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The Almighty Buck

Every US Taxpayer Has Effectively Paid Apple At Least $6 in Recent Years (arstechnica.com) 181

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Apple has received at least $6 per American taxpayer over the last five years in the form of interest payments on billions' worth of United States Treasury bonds, according to a report by Bloomberg. Citing Apple's regulatory filings and unnamed sources, the business publication found "the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest." By taking advantage of a provision in the American tax code, Bloomberg says that Apple has "stashed much of its foreign earnings -- tax-free -- right here in the US, in part by purchasing government bonds." As The Wall Street Journal reported in September, American companies are believed to be holding approximately $2 trillion in cash overseas that is shielded from US taxes. Under American law, companies must pay a 35-percent corporate tax rate on global profits when that money is brought home -- so there is an incentive to keep as much of that money overseas as possible.
Microsoft

Microsoft Officially Closes Its $26.2B Acquisition of LinkedIn (techcrunch.com) 52

After getting its final European Commission approvals earlier this week, Microsoft and LinkedIn today announced that Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the social networking site, has officially closed. From a report on TechCrunch: The news comes six months after news first broke of the deal. In an internal memo, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner went through the areas where the two companies would be working together, and how they will in other ways remain independent. LinkedIn today has over 400 million registered users, making it the largest social networking site focused on the working world. People use the service both to make work connections with other people in their fields, but also to look for jobs and hire people. As we reported earlier this week, the fact that LinkedIn essentially has a dominant position in this area meant that Microsoft had to make concessions to the EC about how it would work to allow other social networking sites to integrate on its platforms.
EU

EU Threatens Twitter And Facebook With Possible 'Hate Speech' Laws (gizmodo.com) 371

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: On Sunday, the European Commission warned Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft that if the companies do not address their hate speech problems, the EU will enact legislation that will force them to do so. In May, those five companies voluntarily signed a code of conduct to fight illegal hate speech on their platforms within 24 hours... But on Sunday, the European Commission revealed that the companies were not complying with this code in a satisfactory manner.

"In practice the companies take longer and do not yet achieve this goal. They only reviewed 40 percent of the recorded cases in less than 24 hours," a Commission official told Reuters. The Commission's report found that YouTube responded to reports of harassment the fastest, and unsurprisingly, Twitter found itself in last place. "If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and the ministers that the non-legislative approach can work, they will have to act quickly and make a strong effort in the coming months," Jourova told the Financial Times on Sunday.

EU

CO2 Researchers Are Now Hacking Photosynthesis (chicagotribune.com) 119

Remember that story about the "artificial leaf" solar cells? Long-time Slashdot reader managerialslime quotes the Chicago Tribune: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
But meanwhile, in Germany: Biochemists led by Tobias Erb at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology...have developed a new, super-efficient method for living organisms to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Plants, algae, and other organisms turn CO2 into fuel. Erb and his colleagues reengineered this process, making it about 25 percent more energy efficient and potentially up to two or three times faster... Erb hopes that one day the CETCH cycle could be genetically engineered into living organisms, helping them more rapidly reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing useful materials.
The researchers created their new CO2-transforming cycle using 11 carefully chosen enzymes.
EU

Drupal Event Apologizes For Giving Out Copies Of Playboy (drupalcamp.de) 250

An anonymous reader writes: The organization team for a regional Drupal event apologized Thursday for distributing copies of Playboy to attendees. The magazines were distributed in welcome bags, according to a statement from the organizers of DrupalCamp Munich, and "were provided by Burda, a major German publisher, who also provided other technical magazines as part of their sponsorship. These magazines were approved for inclusion by the camp organizers.

"At the time, we thought it would be a good idea, as playboy.de was one of the first major Drupal 8 websites ever released. Upon reflection, this wasn't the best idea, and the magazines have been removed... It was a decision made in poor taste, and we regret it.

