That's Latin for 'Daily,' Not 'Occasionally'

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hard to keep up with the voting rights section of the Justice Department's civil rights division. Division chief John Tanner recently made some news with a fascinating analysis of how photo IDs for voters actually help minorities.

Now there's word that the acting deputy director of the section, Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, has been accused of collecting a $64 per diem, including on weekends and the Fourth of July, while spending half of June and most of July and August with her husband and kids at their beach house on Cape Cod.

The allegation, made to the department inspector general apparently by someone linked to the Boston regional office, was that Lorenzo-Giguere made "multiple" government-paid trips to the Cape and that she improperly said that "her presence on Cape Cod was necessary pending litigation in Boston," which was in the courts over the summer.

Asked for a comment from Lorenzo-Giguere or the department, spokesman Peter Carr said in an e-mail: "The Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the allegations, and upon conclusion of the investigation the Department will take appropriate action."

The complaint also alleged that Lorenzo-Giguere "spent little time in Boston" this summer and did little work on the case. Also, what supervision and oversight she provided was done by phone to Boston while she "remained on the beach," and she would have been able to do this from her office in Washington.

Maybe, but we've always believed that it's easier to think more clearly on the beach, breathing the salt air, looking at the waves . . .

Yesterday's News

Timing is indeed everything. And when you're writing for Foreign Affairs -- the house organ of the foreign policy establishment, which has a lead time of about a month from submission to publication -- things can change.

Just ask R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, who wrote an upbeat article in the November-December issue hailing "America's Strategic Opportunity With India." In a section labeled "Nuclear Spring," Burns wrote that India's unmonitored nuclear program had been for years "the elephant in the room," blocking improved relations.

But then came the breakthrough U.S.-India nuclear deal in 2005. Although it hasn't been officially approved in treaty form, Burns wrote glowingly, "it has already become the symbolic centerpiece of the new U.S.-India friendship and is wildly popular among millions of Indians who see it as a mark of U.S. respect for India."

On the other hand, even Brussels sprouts or George Steinbrenner could be "wildly popular among millions" in a country with more than 1 billion people.

"Despite the objections voiced by the Communist Party of India in August of this year," he wrote, "the Indian government has stood firm and is meeting its commitments under the agreement." Three months ago, he called it "perhaps the single most important initiative" that the two countries "have agreed to."

Alas, the deal took a bad turn last week because of opposition by India's leftist parties. Not dead, but on life support. The Indian government may be standing, but not all that firmly, and outside experts put the odds of the agreement being revived at one in three. Maybe lower.

The online version of the article now includes an intro saying: "The nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi may have run into trouble, but the future of bilateral relations between the two countries should still be bright." Millions would agree.

When It Rains, It Pours

Administration transportation officials have ballyhooed a new $15 billion satellite-based air traffic control system as a major step in alleviating those horrific flight delays. They recently announced a $1.8 billion contract to ITT to get things going.

But the Georgia congressional delegation seems to be focusing these days on local concerns -- namely mold, asbestos and a leaking roof at the air traffic control center in Atlanta, the world's busiest.

In a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, the group, an unlikely coalition including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and Rep. John Linder (R) and Democratic Reps. John Lewis and Sanford Bishop, said meetings with administration officials about this problem have yielded precious little progress.

The lawmakers said they are troubled by photos of "air traffic controllers working traffic while [holding] umbrellas to keep their equipment dry, something which has occurred at least three times in the last year."

We're sure everyone is working hard to resolve this. In the meantime, the folks at the Federal Aviation Administration, in the usual end-of-fiscal-year spending season, managed to buy a new $3,500 poker table for the Atlanta center, according to a tally compiled by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Now they can put the equipment under the table so they don't have to use umbrellas.

Speaking of the FAA, President Bush yesterday nominated former pilot Robert A. Sturgell, who's now acting administrator, to a five-year term as head of the agency.

Disaster, Indeed

This just in from New York PR type Rita Larchar, who notes that 10,000 of the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by California's wildfires "have taken shelter at the local NFL stadium," something "vaguely reminiscent of circumstances of Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years ago."

So who better to advise us than former FEMA director and Katrina veteran Michael "Heck of a Job, Brownie" Brown? "The agency has learned some hard lessons regarding the handling of mass evacuations," Larchar's e-mail quotes him as saying, "especially in regard to the bureaucratic red tape . . . involved."

Brown, Larchar says, "can offer advice to residents and businesses on proper relief and recovery efforts and advice for future disaster preparedness."

A great country, a truly great country.

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