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NEWS: Feb. 24, 2012

Public Safety | The Nation
FBI Intensifies Focus on 'Sovereign Citizens'
Federal officials have stepped up their attention on the "sovereign citizen" movement, whose members the FBI says have killed six police officers since 2000. The FBI classified the movement, whose adherents argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, as an "extremist antigovernment group."
>> Los Angeles Times
NYPD: No Laws Broken in Muslim Surveillance
The New York City police department said it had not broken any laws by conducting surveillance targeting Muslims in neighboring Newark, N.J., that documented dozens of "locations of concern" including mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and Islamic schools.
>> Reuters

Public Services | The Nation
Postal Service Consolidations to Cost 35,000 Jobs
The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to slash the size of its mail-processing network by almost half, with a projected loss of 35,000 jobs. Of 264 mail-processing plants on a closing-review list, 223 will be "consolidated--all or in part," the Postal Service said.
>> Federal Times

Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White
Charlie White
Ethics | Indiana
Former Secretary of State
Sentenced to Home Detention

Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White's sentence to a year of home detention closed one chapter in his 14-month legal battle. But the dispute over who should replace White, who was removed from office because of his six felony convictions, is headed for the Indiana Supreme Court.
>> Indianapolis Star
Los Angeles County Assessor's Aide Resigned in Protest
Dave Zoraster, hired by Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez to restore professionalism to the appraisal process, resigned in protest three months ago after being pulled off two cases in which he opposed tax breaks sought by a Noquez campaign supporter.
>> Los Angeles Times
Cook County Commissioner Faces Federal Tax Charges
Cook County, Ill., Commissioner William Beavers, an old-school ward boss who bragged about his political dominance with a barnyard reference to his virility, was indicted on charges of pocketing campaign funds and a county stipend without paying federal taxes.
>> Chicago Tribune
FBI Broadens Wayne County Investigation
The FBI's probe of Wayne County, Mich., has broadened to include allegations that a fired top aide to County Executive Robert Ficano bought a list of registered voters with money intended for the poor.
>> Detroit News

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels
Greg Nickels
Public Officials | Washington State
Seattle's Former Mayor
Running for Secretary of State

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced his bid for secretary of state, saying he would use the office to speak out against the influence of corporate money in politics. Nickels, a Democrat, also said he would ensure that the state's elections continue to be run in an nonpartisan manner and praised the retiring Republican secretary of state, Sam Reed.
>> Seattle Times
Texas' Environmental Chief to Retire
Mark Vickery announced that he will retire after nearly four years in charge of air, water and other environmental issues as the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
>> Houston Chronicle

Education | New York City
City to Release Ratings of 18,000 Teachers
The city's education department will release the performance ratings of nearly 18,000 teachers today, ending a nearly year-and-a-half-long legal battle by the teachers' union to keep the names confidential. The union is responding with a $100,000-plus newspaper advertising campaign headlined "This Is No Way to Rate a Teacher."
>> New York Times

A SEPTA train
Transportation | The Philadelphia Region
Automated Safety System
to Cost $100 Million

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will spend $100 million for a new federally mandated train-control system designed to prevent the kind of collision that killed 25 people and injured more than 130 in Los Angeles in 2008 by automatically halting trains if engineers do not heed stop signals.
>> Philadelphia Inquirer

Contracting | The Nation
Report: Big Firms Got Billions in Small-Biz Contracts
At least $16 billion of the federal government's contracting spending that was supposed to go to small businesses actually went to large companies in fiscal 2011, according to a new report by the American Small Business League.
>> Federal Times
Survey Finds More Contractor-Government Friction
Contractor relationships with federal auditors and contracting officers deteriorated somewhat during the past year as government agencies scaled back programs, according to an industry survey.
>> Government Executive

Military Personnel | The Arizona-California Border
Helicopter Collision Kills 7 Marines
Seven Marines were killed when two helicopters based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., collided midair during a nighttime training exercise in a remote portion of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California about 65 miles northwest of Yuma, Ariz.
>> Yuma Daily Sun

Technology | The Nation
Study: Laws, Court Rulings Hinder Cloud Computing
Wide differences in developed countries' rules make it difficult for companies to invest in cloud-computing technology, according to an industry study saying inconsistencies in U.S. state laws and court rulings on privacy, data breaches and copyright need to be remedied.
>> National Journal

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QUOTABLE
We tried poverty for two hundred years. We decided to try something different.
Ray Halbritter, leader of the Oneida Indian Nation in western New York State, which is manufacturing its own cigarettes for sale at low prices at a a dozen tribal convenience stores as part of a new strategy being embraced by the state's eight federally recognized tribes: Because they are sovereign nations, they argue, the cigarettes they make are exempt from the state's highest-in-the-nation $4.35-a-pack excise tax.
>> New York Times | More quotes

Oscar statuette
DATAPOINT
Five
Number of the nine film productions that are up for best-picture honors at Sunday's Academy Awards that received financial incentives from state governments, about 40 of which currently use taxpayer dollars to offer some form of tax credit, rebate or other financial incentive to film and television productions, while only about one-third of those states reveal how much they give to individual productions
>> Stateline.org | More data

VIEWPOINT
Education | Bill Gates
Shaming Our Teachers
Last week, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that teachers' individual performance assessments could be made public. The ruling is a big mistake. I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers' effectiveness, but publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher-evaluation systems that work.
>> New York Times | More commentaries

UPCOMING
American Enterprise Institute
Book forum: "Clean, Green, Renewable: What Could Go Wrong?"
Today, noon-1:30 p.m. ET, Washington, D.C.

Heritage Foundation
Discussion: "Women Speak Out: Obamacare Tramples Religious Liberty"
Feb. 27, 2-3:30 p.m. ET, Washington, D.C.

American Enterprise Institute
Discussion: "Bad Medicine: The Misconceptions Driving the Health Care Debate"
Feb. 28, 2-3:30 p.m. ET, Washington, D.C.

Governing magazine
Webinar: "Train Your Workforce Without Straining Your Budget"
Feb. 29, 1 p.m. ET

American Society for Public Administration
Annual Conference
March 2-6, Las Vegas

National Association of Counties
Legislative Conference
March 3, Washington, D.C.

National Association of Insurance Commissioners
National Meeting
March 3-6, New Orleans

Human Capital Institute
Human Capital Summit
March 5-7, Scottsdale, Ariz.

National Association of Attorneys General
Spring Meeting
March 5-7, Washington, D.C.

Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education
Program on Crisis Leadership in Higher Education
March 5-8, Cambridge, Mass.

Ascendant Strategy Management Group
Mission-Driven Management Summit
March 6-8, Washington, D.C.

GovLoop and Bloomberg Government
Webinar: "How to Streamline and Improve the Federal Government Acquisition Process"
March 8, 2 p.m. ET

American Federation of Teachers
National Higher Education Issues Conference
March 9-11, Washington, D.C.

National League of Cities
Congressional City Conference
March 10-14, Washington, D.C.

>> Full events listings