Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Curbside Return Dropoff Offers Service With Smile, Dog Treats

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Division Administrator for Revenue Operations at the Idaho State Tax Commission Doreen Warren accepts a last-minute tax return.
  • Doreen Warren, division administrator for revenue operations at the Idaho State Tax Commission, accepts a last-minute tax return today.

In the Tax Day sunshine, Dave Vitluski, Doreen Warren and Liz Rodosovich collected the last-minute tax returns of Idahoans, standing beneath a decorated awning in the Tax Commission's parking lot.

"April weather can be tricky," said Vitluski, an administrative clerk for the Internal Revenue Service, his eyes shielded by sunglasses. "I've been doing this for four years. This is the first nice day it's been in a while."

Vitluski teamed up with his State Tax Commission peers Warren and Rodosovich to collect envelopes from taxpayers. Over the course of the lunch hour, more than a dozen pulled into the commission's parking lot at 800 Park Blvd., Plaza IV of the Washington Group Plaza.

"We have dog treats, too, in case people bring their pets," said Rodosovich, a public information officer for the commission. She stressed that the dog treats and a basket of candy were paid for by the employees themselves.

Tax Commission and IRS staff kept info and treats on hand.
  • Tax Commission and IRS staff keep info and treats on hand.

While the majority of curbside filers pulled up in vehicles, a few cyclists dropped off their returns. A handful were walk-ups. One woman removed her headphones as she jogged up, envelope in hand.

Alex Larson, a young man in his 20s, walked up from his parking spot at the other side of the lot.

"Do I need a stamp?" he asked. "I'm filing this return for my grandmother."

IRS employee Dave Vitluski and Tax Commission worker Doreen Warren manned Idahos curbside tax return dropoff service.
  • IRS employee Dave Vitluski and Tax Commission worker Doreen Warren operate Boise's curbside tax return dropoff service.

He was informed he did not. Before he left, he grabbed a tootsie roll for the road. Just before noon, a retired tax commission employee showed up with cookies for the state employees. The drive-thru dropoff service is available until 4:30 p.m. today.

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AG Recovers $2.6 Million in Drug Price Settlement; More Cases Pending

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM

The Idaho Attorney General's Office has recovered more than $2.5 million to settle allegations that taxpayers ended up paying excessive prices for drugs prescribed to low-income Medicaid patients.

By law, Medicaid reimburses payments at the so-called "estimated acquisition costs" for drugs at what is considered an average wholesale price. But AG Lawrence Wasden said that in some cases, the prices were anything but average. As an example, GlaxoSmithKline's pharmaceutical product Wellbutrin had a published average wholesale price of $2.01 in 2003, 27 percent higher than the actual price.

SmithKline Beecham Corporation, doing business as GlaxoSmithKline, has agreed to pay $2.6 million in the settlement following Wasden's investigation. Since 2005, the AG has resolved 14 average wholesale price matters with drug manufacturers, resulting in the recovery of more than $20 million.

Three more average wholesale price cases, naming eight other drug manufacturers, are still pending.

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Suit Accuses Payette County of Assisting Alternate Energy Holdings' 'Hair-Brained Schemes'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 9:03 AM

A new lawsuit against Alternate Energy Holdings - the Eagle-based company that promises to build a nuclear reactor in Payette County - has named Payette County as a co-defendant.

"Payette County's material assistance to AEHI's stock fraud scheme is a violation of Idaho Law and Public Policy," said a statement from a group of property owners who are plaintiffs in the suit. "The decisions made and actions taken by Payette County were the only validation of AEHI, a company with no assets, no customers, no revenues from any viable business, and no record of success on any of its hair-brained schemes."

The suit does not seek any damages but calls for a rescission of all decisions and actions taken by Payette County regarding AEHI, including rezoning and variances. You can read the full complaint here: AEHI_complaint.pdf.

AEHI and its CEO, Don Gillispie, recently settled with a group of its disgruntled shareholders, who had accused the company of misleading investors and grossly understating Gillispie's compensation. Gillispie must make a payment of $450,000 to those complainants by June 30 or face a $2 million federal penalty judgment.

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Study: Choking Game Leads to Other Risky Behavior

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM

According to a new study published in the latest edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 6 percent of eighth graders polled in Oregon have participated in "the choking game" as a means to get high, and it might lead to more risky behavior.

The game occurs when a person uses some type of restriction, such as rope or a belt, to cut off blood and oxygen to the brain until they pass out. When oxygent rushes back, it causes a sense of euphoria.

