Tax fraud through identity theft tops this year's "Dirty Dozen" list of scams, newly appointed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen tells the Houston Chronicle. Koskinen said the agency is devoting more of its limited resources to fighting fraudsters and is "making great progress." Identity theft occurs when a thief uses a legitimate taxpayer's identity to file a fake tax return and claim the refund. Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft through lost information should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
In a recent jump in phone scams across the U.S., callers pretend to be from the IRS to steal money or victims' identities. Some callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund while other callers threaten arrest or driver's license revocation. Phone scammers typically use "common" names to identify themselves and may know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number. Phishing typically involves unsolicited email or fake websites to prompt victims to divulge personal or financial information. If you receive such an email, report it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
Both Jermalle Brown and Douglas Bufford were gang members hired to play a small role in helping combat violence on Chicago's South Side through a program hatched by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, says the Chicago Sun-Times. Paid $8.50 an hour with public funds to hand out anti-violence pamphlets in their neighborhood, the two low-income teens were part-time foot soldiers in the governor's $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a program he described as “a comprehensive and concerted effort to keep our young people safe, off the streets and in school.”
Instead of embodying a bold new way to fight bloodshed on the South Side, Bufford is now dead, and Brown is charged with his murder, putting a dramatic and deadly new blemish on the one-time Quinn showpiece, which was pilloried last week in a report by Auditor General William Holland. At the same time they were on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative payroll, Brown, then 19, and Bufford, 16, allegedly broke into a Grand Crossing home in July 2012 with one other man and announced a robbery in what Chicago Police believe was a gang-related crime. Until he was contacted by the Sun-Times yesterday, Quinn did not know that a participant in his anti-violence program was dead, allegedly murdered by another.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY came up short yesterday in her yearlong campaign to overhaul military sexual-assault policies, falling five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, reports Politico. The bill, which would have removed the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes, was derailed on a 55-45 vote, closing out a chapter in a debate that divided the Senate but not along typical partisan lines. Ten Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and 2016 presidential hopefuls Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, backed Gillibrand’s controversial chain-of-command bill.
That wasn’t enough to overcome 10 Democratic votes against her, including prominent defense hawks like Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also opposed the bill. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a retired Navy Reserve officer, changed his mind and voted no after hearing arguments from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that Gillibrand’s bill could force much broader changes to the World War II-era military justice system. He also said he feared having outside lawyers take over prosecuting military cases and disrupting the unique culture of the armed services. “I wanted to make sure the captain of a ship is really the captain of the whole ship,” Kirk said.
Under pressure from law enforcement and advocacy groups, Facebook took steps to regulate gun sales on its site as well as on its photo-sharing app Instagram, reports the New York Times. Pages advertising guns for sale will be shielded from minors. Facebook does not want its growing prominence as a private gun mall to alienate users or to limit free speech. If the company hoped its announcement would satisfy everyone and make the issue disappear, the plan backfired.
Gun control groups applauded the changes, as did Michael Bloomberg, who is making gun control a visible element of his career after serving as New York City mayor. the National Rifle Association said the changes were so insignificant that Bloomberg had “failed.” Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said little had been achieved. “I wouldn’t even call this a meaningful first step,” he said. “There’s a simple solution here. Facebook should be prohibiting any post that advertises the unlicensed sale or transfer of firearms in the U.S.”
President Obama's budget proposal for the year starting Oct. 1 would reduce homeland security funding nearly 3 percent but spend more on some of the department’s most expensive agencies, reports the Washington Post. The net reduction would create new challenges for a sprawling 10-year-old organization trying to deal with evolving threats that involve terrorism, cybersecurity, natural disasters and border management. Under the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would get $38.2 billion next year, compared to $39.3 billion in 2014. Despite that proposed cut, some of the department’s individual agencies would see substantial increases.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would benefit most, with an 8.2-percent jump, followed by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office with a 6.7-percent increase and Customs and Border Protection with 2.6 percent more cash. The Science and Technology Directorate would take the hardest hit with 12.2 percent less funding, while the Coast Guard and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would lose about 4 percent apiece. The Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport screening, would see a slight cut of 0.8 percent. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX), criticized proposed cuts to law-enforcement agencies such as the Coast Guard and ICE while requesting more money for a DHS headquarters project.
