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The Almighty Buck

Plaintiffs From Seven States Sue Comcast For Misleading, Hidden Fees ( 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Back in 2013 Comcast began charging customers what it called the "Broadcast TV Fee." The fee, which began at $1.25 per month, has jumped to $6.50 (depending on your market) in just three years. As consumers began to complain about yet another glorified rate hike, the company in 2014 issued a statement proclaiming it was simply being "transparent," and passing on the cost of soaring programmer retransmission fees on to consumers. There's several problems with Comcast's explanation. One, however pricey broadcaster retransmission fees have become (and keep in mind Comcast is a broadcaster), programming costs are simply the cost of doing business for a cable company, and should be included in the overall price. Comcast doesn't include this fee in the overall price because sticking it below the line let's the company falsely advertise a lower rate. Inspired by the banking sector, this misleading practice has now become commonplace in the broadband and cable industry. Whether it's CenturyLink's $2 per month "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" or Fairpoint's $3 per month "Broadband Cost Recovery Fee," these fees are utterly nonsensical, and inarguably false advertising. And while the FCC can't be bothered to take aim at such misleading business practices, Federal class action lawsuit filed this week in California is trying to hold Comcast accountable for the practice. Plaintiffs from seven states -- including New Jersey, Illinois, California, Washington, Colorado, Florida and Ohio -- have sued Comcast alleging consumer fraud, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and breach of contract. What's more, the fee has consistently skyrocketed, notes the lawsuit. Comcast initially charged $1.50 when the fee first appeared back in 2013, but now charges upwards of $6.50 more per month in many markets -- a 333% increase in just three years.

RIAA Seizes Wrong MP3Skull Domain ( 49

Reader AmiMoJo writes: In its continued quest to keep the Internet piracy-free, the RIAA has seized the domain name of yet another MP3Skull site. However, it appears that their most recent target has nothing to do with the original service. Earlier this year a Florida federal court issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site's domain names. Despite the million dollar verdict MP3Skull continued to operate for several months, using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA's legal team. Now, an unrelated YouTube converter, has also been seized.

How Tech Companies Are Responding To Hurricane Matthew ( 38

South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Matthew at 11 a.m. EST, after the hurricane killed at least 300 people in Haiti (with Reuters estimating Haiti's death toll over 800). But as the U.S. declares a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and with the power out for more than a million people, an anonymous Slashdot reader looks at the role tech companies are playing in responding to the storm system: AirBNB "has been advertising free rooms in parts of Florida and South Carolina" reports Motherboard. AirBNB's Disaster Reponse Tool connects people needing shelter with volunteers who are offering their residences for free. Meanwhile, Uber promised to cap its "surge pricing" for the area, while Lyft promised its fares would rise no more than two times their normal rate.

But many escaped the path of the hurricane thanks to Shofur, a startup that books chartered buses and matches riders to low-cost tickets, according to the Daily Dot. "Through Thursday night and into the early morning hours of Friday, Shofur evacuated an estimated 10,000 Floridians and Georgians to areas such as Atlanta, Florida's west coast, and the panhandle."

NASA is also flying a huge 15,000-pound drone over the area to collect real-time weather data, while Verizon is testing a 17-foot drone which may one day provide LTE mobile connectivity to first responders. In addition, a Verizon spokesperson says drone-enabled connectivity has "set the stage" for connecting drones to their IoT platform next year.

