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Businesses

US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing (reuters.com) 3

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
Government

President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence (theverge.com) 332

The New York Times is reporting that President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning's sentence. What this translates to is a reduced sentence for Manning, from 35 years to just over seven years. Since Manning has already served a majority of those years, she is due to be released from federal custody on May 17th. The Verge reports: While serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning leaked more than 700,000 documents to Wikileaks, including video of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in the leak and has been held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth for the past three years. Julian Assange, who has long been sought by U.S. and EU authorities for extradition on Swedish rape charges, had previously pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Born Bradley Manning, Chelsea announced her gender transition the day after the verdict was handed down. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female," she said in a statement. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible." Obtaining the resulting medical treatments was extremely difficult for Manning, and was the subject of significant and sustained activism. After a lawsuit, Manning was approved for hormone therapy in 2015. In September 2016, she launched a hunger strike, demanding access to gender reassignment surgery; the military complied five days later.
Transportation

Uber Sues City of Seattle To Block Landmark Driver Union Ordinance (geekwire.com) 73

Seattle's landmark law that lets drivers for ride-hailing companies decide if they want to bargain collectively was set to go into effect today, but an Uber subsidiary has sued to block key rules of the ordinance governing which drivers get to vote on unionization and other key rules. From a report: Uber subsidiary Rasier filed a petition in King County Superior Court Tuesday to block recently-published rules from Seattle's department of Finance and Administrative Services that cover issues like which drivers get a say in whether they want to unionize, working conditions subject to bargaining and how an organization gets certified to represent drivers exclusively. In court documents, Uber called the city's process flawed and asked the court to suspend the new rules. Uber wants the city to go back and tweak the rules so that they better reflect driver conditions in the ride-hailing industry. "The City failed to provide comprehensive rules and disregarded the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry," according to Uber's petition. "Moreover, the Cityâ(TM)s rules are inconsistent with fundamental labor law principles ensuring every worker has a voice in whether to be represented by a labor organization."
Businesses

Facebook's Price Tag For Oculus Actually $3 Billion, Zuckerberg Reveals in Court (cnbc.com) 38

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed in court testimony Tuesday that the company actually paid $3 billion to buy Oculus. From a report on CNBC: His testimony came in a Dallas courtroom, when game maker ZeniMax alleges that Oculus, bought by Facebook in 2014, stole the company's intellectual property. ZeniMax's attorney pressed Zuckerberg on the total Facebook paid for the company. Zuckerberg revealed that beyond the $2 billion price tag, that was widely reported, Facebook paid an additional $700 million to retain employees and another $300 million earnout for hitting key milestones. Nearly three years after Oculus' acquisition Zuckerberg defended against allegations that Oculus stole ZeniMax's intellectual property, also explaining his interest in VR and how it fits into his vision for Oculus.
Businesses

Oculus Accused of Destroying Evidence, Zuckerberg To Testify In $2 Billion Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ZeniMax Media, the parent company of both Bethesda Softworks and Id Software, says it will prove at trial that John Carmack and others at Oculus stole trade secrets to "misappropriate" virtual reality technology that was first developed while Carmack was working at Id Software. What's more, ZeniMax is now accusing Oculus of "intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing." Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Oculus parent company Facebook, is scheduled to respond to those accusations in testimony starting tomorrow, according to a report by Business insider. ZeniMax's statement comes after Carmack testified at trial last week, saying the case was "ridiculous and absurd." His testimony echoed Oculus' initial reaction when ZeniMax's accusations first surfaced in 2014. In court filings leading up to the trial, ZeniMax detailed its case that Carmack, while still an employee at Id Software, "designed the specifications and functionality embodied in the Rift SDK and directed its development." Carmack's technology and guidance allegedly "literally transformed" Oculus founder Palmer Luckey's early Rift prototype from a "primitive virtual reality headset" that was "little more than a display panel." Carmack allegedly used "copyrighted computer code, trade secret information, and technical know-how" from his time at ZeniMax after he moved to Oculus as CTO in 2013. As the trial began last week (as reported by a Law360 summary, registration required), Carmack told the court of his development of a virtual reality demo for Doom 3 in 2012 and his search for a VR headset that would be suitable to run it. That's when he says he got in touch with Luckey, leading to the now legendary E3 2012 demo that introduced Oculus to the public. ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damage, which matches the value that Facebook paid for Oculus in 2014. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
China

