The Almighty Buck

Fake Online Stores Reveal Gamblers' Shadow Banking System (reuters.com) 45

randomErr shares an exclusive report from Reuters: A network of dummy online stores offering household goods has been used as a front for internet gambling payments. The seven sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.
Education

The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows (utexas.edu) 105

An anonymous reader shares a study: Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
The Almighty Buck

Who Americans Spend Their Time With (theatlas.com) 103

Data scientist Henrik Lindberg has a series of fascinating charts based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that show who people in the United States spend their time with over the course of their lifetime. Check out the charts here. From a report on Quartz: Some of the relationships Lindberg found are intuitive. Time with friends drops off abruptly in the mid-30s, just as time spent with children peaks. Around the age of 60 -- nearing and then entering retirement, for many -- people stop hanging out with co-workers as much, and start spending more time with partners. Others are more surprising. Hours spent in the company of children, friends, and extended family members all plateau by our mid-50s. And from the age of 40 until death, we spend an ever-increasing amount of time alone. Those findings are consistent with research showing that the number of friends we have peaks around age 25, and plateaus between the ages of 45 and 55. Simply having fewer social connections doesn't necessarily equal loneliness. The Stanford University psychologist Linda Carstensen has found that emotional regulation improves with age, so that people derive more satisfaction from the relationships they have, whatever the number. Older people also report less stress and more happiness than younger people.
Businesses

The High-Tech Jobs That Created India's Gilded Generation Are Disappearing (washingtonpost.com) 148

An anonymous reader shares a report: Information technology services account for 9.5 percent of the India's gross domestic product, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), but now, after decades of boom, the future of the industry seems precarious. Since May, workers' groups have reported unusually numerous layoffs. The Forum for IT Employees (FITE) estimates that 60,000 workers have lost their jobs in the past few months (syndicated source). "Employees are being rated as poor performers so companies can get rid of them," said FITE's Chennai coordinator, Vinod A.J. IT companies and some government officials say the numbers have been exaggerated, but industry experts say the country's digital wunderkinds have much to fear. "For the first time, companies are touching middle management," said Kris Lakshmikanth, chief of a recruitment firm called Head Hunters India. Bias against Indians abroad is also compounding workers' fears of layoffs and downsizing at home. President Trump has stoked anxiety among Indian techies, who make up the majority of applicants for the H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreign workers. Trump has talked about sharply restricting H-1Bs, and this year the number of applications dropped a staggering 16 percent as companies prepared for Trump's immigration cutbacks. Instead, Indian outsourcing companies such as Infosys started recruiting Americans, bowing to Trump's calls for "America First." On Monday, India's Prime Minister Modi will meet Trump to talk about trade, visas and climate issues.
The Almighty Buck

Ethereum Exchange Reimburses Customer Losses After 'Flash Crash' (gdax.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: "The price of ethereum crashed as low as 10 cents from around $319 in about a second on the GDAX cryptocurrency exchange on Wednesday," reports CNBC, calling it "a move that is being blamed on a 'multimillion dollar market sell' order... As the price continued to fall, another 800 stop loss orders and margin funding liquidations caused ethereum to trade as low as 10 cents." An executive for the exchange said "Our matching engine operated as intended throughout this event and trading with advanced features like margin always carries inherent risk."

Though some users complained they lost money, the price rebounded to $325 -- and according to a report on one trading site, "one person had an order in for just over 3,800 ethereum if the price fell to 10 cents on the GDAX exchange," reports CNBC. "Theoretically this person would have spent $380 to buy these coins, and when the price shot up above $300 again, the trader would be sitting on over $1 million." Yet the currency exchange announced Friday that they're honoring everyone's gains, while also reimbursing customers who suffered losses. "We view this as an opportunity to demonstrate our long-term commitment to our customers and belief in the future of this industry."

The Almighty Buck

The People GoFundMe Leaves Behind (theoutline.com) 241

citadrianne shares a report from The Outline: President Donald Trump's proposed budget seeks to slash $54 billion from social services including programs like Medicaid and Meals on Wheels. As these resources dry up, crowdfunding websites will further entrench themselves as extra-governmental welfare providers in order to fill the gap. For a lucky few, these sites are a lifeline. For most people, they are worthless. Crowdfunding's fatal flaw is that not every campaign ends up getting the money it needs. A recent study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that more than 90 percent of GoFundMe campaigns never meet their goal. For every crowdfunding success story, there are hundreds of failures. "As many happy stories as there are in charitable crowdfunding, there are a lot of really worthy causes when you browse these platforms that nobody has given a cent to," Rob Gleasure, professor at the business school of the National University of Ireland, Cork told The Outline. "People haven't come across them." Feller and Gleasure's report highlighted how fickle crowdfunding can be. Of all the Razoo campaigns started in 2013, they found, more than a third didn't receive any funding at all. According to their report, donors are more likely to give to campaigns that feature lots of pictures and accompanying text.
Piracy

