Archive for the ‘U.S’ Category

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Identity theft, phishing scams, return-preparer fraud and offshore tax evasion head the annual IRS list of “dirty dozen” tax scams issued Tuesday.

Tax fraud by use of identity theft to claim federal tax refunds topped the 2013 list of scams. Hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting Americans continue to be victimized by thieves who’ve gained access to the taxpayers’ names, Social Security numbers or other identifying information.

The IRS said it prevented the issuance of $20 billion in fraudulent refunds last year, including those related to identity theft. That was up from $14 billion in 2011.

Despite IRS crackdowns, the problem continues to grow. The agency’s identity-theft caseload soared to 449,809 in 2012, up more than 80% from 2011, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson reported to Congress in January.

About 3,000 IRS employees are assigned to work on identity-theft cases, more than double the number in late 2011. And the tax agency has a special section on its website, irs.gov, to help taxpayers and victims.

Other scams on this year’s “dirty dozen” list:

• Phishing, which typically involves an unsolicited email or fake website designed to lure potential victims into providing personal or financial information that thieves use in identity-theft crimes.

• Return-preparer fraud by unscrupulous tax professionals who file for unwarranted refunds or deductions or who use client information for identity theft scams. Although most return preparers are honest, the IRS urged taxpayers to choose their tax professional carefully.

• Off-shore tax evasion involves Americans who fail to declare and pay taxes on income gained on assets hidden in foreign bank accounts. The IRS has collected $5.5 billion since 2009 from American owners of foreign accounts who have participated in voluntary disclosure programs.

• Ads or flyers that purportedly offer “free money” from the IRS or Social Security Administration. The IRS said to beware of potential scammers who use these false promises to victimize the elderly and others.

Rounding out the “dirty dozen” scams were: tax fraud through impersonation of charitable organizations for donations; filing tax returns with false or inflated income and expenses; falsely claiming tax deductions or credits to which you’re not entitled; making frivolous arguments to avoid federal taxes; falsely claiming zero wages; using disguised corporate ownership entities to under-report income or avoid filing tax returns; and misusing trusts in an improper effort to cut or eliminate tax liability.

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Ten years, ago, 19-year-old Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch was rescued with multiple injuries after her supply unit had come under fire and she was taken captive in Iraq. Lynch was the only POW in her unit to come out alive, and the first woman POW to be rescued in war.

Lynch, on the 10th anniversary of her rescue, went on the “Today” show on Monday to talk about the intervening years and the difficulty she had had with being in the spotlight. Thanks to the story of the capture having been inaccurate, the Iraq war veteran had gone from being a media darling to the poster child for an ill-prepared war effort.

She recalled, “I set the record straight as much as I can. I did Congress and testified to let everyone know … the real story.” For example, her many broken bones, attributed to enemy fire, came from her Humvee crash. And while it was reported that she used her M16 rifle, she said it actually had jammed.

The West Virginia native is now a motivational speaker, teacher and mother—the latter is the role for which “she feels the most pride,” she said.

Lynch told “Today,” “I’m happy we’re at this 10-year mark, but I’m happy to put Iraq in the past. It’s always going to be part of my life.”

She added, “I’m blessed and happy to be here.”

Her injuries, however, always serve as a reminder of the war: She has had 21 surgeries, including for a broken back and two broken legs. She wears a brace on the left leg and her right leg still hurts. She said, “I do the best that I can and am just thankful that I’m here.”

Lynch also told “Today” that as the only one in her unit to survive, she has had to deal with survivor’s guilt. “My best friend [Lori Paestewa] didn’t get to come back, and I did. She had two beautiful kids,” Lynch said. “It’s hard to know they’re going to have to grow up without their mom.”

She added, “I have that never-give-up attitude. As long as you keep it in your mind, you can do anything. That’s what it’s all about, it’s persevering.”

Elwin Wilson, a former Ku Klux Klan member who later apologized for his racist actions, has died.

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According to an Associated Press report, Wilson died at a South Carolina hospital at the age of 76. Wilson’s wife, Judy, related that he had struggled with hearth and lung problems for years, and recently contracted the flu.

It isn’t often that members of the Ku Klux Klan publicly renounce their views on race, but Wilson made news with a very public apology in 2009. He apologized directly to John Lewis, a U.S. Representative from Georgia. Wilson had reportedly taken part in a beating which included Lewis during a civil rights march in the early 60s.

Wilson admitted to being a Ku Klux Klan member in the past, but stated that he could not reconcile his religious beliefs with his racism. He recalled that he attended cross burnings, hung effigies, and threw fruit at black men during his time with the Klan.

Lewis has stated that Wilson’s apology was meaningful to him as it was the first apology he received for the violence he encountered during his time as a freedom rider in 1961.

 

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An Afghan teenager killed anAmerican soldier in eastern Afghanistan by stabbing him in the neck while he played with a group of local children, officials said Monday.

The killing comes as the monthly U.S. death toll rose sharply in March to 14 with the start of the spring fighting season when the Taliban and other insurgents take advantage of improved weather to step up attacks.

Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, was guarding Afghan and U.S. officials meeting in a province near the border with Pakistan when the stabbing occurred last Wednesday, two senior U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The attack occurred after the soldiers had secured the area for the meeting, but one of the U.S. officials said the youth was not believed to have been a member of the Afghan security forces or in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.

The official said the attacker was thought to be about 16 years old, but the age couldn’t be verified.

The Afghan and American dignitaries were attending the swearing-in ceremony of Afghan Local Police in Shinwar district in Nangarhar province, senior district official Zalmai Khan said. Afghan Local Police, or ALP, recruits are drawn from villages and backed by the U.S. military.

The soldier was playing with a group of children outside when the attacker came from behind and stabbed him in the neck with a large knife, Khan said, adding the young man had escaped to nearby Pakistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the young man was acting independently when he killed the soldier but had joined the Islamic militant movement since fleeing the scene.

The Pentagon said in a statement last week that Cable, of Philpot, Ky., died from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.

At least 14 U.S. soldiers died in March, compared with four in the previous two months, according to an Associated Press tally.

The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan has dropped sharply as international forces increasingly take a back seat while preparing to end their combat mission by the end of 2014. But they continue to face dangers ranging from roadside bombs to attacks by their Afghan counterparts or insurgents disguised as government forces.

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Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier and Amir Shah contributed to this report.

About 35,000 were expected for the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn

The new president of South Korea Park Geun-hye issued a warning Monday, reiterating to North Korea that there will be a strong and swift military response to any attack.

The United States deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets in South Korea over the weekend as part of an annual joint military drill. On Sunday, a top North Korean decision-making body issued a foreboding warning, saying that nuclear weapons are “the nation’s life.”

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car pileup

Interstate 77 near the Virginia-North Carolina reopened early Monday following a series of chain-reaction wrecks involving nearly 100 vehicles along a mountainous, foggy stretch of the highway, killing three people and injured 25 others.

Virginia State Police determined 95 vehicles wrecked in 17 separate crashes within a mile span near the base of Fancy Gap Mountain, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The crashes began around 1:15 p.m. Sunday when there was heavy fog in the area.

“This mountain is notorious for fog banks. They have advance signs warning people. But the problem is, people are seeing well and suddenly they’re in a fog bank,” saidGlen Sage of the American Red Crossoffice in the town of Galax. (more…)