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Nation & World briefs, June 7

IRS official apologizes for lavish gathering

An IRS official whose division staged a lavish $4.1 million training conference and who starred as Mr. Spock in a Star Trek parody shown at the 2010 gathering conceded to Congress yesterday that taxpayer dollars were wasted in the episode.

“We’re now in a very different environment” with new IRS spending curbs, Faris Fink, a top deputy in the agency’s small business division at the time, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Fink, who now heads that 24,000-employee division, said he believes many of the expenditures “should have been more closely scrutinized or not incurred at all and were not the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

The mea culpa was echoed by new acting IRS chief Danny Werfel as the embattled agency struggled to contain public and congressional ire over its targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and its spending of $49 million on 225 employee conferences over the past three years.

Senate fails to pass student loan plan

College students faced increasing uncertainty about the cost of new student loans after senators failed yesterday to advance partisan proposals to keep interest rates from doubling July 1.

Dueling measures in the Senate would have kept interest rates on some student loans from moving from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, although separate Republican and Democratic proposals each failed to win the 60 votes needed on procedural votes. The failure means that unless lawmakers can find a rare bipartisan agreement, students are likely to face higher rates on new subsidized Stafford student loans this fall but enjoy greater certainty on the interest they will be expected to pay during the life of their loans.

Beck says he regrets causing division

A reflective Glenn Beck said yesterday he regrets that some of his fiery opinions caused division in the country over the last several years.

He wasn’t fully aware of the perilous times and people “at each other’s throats,” said the conservative radio host, who accepted a First Amendment award from Talkers magazine, the trade publication for his industry.

Beck also said he was puzzled by activists who organize boycotts of people who say things they disagree with.

The Associated Press

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