Earlier this week, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said that taxpayers should expect the agency’s customer service to “get worse” during the upcoming tax filing season unless Congress increases the agency’s budget, considering the new low set last year.

In a national conference held in Washington, Koskinen told hundreds of tax professionals that, “With the budget the Senate and House are proposing, service will get worse if you can imagine that.” Koskinen argued that these failures should be blamed on the budget cuts and not on the inefficiency of the agency’s employees.

IRS Performance Worsens Amidst Budget Cuts
Koskinen pointed out some new statistics to the audience: After five years of budget cuts, the IRS was only able to conduct 1.2 million individual audits this year. This is their lowest level in 11 years.

The revenue collected from audits is an important source of income to the federal government and the IRS’s best strategy for ensuring that Americans pay their taxes. Unfortunately, the commissioner said they also sank to a 13-year low. From 2005 to 2010, the revenue audits brought in averaged $14.7 billion annually. Since 2010 the number has dropped to $10.5 billion.

“We don’t have enough people anywhere in this agency. We’re losing our effectiveness. You end up leaving tax revenue on the table. In cutting the IRS budget, the government is forgoing billions just to achieve budget savings of a few hundred million dollars,” Koskinen said.

Service deteriorated noticeably during the last filing season, when only 40 percent of calls were answered and the taxpayers that sought help in-person waited on long queues outside the agency’s customer service centers. Several callers reported that they had been waiting on the phone for up to two hours, but would have their call automatically disconnected.

A total of 8.8 million calls were hung up on by the IRS customer service staff.  This happened under a system of “courtesy disconnects,” a euphemism for when an overloaded system hangs up on a caller because there’s no one available to answer the phone.

A Campaign to Turn Around 5 Years of Budget Cuts
Koskinen aims to correct five years of budget cuts from Congress, led by House Republicans, that brought about a $1.2 billion or a 17 percent reduction. The agency lost about 15,000 employees during that time, and right now no plans have been made to replace most of them. Congress has previously proposed to cut $838 million more this fiscal year, while the Senate proposed $470 million.

The House has recently agreed to a two-year budget deal, but has not settled on specific budgets for federal agencies. Koskinen is asking Congress for more money to hire and train more seasonal employees to answer the taxpayers’ questions. Koskinen believes that the benefits of hiring more staff would outweigh its costs. “The government is forgoing billions just to achieve budget savings of a few hundred million dollars, since we estimate that every $1 invested in the IRS produces $4 in revenue,” said Koskinen.

Koskinen, however, said that he is not optimistic and that there is still a possibility that the IRS would see even less money than last year.

The FBI. is about to introduce a new interactive tool designed to train teachers and students to prevent the American youth from being drawn into violent extremism.

The unusual game-style website, called “Don’t Be a Puppet”, consists of a series of games and tips which are intended to teach its viewers on how to identify someone who may be influenced by radical extremists. With each successful answer, scissors cut a puppet’s strings until it is completely free. The program is part of the efforts of law enforcement agencies to curtail recruitment into terrorist organizations and activities.

However, the Muslim, Arab, and other religious and civil rights leaders who were invited to preview the program raised objections that it focuses almost entirely on Islamic extremism. They also fear that it will instigate discrimination against Muslims.

Don’t Be A Puppet
After initially declining to comment altogether, the agency issued a statement on Sunday night. “The FBI is developing a Web site designed to provide awareness about the dangers of violent extremist predators on the Internet, with input from students, educators and community leaders,” a spokeswoman for the FBI said.

The federal government and local law enforcement have struggled to find ways to reach young Americans who may be potential recruits of Islamic extremism. Aside from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department has also recently organized pilot programs in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Boston.

Last month, FBI Director James Comey reported that the ISIS uses crowdsourcing for terrorism by using a two-prong song: Come to the Caliphate or If you can’t come, kill somebody where you are. Comey said that, “That buzz all day long in your pocket, come or kill, come or kill, come or kill, has a tremendous impact on the troubled mind.”

According to Comey, there were more than 900 homegrown violent extremist cases, with the majority of them relating to the Islamic State. The FBI also has separate programs on mass shootings and economic espionage, among other things.

