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Washington Calling

IRS online ... Iraqi cartoons ... More
By Lance Gay
Scripps Howard News Service

April 01, 2005

Washington - More women than men are relying on do-it-yourself IRS tax software to fill out their forms. But the number of people who give up and seek professional help to complete the forms is also increasing.

The Conference Board says its quarterly survey of 10,000 households found that 31 percent of women and 29 percent of men like using do-it-yourself tax software.

But Sam Thayer, executive vice president of TNS Financial Services, says the complexity of tax forms, year-to-year changes in forms and the growing number of baby boomers doing advance retirement planning are boosting work at professional firms.

The U.S. Army is looking for a few good cartoonists.

In an advertisement on government job Web sites, the Army says it needs an artist to draft a cartoon destined to win the hearts and minds of youngsters in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The generals say they've already settled on the plot and central characters. Knowledge of Arabic and familiarity with Middle East cultures are musts.

Google's efforts to put millions of texts from British and French libraries online have the French manning the barricades yet again to fight the latest American invasion.

French President Jacques Chirac says he's going to develop a French search engine and do the same for the texts in French libraries, and the French newspaper Le Monde thunders that it's not fair to measure the values of a sophisticated culture using a machine that only reports what's most popular based on Internet hits.

Activists say anti-smoking campaigns are languishing because states have siphoned off money from the 1997 tobacco settlement to pay for general government programs. It's showing up in youth smoking surveys, they say.

In spite of hefty $5-a-pack prices for cigarettes, some 22.3 percent of high-school students said they smoked cigarettes last year, a statistically insignificant change from the 22.5 percent in 2002. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 11 percent of middle-school students smoked cigarettes last year, compared to 13.3 percent in 2002.

Foggy Bottom diplomats are nervously eyeing growing anti-U.S. discontent in Haiti as gang warfare is raging. The U.N. peacekeeping operation, led by Brazilians, is mapping a crackdown on the growing violence. But State Department diplomats fret the ill-trained troops could be mired down in the Port-au-Prince shantytown slum of Cite Soleil.

Don't expect any direct U.S. intervention because American forces have their hands full in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the State Department is putting the arm on European allies who have only given $36 million of the $300 million in aid they promised to the island.

Lawmakers say they are fed up with the blitz of suggestive TV ads for erectile-dysfunction cures and want to declare the ads fit only for adult-TV hours of viewing. Reps. James Moran, D-Va., Mike Ross, D-Ark., and John Duncan, R-Tenn., are cosponsoring the measure, which aims at pushing the ads into time slots after 10 p.m.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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