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As more of us discover the convenience of online purchasing, the impact of those sales is increasingly felt by elected leaders who are desperate to stem the growing erosion to their sales tax base.

For example, Tennessee is losing between $300 and $500 million a year on untaxed Internet sales. It now appears other states struggling with budget deficits are eyeballing the potential revenue in cyber sales, with the intent of bringing in more revenue as opposed to making needed spending cuts to their state budgets.

So the Volunteer State’s Republican governor Bill Haslam says he’s willing to lead an effort among governors nationwide to urge Congress to impose a national sales tax on all online purchases, no matter in which state they’re made. This despite the fact that Amazon.com is building a couple of distribution centers in Tennessee, with the possibility of building two more.

Haslam: torn between two lovers?

What do other governors think? Will they follow Haslam in taxing their states? YOUR state? Have any of those governors taken a public position on this? Where does YOUR governor stand on online taxation?

In last week’s column (“Google guns for Facebook’s market”), I reported that seven states already have enacted legislation to collect sales tax from online sellers.

Online retailers aren’t happy with this development, and at least one of them is pushing back (see ““Tax the Internet and it goes elsewhere”)

Amazon.com ended its affiliate relationships in states that are taxing online sales, saying: “We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers … that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.”

Where are the advocates of less intrusive government? Do they covet their purchasing power at the expense of ours?

We’re keeping our eyeballs on them and this developing story.

White House Twitter Jitters

What do Twitter, YouTube and Facebook share in common? Obama.

The trio of social networks’ claim to fame comes with Obama’s reported “trifecta” of success using all three to communicate with the masses. Last week’s session with Twitter drew nearly 170,000 tweeted questions and comments.

Meanwhile, politically conservative Kevin Eder is a stream of consciousness Twitterer who has been keeping the White House’s official Director of Progressive Media and online response quite engaged. Fully 15 percent of the official White House social networking czar Jesse Lee’s tweets have been with Eder. What do they tweet about?

Tweaking tweet twists tail of twit

Blogger Dutchman6 at Sipsey Street Irregulars, an advocate for the Second Amendment and credited along with David Codrea for breaking the story of the Gunrunner scandal erupting with the Department of Justice, tweaked White House barker Jay Carney about the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform’s use of Twitter to deliver a letter to the Press Secretary.

The tweet responded to a question about the letter asked in last week’s White House press briefing, during which Carney said he’d not yet seen it.

According to The Hill:

“The letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder is signed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. It details their concerns following the testimony of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) acting director Kenneth Melson regarding the ATF operation ‘Fast and Furious.’

“The ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-tracking operation authorized the sale of weapons to suspected Mexican drug cartels. The controversial nature and results of the operation have prompted an ongoing investigation.

“Melson’s testimony indicated that the Justice Department was aware it was funding criminal activity, according to the letter. In the letter, Issa and Grassley push Holder to investigate whether there is any truth to the claim.”

Twitterbucks

According to Tech Crunch, “Reports are swirling that Twitter is in talks to raise $400 million, valuing the company close to $8 billion.”

iPhone on the ground takes photo of Atlantis carrying iPhones!


Space Shuttle Atlantis liftoff. iPhone photo from Cape Canaveral by Andrea Shea King

NASA’s final launch of America’s space shuttle program took place last Friday morning. Aboard Atlantis were two Samsung Nexus S mobile devices, and two Apple iPhones. It was especially bittersweet for me and my neighbors as we stood on the beach at Cape Canaveral and watched the sum total of our work blast off into space for the last time. I worked for NASA and an aerospace firm at Kennedy Space Center for many years.

According to a published report in Forbes, The Nexus S devices will be transformed into robots to expand features on the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or “SPHERES.” They will sit inside bowling ball-sized orbs propelled by small CO2 thrusters, giving onboard computers increased computing power.

Apple’s iPhone 4 will run an app called “SpaceLab for iOS.” Designed by Odyssey Space Research, the program will give astronauts directions to conduct experiments with the phones’ cameras, gyroscopes and other sensors, eliminating the need for printed instructions.

Hackers take a bite out of Apple

A bug in Apple’s iOS operating system could be exploited by bad guys to remotely control iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Criminal hackers could download a code known as “jail breaking,” reverse engineer it to identify a hole in iOS security and build a piece of malicious software within a few days.

The website jailbreakme.com released the code that allows Apple customers to modify the iOS to download and run apps not approved by Apple or use iPhones on non-Apple approved carrier networks.

