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Taxes: Making the most of refunds

TaxRefunds 600With W-2s and 1099s in hand, most folks expecting a refund are lining up to file those returns. The doors are open to the many tax preparers who have waited patiently for the season to arrive. Once the money arrives there are many things that can be done with those much-anticipated dollars. Plan to get the most out of the money and improve your financial position. So, let's discuss a few of the many options of spending the refund checks.

Checking, savings or money market account

One option is to save your refund check for a rainy day or emergency. Experts advise that savings should equal between three and six months of expenses for cushion in the event of layoffs or cutbacks. This rainy day or emergency fund is separate from other accounts to make sure that it is not spent or mingled with the rest of the funds. It is to be used for the mortgage, rent, car repairs and such in times of need.

Instead of spending every cent received, try placing some in a checking, savings or money market account. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through direct deposit will place your money electronically into your account as instructed. The IRS will even divide your refund over multiple accounts with the completion of Form 8888, which is the Allocation of Refund Form.

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What’s behind Rand Paul’s blunt talk on race?

RanOnRace 600Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul speaks about racial issues both more often and in blunter terms than almost any prominent white Republican politician in the country, building a unique brand for himself that could help in his likely 2016 presidential run but also taking stands that are more controversial than his fellow conservatives.

Other Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc,) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), speak regularly about income inequality and tout familiar conservative policies to appeal to black Americans, such as school vouchers. And Paul is not alone in urging the GOP to expand its base beyond conservative, white voters: the Republican National Committee released an entire report on this issue last year.

But Paul's approach is unique. He avoids euphemisms often used by GOP politicians like "inner city" or "low-income" to speak in direct terms about blacks, both as a group Paul says his policies will help and a segment of the population he wants to get to vote for Republicans. He has joined in traditionally-Democratic causes, like urging the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons, while at the same time annoying African-Americans with such a self-confidence on racial issues that last year he detailed the history of the Republican Party and race to a group of students at Howard University who then angrily told the senator they knew those facts as well as he does.

 

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Oscar Predictions 2014

OscarPredictions 600"12 Years a Slave" is benefiting from the most Best Picture buzz as we approach Oscar night, although this is shaping up as one of those rare years when the award for Best Director will probably go to a different film, "Gravity." Look for "12 Years" to net only a trio of statuettes overall, with "Gravity" likely landing seven.

"12 Years a Slave" is the sort of elaborate historical drama the voters just love to recognize, as reflected in such past picks as "The King's Speech," "Gladiator," "Shakespeare in Love," "Titanic," "The English Patient," "Schindler's List," "Driving Miss Daisy," "The Last Emperor," "Amadeus" and "Out of Africa," to name a few. And since the Anglophilic Academy ostensibly is impressed by English accents, it will also help that "12 Years: is a British production.

Besides forecasting the winners, I also suggest which nominees in each category are actually the most deserving. Furthermore, because some great performances are invariably overlooked by the Academy entirely, I also point out some who should've at least been nominated.

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45th Annual NAACP Image Awards kept us ‘Happy’

naacpimage 600Before the 2014 NAACP Image Awards officially kicked off, we were greeted by the sounds of Pharrell Williams' upbeat hit single, "Happy" coupled with a slew of famous Black celebrities grinning and bopping. One of them, actress Tika Sumpter, asked us during that opening segment, "Can you feel the energy?" We could and it carried throughout the night. Of course, we didn't necessarily need the cue to maintain the "happy" during the award show, though it was a nice touch.

Awards show host Anthony Anderson kept the energy going, noting off the bat that Blacks have "started at the bottom," yet we haven't stayed there — that we've only risen and will continue to. Anderson pointed to the recent cover of Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue, which has never had that many shades of Blackness. Ever. Anthony's jokes then shifted to the troubled white people of last year — Justin Bieber, Paula Deen, and Miley Cyrus.

Now, I agreed with Anthony when he said as far as Miley goes, "Stop twerking when you ain't got nothing to twerk." Still, I'm glad that as inclusive as the award's show was in terms of guest and honorees, those types of celebrities only got a few seconds of our attention.

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Health Department says be alert for spread of the Norovirus

healtheheart 600Five outbreaks of norovirus – a common and highly contagious gastrointestinal virus – since Feb. 1 have prompted the Shelby County Health Department to encourage individuals to take the proper precautions and preventative measures.

Norovirus can spread very quickly from person to person in facilities such as daycare centers, hotels, nursing homes and schools. The virus is transmitted by:

Eating or drinking liquids that have been contaminated;

Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then placing hands or fingers in eyes, mouth or nose;

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