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The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 313

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 123

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 32

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
China

China's Millennials Are Hustling For Part-Time Gigs Instead of Traditional Jobs (bloomberg.com) 139

Bloomberg has a report today in which it underscores a growing trend among millennials in China who are looking for part-time jobs. From the article: Hopping from one short-term stint to another isn't the sort of aspiration an earlier generation had in China, where the middle-class dream has long been university degrees followed by a stable job -- preferably one backed by the government. In a 2016 poll of 13,000 college students, 48 percent said they didn't want to enter the traditional labor market. Hardly any of these part-time jobs pay well, but it doesn't matter to millennials. The report adds: "The money is little," Zhang Chen, a 21-year-old accounting student said of the short gig that pays about 240 yuan ($35). "But I want a more interesting life." Chen was lined up for the work through DouMi, a startup that focuses exclusively on part-time positions and blends elements of a temp agency with an internet jobs board and marketing service. For around 130 yuan a day, DouMi users can sort crates of milk at a supermarket or hand out pamphlets on frozen sidewalks. Those considered "beautiful women," and between the ages of 18 and 28, can make four times as much plus tips by working as live-streaming models to keep mostly-male viewers entertained. Many of the roles run for mere days or weeks at a time, a flexibility that suits those juggling social lives and university studies. "Every month we have between 300,000 and 400,000 jobs," said Chief Executive Officer Zhao Shiyong.
Piracy

Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited, Rules A New Zealand Court (reuters.com) 187

Kim Dotcom -- and Megaupload's programmers Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, as well as its advertising manager Finn Batato -- could soon be in a U.S. courtroom. A New Zealand judge just ruled they can all be extradited to the U.S. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The Auckland High Court upheld the decision by a lower court in 2015 on 13 counts, including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, although it described that decision as "flawed" in several areas. Dotcom's lawyer Ron Mansfield said in a statement the decision was "extremely disappointing" and that Dotcom would appeal to New Zealand's Court of Appeal.

U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material. High Court judge Murray Gilbert said that there was no crime for copyright in New Zealand law that would justify extradition but that the Megaupload-founder could be sent to the United States to face allegations of fraud.

"I'm no longer getting extradited for copyright," Dotcom commented on Twitter. "We won on that. I'm now getting extradited for a law that doesn't even apply.
The Almighty Buck

A Source Code Typo Allowed An Attacker To Steal $592,000 In Cryptocurrency (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: "A typo in the Zerocoin source code allowed an attacker to steal 370,000 Zerocoin, which is about $592,000 at today's price," reports BleepingComputer. According to the Zcoin team, one extra character left inside Zerocoin's source code was the cause of the bug. The hacker exploited the bugs for weeks, by initiating a transaction and receiving the money many times over.

"According to the Zcoin team, the attacker (or attackers) was very sophisticated and took great care to hide his tracks," reports the site. "They say the attacker created numerous accounts at Zerocoin exchanges and spread transactions across several weeks so that traders wouldn't notice the uneven transactions volume... The Zcoin team says they worked with various exchanges to attempt and identify the attacker but to no avail. Out of the 370,000 Zerocoin he stole, the attacker has already sold 350,000. The Zcoin team estimates the attacker made a net profit of 410 Bitcoin ($437,000)."

It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 67

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Biotech

SpaceX's Next Launch Carries Colonies Of A Drug-Resistant Superbug (businessinsider.com.au) 56

An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: SpaceX is preparing to launch a lethal, antibiotic-resistant superbug into orbit...to live its days in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The idea is not to weaponize space with MRSA -- a bacterium that kills more Americans every year than HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, and homicide combined -- but to send its mutation rates into hyperdrive, allowing scientists to see the pathogen's next moves well before they appear on Earth. The NASA-funded study will see SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch colonies of MRSA into space, to be cultivated in the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station.

"We will leverage the microgravity environment on the ISS to accelerate the Precision Medicine revolution here on Earth," lead researcher Anita Goel, CEO of biotech company Nanobiosym, told Yahoo News... "Our ability to anticipate drug-resistant mutations with Gene-RADAR will lead to next generation antibiotics that are more precisely tailored to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous pathogens," says Goel.