Reaction from Community Groups
The FBI called several people to a meeting, describing its plans for “Shared Responsibility Committees” and letting the participants preview the new website. Participants said that they were very concerned about the concept, which they believed institutionalizes an informant system and complained to the Department of Justice.

Hoda Howa, director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said, “It seems like they’re asking teachers to be extensions of law enforcement and to police thought, and students as well. That was very concerning to us all.”

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s program on extremism said that work on schools can be complicated. “Schools can be an important space in spotting and combating radicalization, as teachers are often best positioned to see concerning signs. Of course this needs to be done right, with proper training, respect of civil liberties and without stigmatizing. Doing otherwise would make the effort counterproductive.”

Don’t Be a Puppet has since then been put on hold, according to participants.

When Kentucky senator Rand Paul recently announced that he plans to seek the Republican nomination for president, he made presidential campaign history by trying to appeal to the techno-libertarians of America. Along with the choice to donate via credit card or paypal, Sen. Paul listed bitcoin payments as another option to make campaign contributions. Visitors to his website can contribute up to $100 worth of bitcoin.

With this move, he became the first presidential candidate in American history to receive donations through a cryptocurrency. Although he is not the first candidate to accept bitcoin, since a few congressional and state candidates began doing so in the previous year, he is the highest-profile politician to align himself with the zealous concern for privacy of many bitcoin users.

The Appeal of Bitcoin in Campaign Contributions

Bitcoin is a creative and independent currency that allows for immediate, secure, and low-cost transactions. Lee Goodman, previous chairman of the political action committee of the Federal Elections Committee said, “Bitcoins are no more anonymous than any other contribution.” He also insisted that technological innovations should be embraced in the political system and that bitcoins should be treated no differently than a computer, securities, and other legal in-kind contributions.

Sen. Paul’s announcement is equivalent to a high-profile celebrity/candidate endorsement of bitcoin. The novelty of the payment method would help the presidential candidate highlight his edgy appeal to other libertarians, tech-savvy voters, and bitcoin advocates.

The senator’s acceptance of bitcoin harmonizes with his criticism of government surveillance. It frames him as a defender of civil liberties who, with internet freedom in mind, wants younger and technologically adept voters on his side. It would also help him win over the support of wealthy technological magnates, some of whom are sympathetic to libertarian ideas.

Concerns on the Legitimacy of Fundraising Campaigns
Last year, the Federal Elections Commission gave its approval for bitcoin fundraising, with a voluntary limit of $100, as a type of in-kind donation. However, federal law still bans contributions to individual candidates from foreigners, corporations or straw donors. Campaigns are expected to diligently collect and publicly identify donors with more than $200 contributions in a year, and to detect contributions that come from illegal sources.

The anonymity of bitcoin transactions make it difficult to ensure that the individual donors are complying with the rules above. Bitcoin will make it possible to contribute unlimited funds in multiple parts of $100. Moreover, the decentralized nature of bitcoin makes it virtually impossible to determine the legitimacy of a donation and it can be easily misused by anyone.

Democratic commissioners of the Federal Elections Committee Ann Ravel, Steven Walther and Ellen Weintraub were cautious in endorsing the limited use of bitcoins. “The fact that bitcoins are ultimately untraceable makes prophylactic measures at the outset of the transaction particularly important.”

However, these concerns are largely unfounded. All bitcoin transactions are public, traceable and permanently stored in the bitocin network. In fact, federal agents tracked a trail of bitcoin transactions to build up evidence against Ross Ulbricht, the person behind the black market website Silk Road.

The Supreme Court is currently considering whether Texas infringed on its residents’ free speech rights under the First Amendment by rejecting specialty license plates decorated with a Confederate flag.

