The Almighty Buck

Amazon Spends $350K On Seattle Mayor's Race (jeffreifman.com) 17

reifman writes: Until this summer, Amazon had never contributed more than $15,000 to a city political campaign in Seattle, but this year's different. The company is a lead funder in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's PAC which dropped $525,000 Monday on Jenny Durkan's PAC, the centrist business candidate. Her opponent Cary Moon is an advocate for affordable housing, which complicates Amazon's growth, and city-owned community broadband. Comcast and Century Link joined Amazon contributing $25,000 and $82,500 respectively to the Chamber's PAC. Amazon's $350,000 contribution represents .00014 of its CY 2016 net profit.
Businesses

Alphabet Invests $1 Billion In Lyft (cnet.com) 8

Lyft announced Thursday that Google-parent Alphabet is leading a $1 billion financing round into the ride-hailing company. This ups Lyft's valuation from $7.5 billion to $11 billion. The funding is coming from CapitalG, one of Alphabet's investment firms. CNET reports: "CapitalG is honored to work with Lyft's compelling founders and strong leadership team," David Lawee, CapitalG partner, said in a statement. "Ridesharing is still in its early days and we look forward to seeing Lyft continue its impressive growth." Compared with Uber, Lyft has long been the small dog in the ride-hailing world. Before now, it's received $2.6 billion in venture funding, whereas Uber has received $12.9 billion and is valued at $68 billion. Alphabet's investment in Lyft could be a sore spot for rival Uber. Uber is currently locked in a legal battle with Waymo.
Medicine

Doctors To Breathalyse Smokers Before Allowing Them NHS Surgery (bbc.com) 285

Smokers in Hertfordshire, a county in southern England, are to be breathalysed to ensure they have kicked the habit before they are referred for non-urgent surgery. From a report, shared by several readers: Smokers will be breath-tested before they are considered for non-urgent surgery, two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have decided. Patients in Hertfordshire must stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery or it may be delayed. Obese patients have also been told they must lose weight in order to have non-urgent surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said the plan seemed to be "against the principles of the NHS (the publicly funded national healthcare system for England)." A joint committee of the Hertfordshire Valleys and the East and North Hertfordshire CCGs, which made the decisions, said they had to "make best use of the money and resources available." Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 must lose 15% of their weight and those with a BMI of over 30 must lose 10%, or reduce it to under a 40 BMI or a 30 BMI - whichever is the greater amount. The lifestyle changes to reduce weight must take place over nine months.
Businesses

Amazon Battles Google for Renewable Energy Crown (bloomberg.com) 36

Readers share a report: Even in the age of coal enthusiast President Donald Trump, clean-energy developers are finding plenty of interest in wind and solar power from businesses with sustainability targets, especially technology companies. That was on display in a video tweeted Thursday by Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, as he christened the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas in Scurry County. Amazon has bought more than 1.22 gigawatts of output to date from U.S. clean-energy projects, second only to Alphabet's Google, with 1.85 gigawatts. Corporations have agreed to buy 1.9 gigawatts of clean power in the U.S. this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and are on pace to match the 2.6 gigawatts signed last year.
Transportation

Japanese Metal Manufacturer Faked Specifications To Hundreds of Companies (jalopnik.com) 123

schwit1 writes: Kobe Steel, a major Japanese supplier of steel and other metals worldwide, has admitted that it faked the specifications to metals shipped to hundreds of companies over the past decade.

Last week, Kobe Steel admitted that staff fudged reports on the strength and durability of products requested by its clients -- including those from the airline industry, cars, space rockets, and Japan's bullet trains. The company estimated that four percent of aluminum and copper products shipped from September 2016 to August 2017 were falsely labelled, Automotive News reported.

But on Friday, the company's CEO, Hiroya Kawasaki, revealed the scandal has impacted about 500 companies -- doubling the initial count -- and now includes steel products, too. The practice of falsely labeling data to meet customer's specifications could date back more than 10 years, according to the Financial Times.

For rockets the concern is less serious as they generally are not built for a long lifespan, but for airplanes and cars this news could be devastating, requiring major rebuilds on many operating vehicles.


