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Microsoft Sells $17 Billion in Second Bond Deal in Six Months
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's $$$ department:
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Microsoft found ample demand for its $17 billion bond offering, allowing it to cut borrowing rates on its second multibillion note offering in six months. The tech giant received at least twice as many orders as it had bonds to sell, according to people familiar with the matter. The longest portion of the offering, which generally refinanced debt maturing soon, was a $2 billion, 40-year bond with a 4.5 percent coupon that yields 1.4 percentage points above Treasuries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's down from initial discussions of about 1.55 percentage points. Moody's Investors Service said Microsoft will use proceeds to refinance commercial paper it sold to help support its takeover of LinkedIn. A regulatory filing shows that at the end of 2016, the Redmond, Washington-based company had $25.1 billion of the debt.

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Google Hands Over $3M in Bug Bounties as Payouts Soar For New Android Flaws
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-bounties department:
Google paid researchers over $3m last year for their contributions to its vulnerability rewards programs. From a ZDNet report: Payouts in 2016 take Google's total payments under its bug bounty schemes to $9m since it started rewarding researchers in 2010. In 2015 it paid researchers $2m, which brought its total then to $6m. It's not uncommon for tech companies to run bug bounties these days, but while many rely on third-party platforms, Google has been responsible for verifying bugs for over six years now. Occasionally, Google expands its program to cover new products, such as Android, and new devices such as OnHub and Nest. Facebook, Microsoft, and most recently Apple are also running their own bug bounties.

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Even Sprint Beat AT&T and Verizon in Customer Growth
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-a-return department:
Customers are turning to Sprint again. From a report on CNET: In fact, they're starting to look to the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier over stalwarts like AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The company said it added 405,000 net new post-paid subscribers -- people who pay at the end of the month and tend to be more loyal. Of that total, 368,000 were phone customers, Sprint's highest rate of growth in four years. The numbers suggest Sprint is starting to pull itself out of a death spiral, reversing years of losses, customers faced with poor service and a network that lagged behind the competition. Sprint's customer growth came at a time when all the carriers were aggressive with holiday promotions. It's a trend that will likely continue, resulting in more potential deals for consumers. "Sprint is turning the corner," CEO Marcelo Claure said in the company's fiscal third-quarter report on Tuesday.

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Tesla's Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's battery-revolution department:
Tesla is all set to cut the ribbon on a massive battery storage facility in the California desert -- the biggest of its kind on earth. It joins similarly huge facilities built by AES and Altagas, which are both set to launch around the same time. Combined, the plants constitute 15% of the battery storage installed globally last year. From a report: Tesla Motors is making a huge bet that millions of small batteries can be strung together to help kick fossil fuels off the grid. The idea is a powerful one -- one that's been used to help justify the company's $5 billion factory near Reno, Nev. -- but batteries have so far only appeared in a handful of true, grid-scale pilot projects. That changes this week. Ribbons will be cut and executives will take their bows. But this is a revolution that's just getting started, Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel said in an interview on Friday. "It's sort of hard to comprehend sometimes the speed all this is going at," he said. "Our storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it."

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Swedish Govt Mulls Tougher Punishments To Tackle Pirate Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-stand department:
Authorities in Sweden are mulling new measures to deal with evolving 'pirate' sites. As part of a legislative review, the government wants to assess potential legal tools, including categorizing large-scale infringement as organized crime, tougher sentences, domain seizures, and site-blocking, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Sweden is now considering its options when it comes to its future prosecutions of large-scale copyright infringement cases. As part of a review now underway, the government is accessing the powers it needs to deal with more serious cases of copyright infringement. Police national coordinator for intellectual property crimes Paul Pinter hopes that any changes will enable police to operate more efficiently in the future. "If you have a felony, you can get access to a whole new toolkit. In the terms of reference for the inquiry, the government mentions almost all of the points that we have previously proposed," he told IDG. Considering the way anti-piracy enforcement has developed over the past several years, few of the suggestions from the police come as a surprise. At the top of the tree is treating pirate site operators as more than just large-scale copyright infringers. The Justice Department says that due to the manner in which sites are organized and the subsequent development of revenue, treating them as self-contained crime operations may be appropriate.

