FYI: Candy is dandy…unless it’s headed up your proboscis
A new top tax rate, higher Medicare taxes and the phase-out of deductions and exemptions could mean higher taxes for wealthier Americans this year—or not. Legally wed same sex couples, meanwhile, may find the true meaning of the “marriage penalty.”One thing is for certain: All taxpayers will have a harder time taking medical deductions.In other changes for the 2013 tax year, the alternative minimum tax has been patched—permanently—to prevent more middle income people from being drawn in, and there is a simpler way to compute the home office deduction. Tax rate tables and the standard deduction have been adjusted for inflation, as has the maximum contribution to retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.Just because I’m the son of a career accountant doesn’t mean I know squat about who the winners and losers are here with these tax changes. Does this all mean the rich will just get more creative with write-offs and loopholes? Let me answer that one rhetorically: yes. An enterprising Michigan student is selling ad space on his mortarboard. The University of Michigan (Flint) student said he is hoping to make some money toward paying off his student loans by selling ad space on his graduation cap. I hope he’s graduating with a business degree.Based on new research, love and marriage in the traditional sense may be taking a hit since people are confused about cheating and dating. You apparently aren’t alone if you are uncertain about whether you are dating or “hooking up” as TIME reported earlier this month in its story, “We’re All Going To Be Single Forever Because No One knows When They’re On A Date.”How about hooking up with a hooker? Are you confused there too?When I was single, I was always pretty sure I knew when I was on a date. It didn’t happen all that often. If I wasn’t hanging with the guys, and I was out with someone of the female persuasion, there was a good chance I was on a so-called date. Apparently it’s not all that clear-cut these days. A newly commissioned study by ChristianMingle.come (that explains quite a bit) and JDate.com has found that people are confused over the definitions of cheating and dating. According to the online poll, some 2,647 singles between the ages of 18 and 59 were queried and 69 percent were unsure as to what constitutes a date. What the…Here’s a hint: If hanging with her ends up at her place after you buy her dinner from some place with a drive-thru, it’s either a date or maybe just a recreational one-nighter. So, 69 percent of singles say they have absolutely no idea if they’re on a date or just hanging out? I’ve got a question: If you don’t believe you’re dating, can you really be guilty of cheating? Why is this so hard? Doesn’t anyone communicate (verbalize) anymore? Come on folks, this shouldn’t be that difficult.Can I do this with a Snickers’ bar?Parents in Rhode Island are being warned that their children could succumb to horrifying infestations of nasal maggots worming in their noses, internal bleeding and lung infections if they continue to snort Smarties’ candies. The skin crawling consequences of the unusual trend which seeks to imitate cocaine users seen on television, are caused by a condition called nasal myiasis, which occurs when flies lay larvae eggs inside the nose—attracted by the rotting candy rammed up inside the lining.TMI for sure.According to officials at Portsmouth Middle School, the trend is a widespread phenomenon that has been sweeping YouTube in recent years.You want to know what the symptoms of nasal maggots might be, don’t you? Sneezing and a gooey discharge that can lead to mucus emanating from the patient’s eyelids…Crushing candy into powder and sniffing it--children, where are your brains? Oh, and they apparently smoke Smarties too. But alas, it appears that this phenomenon, which isn’t all that new, has nothing to do with getting high and is more about gaining fame on YouTube. Let’s see…maggots…infection…YouTube fame. I think I’ll stick to my French roast through the mouth. Keep snacking on those berries and dark chocolate and sipping on red wine and tea. Consuming them may lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.A new study published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition shows that people who eat items that contain certain groups of flavonoids, called flavones and anthocyanins, have lower insulin resistance and can regulate their blood sugar better, possibly helping reduce their risk for Type 2 diabetes.Okay, should we all grab that bottle of Merlot and a couple of the aforementioned Snickers bars and celebrate a great study? If you have a question about your taxes, here’s a tip: Be prepared to be very patient.The Internal Revenue Service answered a smaller share of taxpayer calls and kept taxpayers on hold longer last year than in other recent years, a new report finds. What’s more, budget cuts could make it hard for taxpayers to get help this year too. The IRS only answered 61 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers last year. That means that the rest of the calls (about 20 million) just didn’t get through.The level of service is in sharp contrast to IRS service from a decade ago. In the 2004 fiscal year, the IRS answered nearly nine of 10 calls and the average wait time was less than three minutes.Yes, you’d probably have better luck getting through to the Pope, even though you’d probably get a “Customer Service Representative” in India somewhere.