IRS offices around the country, like this one in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been closed since the partial government shutdown began two weeks ago. While the agency continues to cash checks from payees, refunds, audits and most other operations are suspended.
Tuesday, Oct. 15,is the filing deadline for the roughly 12 million Americans who received an extension on their 2012 taxes. And having 90 percent of its staff furloughed in the partial government shutdown doesn't mean the IRS doesn't want your money.
"The IRS is shut down, but the tax law is never shut down," says Joshua Blank, professor of tax practice and faculty director of New York University Law School's Graduate Tax Program.
Among the bargaining chips in the budget crisis on Capitol Hill, there's the small but persistent issue of taxing medical device manufacturers.
The 2.3 percent sales tax covers everything from MRI machines to replacement hips and maybe even surgical gloves. The tax was imposed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. It didn't attract much attention at first — at least, not outside the world of medical device manufacturers.
But they have waged a persistent campaign to undo the tax, and right now is the closest they have come to succeeding.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 5:03 pm
It's one of the oldest axioms in politics: Voters always say they want to "throw the bums out," except when it comes to their own representative. That's why the re-election rate for House members is typically over 90 percent.
Heading into the 2014 midterms, that long-standing rule appears to be holding true. But against the backdrop of the federal government shutdown, a potential default and general dysfunction in Washington, there are signs it's reaching a straining point.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 4:25 pm
Neither of them is over 35 years old. One of them played in ATP World Tour events just months ago; the other did so last year. But none of that will keep recently retired tennis players Andy Roddick, 31, and James Blake, 33, from joining a circuit of senior players.
Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 7:14 am
The Supreme Court has agreed to review an Obama administration policy that requires new power plants and other big polluting facilities to apply for permits to emit greenhouse gases.
To get these permits, which have been required since 2011, companies may have to use pollution controls or otherwise reduce greenhouse gases from their operations — although industries report that so far they haven't had to install special pollution control equipment to qualify for the permits.
The rule is part of a larger effort by the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases.
President Obama presented the Medal of Honor Tuesday to Army Capt. William Swenson. Swenson is being cited for his actions during a 2009 battle in Afghanistan, when he risked his life to try to save others. It's taken years for him to be recognized, however. He criticized higher-ups after the battle, which cost the lives of five Americans. Swenson's nomination for the Medal was said to be lost at one point. He is the sixth living recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest honor a member of the military can receive.
A clear majority of the U.S. Supreme Court sounded ready on Tuesday to uphold a Michigan referendum banning affirmative action in higher education. But the justices were less clear about whether they want to reverse a 40-year-old doctrine that bars changing the political process to disadvantage racial minorities.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 2:21 pm
Saying "America is grateful for you," President Obama awarded the nation's highest military honor on Tuesday to former Army Capt. William Swenson.
The Medal of Honor is the first given to an Army officer since the Vietnam War. President Obama said Swenson braved seven hours of continuous fighting, putting his life in danger multiple times to help fallen and wounded service members, as well as his Afghan partners.
NPR's Scott Horsley filed this report for our Newscast unit:
"Obama called Swenson 'a remarkable role model for all of us.'
A New York school has taken soccer balls, footballs — and maybe even the fun — out of recess. Officials say hard balls are a safety concern, but critics say they're being too cautious. Tell Me More's parenting roundtable weighs in.
Corn prices are down and the farm bill is stalled in Congress. So there's a lot of uncertainly in the air as harvest season gets into full swing across the Midwest. But this is a time of year when farm families like the Friesens in Henderson, Neb., come together to focus on the big task at hand: the corn harvest.
Everyone in the family has a job to do.
"Like my dad — he drives auger wagon," Curt Friesen says. "He drives auger wagon only. That's all he's done since 1976, I think. ... My wife, Nancy, she drives the combine; that's her job."
Two NASA astronauts are on the International Space Station. While the agency is largely shuttered during the government shutdown, Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins are using Twitter to update earth-bound fans on what they're doing.
New homes are back in a big way — literally. This summer, a typical new house in Phoenix was more than 20 percent larger than a resale home as builders across the country added more space to accommodate post-recession lifestyles.
Take Jacque Ruggles' family, for example. Four women from three generations live under one roof.
Palo Alto middle school student Jennifer Munoz Tello (right) stands outside her family's trailer in Palo Alto with her mother, Sandra, and 2-year-old sister, Cynthia.
Credit Eric Westervelt / NPR
Erika Escalante is a program coordinator for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. She grew up in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and now lives there with her husband and 6-year-old son, Andre Xavier Bracamontes.