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Indian IT Sector Warns Against US Visa Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-India department:
India's IT lobby warned on Tuesday that a bill before the U.S. Congress aimed at imposing tougher visa rules unfairly targets some of its members and will not solve a U.S. labor shortage in technology and engineering. From a report on Reuters: Industry lobby group Nasscom was responding to a bill introduced by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, that would double the minimum salary required for holders of H-1B visas to $130,000 and determine how many of the visas were allocated, based on factors such as overall wages. India's $150 billion information technology sector, led by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro, uses the H-1B visas to fly engineers and developers to service clients in the U.S., their biggest market, but opponents say they are using the visas to replace U.S. workers. Concerns about President Donald Trump's immigration policies were heightened by his ban on refugees on Friday. "The Lofgren Bill contains provisions that may prove challenging for the Indian IT sector and will also leave loopholes that will nullify the objective of saving American jobs," Nasscom said.

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Netgear Exploit Found in 31 Models Lets Hackers Turn Your Router Into a Botnet
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: You might want to upgrade the firmware of your router if it happens to sport the Netgear brand. Researchers have discovered a severe security hole that potentially puts hundreds of thousands of Netgear devices at risk. Disclosed by cybersecurity firm Trustwave, the vulnerability essentially allows attackers to exploit the router's password recovery system to bypass authentication and hijack admin credentials, giving them full access to the device and its settings. What is particularly alarming is that the bug affects at least 31 different Netgear models, with the total magnitude of the vulnerability potentially leaving over a million users open to attacks. Even more unsettling is the fact that affected devices could in certain cases be breached remotely. As Trustwave researcher Simon Kenin explains, any router that has the remote management option switched on is ultimately vulnerable to hacks.

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'It's Tricky': Apple Misses the Deadline To Pay $13.9 Bn To Ireland in Illegal Tax Benefit
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tax-savings department:
Apple has not fully paid the 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) it owes to Ireland in illegal tax benefits even though the deadline has passed, the European Union's competition said on Tuesday. From a report: "Well the recovery is not done yet but we have been working with the Irish authorizes and we can see that they are moving forward to do the recovery of the unpaid taxes," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said during a press conference in response to a question by CNBC. "It's a tricky thing to do because it's a large sum so of course you have to figure out how to do that. It's not as an escrow account in some of the other cases where it might be 25 or 30 million euros ... and therefore I do respect that it's a complicated matter and it may take a little more time. Last year, the Commission ruled that Ireland must recover 13 billion euros in "illegal tax benefits" from Apple. It found that the U.S. technology giant paid an effective tax rate of 0.005 percent in Ireland in 2014.

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Why An LSD High Lasts For So Long
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's revolutionary-idea-making department:
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been credited, in part, for the creation of the iPhone, the polymerase chain reaction, as well as some pretty abstract artwork. Since the drug is classified as a Schedule 1 substance in the U.S., it's been more difficult for scientists to legally study the drug and learn about how it affects the brain. Therefore, when a study (or two) is published it makes the findings all the more fascinating. Two studies were published last week (one in Current Biology, the other in Cell) that examine how LSD produces such diverse effects and why the drug takes so long to wear off. The Scientist reports the findings from for the first study: For the Current Biology study, 21 volunteers were given a placebo, a small dose of LSD alone, or the same dose of LSD but with kentaserin, a serotonin 2A antagonist. Study participants who took the kentaserin reported virtually the same experiences as those who took the placebo, and fMRI brain scans confirmed similar brain activities across participants in both groups. The serotonin 2A antagonist "blocked all the effects of LSD, so it was like if people didn't take any drugs," coauthor Katrin Preller, neuroscientist at the Zurich University Hospital in Switzerland told The Verge. "All the typical symptoms -- hallucinations, everything -- were gone."
< article continued at Slashdot's revolutionary-idea-making department >