Kennedy Space Center Braces For Hurricane Matthew ( 82

Hurricane Matthew, one of the most powerful storms to hit Florida's Space Coast in the last 50 years, is expected to pummel the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday night and into Friday. "Kennedy Space Center is now in HurrCon 1 status, meaning a hurricane is imminent. Hurricane preparations at Kennedy were completed early last night, and remaining employees were then sent home," NASA spokesman George Diller said in a blog post today. CBS News reports: The National Hurricane Center is predicting heavy rain, dangerous storm surges and winds gusting up to 140 mph along Florida's east coast with the eye passing just off shore or directly over Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Satellite observations of Matthew show the hurricane features "a distinct eye surrounded by very deep convection," the National Hurricane Center reported in its 11 a.m. EDT update. "Data from an Air Force reconnaissance plane traversing the eye of the hurricane also indicate that Matthew has strengthened. Members of a 139-member "rideout" team will be stationed at various facilities across the space center to monitor critical systems "and report any significant events" to emergency operations personnel in the Complex 39 Launch Control Center where space shuttle launchings were once managed. "After the hurricane has passed, and winds have dropped below 50 knots, areas around KSC will be assessed and the damage assessment and recovery team will report for duty," said Diller. You can view satellite images of the storm here.

AT&T Gigabit Internet Coming To 11 More US Regions ( 64

AT&T is bringing its gigabit Internet service to 11 new metro areas. Currently available in parts of 29 cities around the country, the ultra-fast network -- which the company is now calling AT&T Fiber -- is expected to reach another 45 locations by the end of this year, reads a PCMag article. From the report: That includes 11 new markets: Florida: Gainesville and Panama City, Georgia: Columbus, Kentucky: Central Kentucky, Louisiana: Lafayette, Mississippi: Biloxi-Gulfport and Northeast Mississippi, Tennessee: Southeastern Tennessee and Knoxville, and Texas: Corpus Christi.

Judge Allows Small Businesses To Sue Credit Card Giants For Forcing Them To Adopt Chip Readers ( 311

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Computerworld: A federal judge has ruled it is plausible that four national credit-card companies improperly conspired "in lockstep" to set a deadline of Oct. 1, 2015 for requiring retailers to upgrade their technology to accept embedded chip cards for credit and debit card purchases. In an order issued Friday (Case number C 16-01150 WHA), U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup agreed with two small Florida businesses -- B and R Supermarket and Grove Liquors -- which brought the lawsuit in March. Alsup's ruling also allows the antitrust case against Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Financial Services to move forward in federal court for the Northern District of California. The two retailers are seeking to create a class-action case involving millions of small retailers who have been required under the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline to assume liability for fraudulent card charges if they haven't upgraded to the more-secure chip card technology instead of magnetic-stripe cards. The retailers believe there was industry conspiracy over creation of the deadline that violates fair trade practices. In the same ruling, the judge allowed two other retailers -- Los Angeles-based gourmet food chain Monsieur Marcel and New York-based grocery story chain Fine Fare -- to intervene in the case. Lawyers for the retailers have said a class-action lawsuit could include 8 million U.S. small businesses. They would seek repayment of the cost of upgrading to chip card readers and related software, estimated at $6 billion. However, the National Retail Federation has recently estimated the total cost of the conversion in the U.S. at up to $35 billion.

Newsweek Website Attacked After Report On Trump, Cuban Embargo ( 342

After Newsweek published a report titled "How Donald Trump's Company Violated The United States Embargo Against Cuba," the site found itself on the receiving end of a "massive" denial-of-service attack that managed to shut down the site for several hours. TPM reports: Editor-In-Chief Jim Impoco noted that the attack came as the story earned national attention. "Last night we were on the receiving end of what our IT chief called a 'massive' DoS (denial of service) attack," Impoco wrote in an email to TPM. "The site was down most of last evening, at a time when Kurt Eichenwald's story detailing how Donald Trump's company broke the law by violating the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba was being covered extensively by prominent cable news programs. Our IT team is still investigating the hack." Later Friday afternoon, Impoco emailed TPM that in an initial investigation, the "main" IP addresses linked to the attack were found to be Russian. It should be noted that it is possible to fake an IP address. "As with any DDoS attack, there are lots of IP addresses, but the main ones are Russian, though that in itself does not prove anything," he wrote. "We are still investigating." Eichenwald tweeted Friday morning: "News: The reason ppl couldnt read #TrumpInCuba piece late yesterday is that hackers launched a major attack on Newsweek after it was posted."

