Hugh Pickens writes "Facing a $10 billion revenue shortfall for transportation financing, the Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a bill to require drivers with a vehicle getting at least 55 miles per gallon of gasoline to pay a per-mile tax after 2015 to offset the loss in tax revenue for fuel efficient cars at the gas pump, where the government has traditionally collected money to build and fix roads. Oregonians currently pay 30 cents per gallon, a tax that is automatically added at the pump, but as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel sources are identified, state officials project gas tax revenue will decline. 'Everybody uses the road, and if some pay and some don't, then that's an unfair situation that's got to be resolved,' says Jim Whitty of the Department of Transportation. Opponents of the Oregon proposal say it will hurt a new industry. 'It will be one more obstacle that the industry and auto dealers will face in convincing consumers to buy these new cars,' says Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Other states, such as Nevada and Washington, are also looking at a per-mile charge and a Washington law that would charge electric car owners an annual fee goes into effect in February. Oregon did a pilot study of the mileage tax (PDF) where participants paid 1.56 cents per mile and got a credit for any gasoline tax they paid at the pump. Although initial media portrayals of the system were almost uniformly negative, 91% of test participants preferred the mileage tax to paying gas taxes."
Bobfrankly1 writes "Robert Stuart and his company Extensions Software are being charged by New York authorities, claiming he is promoting gambling in New York because of the actions of his clients. They are charging him after he rejected a plea agreement that would have him plead guilty to lesser charges, adding backdoors to his software, and using said backdoors to gather details on his clients and their customers." Another article on the case at Salon.
itwbennett writes "According to an ITworld report, 'Google has agreed to change some of its business practices, including allowing competitors access to some standardized technologies, to resolve a U.S. Federal Trade Commission antitrust complaint against the company.' This includes 'allow[ing] competitors access to standards-essential patents the company acquired along with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.' Also among the business practices Google has agreed to stop is 'scraping Web content from rivals and allegedly passing it off as its own, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.'" SlashCloud has some more details, including links to the agreement itself and Google's soft-pedaling description of "voluntary product changes."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes this week with his explanation of how an improved algorithm on the White House's petition-creation site could do away with Death Star petitions and even improve on the existing serious ones. Read on below for his modest proposal on that front.
cathyreisenwitz writes "The 2012 bankruptcy of Rhode Island-based video-game developer 38 Studios isn't just a sad tale of a start-up tech company falling victim to the vagaries of a rough economy. It is a completely predictable story of crony capitalism, featuring star-struck legislators and the hubris of a larger-than-life athlete completely unprepared to compete in business." Reason makes no bones about its view of this kind of public-private "partnership."
DavidGilbert99 writes with this excerpt from IB Times: "The Sandy Hook shooting once again raised the debate about how much power violent videogames wield over teenagers. Following proclamations from the National Rifle Association and the establishment of a study by the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the psychological effects of violent games on children, a group in Connecticut is now having its say Southington, a town 30 miles from where the shooting took place, is offering gift tokens in exchange for violent videogames, as well as other violent media such as DVDs or videos. The group, called SouthingtonSOS, said in a statement: 'There is ample evidence that violent video games, along with violent media of all kinds, including TV and movies portraying story after story showing a continuous stream of violence and killing, has contributed to increasing aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of violence including bullying.'" And Yes, they plan to destroy the traded-in games. (Note: Beware the obnoxious auto-playing video ad with sound; adjust volume accordingly.)
Curseyoukhan writes "Infosec vendor IID (Internet Identity) probably hopes that by the time 2014 rolls around no one will remember the prediction it just made. That is the year it says we will see the first murder via internet connected device. The ability to do this has been around for quite some time but the company won't say why it hasn't happened yet. Probably because that would have screwed up their fear marketing. CIO blogger challenges them to a $10K bet over their claim."
inode_buddha writes "Not long ago we ran a story about how a NY newspaper published lists of gun owners. Now, it seems the same newspaper has hired armed guards in response to unspecified threats to the editor, amid 'large volumes of negative response.' From the article: 'The editor, Caryn McBride, told police the newspaper hired a private security company whose "employees are armed and will be on site during business hours," the report said. The guards are protecting the newspaper's staff and Rockland County offices in West Nyack, New York.'"
New submitter earlzdotnet writes "A new patent troll is in town, this time targeting the users of technology, rather than the creators. They appear to hold a process patent for 'scanning a document and then emailing it.' They are targeting small businesses in a variety of locations and usually want somewhere between $900 to $1200 per employee for 'infringement' of their patent. As with most patent trolls, they go by a number of shell companies, but the original company name appears to be Project Paperless LLC. Joel Spolsky said in a tweet that 'This is organized crime, plain and simple...' I tend to agree with him. When will something be done about this legal mafia?"
jfruh writes "Those Nigerian spam scams of the last decade may have just been the first step in a looming African cyber-crime wave. Africa has the world's fastest-growing middle class, whose members are increasingly tech-savvy and Internet connected — and the combination of ambitious, educated people, a ceiling on advancement due to corruption and lack of infrastructure, and lax law enforcement is a perfect petri dish for increased cybercrime."
An anonymous reader sends word that the Russian Space industry will be getting a big boost over the next eight years. Prime Minister Medvedev has approved $68.71 billion in space-related funding from 2013 to 2020. That's a huge increase from the $3.3 billion spent annually in 2010 and 2011. The increased funding is one of several efforts to restoring Russia's slowly fading spaceflight capabilities. "The failure of a workhorse Proton rocket after launch in August caused the multimillion-dollar loss of an Indonesian and a Russian satellite. A similar problem caused the loss of a $265 million communications satellite last year. Medvedev criticized the state of the industry in August, saying problems were costing Russia prestige and money." Medvedev said, "The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects, such as the International Space Station, the study of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system."
dgharmon sends this news from the Atlantic Wire: "After a years-long legal battle, federal prosecutors in Belgium now believe their investigation is complete enough to charge the Church of Scientology and its leaders as a criminal organization on charges of extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine. ... Multiple reports and the group's legal history point to one key factor here: The Belgian government won't charge Scientology for being a cult — authorities are focusing on prosecuting it as a criminal organization. Which is a new twist, as most of the group's many court battles over the years have focused on establishing its legitimacy as a religion. ... The Church of Scientology houses its European headquarters in Brussels, so a ban in Belgium could be crippling to the group — and authorities there seem to know it."
EagleHasLanded writes "The U.S. Metric Association has been advocating for metrication since 1916 – without much success. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. government passed the Metric Conversion Act, but now it seems the time for complete conversion has come and gone. Or could U.S. educators and health & safety advocates put this issue back on Congress' radar screen?"
jrepin writes "While the UK has seen the light, the EU has actually gone backwards on open standards in recent times. The original European Interoperability Framework required royalty-free licensing, but what was doubtless a pretty intense wave of lobbying in Brussels overturned that, and EIF v2 ended up pushing FRAND, which effectively locks out open source — the whole point of the exercise. Shamefully, some parts of the European Commission are still attacking open source."
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from CNET: "Installous, a major portal for pirated paid apps from Apple's App Store, won't be around anymore. Development team Hackulous today announced the closure of Installous on their official Web site. As of today, the pirated app store no longer works, and only shows these errors: 'Outdated version. Installous will now terminate' or 'API Error. API unavailable.' For many years, Installous offered complete access to thousands of paid iOS apps for free for anyone with a jailbroken iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Think of it as being able to walk into a fancy department store, steal anything you want, and never get caught."