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|Posted by Kami G on April 28, 2014 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
Kami’s In The Know!
Feds: New laws, oversight needed after Texas blast
A destroyed car sits as firefighters conduct a search and rescue of an apartment complex destroyed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Thursday, April 18, 2013. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said overnight.
WEST, Texas -- The Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people a year ago could have been prevented - and agencies at all levels haven't done enough to change the circumstances that led to the catastrophe, federal officials said Tuesday.
Story: Search for survivors continues in West
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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board presented its preliminary findings about the blast in West, Texas, in front of a packed room of residents and town officials still rebuilding after the April 17, 2013, explosion leveled part of the tiny town and injured 200 people.
Pictures from plant explosion in West, Texas
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Even though several investigations have not determined the exact cause of the fire, the board says it's clear the owners of West Fertilizer Co. failed to safely store hazardous chemicals or prepare for a potential disaster. The board also said several levels of federal, state and local government missed opportunities to prevent the tragedy.
Investigators said the firefighters who rushed to an initial fire at the plant didn't know enough about the dangers they faced inside: 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in fertilizer that detonated due to the blaze.
But experts on a panel convened by the safety board said Tuesday night that even if the firefighters had known more, there still isn't clear guidance on what to do in that kind of situation.
Glenn B. Corbett, a professor at the City University of New York, faulted guidelines that suggest firefighters should try to douse such a fire until it becomes "massive," a term he said was too vague to determine in an emergency.
"It is best to simply move everyone back and let the fire burn itself out," Corbett said.
There was also a gap between U.S. and Texas agencies on whether the fertilizer plant needed to comply with federal guidelines on disaster preparedness due to its stores of ammonium nitrate, safety board investigator Rachael Gunaratnam said. That disconnect "left emergency responders and residents unprepared for April 17," she said.
Despite investigations that have yielded information about safety deficiencies at the plant and voluntary safety steps taken by the nation's fertilizer industry, not a single state or federal law requiring change has been passed since April 17, 2013.
West Mayor Tommy Muska thanked the board for holding its meeting in the still-rebuilding city, but questioned whether investigators needed to focus more on the production of ammonium nitrate - a chemical that was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing - and ways to add additives to make it safer.
"It seems to me that it would be more effective and easier to regulate if you had a mandate for a safer product," Muska said.
John Crowder, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of West, said the firefighters who responded to the fertilizer plant deserved credit for doing the best they could. He cited Corbett's testimony about the potentially confusing guidance for when to pull away from the fire.
"Our firefighters had 20 minutes to get to the scene and do all that assessment, evaluation, and clarification of priorities," he said.
An ongoing investigation by federal and state officials has narrowed the possible causes of the fire to three things: a golf cart battery, an electrical system or a criminal act. No one has been charged.
Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said federal, state and local agencies could all do more. He said he believes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has enough authority already to require companies to follow stricter guidelines.
In Texas, companies can still store hazardous chemicals in flammable wooden containers in buildings without sprinklers, and volunteer firefighters still aren't required to train how to fight such blazes.
Moure-Eraso suggested Texas could change the law to allow small counties to enact their own, and said officials in McLennan County, where West is located, could have done more to prepare an emergency response plan for the plant.
But he laid the ultimate responsibility for preventing the disaster on West Fertilizer Co.
"What the regulators do is basically monitor what is happening, but the primary responsibility has to be for whoever is putting this chemical in commerce," Moure-Eraso said. "The regulators themselves are not the ones that caused this thing."
A spokesman for the owners of the plant did not respond to a message. The owners have denied allegations that the plant was negligent in how it handled and stored ammonium nitrate.
(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Miss Black Texas US Ambassador
The Miss Black US Ambassador and Miss Black Teen US Ambassador Scholarship Pageant LLC in partnership with the GE Institute Foundation Inc. exists to give a once in a lifetime opportunity to young African American women. As Ambassadors of Change, each young woman embarks on the journey to encourage, empower, and enlighten, communities, states, and nations. These young women are a rising voice in the community that seek to make a difference, by providing educational forums and events that focus on health disparities, poverty, violence and major issues plaguing the African American community. They are role models not only to young African American women, but to women around the world. Ambassadors of Change partner with key political figures and national initiatives to bring support to their efforts and platforms.