China, Europe Drive Shift To Electric Cars as US Lags (reuters.com) 422

Electric cars will pick up critical momentum in 2017, many in the auto industry believe - just not in North America. Tighter emissions rules in China and Europe leave global carmakers and some consumers with little choice but to embrace plug-in vehicles, fuelling an investment surge, said industry executives gathered in Detroit this past week for the city's annual auto show. From a report: "Car electrification is an irreversible trend," said Jacques Aschenbroich, chief executive of auto supplier Valeo, which has expanded sales by 50 percent in five years with a focus on electric, hybrid, connected and self-driving cars. In Europe, green cars benefit increasingly from subsidies, tax breaks and other perks, while combustion engines face mounting penalties including driving and parking restrictions. China, struggling with catastrophic pollution levels in major cities, is aggressively pushing plug-in vehicles. Its carrot-and-stick approach combines tens of billions in investment and research funding with subsidies, and regulations designed to discourage driving fossil-fueled cars in big cities. The road ahead for electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States, however, could have more hairpin curves.
Businesses

South Korea Prosecutors Seek Arrest of Samsung Chief Jay Y Lee For Bribery (cnbc.com) 38

South Korea's special prosecutors' office said it will seek a warrant to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's biggest conglomerate, accusing him of paying multi-million dollar bribes to a friend of President Park Geun-hye. From a report: Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was questioned for 22 straight hours last week as investigators probed a corruption scandal that resulted in parliament impeaching Park last month. The special prosecutors' office accused Lee of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($36.42 million) to Choi Soon-sil, a friend of the president who is at the center of scandal. Lee, who became the de facto head of the Samsung Group after his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, was also accused of embezzlement and perjury in the prosecution's application for an arrest warrant.
The Courts

How A Professional Poker Player Conned a Casino Out of $9.6 Million (washingtonpost.com) 393

Phil Ivey is a professional poker player who's won ten World Series of Poker bracelets -- but he's also got a new game. An anonymous reader write: In 2012, Ivey requested that the Borgata casino let him play baccarat with an assistant named Cheng Yin Sun while using a specific brand of playing cards -- purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards -- and an automatic shuffler. He then proceeded to win $9.6 million over four visits. The pair would rotate certain cards 180 degrees, which allowed them to recognize those cards the next time they passed through the deck. (They were exploiting a minute lack of a symmetry in the pattern on the backs of the cards...)

But last month a U.S. district judge ruled that Ivey and his partner had a "mutual obligation" to the casino, in which their "primary obligation" was to not use cards whose values would be known to them -- and ordered them to return the $9.6 million [PDF]. "What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game," Ivey's attorney told the AP, adding that the judge's ruling will be appealed.

The judge also ruled Ivey had to return the money he later won playing craps with his winnings from the baccarat game -- though the judge denied the casino's request for restitution over the additional $250,000 worth of goods and services they'd "comped" Ivey during his stay.
Iphone

Apple/Samsung Patent Case Returns To Court To Revisit Infringement Damages (macrumors.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes MacRumors: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday reopened a longstanding patent lawsuit related to Samsung copying the design of the iPhone nearly six years ago...according to court documents filed electronically this week... Apple's damages were calculated based on Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing Galaxy smartphones, but the Supreme Court ruled it did not have enough info to say whether the amount should be based on the total device, or rather individual components such as the front bezel or the screen. It will now be up to the appeals court to decide.

Apple last month said the lawsuit, ongoing since 2011, has always been about Samsung's "blatant copying" of its ideas, adding that it remains optimistic that the U.S. Court of Appeals will "again send a powerful signal that stealing isn't right."

