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Feb. 23, 2013 at 5:24 PM   |   Comments

Iran says 16 more nuke power plants coming

TEHRAN, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Iran's atomic energy agency said Saturday it plans to built 16 nuclear power plants throughout the country.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said the facilities are in accord with international regulations and in line with long-term goals to increase generation of electricity through nuclear power, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

The sites have been designated for coastal areas of the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the southwestern province of Khuzestan, as well as the northwestern part of the country, the announcement said.

The agency said additional deposits of uranium had been discovered.

The discoveries, made during the past 18 months, have increased Iran's reserves of the radioactive element to 4-1/2 times what was available 35 years ago, Iran's Press TV reported.

Iran is scheduled to meet with five Western powers and China Tuesday in Kazakhstan to discuss its nuclear program.


Sequestration could hurt IRS collections

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The Internal Revenue Service, like the rest of the U.S. government, faces cuts if spending cuts known as the sequester kick in on schedule, tax analysts said.

The across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 mean the IRS will have fewer employees to examine tax returns and taxpayers who try to get help from the agency will spend more time on hold. Those expecting refunds will have to wait longer for their checks, Politico reported Saturday.

The IRS has cut its workforce by 10,000 in the past two years through attrition. Taxpayer advocates and experts say the agency needs more staffers.

Floyd Williams, a longtime IRS employee who is currently senior counsel for the consulting firm Public Strategies Washington, said further cuts in staff hours or number of jobs because of the sequester will likely mean less revenue.

Fewer underpayments, whether accidental or on purpose, will be caught.

"Anytime there is a drop-off in enforcement, you're going to see a growth in the so-called tax gap, which is the difference between what the government collects and what is rightfully owed," he told Politico.

This year was already likely to be a difficult one because of changes in tax law, Politico said.


Obama administration takes aim at DOMA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

The Obama administration is now pushing to expand gay rights. DOMA, which bars gay couples from many federal benefits, stands in the way.

The administration is expected to file several briefs in the DOMA case, which is scheduled for oral arguments in March, CNN reported. The high court is also set to review a federal court decision reversing California's ban on gay marriage.

DOMA was challenged by Edith "Edie" Windsor, who was legally married in New York to her longtime female partner. When her wife died, Windsor had to pay far higher federal estate taxes than she would have if her spouse had been a man.

"Moral opposition to homosexuality, though it may reflect deeply held personal views, is not a legitimate policy objective that can justify unequal treatment of gay and lesbian people," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in the government brief.


Thousands protest corruption in Spain

MADRID, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of protesters calling themselves the Citizens' Tide flooded Madrid Saturday, angry over unemployment and alleged government corruption.

The protest, filled with chants, drum beats and whistles, was noisy but peaceful, The Wall Street Journal said. Many carried signs calling for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign amid media reports charging members of his government have accepted cash kickbacks from businesses seeking state contracts. Rajoy has denied the charges but is under official investigation.

Saturday's protest was one of the largest since a series in 2011 staged by a group calling itself "the indignant ones." The protests two years ago -- before Rajoy came to power 14 months ago -- were in response to the Socialist government's harsh austerity policies to address the country's mounting national debt.

Though Rajoy has said the austerity measures have helped steady an economy on the brink of collapse, the lack of government spending resulted in mass layoffs. Spain's unemployment rate is 26 percent, CNN said.

He defended his government's actions in a speech to the nation Wednesday.

"We have left behind us the constant threat of imminent disaster and are starting to see the path for the future," Rajoy said

But many average Spaniards weren't buying it.

"I hate to think he was taking illegal money," said Luis Garcia, a 63-year-old welder at a defense plant who voted for Mr. Rajoy. "But the official explanations don't add up."


Rex Scouten, ex-White House usher, dies

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Rex Wayne Scouten, who served 10 U.S. presidents as a Secret Service agent and White House staffer, has died in Virginia, his family said. He was 86.

Scouten's family said he died Wednesday at Inova Fairfax Hospital of complications from hip surgery, The Washington Post reported.

During almost a half century in presidential service, Scouten gained a reputation for discretion. He once told The New York Times he did not tell his wife everything he saw at the White House.

He was in the Oval Office in 1963 when he learned President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, and he remained in the White House for five days. He was with first lady Nancy Reagan when she was told in 1981 her husband, President Ronald Reagan, had been shot.

"Everyone teases me about it to this day, but I admired Rex Scouten so much that when I received a wonderful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for Christmas in 1985, I named him 'Rex' as a tribute to him," Nancy Reagan said Friday.

Scouten, a Michigan native, served in the Army in World War II and was wounded in Italy. He joined the Secret Service after graduating from Michigan State University in 1948 with a degree in criminal justice.

He joined the White House staff as assistant to the chief usher in 1957 and remained there until the Clinton administration, except for a brief period under President Lyndon Johnson when he served as White House liaison for the National Park Service.

Scouten was chief usher from 1969 to 1986 and then White House curator until his retirement in 1997.

As chief usher, Scouten's responsibilities included supervising White House redecoration for new administrations and arrangements for state dinners.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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