosed the amount of its weekly or monthly bills to the Pentagon for meal costs.

Halliburton’s actions on Monday come two weeks after the company agreed to repay the government for overcharges estimated at $27.4 million for meals served to American troops at five military bases in Iraq and Kuwait last year. Pentagon auditors are also reviewing the 53 remaining dining facilities in Kuwait and Iraq operated by Kellogg Brown & Root.

Kellogg Brown & Root’s president and chief executive, Randy Harl, said the company’s decision on Monday to suspend its billings should not be interpreted as a sign of wrongdoing.

Medicare Drug Discount Card Results in Cases of Fraud

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Federal officials said Monday that they had detected evidence of fraud in the marketing of drug discount cards under the Medicare law signed 10 weeks ago by President Bush.

In some parts of the country, people have gone door-to-door offering “Medicare approved” cards, though none have been approved and enrollment does not begin until May, federal health officials said.

Bush has said that the cards, to be issued by private entities and endorsed by the government, will deliver “savings of 10 to 25 percent off the retail price of most medicines,” though the amount will vary with different drugs and cards. In addition, as he noted in signing the legislation on Dec. 8, low-income elderly people will be eligible for “a $600 credit on their cards, to help them pay for the medications they need.”

Beneficiaries can sign up for the cards in May and start using them in June. But already, federal officials said, some people are promoting the cards as if they had received a federal seal of approval.

Valeria Allen, an insurance specialist at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, “Someone is fraudulently impersonating or misrepresenting Medicare by telephone and by door-to-door visits to beneficiaries’ homes, to discuss the Medicare discount drug program and to obtain personal identifying information from beneficiaries.”

Whites-Only Scholarship Causes Stir On Campus

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ever since Jason Mattera arrived at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., from Brooklyn, he has stirred things up on the quiet campus of 3,400 undergraduates.

He founded the College Republicans, which soon became one of the largest groups on campus. Under his leadership, the club started printing a publication called the Hawk’s Right Eye, which upset school administrators with its critiques of Islam and homosexuality.

But nothing has attracted as much attention as the club’s scholarship for whites.

“Only students who can truthfully answer YES to the following question may be considered for this award: Are you a student of non-color, Caucasian descent (white)?” reads the application for the scholarship, whose winner would receive $50. “In 100 words or less, write why you are proud of your white heritage and explain what being white means to you.”

The scholarship, Mattera said, was intended as a parody of scholarships available only to minorities. It was conceived, he said, after he learned the university had compiled a list of such scholarships.