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IRS snitch gets $4.5 million whistleblower award

An accountant who tipped off the IRS that his employer was skimping on taxes has received $4.5 million in the first IRS whistleblower award. The accountant’s tip netted the IRS $20 million in taxes and interest from the errant financial-services firm. The award represents a 22 percent cut of the taxes recovered. The program, designed to encourage tips in large-scale cases, mandates awards of 15 to 30 percent of the amount recouped. “It ought to encourage a lot of other people to squeal,” Sen. Charles Grassley told The Associated Press. The Iowa Republican helped get the IRS Whistleblower Office authorized
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Time is running out

Uncomfortably close to a deadline, President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders have only hours to avert a Friday midnight government shutdown that all sides say would inconvenience millions of people and damage a still fragile economy. Obama said he still hoped to announce an agreement on Friday but did not have “wild optimism.” In revealing nothing about what still divides them, Obama and the lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., all said another late night of talks in the Oval Office had narrowed their differences over cutting federal spending and other matters.
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Workers brace for government shutdown

A weather forecaster says he may have to live off the money he’s been setting aside for a Caribbean vacation. A worker in Washington hopes to polish his resume so he can retire from public service and work in the private sector. An accountant wonders if she can put off her mortgage for a month. Federal workers like them across the U.S. will be out of work and without a paycheck if the looming government shutdown isn’t averted. Some say they will make the best of it, using the spare time to get a few things done. Others are far
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How a government shutdown will affect you

You’d still get your mail — and your usual Social Security payment. But troops’ pay might be delayed, and you’d have to put off that spring break trip to a national park. Here’s how government services would or wouldn’t be affected if there’s a partial shutdown Friday at midnight:   Benefit payments: Social Security payments would continue, and applications would still be processed. Unemployment benefits would still go out. Medicare would still pay claims for recipients, but payments to doctors and hospitals could be delayed if the shutdown were prolonged. Mail: Deliveries as usual (U.S. postal operations are not subsidized
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Shadow of Newt Gingrich looms over shutdown

In this Nov. 20, 1995, file photo, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Ga., holds the original budget compromise given to him by White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta during an address before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Gingrich was the face of the last federal government shutdown, the fiery House speaker who led his Republican revolution headlong into a confrontation with a Democratic president. (AP Photo/J.Scott Applewhite, File) Newt Gingrich was the face of the last federal government shutdown, the fiery House speaker who led his Republican revolution headlong into a confrontation with a Democratic president. Now,
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Social Security ending mailed earning statements

Those yearly statements that Social Security mails out — here’s what you’d get if you retired at 62, at 66, at 70 — will soon stop arriving in workers’ mailboxes. It’s an effort to save money and steer more people to the agency’s website. The government is working to provide the statements online by the end of the year, if it can resolve security issues, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said. If that fails, the agency will resume the paper statements, which cost $70 million a year to mail, he said. “We’ll provide it, we expect, one way or another,
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New York tourism officials smell a rat

Absolutely no one likes a rat, a city official said on Tuesday, demanding $1.5 million be restored to the budget to be help control what he called Manhattan’s horrific rat problem. Seeing vermin running amok on city streets and in subway tunnels is a turn-off for tourists, said Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer. “They don’t want to come here and share their vacation with a New York City rat,” Stringer told Reuters. Demanding rat control money be restored to the city Health Department budget, Stringer said the cuts forced the layoff of 57 Pest Control workers. The result has been
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EMail marketer apologizes

The company at the center of a data heist involving Best Buy, Citigroup, and other major brands said Wednesday that the theft of potentially millions of names and email addresses won’t significantly slow its email marketing juggernaut. Epsilon, a subsidiary of Alliance Data Systems Corp., was the victim of a hacking attack that triggered scores of public warnings this week from major retailers, banks and others. Epsilon sends more than 40 billion emails a year on behalf of more than 2,500 companies, for things like loyalty rewards programs. In a statement Wednesday, it reiterated that Social Security and credit card
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Soul Surfer: An inspiring story

For Bethany Hamilton, it’s all about God and surfing. That’s how it was when a shark ripped off her arm as she lolled on a surfboard off the shores of Kauai in 2003, and that’s how it is now as the cinematic version of her story, “Soul Surfer,” opens in theaters nationwide. “He continues to just guide me and lead my every step, because even though the shark attack was scary and crazy, but I think all of this is just as hard to deal with, you know?” says the 21-year-old, who became an instant celebrity after the attack. “Having
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Retail sales not as bleak as expected

March was not as bad as expected for U.S. retailers, at least as far as initial sales reports show, suggesting that shoppers largely ignored higher gasoline prices and other concerns to treat themselves. U.S. retailers overall are likely to show a drop in March same-store sales, hurt by Easter falling three weeks later than last year, which delays some spring clothing purchases. Chilly weather and rising inflation were also expected to hurt discretionary purchases. However, early reports from a variety of retailers such as Costco Wholesale Corp and Limited Brands Inc showed much stronger-than-expected results. Others, including drugstore operator Walgreen
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