Businesses

Amazon Offers Whole Foods Discounts To Prime Members (reuters.com) 143

Amazon-owned Whole Foods debuted a loyalty program on Wednesday that offers special discounts to Prime members, including 10 percent off hundreds of sale items and rotating weekly specials. "The new loyalty strategy will test whether Amazon's $13.7 billion deal for Whole Foods brings much-feared disruption and an intensified price war to the $800 billion U.S. grocery industry dominated by Walmart and Kroger," reports Reuters. From the report: Those perks are available now in Florida and will roll out to all other stores starting this summer. Amazon previously announced free two-hour delivery from Whole Foods stores for members of Prime, its subscription club with fast shipping and video streaming. The new perks could make Whole Foods cheaper than conventional grocers for about 8 million of its customers who already subscribe to Amazon Prime, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. Prime members scan an app or input their phone numbers at checkout to receive the discounts.
Microsoft

Bill Gates Shares His Memories of Donald Trump (cnn.com) 474

MSNBC recently published a video of Bill Gates telling his staff at the Gates Foundation that he had two meetings with Donald Trump since the president was elected. In the video, Gates says Trump doesn't know the difference between two sexually transmitted diseases -- human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- and that it was "scary" how much Trump knew about Gates' daughter's appearance. Gates also said he urged Trump to support innovation and technology during those meetings. CNN reports: Taking audience questions about his interactions with Trump at a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting, the former Microsoft honcho said he first met Trump in December 2016. He told the audience that Trump had previously come across his daughter, Jennifer, at a horse show in Florida. "And then about 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place," Gates said, according to video of the event broadcast by MSNBC late Thursday. "So clearly he had been driven away but he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter. "Anyway, so when I first talked to him, it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter's appearance. Melinda (Gates' wife) didn't like that too well."

Gates also said he discussed science with Trump on two separate occasions, where he says the President questioned him on the difference between HIV and HPV. "In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines and somebody -- I think it was Robert Kennedy Jr. -- was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things. And I said no, that's a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don't do that. "Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other," Gates said.

The Almighty Buck

First Government Office in the US To Accept Bitcoin As Payment (orlandosentinel.com) 42

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes the Orlando Sentinel: If cash, check or credit card seems too old-fashioned, Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg said this week his office will begin accepting bitcoin as payment for new IDs, license plates and property taxes starting next month. Greenberg said accepting bitcoin and bitcoin cash as a payment method will promote transparency and accuracy in payment.

"There's no risk to the taxpayer," said Greenberg, who has often raised eyebrows since his 2016 election by moves including encouraging certain employees with concealed-weapons permits to carry a firearm openly as a security measure. "Blockchain technology is the future of the whole financial industry."

A spokesperson for a neighboring county's tax collector said they had no plans to follow the move. "Frankly, I think the currency is so volatile that I donâ(TM)t think it makes sense."

And an official at a nearby county said bitcoin payments were "not on our to-do list", adding that no one in the county had requested the ability to pay their taxes in bitcoin.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Launches Satellite With New Upgraded 'Block 5' Falcon 9 Rocket (theverge.com) 85

Thelasko shares a report from The Verge: This afternoon, SpaceX landed the most powerful version yet of its Falcon 9 rocket, after launching the vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The so-named Block 5 upgrade took off from the company's launchpad at Kennedy Space Center, sending a communications satellite into orbit for Bangladesh and then touched down on one of the company's drone ships in the Atlantic. It was the 25th successful rocket landing for SpaceX, and the 14th on one of the company's drone ships.

It also marks the first launch of the Block 5, the vehicle that will carry humans to space for NASA. The Block 5 is meant to be SpaceX's most reusable rocket yet, with many upgrades put in place that negate the need for extensive refurbishment between flights. In fact, the first Block 5 rockets will eventually be able to fly up to 10 times without the need for any maintenance after landings, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said during a pre-launch press conference. Ideally, once one of these rocket lands, SpaceX will turn it horizontal, attach a new upper stage and nose cone on top, turn it vertical on the launchpad, fill it with propellant, and then launch it again. Musk noted that the vehicles would need some kind of moderate maintenance after the 10-flight mark, but it's possible that each rocket could fly up to 100 times in total.

