The Almighty Buck

Venezuelans Flock To Cryptocoins Amid Spiralling Inflation (bloomberg.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Demand for digital coins is soaring in Venezuela amid an escalating political crisis that has protesters demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down. Inflation has spiraled to the triple digits, debasing the bolivar and depleting savings, while citizens struggle to find everything from food to medicine on store shelves. "If you're going to be in something volatile, you might as well be in something that's volatile and rising than volatile and falling," says Ryan Taylor, chief executive officer of crypto currency Dash Core, the third-largest digital coin by number of transactions... Bitcoin trading volume in Venezuela jumped to $1.3 million this week, about double the amount that changed hands two months ago, according to LocalBitcoins.com...

Venezuela's currency has become nearly worthless in the black market, where it takes more than 6,000 bolivars to buy $1, while bitcoin surged 53 percent in the past month alone. But it's not just about shielding against the falling bolivar, as some Venezuelans are using crypto currencies to buy and sell everyday goods and services, according to Jorge Farias, the CEO of Cryptobuyer.

Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
The Military

Pentagon Cyberweapons 'Disappointing' Against ISIS (nytimes.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: It has been more than a year since the Pentagon announced that it was opening a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing Cyber Command, then six years old, to mount computer-network attacks... "In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS," or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. "This is just much harder in practice than people think..."

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America's partner in the attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers... The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain.

Citing military officials, the Times also reports that "locking Islamic State propaganda specialists out of their accounts -- or using the coordinates of their phones and computers to target them for a drone attack -- is now standard operating procedure."
The Almighty Buck

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on cost estimates for the U.S. Air Force's program to launch national security payloads, which at the time consisted of a fleet of rockets maintained and flown entirely by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The report was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices" with the monopoly. At around the same time, the new space rocket company SpaceX began to aggressively pursue the opportunity to launch national security payloads for the government. SpaceX claimed to offer a substantially lower price for delivering satellites into various orbits around Earth. But because of the lack of transparency, comparing prices was difficult. The Air Force recently released budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, and these include a run out into the early 2020s. For these years, the budget combines the fixed price rocket and ELC contract costs into a single budget line. (See page 109 of this document). They are strikingly high. According to the Air Force estimate, the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. SpaceX sells basic commercial launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for about $65 million. But, for military launches, there are additional range costs and service contracts that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. It therefore seems possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or launching at little or no profit to undercut its rival and gain market share in the high-volume military launch market. Elon Musk retweeted the article, adding "$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free."

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