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Scientists Create Electronic Glasses That Can Automatically Focus On Whatever You're Looking At
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's phase-detection-auto-focus department:
mmell writes: University of Utah scientists have created a prototype electronic lens which uses several technologies to customize the lens optics focusing on whatever the wearer is looking at. [Just like] the "oil lenses" in Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels, the electronic lens (a transparent LCD) can have its index of refractivity modified by application of a small electric current. While I can conceive many uses for this technology (in spacecraft instruments, webcams/Handycams, handheld binoculars and telescopes for example), these were developed as a replacement for the progressive lenses -- a.k.a. bifocals -- which are worn by many with less than perfect eyesight. Many eyeglass wearers don't tolerate bifocals well and I wonder if the adaptive optics in this prototype could relieve them of the need to carry multiple pairs of glasses? Whether they prove cost effective for the role of eyeglasses or not (and I can see no reason why they shouldn't), the applications for this technology seem quite diverse and potentially even revolutionary. I wonder how long it will be before these are more than just a prototype?

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Oxygen From Earth's Atmosphere May Be Traveling To the Moon's Surface
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's exhaust-pipe department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: New research shows that oxygen from Earth could be journeying all the way out to the Moon, where it then gets lodged inside the lunar soil. It's a process that's likely been happening for 2.4 billion years, ever since oxygen formed around our planet, meaning the Moon's soil may contain trapped particles from Earth's ancient atmosphere. This oxygen exchange, detailed in a study published today in Nature Astronomy, supposedly occurs for just a few days during the Moon's 27-day orbit. Most of the time, the Moon is constantly being blasted with solar wind -- fast streams of charged particles emanating from the Sun. But for five days of every lunar orbit, the Moon passes into Earth's magnetotail, the portion of the planet's magnetic field that stretches outward away from the Sun. This tail shields the Moon from the solar wind, and allows charged oxygen ions from Earth to travel to the lunar surface, according to the study. That means the Moon -- a dead rock incapable of supporting life -- is being showered with the byproducts of life here on Earth. In fact, the source of most of the oxygen in our atmosphere is biological, created by plants during photosynthesis. It's a process that experts have suspected for a while but haven't been able to confirm until today. Researchers have also suggested that other atmospheric components, such as nitrogen and noble gases, are getting to the Moon this way based on lunar soil samples.

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Woman Built House From the Ground Up Using Nothing But YouTube Tutorials
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fill-in-the-blank department:
schwit1 quotes a report from Digital Trends: In this generation of self-starters and self-made women and men, do-it-yourself isn't just an option, it's a way of life. And if there's not an app for that, chances are there's a YouTube video for it. That was certainly the case for a woman named Cara Brookins, who is living proof that if you're willing to learn, you absolutely can. In 2008, Brookins was in the midst of a family struggle, having left a husband she called "violent and abusive." Looking to make a fresh start for herself, she took the idea of rebuilding quite literally, perhaps using the physical experience of constructing a house as an extension of her emotional and mental journey. Though she had no previous experience in construction or architecture, Brookins found a series of YouTube tutorials on building a home and got to work. Over the course of nine months, Brookins worked tirelessly with the help of her four children to build a new home for themselves. "I had rented this cabin for a Thanksgiving getaway," the mother of four told CBS News. "And driving there, we passed this house that had been ravaged by a tornado. It was this beautiful dream house and it was sort of wide open. You don't often get the opportunity to see the interior workings of a house, but looking at these 2x4s and these nails, it just looked so simple. I thought, "I could put this wall back up if I really tried. Maybe I should just start from scratch.'"

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Trump's Next Immigration Move To Affect H-1B Visas; Require Tech Companies To Try To Hire Americans First: Bloomberg
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's close-to-home department:
AdamnSelene writes: A report in Bloomberg describes a draft executive order that will hit the tech industry hard and potentially change the way those companies recruit workers from abroad. The H-1B, L-1, E-2, and B1 work visa programs would be targeted by requiring companies to prioritize higher-paid immigrant workers over lower-paid workers. In addition, the order will impose statistical reporting requirements on tech companies who sponsor workers under these programs. The order is expected to impact STEM workers from India the most.

