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  • The Shale Boom Won't Stop Climate Change; It Could Make It Worse

    Lasrick writes Energy expert H-Holger Rogner walks through the realities of the shale-gas boom, the 'game-changer' that has brought about a drop in energy prices and greatly reduced carbon emissions. But despite the positive impact on carbon emissions, Rogner points out that the cheap gas brought about by fracking shale may already be affecting investments into renewable energy, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency by offering more attractive investment opportunities: 'At today's prices of $4 to $5 per million British thermal units, gas-fired electricity holds a definite competitive advantage over new nuclear construction and unsubsidized renewables.' But natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide. 'A much higher share of natural gas in the energy mix would eventually raise emissions again, especially if gas not only displaces coal but also non-fossil energy sources. Moreover, methane, the chief component of natural gas, is itself a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. If total methane leakage—from drilling through end use—is greater than about 4 percent, that could negate any climate benefits of switching from coal and oil to gas.'

    386 comments | 5 days ago

  • Bank Security Software EULA Allows Spying On Users

    An anonymous reader writes Trusteer Rapport, a software package whose installation is promoted by several major banks as an anti-fraud tool, has recently been acquired by IBM and has an updated EULA. Among other things, the new EULA includes this gem: "In addition, You authorize personnel of IBM, as Your Sponsoring Enterprise's data processor, to use the Program remotely to collect any files or other information from your computer that IBM security experts suspect may be related to malware or other malicious activity, or that may be associated with general Program malfunction." Welcome to the future...

    135 comments | about a week ago

  • Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?

    Paul Fernhout writes: Nick Hanauer is a billionaire who made his fortune as one of the original investors in Amazon. He suggests President Obama should restore U.S. overtime regulations to how they worked in the 1970s to boost the economy. Quoted by PBS NewsHour: "In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. Not because capitalists back then were more generous, but because it was the law. It still is the law, except that the value of the threshold for overtime pay — the salary level at which employers are required to pay overtime — has been allowed to erode to less than the poverty line for a family of four today. Only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 qualify for mandatory overtime.

    Many millions of Americans are currently exempt from the overtime rules — teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals, etc. — and corporate leaders are lobbying hard to expand "computer professional" to mean just about anybody who uses a computer. Which is almost everybody. But were the Labor Department instead to narrow these exemptions, millions more Americans would receive the overtime pay they deserve. ... The twisted irony is, when you work more hours for less pay, you hurt not only yourself, you hurt the real economy by depressing wages, increasing unemployment and reducing demand and innovation. Ironically, when you earn less, and unemployment is high, it even hurts capitalists like me." If overtime pay is generally good for the economy, should most IT professionals really be exempt from overtime regulations?

    545 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Taxi Medallion Prices Plummet Under Pressure From Uber

    HughPickens.com writes Most major American cities have long used a system to limit the number of operating taxicabs, typically a medallion system: Drivers must own or rent a medallion to operate a taxi, and the city issues a fixed number of them. Now Josh Barro reports at the NYT that in major cities throughout the United States, taxi medallion prices are tumbling as taxis face competition from car-service apps like Uber and Lyft. The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. "I'm already at peace with the idea that I'm going to go bankrupt," said Larry Ionescu, who owns 98 Chicago taxi medallions. As recently as April, Boston taxi medallions were selling for $700,000. The last sale, in October, was for $561,000. "Right now Uber has a strong presence here in Boston, and that's having a dramatic impact on the taxi industry and the medallion values," says Donna Blythe-Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Boston Taxi Drivers' Association. "We hear that there's a couple of medallion owners that have offered to sell at 425 and nobody's touched them."

