November 30, 2006

Couldn’t Help But Notice (113006)

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:24 am

Wal-Mart deserves style points for this idea:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is edging into selling video downloads by offering buyers of the “Superman Returns” DVD a chance to buy downloads of the same movie, beginning Wednesday.The world’s largest retailer said Tuesday that shoppers have the choice of paying $1.97 to download the movie to a portable device, such as Apple’s iPod or Microsoft’s Zune, or paying $2.97 to download it to a laptop or desktop computer. For $3.97, customers can download the movie for both formats.

“This unique Superman Returns physical/digital DVD combination not only marks our first step into the video downloads market, but gives our customers the best of both worlds in movie entertainment,” said Kevin Swint, Wal-Mart’s divisional merchandise manager for digital media.

OK, so you have to buy the physical DVD to get the cheapo downloads, but when you average out the cost, it’s not bad at all. A non-digital person could find a digital friend or neighbor and leverage the heck out of this thing.

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Venezuela can do it, why can’t we?

Unlike with most U.S. electronic voting machines, Venezuelans will get paper receipts that verify their choices were properly recorded, and must deposit them into boxes before leaving the polls. After Sunday’s vote, election officials monitored by representatives of each candidate will count millions of the paper receipts for comparison to the electronic totals.

What’s driving this in Venezuela, of course, are fears that strongman Hugo Chavez will rig the election if left to his own devices. Fine — even if you don’t think top-down fraud is realistically possible here, in the absence of paper receipts and parallel counting, where is the protection against hackers or small-scale fraud? It doesn’t take much to turn an election.

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“The U.S. government’s first-ever effort to use trade sanctions to personally aggravate a foreign president” may or may not be effective, but it at least has forced coveage of the relatively little-known fact that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his favored “600 loyalist families” live the high life while their people starve.

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