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IRS E-File system crashes on Tax Day [Updated] | Ars Technica
All fixed now, carry on with the last minute filing.
Update, 5:00 PM EDT: The IRS has restored service to its e-file system this afternoon. The IRS has given taxpayers a one-day extension for filing, as the agency's free e-payment system was affected by the outage, which was blamed on a "hardware issue." Our original story continues below.
At midday on the busiest day of the year for the Internal Revenue Service's electronic tax-filing infrastructure, the Modernized eFile (MeF) system has gone offline. Acting IRS commissioner David Kautter informed members of the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform during a hearing at 10:00am ET that a number of systems associated with tax filings were down and that the IRS is working to resolve the issue. As of 2:15pm, a status message on the IRS' MeF site still read, "The MeF System is currently down. We are working this as a priority."
An IRS spokesperson told Ars via email, "Currently, certain IRS systems are experiencing technical difficulties. Taxpayers should continue filing their tax returns as they normally would."
taxes  gov2.0  internet 
yesterday by rgl7194
Everyone Tries To Dodge The Tax Man, And It Keeps Getting Easier | FiveThirtyEight
Al Capone was busted for tax evasion. Leona Helmsley was, too. But gangsters and entitled millionaires aren’t the only ones who hold something back from the tax man. Each year, Americans of all stripes underpay the IRS by hundreds of billions, aided by the fact that the agency lacks the resources to catch all the cheaters.
Recently, tax dodging has found a new champion: liberal state governments fighting back against the Republicans’ far-reaching tax reforms, which seem to hit a number of blue states particularly hard. New Jersey and California want to reclassify certain state and local taxes as tax-exempt charitable donations, while New York might swap the state’s income tax for a deductible payroll tax, among other ideas under consideration. There’s little doubt about the underlying goal of these potential changes, nicely summarized by Connecticut’s state revenue commissioner when he called his state’s plan a “bit of payback for what I think was the utter disregard of the Congress for the impact of this on states like Connecticut.”
538  gov2.0  politics  taxes 
yesterday by rgl7194
Americans Are Partisan About Everything — Even Sex Scandals | FiveThirtyEight
...Perhaps because Daniels is in the news, along with other alleged affairs by Trump, just 26 percent of Democrats (vs. 67 percent of Republicans) agreed that “an elected official who has committed an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”
I’m recording this as exhibit No. 3,519,099 in our “partisanship is a helluva a drug” file. The two parties both seem to be reversing the views they had two decades ago — when a president of the other party was in the White House and faced accusations of affairs and misconduct...
sex  gov2.0  politics  trump  538 
yesterday by rgl7194
A Million Children Didn’t Show Up In The 2010 Census. How Many Will Be Missing In 2020? | FiveThirtyEight
In today’s Washington, even the Census Bureau is a source of drama. The department has no director. Due to funding constraints, it has abandoned pre-census research in West Virginia and Washington state that was meant to check the integrity of parts of its survey process. It is weighing whether to add a question about citizenship to the decennial census; community groups around the country have spent months imploring Congress and the Census Bureau not to do so. They’re afraid that adding the question would lower response rates and make the survey less reliable.
At stake: nearly $700 billion in federal money and how we decide to apportion congressional representation.
gov2.0  research  survey  census  538 
yesterday by rgl7194
New York's Attorney General just unveiled a brilliant plan to nullify Trump's pardon power
New York’s Attorney General just took a major step towards closing a legal loophole that President Trump might try to use to rescue members of the Trump family, campaign and his embattled Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen from criminal prosecution.
NY AG Eric Schneiderman sent a letter (embedded below) to the state’s Governor and the two leaders of New York’s Assembly and Senate, asking them to quickly draft and pass legislation to narrow the scope of double jeopardy protections in criminal prosecutions to recipients of a presidential pardon.
new_york  legal  gov2.0  trump  politics  crime 
yesterday by rgl7194
Obama’s moving remembrance of the flawed but fierce Barbara Bush is a must-read.
On April 17, 2018, America lost its 41st first lady and the mother of its 43rd president.