    The current structure of the American taxi industry began in New York City when "taxi medallions" were introduced in the 1930s. Taxis were extremely popular in the city, and the government realized they needed to make sure drivers weren't psychopaths luring victims into their cars. So, New York City required cabbies to apply for a taxi medallion license. Given the technology available in the 1930s, It was a reasonable solution to the taxi safety problem, and other cities soon followed suit. But their scarcity has made taxi medallions the best investment in America for years. Where they exist, taxi medallions have outperformed even the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. In Chicago, their value has doubled since 2009. The medallion stakeholders are many and deep pockets run this market. The system in Chicago and elsewhere is dominated by large investors who rely on brokers to sell medallions, specialty banks to finance them and middle men to manage and lease them to drivers who own nothing at all. Together, they're fighting to protect an asset that was worth about $2.4 billion in Chicago last year. "The medallion owners seem to be of the opinion that they are entitled to indefinite appreciation of their asset," says Corey Owens, Uber's head of global public policy.. "The taxi medallion in the U.S. was the best investment you could have made in the last 30 years. Will it go up forever? No. And if they expected that it would, that was their mistake."

    329 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Spaceport America Loses $1.7 Million Due To Virgin Galactic Delays

    An anonymous reader writes "Officials of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority were grilled by lawmakers about the now vacant Spaceport America following the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The spaceport was built as a hub for commercial space flights. Its immediate future is uncertain since Virgin Galactic has indefinitely pushed back the launch date of its space tourism flights. From the article: "Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned last week that she might have to do so one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs. Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. 'It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework,' Anderson said. 'That's not the case whatsoever.'"

    46 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Internet Sales Tax Bill Dead In Congress

    jfruh writes: Last year, a bipartisan coalition helped get the Main Street Fairness Act approved by the U.S. Senate. The bill would have allowed state and local governments to collect sales taxes on Internet sales by companies in different jurisdictions. But House Speaker John Boehner, a longtime opponent of Internet taxes, won't bring the matter to a vote in the House before the end of the year, which should kill it for the immediate future.

    257 comments | about a month ago

  • Mayday PAC Goes 2 For 8

    An anonymous reader writes: Lawrence Lessig's Mayday.us project had a bold goal: create a super PAC to end all super PACs. It generated significant support and raised over $10 million, which it spent endorsing a group of candidates for the recent mid-term elections and the primaries beforehand. The results weren't kind. Only two of the eight candidates backed by Mayday won their elections, and both of those candidates were quite likely to win anyway. Lessig was understandably displeased with the results. In a post on the Mayday site, he said, "What 2014 shows most clearly is the power of partisanship in our elections. Whatever else voters wanted, they wanted first their team to win."

    Kenneth Vogel, author of Big Money, a recent book on the rise of super PACs, was critical of of Mayday's efforts, saying, "While voters do express high levels of disgust about the state of campaign finance and the level of corruption in Washington, they tend to actually cast votes more on bread-and-butter economic issues." Still, Lessig is hopeful for the future: "We moved voters on the basis of that message. Not enough. Not cheaply enough. But they moved."

    224 comments | about a month ago

  • Florida-Based Magic Leap Builds Its Team With Bay Area Hires

    Tekla Perry writes Stealthy 'cinematic reality' company Magic Leap may be based in Florida--but it's doing a lot of hiring from the Bay Area, scooping up engineers from Pixar, Google, Apple, and Intel--along with a few Willow Garage alums. And it's got openings for many many more. Are all these folks with long-term Silicon Valley roots really going to move to South Florida? Or is Magic Leap getting ready to open up a Silicon Valley research center to house the brain trust it is gathering? Here's what we know about Magic Leap and its technology, who's joining it, and what other kinds of engineers the company aims to hire. Magic Leap has a lot of money to do all that hiring, having just raised more than half a billion dollars, the bulk of it from Google. If you're working in the Bay Area now, would you look forward to a move to Florida, or rather stay where you are?

    161 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Australian Post Office Opens Mail Forwarding Warehouse In the USA

    Zanadou writes Australians are well used to paying what's called an "Australian Tax": high(er) prices for international products and services simply because they are are being accessed from an Australian IP address and/or being delivered to an Australian mail address. But Australia Post, Australia's national mail service, might have a solution: last week they opened a new warehouse/delivery depot in Oregon, U.S., allowing Australians to use a U.S.-based delivery address for mail items, which can then forwarded onwards to Australia.

    However, this service, called "Shopmate", comes at a cost.

