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The Courts

Supreme Court: Affordable Care Act Is Constitutional 2416

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The health insurance mandate, also known as "Obamacare" was found to be "permissible under Congress's taxing authority." The full ruling (PDF) is now available, and the court's opinion begins on page 7. Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog summarized the ruling thus: "The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding." Further coverage is available from CNN, the NY Times, and Fox.

US Eases Internet Export Rules To Iran, Sudan, Cuba 98

coondoggie writes "Looking to facilitate what it calls free speech rights in countries that don't look favorably at such liberties, the US government today said it would ease the regulations around exporting Internet-based applications to Iran, Sudan and Cuba. Specifically, the Treasury Department said it would add general licenses (PDF) authorizing the exportation of free, personal, Internet-based communications services – such as instant messaging, chat and email, and social networking – to those three countries. The amendments also allow the exportation of related software to Iran and Sudan, the department said in a release (the US Commerce Department controls software exports with Cuba). Until now all such exports would have broken federal laws."

Standard Cellphone Chargers For Europeans 257

k33l0r writes "The European Commission is confident that all major cellphone companies have reached an agreement on a standard cellphone charger for consumers within the EU. 'People will not have to throw away their charger whenever they buy a new phone,' said EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Apple, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and Texas Instruments have all signed the agreement."

Rocket Hobbyists Prevail Over Feds In Court Case 546

Ellis D. Tripp writes "DC District Court judge Reggie Walton has finally ruled in the 9-year old court case pitting the model rocketry community against the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ruling is a 'slam dunk' for the rocketry community, stating that the BATFE ignored scientific evidence and overstepped its bounds by classifying ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) as an 'explosive.' Effective immediately, the BATFE has no legal jurisdiction over hobby rocket motors, and a federal Low Explosives User's Permit will no longer be needed in order to purchase APCP motors. The full text of the Judge's decision is reproduced at the link."
GNU is Not Unix

NY Bill Proposes Tax Credit for Open Source Developers 111

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Assemblymen Jonathan Bing and Micah Kellner, along with a number of co-sponsors, have introduced proposed legislation in New York State which would grant a tax credit to individuals acting as volunteers who develop open source programs. The idea of the credit is to ensure that volunteer developers, who could not otherwise deduct their expenses because they are not part of a 'business,' should nevertheless be able to receive a tax benefit for their contribution. The credit would be for 20% of the expenses incurred, up to $200. The preamble to the bill notes that the New York State Assembly itself currently uses 'Open Source programs such as Mozilla for email, Firefox for web browsing, and WebCal for electronic calendars,' and that these programs have led to significant cost savings to taxpayers. The preamble also cited a 2006 report authored by John Irons and Carl Malamud from the Center for American Progress detailing how Open Source software enhances a broader dissemination of knowledge and ideas."
The Military

Obama's Proposed Space Weapon Ban 550

eldavojohn writes "Obama's proposed ban on space weapons is a complete 180 from George W. Bush's stance on them. looks at the two sides of the issue and quotes Michael Krepon explaining, 'The Bush administration rejected space diplomacy. We refused to negotiate on any subject that could limit US military options. We have a shift from an administration that was very dismissive of multilateral negotiations [as a whole], to an administration that is open to that possibility if it improves US national security.' You may recall discussing the necessity of space based weapons and Michael Krepon from 2005."
The Almighty Buck

FOSS Development As Economic Stimulus 365

heybus writes "Economist Dean Baker, best known for calling the housing bust and warning of the ensuing economic collapse, has just published his recommendations for how to allocate President-elect Obama's estimated $800 billion economic stimulus plan. Among other things, Baker calls for juicing the economy with $2 billion worth of government spending to support the development of free and open source software. Baker's idea is similar to the New Deal federal arts and writers' projects: the government would fund projects as long as they produce freely available code. In addition to employing programmers, 'the savings [to consumers] in the United States alone could easily exceed the cost of supporting software development.'"
The Internet

Internet Not Really Dangerous For Kids After All 445

Thomas M Hughes writes "We're all familiar with the claim that it's horribly dangerous to allow our children on to the Internet. It's long been believed that the moment a child logs on to the Internet, he will experience a flood of inappropriate sexual advances. Turns out this isn't an accurate representation of reality at all. A high-profile task force representing 49 state attorneys general was organized to find a solution to the problem of online sexual solicitation. But instead the panel has issued a report (due to be released tomorrow) claiming that 'Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.' The report concluded that 'the problem of child-on-child bullying, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.' Turns out the danger to our children was all just media hype and parental anxiety." Those who have aggressively pushed the issue of the dangerous Internet, such as Connecticut's attorney general Richard Blumenthal, are less than happy with the report.

Rick Boucher To Chair House Internet Committee 55

Misch writes "Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) will be taking the chair of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Rep. Boucher has been an advocate for consumers rights, is a co-founder of the Congressional Internet Caucus, and has participated in a Slashdot Interview. He was instrumental in defeating key escrow, back in the day."

State Secrets Defense Rejected In Wiretapping Case 269

knifeyspooney writes in with an Ars Technica report that a federal judge has issued a strong rebuke to government lawyers attempting to invoke the "state secrets" defense to quash a lawsuit over warrantless wiretapping. This is not the high-profile case the EFF is bringing against the NSA; instead the case is being pursued by an Islamic charity that knows it had been wiretapped. "At times, a note of irritation crept into [Judge] Walker's even, judicial language. At one point, he described the government's argument as 'without merit,' and characterized another as 'circular.' He also seemed impatient with the Justice Department's refusal to provide any classified documents addressing Al Haramain's specific claims for review in chambers. 'It appears... that defendants believe they can prevent the court from taking any action under 1806(f) by simply declining to act,' wrote Walker."
The Courts

RIAA To Stop Prosecuting Individual File Sharers 619

debatem1 writes "According to the Wall Street Journal, the RIAA has decided to abandon its current tactic of suing individuals for sharing copyrighted music. Ongoing lawsuits will be pursued to completion, but no new ones will be filed. The RIAA is going to try working with the ISPs to limit file-sharing services and cut off repeated users. This very surprising development apparently comes as a result of public distaste for the campaign." An RIAA spokesman is quoted as saying that the litigation campaign has been "successful in raising the public's awareness that file-sharing is illegal."

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