Thursday morning federal headlines – Sept. 20, 2012

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

  • Two people have departed and 14 have been referred for disciplinary action following release of a Justice report found Fast and Furious was run with too little regard for public safety. If said ATF headquarters didn’t have enough oversight of the operation. The IG, Michael Horowitz, testifies on Capitol Hill today. (Federal News Radio)
  • A postal union is honoring a few mail carriers who have done far more than just deliver the mail. Mailman Charlie Rose spotted a dozen natural gas leaks on his route in Athens, Ohio. The National Association of Letter Carriers said Rose’s reporting prompted the city council to require carbon monoxide detectors in new rental homes. Phoenix mailman Mike Hollman was delivering the mail when he spotted a woman being attacked by two pit bulls. He scaled the top of a fence to distract the dogs until police came. The union is holding a luncheon today in their and other mail carriers’ honor. (Federal News Radio)
  • Former astronauts can keep their space souvenirs under a bill passed by the House. Members unanimously voted to give Apollo-era astronauts ownership rights to artifacts from their space missions. That includes hardware and personal equipment from the spacecraft, but not moon rocks or other lunar material. Not everyone considers them to be private keepsakes. NASA has challenged the ownership of the items. Astronauts today cannot keep the same items. (House)
  • Congress has unveiled a new legislative research website, its first major overhaul of the Thomas system since 1995. It’s called It gets an up-to-date search engine, and it automatically reformats itself on small smartphone screens. The whole site has a modern look. The Library of Congress cautions, the new version is still in beta even though it’s available to the public today. After a year of fine-tuning, the Library will shut down the clunky Thomas system. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new Medicare anti-fraud program has wheelchair suppliers in a rut. The suppliers took their concerns to Capitol Hill. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have hired contractors with the job of verifying claims for reimbursement for expensive motorized wheelchairs and scooters. The industry told a Senate panel, it’s a bureaucratic extra step in the paperwork process. CMS officials said 80 percent of power wheelchair claims don’t meet the rules for reimbursement. They said improper wheelchair payments hit nearly $500 million a year. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s getting easier for foreign visitors to plan last-minute jaunts to the United States. The State Department said it now interviews 88 percent of visa applicants within three weeks of receiving their applications. That’s up from 57 percent last year. President Barack Obama told the State Department to speed up visa processing as part of an effort to increase foreign tourism. State officials said they’ve focused particularly on Brazil and China. More than a million Brazilian visitors have gotten visas to come here this year. (State Department)