    142 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

    An anonymous reader writes Zalman's parent company Moneual's CEO Harold Park, and vice presidents Scott Park and Won Duck-yeok, have apparently spent the last five years producing fraudulent documentation relating to the sales performance of Zalman. These documents inflated sales figures and export data for Zalman's products. The reason? Bank loans. By increasing sales and exports Park and his associates were able to secure bank loans totaling $2.98 billion. Someone has finally realized what has been going on, though, triggering Zalman's shares to be suspended on the stock market and the company filing for bankruptcy protection. The questions now turn to how this practice was allowed to continue unnoticed for so long and how the banks will go about getting their near $3 billion back.

    208 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Some Virgin Galactic Customers Demand Money Back

    schwit1 (797399) writes News reports suggest that — following last week's SpaceShipTwo crash — more than thirty of the seven hundred people who placed deposits with Virgin Galactic to fly on SpaceshipTwo have pulled out, demanding their money back. "In response to the claim that more than 30 customers are considering their position in the aftermath of the crash, a spokesperson for Virgin Galactic admitted a number of people have asked for their money back. 'We can confirm that less than three per cent of people have requested refunds,' the spokesman said." This is not a surprise, nor should it be. A company can only survive a crisis like this by responding honestly, quickly, and directly. If Virgin Galactic does this, finding the cause of the crash and fixing it, they will likely hold onto most of their customers. If they don't, those remaining customers will leave. This week's cancellations are the first immediate response to the crash. The future of the company, however, will be determined by what happens in the next six months.

    165 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Free Broadband For NYC Public Housing?

    First time accepted submitter nomad63 (686331) writes "Earlier this week, the NY Times reported that a group of city and leaders, with NYC public advocate Letitia James at the helm, are pushing for a commitment from Comcast to provide free broadband to the city's public housing and to extend its low-cost Internet Essentials plan (which was created as a condition of the NBC deal). While New York City might be the center of finance and commerce in the U.S., about 1/3 of households don't have an Internet connection, highlighting the huge "digital divide" between the city's wealthy residents and those who can't afford broadband service.In addition to the free service for public housing, the group wants gratis access at shelters for the city's homeless and its victims of domestic violence."

    250 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

    sneakyimp writes: The Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded on launch due to a "catastrophic anomaly" after a flawless countdown. No injuries are reported and all personnel are accounted for. According to the audio stream hosted by local news affiliate WTVR's website, the Cygnus spacecraft contained classified crypto technology and efforts are being made to cordon off the wreckage area. Additionally, interviews of personnel and witness reports are to be limited to appropriate government agencies so that an accident report can be generated. This accident is likely to have a detrimental effect on the stock price of Orbital Sciences Corp, traded on the NYSE. The Antares rocket's engines are based on old soviet designs from the '60s. While this is sure to be a blow to NASA due to the cost, it may well boost the fortunes of SpaceX, a chief competitor of Orbital Sciences. Both companies were recently awarded resupply contracts by NASA.

    443 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Ken Ham's Ark Torpedoed With Charges of Religious Discrimination

    McGruber writes: Back on February 4, "Science Guy" Bill Nye debated Creationist Kenneth Alfred "Ken" Ham. That high-profile debate helped boost support for Ham's $73 million "Ark Encounter" project, allowing Ham to announce on February 25 that a municipal bond offering had raised enough money to begin construction. Nye said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky" after learning that the project would move forward. Nye said the ark would eventually draw more attention to the beliefs of Ham's ministry, which preaches that the Bible's creation story is a true account, and as a result, "voters and taxpayers in Kentucky will eventually see that this is not in their best interest."

    In July, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority unanimously approved $18.25 million worth of tax incentives to keep the ark park afloat. The funds are from a state program that allows eligible tourism attractions a rebate of as much as 25 percent of the investment in the project. Since then, the Ark Park's employment application has became public: "Nestled among the requirements for all job applicants were three troubling obligatory documents: 'Salvation testimony,' 'Creation belief statement,' and a 'Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG statement of faith.' (AiG is Answers in Genesis, Ham's ministry and Ark Encounter's parent company.)"

