Figures show Her Majesty´s Revenue and Customs officials made almost 14,400 authorised views of "communications data" on taxpayers during tax evasion investigations. This compares to more than 11,500 such views in 2010, which equates to a rise of almost 25 percent, according to statistics released under Freedom of Information laws. Using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, HMRC can access details on what websites are viewed by taxpayers, where a mobile phone call was made or received and the date and time of emails, texts and phone calls. From October 2011 to the end of September last year
Now that Americans finally know the tax rate they´ll be paying, it´s time to start thinking about the annual drudgery of filing their returns. It´s also the season when identity thieves begin ripping off those returns and stealing billions in false or misdirected refunds. Tax fraud, amazingly, is now the third-largest theft of federal funds after Medicare/Medicaid and unemployment-insurance fraud. Tax-identity theft exploded to more than 1.1 million cases in 2011 from 51,700 in 2008. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last summer reported discovering an additional 1.5 million potentially fraudulent 2011 tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2 billion.
A 61-year-old high school teacher has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against a suburban Cincinnati school district. Her disability? She has a phobia of young children, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Maria C. Waltherr-Willard, a French and Spanish teacher who was employed by the Mariemont school district for 35 years, alleges that the discrimination occurred primarily in 2010, when the district reassigned her from high school to junior high. The suit also claims the district wanted her to resign because of her age. The alleged disability is pedophobia, an irrational fear or dislike of children.
Bill Bryson´s "In a Sunburned Country" is a must-read for anyone headed to Australia. But, even if you aren´t headed Down Under, the story Bryson relates of the Aussie Prime Minister Harold Holt has some relevance this week. Holt simply vanished into the surf in December 1967. His body was never recovered, and various wild speculations accompanied his loss, but Bryson remarked on how the Australians carried on without much fuss, even though the disappearance of the Number One was unprecedented. Perhaps the GOP is displaying the same sort of stiff upper lip in the aftermath
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced strong support Sunday for former Sen. Chuck Hagel as the country’s next defense secretary by saying he is “superbly qualified” but criticized his Republican Party, which has largely being critical of Hagel. “Most of the national security community that I know -- many secretaries of defense, ambassadors -- think Hagel is a solid guy,” Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He speaks his mind, is a good supporter of Israel, but he´s not reluctant to disagree when appropriate … He’ll do a great job.”
Either by design or through incompetence, the Obama administration’s war on terror has become indefinable. In fact, to the degree that there are identifiable policies, they seem either internally contradictory or at odds with other administration policies. THE INHERITED PROTOCOLS What is the current Obama position on the so-called Bush-era war-on-terror protocols? Are they still useful in stopping terrorists, irrelevant, toxic, or sort of all three? The administration has never given us an explanation of its attitude toward the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay, the use of military tribunals, the exact status of renditions, the use of preventive detention,
President Barack Obama last week re-nominated 33 individuals to federal benches, several of whom faced stiff resistance when originally nominated. The judicial nominations come as the president faces stiff confirmation battles for some of his cabinet nominations, including over secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel. The judicial nominations have raised concerns among court-watchers of increased judicial activism and maneuvering for potential Supreme Court vacancies. “He wants to appoint judges based on their empathy rather than based on their commitment to the law,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, a judicial watchdog group.
What do you get when 85 freeloading freelancers without genuine media affiliations vote for winners in an industry that’s filled with affiliations and worth more than most small countries? A) A scam; B) The Golden Globes; or C) Jodie Foster. If you guessed A, you are correct, if you guessed B, you are correct, and if you guessed C, you are as confused as the rest of us. Last night, for the 70th time, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association held their annual confusing grifter fest, the Golden Globe Awards, filled with Hollywood honchos pretending it was all real,
In February 2010, a massive snowstorm blanketed the nation’s capital and closed the federal government. Harry Reid was holed up in his condominium at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington’s swanky West End neighborhood, reading the news in his pajamas. He came across an Associated Press story on the Democrats’ jobs package, a mixture of spending provisions and tax credits. The story referred to the jobs bill as “light on new initiatives on boosting hiring and heavy with provisions sought by lobbyists for business.” Montana’s Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Republican ranking member,
In his, Andrew Cuomo tacked sharply leftward, thundering that “We are the progressive capital of the nation” and promising quick action on gun control, climate change, and abortion rights. When his turn came, Chris Christie touted his bipartisan bonafides, spending the bulk of speech boasting of New Jersey’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, and paid scant attention to the legislative battles to come. In Virginia, Bob McDonnell called for eliminating the commonwealth’s gas tax and paying for it by increasing taxes on fuel-efficient vehicles. It is, in other words, State of the State season,
Back in April of 2009, only a couple of months after Mr. Obama took office, Megan McCardle, then with Atlantic magazine, wrote: Conde laid off Julian Sanchez yesterday amid more cuts in its digital properties. (Snip)Fareed Zakaria, the erstwhile Obama advisor who contributes to both Time and CNN, the television network owned by Time-Warner, said in December of 2010 that Americans needed to reduce their consumption: Parker asked Zakaria if he had faith the American people could handle the fiscal discipline he advocated. Zakaria used the platform as an opportunity to attack Americans
As Ed pointed out yesterday, Sen. Rubio is hatching a plan to ‘charge up the middle’ on illegal immigration — and it might not be a moment too soon. The White House has already indicated that they are planning to go full-throttle on prioritizing the immigration issue in a second term, and it looks like those plan are already starting to take a more definite shape in the form of a comprehensive legislative package that critics will undoubtedly say looks an awful lot like amnesty, reports the NYT: President Obama plans to push Congress to move quickly
Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s New York Times piece on Rev. Louie Giglio has since been scrubbed, but here’s the original language: "An official with Mr. Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee, which operates separately from the White House, vetted Mr. Giglio. People familiar with internal discussions between administration and committee officials said the White House viewed the selection as a problem for Mr. Obama, and told the panel on Wednesday night to quickly fix it. By Thursday morning, Mr. Giglio said he had withdrawn." You can see that text here. But now, the story eliminates any indication
Britain cannot possibly afford its welfare state for much longer. Most people do not realise that state handouts (£207?billion a year) mop up every penny we pay in income tax (£155?billion a year). Everything else, the NHS, schools, transport, police, defence, interest on the debt (nearly £50?billion a year, by the way) must be paid for by other taxes, including the vast sums raked in by so-called ‘National Insurance’, or by more borrowing. As we are more or less bankrupt as a country, such generosity is not noble but plain idiotic. Yet we will not stop doing it. Change is politically impossible.
