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The Almighty Buck

Every Day's a Tax Holiday At Amazon 377

theodp writes "With Black Friday here, Slate's Farhad Manjoo reminds readers of how undersells Best Buy, the Apple store, and almost everybody else. Read his lips: no sales taxes. Unless you live in KS, KY, NY, ND, or WA, you'll pay no sales tax on many purchases from Amazon, giving Amazon a huge — and largely hidden — price advantage over most other national retailers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is certainly no fan of taxes — he explored founding Amazon on an Indian reservation, and recently ponied up $100,000 to defeat a proposed WA state income tax, a good investment for someone who's cashed in close to $800,000,000 in Amazon stock this year alone. So, is Amazon's tax-free status unfair? Of course it is, says Manjoo. Amazon has physical operations in 17 states in which the company and its employees enjoy the fruits of local taxes — police and fire protection, roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure that make its operations possible. Yet Amazon skirts tax collection in most of these places through clever legal tricks."

Minnesota Moving To Microsoft's Cloud 345

An anonymous reader writes "The State of Minnesota is apparently the first state to move into the cloud, agreeing on a deal to have their messaging and collaboration services delivered through Microsoft's Business Online Productivity Suite. The thing the article doesn't tell you in detail is that the agreement precludes the use of open source software, which could have saved the taxpayers millions of dollars. And once such a large organization goes Microsoft, it's difficult to go back. Isn't it interesting that these developments occur right before elections, as senior officials are trying to keep their jobs with a new incoming administration? What do you think, Slashdotters? Is this a good move for Minnesota? Or a conservative move that bucks the trend of saving money and encouraging open government and transparency by aligning philosophy and practice with at least the option of utilizing open source software?"

Pentagon Makes Good On Plan To Destroy Critical Book 306

mykos writes "Remember when the Pentagon said they were arranging a taxpayer-funded, government-sponsored book burning a couple weeks ago? Well, they made good on that threat, purchasing 9,500 copies of the book to be destroyed. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, has redacted anything the Pentagon told them to redact in the upcoming second run of the book. They Department of Defense has not yet paid for the burned books, but says they are 'in the process.' Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham gave this statement: 'DoD decided to purchase copies of the first printing because they contained information which could cause damage to national security.' Whew, looks like we're safe now."

State of Alabama Fighting NASA's New Plan 340

FleaPlus writes "Alabama politicians have formed a 'task force' dedicated to fighting NASA's new plans to cancel the costly Constellation/Ares program, which is largely based in Alabama. The chronically mismanaged Constellation project attempted to build new rockets in-house and replicate an Apollo-style lunar program with minimal investment in new technologies. NASA's new boosted budget revives formerly suppressed R&D efforts into critical technologies needed for a sustainable push towards Mars and intermediate waypoint destinations, works with (instead of trying to compete with) existing commercial rockets to transport cargo/crew to orbit, and funds a stream of robotic precursor missions to scout other worlds and demonstrate new technologies. The Alabama task force fighting the new plan includes former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and former Ares project manager Steve Cook."

NRC Relicensing Old "Zombie" Nuclear Plants 260

mdsolar writes "In the Dec. 7 edition of The Nation, Christian Parenti details what he considers to be the real problem with nuclear power as a solution to carbon emissions in the US: Not the high cost of new nuclear power, but rather the irresponsible relicensing of existing nuclear power plants by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The claim is that the relicensed plants — amounting to more than half ot the 104 original 1970s-era nukes in the US — operate like zombies beyond their design lifetimes only because of lax regulation spurred by concern over carbon dioxide emissions. But these plants are actually failing, as demonstrated by a rash of accidents. And some of the ancient plants are now being allowed to operate at 120% of their designed capacity. There is a video interview with Parenti up at Democracy Now."

Canada Election Result Bad News For DMCA Opponents 311

An anonymous reader writes "For those with a stake in the opposition of Jim Prentice's C-61, the Canadian DMCA, this previous week's election results will be displeasing. The Conservative Party, which promised to reintroduce the DMCA if elected, gained 19 seats this election, mostly at the expense of the flagging liberal party, a mere 12 short of a majority government. The increase in Conservative representation, as well as the relatively low profile of this issue amidst other, more pressing concerns, increases the likelihood that the son of C-61 will come to fruition. On a positive note, the number of MPs supporting Geist's copyright pledge has increased to 34. Given the Conservative Party's historic disregard of public opinion, however, the efforts of the copyright-pledge MPs will have to rally the full opposition across three major parties in order to defeat the bill. A mere 12 MPs now stand between the Canadian public and the MAFIAA's hungry maw."

Why Shoot Down a Satellite? Analyzing an Analysis 238

A reader, name withheld by request, writes "Writing in the IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg analyzes whether there was, in fact a significant risk to humans from the satellite which the US military shot down on 21 February, purportedly 'to head off the possibility of its splashing a half ton of toxic hydrazine fuel somewhere on Earth.' Previous experts had 'scoffed' at the rationale put forth, pointing out that there was trivial possibility that any significant amount of toxic fuel would make it to the ground intact. Oberg's analysis, titled 'the inside story,' purports to debunk this, and claims that indeed it's possible, and even likely, that there could be a danger to the ground. Unfortunately, the analysis is full of flaws and lack of rigor — indeed, lacking any sort of numerical reasoning. It seems to be too much repeating official 'spin,' and could have used a hefty dose of skepticism — and could also use a little bit of actual analysis using numbers, rather than handwaving." Read on for the rest of an interesting analysis of a topic that suddenly seems more complex.

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The Shuttle is now going five times the sound of speed. -- Dan Rather, first landing of Columbia