Businesses

US Senator Introduces the First Bill To Give Gig Workers Benefits (techcrunch.com) 80

Virginia Senator Mark Warner has introduced a bill that will give basic benefits to gig workers. "Warner has just proposed the first-ever piece of national legislation aimed at helping on-demand and other non-traditional workers without traditional benefits, like paid sick days or a retirement plan, have some sort of a safety net," reports TechCrunch. "The bill asks the federal government to set aside $20 million in funding for organizations to use to look at the types of benefits programs individual workers could take with them from job to job." From the report: "[Portable benefits is] that emergency fund," Warner told BuzzFeed, which first reported news of the bill. "It might be a fund to take care of a disability if you get hurt. It might work with some existing retirement programs. Part of it would be, depending on what happens with Obamacare, an ability to help deal with health care expenses. I think there will be a variety of models." The funding wouldn't be enough to cover everyone, of course, but if it gets the green light a draft of the bill indicates it would earmark $5 million toward grants doled out by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta for organizations already looking into portable benefits and $15 million for new programs.
Businesses

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms (bbc.com) 98

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."
Television

Cord-Cutters Are Ditching Their Cable Packages At the Fastest Rate Ever (axios.com) 172

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, opting instead for cheaper, bundled digital TV options, according to the latest Magid Broadcast Study. The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two month, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now -- all at a roughly $40 monthly price point -- a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.
Businesses

The Cable TV Industry Is Getting Even Less Popular (fortune.com) 93

Aaron Pressman, writing for Fortune: It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.That's the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64 percent. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73 percent score was up almost three percentage points from last year. Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offer much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry's rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Surges 10% To All-Time High Above $2,700, Has Now Doubled in May (cnbc.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: In another intraday jump of more than $200, bitcoin surged to a record Thursday on strong Asian demand overnight. Bitcoin jumped more than 10 percent to an all-time high of $2,752.07, more than twice its April 30 price of $1,347.96 according to CoinDesk. The digital currency last traded near $2,726. At Thursday's record, Bitcoin has now gained more than 45 percent since last Thursday and more than 180 percent for the year so far. "There is no question that we are in the middle of a price frenzy," said Brian Kelly of BKCM, in a note to clients Thursday. "There will be a correction and it could be severe, but it's unclear if that correction will start from current prices of $2700 or from some place much higher."
Space

Boeing Will Make the Military's New Hypersonic Spaceplane (theverge.com) 78

The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit. "DARPA, the agency that tests new advanced technologies for the military, has picked Boeing's design concept, called the Phantom Express, to move forward as part of the agency's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program," reports The Verge. From the report: The goal of DARPA's XS-1 program is to create a spacecraft that's something of a hybrid between an airplane and a traditional vertical rocket. The spaceplane is meant to take off vertically and fly uncrewed to high altitudes above Earth. From there, the vehicle will release a mini-rocket -- a booster with an engine that can propel a satellite weighing up to 3,000 pounds into orbit. As the booster deploys the satellite, the spaceplane will then land back on Earth horizontally just like a normal airplane -- and then be fueled up for its next mission. DARPA wants the turnaround time between flights to last just a few hours. But perhaps the most audacious goal is the price DARPA wants for each flight. The agency is aiming for the spaceplane to cost $5 million per mission, a significant bargain considering most orbital rockets cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch. And Boeing says it's up to the task. "Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement.
Robotics

Consumers Trust Robots For Surgery Over Savings, Research Finds (bloomberg.com) 62

An anonymous reader shares an article: Andy Maguire faces a challenge: tasked with upgrading HSBC's digital-banking systems, he has discovered that customers are twice as likely to trust a robot for heart surgery than for picking a savings account. "I do find it slightly odd," said the chief operating officer of Europe's largest bank, referring to its survey of more than 12,000 consumers in 11 countries published this week. Just 7 percent of respondents would trust a robot with their savings, versus the 14 percent willing to submit to a machine for heart surgery. "You think, gosh, one would've imagined the world had moved on further or was moving faster than that," Maguire said in an interview. While consumers tend naturally to trust medical professionals, the "bar is pretty high" for banks dealing with people's money, he said. Banks around the world are spending billions of dollars to bolster creaking computer systems in a push to ward off startup competitors and cut long-term operating expenses. But consumers and regulators are holding them to ever-higher standards of security and convenience, driving the cost of overhauls higher and potentially eroding any savings.
Social Networks

