Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Line of duty deaths among police officers go up

Texas policeThe shooting death of a Texas police officer late Tuesday adds to a grim toll: A law enforcement officer was killed every 53 hours in the United States this year, according to a new report.

Line-of-duty deaths jumped by 37% in 2010, according to the report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

An officer was killed Monday during a traffic stop in Atlanta. Late Tuesday night, an Arlington police officer was among three people killed in a shooting at an apartment complex.

These incidents are part of an overall trend of increased violence against police officers and law enforcement professionals this year. According to preliminary data compiled by the memorial fund, a total of 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 12 months, an alarming increase that follows two years of declining deaths among the nation's policing professionals.

While the sharpest increase has been in gun-related deaths, traffic-related incidents remained the number one cause of death among the nation's law enforcement officers for the 13th consecutive year. Seventy-three officers have been killed in traffic-related incidents this year, compared with 51 in 2009.

"Our law enforcement officers are being asked to do more today with less," said memorial fund Chairman Craig W. Floyd. "And it is putting their lives at risk."

During the past year, 18 officers were killed in Texas, the highest in any state. It was followed by California with 11, Illinois with 10, Florida with nine and Georgia with seven.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1792, nearly 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Air traffic scheduled to resume at NYC airports

NEW YORK — There's relief ahead for some travelers stranded at the New York-area's three major airports.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says flights are expected to begin arriving at Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports Monday evening.

At JFK, some people are being booked on flights to leave this evening. Other flights were listed as arriving on time.

However, some travelers may be delayed a bit longer.

Srinivas Tadakamalla's (SREE'-nee-voss todd-ah-kah-MAHL'-ah) has been stranded at JFK on his way home to St. Louis from India with his 5-year-old daughter and 22-month-old son. He says he's been told he can't get a flight until Thursday.

All flight operations were suspended Sunday night during a storm that dumped 20 inches of snow on the metropolitan area.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Senate vote on nuclear treaty may be defining moment for Obama

Washington — The upcoming Senate vote on a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty may turn out to be a defining moment for the Obama administration's foreign policy.

If he wins the support of at least two-thirds of the Senate for the New START agreement in a vote that may come as early as Tuesday, President Obama could build on the victory as he turns to a long list of foreign policy challenges — including Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and his broader plans to limit nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Profit From the Compromise Tax Deal In 2011

The compromise tax deal was signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, and continues to draw fire from critics on both sides of the political aisle. The $858 billion tax package isn't paid for. In fact, it actually costs more than the controversial Obama stimulus plan that has been criticized for having little measurable impact - even as it caused the budget deficit and the U.S. debt burden to explode.

And yet, investors have been cheered by the deal.

Near term, that's an acceptable perception. But in the long run, some very real problems loom. Investors who ignore those problems will take a real beating - and it will be self-inflicted. But investors who prepare for the inevitable will actually improve their positions: They'll not only protect themselves, they will profit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

US tax chief eyes more banks, possible new amnesty

The US tax chief said leads from the landmark case against UBS AG, which admitted helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through offshore accounts, point toward other banks and financial advisers in Asia and the Middle East.

Douglas Shulman, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, also said the agency was considering a new amnesty program for tax evaders.

UBS last year admitted helping US clients avoid taxes by stashing money overseas. It paid a fine of USD 780 million to the US government and agreed to hand over the names of thousands of accounts to settle the case.

The IRS has been sifting through information from 18,000 accounts from individuals who came forward under an amnesty program designed to lure the wealthy to declare their assets. That includes 3,000 additional disclosures that came forward after the amnesty ended.

"This information has already proved invaluable in supplementing and corroborating prior leads, as well as developing new leads, involving numerous banks," Shulman said in remarks prepared for delivery to a tax conference.

The winding down of the UBS case has revived speculation about which banks US authorities will target next.

Clients of HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest bank, received letters in June from the US Justice Department notifying them that they are targets of a criminal probe.

Shulman said the agency is considering a new amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers, but the terms will not be as generous as for the last one.

Lawyers for the wealthy have complained that there is no clarity in terms of penalties for individuals who want to come forward.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How online retailers stay a step ahead of comparison shoppers

The American consumer is back for the first holiday season since 2007. But while shoppers are hitting the malls, they're also being choosy - and comparison shopping is more easily done online. Web sales will rise 11 percent in November and December, according to ComScore, compared with about 3 percent for sales in bricks-and-mortar stores. Online shoppers can get better prices and perks like free shipping. Online merchants, however, are not exactly defenseless. One way they fight back against picky customers is through "dynamic pricing," also called "discriminatory," "personalized," or "variable" pricing. And, for the most part, customers have no idea it is happening.

In its most brazen form, it works like this: Retailers read the cookies kept on your browser or glean information from your past purchase history when you are logged into a site. That gives them a sense of what you search for and buy, how much you paid for it, and whether you might be willing and able to spend more.

They alter their prices or offers accordingly. Consumers - in the few cases they recognize it is going on, by shopping in two browsers simultaneously, for instance - tend to go apoplectic. But the practice is perfectly legal, and increasingly common - pervasive, even, for some products.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Obama and GOP in Deal on Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.

The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.

Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.

Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed.

“It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pentagon study: Gays could serve without harm

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon study on gays in the military has determined that overturning the law known as "don't ask, don't tell" might cause some disruption at first but would not create any widespread or long-lasting problems.

The study provided ammunition to congressional Democrats struggling to overturn the law. Even with the release of Tuesday's study, however, there was no indication they could overcome fierce Republican objections with just a few weeks left in the year-ending session of Congress. Democrats will be in the minority when Congress reconvenes in early January.

"We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war," wrote the study co-chairs Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Congress should act quickly because of a recent effort by a federal judge to overturn the law.

Gates said the military needs time to prepare for such a change, even though he said he did not envision any changes to personnel policy that would be needed. He said a sudden court-issued mandate would significantly increase the risk of causing disruption to the force.

"Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts," Gates told reporters.