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President Obama signing Executive Order 13672

It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. And that’s wrong.

So spoke President Obama on Monday in the remarks he gave before signing Executive Order 13672, finally fulfilling a campaign promise made in 2008.

Discrimination among Federal Contractors Prohibited

In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors that generally have contracts that exceed $10,000 from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. President Barack Obama amended this order to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.

Discrimination in Civilian Federal Workforce Prohibited

Obama’s order also amends Executive Order 11478, signed by President Nixon in 1969 to prohibit discrimination in the civilian federal workforce on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and age. President Clinton had already amended this order (in Executive Order 13087) to include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes, and later signed Executive Order 13152 to add the category of “an individual’s status as a parent,” as well as a detailed definition of that new category. Obama’s order adds gender identity to the list of protected classes.

Religious Exemption

Obama’s order keeps intact an amendment signed by President George W. Bush that allows religiously-affiliated federal contractors to give preference in hiring to members of their own religion, but adds no new religious exemptions, as some constitutional law professors and religious and civil rights organizations had feared might happen in the wake of the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court.

Discrimination in the General Workforce

Several bills have been introduced in Congress that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all workplaces, not just federal, but so far none has passed. The most recent, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (S.815), has passed in the Senate, but not in the House of Representatives.

Would You Like to Know More?

Learn About Executive Order 13672
·         Read the full text of Executive Order 13672
·         Read a transcript of the President’s opening remarks
·         Watch the signing ceremony on YouTube
·         Read a White House fact sheet explaining more about this executive order

Learn About Executive Orders

An executive order is an official document issued by the president to manage the operations of the federal government.
·         Learn about the executive order process and how to search for and read an executive order at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
·         Browse all executive orders from Abraham Lincoln to the present at the American Presidency Project.
·         Learn How Executive Orders Work at HowStuffWorks.

Image from White House video of the signing ceremony.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

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Uncle Sam holding a bag of your moneyDid you ever leave a job and forget to pick up your last paycheck? Maybe you never collected your security deposit after moving from an apartment, or perhaps you have a rebate coming for a computer you purchased decades ago, or a refund for an overcharge on a long-forgotten electric bill.

Billions of dollars are being held by the government because the rightful owners don’t know how to find it or that it even exists. These forgotten funds can come from bank closings, matured savings bonds, pensions, mortgage refunds, and many other sources. Here is a way to discover whether the government is holding onto any money that rightfully belongs to you.

Unclaimed funds are usually held by individual state treasuries, so to do a thorough search you should be sure to check with each state in which you have ever lived. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has a Web site at www.unclaimed.org where you can select a state from a clickable map (or select from a drop-down menu) and find out whether that state has unclaimed property in your name. You can also search several states simultaneously by going to missingmoney.com, another site sponsored by NAUPA.

You can find other sources of Unclaimed Money from the Government at the USA.gov government information Web site.

Beware of scammers who claim to be government agencies and offer to reunite you with your money for a pre-paid fee or who ask you for personal financial information that could be used to access your bank account. The Federal Trade Commission has information on how to recognize, avoid, and report these Government Imposter Scams

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Illustration from the USGS publication Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country.

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Summer is a popular season for vacations, both of the body and of the mind. In addition to visiting the most popular, exciting, relaxing, or inspiring physical destinations around the globe, we can visit—through the magic of the author’s art working upon our own vivid imaginations—places that might otherwise be inaccessible because they are of another time, are in a place too far for us to reach, or are purely imaginary.

Literary maps can orient us to the real-world geographical locations associated with our favorite authors and their works, as well as to the imaginary places they might write about so vividly that it’s hard to believe they don’t actually exist somewhere. Perhaps you would like to visit the house where Shakespeare was born, follow Huckleberry Finn’s journey down the Mississippi, or imagine yourself spending some time in Gabriel García Márquez’s Macondo, James Branch Cabell’s Poictesme, Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, or even Dante’s Inferno.

Literary Maps at the Library of Congress

Language of the Land (cover)The Library of Congress has more than 200 literary maps in its Geography and Map Division.

A selection of these were featured in an exhibit called Language of the Land: Journeys into Literary America, and the entire collection has been listed and described in a fully annotated cartobibliography called Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps.

An article by Martha Hopkins, adapted from her introduction to this book, describes the nature, types, and purposes of literary maps.