The study polled 5,400 Oregon middle schoolers. Of those who played the game, 64 percent played ore than once and almost 27 percent did it more than five times. It found both girls and boys were equally likely to participate and both were more likely to report being sexually active or likely to abuse substances.

There have been several Idaho instances of the choking game reported recently, including an incident earlier this month when a 10-year-old boy from Dietrich died from self-choking. Law enforcement said the boy had apparently heard about the game from older students at his school.

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Wired Features Caldwell Juvenile Detention Center

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM

Teenage girl inside cell at the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center
  • Richard Ross, Wired
  • A teenage girl poses inside her cell at the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center.

Wired writer Peter Brook and photographer Richard Ross recently visited youth incarceration centers throughout the United States. The expose, Uncompromising Photos Expose Juvenile Detention in America, included the duo's visit to an Idaho detention center.

Included in a set of more than a dozen photos was a portrait of a teenage girl at the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center in Caldwell.

The caption reads:

The Caldwell Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center detains children between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. When Ross visited, six girls were in detention for offenses that included runaway/curfew violations, lewd and lascivious conduct, molestation abuse, controlled substance, trafficking methamphetamine, burglary and possession of marijuana.

The article compared the youth incarceration rate in the United States to other countries, showing a disproportionate number of American youth behind bars.

juvenile_incarceration.png

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Idaho Rural Roadblock Will Be Argued in Federal Court

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 8:29 AM

A legal standoff between Custer County and the U.S. government over a remote stretch of a central Idaho road remains at a deadlock, following a ruling from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

The deadlock surrounds Herd Creek Road, where the Bureau of Land Management placed large boulders blocking the road to keep motorized vehicles from the area in order to help protect the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study. Custer County officials weren't too pleased with the road being blocked, and according to the Associated Press, sent heavy machinery to the road on Sunday.

"But [they] stopped short of removing the boulders after the decision by Winmill, who wrote the county failed to follow proper guidelines to wrest control of the road from the federal agency," wrote the AP's John Miller.

In his opinion, issued last Friday, Winmill wrote that Herd Creek Road had been closed since 1999, "and there is no showing of any need for reopening the road at this point."

Attorneys representing the BLM and Custer County are expected in a Pocatello courtroom this Thursday to argue over Winmill's temporary restraining order that, for now, keeps the road closed.

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Buffett Rule Fails in Senate; Idaho Senators Vote 'No'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 8:26 AM

The so-called Buffett rule went down in the U.S. Senate Monday. The plan, named for billionaire Warrren Buffett, would have seen millionaires pay a minimum of 30 percent of their income in taxes - an amount that backers said was comparable to rates paid by the middle class.

But the vote, mostly along party lines, received 51 "yea" votes and 45 "no" votes, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted against the measure. Republicans argued that raising taxes on capital gains and dividends would be harmful to investment.

But Democratic leaders said the failure to pass the Senate spoke to larger economic issues facing the United States.

"In many important ways, the United States is departing from its democratic tradition," said Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. "And it is moving rapidly into an oligarchic government in which almost all wealth and power reside in the hands of the very richest people in our society."

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Obama Leads Romney in One Poll, Virtually Tied in Another

Obama holds 9-point lead in CNN/ORC poll, but tied with Romney in Gallup survey.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 8:20 AM

President Barack Obama holds a 9-point lead over presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney in a new poll, although another new survey puts the two candidates in a virtual tie.

According to a CNN/ORC International poll, 52 percent of registered voters said they would choose Obama if the election were held today, while 43 percent said they would cast a ballot for Romney. The poll also revealed a large gender gap benefitting Obama. Women voters backed Obama over Romney by 16 points.

However a new Gallup poll puts Obama in a virtual tie with Romney. In that survey, Romney leads Obama 47 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. Romney also held a 6-point edge among independent voters.

Both polls were taken days after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen sparked controversy by saying that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life."

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Fire Sparks Evacuation of Nuclear Lab at INL

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 8:17 AM

A research facility at the Idaho National Laboratory was evacuated Monday when a welder's torch ignited a fire on the roof of the building. INL officials insisted that no radioactive material was involved in the incident and no one was hurt.

Nearly 100 employees were cleared from the building while firefighters worked on the blaze. The complex of buildings where the fire started is part of a sprawling 890-square-mile campus of facilities - some of which house spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste - about 38 miles from the city of Idaho Falls.

Several thousand employees and contractors work at the INL, the U.S. Energy Department's leading facility for nuclear reactor technology.

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