The Miss Black US Ambassador experience is more than a competition. It’s a scholarship program that gives 365 days of support and resources to communities in need. A platform for today’s savvy, intelligent and socially aware women of color to express their educated viewpoints, demonstrate their extraordinary talents and showcase not just their pretty face, but their gorgeous mind. The crowned national Ambassadors receive scholarship opportunities to further their education.
Learn more about this program and how your daughters can participate.:
Marketing and Local Outreach Director
Miss Black Texas US Ambassador Scholarship Pageant
Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has paid more than $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with recent disciplinary problems, including $1 million to workers who owed back taxes, a government investigator said Tuesday.
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More than 2,800 workers got bonuses despite facing a disciplinary action in the previous year, including 1,150 who owed back taxes, said a report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The bonuses were awarded from October 2010 through December 2012.
George's report said the bonus program doesn't violate federal regulations, but it's inconsistent with the IRS mission to enforce tax laws.
"These awards are designed to recognize and reward IRS employees for a job well done, and that is appropriate, because the IRS should encourage good performance," George said. "However, while not prohibited, providing awards to employees who have been disciplined for failing to pay federal taxes appears to create a conflict with the IRS's charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration."
Other examples of misconduct by workers getting bonuses included misusing government credit cards for travel, drug use, violent threats and fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits.
The IRS said it has developed a new policy linking conduct and performance bonuses for executives and senior level employees.
"Even without a formal policy in place over the past four years, the IRS has not issued awards to any executives that were subject to a disciplinary action," the IRS said in a statement. "We are also considering a similar policy for the entire IRS workforce, which would be subject to negotiations with the National Treasury Employees Union."
The IRS had about 100,000 workers during the period under review.
In the 2011 budget year, more than 70,000 IRS workers got cash bonuses totaling $92 million, the report said. In the 2012 budget year, nearly 68,000 workers got cash bonuses totaling $86 million.
The report said the IRS considers prior conduct before awarding permanent pay increases. "However, IRS officials stated that the IRS generally does not consider conduct issues when administering other types of awards," the report said.
There are no government-wide policies on providing bonuses to employees with conduct issues, the report said. However, a 1998 law calls for removing IRS employees who are found to have intentionally committed certain acts of misconduct, including willful failure to pay federal taxes.
Tax compliance at the IRS is generally better than at other federal agencies.
In 2011, 3.2 percent of federal workers owed back taxes, according to IRS statistics. The Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, had the lowest delinquency rate, at 1.1 percent.
The delinquency rate for the general public was 8.2 percent.
(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Joe is a client who can speak on the above topic and more.:
Joe Mastriano, CPA
CPA and IRS Problem specialist
Joe is also available for Skype interviews. killerirscpa
As the new Kid on the block, I actually learned from a very good friend of mine who was in the media for several years, that you have to bring the story to the media. Kami’s In The Know—Story idea’s will bring you just that. Communities are huge and you can’t be everywhere so we are here to help you with news great tips an idea’s focusing on DFW/Houston communities.
We are another source that will read through all of those papers and watch all of those major market newscasts to find new leads for just for you.
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TOP Community News!
Dallas ISD’s Townview TAG named best high school in America
By Matthew Haag
7:10 pm on April 22, 2014 | Permalink
Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented and Gifted School is the top high school in the country, according to latest annual study by U.S. News & World Report .
The magazine gave the school at Townview Center the top honor because of its college-readiness rate and student performance in specific subjects. Another school at Townview, the School of Science and Engineering Magnet, was ranked eighth in the country.
Both schools are among DISD’s magnet schools, which require students to meet academic standards to attend. Dallas ISD had 10 schools among the top 160 high schools in the country. All were magnets.
Townview TAG has been the premier school in DISD for years. Principal F. Michael Satarino ran the campus for years until this school year, when 26-year-old Ben Mackey took over.
Matthew Haag writes about the Dallas Independent School District. Follow @matthewhaag.