Businesses

Florida Man Behind 100 Million Robocalls Hit With $120 Million FCC Fine (chicagotribune.com) 145

In a massive strike, the Federal Communications Commission issued a $120 million fine on a massive robocall spoofing operation it deemed a threat to public safety. From a report: The FCC announced Thursday morning that it would leverage the fine against Adrian Abramovich, a Miami man who the commission said made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls over a three-month period at the end of 2016. The FCC argued that Abramovich's operation made the phony calls to trick consumers into answering them and listening to his advertising messages. The fine was based on 80,000 spoofed calls the commission had verified.

A complaint filed by the FCC against Abramovich in June 2017 alleged he had broken the Truth in Caller ID Act -- which prohibits callers from falsifying caller ID information to disguise their identity with intent to harm or defraud -- in perpetrating "one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- illegal robocalling campaigns that the commission has ever investigated."

Power

Days After A Fiery Crash, a Tesla's Battery Keeps Reigniting (mercurynews.com) 302

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News Six days after a fiery crash on Highway 101 involving a Tesla Model X took the life of a 38-year-old San Mateo man, the car's high-voltage lithium-ion battery re-ignited while sitting in a tow yard, according to the Mountain View Fire Department... The battery reignited twice in the storage yard within a day of the accident and again six days later on March 29. Two weeks later, in an effort to avoid more fires, the NTSB and Tesla performed a battery draw down to fully de-energize it...

On the company website, Tesla wrote "the reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash"... Tesla also reported that the vehicle's autopilot function was active at the time of the crash...

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Highway 101 crash and three other accidents also involving Teslas, including a fiery 2014 Model S crash Tuesday in Florida that killed two teenagers. Also under investigation: A Model S crashed into a fire truck near Culver City in January, and the driver reportedly said Autopilot was engaged at the time. And it is looking into a battery fire of a Model X that drove into a home's garage in Lake Forest in August.

Two hours after that story was published, a Tesla smashed into a Starbucks in Los Gatos, California.
Government

Trump Administration Approves 10 New Drone Projects Around the Country (theverge.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just over six months after President Trump announced the creation of a program meant to spur the development of drone trials around the country, the Department of Transportation has announced the first 10 winners. Among those selected, three state transportation agencies, two US cities, and two universities will work with private companies like FedEx and CNN on trials that will see drones used for tasks like package delivery, journalism, healthcare, and more.

Formally known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot, the program encourages U.S. cities and states to partner with companies on drone trials that expand how the aircraft are used around the country. This includes, in some cases, allowing drones to fly over crowds, beyond the pilot's line of sight, and at night -- situations that are usually prohibited unless the person flying obtains an official waiver from the FAA. The goal with the program is to accelerate potential commercial applications for drone use. One of the 10 selections is Florida's Lee County Mosquito Control District. The small government agency will use drones to help control mosquito populations by searching for hard-to-find pockets of larvae at a faster rate than inspectors can on foot, while also reducing the risk of being bitten. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will work on flying drones beyond a pilot's line of sight as part of a partnership with CNN.
Furthermore, North Carolina's DOT was selected to test the food drone delivery service, Tennessee's Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority was chosen to test deliveries in partnership with FedEx, and the City of Reno, Nevada was picked to work with Flirtey, a company focused on using drones to deliver medical supplies.
Android

Phone Maker BLU Settles With FTC Over Unauthorized User Data Extraction (threatpost.com) 26

lod123 shares a report from Threatpost: Android phone-maker BLU Products agreed to a proposed settlement on Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, over allegations it allowed the third-party firm Adups Technology to collect detailed consumer data from users without their consent. In an administrative complaint filed earlier this week against BLU and the company's co-owner and president Samuel Ohev-Zion, the FTC accused the firm of sharing with China-based Adups the full contents of their users' text messages, real-time cell tower location data, call and text-message logs, contact lists, and applications used and installed on devices.

Ultimately, the FTC is alleging Ohev-Zion and BLU violated the FTC Act's section pertaining to "deceptive representation regarding disclosure of personal information." The proposed settlement will be made final after a 30-day public comment period. In its proposed complaint, the FTC said Florida-based BLU contracted with Adups to issue security and operating system updates to millions of phones sold by the firm through Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. In addition to allegedly failing to protect consumer privacy, the FTC asserts that BLU failed "to adequately assess the privacy and security risks of third-party software installed on BLU devices" resulting in "common security vulnerabilities that could enable attackers to gain full access to the devices."
Security researchers at Kryptowire first reported in 2016 that several models of BLU phones actively transmitted user and device information to Adups.
NASA

NASA To Send 1 Million People's Names To the Sun (theatlantic.com) 76

An anonymous reader shares a report: This summer, a NASA spacecraft will launch into space from the coast of Florida, headed for the sun. After making several flybys of Venus to slow itself down, the Parker Solar Probe will come within 4 million miles of the sun's scorching surface, closer than any spacecraft in history.

