Monday morning federal headlines – Jan. 7, 2013

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.

  • It may take a split second to post a 140-character tweet, but those words could last forever. Decades from now, historians may be reading your tweets to understand political campaigning, citizen journalism or public health efforts. The Library of Congress has archived about 170 billion public tweets dating back to 2006. Now the library says it’s working on making that archive easy to access and use. It can take researchers 24 hours to do a single search, so the library isn’t opening up the archive yet. (Library of Congress)
  • A major bank is paying the Department of Housing and Urban Development $7,500 in a gay-discrimination case. That’s not a lot of money, but the agency says it’s proof that HUD will “vigorously enforce” a new rule. The rule mandates that the department’s core housing programs be open to anyone who’s eligible regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. HUD says the Bank of America denied a lesbian couple a mortgage because they were gay and not legally married. It says the bank is updating its policies and training its staff. (HUD)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department has fixed a problem that caused its half-billion dollar disability claims system to slow to a crawl. NextGov reports, VA had new hardware installed to boost the system’s capacity. Eighteen of 57 regional offices use the Veterans Benefits Management System. VA plans to roll it out nationwide this year. But last month, according to emails NextGov obtained, the system experienced extreme slow-downs. Only 5 percent of examiners were using it. CIO Roger Baker says the system is running normally again. (NextGov)
  • President Obama could name his pick for Treasury secretary this week. GovExec reports, he is expected to choose Jacob Lew, currently the White House chief of staff. A long-time Washington operative, Lew has twice been the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Earlier, he was policy advisor to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Lew was involved in landmark Social Security legislation in 1983. Whomever succeeds Tim Geithner at Treasury will have to plunge into the upcoming debt ceiling debate. (GovExec)
  • If a federal agent sees a violent crime in action, they can do something about it without fear of being sued. The new defense authorization act gives federal law enforcement officers new legal protections. Before, local prosecutors could bring charges against federal officers for acting outside the scope of their employment. Five years ago, an ATF special agent in the Virgin Islands faced murder charges after he shot at someone attacking his neighbor. (Thomas)
  • The Food and Drug Administration has embarked on a drive to impose new regulations. It’s proposed rules for farmers and food companies to deal with bacterial threats in raw fruits and vegetables. FDA received more regulatory authority in a 2011 law. The new proposed rules were due a year ago, but the administration waited until after the 2012 elections. The rules would cover food workers’ hygiene, irrigation water and animals wandering in produce fields. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 3,000 Americans die each year from contaminated food. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama will nominate John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan is a 25-year CIA veteran and is currently Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser. He was a top pick for the same position in 2008 but withdrew his name amid controversy about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration. His nomination will be announced this afternoon at the same time the president nominates Chuck Hagel for defense secretary. (Federal News Radio)