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It’s happened at countless workplaces across the country. Someone, on purpose or by accident, sends an email to the entire office and people start replying…to every person on the list. Inevitably, angry co-workers also start replying to everyone, chiding those who hit “reply-all.” Inboxes overflow with message after message.

Annoying yes, but cause for disciplinary action?

It could be if you work at the State Department, which was recently hit by a similar scenario that got so bad it nearly crippled the department’s unclassified email system. Now, according to a cable obtained by the Associated Press, senior department officials are threatening to punish anyone who uses the “reply-all” function on emails to large distribution lists.

The cable, written by Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, did not define what disciplinary actions could be taken against those who decide to “reply all” to emails. But he does instruct managers to tell their employees of “the negative impact of hitting ‘reply all’” and directs employees to simply delete emails received in error rather than responding to them.

“Anyone who disregards these instructions will be subject to disciplinary actions,” Kennedy wrote. No word yet on whether anyone deiced to reply all to the boss.

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Senator: Management of State top priority for Clinton

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Clinton and Obama

Clinton and Obama

I just got off a conference call with Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., about his meeting today with Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Casey, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will consider Clinton’s nomination Jan. 13, said he is very pleased with the direction Clinton wants to take State and expects she’ll be easily confirmed.

Most of today’s meeting dealt with State’s management, budget and personnel issues, Casey said, which will be among Clinton’s primary concerns. And one of Clinton’s first actions at State will be to elevate management issues to the deputy secretary level.

Eight years ago, Congress created a deputy secretary for management and resources position at State, but it was never officially filled and the job got busted down to undersecretary for management. Casey is glad to see Clinton restore clout to the management position, and said her selection of former Office of Management and Budget director Jacob Lew is the right move to make sure State’s initiatives succeed. “You can have all the right policies and goals, but if you can’t manage and don’t have someone whose expertise is in the world of budgets and dollars, you won’t be successful,” Casey said.

Casey said Clinton is also concerned that the Foreign Service is understaffed and could hire more, though he said Clinton did not say how many she’d like to hire. Casey also said State should improve its training of Foreign Service officers to keep their skills sharp when they are between assignments.

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Clinton gets a little company at State

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President-elect Barack Obama today named two deputies to serve under Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

James Steinberg and Jacob Lew will serve as deputy secretaries of State under Clinton. Steinberg is expected to be Clinton’s top advisor on policy issues, while Lew’s chief task will be securing additional financing for the diplomatic corps. Both nominations are subject to Senate confirmation, as is Clinton’s.

Steinberg and Lew both held key policy positions under President Clinton. Steinberg was deputy national security advisor from December 1996 to August 2000 and previously held leadership positions in the State Department. He currently is dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Lew was director of the Office of Management and Budget from July 1998 until the end of the Clinton administration and previously served as deputy OMB director and special assistant to the president. He currently is managing director and chief operating offficer of financial management firm Citi Alternative Investments.

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Business the Postal Service could do without

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Update: Fifteen embassies have received envelopes containing white powder, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said in a press briefing this morning in Washington.

The embassies are: Berlin; Bern, Switzerland; Brussels, Belgium; Bucharest, Romania; Copenhagen, Denmark; Dublin, Ireland; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; Oslo, Norway; Paris; Riga, Latvia; Rome; Stockholm, Sweden; Tallinn, Estonia; and The Hague, Netherlands. 

Tests have come back negative in all cases save for The Hague, where results are still pending. Wood said the department has no information on a possible motive for the mailings.


 

Looks like the U.S. Postal Service is busy sending more than just Christmas cards and packages this holiday season. Envelopes containing suspicious white powder have turned up at several U.S. embassies overseas and more than 40 governors’ offices stateside in the past week or so.

The white powder in each of the letters has been field tested and come back negative for any harmful material, the FBI said in a statement released this morning. All of the letters have been postmarked from Texas and are similar in nature, the FBI said. An ABC News report says 11 U.S. embassies in Europe have received the letters.

The FBI and Postal Inspection Service are investigating the case. Meanwhile, the FBI has told governors and the State Department to be on the lookout for additional letters.

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Clinton nomination a Constitutional quandary

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An obscure provision in the U.S. Constitution poses a potential roadblock on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s path to becoming Secretary of State.

It turns out that the Constitution (specifically Article I, Section 6) prohibits a lawmaker from taking any goverment job for which the salary was raised during the lawmaker’s elected term. As the Washington Post and numerous bloggers have noted, this would effectively preclude Clinton from taking the State Department gig. Salaries for Cabinet secretaries have been increased twice since Clinton started her second term as the junior New York senator in January 2007: to $191,300 in January 2008 and to $196,700 this coming January.

But it turns out lawmakers already have devised a way around the sticky Constitutional quandary. They can pass a measure stipulating that Clinton will take the job at the salary that was in place when she began her current term: $186,600. There’s even a name for the workaround: “The Saxbe Fix,” so named after a similar situation in 1973 when President Nixon nominated Ohio Sen. William Saxbe to be his attorney general.

This solution likely would rub strict constitutionalists the wrong way, but look at the upside: By taking the job at a reduced salary, Clinton would be a step ahead of the game in helping her new boss fulfill a campaign pledge to cut government spending.

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