Barbara Bush passed away at her Houston home at the age of 92. A well-known — but flawed — first lady, she used her platform to advocate for increased family literacy.
In a thoughtful display of bipartisanship and respect, Barack Obama, ever a champion of goodness toward all people, wrote a lovely, heartfelt statement in remembrance of Bush.
Our statement on the passing of Former First Lady Barbara Bush:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 18, 2018
His tweet is a welcome display of reaching across the aisle, particularly when humans go through, well, human things.
obama  gov2.0  politics  RIP  twitter 
yesterday by rgl7194
Chief Justice Roberts Is Reshaping The First Amendment | FiveThirtyEight
It’s been a big year for free speech at the Supreme Court. Two of the most high-profile cases argued before the court so far have revolved around free speech rights, four other cases on the docket this term involve free speech questions, and yet another case where the issue is paramount greets the court on Tuesday.
The court today is hearing arguments on whether the state of California is trampling on the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers — nonprofit organizations that do not perform abortions and encourage women to seek alternatives to the procedure — by requiring them to post notices explaining patients’ ability to access abortion and other medical services. In December, attorneys for a baker at Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado argued that a state anti-discrimination law violates his free speech rights as a self-described cake artist by requiring him to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Last month, the justices heard oral arguments in a case about whether state laws allowing unions to require nonmembers to pay fees violate those employees’ right to free speech.
gov2.0  politics  SCOTUS  legal  free  speech  538 
yesterday by rgl7194
Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Unexplored Russia Connections - WhoWhatWhy
With the FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, everyone is scrambling for explanations. But as WhoWhatWhy reported last year, Michael Cohen’s background has long demanded close scrutiny. He came out of nowhere, backed by Russia-connected figures, and bought his way into Donald Trump’s heart.
Here’s the full story as it appeared on September 18, 2017.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn … all members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle — past and present — have been scrutinized by the media, and their various Russia ties are being investigated by the press and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. One figure, however, managed to fly largely under the radar until very recently: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former right-hand man and in-house attorney.
crime  DOJ  gov2.0  legal  mueller  politics  russia  special_counsel  trump 
yesterday by rgl7194
The U.S. CLOUD Act and the EU: A Privacy Protection Race to the Bottom | Electronic Frontier Foundation
U.S. President Donald Trump’s $1.3 trillion government spending bill, signed March 23rd, offered 2,323 pages of budgeting on issues ranging from domestic drug policy to defense. The last-minute rush to fund the U.S. government through this all-or-nothing “omnibus” presented legislators with a golden opportunity to insert policies that would escape deep public scrutiny. Case in point: the Clarifying Lawful Use of Overseas Data (CLOUD) Act, whose broad ramifications for undermining global privacy should not be underestimated, was snuck into the final pages of the bill before the vote.

Between the U.S. CLOUD Act and new European Union (EU) efforts to dismantle international rules for cross-border law enforcement investigations, the United States and EU are racing against one another towards an unfortunate finish-line: weaker privacy protections around the globe. 
gov2.0  politics  data  privacy  europe  usa  EFF  digital_rights 
yesterday by rgl7194
User Privacy Isn't Solely a Facebook Issue | Electronic Frontier Foundation
During Congressional hearings about Facebook’s data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Mark Zuckerberg drew an important distinction between what we expect from our Internet service providers (ISPs, such as Comcast or Verizon) as opposed to platforms like Facebook that operate over the Internet.
Put simply, an ISP is a service you pay to access the Internet. Once you get online, you run into a whole series of edge providers. Some, like Netflix, also charge you for access to their services. Others, like Facebook and Google, are platforms that you use without paying, which support themselves using ads. There’s a whole spectrum of services that make up Internet use, but the thing they all have in common is that they are gathering data when you use them. How they use it can differ widely.
politics  privacy  facebook  congress  EFF  ISP  gov2.0 
yesterday by rgl7194
No, Section 230 Does Not Require Platforms to Be “Neutral” | Electronic Frontier Foundation
When members of Congress recite myths about how Section 230 works, it demonstrates a frightening lack of seriousness about protecting our right to speak and gather online.
congress  gov2.0  politics  facebook  free  speech  legal  EFF  forum 
yesterday by rgl7194
Hannity & Cohen: The Fox News Host and the Trump Lawyer - The Atlantic
The revelation that the Fox News host sought legal advice from the embattled Trump attorney raised questions about the network’s journalism—and about the president’s tangled relationships.
