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Obama: CIA bombing casualties “part of a long line of patriots”

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The Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., anonymously honoring fallen officers

The Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., anonymously honoring fallen officers

President Obama just issued the following statement regarding yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan’s Khost Province that killed seven CIA officers and at least one other person:

To the men and women of the CIA:

I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.

These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.

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No more texting and driving, feds

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The federal government wants you to do this.

The federal government wants you to do this.

If you’re a federal employee, you can no longer text while driving on company time.

President Obama issued an Oct. 1 executive order banning federal employees from texting while driving for work, and that order took effect Wednesday. The order bans feds from using government-supplied electronics while driving, as well as texting while driving government-owned vehicles or while driving privately-owned vehicles on official government business.

Federal contracts are encouraged to adopt their own policies banning texting behind the wheel.

More than 4 million federal employees will be banned from texting on company time, according to a Transportation Department news release. Some agencies had a head start in banning texting: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered all 58,000 agency employees to comply immediately with the president’s executive order.

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TSA subpoenas bloggers over leak

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The Transportation Security Administration has served subpoenas to two travel bloggers who posted a Christmas Day airport security directive after the attempted downing of a U.S.-bound plane.

TSA special agents served the subpoenas to Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding to know by today who leaked the security directive to them. The directive was not intended to be released to the public, TSA officials said.

The security directive, effective Dec. 25 to Dec. 30, outlined checkpoint and on board security measures, including pat downs of all passengers at boarding gates and no bathroom visits on board planes within an hour of landing.

Frischling, author of the blog Flying with Fish, said two TSA officials came to his house Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 and served him with the subpoena. They also took his laptop, according to a post on his blog. He declined to give any details as to why and how TSA officials took his laptop.

Frischling said the security directive had no national security secrets and came to him through credible sources.

I read the document, was able to reference a second independent source who had the document, which verified the validity to me. Having read the document, there is no national security secret in the document, the bulk of the information was already available. The document was also transmitted to every airport and airline globally that has any direct flights to the US, thus the document was already outside ‘secure hands.’”

Frischling told the Associated Press that he met with TSA agents on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and the laptop computer was taken on Wednesday. Frischling said the TSA agents threatened to interfere with his contract to blog for FLM Royal Dutch Airlines if he didn’t name who leaked him the security directive.

The subpoenas demand presentation of “all documents, emails, and/or faxsimile transmissions (sic) in your control possession or control concerning your receipt of TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06 dated December 25, 2009.” They are signed by Dan Kuntz, senior counsel for civil enforcement at TSA.

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‘Thriller,’ ‘Muppet Movie’ added to National Film Registry

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thriller2It seemed like everybody lined up to honor Michael Jackson after his death this summer, and yesterday the Library of Congress bestowed its own posthumous accolade on the late singer: “Thriller” will be the first music video added to the National Film Registry.

“Thriller” showed that music videos could be entertaining films in their own right — more than just a commercial for an album. The 14-minute film was directed by “Blues Brothers” auteur John Landis, featured narration by the awesomely creepy Vincent Price, and inspired prison dance troupes all over the world.

Each year, the Library of Congress selects 25 films to preserve that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. Other films slated for preservation include “The Muppet Movie,” the Al Pacino heist movie “Dog Day Afternoon,” and Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western “Once Upon A Time In The West.”

For your New Year’s Eve enjoyment, here’s Thriller, and clips from a few other National Film Registry pictures are after the jump:

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Suicide bomber kills 8 Americans in Afghanistan

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A suicide bomber killed eight Americans yesterday at a CIA base in Eastern Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that most — if not all — of the victims were CIA employees or contractors. At least one Afghan also was killed, the Post said.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost, near the Pakistan border. The Post said the bombing is “believed to be the deadliest single attack on U.S. intelligence personnel in the eight-year-long war and one of the deadliest in the agency’s history.” In 1983, eight CIA officers were killed in a devastating truck bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.

UPDATE: Apparently seven of the eight dead Americans are CIA officers, according to a memo from CIA Director Leon Panetta obtained by the Post.

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Liberal leave in DC today

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The Office of Personnel Management announced an unscheduled leave policy is in effect today for non-emergency federal employees in the Washington, DC, area.