Penguinisto adds: If (perhaps when) the president follows through, his next move could limit or at least seriously alter the way H-1B visas are distributed, putting U.S. citizens at a higher priority, and possibly restricting H1-B visas tighter. From the article: "If implemented, the reforms could shift the way American companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Apple recruit talent and force wholesale changes at Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro. Businesses would have to try to hire Americans first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid. "Our country's immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest," the draft proposal reads, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg. "Visa programs for foreign workers should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers -- our forgotten working people -- and the jobs they hold."

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Razer Buys Nextbit
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new department:
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, startup Nextbit announced that it has been acquired by PC accessory maker Razer. True, it seems like an odd acquisition, but not any stranger than Razer buying THX. With that said, getting into the smartphone game seems like a very risky business, as more established companies -- such as HTC -- are struggling lately. Has Razer made a mistake? "I'm thrilled to announce that we're joining the Razer family! They're rebels like us, they speak from the heart, and they share our need to push boundaries. Nextbit will operate as an independent division inside Razer, focused on unique mobile design and experiences. To put it simply, we'll be doing exactly what we've been doing all along, only bigger and better," says Tom Moss, Co-Founder and CEO, Nextbit. Nexbit turned a lot of heads a couple of years ago when it released the Robin, "the first Android phone that makes running out of space history." The device's onboard storage is merged with the accompanied cloud storage, allowing Robin to seamlessly back up your apps and photos, archive the stuff you're not using and restore items when you need them. Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to purchase the Robin from Nextbit as the company has stopped selling the device and all accessories. Though, they "will continue to fulfill warranties for 6 more months" and "will continue to provide software updates and security patches through February 2018."

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LG's UltraFine 5K Display Becomes Useless When It's Within Two Meters of a Router
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's water-and-oil department:
The LG UltraFine 5K Display was designed in part by Apple to work with the New MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, which was discontinued late last year. According to 9to5Mac, the display apparently wasn't designed to work next to routers as it will flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers when it's within two meters of a router due to electromagnetic interference. The Verge reports: In emails to 9to5Mac, LG acknowledged the problem -- which LG says isn't an issue for any of its other monitors -- noting that routers "may affect the performance of the monitor" and that users should "have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor" to avoid issues. Once the monitor was moved into a different room away from the router, 9to5Mac says the issues subsided. Despite the fact that it's insane to require a router to be far away from what is likely the main computer in your home, there's been no indication that LG is working on a fix for the issue, which may be more troublesome.

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Scientists Find 'Oldest Human Ancestor' -- A Big-Mouthed Sea Creature With No Anus
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's foul-mouthed department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Researchers have discovered the earliest known ancestor of humans -- along with a vast range of other species. They say that fossilized traces of the 540-million-year-old creature are "exquisitely well preserved." The microscopic sea animal is the earliest known step on the evolutionary path that led to fish and -- eventually -- to humans. Details of the discovery from central China appear in Nature journal. The research team says that Saccorhytus is the most primitive example of a category of animals called "deuterostomes" which are common ancestors of a broad range of species, including vertebrates (backboned animals). Saccorhytus was about a millimeter in size, and is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. The researchers were unable to find any evidence that the animal had an anus, which suggests that it consumed food and excreted from the same orifice. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers, from the UK, China and Germany. Among them was Prof Simon Conway Morris, from the University of Cambridge. The study suggests that its body was symmetrical, which is a characteristic inherited by many of its evolutionary descendants, including humans. Saccorhytus was also covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles, leading the researchers to conclude that it moved by contracting its muscles and got around by wriggling. The researchers say that its most striking feature is its large mouth, relative to the rest of its body. They say that it probably ate by engulfing food particles, or even other creatures. Also interesting are the conical structures on its body. These, the scientists suggest, might have allowed the water that it swallowed to escape and so might have been a very early version of gills.