Genuinely stunning moments are hard to come by these days, but one arrived on Monday in a courtroom in New York City.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s fixer, was in court, trying to shield documents seized in a raid Monday on his office, home, and hotel room from prosecutors. Cohen had invoked attorney-client privilege to ask the court to hold documents back, but there have been questions about the extent to which Cohen was actually working as a lawyer. Cohen’s attorneys said he had three clients for whom his work was legal in nature. Two were previously known: Trump, and Elliott Broidy, a major GOP fundraiser for whom Cohen arranged a $1.6 million payout to a Playboy Playmate whom he had impregnated.
crime  DOJ  gov2.0  legal  mueller  politics  russia  special_counsel  trump  ethics 
2 days ago by rgl7194
Warrants and Privilege: Legal Questions About the Raids on Trump’s Lawyer - The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump reacted furiously to the F.B.I. raid on Monday of the office and the hotel room of Michael D. Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer — suggesting that the Justice Department improperly intruded into confidential communications and declaring on Twitter on Tuesday that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”
The search related to bank fraud allegations, according to a person briefed on the investigation, although the details remain unclear. Mr. Cohen’s lawyer said that the raid resulted from a referral from Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the Trump-Russia investigation, but it was carried out by the office of Geoffrey S. Berman, the interim United States attorney for the Southern District of New York — suggesting its subject matter fell outside Mr. Mueller’s area of focus.
Here is what you need to know about the legal issues.
crime  DOJ  gov2.0  legal  mueller  politics  russia  special_counsel  trump  nytimes 
2 days ago by rgl7194
The Internet Is Killing Democracy - WhoWhatWhy
Facebook Is the Shiny Object, but the Danger Is Much Larger
We have seen endless stories about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We have endured two days of Mark Zuckerberg explaining the Facebook business model. Social media and its role in politics is on everyone’s mind. However, none of the current clamor speaks to the broader impact of the internet, or of big tech in general.
In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jamie Bartlett, director of the Center for Analysis of Social Media, reminds Jeff Schechtman that the internet was supposed to be a democratizing force. The widespread availability of digital technology was to allow freedom of information and communication on a scale never thought possible before.
The reality, Bartlett argues, is that every aspect of the internet and its culture is feeding the worst of humanity’s tribal instincts.
internet  gov2.0  podcast  transcript  politics 
3 days ago by rgl7194
Busting Two Myths About Paid Prioritization | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Eight out of 10 Americans support net neutrality, which makes opposing it a bad look for both politicians and corporate PR. So everyone says something along the lines of being in favor of net neutrality or an Internet Bill of Rights. Every time, however, giant Internet service providers (ISPs) and the politicians on their side, leave room for paid prioritization.
Paid prioritization allows ISPs to charge for some Internet services to be sped up, while all the rest are slowed down. One of the common ways to describe it is that it creates Internet “fast lanes.” A better analogy is that ISPs get to charge protection money from large Internet companies in a classic “That’s a nice Facebook you have there, shame if something happened to it” fashion.
net_neutrality  ISP  gov2.0  politics  EFF  myth 
3 days ago by rgl7194
The Census’s New Citizenship Question Could Hurt Communities That Are Already Undercounted | FiveThirtyEight
After a long career as a banker and investor, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is no doubt familiar with cost-benefit analyses. That seems to have carried over to his political work. In a memo declaring that the 2020 census would ask U.S. inhabitants whether they are U.S. citizens,1 he wrote, “I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate.” The inclusion of the question was a request of the Justice Department, which says that it needs the information to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
But Ross isn’t the only one weighing costs against benefits when it comes to the census — respondents do it as well. Demographers and civil rights groups are concerned that under a president who has called for a ban on Muslims and immigrants from certain countries, dramatically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the country and cracked down on undocumented immigrants without criminal records, a citizenship question will push more people to decide that the risks of responding accurately to the questionnaire, or responding at all, outweigh the benefits. And the groups that seem most likely to be put off from responding — immigrants, members of households with immigrants, people living in poverty, among others — are the same ones that are already at highest risk of being uncounted.