Federal offices are open, but employees can take the day off by notifying their supervisors, OPM said. Emergency employees must report to work on time.

With the potential for icy rain and snow showers today in the Washington region, and a slow day expected before the New Year’s holiday, OPM officials decided to play it safe and keep some employees off the roads.

Federal offices nationwide will be closed tomorrow in observance of New Year’s Day.

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Find your 2010 raise

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Federal employees already know they’re getting a 2 percent overall pay increase for 2010, but the actual raise each employee receives varies widely depending on where they work.

To help employees determine their 2010 salaries, the Office of Personnel Management has posted updated pay charts for employees in the General Schedule, Senior Executive Service and other pay systems.

We here at Fedline are glad to pass them along, but you know the saying: Don’t kill the messenger.

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More money SAVE-ing ideas

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While Nancy Fitchner’s SAVE Award winning idea to let veterans take home their unused prescriptions from Veterans Affairs Department hospitals will be the one included in the 2011 budget, that doesn’t mean the Office of Management and Budget is ignoring the 38,000 other ideas that were submitted to its first SAVE Award contest.

On the same day Fitchner was honored at the White House, OMB Director Peter Orszag told agencies to adopt some “common sense ideas” that were submitted and can be implemented without congressional action.

In a Dec. 21 memo, Orszag said in the short run agencies should:

  • Make electronic pay stubs the default way of receiving pay stubs. Currently, 64 percent of employees opt in to the electronic pay stub system, but switching electronic stubs to the default system will boost those numbers, saving the government on printing costs, Orszag wrote. Those wishing to receive paper stubs would be able to opt out of the electronic system. OMB is working with payroll providers at the National Finance Center, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the National Business Center and the General Services Administration to implement this policy.
  • Inform employees in Washington, D.C. offices that they can choose not to claim their monthly transportation benefits when they have a balance sufficient for the coming month. Orszag used the example of an employee who walks to work in the summer, but takes Metro the rest of the year.

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Senate approves dozens of nominees

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The Senate approved dozens of President Barack Obama’s nominees this morning before departing for the holidays. The Senate will return on Jan. 21.

Approved nominations include:

  • Adele Logan Alexander as a member of the National Council on the Humanities;
  • Paul T. Anastas as an assistant Environmental Protection Agency administrator;
  • Anne Slaughter Andrew as ambassador to Costa Rica;
  • Alberto Fernandez as ambassador to Equatorial Guinea;
  • Michael Khouri as a Federal Maritime Commissioner;
  • Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis as ambassador to Hungary;
  • David Daniel Nelson as ambassador to Uruguay;
  • John Norris as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission;
  • Robert Perciasepe as deputy EPA administrator;
  • Scott Boyer Quehl as the Commerce Department’s chief financial officer and an assistant secretary;
  • Leslie Rowe as ambassador to Mozambique;
  • Lynnae Ruttledge as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Education Department;
  • Miriam Sapiro as a deputy U.S. trade representative;
  • Rajiv Shah as an U.S. Agency for International Development administrator;
  • Thomas Alfred Shannon, Jr., as ambassador to Brazil;
  • Alan Solomont as ambassador to Spain and Andorra;
  • David Strickland as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration;
  • Mary Burce Warlick as ambassador to Serbia;
  • James Warlick, Jr., as ambassador to Bulgaria;
  • Grayling Grant Williams as director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, Homeland Security Department;
  • Mary Jo Wills as ambassador to Mauritius.

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Hostage situation resolved at post office

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Walter “Gator” Taylor of Tennessee surrendered Wednesday night after holding three people hostage in a Virginia post office for nine hours, reported The Associated Press.

Taylor, who was armed, asked only for pizza during the hostage situation. Police don’t yet know his motives, and no one was injured during the standoff.

EARLIER: An armed man has taken hostages at a Wytheville, Va., post office, television station WDBJ reports.

The man is holding five hostages, has fired gunshots out the windows and claims to be armed with explosives, the local television station reports. Mayor Trent Crewe told the Associated Press that three employees and two customers are being held hostage but no injuries have been reported.

Police have asked everyone within a three or four block radius of the Main Street post office to evacuate, and SWAT personnel are on the scene, the station reports.

Wytheville is about 79 miles southwest of Roanoke, Va.

We’ll keep you updated.

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