Kellin Quinn, 27 Singer Phil Robertson, 67 Reality Star Kelly Clarkson, 31 Singer Barbra Streisand, 71 Singer Ryan Newman, 15 Movie Actress Alli Simpson, 15 Movie Actress Sachin Tendulkar, 40 Cricket Player Larramie Shaw, 21 TV Actor
On This Day in History
Apr 24, 1962:
Patti LaBelle makes her debut on the pop charts, sort of
Blessed with a fine voice and an engaging stage presence, Patti LaBelle has earned countless hits on the R&B charts as a solo artist, as well as a pair of crossover #1 pop hits in "On My Own" (1986, sung with Michael McDonald) and the timeless "Lady Marmalade" (1975, with the group Labelle). If there is any asterisk that belongs in an assessment of a career that began when her first single hit the pop charts nearly five decades ago, it is this: Patti LaBelle and her group the Blue Belles had never even been in a recording studio when their debut single, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," entered the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1962. In a move that was far from unprecedented at this time—the same thing happened with The Crystals' "He's A Rebel" (1961), for instance—Patti and her cohorts were credited with a hit record they had nothing to do with creating.
Patti LaBelle was still going by her given name, Patricia Holte, when she first teamed up in 1961 with fellow Philadelphians Cindy Birdsong (a future Supreme), Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash to form a group called the Ordettes. In the meantime, a Chicago group called the Starlets was touring with the likes of Jackie Wilson and the Spinners on the strength of a minor hit called "Better Tell Him No." While visiting Philadelphia, the Starlets somehow found themselves in a recording studio located on a used-car lot operated by a salesman named Harold Robinson. Among the tracks Robinson had the Starlets record that day was the Leon René song "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman." While the details of what followed remain murky, the upshot was that while the Starlets went on about their business elsewhere, Newton Records released "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" in early 1962 under the new name of the former Ordettes: the Blue Belles. After entering the pop charts on this day in 1962, the record went on to peak at #15 on the Hot 100 and #13 on the Billboard R&B charts. Patti LaBelle's group would earn two more top-40 hits on their own in the next two years, but it would be another 11 years after that before they bested the performance of their so-called debut with 1975's Lady Marmalade.
|Posted by Kami G on April 28, 2014 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
Tax In The Know!
By Aamena Ahmed The Texas Tribune While buying a home in Texas may not be as expensive as it is in other states, keeping up with property taxes — the 14th-highest in the nation, according to tax analysts — can be harder. This has spawned a fast-growing property tax lending industry in Texas in which property owners, many of them residential, take out high-interest loans to pay their delinquent tax bills. Like payday lending, the industry has fierce critics, who say it preys on people in dire straits and gives lenders the first shot at foreclosure. In interim charges released in January, House Speaker Joe Straus included the examination of a bill meant to more closely oversee the industry.
“When you look at Texas, we have one of the most unregulated tax industries in the country,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who referred to the practice as “legal theft.” “The industry just makes poor people poorer, and that’s totally unacceptable.”
But the industry has staunch defenders, who say they’re providing a needed service for taxpayers. They argue that they offer more flexible payment options than local taxing entities and give homeowners time to overcome their financial woes.
“We give property owners an option to help them get their taxes paid, to save money in tough times and ultimately get ownership of their property,” said Charles Brown, president of the property tax loan company Hunter-Kelsey and a member of the board of directors at the Texas Property Tax Lien holders Association.
Currently, there are 100 individually licensed property tax lending outfits in Texas — up from 55 in 2008, when the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner first began regulating the industry.
When a delinquent taxpayer pursues a property tax loan, the lender pays off the overdue amount, tacks on interest rates as high as 18 percent annually and adds closing costs, said Don Baylor, a senior policy analyst at the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities.
Normally, government taxing entities are first in line to collect taxes from homeowners, giving them “priority lien” status. But once a homeowner accepts a loan from a property tax lender and the lender foots the tax bill, that priority lien transfers to the lender — giving the lender the first opportunity to foreclose on the property if loan payments are missed.
“This mechanism allows [the lender] to jump ahead of everyone,” said Robert Doggett, an attorney for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the largest legal aid provider in Texas. “They don’t have any risk whatsoever. They are going to make their money either way.”
Consumer advocates don’t give government taxing entities a pass here. They argue that homeowners have been forced to pursue property tax loans because many local taxing districts did not offer alternative payment plans. In many cases, homeowners felt the only option was in the private market, Doggett added.
“Why do people feel like they need one of these loans? Because they have no other options,” he said. “People won’t need a property tax loan if the government can provide a better solution.”
Last legislative session, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, authored Senate Bill 476, which ultimately passed through its companion legislation, House Bill 1597, which requires taxing entities to now offer taxpayers a minimum installment plan of 12 months to pay what they owe with low interest rates.