The inclusion of the magazine had attracted criticism on Twitter from both male and female developers, with one writing sarcastically, "Dunno about you, but I only read playboy.de for the Drupal code."
Botnet

International Authorities Take Down Massive 'Avalanche' Botnet, Sinkhole Over 800,000 Domains (arstechnica.com) 53

plover writes: Investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, Eurojust, Europol, and other global partners announced the takedown of a massive botnet named "Avalanche," estimated to have involved as many as 500,000 infected computers worldwide on a daily basis. A Europol release says: "The global effort to take down this network involved the crucial support of prosecutors and investigators from 30 countries. As a result, five individuals were arrested, 37 premises were searched, and 39 servers were seized. Victims of malware infections were identified in over 180 countries. In addition, 221 servers were put offline through abuse notifications sent to the hosting providers. The operation marks the largest-ever use of sinkholing to combat botnet infrastructures and is unprecedented in its scale, with over 800,000 domains seized, sinkholed or blocked." Sean Gallagher writes via Ars Technica: "The domains seized have been 'sinkholed' to terminate the operation of the botnet, which is estimated to have spanned over hundreds of thousands of compromised computers around the world. The Justice Department's Office for the Western Federal District of Pennsylvania and the FBI's Pittsburgh office led the U.S. portion of the takedown. 'The monetary losses associated with malware attacks conducted over the Avalanche network are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, although exact calculations are difficult due to the high number of malware families present on the network,' the FBI and DOJ said in their joint statement. In 2010, an Anti-Phishing Working Group report called out Avalanche as 'the world's most prolific phishing gang,' noting that the Avalanche botnet was responsible for two-thirds of all phishing attacks recorded in the second half of 2009 (84,250 out of 126,697). 'During that time, it targeted more than 40 major financial institutions, online services, and job search providers,' APWG reported. In December of 2009, the network used 959 distinct domains for its phishing campaigns. Avalanche also actively spread the Zeus financial fraud botnet at the time."
Space

San Francisco's 58-Story Millennium Tower Seen Sinking From Space (sfgate.com) 242

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: Engineers in San Francisco have tunneled underground to try and understand the sinking of the 58-story Millennium Tower. Now comes an analysis from space. The European Space Agency has released detailed data from satellite imagery that shows the skyscraper in San Francisco's financial district is continuing to sink at a steady rate -- and perhaps faster than previously known. The luxury high-rise that opened its doors in 2009 has been dubbed the Leaning Tower of San Francisco. It has sunk about 16 inches into landfill and is tilting several inches to the northwest. Engineers have estimated the building is sinking at a rate of about 1-inch per year. The Sentinel-1 twin satellites show almost double that rate based on data collected from April 2015 to September 2016. The satellite data shows the Millennium Tower sunk 40 to 45 millimeters -- or 1.6 to 1.8 inches -- over a recent one-year period and almost double that amount -- 70 to 75 mm (2.6 to 2.9 inches) -- over its 17-month observation period, said Petar Marinkovic, founder and chief scientist of PPO Labs which analyzed the satellite's radar imagery for the ESA along with Norway-based research institute Norut. The Sentinel-1 study is not focused on the Millennium Tower but is part of a larger mission by the European Space Agency tracking urban ground movement around the world, and particularly subsidence "hotspots" in Europe, said Pierre Potin, Sentinel-1 mission manager for the ESA. The ESA decided to conduct regular observations of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Hayward Fault, since it is prone to tectonic movement and earthquakes, said Potin, who is based in Italy. Data from the satellite, which is orbiting about 400 miles (700 kilometers) from the earth's surface, was recorded every 24 days. The building's developer, Millennium Partners, insists the building is safe for occupancy and could withstand an earthquake.
EU

Europe Is Getting a Network of 'Ultra-Fast, High-Powered' EV Chargers (theverge.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford, and Volkswagen have entered into a partnership to create a network of high-speed charging stations for electric vehicles across Europe. The new chargers will be capable of doling out up to 350 kW of power -- which would make them almost three times as powerful as Tesla's Supercharging stations. The result will be "the highest-powered charging network in Europe," according to a statement released by the manufacturers. The automakers say that construction will begin in 2017 with "about 400 sites" being targeted, and that the network will have "thousands of high-powered charging points" available by 2020. Those four major conglomerates will be "equal partners" in the joint venture, but according to the statement they are encouraging other manufacturers to "participate in the network." One of the reasons for bothering to call on other automakers to hook into this system is because there's a standards war happening with fast charging networks. The charging network announced today will use the Combined Charging System (CCS) technology, which is what that most major automakers already use for their EVs. But Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are notable holdouts from CCS, because many of their EVs and plug-in hybrids use a competing standard known as CHAdeMO.
EU

EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands (phys.org) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the U.S. and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.
EU