Businesses

New Law Bans California Employers From Asking Applicants Their Prior Salary (sfgate.com) 320

An anonymous reader shares a report: California employers can no longer ask job applicants about their prior salary and -- if applicants ask -- must give them a pay range for the job they are seeking, under a new state law that takes effect Jan. 1. AB168, signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, applies to all public- and private-sector California employers of any size. The goal is to narrow the gender wage gap. If a woman is paid less than a man doing the same job and a new employer bases her pay on her prior salary, gender discrimination can be perpetuated, the bill's backers say. Last year, the state passed a weaker law that said prior compensation, by itself, cannot justify any disparity in compensation. The new bill goes further by prohibiting employers, "orally or in writing, personally or through an agent," from asking about an applicant's previous pay. However, if the applicant "voluntarily and without prompting" provides this information, the employer may use it "in determining the salary for that applicant."
Businesses

Dodging Russian Spies, Customers Are Ripping Out Kaspersky (thedailybeast.com) 303

From a report: Multiple U.S. security consultants and other industry sources tell The Daily Beast customers are dropping their use of Kaspersky software all together, particularly in the financial sector, likely concerned that Russian spies can rummage through their files. Some security companies are being told to only provide U.S. products. And former Kaspersky employees describe the firm as reeling, with department closures and anticipation that researchers will jump ship soon. "We are under great pressure to only use American products no matter the technical or performance consequences," said a source in a cybersecurity firm which uses Kaspersky's anti-virus engine in its own services. The Daily Beast granted anonymity to some of the industry sources to discuss internal deliberations, as well as the former Kaspersky employees to talk candidly about recent events.
Robotics

Bankers Publicly Embracing Robots Are Privately Fearing Job Cuts (bloomberg.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Within the upper echelons of many financial firms, there's a lot of soul searching as executives prepare to roll out a new generation of technology. Publicly, they're upbeat, predicting machines will perform almost all repetitive tasks, freeing humans to focus on more valuable pursuits. Privately, many confide to peers, consultants and sometimes journalists that they're worried about what will happen to their staffs -- and what to tell them. There's also uncertainty. Maybe it's all overblown, executives say, because the tech will be hard to implement and humans will find new roles. Or perhaps it's the beginning of the end for legions of professionals in one of the world's most lucrative fields. Can jobs held by office-dwelling millionaires disappear like those on factory floors? The result, is that employees aren't getting a clear message on what's to come.

For a rosy scenario, look to McKinsey & Co. In July, the consulting firm published a report estimating machines are ready to assume roughly a third of the work now performed by banks' rank and file. The authors framed it as positive: People will have more time to tend to clients, conduct research or brainstorm ideas. So far, it noted, firms at the forefront aren't slashing jobs. At JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the most tech-savvy banks, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon predicted in June that his workforce will more likely grow than shrink over the next 20 years. Technology may displace workers, he's said, but it also creates opportunities. Yet in interviews, about a dozen Wall Street executives and consultants responsible for deploying technologies -- and steeped in their capabilities -- were more bearish on humans. Machines will take over task after task, they said, and banks simply won't need nearly as many people.

Patents

Activision Patents Pay-To-Win Matchmaker (rollingstone.com) 130

New submitter EndlessNameless writes: If you like fair play, you might not like future Activision games. They will cross the line to encourage microtransactions, specifically matching players to both encourage and reward purchase. Rewarding the purchase, in particular, is an explicit and egregious elimination of any claim to fair play. "For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase," according to the patent. "This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results." Even though the patent's examples are all for a first-person-shooter game, the system could be used across a wide variety of titles. "This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios," an Activision spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. "It has not been implemented in-game." Bungie also confirmed that the technology isn't being used in games currently on the market, mentioning specifically Destiny 2.
The Military

SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Win US Air Force General's Endorsement (bloomberg.com) 70

As the military looks to drive down costs, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk. "It would be 'absolutely foolish' not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which brings such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. 'Jay' Raymond said," reports Bloomberg. From the report: "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly." The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."
The Internet

Russian Troll Factory Paid US Activists To Fund Protests During Election (theguardian.com) 643

bestweasel writes: The Guardian reports on another story about Russian meddling, but interestingly, this one comes from a respected Russian news source, the RBC. From the report: "Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the U.S. to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues. On Tuesday, the newspaper RBC published a major investigation into the work of a so-called Russian 'troll factory' since 2015, including during the period of the U.S. election campaign, disclosures that are likely to put further spotlight on alleged Russian meddling in the election. RBC said it had identified 118 accounts or groups in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that were linked to the troll factory, all of which had been blocked in August and September this year as part of the U.S. investigation into Russian electoral meddling. Perhaps the most alarming element of the article was the claim that employees of the troll factory had contacted about 100 real U.S.-based activists to help with the organization of protests and events. RBC claimed the activists were contacted by Facebook group administrators hiding their Russian origin and were offered financial help to pay for transport or printing costs. About $80,000 was spent during a two-year period, according to the report."
Businesses

Tesla Employees Detail How They Were Fired, Claim Dismissals Were Not Performance Related (cnbc.com) 247