Sci-Hub Ordered To Pay $15 Million In Piracy Damages (torrentfreak.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two years ago, academic publisher Elsevier filed a complaint (PDF) against Sci-Hub and several related "pirate" sites. It accused the websites of making academic papers widely available to the public, without permission. While Sci-Hub is nothing like the average pirate site, it is just as illegal according to Elsevier's legal team, who obtained a preliminary injunction from a New York District Court last fall. The injunction ordered Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan to quit offering access to any Elsevier content. However, this didn't happen. Instead of taking Sci-Hub down, the lawsuit achieved the opposite. Sci-Hub grew bigger and bigger up to a point where its users were downloading hundreds of thousands of papers per day. Although Elbakyan sent a letter to the court earlier, she opted not engage in the U.S. lawsuit any further. The same is true for her fellow defendants, associated with Libgen. As a result, Elsevier asked the court for a default judgment and a permanent injunction which were issued this week. Following a hearing on Wednesday, the Court awarded Elsevier $15,000,000 in damages, the maximum statutory amount for the 100 copyrighted works that were listed in the complaint. In addition, the injunction, through which Sci-Hub and LibGen lost several domain names, was made permanent.
Businesses

'Chiropractors Are Bullshit' (theoutline.com) 322

From an article on The Outline, submitted by two readers: If you're one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who have suffered from back pain, you may have been referred to a chiropractor for medical help. In the modern-day internet landscape, you'll find chiropractic celebrities like Dr. Josh Axe (1.7 million Facebook followers), Dr. Billy DeMoss (20,000 Facebook followers), and Dr. Eric Berg (472,000 YouTube subscribers) giving advice that goes beyond managing spinal issues. Both in their offices and on social media, chiropractors have adapted to a marketplace that's demanding more than just pain management: they extol the virtues of an "alkaline diet," tell you how to manage stress with detoxing, and wax scientific about the adrenal gland. [...] Chiropractic care, I'm sorry to say, is little more than the buffoonery of a 19th-century lunatic who derived most of his medical theory from seances. It has not evolved much since its creation. Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation's practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death. Chiropractors can't replace your doctor, and I'm amazed that they're still even allowed to practice. [...] Though some chiropractors are now making an effort to introduce evidence-based practices into their treatment, chiropractic as a whole hasn't evolved like other areas of medicine -- with hypotheses, experimentation, and peer review. Instead, it was birthed by a strange combination of hocus pocus, guesswork, and strongly held religious beliefs.
Businesses

Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop $120 'Bio-Frequency Healing' Sticker Packs Get Shot Down by NASA (fastcompany.com) 213

From a report: Goop had claimed the costly "Body Vibes" stickers were "made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut's vitals during wear" and because of that were able to "target imbalances" of the human body's energy frequencies when they get thrown out of whack, reports Gizmodo. The thing is, NASA confirmed to Gizmodo that they "do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits" of astronauts. Further reading: The unbearable wrongness of Gwyneth Paltrow - The Outline.
Businesses

McDonald's Hits All-Time High As Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks (cnbc.com) 622

McDonald's is expected to increase its sales via new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants. As a result, the company's shares hit an all-time high, rallying 26 percent this year through Monday. CNBC reports: Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery. "MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery," Charles wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps [basis points] contribution to U.S. comps [comparable sales]." He raised his 2018 U.S. same store sales growth estimate for the fast-food chain to 3 percent from 2 percent.
Businesses

Wireless and Drone Execs Praised President Trump as He Pledged To Cut Down Regulations (recode.net) 88

U.S. President Donald Trump offered support for emerging technologies including unmanned aerial vehicles and next-generation wireless networks in a meeting on Thursday with the chiefs of AT&T and General Electric and other business leaders. From a report: For the likes of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the public audience with Trump offered an opportunity to continue nudging the U.S. government -- including in a scheduled, private session with the leader of the Federal Communications Commission earlier Thursday -- to cut back on restrictions that make it difficult for AT&T and other telecom giants to grow their footprint and deploy the new technologies, such as 5G wireless. Speaking with Recode later Thursday, Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, said that he and others in his industry had emphasized to Trump that the government must help them deploy new tools like small cells -- essentially, mini cell towers that improve wireless connectivity. Trump, for his part, promised Thursday to cut down on "too many years of excessive government regulation" to enable innovators and investments to offer new cutting-edge tools in health care, science, medicine and communication. "We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country," he said.
Government

FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine On Florida Robocall Scammer (reuters.com) 80

The FCC on Thursday proposed a $120 million fine on a Florida resident alleged to have made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls to trick consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies. Reuters reports: The man, identified as Adrian Abramovich, allegedly made 96 million robocalls during a three-month period by falsifying caller identification information that matched the local area code and the first three digits of recipient's phone number, the FCC said. The calls, which were in violation of the U.S. telecommunications laws, offered vacation deals from companies such as Marriott International Inc, Expedia Inc, Hilton Inc and TripAdvisor Inc. Consumers who answered the calls were transferred to foreign call centers that tried to sell vacation packages, often involving timeshares. These call centers were not related to the companies, the FCC said.
Businesses

