April 15, 2014

Budget cuts and additional responsibilities are hitting the Internal Revenue Service hard, and there are fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since the 1980s, The Associated Press reports. If that's the case, what are your chances of getting audited?

According to the The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham, pretty slim. Ingraham dug through annual IRS reports, and found that last year was the first time audit rates fell below 1 percent since 2006. Rates were at their highest in the 1980s, when more than 2 percent of taxpayers were audited.

Ingraham went on to explain that audit rates differ by income, and while the IRS does not provide consistent income breakdowns of the data over time, the likelihood of being audited in 2013 was 0.88 percent if your income was less than $200,000, 3.26 percent for incomes above $200,000, and 10.85 percent for people earning more than $1 million per year.

The final result is that you're roughly half as likely to get audited in 2014 as you were in 1980, but twice as likely as you were in 2000. (Ingraham has a nice chart of the audit rates.) As long as you at least appear to be on the up and up, chances are you'll escape a dreaded audit.

"We keep going after the people who look like the worst of the bad guys," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the AP. "But there are going to be some people that we could catch, either in terms of collecting the revenue from them or prosecuting them, that we're not going to catch." Catherine Garcia

3:05 p.m. ET

An experimental D.C. restaurant is drawing horrified criticism for it's "Pill Cosby" cocktail — a tequila-based hibiscus drink garnished with empty red-and-white pill capsules.

The name is a play on actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who is accused of having drugged and sexually assaulted dozens of women. Cosby has gone as far as to admit to acquiring Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.

"This is so disgusting," tweeted Allure magazine's Rosemary Donahue. "Encouraging rape jokes, [especially] in an environment alcohol is served [in], is just unconscionable."

Davin Gentry, who is the co-founder of Diet Starts Monday, where the drinks are being sold, said the intention is to bring awareness to "drugging in bars," The Washingtonian writes.

"It lets people be a little more aware," Gentry said. Jeva Lange

2:54 p.m. ET

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment right and refuse to comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena, citing the "escalating public frenzy against him," The Associated Press reports.

Flynn is at the heart of ongoing investigations into Russia's influence over the 2016 election, and whether any of President Trump's associates knowingly colluded with the Russians. Flynn ousted from the administration after the public learned he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn's legal team's letter of intent claims "any testimony he provides could be used against him."

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told The Associated Press, "We will get to the truth one way or another." Jeva Lange

2:01 p.m. ET

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates became an unexpected hero of "the resistance" when she refused to defend President Trump's executive order banning travelers from majority Muslim countries in January. Her decision promptly got her fired: Yates "betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order," Trump wrote in his announcement.

For Yates, the decision was not an easy one, especially as a 27-year veteran of the Justice Department, The New Yorker writes. "I didn't want to end my service with the Department of Justice by being fired," she explained. "Of course, I was temporary — I understand that. But, after 27 years, that's not how I expected it to end."

But after realizing there was no way she could defend the order, Yates knew her fate was sealed:

Yates [...] wrote a statement, in which she concluded, "For as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so."

She called the senior Trump appointee into her office and handed him a copy. As he read it, he thought, "Oh, my God, the President's gonna fire you for this."

The statement was sent to thousands of department employees around the country. About four hours later, at around 9 p.m., [White House counsel] Don McGahn's office asked the senior Trump appointee to deliver a letter to Yates, notifying her that she had been fired. He said a prayer, and walked down the hall.

"Madam Attorney General, I have a memorandum for you from the White House that I've been asked to deliver," he said.

Yates read the letter, and he said, "Ma'am, thank you for all your service."

"Thank you," she replied. "I understand." [The New Yorker]

Read the entire story at The New Yorker. Jeva Lange

12:47 p.m. ET

Sea lions are adorable and entertaining until they pull small children into the harbor, millions of horrified viewers learned from a viral video this weekend. But Vancouver B.C. harbor officials don't blame the sea lion — instead, they're blasting the family of the girl who was dragged into the water Saturday for "reckless behavior," the Seattle Times reports.

Despite signs posted in the area warning visitors not to feed marine mammals, the little girl was feeding the sea lion bread when it grabbed her by her dress and pulled her into the water. The girl can be seen in the video being rescued by a man who dives in after her, and although shaken, she appears to walk away relatively unscathed. But Robert Kiesman, the chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority, expressed frustration over the incident. "You wouldn't go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn't be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread," he said. "And you certainly shouldn't be letting your little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her dress hanging down after the sea lion has already snapped at her once. Just totally reckless behavior."

California sea lions might not quite weigh a thousand pounds, but they can get up to 860 pounds and "can do a lot of damage," Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal trainer Danielle Hyson said. "You saw [the sea lion] kind of initially lunge out of the water and give a little huff. That's what we would call an aggressive precursor," Hyson told The Vancouver Sun. "He's letting the people know that he's starting to get frustrated. And in that situation, the people should have backed off right away."

Hyson added a warning that many people are well aware of now: "They look like they're water dogs, but they absolutely are not." Jeva Lange

11:53 a.m. ET

President Trump on Monday landed in Israel and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has referred to Trump as a "true friend" of Israel.

Trump's friendship with the Jewish state is apparently so grounded, so pure, that he would never take its name in vain — or, say, mention it to Russian officials while disclosing classified intelligence that Israel had gathered. He interrupted his otherwise successful photo opportunity with Netanyahu to say so:

Trump had never been accused of revealing Israel by name as the source of the sensitive information; in fact, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster took to the White House lectern last week to defend Trump's disclosure by saying the president "wasn't even aware of where that information came from." Israeli officials had also declined to confirm that Israel had gathered the information Trump discussed with the Russians.

Rather, Trump was under fire for sharing the intelligence information in the first place — which, even if he did blab, he definitely didn't say the information was from Israel, who knows where it came from, and he decided to defend himself against that claim while standing next to the country's prime minister for some random and unrelated reason. Kimberly Alters

11:07 a.m. ET

The Earth cracked open directly in front of Mar-a-Lago on Monday in Florida, but don't worry, the West Palm Beach Utilities distribution crews have secured the area. The 16-square-foot sinkhole is reportedly "in the vicinity of the newly installed water main."

This is not a picture of the actual sinkhole, but rather a prophetic cartoon rendering:

Crews will "most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today," the town of Palm Beach warned. Jeva Lange

10:51 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the gerrymandering of two North Carolina congressional district maps was done on racial grounds to yield a Republican advantage and was thus unconstitutional. The court ruled 8-0 to strike down the District 1 map and 5-3 to strike down the District 12 map, with Justices Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Anthony Kennedy dissenting from the latter ruling, CNN reports. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the court's liberals on District 12 while Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate, as the case was argued before he was confirmed to the court, Bloomberg reports.

Republicans have been accused of drawing districts to illegally concentrate black voters, who are typically liberal, and consequently make the surrounding districts more conservative, USA Today reports. The unconstitutional North Carolina congressional maps were used until the 2014 election, and the Supreme Court rulings uphold a new map that was ordered for 2016. Jeva Lange

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