“You have more and more homeowners losing their homes to high interest rates,” said Hinojosa, who thinks more can be done. “They need to have more options.”
Lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 247, a separate effort to further regulate the property tax loan industry that specifically prohibited lenders from selling the loans to third parties and falsely advertising their services. That bill, authored by outgoing state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, is the one Straus has identified for follow-up, and state Rep. René Oliveira, chairman of the House Business and Industry Committee, intends to hold a hearing on it before the end of May.
The industry has high profile — and moneyed — supporters, including San Antonio billionaire Red McCombs. McCombs has argued publicly in support of the priority lien status. In a column published in the Houston Chronicle last year, McCombs, who co-founded the property tax lending company Propel, wrote that “no one will provide financing for these delinquent property tax loans without it.” Propel was purchased in 2012 by San Diego, Calif.-based consumer debt-buying firm Encore Capital Group Inc. for $186.8 million, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
At least one Texas lawmaker has offered a far bolder solution to the challenges presented by property taxes. State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, a Republican running for comptroller, has proposed phasing them out altogether.
“As long as we pay taxes,” he said at a Tea Party forum in February, “we have to ask, do we really own our property?”
Disclosure: Red McCombs is a major donor to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
*Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story did not include a reference to the passage of House Bill 1597, companion legislation of Senate Bill 476.
Joe Mastriano, CPA is a client who can speak on the above topic and more. Check out the links below:http://www.taxproblem.org/free-irs-advice/irs-warns-new-tax-scams-book-joe-mastriano-cpa-topic/http://taxblog.taxproblem.org/wordpress/2014/04/21/missed-joe-tv-last-week-check/http://taxblog.taxproblem.org/wordpress/2014/04/14/rundown-2013-tax-bill-probably-went-heres/Other Topics:Joe often prefers to talk about how he has learned to help clients successfully avoid an audit, prevent all collection action, and cut Corporate tax to just the trust fund, (areas that he is well known for as they are pretty unique and very successful solutions) but will be happy to discuss current tax topics as he frequently does.
Here are a few talking points Joe can elaborate on:
Dealing with the increased Medicare tax, and tax on unearned income, and also the reduced medical tax deduction.Dealing with the increased rate of audits for high income people and how to prevent an audit.How the increased tax rates and the phase out of the personal exemption and itemized deductions Can put you in a marginal tax rate of over 50% (less for Texas)
Joe Mastriano, CPA has owned his Texas CPA firm for over 30 years, representingthousands of taxpayers before the IRS. He specializes in helping taxpayers avoidIRS audits,win IRS audits, establish installment agreements, offers, and resolving mostdifficult IRS problem issues. He has successfully helped many professionally licensed people solve their specific IRS problems. He also councilsattorneys and CPAs on their client’s IRS matters. Joe has pioneeredcreative techniques for taxpayers to successfully avoid audits, reduce corporate debt to trust fund only, erasing all othercorporate tax debt, and prevent all possible IRS collection action in delinquent paymentmatters. www.taxproblem.org
On This Day in History APRIL 30,
Apr 30, 1933:
Willie Nelson was Born Full Name: Willie Nelson Nationality: American Profession: Country Singer
Born: 30th April, 1933 (81 years old)
Star Sign: Taurus
Historical Events in the Life of Willie Nelson 1979-10-08 - 13th Country Music Association Award: Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers & Barbara Mandrell wins
1982-10-11 - 16th Country Music Association Award: Willie Nelson & Ricky Skagg
1983-05-09 - 18th Academy of Country Music Awards: Alabama & Willie Nelson
1985-09-15 - Willie Nelson's Farm Aid concert
1992-02-02 - IRS & Willie Nelson settle on $9M tax bill (of $16.7M)
TOP Community News!
First Lady Michelle Obama gets resume from girl with jobless dad. WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama's annual question-and-answer session with the children of Executive Office employees took a serious turn Thursday when a 10-year-old girl in the front row told the first lady that her dad had been out of work for three years. Then the girl popped up to hand the first lady his resume.
The first lady seemed a little taken aback but then explained to the other children, who might not have heard the girl's comment, that the matter was "a little private, but she's doing something for her dad." Mrs. Obama promised to deal with the matter later.