NASA is never one to miss an opportunity to drum up publicity for upcoming space missions, especially the less flashy ones. Sending something to study the star we see every day may sound less thrilling, for example, than launching a mission to find exoplanets around 200,000 stars. So in March, the space agency announced a little campaign to promote the Parker Solar Probe: Send us your names and we'll put them on a microchip inside a spacecraft bound for the sun. (They even got Star Trek actor William Shatner to help promote it.)

The call for names, which closed at the end of last week, received more than 1.1 million submissions, according to a spokesperson at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed and built the Parker Solar Probe. On the surface, the campaign was little more than a quirky act to get the public interested in space exploration. But considered more deeply, it represents the human desire to find ways to outlive ourselves and our bodies, to be remembered once our time here on Earth is up.

The Military

Russia Is Attacking US Forces With Electronic Weapons In Syria, General Says (yahoo.com) 249

john of sparta shares a report from Yahoo: American forces in Syria are increasingly facing attacks from Russian and Syrian electronic warfare weapons, as Moscow uses the conflict to test its future arsenal. General Raymond Thomas, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said that Syria has become "the most aggressive electronic warfare environment on the planet," Breakingdefense.com reported. Speaking at a geospatial intelligence conference in Florida, Gen. Thomas said that Russian and Syrian regime forces "are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our [EC-130 aircraft]."

The Lockheed Martin EC-130 Compass Call is one of America's most advanced electronic warfare weapons. Based on the C-130 Hercules, the plane was developed to disrupt enemy communications, radar and command operations. The craft's presence in Syrian skies gives Russia the chance to test its weapons against the best the U.S. has to offer, whether directly or through its Syrian allies. Earlier this month, four anonymous officials told NBC News that Russia has also been regularly targeting smaller U.S. surveillance drones. One of those quoted said Russian operations were having a significant impact on U.S. capabilities. The sophisticated attacks were even successful against encrypted signals and anti-jamming devices, the official said.
Slashdot reader john of sparta adds, "Well, it's war; not a surprise..."
AI

CIA Plans To Replace Spies With AI (thenextweb.com) 80

Human spies could soon be relics of the past. Dawn Meyerriecks, CIA's deputy director for technology development, recently told an audience at an intelligence conference in Florida that CIA was adapting to a new landscape where its primary adversary is a machine, not a foreign agent. From a report: Meyerriecks, speaking to CNN after the conference, said other countries have relied on AI to track enemy agents for years. She went on to explain the difficulties encountered by current CIA spies trying to live under an assumed identity in the era of digital tracking and social media, indicating the modern world is becoming an inhospitable environment to human spies. But the CIA isn't about to give up. America's oldest spy agency is transforming from the kind of outfit that sends people around the globe to gather information, to the type that uses computers to accomplish the same task more efficiently. This transition from humans to computers is something the CIA has spent more than 30 years preparing for.
NASA

SpaceX Launches NASA's Planet-Hunting Satellite, Successfully Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket (theverge.com) 37

SpaceX launched NASA's TESS spacecraft Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship following takeoff. This marks 24 successful landings for SpaceX now, notes The Verge. We will update this post once TESS is deployed into orbit. From the report: TESS is NASA's newest exoplanet hunter. The probe is tasked with staring at stars tens to hundreds of light-years from Earth, watching to see if they blink. When a planet passes in front of a distant star, it dims the star's light ever so slightly. TESS will measure these twinkles from a 13.7-day orbit that extends as far out as the distance of the Moon. The satellite won't get to its final orbit on this launch. Instead, the Falcon 9 will put TESS into a highly elliptical path around Earth first. From there, TESS will slowly adjust its orbit over the next couple of months by igniting its onboard engine multiple times. The spacecraft will even do a flyby of the Moon next month, getting a gravitational boost that will help get the vehicle to its final path around Earth. Overall, it will take about 60 days after launch for TESS to get to its intended orbit; science observations are scheduled to begin in June.
Communications

A Florida Man Has been Accused of Making 97 Million Robocalls (bloomberg.com) 176

