WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.
They've got an awful lot of coffee -- Latin America is increasingly becoming a concern among foreign policy minded Republicans who worry Congress and the administration are not paying enough attention to it. Fidel Castro still is a force in the region -- as demonstrated by the attention paid to former President Jimmy Carter on his recent trip there -- and his close relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to whom he lent support when Chavez temporarily was ousted from office. All of this gives reason for additional worry.
The Republicans are concerned the Castro-Chavez alliance gives the Cuban strongman a foothold on the South American continent. They worry the combination of Castro's Marxism and Chavez's oil money means trouble for the United States in the future, with Brazil as the first potential hot spot.
Brazilian Workers' Party presidential candidate Luis Inacio da Silva -- popularly known as Lula -- is running well ahead in the polls, despite having run three times before and failing to win each time. Now he looks like a strong bet to win, in part because of widely rumored covert support from Castro and Chavez. Republicans fear a Lula win means South America's largest nation, which shares a boarder with every other nation on the continent save two, could rapidly become strongly anti-American and pro-Castro in the midst of the war against terrorism.
Don't I know you? -- Repeated profiling of a single American Muslim airline passenger prompted a meeting between representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation last week. CAIR wanted to bring to the attention of the U.S. government the plight of a Muslim software consultant from New York who routinely is delayed or prevented from boarding domestic flights because his name is the same as that of a detainee currently held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
According to CAIR, the traveler, who flies twice weekly for business, says the first incident took place Feb. 18 in Rochester, N.Y. He was delayed from boarding the flight and questioned because a name similar to his appears on a federal watch list. Since that initial incident, he repeatedly has experienced the same treatment by airline personnel and law enforcement authorities. As a result of these delays, CAIR says, he frequently misses flights.
"While we understand the need for heightened security measures, the rigid utilization of watch lists to screen travelers with common Islamic names results in unnecessary harassment of innocent American Muslims," said CAIR Civil Rights Manager Joshua Salaam. "We look forward to working with Department of Transportation officials to balance the need for increased security with the right of all passengers to travel without being repeatedly singled out solely on the basis of a common name."
Take a Michi-gander at this -- As a result of reapportionment, several Michigan congressmen have been put into the same districts, creating member vs. member primaries or general elections. One of the most closely watched is the primary battle between Democrats Lynn Rivers and John Dingell, the House's longest serving member.
Rivers has the support of many prominent liberal women's organizations that are important parts of the Democrat primary voter base. With that in mind, it is odd that Rivers has, over the past five years, been a more reliable vote for conservative Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum then Dingell.
According to Eagle Forum's Washington office, Rivers' average score on the Eagle Forum congressional scorecard over the past five years has been 31 percent -- meaning Rivers voted in sync with Schlafly's agenda about a third of the time on issues the group rated. Dingell, on the other hand, turned in an average score of 16 percent over the same period.
You can't go home again but you can go back to the House -- The list of former members of Congress trying to get back into office this November is growing longer by the week. Among the latest veterans to announce are: former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md., who is trying to regain her old seat near Baltimore; former Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who is running for Bob Clement's open seat; former Rep. Tommy Robinson, who served as both a Democrat and a Republican in Arkansas and is trying to oust Democrat Rep. Marion Berry, in Arkansas' 1st Congressional District; and former South Dakota Rep. and Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running in the GOP primary for the state's lone House seat.
Touchdown! -- Kansas State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger has cemented his position as the frontrunner in the GOP gubernatorial primary by picking former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Dave Lindstrom as his running mate. A relative newcomer to politics, Lindstrom hails from Johnson County, Kan., the political base of the moderate wing of the state GOP.
Shallenburger had been locked in a battle with state Attorney General Carla Stovall, the moderate wing's preferred candidate until she pulled out of the race several weeks ago. Leaders of her faction had been struggling to find a candidate to replace her but state operatives say the Lindstrom pick is so solid the clock will run out before they can find a replacement.
Crowing amidst the corn -- National Democrats are talking up their prospects for victory in Iowa's new 4th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Republican Tom Latham but Democrats say the race presents a real opportunity to knock off a GOP incumbent, something they must do if they are to succeed in their drive to retake control of the House this fall.
The Democratic candidate is John Norris, whose family has lived in Iowa for several generations. A founder of the Stop the Arms Race Political Action Committee, Norris is a former state party chairman. His political connections are further strengthened by his recent service as chief of staff to Democrat Gov. Tom Vilsack and his leadership of Jesse Jackson's Iowa presidential efforts in 1988.
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