The Most Interesting Stories of 2010

January 1st, 2011

Every new year begins on this blog with a collection of my favorite news items from the previous year. Be sure to check out my 2008 and 2009 recap posts for those who are bit lost. Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading!

1) Why Can’t the I.R.S. Help Fill in the Blanks?

IN the digital age, filing income tax returns should be a snap. The important data from employers and financial institutions have already been sent to the government’s computers. Yet taxpayers are still required to perform the anachronistic chore of preparing a return from scratch. And, in many cases, they pay a software company for the privilege.

Requiring taxpayers to file returns without being told what the government already knows makes as much sense “as if Visa sent customers a blank piece of paper, requiring that they assemble their receipts, list their purchases — and pay a fine if they forget one,” said Joseph Bankman, a professor at the Stanford Law School.

Many developed countries now offer taxpayers a return containing all information collected by the taxing authority — to “get the ball rolling by telling you what it knows,” Mr. Bankman says.

It’s a stunningly reasonable idea.

2) Truthful Somali pirates (thanks Wikileaks!)

It was September 2008 and a band of Somali pirates made a startling discovery.

The Ukrainian freighter they had just commandeered in the Gulf of Aden was packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks, and the entire arsenal was headed for the regional government in southern Sudan. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments vigorously denied that, insisting that the tanks were intended for the Kenyan military. […]

But it turns out the pirates were telling the truth — and the Kenyans and Ukrainians were not, at least publicly. According to several secret State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks, the tanks not only were headed to southern Sudan, but they were the latest installment of several underground arms shipments. By the time the freighter was seized, 67 T-72 tanks had already been delivered to bolster southern Sudan’s armed forces against the government in Khartoum, an international pariah for its human rights abuses in Darfur.

Bush administration officials knew of the earlier weapons transactions and chose not to shut them down, an official from southern Sudan asserted in an interview, and the cables acknowledge the Kenyan officials’ assertions that they had kept American officials informed about the deal. But once the pirates exposed the arms pipeline through Kenya, the Obama administration protested to the Ukrainian and Kenyan governments, even threatening sanctions, the cables show.

3) Immodestly Dressed Atheists Cause Earthquake as Cleric Predicted (and close to home!)

Boobquake, a day of action that calls on women worldwide to dress scandalously and prove wrong an Iranian cleric who blames natural disasters on immodest cleavage, has started disastrously, news.com.au reported Monday.

At 11am (local time), a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan, no doubt causing thousands of Boobquake fans to hastily button up.

Although Boobquake founder Jennifer McCreight, of Indiana., has claimed that the quake does not count because it happened outside her Boobquake time zone, she admitted on her blog that the wobble was significant, but not unusual.

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