A word to the wise: “jail breaking” voids the device’s warranty as well as exposes it to hacking damage, including stealing passwords, documents and emails.

An Apple spokeswoman says the company is aware of the problem: “We are developing a fix that will be available to customers in an upcoming software update.”

News Corp. media empire engulfed in scandal related to hacked phones and emails

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire is under siege in what could be the biggest media scandal in history. Headlines like these on the front page of the DrudgeReport last Sunday showed News Corp.’s phone and email hacking and cop-bribing has landed the media conglomerate in a precarious financial and criminal position and implicates prominent British elected officials who “turned a blind eye to the abuses of press power because they wanted to keep in with Rupert Murdoch”:

Your Internet speed will be slowed down if

Beware! If you are illegally downloading copyrighted films, music or television shows, you could find your Internet speed slowed or access restricted. Content piracy is costing over 373,000 jobs, $16 billion in lost earnings and $3 billion of tax revenue annually.

Under an industry anti-piracy effort announced last week, if you are stealing or “pirating” content, U.S. Internet service providers Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and AT&T Inc will alert you up to six times when it appears your account is used for illegal downloading. Warnings will come as emails or pop-up messages.

Should China be allowed to buy part of Facebook?

From Forbes.com: “Business Insider reported that China is trying to buy “a huge chunk” of Facebook.”

According to the report, “Beijing approached a fund that buys stock from former Facebook employees to see if it could assemble a stake large enough ‘to matter.’ Moreover, Citibank is rumored to be trying to acquire as much as $1.2 billion of stock for two sovereign wealth funds, one from the Middle East and the other Chinese. Business Insider reports a third source, from a ‘very influential’ Silicon Valley investment bank, confirms that Citi is representing China.”

Should a communist country be allowed to own a large part of Facebook?

In other Facebook news, last week we reported that Google is challenging Facebook (used by more than 650 million worldwide) with Google+, a Facebook-like social network that features three main products: Circles, Sparks and Hangouts (View Google+ video).

We’ve since learned that in the spirit of “when you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em”, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has joined Google+. Despite gasps from some who were shocked that Zuckerberg would adopt a presence on a competitor’s social network – structured closely on Facebook’s format – Zuckerberg was reportedly nonplussed, asking Robert Scoble via text, “Why are people so surprised that I’d have a Google account?”

As Forbes blogger Kashmir Hill wrote: “Certainly, there’s little reason not to use a competitor’s product (even if there is some precedent in the Google v. Facebook history book) – knowing how a competitor’s product works and what its best features are can offer up competitive advantages.”

Currently, Zuckerberg is the most followed user on the site, according to Google+ Statistics.

Is Google extending into new markets and crushing its competitors? Listen to this interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Under threat of Senate subpoena power, Google Inc.’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, has agreed to testify before the Senate antitrust subcommittee in September to answer questions about the company’s growing dominance of the Internet. As we reported in last week’s lead story (“Google guns for Facebook’s market“): “The Federal Trade Commission has opened an antitrust investigation that goes to the heart of Google’s business: its core search and advertising systems that account for nearly all of Google’s $29 billion in annual revenue. The 12-year-old company faces similar charges in Europe.”

Google had been reluctant to have Mr. Schmidt or other senior executives testify at a time when the Internet search giant is confronting a broad array of investigations into its business practices. But last month, senators on the panel warned they would use their subpoena power to compel one to appear.

The time capsule

1804 – Aaron Burr challenges Alexander Hamilton to a duel; Hamilton dies

1862 – President Lincoln authorizes “Army Medal of Honor”

1945 – Truman, Churchill, Stalin gather at Potsdam; discuss post-war Europe

1955 – Congress authorizes “In God We Trust” on all U.S. currency

1958 – Iraqi army stages coup, monarchy overthrown

1969 – Apollo 11 blasts off to land first men on moon. Video.

1979 – Skylab plunges back to earth, crashes near Australia

Now playing at the Princess Theater in Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Lorraine Hennery of Brampton, Ontario, and Ned Norton of Starkville, Miss., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Anthony Hopkins in his portrayal of President Richard M. Nixon in the 1995 movie “Nixon”. Nominated for four Oscars, the biographical film told the story of the 37th president from his days as a young boy to his eventual presidency, which ended in shame. Joan Allen played wife Patricia Nixon in the film that earned another seven wins and seven more nominations.

The quote was: “There’s already been one radical in the White House. I don’t believe it could survive another.”

This week’s quote: “I’ve been called a lot of things, Colonel, never a solution.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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