Friday, December 7, 2007

Panel to Inquire Into Counsel's Erased Files

A House oversight panel will conduct an inquiry into the erasure of files from the hard drive of Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch's office computer, and from the laptops of two top aides, according to a letter released by the committee.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is requesting that Bloch submit to a transcribed interview by Dec. 17 on "several issues raised by these reports," and "the rationale for using non-governmental IT employees to perform this service and the rationale for using a 'seven-level wipe.' "

Bloch spokesman Jim Mitchell said Bloch is considering the request.

Last week, Bloch confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that he had instructed Geeks on Call, a commercial computer service, to perform a "seven-level wipe" of his computer hard drive, and said he had files transferred to a portable "thumb drive" that he carries on his key chain. He said he did not recall asking the service to similarly sweep the laptops of two top aides, political appointees who have since left the agency.

Bloch, who heads the Office of Special Counsel, is the target of an investigation into allegations that he had retaliated against whistle-blowers among his staff members and improperly dismissed whistle-blower cases brought to the agency by others. In 2005, the White House asked the Office of Personnel Management to look into those allegations.

U.S. Food Program Adds Fruits and Vegetables

The Department of Agriculture added fruits, vegetables and whole grains to a nutrition program aimed at low-income women and their children, while also offering new alternatives such as soy beverages and tofu.

The changes to the Women, Infants and Children program also include reduced amounts of milk, cheese, eggs and juice.

"This is a historic day for USDA," said Eric Steiner, the department's associate administrator for special nutrition programs. "It's the first time in 30 years that the food packages for WIC have been revised to better meet the nutritional needs of women, infants and children."

The changes will be effective in February, and state agencies will then have 18 months to implement them. The program serves about 8 million people.

Under the WIC program, people receive vouchers for specific foods, averaging about $39 a month in 2007. Under the revisions, vouchers for fruits and vegetables will be $6 for children, $8 for women and $10 for fully breast-feeding women -- with the goal of encouraging more women to breast-feed.

2 TV Evangelists Rebuff Senate Finance Inquiry

Two television evangelists have rebuffed inquiries by the Senate Finance Committee into the spending of their ministries, citing concerns about privacy and religious freedom.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) last month targeted six high-profile TV ministries, seeking information on salaries and such expenses as cars, jets, furniture and cosmetic surgery. Yesterday was the deadline to respond.

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