ALISON STEWART, host:
Hey, welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We are always online at npr.org. Well, you decide and then we report on the most-emailed, most-viewed, most-commented, most-blogged, most-sent, most-mosty mostus stories on the web. It's The Most.
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STEWART: All right, who wants to - Dan, you're back on your beat.
DAN PASHMAN: I'm back on food. That's right, ladies.
STEWART: I love it, Dan Pashman.
PASHMAN: Although, football related news to report. Giants' schedule and other schedules come out today at two p.m. Get psyched. Season starts September 4th.
STEWART: That has nothing to do with The Most, Dan.
PASHMAN: But you were talking about my beat, and one of my other beats is football.
STEWART: All right.
PASHMAN: Any who, most-emailed here from Los Angeles Times. "Putting the Brakes on East L.A.'s Taco Trucks." Big controversy in the neighborhood of East Los Angeles where taco trucks are aplenty, and a lot of local restaurateurs are not so happy about it because they think it's starting to steal business. The taco shops are so popular, and there are so many of them.
And they can charge less because they don't have the overhead. They don't have to pay for a building. So, there's a proposed crackdown on these taco trucks. There are certain rules like, for instance, the taco trucks are only supposed to park in one place for 30 minutes at a time, but they really don't observe that rule. They'll sit there all day.
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Well, what constitutes a new place? Can they just pull forward?
PASHMAN: That's an interesting question, too, but the - it's only a 60-dollar fine if you park for more than half an hour. So they figure, well, it's the cost of doing business because having a location where everyone knows you're going to be...
PASHMAN: Is worth it. Well, now they are thinking about making that a 1,000-dollar fine, although they are going to extend the time to an hour. And there's other things they are looking to do to make life a little harder for some of the taco truck vendors.
But then they also argue, hey, some people can't afford to eat in a restaurant so, you know. I'd just like to put the call out there to any east L.A. taco vendors who can't find a good spot. There's a plum location right in front of my apartment in Brooklyn, if any of you guys want to make the move.
STEWART: Just a road trip over the summer
PASHMAN: I'll make sure you stay in business.
STEWART: That he will. Mark Garrison, across - I can't see you because of the little R2D2 camera, so...
MARK GARRISON: I'm hiding but I'm here.
STEWART: What do you have?
GARRISON: Number one most-viewed on Yahoo! News, also the New York Daily News, and I wanted to read the headline kind of as a story of redemption. I mean, the exact words were, "Chronic NYC Subway Groper Could Get Life," and I was like, great, he's finally going to get a life. He's going to stop grabbing women. But he's actually facing life in prison because he does this so much.
MARTIN: You're funny, Mark Garrison.
GARRISON: He's been arrested 53 times for icky things, groping on the subway. His rap sheet is 57 pages.
STEWART: Oh, my God.
GARRISON: Little things like persistent sexual abuse, jostling, and grand larceny, because why not? Why not steal something while you're there?
IAN CHILLAG: Jostling is a crime?
GARRISON: It's illegal. Be careful. So, police got him and...
MARTIN: Ian was jostled.
CHILLAG: I just got jostled.
GARRISON: Beware. And there's a lot of good comments on the Daily News website of just hints for counter-groping techniques, and mostly with spiked heels and things like that, but I guess...
MATT MARTINEZ: Oh, my God.
STEWART: Gotta do what you gotta do, Martinez.
GARRISON: Not to make fun, but his name was Freddy, and he has a soul patch, so I don't know if other people in the soul patch community...
CHILLAG: His name is Freddy and he has a soul patch. Is that all we know about him?
GARRISON: Yeah, it's kind of why...
CHILLAG: I'm guessing most of these gropings happened on the L-train.
GARRISON: Yeah, yeah.
CHILLAG: New York joke.
MARTIN: Is there a soul patch community?
STEWART: Yes, you take the L-train from Manhattan over to Williamsburg, and everybody has got a little bit of fuzz underneath the bottom lip. Ian...
CHILLAG: Yes? Good morning.
STEWART: Chillag. Good morning.
CHILLAG: This story...
STEWART: Good morning, this morning. That's my Anne Curry.
CHILLAG: That's beautiful. This is the most popular from BBC News. A study at Cambridge University basically says economic crises happen because dudes are acting like dudes. They tested testosterone of traders in London at 11 a.m. and four p.m. to see if there was any tie between sort of success, what was being traded, and testosterone levels. And they found the winner effect. Are you familiar with the "winner effect"?
STEWART: No, what's that?
CHILLAG: I'm very familiar with it. It's been observed in sportsmen. Success increases testosterone levels, so they find these guys are making great trades. They are making money. Their testosterone is increasing.
MARTIN: They high-five each other.
CHILLAG: Yeah. There's a lot of high-fiving and chest-bumping.
MARTIN: Yeah, yeah.
CHILLAG: Probably things are being broken and smashed. So, apparently though this becomes a problem because the rising testosterone fuels more risky behavior, and it becomes riskier and riskier and you get a bubble and a bubble keeps growing and it bursts. They also found that cortisol, which is produced in response to stress, happens as things turn bad.
And you can get a sort of chronic cortisol effect, which makes you completely helpless, so that if there's kind of an economic downturn, you get a lot of cortisol going on in the body, and traders are less likely to make risks, and they just become kind of paralyzed, and so you can kind of worsen an already bad situation.
STEWART: More lady traders.
MARTIN: More lady traders.
STEWART: The moral of that story. OK, now Rachel, you're also an international Most.
