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The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."
The Courts

FCC Says Net Neutrality Decision Delay Is About Courts, Not Politics 60

Posted by timothy
from the distinction-without-a-difference dept.
blottsie writes with this news from The Daily Dot: "The Federal Communications Commission's seemingly suspicious timing in delaying its net neutrality decision has absolutely nothing to do with recent politics, according to an FCC official. Instead, it's a matter of some people in the agency insisting they be more prepared before going to court to defend their eventual plan. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of Verizon, which challenged the FCC's 2010 Open Internet rules, striking down the agency's net neutrality protections. The court found that the FCC did not use the proper legal structure to establish its regulatory authority over broadband service—something that many legal experts say would not be the case if the FCC invokes Title II. The FCC's move to delay the net neutrality decision, which followed President Obama's support of Title II reclassification, was just a coincidence, according to the FCC official:" Before the president weighed in, several of our staff felt like the record was a little thin in areas, and the last thing you want when you go to court for the third time is for a court to say the record was too thin, or you didn't give adequate notice. We are going to be so careful this time that we have crossed every T and dotted every I. Some of the staff felt we're not quite there yet."
Government

Internet Voting Hack Alters PDF Ballots In Transmission 148

Posted by timothy
from the don't-let-the-nice-man-borrow-your-router dept.
msm1267 (2804139) writes Threats to the integrity of Internet voting have been a major factor in keeping the practice to a bare minimum in the United States. On the heels of the recent midterm elections, researchers at Galois, a computer science research and development firm in Portland, Ore., sent another reminder to decision makers and voters that things still aren't where they should be. Researchers Daniel M. Zimmerman and Joseph R. Kiniry published a paper called 'Modifying an Off-the-Shelf Wireless Router for PDF Ballot Tampering' that explains an attack against common home routers that would allow a hacker to intercept a PDF ballot and use another technique to modify a ballot before sending it along to an election authority. The attack relies on a hacker first replacing the embedded Linux firmware running on a home router. Once a hacker is able to sit in the traffic stream, they will be able to intercept a ballot in traffic and modify code strings representing votes and candidates within the PDF to change the submitted votes.
The Internet

No, You Can't Seize Country TLDs, US Court Rules 120

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-have-to-settle-for-sabotage-and-eavesdropping dept.
itwbennett writes A U.S. court has quashed an attempt to seize Iran's, Syria's and North Korea's domains as part of a lawsuit against those countries' governments. The plaintiffs in the case wanted to seize the domains after they successfully sued Iran, Syria and North Korea as state sponsors of terrorism. But the court found the domains have the nature of a contractual right, and ruled that rights arising under a contract cannot be seized as part of a judgment.
The Almighty Buck

Internet Sales Tax Bill Dead In Congress 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-everybody-loves-new-taxes dept.
jfruh writes: Last year, a bipartisan coalition helped get the Main Street Fairness Act approved by the U.S. Senate. The bill would have allowed state and local governments to collect sales taxes on Internet sales by companies in different jurisdictions. But House Speaker John Boehner, a longtime opponent of Internet taxes, won't bring the matter to a vote in the House before the end of the year, which should kill it for the immediate future.
Earth

U.S. and China Make Landmark Climate Deal 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-scratch-our-back-and-i'll-scratch-ours dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After extended talks on the issue of climate change, the U.S. and China have reached a landmark accord to curb emissions in the near future. The two countries are the top carbon polluters, so their actions are likely to have a major effect on world pollution levels and also set the standard for other countries. The agreement includes China's first-ever commitment to stop the growth of its emissions by 2030. They plan on shifting a big chunk of their energy production to renewables in that time. The U.S. agreed to emit 26-28% less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. Their efforts could spur greater enthusiasm for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Reader jones_supa adds details of another interesting part of the U.S.-China talks: Technology products look likely to gain more access to international markets as a result of upgrade between the U.S. and China on a 1996 tariff-eliminating trade agreement that President Obama announced Tuesday in Beijing. The agreement is expected to lower prices on a raft of new technology products by eliminating border tariffs — a price impact that's expected to be larger outside the United States, since U.S. tariffs on high-tech goods are generally lower than those overseas. "This is a win-win-win agreement for information and communication technology industries in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, for businesses and consumers who purchase IT products and for the global economy."
Education

The Students Who Feel They Have the Right To Cheat 438

Posted by samzenpus
from the eyes-on-your-own-paper dept.
ub3r n3u7r4l1st writes with this story of endemic cheating in Indian Universities and the students who see it as a right. "Students are often keen to exercise their rights but recently there has been an interesting twist - some in India are talking about their right to cheat in university exams. 'It is our democratic right!' a thin, addled-looking man named Pratap Singh once said to me as he stood, chai in hand, outside his university in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. 'Cheating is our birthright.' Corruption in the university exam system is common in this part of India. The rich can bribe their way to examination success. There's even a whole subset of the youth population who are brokers between desperate students and avaricious administrators. Then there's another class of student altogether, who are so well known locally - so renowned for their political links - invigilators dare not touch them. I've heard that these local thugs sometimes leave daggers on their desk in the exam hall. It's a sign to invigilators: 'Leave me alone... or else.' So if those with money or political influence can cheat, poorer students ask, why shouldn't they?"
Government