Sunny Palo Alto, Calif., is awash in multimillion-dollar homes, luxury Tesla electric cars and other financial fruits from a digital revolution the city helped spark. The Silicon Valley city is home to Stanford University, at least eight billionaires, and one mobile home park.
Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 11:55 am
The budget negotiations in Washington are not front-page news on Mars. There, millions of miles away, NASA's rovers continue to operate, taking photographs and collecting data as they prepare for the coming Martian winter.
NPR's Joe Palca has this report for our Newscast unit:
Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 10:49 pm
Monday marks the last day of newsstand sales of the International Herald Tribune, the newspaper that was once instrumental in keeping American expatriates up to date on their homeland. On Tuesday, the paper will bear a new name: The International New York Times.
A red pickup rolls into a 1,000-acre pasture of dry grassland on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in northern Montana. Mark Azure, director of the reservation's fish and wildlife department, is out looking for buffalo when he spots about two dozen of the furry beasts gathering around a watering hole.
The animals are "grazing, wallowing, drinking, checking us out," Azure explains. He says the tribes have been working to see these bison here for years.
"This is their home, this is where they came from," he says.
Abu Anas al-Libi, a suspected leader of al-Qaida who was seized by U.S. special forces during a raid in Libya earlier this month, is now on American soil and will face trial in New York on charges related to 1998 bombing attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa, a U.S. official tells NPR's Carrie Johnson.
For 29 years, Alcatraz — the notorious prison off the coast of San Francisco — housed some of the nation's worst criminals: Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Birdman Robert Stroud.
Today, 50 years after it closed, it's a museum. And earlier this year, the National Park Service gave Bill Baker, a former inmate, special permission to stay the night in his old cell. He was 24 when he was transferred to The Rock. Today, he's 80.
An image from a video posted by Banksy shows a man representing the artist staffing a sidewalk stall featuring signed works for $60. Banksy says he only made $420 Saturday, with one customer negotiating a 2-for-1 discount.
Credit Banksy NY / YouTube
A limited edition of Banksy's "Love Is in the Air" sold for $249,000 at Bonhams auction house in London this summer. The artist offeed a version of the work for $60 on the sidewalk in New York Saturday.
It's been 521 years since the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus "sailed the ocean blue/in fourteen hundred and ninety-two." Since then, there have been thousands of parades, speeches and statues commemorating Columbus, along with a critical rethinking of his life and legacy.
But the question remains, how did a man who never set foot on North America get a federal holiday in his name? While Columbus did arrive in the "New World" when he cast anchor in the Bahamas, he never made it to the United States.
Wilma Stordahl with her sons (from left) Kevin, Kazon and Kenneth at Kazon's high school graduation. "We think of Norwegians as being tall and blond and blue-eyed," Stordahl says. "My sons are tall — but they're not blond and blue-eyed."
NPRcontinues a series of conversations aboutThe Race Card Project,where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words. Every so often NPR Host/Special Correspondent Michele Norris will dip into those six-word stories to explore issues surrounding race and cultural identity forMorning Edition.
If you're among the estimated 27 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, then perhaps you've tried the nutritional supplements glucosamine and chondroitin. They've been marketed for joint health for about 20 years, and sales are still brisk. But do they help?
Some horses might say yes. The supplements were first tried in horses, and there's some evidence that the supplements might improve joint function for them.
So far, the tobacco industry has paid more than $100 billion to state governments as part of a settlement. While smoking is down among young people and even adults in some areas, it's still unclear where much of that money has gone.
Fifteen years after tobacco companies agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines in what is still the largest civil litigation settlement in U.S. history, it's unclear how state governments are using much of that money.
So far tobacco companies have paid more than $100 billion to state governments as part of the 25-year, $246 billion settlement.
The scene: Two men in a chilly Soviet apartment converse in whispers, careful to protect their plans from enemy ears. Little do they know, the benign-looking raven outside their window is not merely a city scavenger hunting for food, but a spy for the U.S. government.
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.
Let's talk chili peppers. It's harvest time in New Mexico where the iconic crop has been grown for centuries. New Mexico still produces more chili peppers than any other American state. But production in the U.S. is a fraction of what's produced in India and China, countries with large pools of labor.
NPR's Ted Robbins reports that farmers in New Mexico could increase their harvest if they had the people to do it.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), left, seen here speaking with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) in an elevator Sunday, says that undoing the sequester cuts is "one of the sticking points" in budget talks. Congress is struggling to find a solution to end the government shutdown, now in its thirteenth day.
Originally published on Sun October 13, 2013 4:15 pm
The federal government shutdown is in its 13th day, with little sign of a budget deal that could win the approval of both houses of Congress, as well as the White House. The debate now includes efforts to avoid a default if the government's debt limit isn't raised by Thursday.