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January 30, 2014

Monuments Men: 1,000 Years Of Culture Saved From Nazis

Kansas City, MO (AP) The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City employed several of the people portrayed in the new movie, ``The Monuments Men,’’ which tells how they worked to save art threatened during World War II.

Under orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, men and women in the Monuments Men program saved more than 1,000 years of culture from the Nazis and others. The Nazis stole millions of European masterpieces, and as Hitler’s regime began to fall, the German army had orders to destroy the artworks. In Asia, ancient art was also left vulnerable to invading armies and looting.

``The Monuments Men’’ movie, which opens Feb. 7, is based on the book ``The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History’’ by Robert Edsel. George Clooney co-wrote and directed the film. He also stars with Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman.

``The Monuments Men are a group of museum directors, curators, art historians and artists—men and women who volunteered for service to be a new kind of soldier, one charged with saving, and not destroying,’’ Edsel told The Kansas City Star.

Six of the more than 300 men and women in the Monuments Men program either worked for the Nelson-Atkins Museum or had strong ties to the museum. Two Monuments Men, Paul Gardner and Laurence Sickman, were the first two directors of the Nelson-Atkins. After the war, they helped the museum amass one of the more significant Asian art collections in the world.

Otto Wittmann Jr. was the museum’s first curator of prints and worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, which prosecuted art looters after the war and was a precursor to the CIA. And James A. Reeds, a chief clerk at the U.S. military headquarters in Germany, handled messages from Allied forces when they discovered artwork or monuments that needed attention. Reeds later served as a museum docent.

To honor the group’s achievement, the museum is creating a display of manuscripts, newspaper clippings, postcards and biographies of the gallery’s Monuments Men.

Julian Zugazagoitia, the Nelson-Atkins’ director and CEO, says the movie will bring art history alive. ``It’s thrilling indeed that out of a great book comes now a riveting film—one that for many will bring these great heroes back to life,’’ he said.

This Week In The Civil War: The Union Campaign

This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.

Editors Note Primary sources for the series are historic newspaper databases and other archival records.

By The Associated Press

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Feb. 2: New Union campaign ramps up in Mississippi.

Union Maj. Gen William Sherman began moving thousands of federal troops toward Meridian, Miss., this week 150 years ago in the Civil War, aiming to occupy and destroy the vital railroad junction there—a supply route for the Confederacy. The advance on the region from Union-controlled Vicksburg was part of ongoing federal war efforts to split the Confederacy.

On Feb. 3, 1864, Sherman began sending his troops toward Meridian, a move that prompted Confederate President Jefferson Davis to scramble his forces from neighboring areas. Some early skirmishes erupted, but the main fighting would not come until mid-February 1864.

Film & Museum Reveal More Realistic View Of Bonnie & Clyde


The Times

Shreveport, LA (AP) Nearly 80 years ago the quiet Bienville Parish town of Gibsland became the focal point of one of the nation’s most infamous manhunts. On the morning of May 23, 1934, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were gunned down on Highway 154 by six lawmen, ending a bloody 27-month chase across the South and parts of the Midwest.

After their execution, legend shrouded fact. Books, movies and even a 2013 History Channel miniseries chose to tell the fable rather than the truth, says Shreveport filmmaker Rex Allison, who recently released his documentary ``Until Death: The Barrow Gang.’’

``I want to know what the draw is on Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. It’s so obvious and it’s so simple. It’s just a matter of dedication. Clyde was a dedicated man. So was she,’’ Allison said.

Much of his documentary is based on ``Ambush: The Real Story of Bonnie and Clyde,’’ by Ted Hinton, the youngest Dallas County deputy sheriff in the ambush posse, and accounts from his son L.J. ``Boots’’ Hinton. ``Boots’’ Hinton was only 5 months and 23 days old at the time of the ambush but his life would forever be intertwined with the notorious criminals.

``You want a modern day equivalent, Clyde was a 7/11 bandit and Bonnie was a groupie,’’ Hinton said. ``Clyde didn’t like to rob banks. He said that gave him too much press, and Bonnie she had her horse and she was going to ride it. She wasn’t going to turn him loose.’’