Classroom Maps by Barbara Rogers Houseworth

Barbara Marie Rogers Houseworth was a brilliant but under-appreciated Indiana artist who was commissioned during the 1950s and 1960s to create a series of maps to aid in the appreciation of several classic works being taught in high school English classes. In addition to showing geographic locations mentioned in these works, the maps feature vignettes that illustrate key scenes in the story. The UNT Libraries own her maps to accompany Homer’s Odyssey [also available online] and Vergil’s Aeneid. Other maps she created include the following:

  • William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Julius Caesar
  • Homer’s Iliad
  • Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
  • George Eliot’s Silas Marner
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline
  • Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick [see also Everett Henry’s take on this work]

     

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, spent much of his life there, and wrote about Salem’s history, culture, and landmarks in some of his most well-known works. With the aid of this pamphlet you can learn about Hawthorne’s life and career while you take a walking tour through Salem and visit Hawthorne’s birthplace at 115 Derby Street; the Custom House, where he worked for several years; the Turner Mansion (better known as “The House of the Seven Gables”); Gallows Hill, where many accused of witchcraft were hanged; and many other historical venues. You won’t find Hawthorne’s homestead The Old Manse here, though, because that’s in Concord!

This brochure is also available online in two files from the National Park Service Web site:

Cover and Map: http://www.nps.gov/sama/planyourvisit/upload/Cover.pdf
Main Text: http://www.nps.gov/sama/planyourvisit/upload/Text.pdf

 

A Chart of The Pilgrim’s Progress, by Bill Polvogt

Carl William (Bill) Polvogt, Jr. was a commercial artist and cartoonist who was living in Dallas, Texas when he created this humorously illustrated guide to John Bunyan’s brilliantly original but dour Christian allegory in the mid-1950s.

Although he deferentially  offered “apologies to Mr. John Bunyan” below his title, someone above was perhaps not pleased, for Mr. Polvogt’s advertising firm filed for bankruptcy less than ten years later.

A Chart of the Pilgrim's Progress (detail)    A Chart of the Pilgrim's Progress (detail) 

Land of OZ Globe from the U.S. Geological Survey

The Land of OZ and its environs have been mapped many times since The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900, but the location and geography of the Land of Oz have always been vaguely and inconsistently portrayed in the books by Frank Baum and others. Is it in a desert somewhere in the American west? Is it a continent in the south Pacific? Is it an allegorical representation of the United States or China?

Land of OZ GlobeThis interpretation by a group of USGS cartographers takes a cue from Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz—where the character JinJin is said to live in a land that lies on the opposite side of the earth from Oz, accessible through a Hollow Tube—and depicts Oz and the surrounding countries on a symmetrically interrupted sinusoidal projection that can be cut out and assembled around a tennis ball to create a three-dimensional globe.

The globe was published in the Spring 1997 Oz Gazette, accompanied by an article that teaches children about maps and map projections.

A brief article about the globe entitled “Off to See the Wizard? Here’s Your Map appeared in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

To download a copy of this cut-and-assemble educational toy, go to the USGS Store at https://store.usgs.gov and search for “Land of OZ.”

Interactive Online Literary Maps

These online maps can be used to explore the literary heritage of various specific geographic locations, as well as to explore the geography of some of your favorite works of literature.

  • Bay Area Literary Map: Use this map to learn about authors who were from or who lived in San Francisco and the surrounding area. You can also find locations of the many local bookstores and find links to the Web sites of authors who currently live in the Bay Area.
  • Literary Map of BrooklynThe borough of Brooklyn has spawned an extraordinary number of great poets, novelists, children’s book authors, and nonfiction writers. Use this interactive map to identify birthplaces and residences of these illustrious authors and read excerpts from their creations.
  • Literary Map of Detroit: Use this site to identify and learn about locations with literary significance in Detroit and environs. The site also provides bibliographies of works by and about Detroit authors.
  • A Literary Map of Manhattan: Roam an interactive map of the island, or browse a list of authors and titles, to see literary quotations related to specific addresses in Manhattan.
  • Placing Literature: Where Your Book Meets the Map: Use Google Maps to find or plot locations mentioned in a work of fiction, or  explore the literary works and authors associated with a specific location. 