Uber Is About to Face a Landmark Battle in Europe (fortune.com) 106

In a case which could affect other app-based startups, Uber will seek to convince Europe's top court next week that it is a digital service, not a transport company. The outcome could determine whether app-based startups should be exempt from strict laws meant for regular companies. From a report on Fortune:The European Commission is trying to boost e-commerce, a sector where the EU lags behind Asia and the United States, to drive economic growth and create jobs. The U.S. taxi app, which launched in Europe five years ago, has faced fierce opposition from regular taxi companies and some local authorities, who fear it creates unfair competition because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules. Supporters however say rigid regulatory obligations protect incumbents and hinder the entry of digital startups which offer looser work arrangements to workers in the 28-country European Union looking for more flexibility, albeit without basic rights.
Microsoft

Microsoft Set To Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy (reuters.com) 24

Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday. From a report on Reuters: Microsoft last week told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn's rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition. The second plank of the concession is important because of the company's battle with the EU competition authority over the last decade and the policy of tying its products to block rivals, resulting in fines of more than 2.2 billion euros.
The Internet

Trump: I'll Ditch TPP Trade Deal on Day One of My Presidency (arstechnica.com) 600

US President-elect Donald Trump has confirmed that the U.S. will pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim nations -- "on day one" of his presidency. From a report on ArsTechnica: Trump, in a YouTube video outlining plans for his first 100 days in office, said: "I'm going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country." He added: "Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back on to American shores." An emphasis on bilateral trade deals may call into question both the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), involving dozens of nations, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Although the latter is between the US and the European Union, the complex political structure of the EU means that effectively 28 nations are involved and can influence the outcome of the deal. This was demonstrated by the dramatic intervention of the Walloon regional government in the signing of CETA, the bloc's trade deal with Canada.
United Kingdom

London's Mayor Wants Volkswagen To Pay $3 Million In Lost Tolls (citiesofthefuture.eu) 214

dkatana writes: Since the U.K. government has done nothing to make Volkswagen pay for Dieselgate, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, is asking VW to come up with 2.5 million pounds ($3 million) to compensate the city and its residents for the 80,000 diesel cars fitted with cheat devices. "I want to see a proper commitment from them [VW] to fully compensate the thousands of Londoners who bought Volkswagen cars in good faith, but whose diesel engines are now contributing to London's killer air."
The money will be used to fund a new air-quality program for London's schoolchildren, and Mayor Khan is also asking the government to create "a national diesel scrappage" program to help replace vehicles.
EU

Dutch Science Academy Plans A Women-Only Election (sciencemag.org) 266

greg65535 writes: In order to reduce its gender imbalance, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam will hold special election rounds, one in 2017 and one in 2018, for which only women can be nominated.
The plan "does not come at men's expense," argues the academy's president, Jose van Dijck, because all the regular election rounds for membership will also still continue as planned. Currently 13% of the academy's 556 members are women, a slightly higher percentage than the 10% at Germany's national science academy and the 6% in the U.K. The plan was proposed by two male board members and approved by a 73% majority, though ironically, the first female president of the U.S. National Academy of Science says "I don't think we would do that. Other people might feel that women elected this way somehow did not meet the same standards as their male counterparts, or even other women elected through the regular process."
EU

ESA Launches Four Galileo Satellites (fortune.com) 68

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched four additional Galileo satellites in to orbit on Thursday -- the first time the ESA has sent up so many satellites at once. The satellites will be used to thrust the EU into the global market for satellite navigation services, which it estimates will be worth 250 billion euros ($267 billion) by 2022, according to Fortune. The program has encountered some turbulence since the EU gave the go ahead with Galileo 16 years ago. In 2014, two Galileo satellites were launched into a wrong, lower orbit. As for today's launch, Slashdot reader nojayuk shares an excerpt from the ESA website: An Ariane 5 rocket has launched four additional Galileo satellites, accelerating deployment of the new satellite navigation system. The Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace, lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 13:06 GMT (14:06 CET, 10:06 local time) carrying Galileo satellites 15-18. The first pair was released 3 hours 35 minutes and 44 seconds after liftoff, while the second separated 20 minutes later. The Galileos are at their target altitude, after a flawless release from the new dispenser designed to handle four satellites. This was the first flight of a heavy-lift ES-variant of the Ariane V since the ATV resupply missions to the ISS. Previously Galileo satellites have been launched in pairs by Soyuz-Fregat craft from French Guiana. Two additional Ariane 5 launches each carrying four Galileo satellites are scheduled in 2017 and 2018. The full system of 24 satellites plus spares is expected to be in place by 2020.
Facebook

