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+ - IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay A Relative's Debt

Submitted by Hugh Pickens DOT Com
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check — sometimes on debts 20 or 30 years old. For example, when Mary 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. “It was a shock,” says Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, says Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred. Many of the taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records. More than 1,200 appeals have been filed on the old cases but only about 10 percent of taxpayers have won those appeals. "The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter," says Brenda Samonds.." We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.”"

+ - An unnecessary path to tech: A Bachelor's degree->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "A study of New York City's tech workforce found that 44% of jobs in the city's "tech ecosystem," or 128,000 jobs, "are accessible" to people without a Bachelor's degree. This eco-system includes both tech specific jobs and those jobs supported by tech. For instance, a technology specific job that doesn't require a Bachelor's degree might be a computer user support specialist, earning $28.80 an hour, according to this study. Tech industry jobs that do not require a four-year degree and may only need on-the-job training include customer services representatives, at $18.50 an hour, telecom line installer, $37.60 an hour, and sales representatives, $33.60 an hour. The study did not look at "who is actually sitting in those jobs and whether people are under-employed," said Kate Wittels, a director at HR&A Advisors, a real-estate and economic-development consulting firm, and report author.. Many people in the "accessible" non-degree jobs may indeed have degrees. For instance. About 75% of the 25 employees who work at New York Computer Help in Manhattan have a Bachelor's degree. Of those with Bachelor's degrees, about half have IT-related degrees."
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+ - Would Amazon Dare To Make A Phone? Of Course->

Submitted by jfruh
jfruh (300774) writes "'So-and-so is about to release a smartphone' is one of the oldest tech rumors around, and most of the time nothing comes of it. But Stephen Lawson of the IDG News Service argues that if anyone non-phonemaker were going to dip their toes into that treacherous water, it'd be Amazon. The company hasn't been afraid to take on incumbents in the tablet and TV set-top box markets, and the financial rewards for breaking out of the content ecosystem imposed by other providers are too great to ignore."
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+ - Ad tracking: Is anything being done?-> 1

Submitted by bsk_cw
bsk_cw (1202181) writes "The W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group has been trying to come up with a way to make targeted ads acceptable to users and useful to advertisers — and so far, hasn't gotten very far. Computerworld's Robert Mitchell has interviewed people on all sides of the issue — consumer privacy advocates, vendors of ad-blocking tools, advertisers and website publishers — to try to unravel the issues and see if any solution is possible at all."
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+ - Wants More H-1B Visas, But 50% Go To Offshore Firms

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "On the day the U.S. began accepting H-1B visa applications for FY2015, Mark Zuckerberg's PAC stepped up its lobbying efforts for more tech visas even as ComputerWorld reported that the major share of H-1B visas go to offshore outsourcing firms that use visa holders to displace U.S. workers. "The two largest H-1B users," notes ComputerWorld, "are Indian-based, Infosys, with 6,298 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with 6,258." ComputerWorld adds that food and agricultural company Cargill is outsourcing IT jobs to TCS, including 300 in Minnesota, the home of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a friend-of-Zuck and sponsor of the I-Squared Act of 2013, which would allow H-1B visa caps to rise to 300,000 annually."

+ - Offshore firms took 50% of H-1B visas in 2013->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The U.S. today (April 1) began accepting H-1B visa applications for the next fiscal year, with heavy demand expected. The visas will likely all be claimed by end of this week, and a major share of the H-1B visas will go to firms that use visa holders to displace U.S. workers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data is very clear about who are the largest users of H-1B visas: Offshore outsourcing firms.The IT services firms among the top 20 H-1B users accounted for a little more than 50% of the annual base visa cap of 65,000. This is for initial visas approved in the 2013 fiscal year, not renewals. "The offshore outsourcing firms are once again getting the majority of the visas," said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. "The program continues to promote the offshoring of high-wage American jobs.""
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+ - Tech Lobby: H-1B Workers Cheaper than Hiring Americans->

Submitted by walterbyrd
walterbyrd (182728) writes "Beryl Lieff Benderly of Science Careers asked, "If there is such a desperate need for talent why not [retrain] some of the tens of thousands of people over 35 who have been laid off?"

In a rare display of honesty from lobbyists, Scott Corely of CompeteAmerica answered, "If it could be done as easily, there would be less value in the worker.""