Hinton followed his father’s footsteps into law and worked as a constable in Dallas. But in February 2005, he changed careers and fulfilled his late father’s lifelong dream of opening the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland. At 80, Hinton’ health is frail, but he still works in the museum six days a week and shares his father’s story to visitors.

Clyde Barrow & Bonnie Parker, 1930s criminals

``My kids are all grown. I buried three wives, not looking for the fourth one. There ain’t no one but the two cats and me, so why not?’’ he said. ``That’s it. I’m dedicated to running this museum.’’

It’s not uncommon for Hinton to welcome hundreds visitors over the course a few days. People travel from all over to see the Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia and the ambush site 7 miles down the road. The museum, formerly the Ma Canfield’s Cafe where Bonnie and Clyde purchased their last meal of sandwiches, features artifacts from four different collections, including the Hinton family collection.

They include a Remington shotgun pulled from the death car, swatches from the pants Clyde was wearing when he was killed and replicas of the couple’s tombstones. The walls are covered with news clippings and photographs recounting their lives, crimes and demise. In the corner, a partition encloses an area for visitors to watch film footage taken near the ambush site moments after their death.

``My old man was a memorabilia pack rat,’’ Boot said.

Hinton and Allison are both quick to point out problems with other accounts. For instance, although movies often portray Parker as wielding a gun, there was no proof she ever shot anyone. Growing up, Bonnie was known for her singing talent and her generosity. As a schoolgirl, she would break her pencils and give the halves to students whose families couldn’t afford school supplies. As a waitress near Dallas, she often gave food to homeless people.

``Clyde Barrow went to prison, was assaulted, killed a guy in prison and swore he’d never go back. He met Bonnie just previous to that, and they just got along. She followed him along head first into a whirlpool and an ending from which there was no escape. And it’s Clyde’s fault. He sealed his own fate,’’ Allison said. ``The man was a murderer. No one is here to try to redeem him. No one is here to try to redeem Bonnie Parker; she made a bad decision. She followed the wrong guy.’’

Ivy Methvin (known as Irvin), who is said to have helped the posse set up Bonnie and Clyde for the ambush, was set up by lawmen, they say. Methvin’s son Henry was involved with the Barrow Gang and became separated from the two a few days prior after they were recognized outside of a Shreveport diner and fled.

Lawmen put Ivy Methvin’s truck in the road to appear as though it had broken down, Hinton said.

``They took the old man down there, 75 feet behind the firing line and handcuffed him to a tree,’’ Hinton said. ``The old man was not a willing participant. Definitely a unhappy camper. Had a voice like a bullfrog and was hollering at the top of his lungs, `Y’all kidnapped me! I’m going to the Feds!’’’

The deaths of 12 people during the crime spree cannot all be pinned on Clyde, Hinton said: His father only had evidence that Clyde killed six.

Allison isn’t a Bonnie and Clyde fanatic. He said he wanted to tell the facts and dissect the psyches of Bonnie and Clyde to learn what led them down a path of crime.

Allison interviewed Shreveport licensed professional counselor David McMillian for insight about their personalities and the public’s continuing interest in their story.

McMillian said the story both repels and fascinates. ``I truly believe that the vast majority of us are good,’’ he said. ``We want to be good even if we stumble and make a lot of mistakes — and a lot of us do. There’s still an inherent goodness in us. And I think we’re fascinated when someone goes to the degree that Bonnie and Clyde went to.’’ Allison also wanted to use the story as a cautionary example of where lawlessness can lead people.

``That’s why this movie needs to be viewed by young people because now we’re in an economy where crime is rampant. Crime is not an answer. It’s never been an answer,’’ he said. ``But yet they idolize Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. You can’t do that. They were criminals.’’

IRS Is Working To Save Tax Payers Money Through EITC


Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) You might want to consider filing a tax return this year even if you don’t meet the required income levels.