These are just a few of the many literary maps available in the UNT Libraries Map Collection or on the Internet. Maybe one of them will inspire your next vacation!

Article by Bobby Griffith.

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The Little Schoolmistress, by ChardinThe first week in May is traditionally celebrated in the United States as Teacher Appreciation Week. Today is National Teacher Day, also known as National Teacher Appreciation Day. Join millions of students and former students across the country and take this opportunity to show our teachers how important they are in our lives.

The National Education Association has many suggestions on their blog for activities and events you can participate in to show your teachers how special they have been to you.

The U.S. Department of Education has created a Thank a Teacher sign that you can download, print out, and post on social media such as Facebook and Twitter to express your appreciation of a teacher who has inspired you.

Teachers often work hard and provide invaluable services for very little pay. If you are a teacher, there are several business offering freebies and discounts today as a token of their appreciation. Here are some of the offers available: http://www.gobankingrates.com/savings-account/celebrate-teacher-appreciation-day-deals-freebies-2014/

Is there a teacher who has been especially influential in your life? Express your appreciation today!

Illustration: The Little Schoolmistress, oil painting by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin in the Andrew W. Mellon Collection at the National Gallery of Art.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

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Smokey Bear will be turning 70 this August, but birthday celebrations are already underway. Smokey’s Cascade Campout, an annual national convention sponsored by the Smokey Bear Association and the Des Chutes Historical Museum, took place in Bend, Oregon on April 23 through 25.

Although the UNT Government Documents Department members did not attend the 2014 Smokey Bear Association conference, the Department does boast a unique collection of Smokey realia, some of which was photographed by Betty Monterroso and curated by Dr. Cathy Sassen. The Department followed the Conference events via Facebook postings from Tami Hert, a former UNT Texas Documents librarian who currently heads the Emmett D. Chisum Special Collections at the University of Wyoming Libraries. It is alleged that members of the Department even sang the song “Smokey the Bear” in support of the conference. 

UNT Smokey Bear collection

The star of our Smokey Bear collection is this 8 1/2” articulated plastic action figure with fabric jeans, a hat, and a shovel, manufactured in Hong Kong and sold by the popular toy company R. Dakin & Co. (now merged with Applause Inc.).

Also visible here are a vintage jigsaw puzzle still in its cellophane wrapper; The True Story of Smokey Bear, a comic book relating Smokey’s origin; a 40th birthday card from the Dallas Public Library; and several stamps.

UNT Smokey Bear collection

This photo includes the 1952 song “Smokey the Bear” by Steve Nelson and Walter E. “Jack” Rollins (who also wrote “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “Frosty the Snowman”); a stamped-metal  Junior Forest Ranger Badge; and a poster advertising Smokey’s 50th birthday.

UNT Smokey Bear collection

The whole UNT Libraries Smokey Bear kit. The pamphlet in center front is the Junior Forest Ranger Handbook. The newspaper clipping off to the left is an article about the death of the real Smokey Bear at the National Zoo in 1976. See our Smokey Bear kit catalog record for a complete list of items in the collection.

Photos by Betty Monterroso

Article by Bobby Griffith and Melody Kelly

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NASA Blue Marble photo of EarthIn April of 1970 the first Earth Day, a project conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson and coordinated by Harvard University student Denis Hayes, sparked a grassroots environmental movement that has continued unabated to this day. Every April 22 citizens of over 190 countries throughout the world now take the opportunity to honor Mother Earth and renew their commitment to the environment. Coincidentally (or conspiratorially?), Earth Day also happens to be the Episcopal feast day of conservationist John Muir (and one day after his birthday), the birthday of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton, and the birthday of communist leader Vladimir Lenin!

Legislation

The creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency was one of the most important outcomes of the first Earth Day. This agency was established by President Richard Nixon and Congress to repair damage done to the environment and to establish guidelines that would ensure clean water, air, and land for America.

Other landmark legislation inspired by the first Earth Day includes the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and—a few years later—the Endangered Species Act.

Resources

EPA’s Earth Day Take Home Kit provides tips you and your family can use to protect your home and environment while celebrating Earth Day.

The UNT Libraries have provided some resources to help you identify library materials related to Earth Day:

Events

Here are some opportunities for participating in Earth Day this year. Although Earth Day officially takes place on April 22, related activities may occur on other days close to that date.