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+ - More on the Disposable Tech Worker-> 1

Submitted by Jim_Austin
Jim_Austin (1073454) writes "At a press conference this week, in response to a question by a Science Careers reporter, Scott Corley, the Executive Director of immigration-reform group Compete America, argued that retraining workers doesn't make sense for IT companies. For the company, he argued, H-1B guest workers are a much better choice. "It's not easy to retrain people," Corley said. "The further you get away from your education the less knowledge you have of the new technologies, and technology is always moving forward.""
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+ - Gates warns of software replacing people; Greenspan says H-1Bs fix inequity ->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan, in separate forums, offered outlooks and prescriptions for fixing jobs and income. Gates is concerned that graduates of U.S. secondary schools may not be able stay ahead of software automation. "These things are coming fast," said Gates, in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute "Twenty years from now labor demand for a lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don't think people have that in their mental model." Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan believes one way to attack income inequity is to raise the H-1B cap. If the program were expanded, income wouldn't necessarily go down much, but it would go down enough to make an impact. Income inequality is a relative concept, he argued. People who are absolutely at the top of the scale in 1925, for instance, would be getting food stamps today, said Greenspan. "You don't have to necessarily bring up the bottom if you bring the top down.""
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+ - Mark Zuckerberg calls Obama to complain about NSA->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called President Obama on Wednesday night to express frustration about the government's spying and hacking programs.

"When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon.

His concerns are based on the latest investigative report from The Intercept, which revealed that the National Security Agency has weaponized the Internet, making it possible to inject bad software into innocent peoples' computers en masse. Put simply, using the QUANTUM program, the NSA can sneak into someone's Web browser.
The report is based on documents provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden."

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+ - White House urges 'geeks' to get healthcare coverage, launch start-ups-> 1

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The White House is urging tech workers, or "geeks," to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and said having the coverage will give them the "freedom and security" to start their own businesses. "There is strong evidence that when affordable healthcare isn't exclusively tied to employment, in more instances people choose to start their own companies," wrote White House CTO Todd Park in a post to launch its #GeeksGetCovered campaign.Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor of management at Pace University and director of its Entrepreneurship Lab, said the effort is part of a broader appeal by the White House to get younger and healthier people to sign-up for Obamacare, and is in the same vein as President Obama's recent appearance on Between Two Ferns,"
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+ - White House official: China R&D investment now half of U.S.->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget plan would increase federal R&D spending by 1.2% over this year, if Congress approves. The Computing Research Association, in a blog post, called the budget request "underwhelming for science." John Holdren, White House senior adviser on science and technology policy, said that research spending on science and technology "is doing better than might have been expected" given budget constraints. But Holdren added that the U.S. is getting more R&D competition. "It is true that China, for example, has been increasing its investments at a very high rate and is now sitting at about half the investment of the United States," said Holdren. "That gap will narrow further if China continues to boost its investments in that way.""
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+ - IBM workforce cuts raise questions about pact with New York->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "IBM is laying off U.S. employees this week as part of a $1B restructuring, and is apparently trying keep the exact number of cuts secret. The Alliance@IBM, the main source of layoff information at IBM, says the company has stopped including in its resource action documents, given to cut employees, the number of employees selected for a job cut. The union calls it a “disturbing development.” Meanwhile, two days prior to the layoffs, NY Gov. Cuomo announced that it reached a new minimum staffing level agreement with IBM to "maintain 3,100 high-tech jobs in the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas.” The governor’s office did not say how many IBM jobs are now there, but others put estimate it at around 7,000. Lee Conrad, a national coordinator for the Alliance, said the governor's announcement raises some questions for workers and the region. "Yes, you're trying to protect 3,100 jobs but what about the other 3,900 jobs?" The Alliance estimates that anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 U.S. workers could be impacted by the latest round of layoffs. IBM says it has more than 3,000 open positions in the U.S., and says the cuts are part of a "rebalancing" as it shifts investments into new areas of technology, such as cognitive computing."
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+ - California fights drought with data and psychology, yielding 5% usage reduction->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "California is facing its worst drought in more than 100 years, and one with no end in sight. But it is offering Silicon Valley opportunities. In one project, the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland used customized usage reports developed by WaterSmart Software that report a customer's water use against average use for similar sized households. It uses a form of peer pressure to change behavior. A just concluded year-long pilot showed a 5% reduction in water usage. The utility said the reporting system could "go a long way" toward helping the state meet its goal of a reducing water usage by 20% per capita statewide. In other tech related activities, the organizer of a water-tech focused hackathon, Hack the Drought is hoping this effort leads to new water conserving approaches. Overall, water tech supporters are working to bring more investor attention to this market. Imagine H2O, a non-profit, holds annual water tech contests and then helps with access to venture funding. The effort is focused on "trying to address the market failure in the water sector," Scott Bryan, the chief operating officer of Imagine H2O."
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+ - Elderly nun sentenced in Tennessee nuclear plant break-in->

Submitted by spineas
spineas (3440075) writes "Anti-nuclear activist and elderly nun, 84-year-old Sister Megan Rice has been sentenced to 35 months in prison for breaking into a Tennessee facility which stores weapons-grade enriched uranium.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that at her sentencing, the Sister asked that her age not affect her sentence, stating "to remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor.""

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"If John Madden steps outside on February 2, looks down, and doesn't see his feet, we'll have 6 more weeks of Pro football." -- Chuck Newcombe