Wednesday, May 19, 2004

News you might have missed:

Yeah, I'm a little late getting to the computer today - packing up to go to a gift show this weekend. Pshew! Anyway, here's a few bits of news/analysis you might have missed:

Email scammer gets four years.

An Internet scammer who used e-mail and a fraudulent Web site to steal hundreds of credit card numbers was sentenced to almost four years in jail Tuesday, one of the stiffest-ever penalties handed down for online fraud.

Houston, Texas federal court Judge Vanessa Gilmore sentenced Houston resident Zachary Hill to 46 months in jail for his role in duping consumers into turning over 473 credit card numbers.

The Justice Department said the sentence is "one of, if not the longest" ever handed down against an e-mail scammer, said spokesman Michael Kulstad.

Hill, 20, used a "phishing" scheme to make his e-mail look like it came from America Online, the nation's largest Internet service provider, or PayPal, the online payment subsidiary of auction giant eBay. The message told victims that their accounts had lapsed and that the companies required their credit card numbers and passwords to restart them.

More at link.

WashPost editorializes: Leave no Rich Child Behind:

THE HOUSE of Representatives plans to take up a bill this week that would provide new tax breaks to families earning as much as $309,000, while doing next to nothing for those at the low end of the income scale. The bill, which could come up as early as today, is the most egregious part of a House tax-cutting spree that altogether would add more than $500 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

The House would not only make permanent the $1,000-per-child tax credit enacted as part of the 2001 tax cut but would dramatically increase the income limits for eligibility. Currently, married families with incomes of up to $110,000 receive the full credit; the bill would more than double the income ceiling, to $250,000. Under existing law, families with two children and incomes up to $149,000 receive a partial tax credit; the bill would make that partial credit available to families with two children and income of between $250,000 and $289,000; families with three children would be entitled to the partial credit up to an income of $309,000.

This is unnecessary, misguided and irresponsible. Families at that income level have already enjoyed significant benefits from the recent tax cuts; they don't need an extra subsidy to help support their children. While tax cut proponents argue that lowering marginal tax rates or cutting dividend and capital gains taxes helps promote economic growth, there is no such claim to be made for the child tax credit. And the increase in the income ceiling would cost $69 billion through 2014, $87 billion if you count increased interest payments on the extra debt.

(More, again, at link)

Texas Decrees - Unitarians not a church:

AUSTIN, Texas - (KRT) - Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Texas Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization - at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: The organization "does not have one system of belief."

Never before - not in this state nor any other - has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group's religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn's ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison, Texas, congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller's office.

"I was surprised - surprised and shocked - because the Unitarian church in the United States has a very long history," said Althoff, who notes that father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both Unitarians.

More at link. Look out, Buddhists, you may be next.

The answer, of course, is to forget tax-exempt status for all churches, but that'll be the day, huh?


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