Author Rebecca Neal

NYT solicits Postal Service ideas

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The New York Times posted a series of letters to the editor today offering suggestions as to how to solve the Postal Service’s financial crisis. The Postal Service wants to close some branches and end Saturday service, ideas that most members of Congress are reluctant to support. One reader, Jonathan Gyory of Winchester, Mass., suggested an intriguing solution: Rather than eliminate Saturday delivery, why not bite the bullet and reduce mail delivery to three days a week? Half of the postal routes would receive mail on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the other half on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Each letter…

Yes, you have to fill out your Census form

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If you’ve watched the Super Bowl or “American Idol,” you’ve seen ads touting the 2010 Census. Fill out your form, the ads say. It’s cool. It will get your state money and representation. What they need to say: You must fill out your Census form. It’s the law. A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows only 13 percent of Americans realize it’s illegal not to fill out your Census form. Census forms will start arriving at homes this week, but the Rasmussen poll, released Monday, shows not everyone understands how the Census works. 57 percent said it is not against the…

The IRS really wants its 4 cents' worth

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If two IRS agents personally delivered a tax-due notice to your business, you’d assume you’d made a serious clerical error and owed thousands of dollars, right? Try 4 cents. That’s how much IRS agents told a manager last week at Harv’s Metro Car Wash in Sacramento, Calif., that the company owned in back taxes. Since the 4 cents dated back to 2006, interest and penalties owed totaled $202.31. All for 4 cents. The car wash’s owner, Aaron Zeff, told The Sacramento Bee that the IRS sent him a letter on Oct. 22, 2009, stating that his company “has filed all…

A stolen sarcophagus, anyone?

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If you think you can get an illegally-obtained Egyptian sarcophagus through customs, think again. This beautifully-decorated and well-preserved sarcophagus was seized by a Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist in Miami in 2008. The specialist was concerned that the sarcophagus would require a permit to enter the country and referred the 3,000-year-old coffin to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Trade Enforcement Team. They investigated the sarcophagus’ history and determined it was indeed stolen property. ICE and CBP presented the sarcophagus to the people of Egypt Wednesday at a ceremony at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. Said CBP…

How many e-mail systems does an agency need?

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Many agencies use a single e-mail messaging system across all departments and offices. That’s not the case at the Agriculture Department, which operates 27 different e-mail systems, USDA Chief Information Officer Christopher Smith told a House Agriculture subcommittee Wednesday. Only the largest departments within the USDA have modernized and use shared e-mail systems. The other departments and agencies operate as they have for years — separately and without collaboration. Each office is responsible for monitoring and maintaining its own e-mail system, which is time consuming and slows down the USDA’s modernization, Smith said. This fragmented approach has hampered USDA’s ability…

WH declassifies cybersecurity parameters

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The White House has declassified much of a cybersecurity initiative developed during the George W. Bush administration. The release of Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative’s 12 key goals is part of the Obama administration’s quest for transparency, said Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt in a March 2 White House blog post announcing the declassification. Bush created the initiative in 2008 and few details were available about it before the March 2 release. Schmidt wrote: We will not defeat our cyber adversaries because they are weakening, we will defeat them by becoming collectively stronger, through stronger technology, a stronger cadre of security professionals,…

Feds: Want a government-issued iPhone?

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Most federal employees who have a work-issued smartphone have a BlackBerry. If you’re eligible to receive a work phone, do you want to trade your BlackBerry in for an iPhone but can’t because agencies don’t issue iPhones because of security concerns? I’m writing a story about the iPhone and the government market, and I’d like to hear from federal employees who wish they could use an iPhone at work. Please e-mail me at rneal@federaltimes.com, and as always, we don’t publish any e-mails or information without first getting your permission.

Cut federal pay to help reduce the deficit?

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The federal government is borrowing too much and costs too much to run. If it were a private company, it would have cut employee salaries a long time ago to make ends meet, say two economists in a column for Forbes magazine. And that’s what the federal government needs to do to show it’s serious about fiscal responsibility and reducing the deficit, write economists Robert Stein and Brian Wesbury. If private companies operated like the federal government, creditors and analysts would have serious concerns about the companies’ fiscal health and reconsider doing business with them, they write. And with unemployment…

Fallout from the WH party crashers

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White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers is leaving her job a few months after her office allowed uninvited guests to attend a state dinner, the White House announced today. Rogers will be returning to the private sector in Chicago, where she first met President Obama, reports The Washington Post. Rogers faced blistering criticism from Congress and the media after employees of her office, which clears guests for White House events, failed to catch three uninvited guests who walked into a state dinner for the prime minister of India. In a statement, the president and Michelle Obama thanked Rogers, a longtime…

Army officials share social networking tips

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The Army is at the forefront of social networking, offering Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to connect the public with soldiers in uniform. And while the military enjoys broad support online — the Army’s Facebook page has 173,000 fans — that doesn’t mean it’s immune from inappropriate posts from those who take issue with the military or politics. Policing racist, sexist or harassing comments is important to maintaining the military’s integrity, but deleting too many comments may make users suspicious of censorship, said Staff Sgt. Josh Salmons, emerging media coordinator at Fort Meade’s Defense Information School during a Feb. 24…

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