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Federal News Digest — November 2, 2011

Washington Post

Obama to make decision on controversial oil pipeline [President Obama, State Department, Keystone XL Pipeline] — Juliet Eilperin reports that President Obama himself will be tasked with approving or denying a controversial 1,700-mile Canadian oil pipeline, rather than leave the decision up to the State Department

Ten years after anthrax, how safe is your mail? [USPS, anthrax attacks] — Ed O’Keefe discusses the perception of safety of the mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service, 10 years after a mail-based anthrax attack killed five and injured 17

White House staff lose weight, credit first lady [First Lady, federal workers] — AP reports that first lady Michelle Obama has sparked positive change in many federal workers — inspiring them to make healthier choices and lose weight

GAO questions Pentagon’s efforts to prevent sex harassment [GAO, Pentagon, sexual harassment] — Joe Davidson reports that the Government Accountability Office has stated that the Pentagon needs to do more to prevent and react to sexual harassment within the department

Energy Department couldn’t manage stimulus money, watchdog says [Energy Department, Solyndra scandal, stimulus money] — Ed O’Keefe reports that the federal watchdog responsible for unearthing the Solyndra scandal will appear on Capitol Hill again to tell lawmakers that the Energy Department’s efforts to distribute $35.2 billion in stimulus money was more difficult than many at the department had envisioned

TSA frequent traveler program earning good reviews, agency says [TSA, frequent flyer program] — Ed O’Keefe reports that the Transportation Security Administration’s frequent flyer program — which allows certain types of frequent air travel passengers to more swiftly pass through security checkpoints when they’ve provided personal information in advance — is getting good reviews

New York Times

State Department defends contractor chosen for pipeline study [State Department, Keystone XL pipeline] — Leslie Kaufman reports that the State Department has noted no conflict of interest in the choosing of Cardno Entrix, a Houston-based environmental contractor with ties to TransCanada, to study to potential environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline

Drug terms reduced, freeing prisoners [Fair Sentencing Act, drugs in America] — John Schwartz reports that the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 — which lowers the jail sentencing for crack-cocaine users from the previously high sentences of about 100 times that of the punishment for using powdered cocaine, to 18 times that of powdered cocaine — is now in effect

School lunch proposals set off a dispute [public school lunches, childhood obesity] — Ron Nixon reports that the Obama Administration’s proposed school-lunch changes — including stricter standards for what constitutes as a vegetable serving — which is intended to lower the childhood obesity rate, is receiving vast disputes from food companies and agriculture-rich states

Wall Street Journal

Fed poised to cut growth forecast [Federal Reserve, economy] — Luca Di Leo reports that the Federal Reserve is likely to downgrade its outlook for the U.S. economy, which should provide clues at whether there will be further action from the agency

Painkiller deaths nearly quadruple in a decade [CDC, prescription drug abuse] — Timothy W. Martin reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that deaths from overdoses of prescription painkillers have nearly quadrupled over the past decade

Factories slow pace but orders rise [U.S. manufacturing] — Josh Mitchell reports that while production at U.S. factories is down about a percent, there was a noted rise in orders, a possible hint at a coming boost of production

Reviews begin for borrowers disputing foreclosures [bank regulation, foreclosure] — Nick Timiroas and Alan Zibel report that bank regulators are launching a foreclosure-review process to compensate homeowners who were “financially harmed” by robo-signing and other foreclosure processing problems last year

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