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Eye Opener: Dec. 18, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Good morning! Are you following The Eye on Twitter? Have you submitted YOUR question for the Federal government on Google Moderator? Did you read Wednesday's live discussion with The Eye? Just checking.

In the news...

What's With Salazar's Cowboy Hat?: The Eye provoked a cross-country debate Wednesday afternoon about the cowboy hat and bolo tie worn by Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) during the formal announcement ceremony with President-elect Obama. Best comment: "Blagojevich's HAIR looks like a hat, and people are complaining about Salazar's? :-)"

Check Under LaHood!: The retiring congressman Roy LaHood of Illinois will become Republican #2 in the Obama cabinet. "LaHood would be in a charge of an agency that oversees much of the nation's roads and rails, as well as its air traffic control system," reports The Post's Michael Fletcher and Philip Rucker. "He would also be a critical figure in the administration's two-year economic stimulus plan, which Obama has said would include hundreds of billons of dollars to repair and build roads and bridges and update and expand the nation's mass-transit systems. Kenneth P. Quinn, a former Federal Aviation Administration chief counsel who now is a partner at the Pillsbury law firm, hailed LaHood as an '-outstanding bipartisan pick for the new president.'"

Veterans Lose Bid to Speed VA Disability Pay: From the AP: "Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare, which represent roughly 60,000 military veterans, had filed the lawsuit asking the VA process initial disability claims within 90 days and resolve appeals within 180 days. If the VA failed to do so, the two groups were seeking interim payments of roughly $350 a month. At a court hearing, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he was sympathetic to the plight of disabled veterans, many of whom he acknowledged might face unemployment and homelessness in a tightening economy. But Walton said that setting a blanket rule of 90 days for processing claims was for Congress and the VA secretary to decide."

Some Judges Delay Swearing-In Of New Citizens: A new government report and immigrations officials say that "Federal judges in some parts of the United States have delayed the swearing-in of new citizens, keeping millions of dollars in fees that would otherwise go to immigration officials if they were allowed to administer the oaths instead," reports The Post's Spencer S. Hsu. "In one of the nation's busiest courts, a judge's delay caused nearly 2,000 people to not receive the oath in time to register for November's general election, USCIS ombudsman Michael Dougherty said in a 13-page report released yesterday. The finding adds a new twist to long-standing complaints that applicants for citizenship face long waits, poor service and different treatment depending on which immigration office handles their paperwork. While the USCIS has eased huge backlogs created in summer 2007, with steps such as speeding up FBI security background checks, the new bottleneck points to a turf battle with U.S. district courts."

Business The Postal Service Could Do Without: The FedLine blog reports that "the U.S. Postal Service is busy sending more than just Christmas cards and packages this holiday season. Envelopes containing suspicious white powder have turned up at several U.S. embassies overseas and more than 40 governors’ offices stateside in the past week or so."

SEC's Role in Madoff Scandal: Amid the Madoff scandal and news that Obama will name Mary L. Schapiro as head of the Security and Exchange Commission, Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby opines that "Madoff had registered with the SEC voluntarily, and a fat lot of good it did. Those who support regulation also say that hedge funds should disclose more of what they do. Well, Madoff did make some disclosures; it's just that they weren't true. As SEC Chairman Chris Cox has all but admitted, the scandal doesn't show that his agency lacked the power to regulate; it shows that it failed to exercise it. Responding to this scandal with more regulation would be like thrusting more pills on a patient who refuses medication."

Labor Secretary Contenders: The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, a Post alumnus, reports that Harley Shaiken and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are the leading contenders to head the Labor Department. Shaiken has "strong backing from unions and high praise from corporate officials" while DeLauro has reportedly traveled to Chicago for talks.

This Day in History: On this date in 1865, slavery in the U.S. ended as the 13th Amendment was declared in effect. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 18, 2008; 7:33 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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