25th Anniversary: When the Berlin Wall Fell 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-old-days dept.
Lasrick writes Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This retrospective describes how quickly the Wall was erected, and how Berliners were completely caught off guard by its construction: "Berlin's citizens woke up one morning in August 1961 to find coils of barbed wire running down the middle of their streets; the first inkling some people had that anything was amiss was when their subway train didn't stop at certain stations. Later, the first strands of wire were replaced with a cement wall, along with watchtowers, a wide 'death strip,' and an electrified fence."
The Almighty Buck

Mayday PAC Goes 2 For 8 224

Posted by Soulskill
from the above-the-mendoza-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Lawrence Lessig's Mayday.us project had a bold goal: create a super PAC to end all super PACs. It generated significant support and raised over $10 million, which it spent endorsing a group of candidates for the recent mid-term elections and the primaries beforehand. The results weren't kind. Only two of the eight candidates backed by Mayday won their elections, and both of those candidates were quite likely to win anyway. Lessig was understandably displeased with the results. In a post on the Mayday site, he said, "What 2014 shows most clearly is the power of partisanship in our elections. Whatever else voters wanted, they wanted first their team to win."

Kenneth Vogel, author of Big Money, a recent book on the rise of super PACs, was critical of of Mayday's efforts, saying, "While voters do express high levels of disgust about the state of campaign finance and the level of corruption in Washington, they tend to actually cast votes more on bread-and-butter economic issues." Still, Lessig is hopeful for the future: "We moved voters on the basis of that message. Not enough. Not cheaply enough. But they moved."
News

Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC 588

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-doritos-factory-construction-already-underway dept.
Robotron23 writes: Coinciding with the midterm elections yesterday were state ballots proposing the legalization of cannabis. All three territories where full legalization was tabled approved the measure, joining Washington state and Colorado. The narrowest vote was that of Alaska at a roughly 52% to 48% margin. Washington D.C. meanwhile saw the vote strongly tipped in favor of legalization, at about 69% to 31% opposed. Oregon passed its measure by a vote of 55% to 45%. Buoyed by the news, advocates of legal cannabis are already contemplating the next round of state ballots in 2016.
Social Networks

Computer Scientists Say Meme Research Doesn't Threaten Free Speech 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-sure-if-good-thing-or-bad-thing dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes "In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday (PDF), five of the nation's top computing research organizations defended a research grant to study how information goes viral. The groups were responding to claims that the government-funded effort could help create a 1984-type surveillance state. The controversy arises over a nearly $1 million research grant to researchers at Indiana University to investigate "why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten," particularly on Twitter. "We do not believe this work represents a threat to free speech or a suppression of any type of speech over the internet," the letter said. "The tools developed in the course of this research are capable of making no political judgments, no prognostications, and no editorial comments, nor do they provide any capability for exerting any control over the Twitter stream they analyze," they wrote. The controversy over Truthy may be just another sign of the ongoing deterioration between the science community and lawmakers over basic research funding as well as the science itself.
Bug

Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-vote-for-robot-nixon dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As Election Day in the U.S. starts to wind down, reports from around the country highlight another round of technological failures at the polls. In Virginia, the machines are casting votes for the wrong candidates. In North Carolina, polling sites received the wrong set of thumb drives, delaying voters for hours. In Michigan, software glitches turned voters away in the early morning, including a city mayor. A county in Indiana saw five of its polling sites spend hours trying to get the machines to boot correctly. And in Connecticut, an as-yet-unspecified computer glitch caused a judge to keep the polls open for extra time. When are we going to get this right?
Patents

Silicon Valley Swings To Republicans 485

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-the-other-way dept.
phantomfive writes Silicon Valley is making a mark in Washington as Google has recently replaced Goldman as the largest lobbyist, but until recently, most of the money from Silicon Valley went to democratic candidates. In 2014, that has changed, and Republicans are getting most of the money. Why the change? Gordon Crovitz suggests it's because Harry Reid blocked patent reform. Reid gets a large chunk of donations from trial lawyers, who oppose the reform.
Government

US Midterm Elections Discussion 401

Posted by timothy
from the mostly-I-vote-because-I-love-dark-humor dept.
November 4th will be election day in the U.S. Though the presidential race is still forming, this midterm election has lots of close races that may give a hint about the likely outcome in 2016. Many pundits and pollsters see a strong chance that Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate in Tuesday's election. Think of the discussion attached to this post as the place to discuss the election: candidates, political advertising, voting technology, and the wisdom of voter ID laws. If you are voting, this chart of poll closing times might be useful. (And, as with the similar post from 10 years ago today, you can take a look at the current poll to see what the Zeitgeist looks like for Slashdot readers, and mentally fill in the past tense, if you're one of the many early voters; not much room in the poll question field.)
Earth

UN Climate Change Panel: It's Happening, and It's Almost Entirely Man's Fault 695

Posted by timothy
from the your-fault dept.
iONiUM writes The UN released a new climate change report which concludes that it is indeed happening, and it's almost entirely man's fault. From the article: "The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess global warming and its impacts. The report released Sunday caps its latest assessment, a mega-review of 30,000 climate change studies that establishes with 95-percent certainty that nearly all warming seen since the 1950s is man-made." However, the report isn't entirely dire. It goes on to say: "To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report's scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to 'near zero or below in 2100.'" Below zero of course means mining existing CO2 out of the atmopshere somehow.

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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