Sen. Charles Schumer says retailers that sell assault weapons should stop offering them for purchase while Congress discusses gun regulation legislation. Schumer on Sunday released a letter he sent to major retailers asking for a voluntary moratorium. The New York Democrat says consumer demand for guns has gone up in the weeks since the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
At a speech before the Conusmer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 9, Bill Clinton stated: “Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapon ban expired in 2005, half in the history of the country.” But that statement is untrue, as Glenn Kessler of the Washngton Post demonstrates. Asked by Kessler about his statement, Clinton’s spokesman declined to comment or to say where Clinton got his numbers. As Kessler, a professional fact-checker, says, “this always makes us suspicous.” It seems clear that Clinton
BAMAKO, Mali — French fighter jets bombed rebel targets in a major city in Mali´s north Sunday, pounding the airport as well as training camps, warehouses and buildings used by the al-Qaida-linked Islamists controlling the area, officials and residents said. The three-day-old French-led effort to take back Mali´s north from the extremists began with airstrikes by combat helicopters in the small town of Konna. It has grown to a coordinated attack by state-of-the-art fighter jets which have bombarded
President Obama ordered U.S. forces to support French troops in a failed mission to rescue a hostage in Somalia, Mr. Obama notified Congress on Sunday. At least once French soldier was killed during the operation Friday. The president said U.S. combat aircraft “briefly entered Somali airspace” to support the operation Friday. “These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation,” Mr. Obama said. Mr. Obama said he directed U.S. forces to participate in the mission because it furthered “national security interests.” In 1993, U.S. special forces hunting
The Pentagon has begun a campaign to rebut what it calls “myths” about Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel and is sending to senators documents purporting to show that he is pro-Israel and tough on Iran. The papers — one of which is titled “Chuck Hagel’s Record: Myths and Facts” — kick off what is expected to be a strong lobbying effort by the Obama administration and liberal groups to win Mr. Hagel’s confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee and then the full Senate. Republicans have voiced opposition, principally because of his statements about those two countries
Sen. Chris Murphy on Sunday said there is growing momentum in Congress for a ban on so-called assault weapons, saying lawmakers’ attitudes toward gun control have changed significantly in the wake of last month’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn. “This issue is going to continue to move,” Mr. Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union. “I do think that even in the Democratic caucus you see members like [Sens.] Joe Manchin and Mark Warner who previously probably never would have considered
In selecting Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary, President Obama has sent some not-so-subtle messages: The Treasury’s autonomy will be curbed; the president doesn’t much fear another financial crisis (otherwise, his nominee might have more financial-market experience); and the president isn’t conciliating his Republican and business critics (otherwise, his nominee would be less partisan). In many ways, the choice of Lew makes perfect sense
Much of the focus on Chuck Hagel’s record has been on his views on Israel, Iran and sequestration. Equally troubling to those who have taken a forceful stand against Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba, however, has been his dismissive attitude toward the Castros and his enthusiasm to end the U.S. embargo with no quid pro quo. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already expressed serious concerns about Hagel’s views on Cuba. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and now chairman of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, put out a statement
Former secretary of state Colin Powell emerged this morning to voice his support for Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Powell characterized Hagel as a strong supporter of Israel, a move that surely anticipates Hagel’s own in his confirmation hearing. In defending Hagel’s pro-Israel credentials and dismissing the significance of Hagel’s now-infamous reference to the “Jewish lobby,” Powell offered a revealing response. “That term slips out from time to time,” he told NBC’s David Gregory.
A New York public school teacher who advised a school Bible Study club has filed a civil rights lawsuit against her school district after she was forced to remove all religious content from her classroom — including a quote from former President Ronald Reagan. Joelle Silver, a veteran teacher in the Cheektowaga Central School District in western New York, said she received a “counseling letter” signed by her superintendent that ordered her to remove all religious-themed items from her classroom or else she could be fired. The eight-page letter informed the teacher that “your rights to free speech
President Obama informed Congress Sunday evening that U.S. forces were present in Somalia on Friday for a French raid to rescue a hostage from al-Shabaab. The attempt to rescue the intelligence officer who had been held by the terrorist group for three years went very wrong, though. One French commando was killed in the operation and another is missing. Al-Shabaab claimed that the commando is now their hostage. And French army consultant Denis Allex, the pseudonym for the intelligence officer, is presumed dead. “Extremely violent fights took place