In brief | Nation & World, November 15, 2013


Dems target tax breaks as way to ease automatic spending cuts

WASHINGTON — Democrats’ new mantra in budget talks is to close tax loopholes for certain businesses, investors and professionals as a way to raise more revenue to help ease autopilot spending cuts that soon are to become more painful.

On their list: Deductions for corporations that pay executives in stock options instead of salaries, reduced tax rates for hedge fund managers and private equity advisers, avenues for escaping corporate taxes on foreign profits, and provisions that help doctors, lawyers, consultants and others who incorporate themselves avoid Medicare taxes.

Democratic budget negotiators in Congress see cutting these and other tax breaks as a politically popular way to raise revenues and ease spending cuts without further swelling the deficit. Republicans say they are open to ending some special tax breaks, but they insist the new revenue be used to lower tax rates, not to increase spending.

The dispute played out this week as the negotiators tasked with merging competing budgets written by House Republicans and Senate Democrats met for only the second time in public.

“You can’t raise taxes high enough to satisfy the appetite of Washington to spend money,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “Closing loopholes are very legitimate. The tax code is a mess, but closing tax loopholes to spend more is not going to have long-range good results because you get the higher level of expenditure.”

Bulger sentenced to life in prison; accepts his fate without a word

BOSTON — Former Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger was led off to prison Thursday to begin serving a life sentence at 84 for his murderous reign in the 1970s and ’80s, accepting his punishment in stone-faced silence even as a judge castigated him for his “almost unfathomable” depravity.

Bulger’s sentencing brought to a close a sordid case that exposed FBI complicity in his crimes and left a trail of devastated families whose loved ones — fathers, uncles, brothers and sisters — were killed by Bulger or his henchmen.

Many of the relatives had vented their anger at Bulger during the first day of his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, calling him a “terrorist,” a “punk” and “Satan.”

So when U.S. District Judge Denise Casper announced the punishment and Bulger was led from the courtroom, there were no shouts of joy or applause from the families, just silence.

Afterward, many said they took some comfort in knowing that Bulger will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Study points to Europe as place where wolves became man’s best friend

NEW YORK — For years, scientists have been dogged by this evolution question: Just where did man’s best friend first appear?

The earliest known doglike fossils come from Europe. But DNA studies have implicated east Asia and the Middle East. Now a large DNA study is lining up with the fossils, suggesting dogs originated in Europe some 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.

Experts praised the new work but said it won’t end the debate.

Scientists generally agree that dogs emerged from wolves to become the first domesticated animal. Their wolf ancestors began to associate with people, maybe drawn by food in garbage dumps and carcasses left by human hunters. In the process they became tamer, and scientists believe people found them useful for things such as hunting and guard duty. Over a very long time in this human environment, wolves gradually turned into the first dogs.

The latest attempt to figure out where this happened was published online Thursday by the journal Science.

By wire reports­