In 2011, the Department of Motor Vehicles Board of Texas turned down a request for a specialized plate from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose insignia contains the Confederate flag. The rejection came after receiving tens of thousands of comments on the design, most of them negative. This is, in large part, due to the Confederacy being synonymous with the institution of slavery.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit decided that the Board was wrong. It concluded that a reasonable observer would know that the driver of the vehicle, not Texas, was the speaker honoring the Civil War dead. The case has since then reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Argue that Texas is Infringing on Free Speech
Lawyers for the SCV stressed that the speech is  private speech and the government is not allowed to favor one speaker over another. The organization said that “The DMVB gave its imprimatur to the viewpoint that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, and discriminated against those who view the flag as a historic symbol to the Confederate soldier’s sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage.”

It says that the board buckled under pressure and that the Texas Code that allows it to “refuse to create a new specialty license plate if the design might be offensive to any member of the public” is too broad. Moreover, the state honors Confederate soldiers in various other ways: January 19, Confederate Heroes Day, is an official state holiday; there are monuments of Confederate figures at the state capitol; the flag is also available for sale at the capitol gift shop.

The Confederate flag was a banner for those who supported slavery, and was later a rallying sign for those who endorsed racial separation. The American Civil Union of Liberties has expressed its support for the SCV. “However reasonable this distaste for a symbol of racism, the Constitution does not permit the state to discriminate against messages in a forum created for private speech.”

Texas Insists that Speech on License Plates is Government Speech
In its brief to the Court, Texas reiterates that the speech that appears of state-issued license plates is government speech. The Constitution “allows a state to select the messages, symbols, and viewpoints that it is willing to publicly support. Texas is not willing to propagate the Confederate flag by etching that image onto state-issued license plates that bear the State’s name.”

Solicitor General Jonathan F. Mitchell also argued that drivers could decorate their vehicles with bumper stickers, but “they cannot commandeer the state into promoting the Confederate flag on a state-issued license plate”.

Texas also argues that even if the messages are considered private speech, the state has not engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

Impact of the Decision

Richard Garnett of Notre Dame Law School said that the “case is important because it provides an opportunity for the justices to clarify legal doctrines that continue to confuse courts, officials and citizens.” He also said that the ruling could impact not only state specialty license plates but “all of the many, many ways that government property and funds facilitate expression and communication.”

A decision is expected by early summer.

Do you know what Angelina Jolie and Michelle Monaghan have in common? Not a clue? Well, these celeb mothers made their first public appearance after giving birth to their babies sporting a small black dress flaunting an hour-glass figure; filling every mother with envy. Their secret? These Hollywood moms went for a mommy makeover Houston surgery and came out with flying colors. And why not, obtaining a perfect body after giving birth is like a gift from the magi. But the ‘mommy makeover’ isn’t just hot in Hollywood; it’s an ‘in’ factor for moms all over Houston!

At least, it was.

Then came ObamaCare – or as it is officially known “The Affordable Care Act” or ACA for short. The act aims to lower health insurance costs for everyone in America. However, the dirty little secret is how it plans to lower costs. It is going to severely limit what procedures will be allowed and what insurance companies will be required to pay for.

At first glance the concept sounds a bit intimidating; knowing that the government will have a say in what operations you can and can’t have. But, you would never think the government would deny heart surgery, but approve a mommy make over or tummy tuck would you?

Neither would I – however that is exactly what is being proposed.

What is interesting to note is that even plastic surgeons are confused by the ACA and where they fall under the legislation.

The argument could be that plastic surgery like a mommy makeover helps the mental health of younger women. Research suggests that for most ladies, the very best part of breast implants is regaining the fullness they had before having children. Whilst there is an apparent change in dimension, the upper body appears and feels like it did prior to kids. Bras, swimsuits, and other clothing might look better with a breast area that is fuller and appears as though it matches the physique better. Ladies have the option to choose the dimension of the breast implants to organize for the amount of fullness preferred. All of this leads to self-confidence.

Do you follow that line of logic? Well, here’s some more to think on.

Because surgeons practice all over the nation – not just in major metro cities like Houston, Dallas, New York, etc. There is a loy of money to be made and a lot of female constituents to be made happy. Assuming 50%  of the population is female and 50% of those women would like to eventually have a mommy makeover or some type of plastic surgery that’s a lot of potential voters to make happy!

Starting to see the logic?

