Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – Dec. 29

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The death toll for federal and local law enforcement officers rose in 2010 after hitting a 50-year low in 2009. As of noon Monday, 160 officers had died in the line of duty nationwide, up from 117 last year, according to figures from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Traffic accidents caused the most fatalities, claiming 73 lives. Fifty-nine officers died from gunshots. The California Highway Patrol and Chicago Police Departments each lost five officers. Memorial Fund chairman Craig W. Floyd says a more brazen, cold-blooded criminal element is on the prowl in America, and they don’t think twice about killing a cop.
  • A government whistleblower is accusing the U.S. Marshals Service of undervaluing assets taken from white-collar criminals, including property taken back from Bernard Madoff. A federal lawsuit claims the items were sold without public notice or competitive bidding, for far less than they were worth – an act the complaint says deprived crime victims of millions of dollars in restitution. The suit was filed a former federal agent who worked for a government contractor at the Marshals Service. The complaint also singles out the head of the Asset Forfeiture Program, Leonard Briskman. It accuses him of finding buyers through business contacts and keeping a secret bank account to which government auditors had no access
  • Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has proposed new rules to relax the complete ban on gadgets like iPads, iPhones and Blackberrys on the House floor. Members will be able to use electronic devices as long as it doesn’t “impair decorum.” The New York Times reports incoming Republicans hope that access to phones, tablet computers and their applications will help House members conduct business.
  • Momentum is gathering behind a planned federal summit on bed bug control. Bed bugs are now spreading beyond the nation’s beds. They’ve been found in numerous public spaces, including federal office buildings. The second annual summit, scheduled for February, will be open to the public. The Federal Bed Bug Work Group encompasses several agencies, including the EPA and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Defense and Commerce. Also, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The new Postmaster General will officially assume his position in the New Year. Patrick Donahoe will be sworn in on January 14. Donahoe was named the 73rd Postmaster General of the U.S. Postal Service in October. Danohoe already reduced the number of senior officers and to be on his leadership-teams this month, saying he wants to help create a more profitable and nimble USPS.
  • Dr. Jonathan Woodson was confirmed by the Senate as assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs. His nomination had been on hold since August. NextGov reports Woodson will take over a post vacant since Dr. S. Ward Casscells resigned in April 2008. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) had held up Woodson’s nomination over an abortion funding provision in the Defense Authorization Act. Woodson is a vascular surgeon and associate dean at Boston University. He is also a brigadier general in the Army Reserve.
  • Buying and selling a condo may get more difficult thanks to some new federal guidelines. The Federal Housing Administration is requiring condos to be “re-certified” before they offer mortgages. WTOP reports FHA will look into things like renter-to-owner ratios, and delinquencies on condo fee payments to see if the building is eligible for one of its loans. The FHA loan requires a significantly lower down-payment, between 3 and 5 percent, instead of the standard 20 percent.
  • Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian agencies to use open-source software by 2015. Computer World, citing translated documents, reports that the Russian government also wants to drop Microsoft products and switch to a national operating system based on Linux. The transition to open-source will begin in the second quarter of 2011. Russia’s Ministry of Communications will determine what software is needed for the government. Agencies will also inventory their IT assets. They’ll start testing open source packages by mid-2012.