Holding children responsible for the debt incurred by their parents is a feature of historical feudalism and a few modern third-world shitholes.
Developed countries, by and large, assume that a debt dies with the person who willingly incurred it, or at least stops with his or her estate. “By and large,” I write, because the U.S. government has broken with centuries of tradition holding individuals responsible for their choices, opting to withhold tax refunds from children whose parents incurred vague and often ill-documented obligations to the feds.
A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government—a very old debt.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family—it’s not sure who—in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.
Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents—the government has confiscated their check.
The new multi-generational debt collection practice required a two-step policy change. One was the elimination of the 10-year statute of limitations on debts to the federal government. The other involves the Social Security Administration insisting that if tiny tots indirectly benefited from public assistance collected by adults decades ago those now-grown ex-tots are responsible for any overpayments the feds may claim.
Multiple employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been caught campaigning for President Barack Obama while on the job in 2012, putting them in violation of federal law.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency, announced it had uncovered three cases of IRS workers violating the Hatch Act of 1939 (pdf), which bars federal employees from engaging in partisan campaign activities.
The illegal activities ranged from employees encouraging callers to vote for Obama to in-person conversations with taxpayers in which Republicans were disparaged.
One IRS staffer allegedly encouraged taxpayers to reelect Obama by “repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of [the president’s] last name,” according to OSC, which filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board against the customer-service representative. The employee faces “significant disciplinary action,” the watchdog agency said.
Another IRS worker, a tax-advisory specialist, was suspended from work for 14 days after she made critical remarks about Republicans in front of a customer. The employee was quoted as saying: “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and … they’re trying to take women back 40 years.”
The third case involved multiple workers at an IRS taxpayer-assistance center in Dallas who brought pro-Obama paraphernalia (stickers, buttons, etc.) into work, which violated federal workplace rules.
More serious and extensive violations of federal laws and regulations occurred under President George W. Bush. Prior to the 2006 midterm elections, numerous White House staffers and seven cabinet secretaries violated the Hatch Act by doing campaign work for Republican candidates, OSC reported in 2011. During a six-year period, the White House Office of Political Affairs was used to aid Republicans running for office, with agency officials delivering briefings at government agencies urging “the electoral success of the Republican Party, and possible strategies for achieving it,” according to an OSC report (pdf) on White House political activities in the Bush administration.
In addition, the administration systematically misused federal resources, according to OSC, by having cabinet members travel to congressional districts for “politically motivated” reasons and later declare the trips were official business so the government could pick up the tab. There were more than 100 such trips taken by Bush cabinet members, including the secretaries of the Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, according to OSC’s three-year investigation.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, the New York Times Thursday published an article dedicated to whitewashing the failure of the FBI and other US intelligence agencies to detect and stop the perpetrators. This was despite warnings issued by the Russian government that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now described as the ringleader of the attack, posed a serious threat of terrorism.
The article is based upon interviews with unnamed “senior American officials” on a report written by the inspector general of the Intelligence Community, the federation consisting of 17 separate US spy agencies.
Still secret, heavily redacted sections of this document are supposed to be made public before next Tuesday, the anniversary of the bombings, which occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last April 15, claiming the lives of three people and wounding 264 others.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot killed in a shootout with police days after the bombing. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was severely wounded and captured by police. He now faces a trial in which US prosecutors are seeking the death penalty
The thrust of the article—and, according to the Times, of the report itself—is summed up in its headline: “Russia failed to share data on suspect, report says.”
“The Russian government declined to provide the FBI with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects that would have likely have led to more extensive scrutiny of him at least two years before the attack,” the inspector general’s report claims, according to the Times account.
It quotes one of the unnamed “senior American officials” as stating: “They found that the Russians did not provide all the information they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the FBI did all that it could.”
It’s a computer – inside a cockroach. Nano-sized entities made of DNA that are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal.
The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect’s body and interact with each other, as well as the insect’s cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.
"DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication," says Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
Levner and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, made the nanobots by exploiting the binding properties of DNA. When it meets a certain kind of protein, DNA unravels into two complementary strands. By creating particular sequences, the strands can be made to unravel on contact with specific molecules – say, those on a diseased cell. When the molecule unravels, out drops the package wrapped inside.
If the report is true — both the White House and the NSA say it’s not (see below) — the NSA could have collected information like passwords and private communications from hundreds of thousands of websites, since Heartbleed is a bug in the popular open-source encryption software OpenSSL, used to secure data flowing from users’ computers to hundreds of thousands of websites, including Gmail and Facebook. Almost two-thirds of all sites on the Internet use OpenSSL, according to estimates, making this bug possibly one of the most dangerous the Internet has ever seen and potentially allowing the NSA to access information on millions of users.
Roughly two hours after Bloomberg’s report was published, the NSA and the White House denied the allegations in statements sent to Mashable.
"NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cybersecurity report," an NSA spokesperson wrote in a statement to Mashable. “Reports that say otherwise are wrong.”
The White House National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden also said that neither the NSA nor any other federal agency knew about the Heartbleed bug.
"If the Federal government, including the intelligence community, had discovered this vulnerability prior to last week, it would have been disclosed to the community responsible for OpenSSL," Hayden said in the statement.