  • UNT’s Earth Week celebrations begin on April 21, 2014.
  • Denton Earth Day Events lists several environmental events and activities that are occurring in or around Denton, Texas.
  • Earth Day Texas is a free two-day outdoor festival that promotes environmental awareness and activity among residents of the north Texas area. It will take place on April 26 and 27 in Fair Park.
  • Earth Day Network coordinates Earth Day events and other activities to promote environmental awareness and action all over the world. Included on their Web site is a list of featured Earth Day Events Worldwide.
  • NASA invites you to take part in a world-wide #GlobalSelfie event. On April 22, 2014, go outside and take a selfie to show where you are on Earth Day, and NASA will compile the photos into a mosaic image of Earth built out of everyone’s photos.

Illustration: “The Blue Marble,” from NASA’s Visible Earth photo collection.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

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The state of Texas has a rich, sometimes controversial, but always fascinating history, a variegated geography, and a multifaceted culture that brings together many traditions and experiences. Here are some of the most valuable and easily-accessible resources for learning about our state.

Portal to Texas History logo

The Portal to Texas History

http://texashistory.unt.edu/

This collaborative program gives students, teachers, researchers, and lifelong learners free online access to a plethora of priceless resources held by participating libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and private collections throughout the state of Texas. Ceaselessly growing, the Portal already contains close to three million digital files and receives around 290,000 hits every month. 

Here you can find digital reproductions of every kind of historical treasure: not just books and other documents, but also photographs, maps, letters, newspapers, and miscellaneous realia such as Texas trade tokens.

The Portal’s Resources4 Educators pages provide lesson plans and other educational materials that comply with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards established by the State Board of Education. Many items from the Portal that are especially relevant to students and classroom teachers are highlighted here.

The New Handbook of TexasThe Handbook of Texas

http://iii.library.unt.edu/record=b1267093~S12

This multidisciplinary encyclopedia, published by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), is the most comprehensive and authoritative single-stop source of information on Texas history, geography, and culture.

In its earliest form, The Handbook of Texas was a two-volume encyclopedia developed over twelve years and published in 1952. Conceived by the eminent historian and TSHA president Walter Prescott Webb, it was a joint project of the TSHA and the history department at The University of Texas, where Webb was also a faculty member. The primary responsibility for directing and editing was assigned to H. Bailey Carroll, who was the associate director of TSHA and also a faculty member at The University of Texas. A third, supplementary volume was added during the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

The New Handbook of Texas was published in 1996 after thirteen years of preparation. Representing the combined labor of over 3000 authors, editors, and reviewers, its six massive volumes contain well over 23,000 articles, including detailed histories of every county and all the major cities in Texas and over 7000 biographies of famous and lesser-known Texans. Of particular value is the large amount of information on the African-American and Mexican-American communities in Texas and on the contributions of women and women’s organizations to Texas history and culture.

The Handbook of Texas Online went live on the Internet in 1999. It contained the complete text of the print edition of The New Handbook of Texas, with all the corrections that had been incorporated into the Handbook‘s second printing, plus about 400 articles that had not been included in the print edition because of space limitations. The Handbook of Texas Online contains over 25,000 articles and continues to receive updates as new information becomes available. Each article includes a bibliography of sources and a full citation to the article in Chicago style.

Texas AlmanacTexas Almanac

http://iii.library.unt.edu/record=b2233264~S12

From its first edition, published by The Galveston News in 1857, to its current incarnation, the Texas Almanac has evolved from a series of pamphlets published once a year and focusing on Texas history and the workings of state government to an invaluable quick-reference tool, published in paper and online by the Texas State Historical Association and containing a wealth of data on resources, industries, commerce, history, government, population, and other subjects relating to the political, civic, and economic development of Texas.

An archive of Texas Almanacs from 1857 to 2009 is available to the public online and free of charge through the Portal to Texas History. Issues of the Texas Almanac from 2010 to the present are available online through a subscription service or at various public and college libraries, including the University of North Texas Libraries. Paper copies are also available at various public and college libraries, although the specific holdings will vary by institution.

Contact the UNT Government Documents Department if you would like more information about how to use the paper copies or the online versions of these invaluable Texas informational resources.

Article by Bobby Griffith.

