Friday federal headlines - May 31, 2013

Friday - 5/31/2013, 7:44am EDT

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal prosecutors are taking on more cases in Indian country following a 2010 law. The Justice Department will release a report today showing a 54-percent increase in the number of cases filed in federal court since 2009. The government has to coordinate with tribes when both the suspect and victim are American Indians. But federal cases carry stiffer penalties. The report outlines the nearly 6,000 referrals to federal prosecutors over the past two calendar years. About two-thirds led to convictions. Justice officials are also reaching out more to tribal communities and offering more training to law enforcement. (Federal News Radio)

  • Reports on the health of the government's two biggest benefit programs come out today. Trustees for Social Security and Medicare will release their annual assessments. Last year, they projected Medicare's trust fund would run dry by 2024. After that, it would have to reduce benefits. Social Security's fund could last another nine years to 2033. Budget analysts expect today's report to show slight improvement. (Federal News Radio)

  • A battle inside the Food and Drug Administration has gone public. The Wall Street Journal reports, a senior regulator is arguing with his bosses over the safety of popular blood pressure medicines. Thomas Marciniak urges FDA to issue warnings that the drugs increase the likelihood of cancer. Ellis Unger, chief of the drug evaluation unit, disagrees. Both cite 2010 studies involving 68,000 patients. But they come to different conclusions. The Journal quoted an exchange of caustic emails between the two. Marciniak accuses Unger of ignoring the possibility of a 30 percent increase in the incidence of cancer. (The Wall Street Journal)

  • A leading civic hacker is joining the government. Jennifer Pahlka, the founder of Code for America, heads to the White House Office of Science and Technology. She'll work for Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. In a blog post, Pahlka says the post will last one year. Among other duties, she'll manage the presidential innovation fellows program. Pahlka says the experience will give her a better perspective on how the government actually works, once she returns to Code For America. (Code of America)

  • The Obama administration has renewed its call for Congress to cap government-reimbursed contractor compensation. Current law is set to raise the ceiling to $950,000. The White House wants it lowered to $400,000, the same salary as the president. The ceiling is the amount contractors can charge for their top executives against cost-plus contracts. Current law uses a formula to keep up with the private sector. White House procurement chief Joe Jordan says the lower cap will save hundreds of millions of dollars. Congress last year rejected the idea of lowering the cap. (Federal News Radio)

  • Auditors say the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to do some housekeeping. Two key databases of healthcare provider information are a mess. The inspector general found that they're occassionally incomplete, often wrong and don't match up. The center doesn't verify most of the data provided. The IG says it's part of a pattern at the center that can lead to improper payments to fraudsters. The agency agrees and says it is working on a better way to collect and verify data without placing more of a burden on healthcare providers. (HHS)

  • Federal prosecutors are taking on more cases in Indian country following a 2010 law. The Justice Department will release a report today showing a 54-percent increase in the number of cases filed in federal court since 2009. The government has to coordinate with tribes when both the suspect and victim are American Indians. But federal cases carry stiffer penalties. The report outlines the nearly 6,000 referrals to federal prosecutors over the past two calendar years. About two-thirds led to convictions. Justice officials are also reaching out more to tribal communities and offering more training to law enforcement. (Federal News Radio)