Elon Musk Proposes Spaceship That Can Send 100 People To Mars In 80 Days ( 497

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Mars vehicle -- the spaceship his company plans to build to transport the first colonists to Mars. It will have a diameter of 17 meters. The plan is to send about 100 people per trip, though Musk wants to ultimately take 200 or more per flight to make the cost cheaper per person. The trip can take as little as 80 days or as many as 150 depending on the year. The hope is that the transport time will be only 30 days "in the more distant future." The rocket booster will have a diameter of 12 meters and the stack height will be 122 meters. The spaceship should hold a cargo of up to 450 tons depending on how many refills can be done with the tanker. As rumored, the Mars vehicle will be reusable and the spaceship will refuel in orbit. The trip will work like this: First, the spaceship will launch out of Pad 39A, which is under development right now at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. At liftoff, the booster will have 127,800 kilonewtons of thrust, or 28,730,000 pounds of thrust. Then, the spaceship and booster separate. The spaceship heads to orbit, while the booster heads back to Earth, coming back within about 20 minutes. Back on Earth, the booster lands on a launch mount and a propellant tanker is loaded onto the booster. The entire unit -- now filled with fuel -- lifts off again. It joins with the spaceship, which is then refueled in orbit. The propellant tankers will go up anywhere from three to five times to fill the tanks of the spaceship. The spaceship finally departs for Mars. To make the trip more attractive for its crew members, Musk promises that it'll be "really fun" with zero-G games, movies, cabins, games, a restaurant. Once it reaches Mars, the vehicle will land on the surface, using its rocket engines to lower itself gently down to the ground. The spaceship's passengers will use the vehicle, as well as cargo and hardware that's already been shipped over to Mars, to set up a long-term colony. At the rate of 20 to 50 total Mars trips, it will take anywhere from 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization with one million people on Mars, says Musk.

SpaceX Blast Investigation Suggests Breach in Oxygen Tank's Helium System ( 79

Weeks after a SpaceX rocket exploded inexplicably, engineers at Elon Musk's company have traced the flaw to its source. Space today released the initial results of its investigation, in which it says that a breach in helium system in the Falcon 9's liquid oxygen system caused the sudden flare up. From a Reuters report: SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, was fueling a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad in Florida on Sept. 1 in preparation for a routine test-firing when a bright fireball suddenly emerged around the rocket's upper stage. "At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place," SpaceX said in a statement posted on its website. No one was hurt in the explosion, which could be heard 30 miles (48 km) away from SpaceX's launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The Courts

Florida Man Sues Samsung, Says Galaxy Note 7 Exploded ( 102

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Samsung Electronics Co was sued on Friday by a Florida man who said he suffered severe burns after his Galaxy Note 7 smartphone exploded in his front pants pocket. The lawsuit by Jonathan Strobel may be the first in the United States by a Samsung phone user against the South Korean company over a battery defect linked to the Note 7. It was filed one day after Samsung recalled about 1 million Note 7s sold in the United States. Samsung has received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the United States, including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, U.S. safety regulators said. "We don't comment on pending litigation," Samsung spokeswoman Danielle Meister Cohen said in an email. "We are urging all Note 7 owners to power their device down and exchange it immediately." Strobel, 28, of Boca Raton, said he was in a Costco store in Palm Beach Gardens on Sept. 9 when his Note 7 exploded. He said the phone burned directly through his pants, resulting in severe burns on his right leg.

SpaceX Plans To Resume Launches In November ( 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: SpaceX is aiming to resume flights in November following a launch pad fire that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and an Israeli communications satellite it was due to lift into orbit, the company's president said on Tuesday. The space services company suspended Falcon 9 flights while it investigates why the rocket burst into flames on Sept 1 as it was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "We're anticipating being down for about three months, getting back to flight in the November timeframe," Gwynne Shotwell, president of Elon Musk's space company, said at a satellite industry conference in Paris. SpaceX previously said a nearly-completed second launch site in Florida, located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), would be finished in November. The pad was last used to launch NASA's space shuttles five years ago.

