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Next stop: Disneyland

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President Barack Obama officially kicked off the Thanksgiving Day holiday today by exercising his presidential duties and pardoning not one, but two, turkeys.

Flanked by daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama was in good spirits for the occassion. Obama noted that the pardoned birds, Courage and Carolina, would be traveling to Disneyland to participate in the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

Obama even managed to work in a Recovery Act joke. He explained that in addition to the two pardoned turkeys, two other less-fortunate birds donated by a Pennsylvania turkey farm would be taken to the nonprofit Martha’s Table to be served to needy families.

So today, all told, I believe it’s fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys.

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Thanksgiving update: Short day for some tomorrow

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The Office of Personnel Management just posted this memo online that says agencies are free to let their employees go home early tomorrow. OPM Director John Berry said it’s up to each agency to decide whether to grant employees a short day:

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I ask all Federal employees to reflect on the President’s message and renew their commitment to serving their communities.  As a mark of gratitude for the service provided by Federal employees, executive branch department and agency heads can use their existing authority to provide an early dismissal (excused absence, with out charge to leave or loss of pay) on the day before Thanksgiving.  

Early dismissal is appropriate only for employees who work on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, and only to the extent that employees can be spared and such time off does not interfere with agency operations.  Friday, November 27, 2009, is a normal workday.

For those of you getting off early tomorrow, enjoy!

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Business as usual on Friday

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A reader e-mailed us earlier today asking if federal employees will get the day after Thanksgiving off, giving them a four-day weekend. I checked with OPM and the answer is no — federal employees still have to come in to work Friday, even if they’re recovering from a tryptophan-induced coma.

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Wednesday is the New Friday Fun Facts: Thanksgiving Edition

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Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Let’s talk turkey shall we?

How about 271 million turkeys for starters? That’s the number of turkeys that were raised in the U.S. since last Turkey Day, according to the Census Bureau, the keeper of all fun facts. According to Census the average American consumes 13.3 pounds annually.

Here’s what else Census has to say about other Thanksgiving eats:

  • The U.S. cranberry industry produced 689 million pounds of cranberries this year, up 5 percent from last year. And surprise, Wisconsin, not Massachusetts, leads the nation in cranberry production.
  • Approximately 1.8 million pounds of sweet potatoes were harvested in 2007. (Bonus: Per capita sweet potato consumption is 4.6 pounds).
  • A total of 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced for all those pies we’ll be consuming.
  • And finally: 769,760 tons of green beans were harvested this year, perfect for those casseroles.

Bonus fun fact: TSA says you can bring your pumpkin (or other flavor) pie as a carry on for your holiday flights, provided you agree to put it through the x-ray machine. Apparently pie is neither liquid nor gel, just 100 percent solid yummy goodness.

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Get ready for transition…to SmartPay2

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Attention government travelers, buyers and drivers: You may be immersed in the presidential transition (and have plans to flee work for the holiday weekend), but don’t forget this weekend is another transition…to the new government purchase, travel and fleet charge cards.

At 11:59 p.m. Nov. 29 your old SmartPay cards will be useless, so be sure to have the new cards at the ready. That’s what David Shea, director of the General Services Administration’s SmartPay 2 program, tells us here at FedLine.

Shea has these tips for feds who may be working this holiday weekend and need to use their cards:

  • Activate the new card in advance of the Nov. 29 deadline.
  • If you are going on travel, bring both cards with you to avoid getting stuck with an inactive card.
  • Have the number for your agency’s card manager handy in case you run into trouble.

Shea expects that there will be few problems with transition this weekend. The last agencies to make their choice of card providers did so back in July, meaning there was plenty of time for cards to arrive and new accounting systems to be installed. Also, the holiday weekend means there will be little activity over the transition period.

But with more than 3 million purchase, travel and fleet cards mailed to federal employees across the nation, there are likely to be some hiccups along the way, Shea said. That’s why he and his staff will be on call all weekend to put out any major card-related fires.

FedLine suspects he’ll also be collecting the wishbone from his Thanksgiving turkey for luck.

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