Tesla Is Talking To the Music Labels About Creating Its Own Streaming Service (recode.net) 66

An anonymous reader shares a Recode report: Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity. Label sources aren't clear about the full scope of Tesla's ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering. The bigger question: Why doesn't Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start -- especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.? "We believe it's important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers."
Facebook

Facebook Has a New Mission: Bring the World Closer Together (cnn.com) 106

Facebook CEO believes the company's primary purpose is a social one -- the same it has had for year -- but he's ready to update this mission for the first time. From a report: "We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech. "But now we realize that we need to do more too. It's important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together." The company even has a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This marks the first time the company has overhauled its mission, which had previously been "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Zuckerberg believes he has just the tool for the job: Facebook Groups, which are now used by a billion people. "A lot of what we can do is to help create a more civil and productive debate on some of the bigger issues as well," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech.
Education

University of Missouri To Use Open Source And Other Cheaper Alternatives For General Education Textbook (columbiatribune.com) 58

Rudi Keller, writing for Columbia Tribune: The University of Missouri will move quickly to use open source and other cheaper alternatives for general education textbooks, building on initiatives already in place, system President Mun Choi said. At an event with members of the Board of Curators, administrators, lawmakers, faculty from all four campuses and student representatives, Choi said the intent is to save money for students while providing up-to-date materials. Faculty, including graduate assistants, will be eligible for incentive payments of $1,000 to $10,000 for preparing and adopting materials that save students money, Choi said. Textbooks are sometimes overlooked as a contributor to the cost of attending college, Choi said. "We want to provide our students an opportunity to have a low cost, high-quality alternative," Choi said.
Businesses

With Her Blog Post About Toxic Bro-Culture at Uber, Susan Fowler Proved That One Person Can Make a Difference (recode.net) 336

Kara Swisher, writing for Recode: It was Lao Tzu who said that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now -- culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick -- it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors. It was clear from the moment you read the 3,000-word post by former engineer Susan Fowler about her time at the car-hailing company that nothing was going to be the same. Titled simply, "Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber," the essay deftly and surgically laid out the map that the media and others would use to prove to its out-to-lunch board and waffling investors that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to go. In her account, Fowler was neither mean nor self-righteous, although in reading the story that she laid out about her horrible time there, it would have been completely fair for her to have taken that tone.
Businesses

Remember When You Called Someone and Heard a Song? (vice.com) 151

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: If you were youngish in the early 2000s, you probably remember this phenomenon -- calling a friend's cell phone, and instead of hearing the the standard ring, you heard a pop song. Called ringback tones, this digital music fad allowed cell phone owners to subject callers to their own musical preference. Ringback tones were incredibly trendy in the early and mid-2000's, but have since tapered off nearly to oblivion. Though almost nobody is buying ringbacks anymore, plenty of people still have them from back in the day. [...] In the process of writing this story, I heard from several people that they or someone they knew still had a ringback tone, in large part because they have had it for years, and don't know how to get rid of it.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Will Now Price Match Amazon, Walmart and Others On Over 50,000 Items (techcrunch.com) 68

eBay announced today a new Price Match Guarantee for over 50,000 items across its site -- promising that it will have the best deal online, or it will match the lowest price of a competitor. While only select items are available for this offer, "the move is a significant effort on eBay's part to ensure that it doesn't lose customers to Amazon, Walmart and other online stores as the market consolidates behind the industry's major players," reports TechCrunch. From the report: In order to qualify, the item must be one of the new, unopened items sold daily through eBay Deals, for starters. Deals are eBay's selection of "trending" inventory across all its categories -- like consumer electronics, home & garden, and fashion. The deals are also generally offered at 20 percent to 90 percent off, and are sourced from over 900 of eBay's trusted sellers. These sellers include both smaller merchants looking to grow their customer base as well as major consumer brands. At any time, eBay says there are "tens of thousands" of items offered through the Deals site, with featured deals updating at least once per day, beginning at 8 AM PT.
Security

Honda Shuts Down Factory After Finding NSA-derived Wcry In Its Networks (arstechnica.com) 63

A Honda factory near Tokyo was shuttered for over 24 hours this week after its computers became infected with WannaCry, the same ransomware virus responsible for crippling systems in dozens of countries last month, the car manufacturer said Wednesday. From a report: The automaker shut down its Sayama plant northwest of Tokyo on Monday after finding that WCry had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China, and other regions, Reuters reported Wednesday. Discovery of the infection came on Sunday, more than five weeks after the onset of the NSA-derived ransomware worm, which struck an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries. [...] Honda officials didn't explain why engineers found WCry in their networks 37 days after the kill switch was activated. One possibility is that engineers had mistakenly blocked access to the kill-switch domain. That would have caused the WCry exploit to proceed as normal, as it did in the 12 or so hours before the domain was registered. Another possibility is that the WCry traces in Honda's networks were old and dormant, and the shutdown of the Sayama plant was only a precautionary measure. In any event, the discovery strongly suggests that as of Monday, computers inside the Honda network had yet to install a highly critical patch that Microsoft released in March.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 171

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.

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