Is this tax-deductible? – USA TODAY

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Tax season starts today, and I have only one question: Is my Snuggie collection tax-deductible? And Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against The New York Times was postponed after she tested positive for the coronavirus.
👋 It’s Laura. It’s Monday. Here’s today’s news – no tax!
But first, how about some good clean fun? 🚿 50 years later, old memories are bubbling up as an Indiana man reminisces about his 174-hour, record-breaking shower.
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Tax season is officially here. Early filers can file submit their 2021 tax returns online starting now Monday. That’s earlier than the delayed start of Feb. 12 last year, when the IRS needed extra time for pandemic-related reasons, including new tax rules that were signed into law in late December 2020. The Jan. 24 kickoff puts the IRS back on a more normal track: In 2020, the IRS began processing 2019 tax returns on Jan. 27. Most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically if they choose direct deposit and there are no problems with their return, according to the IRS. Here’s what you need to know.
President Joe Biden consulted with European leaders as pressure builds between Russia and NATO over Ukraine. NATO said Monday that it would move more military equipment and troops into countries on the alliance’s eastern front. Russia has built up at least 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and has threatened that conflict may be necessary to preserve its national security. The Pentagon announced it was putting 8,500 U.S. troops on “heightened alert” for possible deployment to eastern Europe. Biden said last week that the U.S. would move more troops and equipment into NATO’s eastern countries should Russia continue to threaten an invasion. Diplomatic talks between the West and Russia have slowed as negotiations expanded into a broader debate over the security structure of post-Cold War Europe.
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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s day in court over defamation claims against The New York Times was put on hold Monday after she tested positive for coronavirus three times. Federal Judge Jed Rakoff said the trial, which had been set to start today, can begin Feb. 3 if Palin has recovered. Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president in 2008, has urged people not to get vaccinated, telling an audience in Arizona last month that “it will be over my dead body that I’ll have to get a shot.” She also was infected last March. Palin sued The Times in 2017, claiming the paper damaged her reputation with an opinion piece that falsely asserted her political rhetoric helped incite the shooting of then-Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Reviving a controversial legal debate over affirmative action that has been years in the making, the Supreme Court announced Monday that it would decide whether the use of race in the admissions process at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violates civil rights law and the Constitution. Harvard acknowledges considering race in its admissions process but says it does so as one of several factors – an approach that is consistent with the current legal standard. By accepting the case, the justices are adding another polarizing debate to a docket already full of culture war issues. The high court did not say when it would consider the affirmative action suits, but because of the number of cases on the docket, there’s a good chance the matter won’t be taken up until its next term, which begins in October. 
The James Webb Space Telescope, the $10 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, reached its final destination Monday – nearly 1 million miles from Earth. The telescope launched from South America on Christmas Day. Named after former NASA administrator James E. Webb, who oversaw the agency from 1961 to 1968, the Webb telescope is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble. Scientists hope Webb can capture light streaming from stars and galaxies as far back as 13.7 billion years ago. “Webb will probably also reveal new questions for future generations of scientists to answer, some of whom may not even be born yet,” said scientist Klaus Pontoppidan.
🏅 Winter Olympics countdown: 11 days until the opening ceremony, and Team USA is bringing the girl power to Beijing with its second-largest female contingent ever at the Winter Olympics. Read all about it here. 
👉 Don’t miss a moment of the Olympics action. Sign up today for our (free!) newsletter for updates leading up to and directly from the Games in Beijing.
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