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India To Intercept, Monitor, and Decrypt Citizens' Computers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 04:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Orwellian-state department:
Several readers have shared a report: The Indian government has authorized 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt data on any computer, sending a shock wave through citizens and privacy watchdogs. Narendra Modi's government late Thursday broadened the scope of Section 69 of the nation's IT Act, 2000 to require a subscriber, service provider, or any person in charge of a computer to "extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies." Failure to comply with the agencies could result in seven years of imprisonment and an unspecified fine. In a clarification posted today, the Ministry of Home Affairs said each case of interception, monitoring, and decryption is to be approved by the competent authority, which is the Union Home Secretary.

Explaining the rationale behind the order, India's IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said that the measure was undertaken in the interests of national security. He added that some form of "tapping" has already been going on in the country for a number of years and that the new order would help bring structure to that process. "Always remember one thing," he said in a televised interview. "Even in the case of a particular individual, the interception order shall not be effective unless affirmed by the Home Secretary."

The Internet Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that protects the online rights of citizens in India, cautioned that the order goes beyond telephone tapping. It includes looking at content streams and might even involve breaking encryption in some cases. "Imagine your search queries on Google over [a number of] years being demanded -- mixed with your WhatsApp metadata, who you talk to, when, and how much [and add] layers of data streams from emails + Facebook," it said. "To us this order is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar Judgement,"
it asserted.

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Apple Confirms Some iPad Pros Ship Slightly Bent, But Says It's Normal
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 03:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bendgate-2.0 department:
Iwastheone shares a report from The Verge: Apple has confirmed to The Verge that some of its 2018 iPad Pros are shipping with a very slight bend in the aluminum chassis. But according to the company, this is a side effect of the device's manufacturing process and shouldn't worsen over time or negatively affect the flagship iPad's performance in any practical way. Apple does not consider it to be a defect. The bend is the result of a cooling process involving the iPad Pro's metal and plastic components during manufacturing, according to Apple. Both sizes of the new iPad Pro can exhibit it.

Those who are annoyed by the bend shouldn't have any trouble exchanging or returning their iPad Pro at the Apple Store or other retailers within the 14-day return window. But it's not clear if swaps will be permitted outside that policy. I've asked Apple if it has communicated with stores about the issue, as I've read some accounts of employees telling people it's accidental damage and warrants an AppleCare+ claim (and deductible) to replace. That shouldn't be the case for a slight bend. Apple also says it has not seen a higher-than-normal return rate for the 2018 iPad Pro so far.

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China Launched More Rockets Into Orbit In 2018 Than Any Other Country
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 12:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's orbital-launches department:
Privately funded space startups are changing China's space industry, helping it become a space power on par with the United States. "2018 is shaping up to be the first year in which more rockets reach Earth orbit from China than from any other country," reports MIT Technology Review. "As of mid-December, China had made 35 successful launches, as against 30 for the U.S." "As American and Russian space programs struggle with uncertain budgets, China is expanding its efforts on every front: communications and reconnaissance satellites; a navigation and positioning constellation to rival America's GPS; a human spaceflight program; and ambitious space-science and robotic exploration projects. All of these are enabled by a menagerie of new rockets with advanced capabilities." Here's an excerpt from the report summarizing some of China's space ambitions: In 2014, the Chinese government decided to allow private investment in space-related industry. Landspace began with a few dozen people. It now has over 200 employees at a manufacturing base in Huzhou in eastern China and at assembly and testing facilities in X'ian, a central Chinese city. The company plans to work incrementally, beginning with nano-satellites -- devices weighing between 1 and 10 kilograms (2 to 22 pounds) -- then moving to larger cargoes and, eventually, into human spaceflight. In September 2018, iSpace launched three nanosatellites on a brief suborbital flight, becoming the first Chinese space startup to successfully get beyond Earth's atmosphere. Another company, LinkSpace, plans to launch a vertical takeoff, vertical landing rocket in 2020. Landspace, OneSpace, iSpace, LinkSpace, and ExPace (which fashions itself as a startup though it's a subsidiary of a state-owned enterprise) are the leaders of a bevy of lesser-known Chinese launch startups.