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Hillary Clinton presents the National Heritage Fellowship to Mick MoloneyEvery year since 1991, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation declaring the month of March to be Irish-American Heritage Month, honoring the contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants to American life and culture.

Here are just a few government publications to help you celebrate Irish-American culture:

Literature

Cover of Four Dubliners, by Richard EllmannFour Dubliners—Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett: Richard Ellmann was a widely-respected American literary critic who wrote important biographies of several Irish authors. In 1982, he gave a series of lectures at the Library of Congress discussing the lives and careers of four of Ireland’s most important authors: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. The lectures were originally published separately in four tiny books, and then in 1986 they were revised and brought together in this collection, which also points out some intriguing connections among these authors. Audio recordings of the original lectures are available at the Library of Congress.

Music

Cover of Ethnic Recordings in America by the American Folklife Center“Irish ethnic recordings and the Irish-American imagination,” in Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage: The American Folklife Center was established by Congress in 1976 “to preserve and present American folklife.” Their first major public event was a conference discussing sound recordings of various ethnic musical traditions in the United States. The presentations at that conference became the basis of a 1982 book. Irish-American folklorist and musician Mick Moloney’s chapter on Irish recordings explores several strains of Irish-American music, including works by Irish-American composers trained in the western European classical tradition, vaudeville comedy numbers and similar “stage-Irish” songs, traditional Irish dance tunes, and hybrid forms that combine these strains with traits of American popular music. He also discusses the surge of American interest in Irish folk music during the 1960s and 70s that was stimulated by the popularity of Irish performers such as the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews: Irish and Jewish Influences on the Music of Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley: In 2009, Mick Moloney gave an illustrated talk on a largely forgotten, yet highly influential, period in American popular music. This Web site provides a summary of the lecture and a recording of the Webcast.

Irish Tin-Whistle Instruction Books: A Bibliography: The tin-whistle, also known as the penny-whistle, among other names, is inexpensive (although it does cost a bit more than a penny!) and easy to play, making it one of the most popular instruments for playing traditional Irish folk music. This historic reference aid from the American Folklife Center lists several instruction books that were published in the 1970s in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Food

Whole-Wheat Irish Soda Bread,” from The Eating Well Diabetes Cookbook: This healthy adaptation of a traditional Irish recipe comes from a commercial publication, but is made available online free of charge, courtesy of the U.S. Army Medical Department’s Fox Army Health Center.

Colcannon Soup with Oven-Roasted Kale: This delicious soup recipe, inspired by a traditional Irish dish combining mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale, appears on the Web site of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), which operates a worldwide chain of commissaries that provide groceries to military personnel, retirees, and their families.

 

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Photo credit: Folklorist and musician Mick Moloney receiving America’s  highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, from then First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1999 (American Folklife Center).

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This Sunday, March 9, most of the population of the United States will perform the annual chore of setting their time-keeping devices forward by one hour, as we enter the seemingly ever-lengthening portion of the year referred to as Daylight Saving Time—surely an ironic term for the many students who will lose one precious hour of their Spring Break this year! (Usage note: don’t ever call it Daylight Savings Time, even if you’re a congressman.)

Historical Background

Benjamin Franklin is credited with first conceiving the idea for a daylight-saving law, which he proposed (perhaps as a joke) in an anonymous and humorously-worded letter to the editor published in the Journal de Paris in 1784.

The first serious proposals for such a law came from the entomologist/astronomer George V. Hudson in New Zealand in 1895 and 1898, and from the builder William Willett in England in 1907. (Willett, incidentally, was the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin of Coldplay, the band responsible for the songs “Clocks” and “Daylight.”)

World War I poster advertising the first daylight-saving lawFranklin’s whimsical idea was not taken seriously in the United States until Congress passed the Standard Time Act of 1918 to economize on fuel during the First World War. By then, several European countries had already adopted some version of a daylight-saving law.

The law turned out to be quite unpopular in the U.S., especially among farmers, who found it unnatural and disruptive, and it was abolished immediately after the war. It was reinstated during the Second World War, then abolished again after that war, then reinstated inconsistently by various state and localities. It has been a continual source of controversy up to the present day. A 2007 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress summarizes the contentious history of this law over the decades.

Observance

The latest version of the law was implemented in 2007 as Section 110 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Under current law, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is observed in the United States from 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March until 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November, theoretically saving energy during the longer days and keeping children safe (and candy companies in business!) during the prime trick-or-treating hours of Halloween.