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Google Quietly Makes 'Optional' Web DRM Mandatory In Chrome
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-of-a-switch department:
JustAnotherOldGuy quotes a report from Boing Boing: The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Some time in the past few days, Google quietly updated Chrome (and derivative browsers like Chromium) so that Widevine (Google's version of EME) can no longer be disabled; it comes switched on and installed in every Chrome instance. Because of laws like section 1201 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (and Canada's Bill C11, and EU implementations of Article 6 of the EUCD), browsers that have DRM in them are risky for security researchers to audit. These laws provide both criminal and civil penalties for those who tamper with DRM, even for legal, legitimate purposes, and courts and companies have interpreted this to mean that companies can punish security researchers who reveal defects in their products. Further reading: Boing Boing and Hacker News.

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FDA Confirms Toxicity of Homeopathic Baby Products; Maker Refuses To Recall
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's buyer-beware department:
Last year in November, the Federal Trade Commission issued an enforcement policy statement that requires over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drugs and product makers to disclose in their advertisement and labeling that there is no evidence that homeopathic products are effective. At around the same time the FTC issued the statement, the Food and Drug Administration was investigating homeopathic teething gels and tablets, which may have been improperly diluted, thus causing serious harm to infants. The FDA investigated 10 infant deaths and more than 400 reports of seizures, fever, and vomiting and confirmed Friday that belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, was the prime suspect. When the FDA notified the products' maker, Hyland's, the company would not agree to recall the products. Ars Technica reports: Hyland's has been defensive since the FDA first opened the investigation last September. In an October press release, the company referred to agency's warnings as a source of "confusion" and assured consumers that the products are safe and effective. Still, the company discontinued distribution in the U.S. The National Center for Homeopathy, which has ties with Hyland's, slammed the FDA, calling the agency's warnings "arbitrary and capricious." In an "action alert," the organization went on to suggest that warning was prompted by "groups interested in seeing homeopathy destroyed" and led to "fear mongering" by the media. As before, the FDA is urging parents to avoid the homeopathic teething products and toss any already purchased. The FDA does not evaluate or approve the homeopathic products, which have no proven health benefit. Belladonna is an active ingredient in those products, but is supposed to be heavily diluted. Homeopaths belief that ailments and diseases can be cured by trace amounts or "memories" of toxic substances that mimic or cause similar symptoms. Homeopathy is a pseudoscience that has been squarely debunked, offering no more than a placebo effect. In its announcement Friday, the FDA said it had found inconsistent amounts of belladonna in Hyland's products. Some of the amounts were "far exceeding" what was intended.

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'Father of Pac-Man,' Masaya Nakamura, Dies At Age 91
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department:
AmiMoJo writes from a report via The Japan Times: Masaya Nakamura, the founder of game developer Namco and known as "the father of Pac-Man," has died at age 91. He founded Nakamura Seisakusho in 1955, which was renamed Namco in 1977. The company developed numerous hit video games, including "Galaxian," "Pac-Man" and "Ridge Racer." "Pac-Man," designed by Namco's inhouse video game maker Toru Iwatani, is one of the most recognizable and popular video games in history. In 2005 it was listed by Guinness World Records as the "most successful coin-operated arcade machine."

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Former Fed Employee Fined $5,000 For Installing Bitcoin Software On Server
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rake-in-the-money department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A former Federal Reserve employee was sentenced Friday to 12 months probation and a $5,000 fine after pleading guilty in October to installing unauthorized software on a computer server at the U.S. central bank. Nicholas Berthaume, who as a communications analyst had access to computer servers at the Fed's Board of Governors in Washington, installed software that connected to an online bitcoin network in order to earn units of the digital currency, according to a statement Monday from the central bank's Office of Inspector General. Berthaume also "modified certain security safeguards so that he could remotely access the server from home," the statement said. When confronted, he tried to cover up his actions by deleting the software; eventually he was fired and admitted guilt, the office said. His actions didn't result in the loss of any Fed information, and the board has enhanced security since the incident, the internal watchdog said. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled).

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