< article continued at Slashdot's orbital-launches department >

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Breakthrough Ultrasound Treatment To Reverse Dementia Moves To Human Trials
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's promising-treatments department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: An extraordinarily promising new technique using ultrasound to clear the toxic protein clumps thought to cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease is moving to the first phase of human trials next year. The innovative treatment has proven successful across several animal tests and presents an exciting, drug-free way to potentially battle dementia. The ultrasound treatment was first developed back in 2015 at the University of Queensland. The initial research was working to find a way to use ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier with the goal of helping dementia-battling antibodies better reach their target in the brain. However, early experiments with mice surprisingly revealed the targeted ultrasound waves worked to clear toxic amyloid protein plaques from the brain without any additional therapeutic drugs. The new announcement regarding the upcoming move to human trials is underpinned by a large funding injection from the Australian government helping accelerate the treatment's development. The first stage is a phase 1 safety trial, kicking off later in 2019, to explore the safety profile of the treatment in human subjects suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

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Two Android Apps Used In Combat By US Troops Contained Severe Vulnerabilities
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-approved-for-combat department:
According to a Navy Inspector General report, U.S. military troops used two Android apps that contained severe vulnerabilities in live combat scenarios. "The two apps are named KILSWITCH (Kinetic Integrated Low-Cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld) and APASS (Android Precision Assault Strike Suite)," reports ZDNet. From the report: Both apps work by showing satellite imagery of surroundings, including objectives, mission goals, nearby enemy and friendly forces. The two apps work as a modern-day replacement for radios and paper maps and allow troops to use a real-time messaging client to coordinate with other military branches, and even call in air-strike support with a few simple screen taps, according to a DARPA press release and accompanying YouTube video. The apps have been under development since 2012 and starting 2015, they have been made generally available to all U.S. troops via a public app store managed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. But according to a Navy Inspector General report from March that was made public today, both apps contained vulnerabilities that could have allowed enemy forces access to troops' information.

The heavily redacted report doesn't detail the nature of the two vulnerabilities, but it does point out that the Navy had failed to control the distribution of these two applications, and later failed to act in warning troops of the danger they were in for almost a year. The report says that the two apps, KILSWITCH and APASS, were never meant or approved to be deployed in live combat zones. But the two apps, because of their flashy features and easier to use interface, became wildly popular among U.S. troops, but also other military branches, including foreign allied forces.

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Amazon's Grocery Push Keeps Stumbling After Whole Foods Purchase
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's grocery-shopping-activity department:
Bloomberg reports that Amazon is struggling in the $840 billion grocery market, more than a year after it spoked the industry with the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods last year. "The number of Amazon Prime members who shop for groceries at least once a month declined in 2018 compared with 2017, according to the results of an annual consumer survey released Wednesday by UBS analysts," the report says. "The drop was surprising given the company's Whole Foods investment and expansion of two hour delivery service Prime Now, the analysts wrote in a note to investors." From the report: A separate study by research firm Brick Meets Click found that households using grocery delivery and pickup services from physical retailers spend about $200 per month and place orders more frequently than Amazon grocery shoppers, who spend $74 a month. The number of households with access to online grocery delivery and pickup options will reach 90 percent next year, up from 69 percent in 2017, thanks to big investments by food retailers of all sizes, the report states.

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Uber Resumes Testing Self-Driving Cars Nine Months After Deadly Crash
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's let's-try-this-again department:
Nine months after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona, Uber has decided that it's time to resume testing its self-driving cars on public roads. The company received a letter from Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation authorizing it to restart its program, although it will be massively scaled back from the one it had last year. The Verge reports: For the time being, Uber's self-driving Volvo SUVs will be confined to a one-mile loop around Pittsburgh's Strip District, where the company's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) is headquartered. Only two vehicles are being tested for now, though more will be added. The cars won't exceed the posted speed limit of 25 mph, and will have two safety drivers in them at all times -- Uber calls them "mission specialists." For now, the cars aren't picking up any passengers. A spokesperson for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said since Uber has "accepted established state guidelines, demonstrated transparency, and conformed to our expectations in addressing the unique conditions of a complex urban environment, the city is satisfied that self-driving testing operations by Uber will not introduce an increased level of safety risk in Pittsburgh," the spokesperson said.

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Australian Court Orders ISPs To Block 181 'Pirate' Domains, Including Subtitle Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's largest-of-its-kind department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: This week the Federal Court has issued the largest pirate site blocking injunction thus far in Australia, judging by the number of targeted sites. The case in question was filed by Village Roadshow, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Columbia, Universal, Warner, and others, targeting 78 pirate "locations." The list of targets includes IPTorrents, BT-Scene, Fmovies, Putlocker, RuTracker, KissAnime, NYAA, Torrentday, YIFY-movies and various others. In total, the injunction lists 181 domain names. Interestingly, the court order also targets several subtitle sites. The injunction lists OpenSubtitles, YifySubtitles, and SubScene, for example. While these sites don't host or link to infringing videos, the movie companies argued that the sites are "communicating to the public a literary work," referencing the screenplay.