A few U.S. states and territories do not observe DST:

Controversies

Among the advantages that have been imputed to DST are that it saves electricity and the money spent on lighting during the evening hours; it offers more daylight hours for recreation after our jobs, studies, or chores and encourages people to spend more time exercising and socializing; it stimulates tourism and business; and it reduces crime and traffic accidents during the evening hours.

Opponents to DST have objected that changing the clocks twice a year is inconvenient, unnatural, and confusing; the extra cost of air-conditioning at night negates any savings in reduced lighting; the extra driving drives fuel-spending up and generates pollution; the extra hour of darkness in the morning leads to more traffic accidents and endangers children on their way to school; and the jolt to our inner circadian clocks is unhealthy.

Many of these assertions for and against have been based more on hunches than on proven facts, but there have been several studies of the effects of daylight-saving laws in various places around the world. A 1975 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that extending DST from a six-month period to an eight-month period might have modest benefits in the areas of energy conservation, traffic safety, and reduced violent crime, although their conclusions were not asserted with much confidence. A 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Energy indicated a small savings in electricity during the daylight saving period, while a study of daylight saving time in Indiana suggested that a reduced demand for lighting is negated by an increased demand in electricity for heating and cooling, especially in the southern states. Perhaps most disconcertingly, several studies have shown that there is a spike in the rate of heart attacks, and even a rise in the rate of suicides, following the spring time shift.

A recent telephone survey showed that the number of Americans who believe that the advantages of daylight saving time are worth the trade-offs may be dwindling, but a White House petition to have the law abolished expired before receiving enough votes to elicit a response. For now, it seems, the law—and the controversy—will continue.

Would You Like to Know More?

Clock being set forward during World War IThe National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has answers to several frequently asked questions about Daylight Saving Time, as well as information about the current DST rules.

The U.S. Naval Observatory has compiled a chart showing the beginning and ending dates of Daylight Saving Time (which they call Daylight Time) from 2006 to several years from now.

For a list of government documents and other publications at the UNT Libraries related to daylight saving time, search the subject heading “daylight saving” in the Library Catalog. More titles can be found in the Library of Congress catalog.

Visit the Daylight Saving Time WebExhibit to learn more about the history of daylight saving time, about the reasons for it and the controversies surrounding it, and about how other countries around the world observe—or don’t observe—Daylight Saving Time, often referred to as Summer Time outside the United States.

Timeanddate.com also has a helpful compilation of information on their Daylight Saving Time—DST page, including tips on how to minimize the health risks encountered when we shift the clocks forward, and a chart summarizing how DST is observed around the world.

 

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Photos from Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002722591/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hec.13949/

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The office of the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue was established in 1862, and in 1913 a personal income tax was authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The mission of the Internal Revenue Service, according to the U.S. Government Manual, is “to collect the proper amount of tax revenue, at the least cost to the public, by efficiently applying the tax law with integrity and fairness.”

Plucked goose with IRS 1040 tax formJean Baptiste Colbert, minister of finances under King Louis XIV of France and a grand master in the art of revenue enhancement, is said to have given the following advice about collecting taxes (the statement may have actually been made by his mentor, Cardinal Mazarin):

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.

We can’t guarantee that you won’t feel like a plucked goose when you file your tax return this season, but here are a few suggestions on your options for filing and for obtaining assistance in undertaking this annual onus:

Filing Electronically

More than 80 percent of taxpayers now opt for the convenience and speediness of filing their tax returns electronically.

Free File

If you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who made $58,000 or less last year, you are eligible to access brand-name tax preparation software or fillable online forms through the IRS Free File service to prepare and file your federal tax return online for free. Even if you made more than that, you are still allowed to use the fillable, electronic versions of the forms.

Tax Preparation Software

A number of commercial software programs are available for purchase to help you prepare your tax return and file it electronically. The IRS does not endorse or approve any of these companies, but if you’re not sure which one to use you can find reviews of the top seven tax software options at About.com.

Commercial Tax Preparers

You can pay a tax preparer in your local community to prepare and/or file your taxes online for you. They’re not always identifiable by Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty waving in front of the building, but you can enter your ZIP Code in the IRS Authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator to get a list of the nearest commercial tax preparers in your location who are authorized to file your taxes electronically.

