- - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FCC

Regulators seek more broadband

Federal communications regulators proposed new rules on Tuesday that they say will help bring broadband to all of rural America.

The rules would shift government subsidies for land-line telephone service to fund the build-out of high-speed Internet services in rural areas.

“We won’t fully realize the promise of broadband and the fundamental promise of American opportunity if large swaths of our country are left out,” Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said at an open meeting of the agency.

Some 24 million Americans live in areas not served by broadband service, but a modernized, streamlined universal service program could begin to bridge these gaps in infrastructure, Mr. Genachowski said.

HOUSE

Patriot Act extension rejected on Hill

The House on Tuesday unexpectedly failed to extend the life of three surveillance tools that are key to the nation’s post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law, an embarrassment for the new Republican leadership that miscalculated the level of opposition.

The House voted 277-148 to keep the three provisions of the USA Patriot Act on the books until Dec. 8. But Republicans brought up the bill under a special expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority, and the vote was seven short of reaching that level.

Republicans, who took over the House last month, lost 26 of their own members, adding to the 122 Democrats who voted against it. Supporters say the three measures are vital to preventing another terrorist attack, but critics say they infringe on civil liberties.

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was a provision that gives the FBI court-approved access to “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation.

IRS

Penalties slashed for coming clean

The Internal Revenue Service is offering reduced penalties for international tax cheats who come clean.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said Tuesday that people who are hiding assets overseas can avoid prison and pay reduced fines if they turn themselves in and pay back taxes by Aug. 31. The offer is similar to one the IRS made in 2009 that netted 15,000 tax evaders.

Mr. Shulman said the new offer won’t be as generous because he doesn’t want to reward tax cheats who waited two years to come forward.

The IRS has long had a policy that certain tax evaders can avoid prison as long as they come forward before they are contacted by the agency. But without the program, penalties can sometimes far exceed the value of hidden accounts.

WIKILEAKS

Court battle brewing over Twitter records

Three people associated with the website WikiLeaks are asking a federal judge not to force the social networking site Twitter to turn over data about whom they communicate with online.

The dispute cuts to the core of the question of whether WikiLeaks allies are part of a criminal conspiracy or a political discussion. It also challenges the Obama administration’s argument that it can demand to see computer data and read months’ worth of private messages, even if they have nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

The information would allow the government to map out their entire audience and figure out where each person was when he logged on to Twitter, attorneys said, amounting to an intrusion on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The U.S. is investigating whether WikiLeaks should be held responsible for leaking vast troves of classified security and diplomatic information, even though it was not the original leaker.

TENNESSEE

GOP lawmaker credits Hooters

NASHVILLE | A newly elected Tennessee legislator writes in the current issue of Hooters Magazine that her experience working in the restaurants known for waitresses’ skimpy outfits led to her later success in business and politics.

Republican state Rep. Julia Hurley, 29, was elected in November after defeating incumbent Democrat Dennis Ferguson in a mostly conservative district west of Knoxville.

Miss Hurley writes that her experience at Hooters helped prepare her for a run for public office even when opponents tried to make a campaign issue last summer about her past employment and photos from her modeling career.

“I have taken quite a bit of flack from the public at large during my run for state House in Tennessee for being a Hooters Girl,” she said. “But I know that without that time in my life I would not be as strong-willed and eager to become successful.”

The link also became a direct benefit to her electoral bid when former regular customers made campaign contribution “without question or hesitation,” she said.

LABOR

Job openings fall once again

Employers posted fewer job openings in December, the second straight month of declines. That’s a sign hiring is still weak even as the economy is gaining strength.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers advertised nearly 3.1 million jobs that month, a drop of almost 140,000 from November. That’s the lowest total since September.

Openings have risen by more than 700,000 since they bottomed out in July 2009, one month after the recession ended. That’s an increase of 31 percent.

But they are still far below the 4.4 million available jobs that were advertised in December 2007, when the recession began.

The figures follow a mixed jobs report released last week, which showed the unemployment rate fell sharply to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent the previous month. But it also found that employers added a net total of only 36,000 jobs, far below what’s needed to consistently reduce unemployment.

ALABAMA

Senator: Remark not violent

MONTGOMERY | An Alabama legislator said it’s time to “empty the clip” when addressing illegal immigration, but he says he wasn’t advocating violence.

Others found his remarks frightening after a deadly Arizona rampage.

State Sen. Scott Beason said Tuesday he used the phrase in a weekend speech to the Cullman County Republican Club, but not in the sense of firing all the ammunition in a weapon.

He said he meant that it will take a wide array of government action to solve illegal immigration and other problems.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy said the remark was “reckless rhetoric,” after a gunman used a semiautomatic pistol with a 33-round clip to kill six people and wound 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.

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