A Florida man accused of flooding consumers with 97 million phone calls touting fake travel deals appeared Wednesday before lawmakers to explain how robocalls work and to say, "I am not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged." From a report: Adrian Abramovich, of Miami, who is fighting a proposed $120 million fine, told senators that open-source software lets operators make thousands of phone calls with the click of a button, in combination with cloud-based computing and "the right long distance company." "Clearly regulation needs to address the carriers and providers and require the major carriers to detect robocalls activity," Abramovich said in testimony submitted in advance to the Senate Commerce Committee. He has asked the Federal Communications Commission to reduce the fine proposed last year, calling it disproportionate, in part because most calls went unanswered or resulted in a quick hang-up by consumers. The panel's chairman, Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, called Abamovich and officials from the FCC and other agencies to discuss ways to stop abusive calls.
NASA

NASA Planet-Hunter Set For Launch (bbc.com) 34

The US space agency is about to launch a telescope that should find thousands of planets beyond our Solar System. From a report: The Tess mission will go up on a SpaceX's Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey nearly the entire sky over the course of the next two years. It will stare at stars, hoping to catch the dip in brightness as their faces are traversed by orbiting worlds. Tess will build a catalogue of nearby, bright stars and their planets that other telescopes can then follow up. Key among these will be the successor to Hubble -- the James Webb space observatory, due in orbit from 2020. Its powerful vision will have the capability to analyse the atmospheres of some of Tess's new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life.

James Webb will "tease out the chemical compositions of those atmospheres and look for whatever's there," said Paul Hertz, the astrophysics director at Nasa. "People are very interested in looking for, what on Earth, are bio-signatures, such as methane, carbon dioxide, water vapour and oxygen." Tess follows in the footsteps of Kepler, a groundbreaking space telescope launched in 2009. It also used the "transit technique" to confirm more than 2,000 so-called exoplanets. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis.
The launch of TESS was scheduled to Monday evening, but it has been postponed until Wednesday. SpaceX tweeted Monday afternoon that it is "standing down today to conduct additional GNC [guidance navigation control] analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18."
Microsoft

Microsoft Engineer Charged In Reveton Ransomware Case (bleepingcomputer.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft network engineer is facing federal charges in Florida for allegedly helping launder money obtained from victims of the Reventon ransomware. Florida investigators say that between October 2012 and March 2013, Uadiale worked with a UK citizen going online by the moniker K!NG. The latter would distribute and infect victims with the Reveton ransomware, while Uadiale would collect payments and send the money to K!NG, in the UK. Investigators tracked down Uadiale because this happened before Bitcoin became popular with ransomware authors and they used the now-defunct Liberty Reserve digital currency to move funds. Authorities from 18 countries seized and shut down Liberty Reserve servers in May 2013.
Space

ULA Is Livestreaming An Atlas V Rocket Launch (upi.com) 59

United Launch Alliance -- a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing -- is livestreaming tonight's launch of an Atlas V rocket. UPI reports: The rocket is set to blast-off at 7:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida... The primary payload is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM, or CBAS, a geostationary communications satellite... Behind the CBAS payload is EAGLE, a platform capable of releasing several secondary payloads into space. According to Gunter's Space Page, EAGLE is carrying five additional payloads, all experimental satellites.
Here's a good overview of the mission: Saturday's mission will begin with ignition of the Atlas Common Core Booster's RD-180 engine, 2.7 seconds before the countdown reaches zero... Five Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A solid rocket motors will augment the CCB at liftoff, igniting about T+1.1 seconds as the rocket lifts off. Climbing away from Cape Canaveral, AV-079 will begin a series of pitch and yaw maneuvers 3.9 seconds into its mission, placing the rocket onto an 89.9-degree azimuth -- almost due East -- for the journey into orbit. Atlas will reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, 34.4 seconds after liftoff, passing through the area of maximum dynamic pressure -- Max-Q -- eleven-and-a-half seconds later.
Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro also shares an interesting remark by the CEO of Boeing when asked if Boeing's cancelled Sonic Cruiser might be making a comeback. "'Something better,' teased the Boeing boss, promising point-to-point connectivity anywhere on Earth in a matter of hours."