MARTIN: Yeah, it's an international, rather grim Most. This is the most-read from the BBC, and Amnesty International has just released the results of a survey ahead of the Olympics. Clearly China getting a lot of pressure, some relatively bad press, about certain things going on in China. Add this to the list. According to the Amnesty report, China wins the, quote, "gold medal for executions." Chinese authorities, according to Amnesty...
CHILLAG: Don't enter this event.
MARTIN: Yeah, exactly.
STEWART: Good Lord.
MARTIN: They put to death at least 470 people last year, but they, Amnesty, says they probably killed many more because of its secrecy, and they just can't find out accurate numbers. Five countries were responsible of 88 percent of known executions in the world. They go like this, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States. Awesome for us.
STEWART: My most popular is from CNN. It says the U.S. embassy in Baghdad is ready to open. It's been a two and a half year project, inside the fortified Green Zone but there's been lots of issues. It's described as Vatican-sized, and the price tag expected to reach more than 730 million dollars.
That's what they are spending on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. U.S. personnel can now move out of Saddam Hussein's former Republican palace. They believe that is going to happen beginning in May. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters Friday he expects officials to begin moving into the facility late May, early June.
MARTIN: There you have it. I wouldn't want to leave those palaces, though. Those are pretty swank.
STEWART: Yeah, 730 million dollar Vatican-sized embassy?
MARTINEZ: It's a big embassy.
STEWART: That's a big embassy. No more commentary.
MARTINEZ: All right, so...
STEWART: Matt, what do you have?
MARTINEZ: I have the one of the most-emailed from npr.org, as usual. It's by NPR's Scott Horsley. "TurboTax Prepared for Filing Crunch."
STEWART: Oh, it's tax day.
MARTINEZ: Yeah, it's tax day. You guys remember last year TurboTax had a bit of a meltdown when they couldn't process tens of thousands of tax returns in the days leading up to the deadline because it was just lots of people. Did you guys do TurboTax last year at all?
MARTINEZ: Does everybody get it done by somebody else?
STEWART: I get it done by a loyal Bryant Park Project listener.
MARTINEZ: Really, is that right? Yeah, well anyway...
STEWART: He was my accountant first. He just listens because he likes me.
MARTINEZ: The company says it's taken steps to avoid a repeat of last year's performance, and here's Scott Horsley on how TurboTax is going to turn this out today.
STEWART: Hi, Alex, by the way.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Not everyone waits to the last minute to file a tax return. TurboTax spokeswoman Julie Miller says the company actually has two crunch times each year. The first is right after W2 forms go out when early birds, who are expecting a tax refund, rush right out and file.
Ms. JULIE MILLER (Spokeswoman, TurboTax): There's a peak in February and then it kind of comes down, and then it peaks again with the last two days, the 14th and 15th being very heavy filing days.
HORSLEY: Those deadline days turned into a nightmare last year when a computer problem slowed TurboTax's electronic filing to a crawl. The process that usually takes tax filers a few minutes was stretching into hours, even as the midnight deadline was approaching.
The IRS ultimately granted taxpayers a 48-hour extension, but the experience still left a bad taste for about 170,000 TurboTax customers. Some vented their frustration on the company's message board. One woman wrote she wouldn't use TurboTax to file her nails, let alone her taxes. Miller is sympathetic.
Ms. MILLER: Last tax season, at the end, was so anxiety-producing and frustrating for our customers, and we regret that tremendously. And at the time, we took action to refund their money. In fact, we refunded about ten million dollars to TurboTax customers who were impacted by that issue last year.
HORSLEY: Miller says since then, San Diego-based TurboTax and its parent company Intuit have overhauled their system, invested in new hardware, and run stress tests to make sure they're ready for a crush of last-minute filers.
Ms. MILLER: We've learned a lot about how we build our systems, how we need to test our systems, the kind of pressure that's on in those peak filing days, and I think we're going to be ready for the 14th and 15th this year.
HORSLEY: Last year's headaches don't seem to have hurt sales of TurboTax. The company has the lion's share of the market for tax preparation software. H&R Block's TaxCut is a distant second. TurboTax got even more business this year, especially for its online product. Miller says more and more taxpayers are using the web-based program to do their own taxes for the first time.
Ms. MILLER: New people coming in and younger tax filers, 18 to 24, it's not surprising that they would choose the website. It's just like shopping online, banking online, everything else online.
HORSLEY: However people prepare their taxes, the IRS is encouraging them to file electronically. The number of e-filers has been growing, but not fast enough. David Williams, director of Electronic Tax Administration, would like to see everyone file electronically.
Mr. DAVID WILLIAMS (Director, Electronic Tax Administration): We have, frankly, billions of pieces of paper that get put in the backs of large semi trucks and rolled up to the IRS facility. And we've got to keep track of it all until when people file right there at the end of the filing season it takes us a lot more time to get through and make sure that we've done the right thing with their taxes return.
HORSLEY: The IRS is hoping to reach a goal of 80 percent electronic filing by 2012. There are a number of obstacles to that, including electronic filing fees and taxpayer concerns about dealing with third-party processors. In addition, people who owe money to the government are sometimes reluctant to file electronically because they think they have to pay faster.
That's not true. If you owe, you can put off paying until April 15th. This year, the government's expecting millions of extra tax returns from people who don't ordinarily file, but have to in order to claim their economic stimulus payment. TurboTax's Miller says the company offers a free form on its website for filers with those simple returns.
MARTIN: NPR's Scott Horsley reporting there. You can get a link to that and all the stories you heard on The Most today on our website npr.org/bryantpark.