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DiploNews – Issue 40 – 24 October 2001

DiploNews – Issue 40 – October 24, 2001

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2002 Course on IT and Diplomacy – Call for Applications

DiploProjects is now accepting applications for the next online postgraduate course in Information Technology and Diplomacy. This year-long course will begin in February 2002 with a 10-day introductory workshop in Malta. The application deadline is November 20, 2001. All course information and application instructions and forms are available on the course website.

New Technology for News Reporting

Since the American Civil War, the media has progressively made use of technology advances to improve reporting (Civil War – photography; World War One – film; World War Two – live radio; Vietnam – television). In an October 18 article the Economist reports on the newest technology currently in use for reports from Afghanistan: the video satellite phone. This technology allows for live broadcasts directly from a war-torn and technologically primitive country, with no need to depend on local infrastructure. The phones, weighing about 5 kg, consist of a video-conferencing unit attached to satellite-communications terminals, and make use of 4 communications satellites covering the entire earth except for the poles. The technology is improving fast – within a few years the phones will weigh less and the transmission speed will improve, allowing for better picture quality. A spokesperson for a US press-freedom foundation predicts that the video satellite phones and new mobile phone technology may be "as liberating a force in journalism as the Internet has been. If everybody can be their own reporter and camera crew, the power of the censor will fall away." So far, the video satellite phones are used mainly by the media giants: BBC and CNN: the service is too expensive for a mass market.  However, the upcoming generation of mobile phones will be able to transmit pictures almost as fast, and much cheaper, allowing individuals to broadcast images. The article concludes that as governments will not be willing to shut down entire mobile telephone networks, "In the race between the technology of liberation and the technology of control, the liberators should end up winning a heat."

Changes in Internet Taxation?

An October 19 article on the Internet taxation moratorium, which expired on October 21 this year, discusses the possible future directions for taxation of e-commerce. The US House of Representatives has recently called for an extension of the tax moratorium, however, the Senate has not yet passed this bill. It is expected that Senate will approve some extension of the ban on Internet taxation soon: the current debate is over the length of the extension. The recently expired ban did not deal with the issue of sales tax on e-commerce – although there is much confusion over the exact scope of the ban. According to an October 24 article in the E-Commerce Times, the "Internet Tax Freedom Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress in October 1998, prevented three types of taxes: 1) taxes on Internet access, 2) duplicate taxes on transactions that two or more states could tax, and 3) discriminatory taxes that would tax specific products online that are not taxed offline." Consumers purchasing products or services online are supposed to pay appropriate taxes in their own states, however this rule has not always been observed.

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