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Federal News Digest — November 4, 2011

Washington Post

In a world of cybertheft, U.S. names China, Russia as main culprits [Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, cybertheft] – Ellen Nakashima reports that the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive went on the record accusing China and Russia of hacking into computer networks in the U.S. to steal trade secrets, technology and intellectual property – so-called cyber-espionage

Solyndra: House panel subpoenas internal White House documents [Energy Dept., Solyndra] – Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig report that despite the White House’s providing emails and other documents regarding Energy Dept. loan guarantees to the failed solar-panel manufacturer, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted along party lines to subpoena White House documents in its investigation into whether Solyndra’s selection for the program was politically motivated; meanwhile Energy Secretary Chu defended the decision to make the award to Solyndra

Former deficit hawk Leon Panetta now fights budget cuts as defense secretary [Secretary of Defense, federal budget] – Craig Whitlock contrasts Defense Secretary Panetta’s role in budget cutting from his days as House Budget Committee Chairman and as head of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration to today, when he is arguing fiercely against further cuts in defense; Congress has said $600 billion more would need to be cut from the military budget if the congressional “super-committee”  fails to reach an agreement on deficit reduction

Apologetic OPM chief reports progress on mending USAJobs launch [Office of Personnel Management] – Lisa Rein reports that John Berry, the head of the Office of Personnel Management, is addressing the technical problems with the federal jobs website, USAJobs 3.0, which has frustrated thousands of job seekers for weeks

Budget director: Stop beating up federal workers [Office of Management and Budget, federal employees] – Ed O’Keefe reports on the comments of Jacob Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget about the outlook for federal pay and benefits in the next budget, including asking Congress not to single out federal workers for cuts

New York Times

Report shows a mere 80,000 jobs added in U.S. in October [Labor Dept. unemployment] – Catherine Rampell reports on the latest Labor Dept. job statistics for October, which show far fewer jobs were created than in September

Bleak portrait of poverty is off the mark, experts say [Census Bureau, poverty] – Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise preview a new measure of poverty by the Census Bureau that provides a more accurate picture – in some cases better and in some cases worse – than the Census Bureau’s September report, which was based on criteria established 50 years age; the new measure takes into account such factors as government programs that reduce poverty and geographic disparities in cost of living, and shows fewer poor children but more poor seniors and more people living “near poverty”

F.D.A. officials, hoping to stave off critics, point to increased drug approvals [Food and Drug Administration] – Gardiner Harris reports that the Food and Drug Administration is boasting about its record of approving new drugs faster – ahead of other countries in some cases – to counter efforts by drug manufacturers who oppose congressional re-authorization of industry fees that have become critical to staffing the agency

Wall Street Journal

U.S. tightens drone rules [CIA, Pentagon, State Dept., drones] – Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes report that behind the scenes efforts to limit drone strikes against targets in Pakistan and elsewhere have resulted in a new process whereby the State Dept. will have a greater say; Defense Dept. and State Dept. officials had argued that the CIA didn’t pay enough attention to the diplomatic fallout of the strikes

MF Global masked debt risks [Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, MF Global] – Michael Rappaport reports that the broker-dealer firm run by the former New Jersey senator and governor that filed for bankruptcy amid claims it misused over $600 million in clients’ funds may have misled regulators about its debts in financial reports filed with the CFTC, and he reports that the firm “lobbied against a Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposal that would have placed tighter restrictions on how futures-trading firms can invest cash sitting in customer trading accounts”

Freddie again draws U.S. assistance [Freddie Mac, housing] – Nick Timiraos reports that the government poured $6 billion more into mortgage giant Freddie Mac to cover its increased losses in the third quarter of this year

FDA seeks Beijing’s help over food safety [Food and Drug Administration] – Laurie Burkitt reports that the Food and Drug Administration is asking China for cooperation in implementing the tougher inspection standards for foods imported to the U.S. under the Food Safety Modernization Act passed in January

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