    That caused the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to halt its issuance of tax incentives for the ark park. Bob Stewart, secretary of the cabinet, wrote to Ham that "the Commonwealth does not provide incentives to any company that discriminates on the basis of religion and we will not make any exception for Ark Encounter, LLC." Before funding could proceed, Stewart explained, "the Commonwealth must have the express written assurance from Ark Encounter, LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring." The ark park has not yet sunk. It is "still pending before the authority" and a date has not yet been set for the meeting where final approval will be considered.

    451 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Steve Ballmer Gets Billion-Dollar Tax Write-Off For Being Basketball Baron

    McGruber (1417641) writes "According to a report published by The Financial Times (paywalled), ex-Microsoft CEO Billionaire Steve Ballmer will be able to write off about a billion dollars of his basketball team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years. "Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."

    255 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"

    theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."

    283 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Ello Formally Promises To Remain Ad-Free, Raises $5.5M

    Social media site Ello is presented as the anti-Facebook, promising an ad-free social network, and that they won't sell private data. Today, they've also announced that Ello has become a Public Benefit Corporation, and that the site's anti-advertising promise has been enshrined in a corporate charter. The BBC reports on the restrictions that Ello has therefore entered into, which mean the site cannot, for monetary gain,

    1. Sell user-specific data to a third party
    2. Enter into an agreement to display paid advertising on behalf of a third party; and
    3. In the event of an acquisition or asset transfer, the Company shall require any acquiring entity to adopt these requirements with respect to the operation of Ello or its assets.

    While that might turn off some potential revenue flows (the company says it will make money by selling optional features), as the linked article points out, it hasn't turned off investors; Ello has now raised $5.5 million from investors.

    167 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Judge Says EA Battlefield 4 Execs Engaged In "Puffery," Not Fraud

    DemonOnIce writes with a story, as reported by Ars Technica, that a federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a proposed securities fraud class action lawsuit connected to Battlefield 4's bungled rollout. From the report: EA and several top executives were sued in December and were accused of duping investors with their public statements and concealing issues with the first-person shooter game. The suit claimed executives were painting too rosy of a picture surrounding what ultimately would be Battlefield 4's disastrous debut on various gaming consoles beginning last October, including the next-generation Xbox One. But US District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco said their comments about EA and the first-person shooter game were essentially protected corporate speak. "The Court agrees with defendants that all of the purported misstatements are inactionable statements of opinion, corporate optimism, or puffery," Illston ruled Monday.

    95 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Facebook and Apple Now Pay For Female Employees To Freeze Their Eggs

    Dave Knott writes: While freezing eggs has become an increasingly popular practice for career-oriented women, the procedure comes at a steep price: Costs typically add up to at least $10,000 for every round, plus $500 or more annually for storage. Now two Silicon Valley giants are offering women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs. They appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons, both offering to cover costs up to $20,000. Tech firms are hardly alone in offering generous benefits to attract and keep talent, but they appear to be leading the way with egg freezing.

    Advocates say they've heard murmurs of large law, consulting, and finance firms helping to cover the costs, although no one is broadcasting this support. Companies may be concerned about the public relations implications of the benefit – in the most cynical light, egg-freezing coverage could be viewed as a ploy to entice women to sell their souls to their employer, sacrificing childbearing years for the promise of promotion. Will the perk pay off for companies? The benefit will likely encourage women to stay with their employer longer, cutting down on recruiting and hiring costs. And practically speaking, when women freeze their eggs early, firms may save on pregnancy costs in the long run. A woman could avoid paying to use a donor egg down the road, for example, or undergoing more intensive fertility treatments when she's ready to have a baby. But the emotional and cultural payoff may be more valuable, helping women be more productive human beings.

    253 comments | about 2 months ago

  • "Double Irish" Tax Loophole Used By US Companies To Be Closed

    An anonymous reader writes: The Irish Finance Minister announced on Tuesday that Ireland will no longer allow companies to register in Ireland unless the companies are also tax resident. This will effectively close off the corporate tax avoidance scheme known as the "Double Irish" used by the likes of Google, Apple, and Facebook to route their earnings through their Irish holdings in order to garner an effective tax rate of, as in Google FY2013, 0.16%. Ireland's new policy will take effect in 2015 for new companies. "For existing companies, there will be provision for a transition period until the end of 2020."

    259 comments | about 2 months ago

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