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If there’s something strange in your Capitol ’hood, who you gonna call?; Lawmaker proposes bill to protect the dead from identity theft; Working on Mars time; Rolling Stones make special appearance at GSA HQ as Doan channels Jagger

If there’s something strange in your Capitol ’hood, who you gonna call?
Open-government advocates, angry that citizens are not given enough time to preview bills, are telling lawmakers to vote against legislation that has not been posted on the Internet for at least 72 hours.

ReadtheBill.org, a nonprofit group promoting transparent lawmaking, refers to bills posted online at the last minute as Mystery Bills. And so the organization has assumed an alternate identity: Mystery Busters.

Slow readers, unite: You and the Mystery Busters can persuade Congress to post legislation and conference reports online for 72 hours before floor consideration.

According to the antagonists of closed-door politics, recent mystery legislation includes the fiscal 2007 and the Homeland Security appropriations bills.

The Mystery Busters launched their first attack last month. They have promised to publish a list of mystery bills every week that Congress is in session.

“The Capitol is an old building. Mystery bills have infested the place,” said Rafael DeGennaro, founder and president of ReadtheBill.org. “The only way to get rid of them is with the Internet.”

He assured citizens that they need not panic or worry about permanent damage to the Capitol building. “Mystery bills can weaken the foundations of democracy, but we launched Mystery Busters just in time,” he said.

Lawmaker proposes bill to protect the dead from identity theft
Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation that would stop identity thieves who try to open new credit card accounts, max out existing accounts and even withdraw cash by impersonating someone who has died.

Under current rules, the Social Security Administration does not immediately notify consumer-reporting agencies when people die, so identity thieves can steal deceased people’s Social Security numbers and go wild.

Criminals pilfer SSNs by inputting personal information — gleaned from obituaries — into SSA’s online Death Master File.

Davis’ bill would require the government to send Death Master File changes to consumer-reporting agencies every month and require those agencies to place permanent fraud alerts on people’s accounts after they die.

Working on Mars time
One of the keynote speakers at FCW Events’ CIO Summit last month was Steven Squyres, a professor at Cornell University and the person who is overseeing the missions of those amazing little Mars robots, Spirit and Opportunity.

They were originally slated for 90-day missions, but they have lasted more than 850 days. We always hear of government programs that are off schedule and overbudget. The Mars rover project had to meet its schedule: It had to launch the two rovers within a certain window of opportunity or miss the chance to make it to Mars.

But it did not meet its budget. Squyres talked about two tough meetings with NASA officials to request more money.

One of the most interesting aspects of managing the rover project was that the team had to work on Mars time. Each morning, the rovers wake up and seek instructions from people back on Earth about what they are supposed to do.

Unfortunately, a Mars day — called a sol — is about 39 minutes longer than an Earth day. So the rover team members worked on a Mars day, and as time went on, they worked overnight shifts, which was hard on their families, Squyres said.

Even worse, they were working in two different Mars time zones because the rovers were on different sides of the planet.

Squyres even has a timepiece that measures Mars time.

For more on Squyres and for Mars rover links, go to FCW.com Download’s Data Call at www.fcw.com/download.

Rolling Stones make special appearance at GSA HQ as Doan channels Jagger
The following are some snippets from last week’s inaugural address by Lurita Doan, the new administrator of the General Services Administration.

  • “They tell me that I am now Madam Administrator, but I hope over the next few years you will simply call me Lurita. It is your ideas and hard work I value, not any title. I am so proud to be the first woman to lead this agency, and as the great poet Mick Jagger said, ‘Start Me Up!’”

  • “I’m a strong believer that government should do a better job of tapping the energy and creativity of America’s small businesses.”

  • “While it is true that Rome was not built in a day, every action does begin with but a single step. There are 24 hours in a day — 25 if you skip lunch — and I intend to make every moment count.”

  • Got a tip? Send it to asternstein@fcw.com.

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