The list of ISPs that are required to implement the blockades includes Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG, Vodafone, and several subsidiaries. The blocking measures have to be implemented within 15 days, through DNS blocking, IP-address blocking, or any other means agreed with the rightsholder. This order will remain valid for a period of three years. If required, the rightsholders can then apply for an extension. The movie companies must also pay ISPs to implement the blocking measures but, at the rate of $50 per domain name, that's not going to be a problem.

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Apple To Pull Some iPhones In Germany Following Ruling In Qualcomm Patent Case
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
"Qualcomm was granted a second injunction against Apple on Thursday, banning it from selling some iPhone models in Germany that use chips from Intel and parts from another supplier, Qorvo," reports CNBC. This is the second major win for Qualcomm against Apple after a Chinese court granted an injunction against Apple for an alleged patent violation on Dec. 10." From the report: In a statement, Apple said it plans to appeal the ruling. Under this condition, Judge Matthias Zigann told the court earlier Thursday, the ruling would not go into immediate effect. However, Apple said that throughout the appeal process, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models will not be sold in its 15 retail stores in Germany. Its newest models, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, will still be sold in those stores, Apple said in the statement. All iPhone models will still be sold through carriers and other third-party retailers in Germany, Apple said. But Qualcomm said in a press release that the injunction will be in effect as soon as it posts the required bonds. It said it would complete the process "within a few days."

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FBI Shuts Down 15 DDoS-For-Hire Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's given-the-boot department:
The FBI has shut down the domains of 15 high-profile distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) websites. "Several seizure warrants granted by a California federal judge went into effect Thursday, removing several of these 'border' or 'stresser' sites off the internet 'as part of coordinated law enforcement action taken against illegal DDoS-for-hire services,'" reports TechCrunch. "The orders were granted under federal seizure laws, and the domains were replaced with a federal notice." From the report: Prosecutors have charged three men, Matthew Gatrel and Juan Martinez in California and David Bukoski in Alaska, with operating the sites, according to affidavits filed in three U.S. federal courts, which were unsealed Thursday. The FBI had assistance from the U.K.'s National Crime Agency and the Dutch national police, and the Justice Department named several companies, including Cloudflare, Flashpoint and Google, for providing authorities with additional assistance. In all, several sites were knocked offline -- including downthem.org, netstress.org, quantumstress.net, vbooter.org and defcon.pro and more -- which allowed would-be attackers to sign up to rent time and servers to launch large-scale bandwidth attacks against systems and servers.

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China Hacked HPE, IBM and Then Attacked Clients, Report Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's corporate-cyber-espionage department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Hackers working on behalf of China's Ministry of State Security breached the networks of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM, then used the access to hack into their clients' computers, according to five sources familiar with the attacks. The attacks were part of a Chinese campaign known as Cloudhopper, which the United States and Britain on Thursday said infected technology service providers in order to steal secrets from their clients. While cybersecurity firms and government agencies have issued multiple warnings about the Cloudhopper threat since 2017, they have not disclosed the identity of technology companies whose networks were compromised. IBM said it had no evidence that sensitive corporate data had been compromised. HPE said it could not comment on the Cloudhopper campaign.

< article continued at Slashdot's corporate-cyber-espionage department >

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Facebook's WhatsApp Has an Encrypted Child Porn Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 03:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Videos and pictures of children being subjected to sexual abuse are being openly shared on Facebook's WhatsApp on a vast scale, with the encrypted messaging service failing to curb the problem despite banning thousands of accounts every day. From a report: Without the necessary number of human moderators, the disturbing content is slipping by WhatsApp's automated systems. A report reviewed by TechCrunch from two Israeli NGOs details how third-party apps for discovering WhatsApp groups include "Adult" sections that offer invite links to join rings of users trading images of child exploitation. TechCrunch has reviewed materials showing many of these groups are currently active.

TechCrunch's investigation shows that Facebook could do more to police WhatsApp and remove this kind of content. Even without technical solutions that would require a weakening of encryption, WhatsApp's moderators should have been able to find these groups and put a stop to them. Groups with names like "child porn only no adv" and "child porn xvideos" found on the group discovery app "Group Links For Whats" by Lisa Studio don't even attempt to hide their nature.