Arranging for a meeting with your plastic surgeon to speak about a mommy makeover can occur at any time. So just proposing the idea to congress works to excite female voters. You can discuss what procedures you would like to have done and what your ideal body appears like. However, it is essential to wait around on the actual surgical procedure until you and your physique are prepared. This indicates that you might meet with your surgeon shortly following the birth, but you might not really follow through with it for a couple of months.

A local Houstonian women who had a mommy makeover Houston done said, “The outcome of the entire factor was superb and I found a new me through it.” says Elizabeth Guyle 1 of the mommies who got their makeover done in Houston.

The ACA may end up covering a wide range of Houston mommy makeover surgeries because you can get a selection of methods done during a mommy makeover. Such as breast reduction, body sculpting and liposuction to change the appear of the physique. In the finish, these methods can assist change your physique construction and can fit into your active schedule. If you are considering the process, then you will want to determine out how to pay for the procedure. The cost of a Houston mommy makeover ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 but with Obamacare covering the bill it will likely be much less.

Because of this we should expect to see a lot more Houston plastic surgeons popping up because with ACA covering the cost of a mommy makeover Houston then there will be plenty of new patients and business.

Is it right for the ACA to cover plastic surgeries like a mommy makeover in Houston? That’s for you to decide. One thing is for sure though a mommy makeover provides a woman the advantage of additional self-confidence. When she looks in the mirror, she likes what she sees and frequently, this shows in every aspect of her life. She tries new things, makes other modifications for the better, and looks at the world around her in an completely new way.

Now whether this is good or bad, only time will tell.

Senator Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, was indicted on April 1 on bribery charges. According to the indictment, Salmon Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, sought Menendez’s support on matters before the U.S. government. The 14-count indictment states that Sen. Menendez accepted nearly $1 million worth of lavish gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using his power as a Senator to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes in favor of Melgen’s interests.

Sen. Menendez is the first senator to face federal bribery charges since another New Jersey Democrat, Sen. Harrison Williams, Jr., was indicted in 1980.

Charges of Bribery, Conspiracy, and Making False Statements
The 68-page charging document also enumerates a list of previously undisclosed gifts the Sen. Menendez had received, as well as details on the alleged favors that Sen. Menendez’s office provided Melgen. Prosecutors claim that Sen. Menendez’s office in Capitol Hills is  a hub of corrupt dealings. The senator used his chief of staff to solicit gifts from Melgen, find out what the eye doctor wanted in return, and make sure that it got accomplished.

Through his company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, Melgen donated $700,000 to Majority PAC. Melgen instructed the group to use the corporate contributions to aid Sen. Menendez’s re-election campaign in 2012. Sen. Menendez also allegedly relied on Melgen for free private-jet flights to resorts in Florida, Paris, and the Dominican Republic.

Prosecutors also said that Sen. Menendez encouraged the Obama administration to modify the Medicare reimbursement policy in a way that made it possible for Melgen to make millions. He also tried to push a port security deal that Melgen was involved in. Moreover, Sen. Menendez took active steps to support the tourist and student visa applications of three of Melgen’s girlfriends.

The charges against Sen. Menendez land just as he is playing high-profile roles in two matters under fierce debate in the Senate: the possible nuclear deal in Iran and Loretta Lynch’s confirmation as attorney general.

Calls for Resignation
As a result of the pending case against him, Sen. Menendez temporarily stepped down as a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He was the top Democrat on the influential committee. Sen. Menendez wrote in a letter to Sen. Democratic Leader Harry Reid: “While there is no caucus rule that dictates I do so, I believe it is in the best interests of the Committee, my colleagues, and the Senate, which is why I have chosen to do so. He also said that he wants to return to the post “upon the successful resolution of the allegations” before him, and that he expects to retain his membership and seniority in the Committee.

Sen. Menendez’s term does not end until 2019. So far, there is little pressure for him to resign. He acknowledged taking actions that could benefit Melgen but denied doing anything wrong. He reiterated the fact that he and Melgen have been friends for years.

At a news conference, Sen. Menendez said, “I am angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption and have chosen to twist my duties as a Senator and my friendship into something that is improper. They are dead wrong and I am confident that they will be proven so.”