- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

Judge delays rules on unions’ dues

Regulations that were to take effect with the new year requiring unions to report to the government the details of how they spend their members’ dues have been delayed one year by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled on New Year’s Eve that unions needed more time to comply with “extensive and sophisticated” changes approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget in November.

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao “has simply failed to offer any reasonable justification for requiring such far-reaching changes to take place in a period of seven weeks,” Judge Kessler wrote. She issued an injunction delaying the new regulation by a year.

The AFL-CIO sued the Labor Department to block the regulation, which would make unions disclose in detail how much they spend on politics, gifts and management and report any expenditure above $5,000.

The department argues that current reporting requirements lack sufficient transparency to tell rank-and-file union members how their dues are spent.

IRS to scrutinize employees’ returns

The Internal Revenue Service has identified 800 employees whose tax returns will face closer scrutiny, part of an effort to make sure IRS employees are filing truthful returns and complying with tax laws.

The agency said yesterday that these employees “face an examination on Schedule C issues, most of which are already under way.” A Schedule C deals with reporting profits or losses from a business and is filed if the taxpayer or spouse runs a business.

An IRS spokesman declined to say precisely what prompted the IRS to flag the employees for review, but said that the agency had some questions about their returns. The 800 employees are just a fraction of the 115,000 full- and part-time employees of the IRS.

The IRS already regularly reviews employees’ tax returns and other information to ensure they are complying with tax laws.

Craft collects comet dust

PASADENA, Calif. — A NASA spacecraft flew through the bright halo of a distant comet yesterday to scoop up less than a thimbleful of dust that could shed light on how our solar system was formed.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said its Stardust spacecraft passed within an estimated 143 miles of the comet Wild 2 as it plowed through the gossamer cloud that cloaks the dirty ball of ice and rock.

Scientists want to return samples of the particles to Earth for study because they are pristine examples of the building blocks of our solar system dating back 4.6 billion years. They also believe the dust contains many of the organic molecules necessary for life.

Jackpot winners celebrate with burgers

COLUMBIA, S.C. — So where do two of America’s newest multimillion-dollar lottery winners eat lunch to celebrate? Try the Steak n Shake.

Norman and Deanna Shue went to the burger joint Thursday after finding out they had won half of Wednesday’s $221.5 million Powerball jackpot. They wanted to claim the prize but couldn’t because state offices were closed for New Year’s Day.

The construction project manager from Concord, N.C., and his computer-programmer wife can take $110.75 million over 30 years or an immediate lump sum of $60.1 million, before taxes.

The holder of the other winning ticket, sold in York, Pa., had not come forward as of midday yesterday.

Winter storm lashes West Coast

SAN FRANCISCO — A winter storm flooded creeks, closed highways and delayed a passenger train for hours in northern California before moving on, and forecasters warned that more storms were likely.

In coastal Oregon, nearly 25,000 customers lost power yesterday morning, and a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 5 closed briefly just north of Grants Pass.

“The snow was coming down faster than our plows could keep up,” said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Castle.

Even as rain tapered off yesterday in the San Francisco Bay area, the National Weather Service was projecting that more systems were forming over the Pacific and would arrive throughout the coming week.

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