New submitter joshtops shares a CNBC report: Tesla is trying to disguise layoffs by calling the widespread terminations performance related, allege several current and former employees. On Friday, the San Jose Mercury News first reported that Tesla had dismissed an estimated 400 to 700 employees. That number represents between 1 and 2 percent of its entire workforce. But one former employee, citing internal information shared by a manager, said the total number fired is higher than 700 at this point. Most of the people let go from Tesla so far have been from its motors business, said people familiar with the matter. They were not from other initiatives like Tesla Powerwall, which is helping restore electricity to the residents of Puerto Rico now. The mass firings, which affected Tesla employees across the U.S., had begun by the weekend of Oct. 7 and continued even after the initial news report, sources said. Among those whose jobs were terminated in this phase, some were given severance packages quickly while others are still waiting on separation agreements. Some terminated employees told CNBC they were informed via email or a phone call "without warning," and told not to come into work the next day. The company also dismissed other employees without specifying a given performance issue, according to these people. "Seems like performance has nothing to do with it," one Tesla employee told CNBC under the condition of anonymity. "Those terminated were generally the highest paid in their position," this person said, suggesting that the firings were driven by cost-cutting. That assessment was echoed by several others, including three employees fired from Tesla during this latest wave.
AT&T

Mobile Phone Companies Appear To Be Selling Your Location To Almost Anyone (techcrunch.com) 149

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: You may remember that last year, Verizon (which owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch) was punished by the FCC for injecting information into its subscribers' traffic that allowed them to be tracked without their consent. That practice appears to be alive and well despite being disallowed in a ruling last March: companies appear to be able to request your number, location, and other details from your mobile provider quite easily. The possibility was discovered by Philip Neustrom, co-founder of Shotwell Labs, who documented it in a blog post earlier this week. He found a pair of websites which, if visited from a mobile data connection, report back in no time with numerous details: full name, billing zip code, current location (as inferred from cell tower data), and more. (Others found the same thing with slightly different results depending on carrier, but the demo sites were taken down before I could try it myself.)
Television

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts (variety.com) 68

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.
Patents

Apple To Appeal Five-Year-Long Patent Battle After $439.7 Million Loss (theverge.com) 69

Appel has been ordered to pay $439.7 million to the patent-holding firm VirnetX for infringing on four patented technologies that were apparently used in FaceTime and other iOS apps. According to The Verge, Apple plans to appeal the ruling -- continuing this long-running patent battle, which began back in 2012. From the report: VirnetX first filed suit against Apple in 2010, winning $368 million just two years later. It then sued again in 2012, which is the suit that's being ruled on today. Apple initially lost the suit, then filed for a mistrial. It won a new trial, lost that trial, was ordered to pay around $300 million, then lost some more and is now having that amount upped even further. That's because a judge found Apple guilty of willful infringement, bumping its payment amount from $1.20 per infringing Apple device to $1.80 per device. Those include certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX says the ruling is "very reasonable." Apple didn't issue a statement other than to say that it plans to appeal. While $440 million isn't a lot of money for Apple, there's principle at stake here: VirnetX is a patent troll that makes its money from licensing patents and suing other parties. The company's SEC filing states, "Our portfolio of intellectual property is the foundation of our business model."
Businesses

eBay Launches Authentication Service To Combat Counterfeit High-End Goods (venturebeat.com) 69

Ecommerce giant eBay has launched a previously announced service designed to combat the scourge of fake goods on the platform. From a report: eBay has proven popular with fake goods' sellers for some time, with fashion accessories and jewelry featuring highly on counterfeiters' agenda. The company announced eBay Authenticate way back in January with a broad focus on giving "high-end" goods an official stamp of approval prior to sale. Ultimately designed to encourage buyers to part with cash on expensive items, it uses a network of professional authenticators who take physical receipt of a seller's products, validates them, and then photographs, lists, and ships the goods to the successful buyer. For today's launch of eBay Authenticate, the service is only available for luxury handbags from 12 brands, including Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino, though the program will be expanded to cover other luxury goods and brands from next year. "With tens-of-thousands of high-end handbags currently available, eBay is primed to boost customer confidence in selling and shopping for an amazing selection of designer merchandise," noted Laura Chambers, vice president of consumer selling at eBay. "We also believe our sellers will love this service, as it provides them with a white-glove service when selling luxury handbags."
Windows

Munich Plans New Vote on Dumping Linux For Windows 10 (techrepublic.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic: The city of Munich has suggested it will cost too much to carry on using Linux alongside Windows, despite having spent millions of euros switching PCs to open-source software... "Today, with a Linux client-centric environment, we are often confronted with major difficulties and additional costs when it comes to acquiring and operating professional application software," the city council told the German Federation of Taxpayers. Running Linux will ultimately prove unsustainable, suggests the council, due to the need to also keep a minority of Windows machines to run line-of-business software incompatible with Linux. "In the long term, this situation means that the operation of the non-uniform client landscape can no longer be made cost-efficient"... Since completing the multi-year move to LiMux, a custom-version of the Linux-based OS Ubuntu, the city always kept a smaller number of Windows machines to run incompatible software. As of last year it had about 4,163 Windows-based PCs, compared to about 20,000 Linux-based PCs.