Better manual investigation of these group discovery apps and WhatsApp itself should have immediately led these groups to be deleted and their members banned. While Facebook doubled its moderation staff from 10,000 to 20,000 in 2018 to crack down on election interference, bullying, and other policy violations, that staff does not moderate WhatsApp content. With just 300 employees, WhatsApp runs semi-independently, and the company confirms it handles its own moderation efforts. That's proving inadequate for policing at 1.5 billion user community. It's a similar problem that WhatsApp, used by more than a billion users,
is facing in developing markets where its service is being used to spread false information.

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This Was the Year the Robot Takeover of Service Jobs Began
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
merbs writes: Out of the three major sectors of the economy -- agriculture, manufacturing, and service -- two are already largely automated. Farm labor, which about half the American workforce used to do, now comprises around 2 percent of American jobs. And we all know the rust belt song and dance, beat out to outsourcing and mechanization. Which is largely why some 80 percent of all American jobs are service jobs. And this year, quietly but in the open, the robots and their investors came for them, too.

There's a case to be made that 2018 is the year automation took its biggest lunge forward toward our largest pool of human labor: Amazon opened five cashier-less stores; three in Seattle, one in Chicago, and one in San Francisco. Self-ordering kiosks invaded fast food and franchise restaurants in a big way. Smaller robot-centric outfits like the long-awaited auto-burger joint Creator opened, too, and so did a number of others.

In Las Vegas, our service job mecca, hotels' and casinos' widespread plans for automation in everything from bartending to waitstaff to hotel work led one of the city's most powerful hospitality unions to the brink of a 50,000-person strike last summer before a successful negotiation was reached... Combined, they act as a set of markers on a trendline we can no longer ignore. We face the prospect of major upheaval in the last dependable pool of jobs we've got.

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Python Gets New Governance Model
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
The Python Software Foundation has settled on a new governance model for the programming language Python. The decision to come up with a new model was made after Python creator and chief Guido van Rossum stepped down as the "Benevolent Dictator For Life" (BDFL). SDTimes: The new governance model will rely on a five-person steering council to establish standard practices for introducing new features to the Python programming language. Based on tested methods, the proposal was designed to be "boring," comprehensive, flexible and lightweight, the steering council model document explained. "We're not experts in governance, and we don't think Python is a good place to experiment with new and untried governance models," software developers Nathaniel Smith and Donald Stufft explained in the Python documentation.

"So this proposal sticks to mature, well-known, previously tested processes as much as possible. The high-level approach of a mostly-hands-off council is arguably the most common across large successful F/OSS projects, and low-level details are derived directly from Django's governance." The steering council will serve as the "court of final appeal" for changes to the language and will have broad authority over the decision-making process, including the ability to accept or reject PEPs (Python Enhancement Proposals) (such as the one used to introduce this governance model), enforce and update the project's code of conduct, create subcommittees and manage project assets. But the intended goal of the council is to take a more hands-off and occasional approach to flexing its powers, Smith and Stufft explained.

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Business Communication Service Slack, in Compliance With US Regulations, Broadens Ban on Users in Sanctioned Nations
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department:
Earlier this year, business communication service Slack began to block users in Syria, Iran, and select other embargoed countries to comply with U.S. regulations. This week, the company has broadened the scope of the ban by blocking some users if they have moved from or visited any of the sanctioned nations in recent years. From a report: The company began to face a backlash early today after several users complained that their Slack accounts had been deactivated and that they never received a formal warning from the company. Part of the problem, as Sarah Shugars, a PhD candidate at Network Science Institute at Northeastern University, pointed out, is that some users have been blocked even if they have been living in the United States for a number of years.

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US Slams China For Corporate Cyber Espionage, Indicts Two Spies
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
U.S. authorities on Thursday unveiled indictments against two Chinese nationals linked to China's government who took part in a cyber spying campaign that hacked a range of American government agencies and corporations and violated a 2015 pact, escalating tensions between the two nations. From a report: The U.S. Justice Department charged Zhu Hua and Zhang Jianguo in computer hacking attacks on the U.S. Navy, the space agency NASA and businesses in numerous sectors. The defendants hacked computers to steal intellectual property and confidential business and technological data, according to the indictment. U.S. and British authorities on Thursday also condemned China for violating 2015 agreements to curb cyber espionage for business purposes, slamming Chinese efforts to steal other countries' trade secrets and technologies and to compromise government computers.

