WASHINGTON

GSA giveback demand gets attention of House panel

Offer to contractors from a government agency: We’ll give you a tax deduction for making federal buildings more energy efficient if you qualify and if you’ll write us a check for 19 percent of the tax break’s value.

The General Services Administration says that after seven months, it dropped its demand for the giveback requirement because there were no takers.

But the policy is now raising new questions about whether GSA was trying to raise money for its own budget without congressional authorization, whether that effort was legal and whether other agencies have tried anything similar.

“It was brought to our attention that certain people at agencies were asking for what looked like kickbacks in order to get allocations of a tax deduction,” Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight panel, said Thursday. “This is a major concern and I’m certainly going to investigate this.”

DAKAR, Senegal

West Africa’s regional bloc will deploy troops to Mali

West Africa’s regional bloc said Thursday it soon will deploy forces to Mali, a plan already rejected by the country’s ruling junta that put down a countercoup this week in the country’s capital.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the commission of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, said the group intended to send forces immediately but still needed to consult with its partners about financing the deployment.

The announcement came late Thursday after hours of meetings in the Senegalese capital that were aimed at resolving the political impasses in Mali and Guinea-Bissau following recent coup d’etats.

VIENNA

Newest Vienna cafe offers free cats with your coffee

Would you like a cat with your coffee? If so, Vienna’s newest coffee house is the place to go.

Five cats roam freely in “Cafe Neko,” ready to be stroked and cuddled — and when they are tired of all the attention, they can disappear into their own space or climb high above the tables.

“Cafe Neko” opened Thursday. Owner Alexander Thuer said the idea to combine coffee with cats comes from his Japanese wife, Takako Ishimitsu, who says such establishments are common in Asia.

But not all guests are welcome. Dogs have to stay outside. 

— From news service reports