The assessment is at odds with a wide-ranging review of the city's IT systems by Accenture last year, which found that most of the problems stem not from the use of open-source software, but from inefficiencies in how Munich co-ordinates the efforts of IT teams scattered throughout different departments. Dr. Florian Roth, leader of the Green Party at Munich City Council, said the review had also not recommended a wholesale shift to Windows. "The Accenture report suggested to run both systems because the complete 'rollback' to Windows and MS Office would mean a waste of experience, technology, work and money," he said... The city's administration is investigating how long it would take and how much it would cost to build a Windows 10 client for use by the city's employees. Once this work is complete, the council will vote again in November on whether this Windows client should replace LiMux across the authority from 2021.

A taxpayer's federation post urged "Penguin, adieu!" -- while also admitting that returning to Windows "will devour further tax money in the millions," according to TechRepublic.

"The federation's post also makes no mention of the licensing and other savings achieved by switching to LiMux, estimated to stand at about €10m."
The Almighty Buck

In a Cashless World, You'd Better Pray the Power Never Goes Out (mises.org) 452

schwit1 quotes the Mises Institue: When Hurricane Maria knocked out power in Puerto Rico, residents there realized they were going to need physical cash — and a lot of it. Bloomberg reported that the Fed was forced to fly a planeload of cash to the Island to help avert disaster. "William Dudley, the New York Fed president, put the word out within minutes, and ultimately a jet loaded with an undisclosed amount of cash landed on the stricken island. [Business executives in Puerto Rico] described corporate clients' urgent requests for hundreds of thousands in cash to meet payrolls, and the challenge of finding enough armored cars to satisfy endless demand at ATMs... As early as the day after the storm, the Fed began working to get money onto the island."

For a time, unless one had a hoard of cash stored up in ones home, it was impossible to get cash at all. 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power... Bloomberg continues: "When some generator-powered ATMs finally opened, lines stretched hours long, with people camping out in beach chairs and holding umbrellas against the sun." In an earlier article from September 25, Bloomberg noted how, without cash, necessities were simply unavailable:

"Cash only," said Abraham Lebron, the store manager standing guard at Supermax, a supermarket in San Juan's Plaza de las Armas. He was in a well-policed area, but admitted feeling like a sitting duck with so many bills on hand. "The system is down, so we can't process the cards. It's tough, but one finds a way to make it work."


Bitcoin

Ransomware Sales On the Dark Web Spike 2,502% In 2017 (carbonblack.com) 23

Slashdot reader rmurph04 writes: Ransomware is a $6.2 million industry, based on sales generated from a network of more than 6,300 Dark Web marketplaces that sell over 45,000 products, according to a report released Wednesday by cybersecurity firm Carbon Black.
While the authors of the software are earning six-figure incomes, ransom payments totalled $1 billion in 2016, according to FBI estimates -- up from just $24 million in 2015. Carbon Black, which was founded by former U.S. government "offensive security hackers," argues that ransomware's growth has been aided by "the emergence of Bitcoin for ransom payment, and the anonymity network, Tor, to mask illicit activities.. Bitcoin allows money to be transferred in a way that makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to 'follow the money.'"
Open Source

How Open Source Software Helps The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (hpe.com) 24

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler quotes Hewlett Packard Enterprise: When you handle trillions of dollars a year in transactions and manage the largest known vault of gold in the world, security and efficiency are top priorities. Open source reusable software components are key to the New York Fed's successful operation, explains Colin Wynd, vice president and head of the bank's Common Service Organization... The nearly 2,000 developers across the Federal Reserve System used to have a disparate set of developer tools. Now, they benefit from a standard toolset and architecture, which also places limits on which applications the bank will consider using. "We don't want a third-party application that isn't compatible with our common architecture," said Wynd.

One less obvious advantage to open source adoption is in career satisfaction and advancement. It gives developers opportunities to work on more interesting applications, said Wynd. Developers can now take on projects or switch jobs more easily across Federal Reserve banks because the New York Fed uses a lot of common open source components and a standard tool set, meaning retraining is minimal if needed at all."

Providing training in-house also creates a more consistent use of best practices. "Our biggest headache is to prove to groups that an application is secure, because we have to defend against nation state attacks."

Slashdot Top Deals