Filing by Mail

Do you prefer the old-fashioned paper tax forms? You can still use them! Tax forms, instructions, and publications can be obtained online at www.irs.gov or ordered over the telephone by calling 1-800-829-3676.

For direct access to U.S. federal tax forms and publications, visit the IRS Forms and Publications page. At this site, you can scroll through a list of current IRS publications, select the document you need, and print it. You can also obtain forms and publications for prior years, and there are some accessible forms and publications to accommodate people who use assistive technology or require accessible formats such as braille or large print.

Denton residents can still obtain many of the most popular tax forms, instructions, and publications in paper format, free of charge, at the Denton Public Library and at the downtown post office at 101 E. McKinney St.

The IRS Web site has instructions on where to file paper tax returns once they are filled out.

Need Help Filing?

Please don’t ask librarians tax law questions—they’re not tax law specialists. Instead, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 for answers to your tax questions.

There are also several programs that provide free assistance with filling out and filing U.S. income tax forms:

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)

The IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program offers free tax help to people who earn less than $52,000. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are usually located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations.

Denton County residents who qualify can get tax help from United Way’s VITA members at selected times and locations during the weeks before April 15 to help them fill out their forms and answer tax related questions. Be sure to bring the materials listed on the United Way VITA page.

The IRS and U.S. Armed Forces have a strong VITA Program for eligible military members and their families.  To help members of the Armed Forces make wise tax decisions, the IRS has prepared a compilation of Tax Information for Members of the Military. Military tax programs are overseen by the Armed Forces Tax Council , which consists of tax program coordinators for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard.

TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly)

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offers free tax help to taxpayers who are 60 and older and specializes in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. Most of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide Program. To locate the nearest TCE site or AARP Tax-Aide site and to find out if you qualify, use the AARP Site Locator Tool or call 888-227-7669 from January to April. During other months, call 1-800-829-1040 to find the VITA/TCE location and hours nearest your home.

Self-Help Tax Preparation

If you have a simple tax return and just need a little help or don’t have access to a computer, you can visit one of the participating VITA/TCE tax preparation sites, and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide you through the process.

Become a Volunteer and Make a Difference!

You can receive training in tax preparation and make a difference in your community by volunteering with the VITA or TCE programs. If you’re interested, send your contact information using the VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up form, and be sure to indicate the city and state where you would like to volunteer. Your information will be forwarded to the sponsoring organizations in your area for further contact.

TAS (Taxpayer Advocate Service)

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS and recommends changes that will prevent the problems in the future. If you’ve had problems with the IRS that you haven’t been able to get resolved, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TSE) may be able to help. Qualifying taxpayers who request assistance receive personalized service from a knowledgeable taxpayer advocate who will listen to their problems, help them understand what needs to be done to resolve the problems, and stay with them every step of the way until those problems are resolved.

Contacting a TAS Advocate

You can find the address and phone number for your local Taxpayer Advocate Service office on the TAS Web site. Other ways to reach a TSE advocate:

  • Call the TSE toll-free line at 1-877-777-4778
  • Fill out Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Assistance, which is available by phone at 1-800-829-3676, or online at www.irs.gov
  • Ask an IRS employee (in person or over the phone) to complete the form for you
National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Reports to Congress

The leader of TAS, the National Taxpayer Advocate, submits a Report to Congress twice a year.

  • The Annual Report, delivered each January, summarizes the 20 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers during the previous year, makes legislative and administrative recommendations for resolving those problems, and examines that year’s most frequently litigated issues.
  • The Objectives Report identifies the priority issues TAS will focus on during the upcoming fiscal year. 
  • This year the National Taxpayer Advocate has also issued a Special Report that examines the IRS’s history of using questionable criteria to screen organizations that have applied for tax-exempt status.
Tax Reform Suggestion Box

To further a dialogue about tax reform, TAS has established a Tax Reform Suggestion Box to receive taxpayers’ suggestions for tax reform. Take this opportunity to let your voice be heard! You can also Read Some Suggestions that other taxpayers have made.

 

And finally, here’s one last bit of (apocryphal) tax advice from an unnamed IRS Auditor:

The trick is to stop thinking of it as your money.

Article by Bobby Griffith