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Eye Opener: Feb. 10, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! No matter what type of economic stimulus package passes the House and Senate later this week (or next?), federal agencies and departments will benefit.

"Taken together, [the House and Senate proposals] could lead to more spending for 'green' initiatives, the upgrading of federal buildings and facilities, and improved health-care services," The Eye and colleague Steve Vogel report in today's Post. "But for many of those agencies, the amount they receive will depend heavily on whether the House or Senate's preferred spending plan prevails. While both measures would cost roughly the same, the $820 billion version passed last month by the House includes considerably more spending on federal agencies and programs than the $827 billion version that awaits a final vote by the Senate today."

As The Eye reported several times in the closing days of the Bush administration, several Bush-era aides, officials and supporters are adjusting to new assignments to obscure corners of the government. "Bush made more than 100 such end-of-term appointments to a constellation of presidential boards and panels, such as the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission," reports The Post's Dan Eggen. "Like other presidents, he often turned to close aides and top political supporters to fill the last-minute postings, many of which will outlast President Obama's current term."

"Most of the positions are unpaid and are valued more for their status than for monetary compensation. Yet the appointments show how political connections matter even for the most obscure Washington jobs, and illustrate the extent to which presidents have an impact well after they leave the White House."

In other news...

Hidden Health Bureaucracy in The Stimulus?: Former New York State Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey urges Senators to vote against the proposed economic stimulus plan, in part because it would create "the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology" which would "monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective." McCaughey writes that "Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far." Another aspect of the health care funding debate -- digital health data -- appear in a report today by The Post's Ellen Nakashima.

Obama Orders Cybersecurity Review: "The president is confident that we can protect our nation's critical cyber-infrastructure while at the same time adhering to the rule of law and safeguarding privacy rights and civil liberties," Obama counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan told the AP. "Obama -- as a candidate -- was critical of President George W. Bush's efforts on protecting this information. He compared such threats to nuclear or biological attacks on the country and pledged a cybersecurity adviser who would report directly to him." The 60-day effort will be led by Melissa Hathaway, a Bush administration holdover who currently runs the the National Cyber Security Group, which helped former president George W. Bush establish his cyber strategy reports the Federal Times' Gregg Carlstrom.

Justice Dept. Uses 'State Secrets' Defense: "The Obama administration invoked the same 'state secrets' privilege as its predecessor in federal court in San Francisco yesterday in opposing the reinstatement of a lawsuit that alleges that a Boeing Co. unit flew people to countries where they were tortured as part of the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' program," reports The Post's "Guantanamo guru" Peter Finn. "The Justice Department's stance on the case came despite a pledge by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., first at his confirmation hearing and again yesterday in a statement, to review all assertions of the state secrets privilege."

SEC Enforcement Chief Out: From Bloomberg: "U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Director Linda Thomsen, whose unit is the target of congressional scrutiny for failing to detect Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud, will step down as new Chairman Mary Schapiro replaces senior management." "Thomsen, head of the division since 2005, will return to private practice after 14 years at the SEC... "A departure date isn’t set and she will stay to help ensure a smooth transition, SEC spokesman John Nester said."

FAA Computers Hacked: "FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown confirmed that the agency's computers were hacked last week," reports the AP, which adds that "union leaders were told hackers gained access to two files. One file had the names and Social Security numbers of 45,000 employees and retirees on FAA's rolls as of February 2006."

Army Suspends Germ Research at Md. Lab Specifically "at the biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., which the F.B.I. has linked to the anthrax attacks of 2001, after discovering that some pathogens stored there were not listed in a laboratory database," reports the New York Times. "The suspension, which began Friday and could last three months, is intended to allow a complete inventory of hazardous bacteria, viruses and toxins stored in refrigerators, freezers and cabinets in the facility, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases."

Interior Veterans Greet First Lady: Make sure to read and marvel at the list of long-serving Interior Dept. employees who backed up First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit to department headquarters on Monday. She noted that some of the staffers are "Folks who have been in this department longer than I’ve been alive. That is amazing.” Security for Mrs. Obama's appearance was "lackluster," according to one description.

Chu Talks Global Warming: We missed it last week, but the LA Times has posted the energy secretary's extended remarks on the possible economic impact of global warming, comments that have caught the Eye of some bloggers. Sec./Dr. Steven Chu said global warming could cause the demise of California's agriculture. "This is a real economic disaster in the making for our children, for your children," he said, near the end of extended comments on the topic.

FEMA Recalls Peanut Butter: The ooey gooey yummy good stuff ended up in the prepared meals FEMA distributed to victims of last month's deadly ice storm in Kentucky. They have since been recalled. That and more federal follies in today's "In the Loop" column.

Today's Big Event: You mean besides the president visiting Florida and the treasury secretary unveiling the second half of the TARP? Yes -- the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings today to consider the nomination of Elena Kagan to serve as solicitor general. "President Obama's choice is the first woman nominated for the job, and she has the support of each of the last eight men who have held the title, starting with President Ronald Reagan's solicitor general, Charles Fried, who calls her 'awesomely intelligent,'" The Post's Robert Barnes writes in a curtain-raiser on the Harvard Law School dean. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. ET.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 10, 2009; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Another Look at Stimulus Funding

Comments

They better get busy on cyber security because yesterday medicare's contractor made 13 duplicate payments on one claim and only one set of the payments went to the doctor. We still do not know who set this up and where the on-going theft of money goes to. It could be a skimming operation by contractor or a cyber attack from an enemy of the USA. They made up 13 phoney claim numbers to enable the theft.And this is not even medicar's bill, its FEHB's bill, so the one payment is and overpayment.Computers programmed for ongoing theft. $501 stolen on 2-9-09 of taxpayers' money. Still no investigation of the billion dollar theft. The positive: I was treated with courtesy when I called OIG-CMS in Washington; after the contractor for the TIPS line hung up on me before I could even say my first sentence.

Posted by: LindaJoyAdams | February 10, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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