The Senate dealt an embarrassing setback to President Obama when several politically vulnerable Democrats defected to help Republicans defeat the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the Washington Post reports. The nomination had revived the racially charged legacy of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer more than three decades ago — a case in which, long after the trial, Adegbile played a small role. The vote exposed the anxiety facing many red-state Democratic senators as the midterm elections approach. Seven Democrats joined with Republicans in blocking a final vote on the nomination, the largest number of Democrats to vote against an Obama nominee.
Adegbile’s ties to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of officer Daniel Faulkner, had become the focus of a conservative crusade that boiled over in recent weeks. A senior aide to one of the senators who voted against the nominee said several senators’ offices were “very angry” at the White House for moving ahead with the nomination even though it could leave Democrats who are facing tough reelection races vulnerable to attack ads. Administration officials pushed back, saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had assured them Adegbile would survive the vote.
During New York City's mayoral campaign last year, some people warned that if Bill de Blasio were elected, the city might be plunged back to an era of rampant crime. the critics included de Blasio’s opponent Joseph Lhota. Through the first two months of 2014, serious crime in the city has dropped, compared to last year – which turned out to be a historically low year for crime, says the New York Times. Murders are down 19 percent, to 44, from 54. Rape, robbery, burglary and grand larceny have dipped, too. The only major categories of crime that have increased are assault and car theft.
“It is not prudent to draw any conclusions from such a small window,” said criminologist John Shane of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Meanwhile, as predicted, de Blasio said his administration would drop a lawsuit that sought to block a new law inteded to prevent police profiling in New York. The move fulfills a campaign promise by de Blasio and represents the latest step by his administration to shake off its predecessor’s legacy of aggressively defending police stop-and-frisk.
Three more lives were likely taken in the Cleveland area on Tuesday, and the medical examiner has warned that a powerful mixture that's killed dozens in Lorain County, Oh., and the Pittsburgh area has crept into Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said police an sheriff's officials reported eight suspected heroin overdoses, three of them fatal. "This ongoing public-health threat now includes cases in which fentanyl has been detected," Gilson said.
Authorities across the country have logged deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl an opioid pain killer that's 80 times stronger than heroin and often called "China White." In Pittsburgh's Allegheny County 14 fatal overdose victims tested positive both for heroin and fentanyl since november, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Several more cases were detected in neighboring counties.
There’s not much inside “the box” at New York City's Rikers Island jail, says the Center for Investigative Reporting. Cinder block walls rise up and close in. There’s a bunk, a sink, a toilet and a metal door with a small mesh window. Food comes through a slot. Sometimes, mice and roaches scamper through. At any given time, about 100 teenagers are housed in solitary confinement there, an abnormally high number compared with estimated rates of solitary confinement across the U.S.
Teenagers kept in the box sometimes hallucinate and throw fits. They splash urine around or smear their blood and shit on the walls. The concrete room gets so hot in the summertime that the floor and walls sweat. Ismael Nazario’s longest stretch in the box lasted four months. He paced a lot, talking to himself and choking back tears and rage. He tried to block out the screaming of the teenage boys in other jail cells, but he couldn’t. Sometimes, he would stand at the door of his tiny cell and yell. Because of its imposing size and notoriety, many people think Rikers is a prison, but it’s not. It’s a city jail, where on any given day about 85 percent of inmates await the resolution of their cases, says the New York City Board of Correction. Most of the teenagers there are locked up because they can’t afford bail.
While fewer ex-offenders are coming back to Ohio prisons, the state’s inmate population remains near a record high, says the Columbus Dispatch. Recidivism — the rate at which former offenders return to prison — hit 27.1 percent in 2010, an all-time low. The previous low was 28.7 percent. The recidivism rate, which is calculated over a three-year period, is 40 to 44 percent nationally. The most recent prisoner count was 50,440, creeping up to the record high of 51,273 in 2008.
There were 24,284 people who left Ohio prisons, 87 percent of them men. Women do a better job than men of staying out of prison once they leave. The return rate for women was 15.6 percent, compared with 28.8 percent for men. Most ex-offenders, men and women, return to prison because they commit new crimes. However, some are returned for “technical violations,” which are violations of terms of their release, such as not reporting to a parole officer or failing a drug test. Prisons chief Gary Mohr called Ohio a national leader in reducing the recidivism rate.