gov2.0  politics  statistics  immigration  538  survey  census 
3 days ago by rgl7194
Gun Policy Is Already Changing In The Wake Of Parkland | FiveThirtyEight
After a shooter killed 17 people in a school in Parkland, Florida, last month, the political question dominating public discussion was whether the event would result in any policy changes that were backed by gun control advocates. In the past, outrage spurred by mass shootings has often been met by inaction in Congress and state legislatures.
But this time has been different — and not just in terms of how much pro-gun control activism it has sparked, including last week’s March for Our Lives. Since the Parkland shooting, a slew of gun control measures have been adopted at the local, state and federal level, while the private sector has moved to make guns less available, and some proposals to expand gun rights have been stalled. Although most of these changes are fairly limited in scope and fall far short of gun control advocates’ goals, they represent a shift in momentum from expanding gun rights to constricting them.
Here are the biggest developments.
guns  activism  protest  high_school  teenager  politics  gov2.0  538 
4 days ago by rgl7194
What We Know And Don’t Know About Election Hacking | FiveThirtyEight
Also, what we don’t know we don’t know.
When talk of Russian interference in U.S. elections comes up, much of the focus has been on state-sponsored trolls on Facebook and Twitter — special counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted a number of these actors, and Congress has taken Silicon Valley to task for allowing such accounts to flourish. But there’s another side of Russian meddling in American democracy: attacks on our election systems themselves.
We know that Russian hackers in 2016 worked to compromise state voting systems and the companies that provide voting software and machines to states. That could blossom into more concrete attacks this year. As I wrote earlier this week, the worst-case scenario is that on Election Day 2018, votes are altered or fabricated and Americans are disenfranchised.
election  gov2.0  russia  hack  privacy  security  538 
4 days ago by rgl7194
There’s Still No Such Thing As Sound Science | FiveThirtyEight
Scott Pruitt wants to base EPA decisions on a kind of science that doesn’t exist.
Last week saw a major development in how the Environmental Protection Agency plans to engage with scientific evidence. On Friday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gave The Daily Caller an exclusive interview and said he would soon end the agency’s use of what he called “secret science” — research whose underlying, raw data sets are not released publicly. That sounds simple enough, but it would preclude the agency from relying on a great deal of scientific knowledge.
According to the Daily Caller story, Pruitt’s upcoming policy is inspired by the Honest Act, a congressional bill championed by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. If that’s the case — the EPA has not responded to a request for comment — it would drastically limit the kind of evidence the agency uses for its decision-making. For example, it appears as though the policy would preclude the use of public health research that included confidential personal information about study subjects.
science  gov2.0  politics  538 
5 days ago by rgl7194
Congress Needs To Understand Facebook Before Dealing With It | FiveThirtyEight
I joined Facebook in the spring of 2005 with the first email address I ever had. I still remember the photo I chose: me in a silver cocktail dress I spent too much of my summer lifeguarding money on. Facebook was a constant throughout college: There was the thrill of the new friend request, the agony of an unflattering tagged photo, the titillation of new-crush “Facebook stalking.” The site was a phone directory, a photo album and a way to invite people to parties. It was social ephemera — important, don’t get me wrong, but we all knew its place and form in our world.
Thirteen years later, I now know Facebook to be a shape-shifter. It appears to me one moment as a temptress, with ads for expensive dresses I’ve clicked on elsewhere (lifelong habit, I guess). The next it’s a sober scholar, lecturing me on the news. It remains a photo album, digitally pasted with old friends, dead relatives and past lives, but it’s shed that earnest, embryonic form of itself. My data, memories and digital habits fuel its everyday metamorphosis — there’s something unsettling in that. Maybe Facebook was never earnest, even in its most nascent form.
gov2.0  politics  538  congress  facebook  privacy  data  CxO 
5 days ago by rgl7194

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