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Forget Dot Com, 2019 Will Finally be the Year of Weird Domain Names
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Latest registration figures released by Verisign, an internet network company that oversees some domain name endings, seem to indicate that after a rocky few years, new gTLDs may finally be finding their niche in the marketplace. 2019 could be the year of the obscure domain name. Registrations for new gTLDs rose by nearly 11 per cent in the last year, compared to an average 3.5 per cent increase across the entire domain landscape, according to Verisign. One in five domain name registrations in the last year were on new gTLDs.

"The numbers are picking up as well as the usage," says Thomas Keller of 1&1 IONOS, a German web hosting company. In part that's down to saturation in more traditional domain name endings like dot-com, and country code TLDs (such as .uk, .tk and .cn). It's difficult to get good, precise and short dot-com domain names now, but hyper-specific and new gTLDs still have plenty of choice. Around ten per cent of new URLs registered through 1&1 IONOS were for new gTLds, Keller says.

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Debian's Anti-Harassment Team Is Removing A Package Over Its Name
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's oops department:
quantic_oscillation7 shares a report: The latest notes from the Debian anti-harassment team on Wednesday caught my attention when reading, "We were requested to advice on the appropriateness of a certain package in the Debian archive. Our decision resulted in the package pending removal from the archive." Curiosity got the best of me... What package was deemed too inappropriate for the Debian archive?

When digging further, the package raised to the Debian Anti-Harassment Team was "Weboob." Weboob is short for "Web Outside of Browsers" as it's an open-source collection of software to script and automate the parsing/scraping/gathering-via-API of web data so that it can be consumed by different modules/applications. Weboob.org describes itself as "Weboob is a collection of applications able to interact with websites, without requiring the user to open them in a browser. It also provides well-defined APIs to talk to websites lacking one."

Weboob is Python-based and offers Qt-based user interfaces for accessing these different modules for reading data from different web-sites outside of any conventional web browser. Those interested can learn more about the software at Weboob.org. But, yes, the name is juvenile and likely inappropriate in most professional/corporate environments.

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Intel Attacks Qualcomm for Allegedly Stifling Competition
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
In an official statement Thursday, Intel called out Qualcomm for allegedly continuing to pursue its use of patent lawsuits and threatening lawsuits against its own customers and competitors even as multiple antitrust agencies have found Qualcomm to be violating competition laws with these tactics. From a report: The statement from Steven Rodgers, Intel EVP and general counsel, said that despite Qualcomm being fined by multiple governments around the world over its abuse of patents against other companies, the company continues the same aggressive legal strategy against its partners and competitors. This, Intel said, will only lead to higher prices for consumers and less innovation.

According to Intel, Qualcomm's goal is not to vindicate its IP rights, but to drive competition out of the market completely. Intel pointed out that Qualcomm has been fined almost a billion dollars in China, $850 million in Korea, $1.2 billion in the European Union and $773 million in Taiwan over the companyâ(TM)s anti-competitive practices. Intel also encouraged everyone to pay attention to FTC's lawsuit against Qualcomm in the United States. The FTC will begin its opening arguments in court on January 4. Intel, who is a competitor of Qualcomm in the wireless modem space, said that it hopes the actions taken by global authorities against Qualcomm will preserve competition in the 5G market.

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Inside the Unrelenting Scams of the Amazon Marketplace
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '18 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's dirty-dealings department:
Fascinating article on The Verge on the many ways Amazon Marketplace, the ecommerce giant's the company's third-party platform, sellers sabotage each other and defraud customers, and how Amazon is run its own government, so to speak -- with its own rules that its suppliers have no choice but to follow. And, of course, sellers have little choice but to continue with Amazon. The story starts with this anecdote: framing a seller for false advertising by buying fake five-star reviews for their products. Select excerpts from the report: For sellers, Amazon is a quasi-state. They rely on its infrastructure -- its warehouses, shipping network, financial systems, and portal to millions of customers -- and pay taxes in the form of fees. They also live in terror of its rules, which often change and are harshly enforced. A cryptic email like the one Plansky received can send a seller's business into bankruptcy, with few avenues for appeal. Sellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court, says Dave Bryant, an Amazon seller and blogger. Amazon's judgment is swifter and less predictable, and now that the company controls nearly half of the online retail market in the US, its rulings can instantly determine the success or failure of your business, he says. "Amazon is the judge, the jury, and the executioner."

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