Federal Triangle

Presidential Web performance

Howard Dean may lead the field of Democratic presidential candidates in using the Internet for fund raising and community building, but Carol Moseley Braun's site is the swiftest. Keynote Systems Inc. measured the performance of the nine Democratic contenders' Web sites, along with other Democratic and Republican campaign sites, from Dec. 17, 2003, to Jan. 5, 2004, and continues to compile data.

Braun's site, along with the Democratic National Committee's and grassroots-oriented MoveOn.org's, all loaded in under 2 seconds in Keynote's tests. The slowest sites were those of Democrats John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Dick Gephardt, whose pages took an average of 8.3 seconds to load.

That might be enough time for a disaffected voter to wander over to Howard Dean's page, which could explain a lot about early polling results.

Marketing e-file

As the tax season gets under way, the Internal Revenue Service is focusing even more attention on e-filing.

IRS officials are proud of the agency's record in the first few years of encouraging citizens to file their tax returns electronically rather than mailing paper forms, especially given the fact that e-filing isn't mandatory in the United States as it is in other countries. The agency's latest efforts to get taxpayers to use the service, however, are facing some obstacles.

Officials came up with the idea of placing a large billboard in front of IRS headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., with a counter that would continuously update the number of e-filed returns. So far, however, the D.C. government has not granted the necessary approval for the display.

Undeterred, officials are still looking for some way to make this happen, said Karen Taylor, an IRS program owner for the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel's E-File Issues Committee.

Unfortunately, the e-file Web page may be a problem for the 53 million taxpayers using the service. Citizens have no problem finding it through the prominent link on the agency's Web site (www.irs.gov), but once there, they often get lost in a sea of forms, officials said.

But the agency has created a new Web link for taxpayers. As the name suggests, 1040 Central contains nearly everything taxpayers need to know to file their returns, including a link to e-file. Among the other items available: highlights of tax law changes, tax tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and tax forms and publications.

An international incident

What was once a project of interest mainly to techies is now making international headlines.

The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) system, designed to track foreign visitors, generated a lot of international attention last week during its launch at Washington Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Local and national journalists were joined by a mass of foreign reporters, who crowded around to see the new technology and ask how it will affect their readers.

Meanwhile, officials from at least one country weren't pleased with US-VISIT and took action. In something of a retaliatory move, a Brazilian judge ordered officials to fingerprint and photograph U.S. citizens entering Brazil, which raises the question of who else might follow suit.

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