White House issues new rules to cut bureaucratic red tape

Posted Aug. 23, 2011, at 8:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The White House released final plans Tuesday to streamline the federal bureaucracy by eliminating 500 regulatory requirements across two dozen federal agencies, an overhaul that could make it easier for travelers to obtain a visa and military contractors to get paid.

Officials said the reforms, which came in response to President Obama’s order in January for agencies to eliminate red tape, could save up to $10 billion over five years.

The cost savings are “a pretty big deal,” Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said in a morning conference call with reporters. “But numbers do not tell the whole story. There are a number of initiatives that are finished or well under way or contemplated that will make a difference to people.”

The White House report spans 800 pages and includes 100 reforms for the Transportation Department alone, including eliminating railroad industry regulations that could save $340 million, officials said. The Defense Department has finalized plans to speed up payments to 60,000 contractors and the State Department is reforming visa rules to “promote economic growth and tourism,” Sunstein said.

He said the reforms probably will boost job growth, but critics said the Obama administration’s plans do not go far enough toward eliminating burdensome regulatory requirements.

Charges dropped against former IMF chief

NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge dismissed the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Tuesday at the request of prosecutors, brushing aside complaints from the hotel maid who accused him.

The action by Judge Michael Obus came after District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office said it had doubts about the accuser’s credibility because she lied about her past and about several matters relating to the alleged May 14 assault in Manhattan’s Sofitel.

Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and a prominent French politician, is now free to return to France, but his lawyer said he had no immediate plans to do so.

Facebook to let users pre-approve photo tags

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook will now let you decide whether your friends can attach your name to a photo before it is circulated.

Currently, your friends can add your name to a photo on Facebook without your consent or knowledge. You can remove it later, but only after lots of others may have seen the embarrassing shots. Now, you can insist on pre-approval.

This won’t affect whether your friends can add a photo of you, only whether your name is attached to it. Still, not having the name, known as a tag, can make it more difficult for people to find a potentially embarrassing photo in a search.

Facebook said Tuesday that the change is in response to user requests.

S. African surfer killed in shark attack

JOHANNESBURG — A 49-year-old surfer died Tuesday after being attacked by a shark in Plettenberg Bay, about 310 miles east of Cape Town.

“We’re not going to speculate on the type of shark,” Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, said in an interview on his mobile phone, adding that it’s Plettenberg Bay’s first fatal shark attack in 15 years. “He was surfing off Lookout Beach near the Keurbooms river mouth and was with a large group of surfers.”

This is the second shark attack recorded off South Africa’s coast in the past three months. A scuba diver was injured off Aliwal Shoal, south of Durban, in June during the annual sardine run when sharks and dolphins feed on the large schools of fish. This month there have been two reported shark attacks in Russia and one in the Seychelles, which was fatal.

The surfer in Plettenberg Bay, whose name has not been released, appears to have been bitten in the groin area, Lambinon said, where the femoral artery may have been severed. An autopsy will be performed, he said.

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