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In the Loop: Name That .gov Site

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By Al Kamen
Friday, October 9, 2009

Contest time! An item Wednesday noted that the Justice Department had rebranded its Web site and gone to a more logical, user-friendly address -- http://justice.gov instead of http://usdoj.gov.

A reader suggested that other agencies might want to follow suit. They could adopt catchy names, ones that would normally come to mind when people think about those agencies, thus making it easier to remember how to find the Web sites.

For example, the CIA could be spook.gov. The umbrella spy agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, could be spyboss.gov. Treasury might want to use moneybags.gov, while the Federal Election Commission might be found at toothless.gov. The Office of Management and Budget could take miser.gov, and maverick.senate.gov would be you know who.

Loop Fans can help agencies rebrand! Submit your suggestions for new, improved URLs for government sites -- maximum two per entrant -- to rebrand@washpost.com or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Winners will receive a fabulous Loop T-shirt and the bragging rights that go with it. Get those votes in quickly: The deadline is the close of the day, as in midnight, on Wednesday.

Remember, to be eligible for this contest, you must include a phone number -- work, home or cell -- so we can contact you.

Good luck!

Sunshine! Eventually.

Readers often ask reporters why the press, rather than relying on anonymous sources, doesn't simply use the Freedom of Information Act to get the goods on what the government is doing. This is an excellent idea, even though agencies tend to "lose" documents, or black out so many portions of them as to make the effort an exercise in futility. Officials also use the dodge of waiting four or five years and then "responding" by asking whether you still want the records.

But not always. We're happy to report that the Department of Health and Human Services did in fact respond to our colleague Ceci Connolly's request for records about a contract awarded to Acambis Inc. and Baxter International for a smallpox vaccine.

"The Center for Disease Control (CDC) located 156 pages of responsive records, which are enclosed," HHS public affairs official Robert Eckert wrote in his Sept. 14 letter. Eckert noted that he had decided "to withhold portions" under various exemptions to the law, but these appear to be quite minimal.

His letter came almost exactly seven years after Connolly asked for the records and only one year after Acambis was acquired by Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanofi Pasteur Holding.

The Man From GLAAD

President Obama's selection Wednesday of gay activist and international lawyer David Huebner as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa marks only the second time that an openly gay person has been selected for a non-career ambassadorial posting. (Some gay career Foreign Service officers have served as ambassadors.)

Huebner, now based in Shanghai for a California law firm, worked for more than a decade as the chief lawyer for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The announcement came just in time for Obama's appearance Saturday night at the annual dinner for the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.


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