Thursday, November 29, 2007

News and Views

Internet buyers threatened again

There is an important case to be heard at the U.S. Supreme court today. The question is whether federal law prevents Maine from imposing “handling requirements on delivery companies”. The primary intention is to affect internet sales; future ‘cyberday Christmas shopping' may be a thing of the past because other states will likely jump on the band wagon if the Maine law is upheld.

Attorneys for the state say Maine “must protect the health of its children” (here goes another - “it’s to save the children” - argument to justify government control). If the law is upheld, delivery companies will have to comply with onerous delivery and labeling instructions. Intricate internet national delivery networks have been able to speed $6 trillion worth of packages to their destinations every year because Congress mandated that cargo carriers not be subject to an inefficient patchwork of state laws.

The lower court ruled against the Maine law; the Judge said “Worthy motives are not enough” to uphold Maine’s law; “If there is to be regulation in this area, it will have to come from the federal government” – makes sense to me.

The case also involves the issue of uncollected state taxes. Just regarding internet tobacco sales, a private research firm found that states 'lose' as much as $1.4 billion annually in uncollected tobacco taxes through internet sales.

Buying on the internet is fast becoming an enshrined right of consumers. If the federal government allows states to tap into this windfall, there will likely be a shoppers rebellion.

College education on your cell phone

How would you like to get your college education on your phone? Well if you’re in Japan (and read Japanese), you can. Japanese already use cell phones to shop, read novels, exchange e-mail, search for restaurants and take and view video clips. Now, they can also use cell phones to take a university course. Unlike the other classes, the one on cell phones will be available to the public for free, although viewers must pay phone fees.

Cyber University, the nation's only university to offer all classes only on the Internet, began offering a class on mobile phones on the mysteries of the pyramids. For classes taken on personal computers, the lecture downloads play on the monitor as text and images in the middle, and a smaller video of the lecturer shows in the corner, complete with sound. The cell phone version, which pops up as streaming video on the handset's tiny screen, plays just the Power Point images.

Sakuji Yoshimura, who heads Cyber University and gives the pyramids course, said the university provides educational opportunities for people who find it hard to attend real-life universities, including those with jobs and those who are sick or have disabilities. "Our duty as educators is to respond to the needs of people who want to learn," Yoshimura said.

He scoffed at those who question the value of Internet and cell-phone classes, noting attendance is relatively high at 86 percent. Whether students play the lecture downloads to the end can be monitored by the university digitally, officials said.

Cyber University, which opened in April with government approval to give bachelor's degrees, has 1,850 students.

Is Bush making way for a Hillary presidency?

Without much public attention, Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed former President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Hamre, to head the important Defense Policy Board. Under normal conditions, a Republican would be appointed to this position.

Bill Goetz, a Washington Times reporter, said a Pentagon official told him, “With or without his approval, President Bush’s team has apparently begun the transition to the third Clinton administration … “. In the Clinton administration Hamre led the program to reduce U.S. military availability to protect American interests by deploying troops to extended and excessive ‘global peace-keeping’ operations.

Do immigrants hurt the country?

A new report says immigrants hurt the country, and if you think amnesty for illegal immigrants created a furor, just wait until liberals and illegal immigration supporters get a hold of this one.

At the center of this looming controversy is, appropriately enough, the 'Center for Immigration Studies'. Reasons given for this conclusion are that foreign-born adults have less education than native-born citizens, raise poverty rates and lack medical insurance. The Center's Director of Research, Steven Camarota, said "If you have a legal immigration system that mostly lets people in without regard to education, and you tolerate illegal immigration, you're going to get a very large share of immigrants who will be very low-skilled."

It was estimated that the annual federal cost of unauthorized immigration nationwide in 2002 was $10 billion. An analysis of 2007 Census data concludes there are 37.9 million foreign-born residents in the United States and that at least 11.3 million are here illegally. The study found that 31% of immigrant adults don't have a high school diploma as compared to 8% of U.S.-born residents. Camarota said that is important because it correlates with high rates of welfare and poverty; and 33% households headed by immigrants use at least one major welfare program. "It costs a lot of money", Camarota said.

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