UTA using K-9s to protect against threats on mass transit

SALT LAKE CITY — With public safety concerns growing in the wake of numerous violent incidents around the nation, the Utah Transit Authority is maintaining vigilance on public transportation routes.

Explosions in Texas, along with recent shootings in Florida and Maryland have created higher senses of alert from law enforcement across the U.S. While Utah has avoided any large-scale incidents, local authorities are focusing energies on readiness and taking proactive steps to ensure preparedness on all modes of mass transit.

On Tuesday, UTA conducted training and safety demonstration sweeps with K-9 officers. UTA Police Sgt. Chad Ziengenhorn with his German short-haired pointer Bobbie and Officer Tony Brereton with springer spaniel Daisy patrolled TRAX, FrontRunner and buses at the Salt Lake Central Station downtown.

The canines are trained to sniff out explosive materials as well as firearm-related material, explained Ziengenhorn.

“We’ve had area searches for guns, and (Bobbie) has located a gun that was used in a homicide and one other was used in a shooting,” he said. “We’ve located shell casings as well, but no explosives. And I hope I go my whole career not finding any.”

The agency has two K-9 officers used for explosive detection, with a third scheduled to come online in the near future, Ziengenhorn said. A fourth may come onboard at some point, he said, but for the immediate future, there will be a trio of four-legged officers on duty each day of operation.

“We work 10-hour shifts,” Ziengenhorn said. “We’re out here every day being a visible deterrence. In this day and age, you really never know when something might occur.”

The K-9s are working throughout the system, from Utah County to Weber County, he said. While the dogs are trained for explosive detection, they are not trained for apprehension, he added, which means that they can interact with the public …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

Michelle Singletary: IRS says it has refunds worth $1.1 billion just waiting to be claimed

This is the giving season.

The IRS took your money and now it’s time to give it back. People are positively giddy about getting a tax refund. Often, refunds are the result of over-withholding, meaning you gave the federal government more money than you owed.

By law, taxpayers have just three years to claim a refund. So, this April 17 is the last chance to get your money for the 2014 tax year. The IRS says there are about $1.1 billion in unclaimed federal income tax refunds owed to an estimated 1 million taxpayers.

But like the lottery, where you have to play to win, you have to file to collect a refund. Live in Massachusetts and didn’t file for 2014? The median potential refund is $935. In Maryland and Virginia, it’s $853 and $828, respectively. In the District, it’s $850. Wyoming has the largest median refund at $973. Nationwide, the midpoint for the potential refunds for 2014 is $847, which means half of the refunds are more than $847 and half are less, according to the IRS.

So far this year, the average refund is $3,046 and the average in 2014 was $2,797.

Again, the only way you can claim your refund is by filing. By the way, if you have not filed tax returns for 2015 and 2016, your refund could be held up.

“But if you can’t get the other returns filed, make sure you file the one that has an expiration date on it,” said IRS spokesman Eric Smith. And don’t worry, there is no penalty for filing a late return if you’re getting a refund.

Here’s some incentive to file: If you have an outstanding tax debt to the federal or state government, the IRS will snatch the money. And that’s a good thing.

I’ve worked with a number of people who were …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Moneywise News

New ‘YouTube Director’ service offers free — sorta —video ad production

SALT LAKE CITY — As online advertising in general, and digital video advertising in specific, continue to gobble up market share, YouTube announced a new program Tuesday that’s likely to make it even easier for businesses to expand their outreach via the world of 0’s and 1’s.

YouTube’s new “YouTube Director” service offers start-to-finish production services for a 30-second video advertisement that includes help with planning/scripting the piece, a on-site professional video shoot, editing and consultation on ad placement strategy.

In a Tuesday blog post, YouTube group product manager Nick Rettke noted that typical costs for a half-minute ad can run $1,000 to $5,000, but YouTube is offering the Director services for free, albeit with one caveat. Businesses that utilize the service must commit to spending $350 on ad placements, following completion of their project.

Rettke said the service launched in 170 U.S. cities on Tuesday, including Salt Lake City, and that the program’s low entry cost should create new opportunities, particularly for small businesses, to engage the world of video-based advertising.

“Every small business owner has a story to tell—whether it’s how they started out, why their product or service is unique, or why customers buy from them,” Rettke said. “Video ads are an authentic and engaging way to reach your customers and show them what makes your business unique through the power of sight, sound, and motion.”

U.S. digital advertising revenues have recently surpassed those generated by all other advertising methods and in 2017, brought in an estimated $83 billion, according to digital advertising site, eMarketer. And YouTube parent company Google owns the lion’s share of that take, with some $35 billion in ad sales. While Google does not offer easy to distill revenue divisions in their reporting, YouTube is estimated to have generated about $3.8 billion of those revenues in 2017.

Video advertising …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

Zuckerberg asked to testify in UK; data firm’s CEO suspended

LONDON — A British parliamentary committee on Tuesday summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions as authorities stepped up efforts to determine if the personal data of social media users has been used improperly to influence elections.

The request comes amid allegations that a data mining firm based in the U.K used information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. The company, Cambridge Analytica, has denied wrongdoing.

However, the firm’s board of directions announced Tuesday evening that it had suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending an independent investigation of his actions. Nix made comments to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News about various unsavory services Cambridge Analytica provided its clients.

“In the view of the board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the board said in a statement posted on the firm’s website.

Facebook also drew continued criticism for its alleged inaction to protect users’ privacy. Earlier Tuesday, the chairman of the U.K. parliamentary media committee, Damian Collins, said his group has repeatedly asked Facebook how it uses data and that Facebook officials “have been misleading to the committee.”

“It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process,” Collins wrote in a note addressed directly to Zuckerberg. “Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you.”

The request to appear comes as Britain’s information commissioner said she was using all her legal powers to investigate the social media giant and Cambridge Analytica over the alleged misuse of data.

Commissioner …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News