That launch was scheduled for today, but SpaceX postponed it to "take a closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle." [UPDATE: The launch was completed successfully on Sunday.] Two more externally-mounted payloads will conduct other experiments, with one monitoring lightning strikes on earth and the other measuring chemicals in the earth's atmosphere. In addition, there's also 21 science experiments that were submitted by high school students

Meanwhile, Slashdot reader tomhath brings news that researchers have discovered the red berries of a U.S. weed can help fight superbugs. The researchers found "extracts from the Brazilian peppertree, which traditional healers in the Amazon have used for hundreds of years to treat skin and soft-tissue infections, have the power to stop methicillin-resistant MRSA infections in mice." One of the researchers said the extract "weakens the bacteria so the mouse's own defenses work better."
Microsoft

Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes (qz.com) 384

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. "You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed" of automation, Gates argues. That's because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it's important to be able to manage that displacement. "You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates' remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz' report.
AI

EU Moves To Bring In AI Laws, But Rejects Robot Tax Proposal (newatlas.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: The European Parliament has voted on a resolution to regulate the development of artificial intelligence and robotics across the European Union. Based on a raft of recommendations drafted in a report submitted in January to the legal affairs committee, the proposed rules include establishing ethical standards for the development of artificial intelligence, and introducing an insurance scheme to cover liability for accidents involving driverless cars. Not every element in the broad-ranging report was accepted by the Parliament though, with a recommendation to institute a "robot tax" roundly rejected. The robot tax proposal was designed to create a fund that manages the repercussions and retraining of workers made redundant through the increased deployment of industrial and service robots. But those in the robotics industry were supportive of the Parliamentary rejection, with the International Federation of Robotics suggesting to Reuters a robot tax would have been harmful to the burgeoning industry, stifling innovation and competitiveness. The European Parliament passed the resolution comfortably with 396 votes to 123, with 85 abstentions.
The Almighty Buck

Accenture To Create 15,000 Jobs In US (reuters.com) 202

Accenture said on Friday it would create 15,000 "highly skilled" new jobs in the United States, as IT services firms brace for a more protectionist U.S. technology visa program under President Donald Trump. From a report on Reuters: The company, which is domiciled in Dublin, Ireland, said the new jobs would increase the company's U.S. workforce by 30 percent to more than 65,000 by the end of 2020. Accenture has more than 394,000 employees, of which about 140,000 are in India. IT services companies have come under the spotlight after Trump said that his administration would focus on creating more jobs for U.S. workers, who had been affected by the outsourcing of jobs abroad. Major IT service companies, particularly those based in India, fly engineers to the United States using H-1B visas to service clients, but some opponents argue they are misusing the visa program to replace U.S. jobs.
Businesses

No CEO: The Swedish Company Where Nobody Is In Charge (bbc.com) 181

Katie Hope, reporting for BBC: Three years ago, Swedish software consultancy Crisp decided that the answer was no. The firm, which has about 40 staff, had already trialled various organisational structures, including the more common practice of having a single leader running the company. Crisp then tried changing its chief executive annually, based on a staff vote, but eventually decided collectively that no boss was needed. Yassal Sundman, a developer at the firm, explains: "We said, 'what if we had nobody as our next CEO -- what would that look like?' And then we went through an exercise and listed down the things that the CEO does." The staff decided that many of the chief executive's responsibilities overlapped with those of the board, while other roles could be shared among other employees. "When we looked at it we had nothing left in the CEO column, and we said, 'all right, why don't we try it out?'" says Ms Sundman.
Businesses

