Nation-World Briefly: Inspector general faults IRS computer security

WASHINGTON — Two new IRS computer systems that will eventually cost taxpayers almost $2 billion are being put into service despite known security and privacy vulnerabilities, a Treasury watchdog said in a report issued Thursday.

The office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said Internal Revenue Service officials failed to ensure that identified weaknesses had been addressed before putting the new systems into use.

The inspector general said it was “very troublesome” that the IRS “was aware of, and even self-identified, these weaknesses.”

The IRS said security of taxpayer data “is of paramount importance” and that, as noted in the report, it had implemented many of its recommendations and taken steps to improve security.

EPA tightens airborne lead rules

Three decades after removing lead from gasoline, the Environmental Protection Agency is slashing the amount of the toxic metal that will be allowed in the nation’s air by 90 percent. EPA officials said the new limit would better protect health, especially children’s health. It is the first update to the lead standard since 1978.

President signs railroad safety bill

President Bush signed into law sweeping improvements in railroad safety that might have prevented the deadly collision of a commuter train and a freight train in Los Angeles last month. The bill sped through the House and Senate after the Sept. 12 crash that killed 25 people, drawing new attention to safety gaps.

FDA will open office in China

The Food and Drug Administration will establish its first office in China before the end of the year as part of a broader plan to assure the safety of imports from the developing world. The FDA expects to post eight U.S. staffers to China next year and open additional outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The government would send 10 employees to India, split between New Delhi and at least one other location yet to be determined.

Ohio: Halloween decoration arrest

A Canton man who burned a cross in front of his home says he was arrested in a misunderstanding over his Halloween decorations. Shane Helson, 36, said he wanted to make his annual yard display more authentic and set fire to the T-shaped wooden cross so it would look more weathered. He pleaded guilty to having a disorderly house, a misdemeanor. Helson is white, but a neighbor’s husband is black.

N.Y.: Pipe bomb and weapons brought to airport

A man trying to board a flight was arrested Thursday after a pipe bomb, knife, fireworks and suspicious electronics were found in his luggage at a Long Island airport, authorities said. Authorities said the man told investigators he inadvertently carried the items to the airport and had not intended to use them on the Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas. About 500 passengers were evacuated from the MacArthur Airport terminal for about two hours Thursday morning.

Three years for shotgun in stroller

A woman will spend up to three years in prison for packing more than diapers in her baby’s stroller. Stephanie Wilson of Utica pleaded guilty last month to carrying an unloaded sawed-off shotgun in the buggy, where police also found several knives and a box cutter. Wilson said she needed the weapons for self-protection.

Nevada: Amber Alert for boy

Two men posing as police officers kidnapped a 6-year-old boy in a drug dispute after entering his family’s home and tying up his mother and her boyfriend, police said Thursday. An Amber Alert was expanded nationwide as police searched for Cole Puffinburger, who was taken Wednesday.

Afghanistan: Policeman attacks U.S. soldiers, kills one

An Afghan policeman hurled a grenade and opened fire on a U.S. military foot patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing an American soldier and raising fears that insurgents have infiltrated the police. It was the second attack by a policeman on U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in less than a month.

Pakistan: U.S. missile strike on Taliban kills 6

A suspected U.S. missile strike near the headquarters of a top Taliban leader in Pakistan’s tribal areas Thursday killed six people and injured five others, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and residents. A witness said a U.S. Predator drone fired several missiles on two homes in South Waziristan.

From Herald news services

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