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The Courts

Apple Loses Ebook Price Fixing Appeal, Must Pay $450 Million 71 71

An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 today that Apple indeed conspired with publishers to increase ebook prices. The ruling puts Apple on the hook for the $450 million settlement reached in 2014 with lawyers and attorneys general from 33 states. The Justice Dept. contended that the price-fixing conspiracy raised the price of some e-books from the $10 standard set by Amazon to $13-$15. The one dissenting judge argued that Apple's efforts weren't anti-competitive because Amazon held 90% of the market at the time. Apple is unhappy with the ruling, but they haven't announced plans to take the case further. They said, "While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps."
Power

Bill Gates Investing $2 Billion In Renewables 275 275

An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates has dumped a billion dollars into renewables, and now he's ready to double down. Gates announced he will increase his investment in renewable energy technologies to $2 billion in an attempt to "bend the curve" on limiting climate change. He is focusing on risky investments that favor "breakthrough" technologies because he thinks incremental improvements to existing tech won't be enough to meet energy needs while avoiding a climate catastrophe. He says, "There's no battery technology that's even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it's cloudy and you don't have sun or you don't have wind. Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably." At the same time, Gates rejected calls to divest himself and his charitable foundation of investments in fossil fuel companies.
Advertising

How Television Is Fighting Off the Internet 192 192

HughPickens.com writes: Michael Wolff writes in the NY Times that online-media revolutionaries once figured they could eat TV's lunch by stealing TV's business model with free content supported by advertising. But online media is now drowning in free, and internet traffic has glutted the ad market, forcing down rates. Digital publishers, from The Guardian to BuzzFeed, can stay ahead only by chasing more traffic — not loyal readers, but millions of passing eyeballs, so fleeting that advertisers naturally pay less and less for them. Meanwhile, the television industry has been steadily weaning itself off advertising — like an addict in recovery, starting a new life built on fees from cable providers and all those monthly credit-card debits from consumers. Today, half of broadcast and cable's income is non-advertising based. And since adult household members pay the cable bills, TV content has to be grown-up content: "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Wire," "The Good Wife."

So how did this tired, postwar technology seize back the crown? Television, not digital media, is mastering the model of the future: Make 'em pay. And the corollary: Make a product that they'll pay for. BuzzFeed has only its traffic to sell — and can only sell it once. Television shows can be sold again and again, with streaming now a third leg to broadcast and cable, offering a vast new market for licensing and syndication. Television is colonizing the Internet and people still spend more time watching television than they do on the Internet and more time on the Internet watching television. "The fundamental recipe for media success, in other words, is the same as it used to be," concludes Wolff, "a premium product that people pay attention to and pay money for. Credit cards, not eyeballs."
Bitcoin

Greek Financial Crisis Is an Opportunity For Bitcoin 357 357

An anonymous reader writes: Greece's economy has been in trouble for several years, now, and a major vote next weekend will shake it up even further. The country can't pay its debts, and the upcoming referendum will decide whether they face increased austerity measures or start the process of exiting the Euro. One side effect of the crisis is that alternative currencies like Bitcoin suddenly look much more attractive as the "normal" currencies become unstable. "Tony Gallippi, the co-founder of bitcoin payment processor Bitpay, tweeted on Sunday night that he expected the price of bitcoin to rise to between $610 and $1,250 if Greece exits the Euro. The currency is currently worth $250. Part of the reason why the crisis is so tempting for proponents of the cryptocurrency is the echoes of a previous crisis in the Eurozone: the banking collapse in Cyprus in 2013, which saw that nation also impose capital controls to prevent massive outflows of currency from the panicking country. That collapse came at the same time as the first major boom in the price of bitcoin, which began the year at less than $20 and peaked at ten times that by early April – before it all came crashing down."
Space

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid 87 87

New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.

If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
The Almighty Buck

Philanthropy For Hackers 27 27

An anonymous reader writes: Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, was part of a generation of geeks who rode the dot-com boom to financial success. Over the past two decades, that population has dramatically increased, and former hackers are carving out spots as leaders of industry. In the Wall Street Journal, Parker has posted advice for how the hacker elite can approach philanthropy. He points out that they're already bringing a level of strategy and efficacy to charity work that hasn't been seen before. "These budding philanthropists want metrics and analytic tools comparable to the dashboards, like Mixpanel, that power their software products. They want to interact directly with the scientists, field workers and academics whose ideas power the philanthropic world but who have traditionally been hidden away in a backroom somewhere, shielded from their beneficiaries by so-called development officers." One thing he advises is keeping away from large charity organizations, which largely exist to keep themselves going. He also suggests getting actively involved with the political process, even if such organizations are often distasteful.
Security

