Unfair Auditing, Russia’s Latest Attack, & Religious Exodus
May 17, 2023
More Like The Internal Racist Service, Am I Right?
Remember yesterday’s story about Ron DeSantis blocking Florida’s public colleges from teaching students “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, or privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States” in general education courses? The Internal Revenue Service has something to say about that. On Monday, the IRS publicly announced that Black taxpayers are disproportionately likely to be audited compared to other racial groups. The acknowledgment comes a few months after a joint study by economists from multiple universities and the Federal Reserve noted the racial disparity.
“While there is a need for further research, our initial findings support the conclusion that Black taxpayers may be audited at higher rates than would be expected given their share of the population,” wrote I.R.S. commissioner Daniel Werfel in a letter to Ron Wyden, the Democratic chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
The study found that Black taxpayers were three to five times more likely to be audited than other non-Black taxpayers. It pointed to the agency’s auditing practices around the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – which is designed to help supplement the incomes of low-wage workers – as a possible mechanism for this discrimination, as the IRS does not collect information about race as part of its filing process.
The IRS plans to use some of the almost $80 billion it will receive through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to deal with “any potential systemic bias” in its auditing systems. The Senate Finance Committee will have a hand in these changes, and also plans to use some IRA funds to improve the agency’s outreach to underserved communities to help them claim credits they’re entitled to. “The I.R.S. is committed to enforcing tax laws in a manner that is fair and impartial,” said Werfel. “When evidence of unfair treatment is presented, we must take immediate actions to address it.”
Some Good News
- Biden administration announces $11 billion for rural clean energy projects (Reuters)
- Researchers treat depression by reversing brain signals traveling the wrong way (Stanford)
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Russian To The Attack
- At 2:30 am local time, Russia unleashed one of its largest-ever air attacks on Kyiv. According to Ukraine, the attack consisted of six Kinzhal missiles (Moscow’s most powerful hypersonic missile), nine Kalibr cruise missiles, three ballistic rockets, six attack drones, and three reconnaissance drones – all of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. While the act of “air terrorism” failed to create any explosive impact, it did take out one of two Patriot air defense batteries provided to Kyiv by the U.S. and Germany, a key part of Ukraine’s air defense systems.
- The attack followed Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s trip to Europe, where he secured military assistance from a variety of European states, including long-range attack drones from the U.K. Ukrainian pilots are expected to receive training from France and the U.K., and a bloc of countries is procuring multiple F16 fighter jets for Kyiv.
- Besides direct military aid, Zelenskiy’s Europe tour has also yielded more legal support for his country. The 46-nation Council of Europe has been resurrected, holding its first summit in 18 years on Tuesday. By the end of Wednesday, the council hopes to construct a plan to hold Moscow accountable for its invasion. This includes making the Kremlin liable for compensating victims of the war and helping Ukraine jump-start its economy after the conflict.
The Daily Mirror Should’ve Looked In The Mirror
- According to testimony from English royal biographer Omid Scobie, prominent journalist and television personality Piers Morgan allowed writers to use illegal tactics to obtain exclusive stories during his time as editor at the Daily Mirror. He gave the testimony as part of an ongoing lawsuit by Prince Harry and others about the tabloid’s alleged illegal story-gathering practices.
- Scobie alleges that these tactics include accessing private voicemails, paying private investigators, and impersonating people in order to dig up personal financial records. He says he’d overheard Morgan discussing a 2002 story about Kylie Minogue that used private voicemails as a source. “Mr. Morgan was asking how confident they were in the reporting and was told that the information had come from voicemails,” he remembers.
Additional World News
- Loafers Lodge: At least six dead in New Zealand hostel fire (BBC)
- Images of Lukashenko released after rumours over Belarusian leader’s health (Guardian)
- Hundreds feared dead after cyclone hits western Myanmar (Reuters)
- US to sign pacts with Micronesia and PNG as Washington seeks to counter China in Pacific (Guardian)
- Global executions in 2022 at highest rate for five years (BBC)
- How Russia’s Wagner group exploits Africa to fund the Ukraine war (CBS)
- New US report alleges religious freedom violations in China, Iran, India (ABC)
“There can be no equality or opportunity if men and women and children be not shielded in their lives from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they cannot alter, control, or singly cope with.” – Woodrow Wilson
Billionaire-On-Billionaire Twitter Violence
- Elon Musk took to Twitter late Monday night to go after George Soros, three days after Soros’s investment fund reported that it had sold all its stock in Tesla. Musk, a proponent of “free speech” (A.K.A. anti-Semitism and other hate speech) specifically compared Soros, a Holocaust survivor, to Magneto, the Marvel supervillain who Musk said “fights to help mutants replace humans as the world’s dominant species.”
