- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2010

INTELLIGENCE

Senator has concerns about spy nominee

The chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence says she has concerns about someone from the military heading U.S. spy agencies.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, prefers a civilian as national intelligence director. President Obama has nominated retired Air Force Gen. James Clapper for the job. He heads intelligence services at the Pentagon.

Mrs. Feinstein says her preferred pick is CIA chief Leon E. Panetta. She told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the right civilian leader would need to know “how to temper sharp elbows and how to really move” U.S. intelligence operations.

Mr. Obama wants quick Senate approval of Mr. Clapper. But a vote may not come until the fall because of questions about whether Mr. Clapper would be too close to the Pentagon.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to agencies:

Don’t pay dead people

Here’s an idea, Uncle Sam: Stop writing checks to dead people.

The government sent benefit checks to 20,000 departed Americans over three years, totaling more than $180 million - a remarkable number that provoked the Obama administration to create a governmentwide “do not pay” list as part of its brainstorming for ways to save taxpayer money.

Once the database is up and running, agencies will have to search it before sending out payments. A pre-check check, so to speak.

“We’re making sure that payments no longer go to the deceased - it sounds ridiculous even to say it,” acknowledged Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in describing the database.

Also planned for inclusion: contractors who’ve fallen behind in their payments or, even worse, landed in jail, and companies that have been suspended or otherwise deemed ineligible for government work.

“This stuff seems obvious on its face,” Mr. Biden acknowledged. “The voters will go, ‘My God, isn’t that happening already?”’

In fact, the Social Security Administration does have what it calls a “Death Master File.” But some other agencies don’t routinely check it before issuing benefits. Ditto with the General Services Administration, which has an “Excluded Parties List System” for ineligible contractors.

WHITE HOUSE

Netanyahu to meet

with Obama in July

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet President Obama on July 6 after an earlier visit to the U.S. was postponed owing to the Gaza flotilla raid, the White House said Sunday.

“The president has offered the dates of July 6th, where the prime minister, Netanyahu, will be coming back to the White House to reschedule,” top White House aide Rahm Emanuel told ABC’s “This Week” program.

“That will be the fifth visit by the prime minister to the White House to work on a series of issues that are from the peace process, the security of the state of Israel, also dealing with the other issues in and around the region.”

HOMELAND SECURITY

Napolitano: Nation must

balance liberties, security

The nation’s homeland security chief says fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off that the government must make to beef up national security.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that as terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government must constantly balance Americans’ civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe.

Finding that balance has become more complex as homegrown terrorists have used the Internet to reach out to extremists abroad for inspiration and training. Those contacts have spurred a recent rash of U.S.-based terrorism plots and incidents.

LABOR

Unemployment falls

in 37 states in May

A majority of states saw their unemployment rates drop in May. But the widespread declines were mainly because people gave up looking for work and were no longer counted.

The unemployment rate fell in 37 states and the District of Columbia, the Labor Department said Friday. Six states had increases and seven experienced no change.

Forty-one states and the District saw a net increase in jobs. But that reflected national data showing a huge gain because of government hiring of temporary census workers.

Nevada now has the highest jobless rate in the country, marking the first time in more than four years that Michigan did not hold that distinction. Nevada’s rate climbed to 14 percent. Michigan’s fell to 13.6 percent.

FDA

Consumers urged

to avoid aphrodisiac

The Food and Drug Administration has urged consumers to stop using an instant coffee product that is being marketed as a sexual aphrodisiac, saying it could dangerously lower blood pressure.

In a statement, the FDA said Magic Power Coffee contains a chemical that could interact with some prescription drugs to significantly lower blood pressure. When blood pressure drops suddenly, the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply, which can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.

“Because this product is an instant coffee labeled as an ‘all-natural dietary supplement,’ consumers may assume it is harmless and poses no health risk,” said Deborah M. Autor, director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Office of Compliance. “In fact, Magic Power Coffee can cause serious harm.”

The FDA said it was not aware of any adverse incidents so far associated with the product.

Magic Power Coffee is sold on Internet sites by several independent distributors. Consumers and health care professionals should report problems to the FDA’s MedWatch program at 800/FDA-1088.

HOUSE

Data shows BP claims

paid at less than 12 percent

The House Judiciary Committee says data it has collected shows that BP has paid less than 12 percent of claims submitted by people and businesses arising from the Gulf oil spill.

The committee said in a statement Friday that only $71 million out of an estimated $600 million had been paid as of Tuesday. In addition, the panel said that BP didn’t make any payments in the first two weeks following the explosion and oil spill.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, said he’s concerned that BP “is stiffing too many victims and shortchanging others.”

The committee said BP hasn’t made a single payment for bodily injury or diminished home property value. BP officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.