Elon Musk Asks Twitter For Help In Finding Cause of SpaceX Explosion ( 266

On September 1, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and destroyed the AMOS-6 satellite that belonged to Facebook, which was going to be used to beam internet to developing parts of the world. Since the cause for the explosion has yet to be solved, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is asking for help via Twitter. Slashdot reader Thelasko writes: Elon Musk stated on Twitter last night, "Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation. Turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years." He went on to say, "Important to note that this happened during a routine filling operation. Engines were not on and there was no apparent heat source." Other Tweets mention a "bang" sound before the fire, and that SpaceX "have not ruled out" the possibility that something struck the rocket.

Researcher Gets 20 Days In Prison For Hacking State Websites As Political Stunt ( 85

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: David Levin, 31, of Estero, Florida will spend 20 days in prison after hacking two websites belonging to the Florida state elections department. Levin, a security researcher, tested the security of two Florida state election websites without permission, and then recorded a video and posted on YouTube. The problem is that the man appearing in the video next to Levin was a candidate for the role of state election supervisor, running for the same position against the incumbent Supervisor of Elections, Sharon Harrington. Harrington reported the video to authorities, who didn't appreciate the media stunt pulled by the two, and charged the security researcher with three counts of hacking-related charges. The researcher turned himself in in May and pleaded guilty to all charges. This week, he received a 20-day prison sentence and two years of probation. In court he admitted to the whole incident being a political stunt.

Satellite Owner Says SpaceX Owes $50 Million Or Free Flight ( 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Israel's Space Communication Ltd said on Sunday it could seek $50 million or a free flight from Elon Musk's SpaceX after a Spacecom communications satellite was destroyed last week by an explosion at SpaceX's Florida launch site. Officials of the Israeli company said in a conference call with reporters Sunday that Spacecom also could collect $205 million from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the AMOS-6 satellite. Spacecom has been hit hard in the aftermath of the Thursday explosion that destroyed the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload. The Israeli company said the loss of the satellite would have a significant impact, with its equity expected to decline by $30 million to $123 million. Spacecom shares dropped 9 percent on Thursday, with the explosion occurring late in the last trading day of the week. Trading in the shares was suspended on Sunday morning, and the stock plummeted another 34 percent when trading resumed. In a conference call with reporters, Spacecom's general counsel Gil Lotan said it was too early to say if the company's planned merger with Beijing Xinwei Technology Group would proceed. Xinwei last month agreed to buy Spacecom for $285 million, saying the deal was contingent on the successful launch and operation of Spacecom's AMOS-6 satellite. The $200 million AMOS-6 satellite that perished in the explosion belonged to Facebook and was going to be used to beam internet to developing parts of the world.

Fugitive Arrested After Using 'Wanted' Poster As His Facebook Profile Pic ( 89

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A fugitive in Florida has been arrested by police after he used a wanted poster adorned with his mug shot for his Facebook profile picture," writes the International Business Times. After investigating reports of a disturbance, police discovered the 41-year-old's Facebook profile, which revealed the man was already wanted for six months for violating his parole after two counts of battery.

"Police say that as they arrested Yearwood a bag of marijuana fell out of his pocket. They charged him with possession of cannabis under 20 grams and are continuing to investigate the battery complaint."

One Twitter user jokingly suggested that the suspect should also be charged with copyright infringement -- for using the police department's photo without their permission.

Florida Man Arrested For Hacking Linux Kernel Organization In 2011 ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: The FBI seems to have solved the mysterious case of the 2011 hack, when an unknown attacker breached servers and attempted to install a rootkit in the kernel code. As years went by, the Linux Kernel Organization kept avoiding releasing an incident response surrounding the event, irking their community accustomed to more open communications from their leaders. The mystery seems to have been solved when yesterday a Florida man was arrested and charged with "hacking the Linux Kernel Organization" and installing a "rootkit and trojan software," just like in the 2011 server breach. Donald Ryan Austin is his name. He was arrested during a routine traffic stop last Sunday, on August 28, 2016, and faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and any other restitution.

