Justices Divided on Sales Taxes for Online Purchases

Justices Divided on Sales Taxes for Online Purchases Photo Marty J. Jackley, South Dakota’s attorney general, on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Mr. Jackley argued that the sales tax case before the court did not make sense in the digital era. Credit Andrew Harnik/Associated Press WASHINGTON — A closely divided Supreme Court struggled on Tuesday to decide whether internet retailers should have to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence.
Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.
By the end of arguments on Tuesday it was not clear whether there were five votes to overrule the 1992 decision, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which said that the Constitution bars state..

Supreme Court Tosses Out Microsoft Case on Digital Data Abroad

Supreme Court Tosses Out Microsoft Case on Digital Data Abroad Photo The dispute arose from a federal drug investigation in which prosecutors sought the emails of a suspect stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin. Credit Niall Carson/PA, via Associated Press WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it would not decide whether federal prosecutors can force Microsoft to turn over digital data stored outside the United States. The move followed arguments in the case in February and the enactment of a new federal law that both sides said made the case moot.
“No live dispute remains between the parties,” the court said in a brief, unsigned opinion.
The case, United States v. Microsoft, No. 17-2, had seemed poised to be one of the most important of the current term. It posed the question of whether a 1986 law, enacted before the dawn of the big-data era, applied to digital information stored outside the nation’s borders.
When the case was argued, several justices said Con..

Economic Scene: Facebook Is Creepy. And Valuable.

Facebook Is Creepy. And Valuable. One of the most telling moments in the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last week was when Representative Billy Long, a Missouri Republican, warned the co-founder of Facebook of what Congress was likely to do about its multiple concerns surrounding the social network. “Congress is good at two things: doing nothing, and overreacting,” he said. After years of the former, he said, “we’re getting ready to overreact.”
That sounds worrisome. But I sympathize. Doing nothing and overreacting make sense when you have no clue of what is going on. And we don’t. The cloud of questions aimed at Mr. Zuckerberg — Is Facebook too dominant? Does it censor information? Whom does it share our data with? Does it help sell OxyContin? — suggests that we don’t really know what the problem with Facebook is. It also suggests we don’t understand what Facebook does.
That goes for the entire data-driven ecosystem, from Google to the auto companies riddling y..

Huawei, Failing to Crack U.S. Market, Signals a Change in Tactics

Huawei, Failing to Crack U.S. Market, Signals a Change in Tactics Photo As the Chinese telecom giant Huawei roars ahead in the rest of the world, roadblocks in Washington have thwarted its attempts to build a presence in the United States. Credit David Paul Morris/Bloomberg SHANGHAI — For Huawei’s longstanding efforts to crack the United States market, it’s the end of an era.
Last week, the Chinese telecom giant laid off five American employees, including its top liaison to the United States government, William Plummer, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Plummer, who was with the company for almost eight years, became the face of Huawei’s Sisyphean efforts to win over Washington.
Bedeviled by concerns about its close relationship to the Chinese government, Huawei has spent much of the last decade lobbying to be allowed to sell its communications equipment to American telecom carriers. Mr. Plummer emerged as a highly visible representative during a series of congressional..

A Beginner’s Guide to Taking Great Video on Your Phone

A Beginner’s Guide to Taking Great Video on Your Phone Photo Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times Not long ago, a filmmaker wouldn’t dream of shooting a movie on a phone because the quality was so inferior to what you could capture on pricier devices. But that’s changing. Consider this: The most recent project from the renowned American film director Steven Soderbergh, “Unsane,” was shot entirely on an iPhone.
Today, there are lots of reasons everyone from pro photographers to amateur shutterbugs are using phones to shoot video projects.
Like many of his peers, Christian Nachtrieb, a Boston-based corporate and wedding photographer, finds phones aren’t just continuing to improve in terms of quality, but they’re also extremely convenient. “It’s the readiness factor. Having a phone right in your pocket is a huge plus,” says Mr. Nachtrieb, who might see a stunning sunset, capture it on his phone, and then splice it into a final wedding video. “No one in a million years could tell th..

Chinese Tech Company Blocked From Buying American Components

Chinese Tech Company Blocked From Buying American Components
SHANGHAI — China’s second-largest maker of telecommunications equipment will not be able to use components made in the United States after the Commerce Department said it failed to punish employees who violated American sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
The ban announced Monday, which effectively locks the company, ZTE Corporation, out of American technology for seven years, is a blow to one of China’s few truly international technology suppliers.
ZTE’s products for the infrastructure of telecommunications networks, as well as its smartphones, use an array of American parts, like microprocessors from the chip maker Qualcomm, glass made by Corning and sound technology from San Francisco-based Dolby.
In a call with reporters on Monday, a senior Commerce Department official said the action was not connected to a broader intellectual property investigation into China.

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Chinese Social Media Site Reverses Gay Content Ban After Uproar

Chinese Social Media Site Reverses Gay Content Ban After Uproar Photo A conference booth last year for Sina Weibo, which had said Friday that it would reduce gay content as part of a campaign to remove pornographic and violent material from its site. Credit Jason Lee/Reuters BEIJING — Bowing to intense pressure from millions of internet users, a Chinese social media site said on Monday that it would scrap plans to censor cartoons and video games with gay themes.
The site, Sina Weibo, had announced on Friday that it would target gay content as part of a campaign to remove pornographic and violent material from its site.
But its efforts were almost immediately criticized as discriminatory and repressive, spawning an outpouring of #Iamgay hashtags and slogans like “gays aren’t scary.”
On Monday, Weibo said in a post that it would scale back its “cleanup” effort and focus on “pornographic, violent and bloody content” instead of gay material. In a nod to the intense backlash, it thanked int..