My United Airlines Website Hack Gets Snubbed 186 186

Bennett Haselton writes: United Airlines announced that they will offer up to 1 million air miles to users who can find security holes in their website. I demonstrated a way to brute-force a user's 4-digit PIN number and submitted it to them for review, emailing their Bugs Bounty contact address on three occasions, but I never heard back from them. Read on for the rest. If you've had a different experience with the program, please chime in below.
Biotech

Controversial Trial of Genetically Modified Wheat Ends In Disappointment 187 187

sciencehabit writes: A controversial GM wheat trial has failed after more than £2 million of public money was spent protecting it from GM opponents. Researchers had hoped that the wheat modified to produce a warning pheromone would keep aphids away and attract their natural enemies, reducing the need for insecticides. Despite showing promise in the laboratory, the field trial failed to show any effect. “If you make a transgenic plant that produces that alarm continuously, it’s not going to work,” ecologist Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University in the Netherlands says. “You have a plant crying wolf all the time, and the bugs won’t listen to it any longer.”
Transportation

Lexus Creates a Hoverboard 102 102

walterbyrd writes: Lexus has built a functional prototype of a hoverboard that hovers several centimeters off the ground. The "Slide" is for demonstration purposes only and works through magnetic levitation created by superconductors, a spokesperson says. USA Today reports: "As cool as that sounds, there are some major limitations. Since it operates magnetically, it only can hover over a steel surface. And it also only works as long as the liquid nitrogen holds out."
The Almighty Buck

The Vicious Circle That Is Sending Rents Spiraling Higher 937 937

jones_supa writes: Skyrocketing rents and multiple roommates — these are the kinds of war stories you expect to hear in space-constrained cities such as New York and San Francisco. But the rental crunch has been steadily creeping inland from coastal cities and up the economic ladder. Bloomberg takes a look at the vicious cycle that keeps rents spiraling higher. People paying high rents have a harder time saving for a down payment, preventing tenants from exiting the rental market. Low vacancy rates let landlords raise rents still higher. Developers who know they can command high rents (and sales prices) are spurred to spend more to acquire developable land. Finally, higher land costs can force builders to target the higher end of the market. The interesting question is how long can this last before we reach a level that is not affordable to the majority of the demographic that is being serviced.
Mars

Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian 167 167

pacopico writes: In a new biography on him, Elon Musk goes into gory details on his plans for colonizing Mars. The author of the book subsequently decided to run those plans by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. Weir's book is famous for its technical acumen around getting to and from The Red Planet. His conclusion is that Musk's technology, which includes the biggest rocket ever built, is feasible — but that Musk will not be the first man on Mars. The interview also hits on the future of NASA and what we need to get to Mars. Good stuff. Weir says, "My estimate is that this will happen in 2050. NASA is saying more like 2035, but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them."
Earth

Recycling Is Dying 371 371

HughPickens.com writes: Aaron C. Davis writes in the Washington Post that recycling, once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, has become a money-sucking enterprise. Almost every recycling facility in the country is running in the red and recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around. "If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis," says David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, the nation's largest recycler.

The problem with recylcing is that a storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide. Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system. "We kind of got everyone thinking that recycling was free," says Bill Moore. "It's never really been free, and in fact, it's getting more expensive."

One big problem is that China doesn't want to buy our garbage anymore. In the past China had sent so many consumer goods to the United States that all the shipping containers were coming back empty. So US companies began stuffing the return-trip containers with recycled cardboard boxes, waste paper and other scrap. China could, in turn, harvest the raw materials. Everyone won. But China has launched "Operation Green Fence" — a policy to prohibit the import of unwashed post-consumer plastics and other "contaminated" waste shipments. In China, containerboard, a common packaging product from recycled American paper, is trading at just over $400 a metric ton, down from nearly $1,000 in 2010. China also needs less recycled newsprint; the last paper mill in Shanghai closed this year. "If the materials we are exporting are so contaminated that they are being rejected by those we sell to," says Valerie Androutsopoulos, "maybe it's time to take another look at dual stream recycling."
The Military

The US Navy's Warfare Systems Command Just Paid Millions To Stay On Windows XP 192 192

itwbennett writes: The Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products,' said Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. And that reliance on obsolete technology is costing taxpayers a pretty penny. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy's communications and information networks, signed a $9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Making Donations Count 268 268

