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Digest

FBI takes up tax case against Representative

By TIMES WIRES
Published February 4, 2007


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The FBI is investigating whether Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif., improperly used an unusual tax provision to avoid paying capital gains taxes on profits from land sales to California cities, law enforcement and government officials said. Last summer, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service saying that Miller had failed to pay capital gains tax on the 2002 sale of 165 acres in Monrovia, Calif. Miller, who would have faced about a 30 percent tax under a normal sale, used the roughly $10-million in profits to buy property in Fontana, Calif., and then resold some of that land to Fontana in 2005 and 2006. On Thursday, Miller's spokesman, Scott Toussaint, said Miller used the same tax deferment on the Fontana land sales, but on Friday said he had not, and that Miller had paid back taxes to Monrovia. Toussaint declined to provide documentation of the payments. Toussaint added that Miller had no knowledge of an FBI investigation, and that he had requested that the House Ethics Committee review the deals. The committee has declined to comment on whether it has investigated, and its spokesman did not return a phone call for comment Friday.

Corps proposes shift in levee protection

The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to divert up to $1.3-billion for levee repairs from the Mississippi River's East Bank, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, to the West Bank, where tens of thousands of people have resettled. The West Bank was one of the only parts of the New Orleans metropolitan area spared the flooding that followed the 2005 hurricane. But the levees protecting it - and the roughly 250,000 people who live there - are inadequate, the corps concedes. If approved, the plan has the potential to slow new levee work on the East Bank, where most of New Orleans is situated, and pit the city's residents against those on the West Bank. The shift in funding is outlined in a budget proposal that Congress must approve. It would bring the total earmarked for West Bank projects to $3.3-billion, the bulk of $5.7-billion approved to fix and shore up the levees after Katrina. Ceeon Quiett, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin, said he is not pleased with the plans and wants the corps "to live up to the promise of full protection" for the city. The corps says projects on the East Bank will continue and that the levee system is as good now as it was before Katrina. Further improvements are tied up in reviews, according to the corps. Lt. Col. Murray Starkel said the West Bank "probably is one of our most vulnerable areas." The work there is ready to go, and is already lagging behind other projects, so the corps argues that shifting the money now makes sense.

Clinton praises his stepfather at funeral

Bill Clinton and his family joined hundreds of mourners Saturday for the funeral of his stepfather, the man who the former president said brought his mother security and stability. Richard Kelley, a retired salesman, died Wednesday at his home at age 91 after a long battle with colon and liver cancer. "He didn't wuss out at the end. It was all done with grace and love," Clinton told more than 600 people at First United Methodist Church, describing his stepfather's final moments. "I am very thankful to him for many things, but most of all for giving our mother the 12 most secure, stable years she ever had." Clinton attended with his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and their daughter, Chelsea, who read an Irish benediction during the funeral service. The Rev. John Miles, who performed the wedding ceremony for Kelley and Clinton's mother, Virginia, in 1982, conducted the service. The Kelleys were married 12 years before she died Jan. 6, 1994, after a battle with breast cancer.

Boyfriend convicted of cell phone assault

A jury convicted a man of second-degree domestic assault on Saturday for shoving a cell phone down his girlfriend's throat. Prosecutors said Marlon Brando Gill, 25, of Kansas City, forced the cell phone into Melinda Abell's mouth during an argument in December 2005. Gill denied the charge, claiming that she tried to swallow the phone to prevent him from finding out whom she had been calling. Abell, 25, of Blue Springs, was rushed to a hospital where doctors removed the phone. Doctors said she nearly died of a blocked airway. Jurors could not agree on a sentence for Gill, which means that decision will be left up to a judge. The assault charge carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. It was Gill's second trial since his arrest more than a year ago. Jurors in July were unable to reach a verdict on a first-degree domestic assault charge, which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Federal board cites vapors in explosion

Chemical vapor that accumulated inside a paint and ink factory fueled the huge explosion that leveled the building and damaging dozens of surrounding homes Nov. 22 , according to a preliminary conclusion by federal investigators. The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's lead investigator, John Vorderbrueggen, told the Boston Globe that authorities also are looking into the possibility that natural gas collected inside the building, which was used by ink manufacturer CAI Inc. and Arnel Co. Inc., a custom paint maker. Both companies used highly solvent chemicals, he said. There was no immediate response Saturday to a call seeking comment from an Arnel office in Salem. CAI issued a statement calling the preliminary report was unexpected and premature. A spokeswoman for State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the state investigation had not yet reached a conclusion.

Elsewhere

Ohio: Bitterly cold winter weather on Saturday was blamed for at least two deaths when whiteout conditions on a freeway caused accidents involving 21 vehicles. The two died when a semitrailer truck struck their car, the State Highway Patrol said.

Columbia, S.C.: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Saturday that "there's a real good chance" he could become a GOP 2008 presidential candidate.

 

[Last modified February 4, 2007, 00:42:10]


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