First Satellite in Facebook's Plan For Global Internet Access Exploded With Falcon 9 ( 155

Mike Murphy, reporting for Quartz: The first step in Facebook's grand vision to connect the entire world to the internet -- or Facebook -- has gone up in flames. Earlier today, a SpaceX rocket carrying a satellite that Facebook planned to use in its initiative exploded during a pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket was due to send the satellite up into orbit Sept. 3, but during the set-up and testing process, an "anomaly" occurred on the launch pad, according to SpaceX, and the rocket exploded. Facebook had planned to lease some of the bandwidth on the satellite, Amos 6, from its operator, the Israeli company SpaceCom, to beam internet to sub-Saharan Africa. The satellite was intended to fill in until Facebook's more ambitious plans for internet access are ready, including developing and launching massive solar-powered drones that use lasers to beam internet to the ground. This the first time Facebook had planned to use a satellite.Facebook wanted to use the $200 million AMOS-6 satellite to beam free internet to developing parts of the world such as Africa. The satellite was supposed to ride SpaceX's Falcon 9 into orbit. After hearing the news, Mark Zuckerberg said he is "deeply disappointed" to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed his satellite. But this setback won't stop him from his goal to connect every person he can find on the face of the earth to get online. He said, "Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well. We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided."

Falcon 9 Explodes On Pad ( 338

Reader Mysticalfruit writes: NPR is reporting that a Falcon9 carrying the AMOS-6 satellite that was supposed to launch on Sat exploded during it's scheduled static fire. No injuries are reported. They're reporting that this was going to be the first reflown first stage.
The Verge adds:SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, meant to launch a satellite this weekend, exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning. The explosion occurred during the preparation for the static fire test of the rocket's engines, NASA told the Associated Press. The blast reportedly shook buildings "several miles away." The company confirmed to The Verge the loss of the Falcon 9 an hour later: "SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."

SpaceX Dragon Returns Home From ISS ( 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Florida Today: A SpaceX Dragon capsule that helped prepare the International Space Station for future commercial astronaut flights has returned to Earth after a stay of more than month-long mission. A robotic arm released the unmanned capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of cargo at 6:11 a.m. EDT, then fired thrusters several times to move a safe distance away from the station orbiting about 250 miles up. The departure began a less than six-hour journey that culminated in a Pacific Ocean splashdown at 11:47 a.m. EDT, about 300 miles southwest of Baja, California. The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral early July 18 on a Falcon 9 rocket and berthed at the station two days later. Among the cargo brought back from space Friday were a dozen mice from a Japanese science experiment -- the first brought home alive in a Dragon. Samples from mice euthanized as part of an experiment by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also were on board. Results were returned from an experiment that studied the behavior of heart cells in microgravity, and from research into the composition of microbes in the human digestive system, NASA said. Findings from both could help keep astronauts healthy during deep space exploration missions. SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next Saturday, Sept. 3.

Tesla Removes 'Self-driving' From China Website After Beijing Crash ( 85

Last week, a Tesla owner in China blamed electric vehicle's "autopilot" feature for a crash. Amid the reports, Tesla quietly removed the term "self-driving" feature from its Chinese website. Reuters report: The Tesla driver crashed earlier this month while on a Beijing commuter highway after the car failed to avoid a vehicle parked on the left side but partially in the roadway, damaging both cars but causing no injuries. It was the first known such crash in China, although it follows a fatal accident in Florida earlier this year that put pressure on auto executives and regulators to tighten rules for automated driving. A check of Tesla's Chinese website on Sunday showed that the word "autopilot" had also been removed. But that term was subsequently reinstated on Monday. "At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations," a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters when asked about the removal of the terms "autopilot" and "self-driving."

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