An anonymous reader writes: As a recent college graduate I now have a job and enough money to actually buy things and donate to causes. Up until now I really haven't been paying attention to which groups are best to donate and which are scams. For example, Goodwill seems like a great organization until you dig deeper and discover they hire under privileged and disabled people only to exploit the related government handouts instead of doing it to benefit those people. What are some quality organizations to donate to? Who do you donate to and why? I'm looking for improving the poor, supporting constitutional rights, and supporting issues many Slashdotters can agree on such as net neutrality and anything against the media companies. I don't care what political group the money ends up going to. The specific case is more important than some arbitrary label. I'm also in the USA, so foreign recommendations are probably less helpful.
Science

General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal 163 163

schwit1 writes: General Mills announced Monday that it will be removing artificial colors and flavoring from its cereal products over the next two to three years. The company said that Trix and Reese's Puffs will be some of the first cereals to undergo the changes adding that cereals like Lucky Charms that have marshmallows may take longer to reformulate. They say 90 percent of their cereals will have no artificial ingredients by the end of 2016. "We've continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals," said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.
Government

Mayday PAC's Benjamin Singer Explains How You can Help Reform American Politics (Video) 232 232

Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC is a SuperPac that is working to eliminate the inherent corruption of having a government run almost entirely by people who manage to raise -- or have their "non-connected" SuperPACs raise -- most of the money they need to run their campaigns. The Mayday PAC isn't about right or left wing or partisan politics at all. It's about finding and supporting candidates who are in favor of something like last year's Government by the People Act. As we noted in our Mayday Pac interview with Larry Lessig last June, a whole panoply of tech luminaries, up to and including Steve Wozniak, are in favor of Mayday PAC.

This interview is being posted, appropriately, just before the 4th of July, but it's also just one day before the Mayday PAC Day of Action to Reform Congress. They're big on calling members of Congress rather than emailing, because our representatives get email by the (digital) bushel, while they get comparatively few issue-oriented phone calls from citizens. So Mayday PAC makes it easy for you to call your Congressional representatives and even, if you're too shy to talk to a legislative aide in person, to record a message Mayday PAC will leave for them after hours.

The five specific pieces of legislation Mayday PAC currently supports are listed at the RepsWith.US/reforms page. Two are sponsored by Republicans, two by Democrats, and one by an Independent. That's about as non-partisan as you can get, so no matter what kind of political beliefs you hold, you can support Mayday PAC with a clear conscience. (Note: the transcript has more information than the video, which is less than six minutes long.)
Music

Apple To Pay Musicians For Free Streams, After All 134 134

vivaoporto writes: As reported on Re/code, Apple media boss Eddy Cue appears to have capitulated and Apple Music will be paying music owners for streaming even during customers's free trial period. He says Taylor Swift's letter, coupled with complaints from indie labels and artists, did indeed prompt the change.

Cue says Apple will pay rights holders for the entire three months of the trial period. He explains that it can't be at the same rate that Apple is paying them after free users become subscribers, since Apple is paying out a percentage of revenues once subscribers start paying. Instead, he says, Apple will pay rights holders on a per-stream basis.

No word from Swift or her camp about whether Apple's move is enough to get her to put "1989," her newest album, on Apple Music. On Twitter, she says, "I am elated and relieved. Thank you for your words of support today. They listened to us."
Music

Taylor Swift: Apple's Disdain For Royalties Is 'Shocking, Disappointing' 368 368

Mark Wilson writes to note that Apple Music, yet unlaunched, already faces resistance on several fronts. From the BetaNews article: It's not just smaller, independent labels that are complaining about Apple's refusal to pay artists any royalties during the initial three month free trial period. Taylor Swift has added her voice to the growing number of complainants, writing an open letter to Apple in which she says she will withhold her new album "1989" from the service. In the letter, entitled "To Apple, Love Taylor," the singer says that the company's decision not to make royalty payments is "shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company." Swift is an artist who could afford to shoulder the cost of three months of not being paid by Apple, but she has chosen to make a stand and stick up for those who are less fortunate.
Books

Amazon Is Only Going To Pay Authors When Each Page Is Read 172 172

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has a new plan to keep self-published authors honest: they're only going to pay them when someone actually reads a page. Peter Wayner at the Atlantic explores how this is going to change the lives of the authors — and the readers. Fat, impressive coffee table books are out if no one reads them. Thin, concise authors will be bereft. Page turners are in.