You could be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit that will put money in your pocket even if you don’t owe any taxes. But to get it, you must file a tax return.

Created by Congress in 1975 ``to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work,’’ the Internal Revenue Service says the premise of the EITC is simple: ``to help you keep more of what you earned.’’

For the 2011 tax year, the most recent full year available, more than 27 million tax returns claimed nearly $62 billion in earned income tax credits. That’s up from 19.4 million returns for $30.4 billion in credits in 1997.

The IRS says the effect has been to lift people out of poverty—6.6 million people, half of them children, based on 2011 tax year returns.

``EITC is one of the largest anti-poverty programs,’’ the IRS said.

The tax legislation sets out a series of 15 rules that taxpayers have to meet to qualify for the tax credit.

``You have to work, you have to have earnings and have your income below set limits,’’ said Barbara Weltman, a contributing editor to ``J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2014.’’

Income limits range from $51,567 for a married couple filing jointly who have three or more children to $19,680 for a married couple with no children.

You also have to fill out and submit a tax return, choosing married filing jointly, single or head of household for the filing status. Those who are married but file separately are not eligible.

To qualify, you also need a valid Social Security number. Investment income cannot be greater than $3,300, and you had to live in the United States for more than half of 2013.

The tax credit is geared toward families — the more children, the greater the credit.

For a family with three or more qualifying children, the maximum credit for tax year 2013 is $6,044. For families with no children, the maximum credit is $487.

``When there’s kids around it’s certainly significant,’’ said Dave Du Val,’s vice president of consumer advocacy.

Yet as many as 25 percent of taxpayers who might qualify don’t file for the credit, according to Du Val. The IRS puts the number at 20 percent.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of people being unaware the credit exists, or assuming they won’t qualify.

``There are different instances and different life events that might make people eligible for it,’’ said Craig Richards, director of tax services at Fiduciary Trust.

Military personnel might qualify, as well as taxpayers who lost their job mid-year and went on unemployment.

Another example, Richards said, is someone who is now receiving disability payments and is younger than retirement age. ``That can be construed to be earned income,’’ he said. ``You can include that in the calculation.’’

There’s also the perception that EITC is a poor person’s tax credit.

``They may think of themselves as a middle-class person and just had a bad year,’’ Weltman said.

Richards said the complexity of filing for the credit also can be a deterrent. He said there’s a four-page form, Form 8867, for paid preparers to fill out with attesting that someone qualifies for the credit.

Taxpayers doing their own return have to file a one-page form, Schedule EIC, to claim the credit. There are worksheets that go with the form, but those don’t have to be filed.

Tax preparation software can help point out whether you are eligible, but you’ll still have to go through the qualifying questions.

Du Val said people should take advantage of the credit if they qualify. ``It’s not illegal. It’s not immoral.’’

The IRS has worked to build awareness of the Earned Income Tax Credit. It has held special EITC awareness days and worked with employers and others. The agency has posted a YouTube video touting the benefits of the credit.

``The Earned Income Tax Credit can be a boost to you and your family,’’ the IRS employee on the video says. ``...You earned it, now file to claim it and get it.’’

There’s also an EITC assistant on the IRS website to help people determine whether they qualify and for how much.

And it’s not just the federal credit. The IRS says 22 states, the District of Columbia, New York City and Montgomery County, Md., also have earned income credits. ``If you qualify to claim EITC on your federal income tax return, you also may be eligible for a similar credit on your state or local return,’’ the agency said.

Because it is a refundable credit, EITC also is prone to fraud. In a report released in October, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that $110.8 billion to $132.6 billion in earned income tax credits was paid out erroneously over the past decade. It said the IRS has made little progress in reducing fraud in the program.

In a response attached to the report, Beth Tucker, deputy IRS commissioner for operations support, said the agency is continuing to take steps to try to reduce erroneous EITC payments. ``The IRS continues to believe that the new regulation of tax return preparers will help drive increased EITC compliance, decrease fraud and reduce improper payments,’’ she said.

The agency also has said that EITC claims are twice as likely to be audited.







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