Samsung Chief Lee Arrested In Corruption Investigation (reuters.com) 24

According to Reuters, Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye. From the report: The 48-year-old Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre, where he had awaited the court's decision following a day-long, closed-door hearing that ended on Thursday evening. The judge's decision was announced at about 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT) on Friday, more than 10 hours after Lee, the sprawling conglomerate's third-generation leader, had left the court. The same court rejected a request from prosecutors last month to arrest Lee. On Tuesday, the special prosecutor's office had requested a warrant to arrest him and another executive, Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, on bribery and other charges. The prosecution said it had secured additional evidence and brought more charges against Lee in the latest warrant request. While Lee's detention is not expected to hamper day-to-day operation of Samsung Group companies, which are run by professional managers, experts have said it could affect strategic decision-making by South Korea's biggest conglomerate. Prosecutors have focused their investigations on Samsung's relationship with Park, 65, who was impeached by parliament in December and has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment. They accused Samsung of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to organizations linked to Choi to secure the government's backing for a merger of two Samsung units. That funding includes Samsung's sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi's daughter, who is in detention in Denmark, having been on a South Korean wanted list.
Privacy

Scottish Court Awards Damages For CCTV Camera Pointed At Neighbor's House (boingboing.net) 95

AmiMoJo quotes a report from BoingBoing: Edinburgh's Nahid Akram installed a CCTV system that let him record his downstairs neighbors Debbie and Tony Woolley in their back garden, capturing both images and audio of their private conversations, with a system that had the capacity to record continuously for five days. A Scottish court has ruled that the distress caused by their neighbor's camera entitled the Woolleys to $21,000 (17,000 British Pounds) in damages, without the need for them to demonstrate any actual financial loss. The judgment builds on a 2015 English court ruling against Google for spying on logged out Safari users, where the users were not required to show financial losses to receive compensation for private surveillance.
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Businesses

Check Your Privacy Filters: Facebook Wants To Be the New LinkedIn (cnet.com) 85

From a report on CNET: Facebook isn't just for wasting time in the office. It can now help you find a new job entirely. The social network has unveiled a Jobs page, which allows businesses to list all kinds of work for you to find. You can even apply for the job and make contact with recruiters directly through Facebook. This could be seen as a challenge to competing services such as LinkedIn, the recruiting network acquired by Microsoft last December. But while LinkedIn is entirely focused on business, Facebook's social aspects could make it easier for potential employers to trawl your profile for details of your personal life.
Iphone

Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area' (appleinsider.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.
Transportation

Nearly 56,000 Bridges Called Structurally Deficient (usatoday.com) 240

schwit1 quotes a report from USA Today: Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday. The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention. More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group. "America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization." The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.
Patents

Patent Office Rules CRISPR Patents, Potentially Worth Billions, Belong To Broad Institute (theverge.com) 69

According to a ruling by judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the disputed patents on the gene-editing tool CRISPR belong to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "The ruling comes a little over two months after a high-profile court hearing, during which MIT and University of California, Berkeley heatedly argued about who should own CRISPR," The Verge reports. From their report: STAT News reported that the decision was one sentence long. The three judges decided that the Broad patents are different enough from the ones the University of California applied for that the Broad patents stand. The patent ruling suggests that the work done by Jennifer Doudna of the University of California and her colleagues on CRISPR wasn't so groundbreaking as to make any other advance obvious. But that legal opinion isn't how the science world views her work, STAT points out: "Doudna and her chief collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in the life sciences in 2015, the $500,000 Gruber Genetics Prize in 2015, and the $450,000 Japan Prize in 2017," the outlet notes.
Power

Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US (arstechnica.com) 200

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: At 2.25 gigawatts, Arizona's Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-burning power plant in the Western U.S. The plant, and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it, are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Navajo and Hopi peoples have had a conflicted relationship with coal since the plant opened in the 1970s. Almost all the 900-plus jobs at the mine and plant are held by Native Americans, and the tribes receive royalties to account for large portions of their budget. Negotiations were underway to improve the tribes' lease terms, which expire in 2019. But on Monday, the four utilities that own most of the plant voted to close it at the end of 2019. They decided that the plant's coal-powered electricity just can't compete with plants burning natural gas. A press release from Salt River Projects, which runs the plant, explained, "The decision by the utility owners of [Navajo Generating Station] is based on the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry, which has seen natural gas prices sink to record lows and become a viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power."

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