Security

Student Hacker Faces 10 Years in Prison For Spyware That Hit 16,000 Computers (vice.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: A 21-year-old from Virginia plead guilty on Friday to writing and selling custom spyware designed to monitor a victim's keystrokes. Zachary Shames, from Great Falls, Virginia, wrote a keylogger, malware designed to record every keystroke on a computer, and sold it to more than 3,000 people who infected more than 16,000 victims with it, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Shames, who appears to be a student at James Madison University, developed the first version of the spyware while he was still a high school student in 2013, "and continued to modify and market the illegal product from his college dorm room," according to the feds... While the feds only vaguely referred to it as "some malicious keylogger software," it appears the spyware was actually called "Limitless Keylogger Pro," according to evidence found by a security researcher who asked to remain anonymous... According to what appears to be Shames Linkedin page, he was an intern for the defense contractor Northrop Grumman from May 2015 until August 2016.

The Department of Justice announced that he'll be sentenced on June 16, and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Businesses

Someone Is Trying to Sell Those Stolen Three-Screen Razer Laptops in China (geek.com) 49

Just a few days ago, Razer's awesome Project Valerie laptops -- the one with three 4K displays -- were stolen. Now it looks like whoever stole them is trying to sell them. From a report: It turns out that the thief (or thieves) didn't just nab one Project Valerie prototype. They actually got ahold of a pair. Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan understandably wants them back, really, really badly. The company was willing to offer $25,000 to anyone who could offer information that led to the prototypes' return. So where did the laptops end up? Somewhere behind the Great Wall, apparently. Whoever has them isn't trying to quietly fence them in some dark Beijing alleyway, either. They've actually been listed on the immensely popular Chinese e-commerce site Taobao -- where they were spotted by writers at Engadget Chinese and Wccftech.
United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 530

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
Advertising

Drone Maker Lily Robotics Faked Promotional Video, Gets Sued For False Advertising and Misleading Business Practices (theregister.co.uk) 38

Dotnaught quotes a report from The Register: Lily Robotics says its decision on Thursday to shut down and return pre-order payments for a never-delivered drone, which came on the same day that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon charged the company with false advertising and misleading business practices, was purely coincidental. According to a source familiar with the complaint filed against the company, Lily Robotics has known about the DA's investigation for several months. On the strength of a promotional video on YouTube in May 2015, embedded below, Lily Robotics raised more than $34 million in pre-order sales over the course of that year for a drone called Lily Camera. The flying gadget, when built, would be capable of being launched with a throw, following people, and recording them. But after pushing the delivery date back multiple times, Lily Robotics has yet to ship a single drone to its 60,000 prospective customers, according to the lawsuit filed against the company. In theory, Lily Robotics could face a fine of more than a hundred million dollars, depending upon the outcome of a trial, if it comes to that. The company faces potential fines for at least two business code violations subject to a civil penalty of $2,500 per violation, and there are some 60,000 individuals affected. In practice, however, such fines are usually orders of magnitude less, particularly if both sides agree on a settlement. The complaint against Lily, obtained by The Register, alleges that the company knowingly misled customers by creating a promotional video that purported to show video footage captured with a Lily drone prototype. "In fact, none of the video in the Promotional Video was shot by a Lily Camera," the complaint says. "Most notably, the POV footage used in the promotional video was filmed using a professional camera drone called the DJI Inspire." Among the Lily Camera prototypes present at the video shoot, the complaint says, the ones that could actually record video were able to do so because they had Go-Pro cameras mounted on them.
The Internet

Virginia 'Broadband Deployment Act' Would Kill Municipal Broadband Deployment (arstechnica.com) 200

Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill called the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act," but instead of resulting in more broadband deployment, the legislation would make it more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. From a report: The Virginia House of Delegates legislation proposed this week by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. That speed threshold is low enough that it can be met by old DSL lines in areas that haven't received more modern cable and fiber networks. Even if that condition is met, a city or town would have to jump through a few hoops before offering service. The municipality would have to pay for a "comprehensive broadband assessment," and then issue a request for proposals giving for-profit ISPs six months to submit a plan for broadband deployment. After receiving proposals from private ISPs, the local government would have to determine whether providing grants or subsidies to a private ISP would be more cost-effective than building a municipal broadband network.
The Courts

US Appeals Court Revives Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple (reuters.com) 121

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled. From a report on Reuters: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revives a long-simmering legal challenge originally filed in 2012 taking aim at Apple's practice of only allowing iPhones to run apps purchased from its own App Store. A group of iPhone users sued saying the Cupertino, California, company's practice was anticompetitive. Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.
Medicine