Imzy, the Kinder and Gentler Reddit By Ex Employee, Is Shutting Down (imzy.com) 199

Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
Businesses

US International Tourism Market Share Is Falling Under Trump (buzzfeed.com) 422

An anonymous reader writes: The United States' slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide. The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report. The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found. The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it's unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined. "I don't think you'd see a 16% decline in international market share and absolute numbers being up. I don't think that's compatible," he said. "The volume of tourism doesn't change that fast."
Advertising

Google Following Your Offline Credit Card Spending To Tell Advertisers If Their Ads Work (consumerist.com) 146

One of the new tools Google has announced for its advertisers today promises to tie your offline credit card data together with all your online viewing to tell advertisers exactly what's working as they try to target you and your wallet. Consumerist reports: That return, for decades, was hard to measure in all but the most vaguely correlative of ways. Did people buy your product after seeing your TV ad? After seeing your billboard? On a whim after seeing neither? Who knows! But in the age of highly targeted, algorithmic advertising, the landscape is completely different. The apps on your phone know what you looked at and when, and can tie that in to what you see on other devices you're also logged into their services on (like your work computer). Meanwhile, you're leaving tracks out in the physical world -- not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do). Google also introduced some offline measurements to its online tool suite back in 2014, when it started using phone location data to try to match store visit location data to digital ad views. But a store doesn't make any money when you simply walk into it; you need to buy something. So Google's tracking that very granularly now, too. "In the coming months, we'll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads," Google explains to advertisers. That's very literally a collection of spending data matched to the people who spent it, matched in turn to people who saw ads.
The Almighty Buck

Uber Plans Millions In Back Pay After Shorting NYC Drivers (bloomberg.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Uber Technologies Inc. said it underpaid its New York City drivers by improperly calculating the company's share of passenger fares, and will pay out an average of $900 per driver in restitution, costing tens of millions of dollars. The back pay could run at least $45 million, based on the approximately 50,000 drivers the Independent Drivers Guild says work in New York City. The ride-hailing company has previously misled drivers about how much they could make and miscalculated fares. In this case, Uber was taking its cut of fares based on the pretax sum, instead of after taxes and fees as stated in its terms of service. The issue was also raised in a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Uber filed by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. In March, Uber acknowledged that it had underestimated drivers' pay in Philadelphia by millions of dollars. "We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed -- plus interest -- as quickly as possible," Rachel Holt, Uber's head of U.S. operations, said in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."
Republicans

President Trump's Budget Includes a $2 Trillion Math Error (time.com) 353

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: President Trump's budget includes a simple accounting error that adds up to a $2 trillion oversight. Under the proposed budget released Tuesday, the Trump Administration's proposed tax cuts would boost economic growth enough to pay for $1.3 trillion in spending by 2027. But the tax cuts are also supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that trillion dollars is already supposed to pay for the money lost from the tax cuts. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the oversight an "elementary double count" and "a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course" in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Sony

'Sony Needs a Fresh Hit' (bloomberg.com) 123

Even as Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has done a remarkable job over the past five years -- taking bold decisions on the areas the company should be focusing on, and cutting efforts on those that aren't working -- his company desperately needs a fresh hit to boost its revenue and to become relevant in the mind of most, writes columnist Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. An except from his article: According to a company statement Tuesday for investors' day, the key will be to "remain the 'last one inch' that delivers a sense of 'wow' to customers," expand recurring revenue, and pursue new businesses.Those three strategies are closely linked. With TV sales in decline, its Vaio PC business spun off, and its smartphones barely a blip on the radar, Sony's last inch is heavily dependent on the PlayStation. Sony's Game & Network Services business has grown at both the top and bottom lines over the past five years, but the games console business is stuck in time. [...] Sony needs to build a device that will be far more ubiquitous and can appeal to consumers beyond the current male-skewed slowly aging hard-core gamer base. Amazon and Alphabet, with Echo and Home, are two such examples, and Apple will probably follow suit. With its background in audio, video, sensors and entertainment, Sony has all the right parts to make it happen. For the company that invented the Walkman, dreaming up another hit shouldn't be so hard.
Communications

Comcast Proves Need For Net Neutrality By Trying To Censor Advocacy Website (fightforthefuture.org) 150

