Friday Morning Federal Newscast – May 7th, 2010

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear fails to pass a bill to boost telework in government. The Telework Improvements Act didn’t get the two-thirds majority it needed among lawmakers. The measure would have required agencies to let eligible employees work remotely at least 20 percent of the time. It would also have required them to include telework in their emergency plans. No word if it’ll be re-introduced in another form.

  • The Postal Service continues to hemorrhage money. A $1.9 billion dollar loss for the first half of fiscal 2010. Postal leaders blame the loss on a decline in mail volume brought on by the recession and more people using email and online billing. In an effort to save money, the post office has asked Congress to drop Saturday mail delivery, and to ease a legal requirement that forces the agency to prepay health benefits for retirees.
  • One senator is urging the Transportation Security Administration to move up its deadline for taking over administration of the international no-fly list. TSA currently handles domestic flights, and plans to take over international no-fly checks in December. But Senator Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the near-escape of the alleged Time Square bomber means the TSA should act more quickly. Currently, the overseas carriers conduct the comparisons of their passenger lists with the no-fly list.
  • A security screener at Miami International Airport has been charged with aggravated battery for attacking a co-worker with a baton. Rolando Negrin was arrested Tuesday night. An arrest report says the 44-year-old beat a co-worker who had been making joke’s about the size of Negrin’s private parts for the last year. Workers with the Transportation Security Administration saw Negrin’s body during training of full-body imaging machines. The report says Negrin told police he “could not take the jokes any more and lost his mind.” A TSA spokesman said in a statement Thursday that Negrin will be suspended and an internal inquiry will be launched. The victim was not seriously injured.
  • The Army has canceled a competition for new contracts to provide support services in Iraq. Instead, it will use the existing contract with KBR until U.S. forces leave Iraq in December 2011. That sole-source contract, known as LOG-CAP Three, has been controversial because of cost overruns and management problems. The Army’s announcement came hours after the Justice Department joined a false claims lawsuit against KBR, alleging kickbacks from two subcontractors, according to GovExec.
  • The federal government has won 30 felony convictions and seized $143 million worth of counterfeit network equipment made in China. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and the FBI participated in Operation Network Raider. The announcement came as a Saudi citizen living in Texas was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to Cisco Systems. Ehab Ashoor was attempting to sell counterfeit Cisco gear to the Marine Corps.
  • Montana Senator Jon Tester has sponsored a bill that would require agencies to post all public records online, including contracts. The Public Online Information Act would give agencies three years to upload information to a searchable database. Tester says the measure is necessary to improve transparency. But NextGov reports, some industry groups are concerned about requirements for posting contracts. A companion bill in the House does not those provisions.
  • The Minerals Management Service oversees offshore drilling but it doesn’t write or implement most safety rules. A Wall Street Journal analysis finds several examples of the US agency identifying potential safety problems and then either not requiring a follow-up or relying on the industry to come up with a solution. MMS is now caught up in the crisis of the gushing oil rig in the Gulf. Officials with the company tell the Journal they plan to toughen their oversight.
  • FCC Chairman Julious Genekowski wants to < ?nid=33&sid=1767245" target="_blank">reclassify high-speed internet services to a regulated telecom, similar to telephones. It’s now a lightly regulated information service. The change would allow the FCC to set rules for consumer privacy, fair billing practices and cybersecurity, among other things. The FCC lost that authority last month when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that its power to regulate did not extend to broadband. Opponents say that the plan leaves too many unanswered questions. House Republican Leader John Boehner called the move a “government takeover of the Internet.”
  • In the latest effort to signal fiscal responsibility against the rising debt, President Obama plans to ask Congress to grant him line item veto power, reports the NY Times. It would give President Obama and future presidents the power to try to delete individual items from spending bills. A long line of his predecessors have requested the change after the Supreme Court in 1998 ruled such a veto unconstitutional. The proposal is likely to reach Congress before the Memorial Day recess.
  • Howard University has submitted a $1.1 billion plan to move its hospital and health sciences operation to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus after the facility closes next year and the District assumes control of its more than 62 acres from the federal government. The Washington Post reports that if the bid is successful, the project would be built in three phases, starting in 2012 and ending in 2017. The university is one of 23 organizations, including charter schools, arts programs and food pantries, that have expressed interest in the land.
  • NASA we have a problem. The Voyager 2 spacecraft launched in 1977 is sending back data that mission managers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory cannot decode. The probe has been instructed by send back data on its own health and status until the decoding problem can be solved. Companion probe Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, have explored Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and have just kept going. Nearly 33 years later, they are the most distant human-made objects, about 10.5 million miles from Earth.

  • More news links

    Retiring NORAD chief pilots ceremonial last flight <

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