When the event ended, Mrs. Obama gave the girl, Charlotte Bell, a hug and then reached back to grab the resume off a table as she left the East Room. The first lady played host to the children at the White House on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Charlotte's family had joked over the weekend about making a job pitch to the first lady, but her parents didn't know she would give it a try, according to her mother, an executive branch employee who did not want to be identified.
Charlotte's father, Ben Bell, has been looking for a policy job for more than two years and recently has been trying to get a job with the Obama administration. He worked on the Obama campaign in 2012.
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/first-lady-gets-resume-girl-jobless-dad-165211665--finance.html The Kami Grayson PR Agency representing Joe Mastriano, CPA a client who can talk about why buying a home in Texas may not be as expensive as it is in other states. Joe Mastriano, CPA is a former client of Real News PR Jeff Crilley.
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Theatre prepares to celebrate 21st birthday by launching ambitious project to find UK's most loved play in the English language, writes Mark Brown
Olivia Williams and Mark Bazeley are lacerating as the central couple in this stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's film, writes Lyn Gardner
Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney
Back to Back's astute play within a play explores parallels between superheroes and people with disabilities
Rachel De-lahay weaves together tales of immigration limbo and national identity, but neglects to thread in some anger, writes Michael Billington
Hitler's rise to power is parodied in Brecht's allegorical satire, with the Führer as scary as a tea cosy. But the finale is sobering, writes Lyn Gardner
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ozzy Osbourne can't help himself.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — After a bitterly fought five-month trial, a negligence lawsuit by Michael Jackson's mother against his concert promoter is in the hands of a jury after a final plea by a Jackson lawyer to punish the company he portrayed as a heartless, money-making machine.
ATLANTA (AP) — Organizers of the electronic dance music festival TomorrowWorld are taking extra precautions to maintain a safe environment for concertgoers this weekend after two drug-related deaths occurred at a similar festival in New York this summer.
The surviving members of Pink Floyd — guitarist David Gilmour, bassist Roger Waters, and drummer Nick Mason — may not have come together as a whole very often over the past three decades. But that didn't stop them from collectively blasting Pandora for supposedly cutting musician royalties. While…
In the 1950s boogie woogie piano was the foundation of rock. You couldn't find any self-respecting rock band that didn't have a piano player. In the '60s, the piano was pushed out by Marshall stacks and punishing decibels of volume. In the '70s, the piano was now the exclusive province…
Fleetwood Mac's sprawling 2013 tour just touched down in Europe, and the band marked the occasion with a very special guest during their gig at London's O2 Arena last night: Christine McVie. The keybo[...]
We're not quite sure when soundtracks featuring music inspired by a film became routine (when in doubt, it's all "Twilight's" fault), but hey, if the result is anything like the just-released "Catching Fire" soundtrack tracklisting, we aren't complaining. While the … Continue reading →
In his new book “What You Want Is in the Limo,” Michael Walker points to the ’70s, more specifically 1973, as the year when the screw turned, when Zeppelin, the Who and Alice Cooper went onstage.
Massive Attack's new collaboration with filmmaker Adam Curtis, dubbed 'Massive Attack V Adam Curtis,' opening this weekend at New York City's Park Ave Armory, is an ambitious show that features a comb[...]
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Opera could be sounding its final note this weekend — at least for a while.
DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's love affair with pub and pint is sparking national soul-searching as never before because of an unofficial holiday dreamed up by Guinness.
Nine Inch Nails is embarking on its first headlining tour of the US in four years this Saturday, and Fader has just published a lengthy interview with mastermind Trent Reznor to mark the occasion. Despite having a new album and a new tour to promote, Reznor was awfully reflective, talking quite a…
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Gibson Brothers won entertainer of the year for a second straight year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards on Thursday night as well as three other group and individual trophies.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Anton Zaslavski, the DJ and producer known as Zedd, is sitting in a temporary recording studio at the back of his bus on a recent tour stop, but he hasn't had time to turn the computer on or slip on the headphones.
As a middle schooler, me and my friends would listen to rap almost constantly . Today, I still listen to and love hip-hop, and so does my four-year-old son, Felix. I can't listen to rock for too long before he says, "put on something with a bigger beat." But like most kids, he's all ears, and so…
TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court sentenced a local rap singer on Thursday to six months in jail for a song insulting the police and government in a case likely to fuel debate over free speech under the Islamist-led government, his lawyer said. Critics say free expression has been threatened under…
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