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AFGE pushes for flextime at Labor Department

The American Federation of Government Employees is not happy with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's stance on flextime and such.
The American Federation of Government Employees is not happy with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's stance on flextime and such. (Megan M Guerriero/courtesy Of Afge Local 12)

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The spicy cinnamon candies may be safe, but a Senate aide notes: "Don't try to bite directly into any whole jawbreaker, Gobstopper, Jolly Rancher, or for that matter, Atomic Fireball, before you soften it up, as it can damage your teeth."

The candies apparently were sent by the Matthew 5 Project, an evangelical Christian effort to promote international cooperation and reduce nuclear weapons. The message appeared in Senate e-mail boxes Thursday. Unclear how they "tested" the stuff.

Ambassador for life

Career Foreign Service ambassadors almost never serve much longer than their traditional three-year terms overseas. There have been a few exceptions, most famously former ambassador to Israel Sam Lewis, who was in Tel Aviv for eight years until 1985. But the rule generally applies.

This summer, however, Ambassador to Kenya Michael E. Ranneberger, a veteran Africa hand, apparently will begin his fifth year on the job in Nairobi, and there's no nominee in sight to replace him.

That sparked speculation that the administration might want to extend Ranneberger in order to hold the job open for Sudan special envoy J. Scott Gration, should Gration work out the Sudan mess. Gration, Loop Fans recall, grew up in Africa and became tight with President Obama when he escorted the then-senator as he toured his ancestral homeland -- or birthplace, as some folks say.

Gration, a retired Air Force general, early on had been looked at for a top administration job and perhaps as a replacement for Ranneberger. But we're told that's not happening anytime soon because the White House is not about to pull him off the full-time Sudan portfolio, despite some criticism that he's too soft on the war criminals. "The ball's not even rolling in that direction," one source said.

Our man in the lava

With that volcano so much in the news these days, we're happy to report that the administration has decided to nominate a new ambassador to Iceland, a post that's been vacant since the Bush team left town. The lucky winner is Luis Arreaga, a career Foreign Service officer who's now in a top official in the human resources shop at State and was formerly deputy chief of mission in Panama and also consul general in Vancouver, B.C.

Iceland, which is about the size of Kentucky, has a population of about 320,000. It's a NATO member -- though it has no army.

50-50, give or take

A couple of long-held Obama nominees have been confirmed by the Senate. Lael Brainaird, whose March 2009 nomination to the critical post of Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, was stalled by a year-long tussle over late tax payments and home-office space. She just squeaked through on a 78 to 19 vote, with 19 GOP members voting for her.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Christopher Schroeder, who was approved without dissent by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, was confirmed to be head of the Justice Department's office of legal policy. After he failed to get Senate confirmation, Schroeder, a former chief counsel on the committee, was renominated and approved again nearly three months ago. He got confirmed on a narrow 71 to 25 vote.

So a controversial nominee these days is anyone who gets fewer than 70 votes.

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