Arizona Plans To Sue Theranos Over Faulty Blood Tests (techcrunch.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: The Arizona attorney general is soliciting outside legal counsel to pursue a consumer fraud lawsuit against the beleaguered blood testing startup Theranos, according to a document posted on the state's procurement website. AZ's AG has so far declined to comment on any action, but the document contends Theranos may have defrauded customers in the state and the office is now seeking proposals to assist it in possible legal action "against Theranos, Inc. and its closely related subsidiaries for violations of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act arising out of Theranos Inc.'s long-running scheme of deceptive acts and misrepresentations relating to the capabilities and operation of Theranos blood testing equipment." Theranos ran its consumer portion of the business in Arizona and even worked with the state government to change laws allowing consumers to request blood tests without a doctor's permission. But, as the document cites, a myriad bad test results, including those raised in a series of Wall street Journal articles, raised concerns with the attorney general's office.
Businesses

Amazon Just Got Slapped With a $1 Million Fine For Misleading Pricing (recode.net) 159

Some deals are too good to be true. And, for Amazon, they will cost the company. From a report on Recode: A Canadian enforcement agency announced today that Amazon Canada will pay a $1 million fine for what could be construed as misleading pricing practices. The investigation centered on the practice of Amazon displaying its prices compared to higher "list prices" -- suggested manufacturer prices (MSRPs) designed as marketing gimmicks to make people think they are getting a deal, even though it's often the case that no shopper ever pays that price. "The Bureau's investigation concluded that these claims created the impression that prices for items offered on www.amazon.ca were lower than prevailing market prices," Canada's Competition Bureau said in a statement. "The Bureau determined that Amazon relied on its suppliers to provide list prices without verifying that those prices were accurate."
United Kingdom

Regulators Criticize Banks For Lending Uber $1.15 Billion (venturebeat.com) 136

Federal regulators criticized several Wall Street banks over the handling of a $1.15 billion loan they helped arrange for Uber this past summer, reports Reuters, citing people with knowledge of the matter. From the report: Led by Morgan Stanley, the banks helped the ride-sharing network tap the leveraged loan market in July for the first time, persuading institutional investors to focus on its lofty valuation and established markets rather than its losses in countries such as China and India. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which are trying to reign in risky lending across Wall Street, took issue with the way in which the banks carved out Uber's more mature operations from the rest of the business, the people said.
Privacy

Why You Shouldn't Trust Geek Squad (networkworld.com) 389

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: The Orange County Weekly reports that Best Buy's "Geek Squad" repair technicians routinely search devices brought in for repair for files that could earn them $500 reward as FBI informants. This revelation came out in a court case, United States of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier. Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and surgeon who took his laptop to the Mission Viejo Best Buy in November 2011 after he was unable to start it. According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal found an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, who was also an FBI informant, who alerted another FBI informant -- as well as the FBI itself. The FBI has pretty much guaranteed the case will be thrown out by its behavior, this illegal search aside. According to Rettenmaier's defense attorney, agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant for his home, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records. Plus, the file was found in the unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with sophisticated forensics tools. Carving (or file carving) is defined as searching for files or other kinds of objects based on content, rather than on metadata. It's used to recover old files that have been deleted or damaged. To prove child pornography, you have to prove the possessor knew what he had was indeed child porn. There has been a court case where files found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it's impossible to determine who put the file there and how, since it's not accessible to the user under normal circumstances.
Businesses

Volkswagen Closes In on $4.3 Billion US Settlement in Diesel Scandal (bloomberg.com) 123

Volkswagen said it's closing in on a deal with U.S. authorities on a $4.3 billion settlement to resolve civil and criminal allegations stemming from its emissions-cheating scandal. From a report on Bloomberg: The agreement, which has yet to be finalized, would lead to a financial expense that exceeds current provisions, the German automaker said. It also includes a guilty plea to some criminal charges, strengthening compliance systems and installing an independent monitor for three years, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker said Tuesday in a statement. VW's management and supervisory boards are scheduled to review the settlement today or Wednesday and may raise provisions related to the scandal, which currently total 18.2 billion euros ($19.2 billion). A final agreement also needs to be approved by U.S. courts. The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on Volkswagen's statement.

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