And when asked whether Boeing might launch a car into space, he replied instead that "We might pick up the one that's out there and bring it back."
United States

Emergency Alert Systems Used Across the US Can Be Easily Hijacked (helpnetsecurity.com) 44

A vulnerability affecting emergency alert systems supplied by ATI Systems, one of the leading suppliers of warning sirens in the USA, could be exploited remotely via radio frequencies to activate all the sirens and trigger false alarms. From a report: "We first found the vulnerability in San Francisco, and confirmed it in two other US locations including Sedgwick County, Wichita, Kansas," Balint Seeber, Director of Threat Research at Bastille, told Help Net Security. "Although we have not visited other locations to confirm the presence of the vulnerability, ATI Systems has customers in the US and overseas from the military, local government, educational and energy sectors.

"ATI features customers on its website around the US including One World Trade Center, WestPoint Military Academy and Entergy Nuclear Indian Point which are all in New York State, UMASS Amherst in Massachusetts, Eastern Arizona College, University of South Carolina and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, amongst others." The vulnerability stems from the fact that the radio protocol used to control the sirens is not secure: activation commands are sent "in the clear," i.e. no encryption is used.

Space

SpaceX Completes Its Seventh Successful Mission of 2018 With Launch of CRS-14 (youtube.com) 24

Longtime Slashdot reader lalleglad writes: SpaceX today launched a Falcon 9 with its 14th Resupply Services mission. I saw it went well, and I hope it will also attach to the International Space Station (ISS) in good order. Incidentally, it carries the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), which is an European Space Agency (ESA) project to investigate Earth-to-space lighting and thunder. Let's hope that it will enable better weather movement understanding, and for us plain people, better weather forecasts! "The Falcon 9 rocket, whose first stage launched ISS supplies last August, fired nine Merlin main engines again to roar from Launch Complex 40 at 4:30 p.m.," reports Florida Today. "Ten minutes later, the unmanned Dragon capsule, which launched to the ISS two years earlier, floated free of the rocket's upper stage to start a two-day journey back to the orbiting research complex. It was the second time a recycled Falcon 9 and Dragon had launched together, and the 11th time in just over a year that SpaceX had re-launched a used -- or what the company prefers to call 'flight proven' -- rocket." CNBC notes that the CRS-14 launch was the company's seventh successful mission this year. You can watch the recorded livestream of the launch here.
United States

Was The Florida Pedestrian Bridge Collapse Triggered By Post-Tensioning? (enr.com) 138

A new lawsuit claims post-tensioning triggered the collapse of the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University, killing five motorists and one worker. Engineering News Record reports According to the lawsuit, the March 15, 2018 collapse occurred while a crew was post-tensioning bars in a diagonal member at the north end of the concrete truss that was the bridge's main element. The post-tensioning compressed the diagonal so that it overstressed a joint in the top chord, the lawsuit claims, triggering hinge failure at a connection in the lower chord and resulting in the catastrophic failure of the rest of the 174-ft-long structure. Post-tensioning that modifies the stresses in a structure is inherently risky and should be performed "in the absence of traffic," the lawsuit claims. [The lawsuit] draws heavily on video of the collapse, a voice message about cracks in the structure that were deemed superficial at that time by the engineer of record and design drawings in the design-build joint venture's proposal.
Slashdot reader McGruber writes: Interestingly, just two days after the collapse, an Anonymous Coward posted that post-tensioning likely led to the collapse of the bridge... A March 21, 2018 NTSB News Release said "The investigative team has confirmed that workers were adjusting tension on the two tensioning rods located in the diagonal member at the north end of the span when the bridge collapsed. They had done this same work earlier at the south end, moved to the north side, and had adjusted one rod. They were working on the second rod when the span failed and collapsed. The roadway was not closed while this work was being performed."
The Miami Herald reports that "how and where precisely the bridge broke apart likely won't be known for months, until the National Transportation Safety Board issues an official finding." While summarizing the leading theories, they're also calling it "the sort of baffling accident that makes structural engineers break out in sweats."
United States

DIY Explosives Experimenter Blows Self Up, Contaminates Building (fdlreporter.com) 366

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: Benjamin D. Morrison of Beaver Dam Wisconsin was killed on March 5 while synthesizing explosives in his apartment... The accident has left the apartment building so contaminated that it will be demolished in a controlled burn, and residents are not being allowed in to retrieve any of their belongings.
It was just five years ago that Morrison graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida with a degree in pre-pharmacy and minors in chemistry and math. Though a local reverend believes 28-year-old Morrison was "not a bomb maker," USA Today's site FDL Reporter notes that "Officials assume he was making bombs that accidentally exploded and killed him... They have not publicly disclosed what chemicals were in apartment 11 where Morrow lived, only describing them as 'extremely volatile and unstable explosives.'"

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