- It’s worth noting that a key part of Magneto’s backstory is that he, too, is a Holocaust survivor. One reply read that like Magneto, Soros “get’s [sic] attacked nonstop for his good intentions which some Americans think are bad merely because they disagree with this political affiliations,” to which Musk replied, “You assume they are good intentions. They are not. He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.” Talk about dramatic.
- Musk’s tweets were condemned Tuesday morning by Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, who said, “Soros often is held up by the far-right, using antisemitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems. To see Elon Musk, regardless of his intent, feed this segment — comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, claiming Soros ‘hates humanity’ — is not just distressing, it’s dangerous: it will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”
I Can’t Go, Mom Says I Have To Clean Up My Budget Problems First
- The White House confirmed on Tuesday that President Biden has shifted his trips to Papua New Guinea and Australia in favor of sticking around to deal with ongoing debt ceiling negotiations. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the trips are being “postponed,” not canceled.
- Biden will still travel to Japan today as part of what was supposed to be a weeklong trip through the Pacific region. The Treasury Department has warned that the U.S. default could come as early as June 1. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned repeatedly that a default would trigger a global economic downturn.
Additional USA News
- Former Giuliani employee alleges sexual assault and harassment in $10 million lawsuit (Politico)
- Farmington, New Mexico shooting: Gunman who killed 3 and injured others appears to have roamed a neighborhood and fired at random, police say (CNN)
- New York City moving migrants into school gyms (ABC)
- 12-year-old charged with murder in fatal shooting of Sonic worker in Texas (NBC)
- IRS whistleblower who claims to have information of alleged mishandling of Hunter Biden probe removed from investigation (CNN)
- Missouri high-schooler suspended for recording teacher using racial slur (Guardian)
- Justice Department files criminal charges in cases of American tech stolen for Russia, China and Iran (CNN)
Now Let Me See You Do The Scriptural Shuffle
- According to a national survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), more Americans are switching religions than ever before. The 2022 survey of some 6,620 people shows that 24% of Americans have changed their religions recently or in their lifetime, up 50% from 2021, when 16% said they’d switched religions at some point.
- Not that religion is a competition or anything, but if it were, there are certainly some winners and losers according to the poll. Un-religiously-affiliated people and non-Christian religious people were the most likely to have swapped religions, with 37% and 38% of each group claiming they’d changed religious traditions, respectively. The Catholic Church lost the most followers to the group of respondents without a religious affiliation, with 39% of that group being ex-Catholics. On the other hand, roughly one in four Protestants said they’d switched to Protestantism from another religious tradition.
- Christianity as a whole continues to trend downward in the U.S., with just 64% of respondents claiming Christianity – a decrease from earlier years. The fastest-growing religious segment in the U.S. continues to be those unaffiliated with any religion, with 27% of respondents in that group. “There’s essentially kind of a paradox happening. On the one hand, there is more religious churning. There are also more people in America who are becoming less religious,” said PRRI CEO Melissa Deckman.
- “Cloud of hundreds of bees” swarms Los Angeles neighborhood, sending 2 to hospital (CBS)
- More than a third of the area charred by wildfires in Western North America can be traced back to fossil fuels, scientists find (CNN)
- Salman Rushdie warns against U.S. censorship in rare public address 9 months after being stabbed onstage (CBS)
- 21 pieces of jewelry worth $129 million were stolen. A court convicts 5 men in museum heist (AP)
- Diver discovers 1,800-year-old shipwreck off Israel with “rare” marble artifacts (CBS)
- Butterflies originated in North America after splitting from moths, new study suggests (NPR)
- Rare rainbow sea slug found in Falmouth rock pool (BBC)
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