German Minister: Facebook Should Be Treated Like a Media Company Rather Than a Technology Platform (reuters.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Germany's Justice Minister says he believes Facebook should be treated like a media company rather than a technology platform, suggesting he favors moves to make social media groups criminally liable for failing to remove hate speech. Under a program that runs until March, German authorities are monitoring how many racist posts reported by Facebook users are deleted within 24 hours. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has pledged to take legislative measures if the results are still unsatisfactory by then. Maas has said the European Union needs to decide whether platform companies should be treated like radio or television stations, which can be held accountable for the content they publish. Under current EU guidelines Facebook and other social media networks are not liable for any criminal content or hate posts hosted on their platform. Instead, in May Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter signed the EU hate speech code, vowing to fight racism and xenophobia by reviewing the majority of hate speech notifications within 24 hours. But the code is voluntary not legally binding. The state justice ministers meeting in Berlin called on the government to take swift action against hate speech on the Internet. The ministers called for more transparency and said social media companies should be obliged to regularly publish figures on how many hate posts have been deleted. They also wanted more public information on how notifications are processed and the criteria behind the decision making. Facebook says it is a technology company, not a media company, that builds the tools to supply users with news and information but does not produce content.
Social Networks

Facebook Stops Collecting WhatsApp User Data in Europe After Government Pressure (theverge.com) 24

Facebook has stopped collecting WhatsApp user data across Europe, bowing to pressure from privacy watchdogs across the continent. The shift in policy means that European users of the messaging app will no longer have information -- including phone numbers -- relayed to Facebook, but the social network says it may only be a temporary suspension while the laws are debated. From a report on The Verge: "We hope to continue our detailed conversations with the UK Information Commissioner's Office and other data protection officials," Facebook says, confirming that it "remain[s] open to working collaboratively to address their questions." Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, but only started to collect data from its users in August this year. That move drew criticism from Europe's data collection authorities, 28 of whom signed an open letter sent last month in which they urged WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum to suspend data collection until the legality was worked out.
EU

Microsoft Offers Concessions To EU Regulators Eyeing Its $26.2 Billion LinkedIn Bid (techcrunch.com) 16

Microsoft has offered concessions to EC competition regulators in the hopes of smoothing the way for its planned acquisition of LinkedIn. From an article on TechCrunch, submitted by an anonymous reader: An EC spokesperson confirmed it has received "a commitments proposal" from Microsoft but declined to comment further. Commitments, in EC antitrust nomenclature, refers to remedies a company can offer if the Commission has concerns a merger/acquisition may significantly affect competition. These can include proposing certain modifications to the project to guarantee continued competition on the market.The news comes two weeks after Salesforce (which itself tried to purchase LinkedIn) urged EU to take a closer look at Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn.
Security

1 Billion Mobile Apps Exposed To Account Hijacking Through OAuth 2.0 Flaw (threatpost.com) 77

Threatpost, the security news service of Kaspersky Lab, is reporting a new exploit which allows hijacking of third-party apps that support single sign-on from Google or Facebook (and support the OAuth 2.0 protocol). msm1267 quotes their article: Three Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers presented at Black Hat EU last week a paper called "Signing into One Billion Mobile LApp Accounts Effortlessly with OAuth 2.0"... The researchers examined 600 top U.S. and Chinese mobile apps that use OAuth 2.0 APIs from Facebook, Google and Sina -- which operates Weibo in China -- and support single sign-on for third-party apps. The researchers found that 41.2% of the apps they tested were vulnerable to their attack... None of the apps were named in the paper, but some have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times and can be exploited for anything from free phone calls to fraudulent purchases.
"The researchers said the apps they tested had been downloaded more than 2.4 billion times in aggregate."
It's funny.  Laugh.

German Police Mock 'Not Very Clever' ATM Robbers (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: German police mocked a group of bungling crooks that tried to rob an ATM, but instead of malware they chose explosives, which they unwittingly placed near a device that issued bank statements, and not the actual money-dispensing ATM... The crooks placed small explosive charges next to a machine they thought to be an ATM, in the hopes of breaking its outer casing and getting access to the money vault inside... After being called in to investigate the loud blast that woke up the bank's neighbors German police discovered a partially destroyed bank statement printing machine... No money was stolen in the failed robbery, police reported.
In a statement on the Berlin police department's official web site, they described the ATM thieves as "not very clever."

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