“They are cutting staff in the customer service department and adding staff to the auditing department,” warns Joe Mastriano, A CPA and IRS tax problem specialist. “The number of audits they’ve been conducting in recent years is skyrocketing.”I don’t suppose the IRS would consider going after the so-called one-percenters?A majority of French men and a third of French women cheat on their partners, a new poll has found. In figures that might help explain why so many French are unfazed by the dalliances of their president, Francois Hollande, the study found that some 55 percent of French men and 32 percent of French women admit to cheating on their other halves.Does this mean that people in France are confused about cheating and dating? The study noted that two out of three French women consider a (French?) kiss a form of cheating, while 57 percent consider sexting to be an act of infidelity. There was no information available on what French women thought of their men spending so much time on internet porn sites.In an interesting twist of irony, significant pollution is wafting across the Pacific Ocean from China to the Western United States. And I thought it was just the ecological disaster that is Fukashima. Are those greenhouse gases or did you make your famous homemade chili last night?The irony is that a great deal of that air pollution is caused by the production of goods inside China for export to the United States…whatever goes around…comes around. Yes, outsourcing our manufacturing—and our pollution. Take a deep breath and repeat “The boomerang effect” five times without coughing.Most of us don’t at this point, but if you are believing any of the Happy Talk coming from the White House these days, you might want to check your medication and up the dosage. When it comes to the real unemployment rate and the true “Misery Index,” the figures are fraudulent, according to Wall Street (when did we start believing Wall Street?) advisor, David Marotta. He calculates the actual unemployment rate of those not working at a sky-high 37.2 percent, not the 6.7 percent advertised by the Fed, and the Misery Index at over 14, not the eight claimed by the government.Marotta, who recently advised those worried about an imploding economy to get a gun (most folks in these parts already own several), said that the government isn’t being honest in how it calculates those out of the workforce or inflation, the two numbers used to get the Misery Index figure.No, that shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s our government, after all.“The unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work,” he said. “Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent. This number obviously includes some people who are not, or never plan, to seek employment. But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to, or cannot find a way to work.”Yes, just another sign that the apocalypse is close at hand. How long can Uncle Sam artificially prop up the economy with bond purchases, et al?Now that I’ve got you suitably uplifted, here’s another nugget. A record 20 percent of American households (one in five) were on food stamps in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those figures speak for themselves in our Third World nation.Where is that bottle of Merlot? Compared to when they were students, Americans today believe that there’s a lot less respect in the hallways of our nation’s schools.A new Harris Poll finds that fewer adults believe teachers respect parents or students—and that fewer believe parents and students respect teachers. In other words, just about every relationship in the school has soured a bit.In a first-of-its-kind survey, Harris asked 2,250 adults last fall to compare their memory of “school dynamics” when they were students with today. The percentage of respondents who agreed with the statement “students respect teachers” dropped from 79 percent to 31 percent. The findings on student respect for teachers are nearly identical for adults who are parents of school-age children and those who aren’t.“We have gone from a time when parents believed what the teacher said in regards to their child’s behavior and reacted accordingly, to the present, where parents stare in disbelief and think of a million excuses as to why their child misbehaves,” says Marybeth Harrison, a public school speech therapist in Hunterdon County, N.J. She added that teachers are “sadly, the first to be blamed,” as parents site poor classroom management or a lack of patience. My take: Far too many parents these days are ill equipped to undertake effective parenting. It’s easy to spawn, then the hard work starts—being a parent to that child. Far too many parents are absolutely clueless. And yes, genetics are at play here. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It would be nice if parents start parenting and teach manners and respect at home. Let teachers teach.But when you have low functioning, alleged adults at home, the kids don’t have much of a chance…and neither do the teachers.By the same token, students’ respect for teachers plummeted from 79 percent to 31 percent.Respect for public education in general is in decline and manners in this country are in steep decline. Kids pick up on that. It doesn’t look good for the future of a much less civil society. *To read the complete "FYI" by editor and publisher Chris Cowbrough, see the 1-29-14 edition of the S-E.