Reader mrchaotica writes: As most Slashdot readers are probably aware, the FCC, under the direction of Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to undo its 2015 decision to protect Net Neutrality (PDF) by classifying ISPs as common carriers. During the recent public comment period, the FCC's website was flooded with pro-Net-Neutrality comments from actual people (especially those who heeded John Oliver's call to arms) as well as anti-Net-Neutrality comments posted by bots using the names and addresses of people without their consent. The fake comments use boilerplate identical to that used in a 2010 press release by the conservative lobbying group Center for Individual Freedom (which is funded by Comcast, among other entities), but beyond that, the entities who perpetrated and funded the criminal acts have not been conclusively identified. In response to this brazen attempt to undermine the democratic process, the Internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future (FFTF) created the website Comcastroturf.com to call attention to the fraud and allow people to see if their identity had been misappropriated. Comcast, in a stunning display of its tone-deaf attitude towards free speech, has sent a cease-and-desist order to FFTF, claiming that Comcastroturf.com violates its "valuable intellectual property[sic]." According to the precedent set in Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer , websites created for the purpose of criticizing an organization can not be considered trademark infringement. As such, FFTF reportedly has no intention of taking down the site.

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "If Ajit Pai's plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies," she added. "It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?"

Could there be a better example to illustrate why ensuring strong Net Neutrality protections by regulating ISPs as common carriers is so important?


Businesses

Nokia Uses Lawsuit To Make Apple Its Friend (bbc.com) 8

Apple has settled a patent dispute with Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and agreed to buy more of its network products and services. The deal means Nokia will get bigger royalties from Apple for using its mobile phone patents, helping offset the impact of waning demand for its mobile network hardware. Nokia's shares were up by seven percent following the announcement. WSJ puts things into perspective: Nokia's deal with Apple follows a highly unusual playbook: using a lawsuit to win business from your adversary (could be paywalled). When the first iPhone was unveiled a decade ago, Apple became a major competitor to the Finnish group, which was then the world's leading mobile-phone maker. As Nokia's business dwindled, the companies became legal antagonists. Now they are set to become business partners. The settlement announced Tuesday involves Apple paying Nokia a lump sum plus royalties for each device it sells using Nokia's technology. This is broadly the same kind of agreement the two sides reached in 2011 following a two-year lawsuit. The previous deal expired last year, which is why both sides launched fresh suits in December. In the aftermath of the lawsuit last year, Apple had pulled all Withings products from its stores. As part of the settlement, Apple said it will reverse that move.
Businesses

LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce (cnbc.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: LeEco, a Chinese company that made a big splash in the U.S. last fall, is preparing for a round of layoffs that may happen as soon as Tuesday, according to sources. Two people told CNBC the company is planning massive layoffs in the U.S., with one source saying that only 60 employees will be left after the cut. The company's current headcount in the U.S. is over 500, according to this person. CNBC obtained an email calling employees together for a Town Hall Meeting that will occur in three of the company's U.S. locations, including San Diego, Santa Monica and San Jose, at 10 a.m. PST. The email asks employees to attend unless they're off for the day, in which case they're asked to call in. It's not clear what will be announced at the meeting, but a second source told CNBC that layoffs will be announced tomorrow. Under the restructuring, LeEco will refocus on encouraging Chinese-American consumers to watch LeEco's Chinese content library, one person said.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 198

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Could Be Worth More Than Bitcoin Very Soon (inc.com) 84

Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, according to Blockgeeks. It is currently the second most valuable cryptocurrency on the planet, but it could overthrow Bitcoin and become the most valuable cryptocurrency in the near future. Inc.com reports: If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract." Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online. As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.
Businesses

Amazon's 1.7 Million Free Bananas 'Disrupting' Local Fruit Economy (consumerist.com) 112

Amazon has transformed businesses including retailing, filmmaking and data storage. But no one anticipated the bananas. It started with a brainstorm from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos that Amazon should offer everyone near its headquarters -- not just employees -- healthy, eco-friendly snacks as a public service. After considering oranges, Amazon picked bananas, and opened its first Community Banana Stand in late 2015. However, not everyone is pleased with the ecommerce giant's effort. From a report: Although there is no money in Amazon's community banana stands -- where the company has been offering free fruit to both workers and locals in Seattle since 2015 -- the tech giant's largesse is changing the banana landscape for some nearby businesses. [...] Thus far, the company says it's handed out more than 1.7 million free banana, reports The Wall Street Journal. But while many folks are fans of the free bananas, others say it's changing banana consumption in the community: Some workers say it's harder to find bananas at local grocery stores, while nearby eateries have also stopped selling as many banana as they used to.

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