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Eye Opener: Cabinet Secretaries in Hawaiian Shirts

By Ed O'Keefe

Sister Pauline, with the Little Sisters of the Poor, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (in purple tie), Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry (far right) appeared together on Tuesday. (Photo by OPM)

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! Cabinet secretaries and other administration officials donned Hawaiian luau shirts on Tuesday for a "Feds Feed Families" event at Washington's Capital Area Food Bank. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (who opted to stick with his shirt and tie) and others dropped off several loads of food donated by D.C.-area federal employees as part of OPM's efforts to collect food for the needy. The food drive is part of the White House's summer-long "United We Serve" community service initiative. (Perhaps the secretaries wore the Hawaiian shirts to reinforce the president's Hawaiian roots?)

In other news...

National Archives Data Loss in Focus: A House subcommittee will hold a hearing today on operations at the National Archives and Records Administration, which admitted back in May that it lost one terabyte's worth of data from the Clinton administration. Republican committee members plan to press hard on Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas for information about the data loss, according to a memo obtained by The Eye.

Lawmakers Want Amtrak's 'Interim' IG Removed: The top Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want the rail company's Interim Inspector General Lorraine Green off the job, claiming she cannot act as an independent auditor after 12 years with company management. "By installing one of their own as Inspector General, it looks like Amtrak management is trying to take the teeth out of the watchdog," said committee chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). Green replaces former Inspector General Fred E. Weiderhold, who retired unexpectedly in June after an independent audit claimed interference with his investigations. UPDATE: Amtrak says quickly looking for a "highly qualified and independent inspector general who will conduct a full review and apply a fresh look to these issues."

More Protection for Customs and Border Protection Officers: CBP officers won the right to wear protective face masks at border crossings on Wednesday, in anticipation of a major H1N1 flu outbreak later this year. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents all CBP officers, finalized an agreement with CBP and Homeland Security officials that allows employees to use face masks without approval from a supervisor, as was previously required. "Even though swine flu has fallen out of the headlines, it has remained a great concern for CBP employees," NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement.

Up on the Roof...: The Agriculture Department opens a new roof-top garden atop the offices of the Economic Research Service today as part of the department's plans to establish community gardens at each USDA facility. Now if only it would stop raining so everyone could enjoy it...

Cabinet and Staff News: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there's $6.9 billion in unwanted military equipment in the defense authorization bill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shifts the government's tone on anti-terror policies. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to visit Congo and denounce rape. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. tells ABC News he's concerned about the "radicalization of Americans." Holder deputy approved dropping civil complaint against three Black Panthers in Philadelphia.

Good News for the Whistleblowers: With important differences between the House and Senate, it was uncertain, not too long ago, where legislation to improve the lot of federal whistleblowers was going. But then the White House got involved in the move to approve the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009.

At Postal Service, A Plan for Survival: Lawmakers on Thursday will consider various proposals to restructure the U.S. Postal Service, just days after government auditors warned that it must quickly address its financial viability.

Sensitive Government Information on P2P Networks: Including: A highly sensitive document dated July 2009, listing the precise location of installations bearing weapons grade nuclear fuel in the United States; a U.S. Secret Service document on the location and layout of an emergency safe house for former First Lady Laura Bush.

U.S. Outlines Priority Groups to Get H1N1 Vaccine: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices nearly unanimously voted to offer the new vaccine first to pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers of infants under six months old, health-care and emergency-services workers, children and young adults up to age 24, and people under 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.

Senate Introduces Bill to Ban Texting While Driving: The new legislation would set deadlines for regulators at the U.S. Transportation Department to devise minimum penalties for states to implement.

Fed Report Suggests Turnaround: The Fed's Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotes collected from businesses across the country, offered new evidence that the worst recession of the post-World War II era is bottoming out.

House Defeats Food-Safety Bill: The bill was considered under a suspension of House rules, and required a two-thirds vote for passage. The 280-150 vote on Wednesday was just a few votes shy of that threshold.

30 Arrested Around U.S. In Medicare Fraud Sweep: More than 200 agents worked on the $16 million bust, which included 12 search warrants at health-care businesses and homes across the Houston area.

In Federal Buildings, Biden is Absent: Where's the VP's mug? Not hanging with Obama, at least not yet.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 30, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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