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Why Car Salesmen Don't Want To Sell Electric Cars 35 writes: Matt Richtel writes in the NYT that one big reason there are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road is that car dealers show little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars. Industry insiders say that electric vehicles do not offer dealers the same profits as gas-powered cars, they take more time to sell because of the explaining required, and electric vehicles may require less maintenance, undermining the biggest source of dealer profits — their service departments. Some electric car buyers have said they felt as if they were the ones doing the selling. Chelsea Dell made an appointment to test-drive a used Volt but when she arrived, she said, a salesman told her that the car hadn't been washed, and that he had instead readied a less expensive, gas-powered car. "I was ready to pull the trigger, and they were trying to muscle me into a Chevy Sonic," says Dell. "The thing I was baffled at was that the Volt was a lot more expensive." Marc Deutsch, Nissan's business development manager for electric vehicles says some salespeople just can't rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson "can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf," Deutsch says. "It's a lot of work for a little pay."

Jared Allen says that service is crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn't want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service. Maybe that helps explains the experience of Robert Kast, who last year leased a Volkswagen e-Golf from a local dealer. He said the salesman offered him a $15-per-month maintenance package that included service for oil changes, belt repair and water pumps. "I said: 'You know it doesn't have any of those things,'" Mr. Kast recalled. He said the salesman excused himself to go confirm this with his manager. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kast, 61, said: "I knew a whole lot more about the car than anyone in the building." "Until selling a plug-in electric car is as quick and easy as selling any other vehicle that nets the dealer the same profit, many dealers will avoid them, for very logical and understandable reasons," says John Voelker. "That means that the appropriate question should be directed to makers of electric cars: What are you doing to make selling electric cars as profitable and painless for your dealers as selling gasoline or diesel vehicles?"
The Courts

Insurer Refuses To Cover Cox In Massive Piracy Lawsuit ( 49

An anonymous reader writes with news that Cox Communications' insurer, Lloyds Of London underwriter Beazley, is refusing to cover legal costs and any liabilities from the case brought against it by BMG and Round Hill Music. TorrentFreak reports: "Trouble continues for one of the largest Internet providers in the United States, with a Lloyds underwriter now suing Cox Communications over an insurance dispute. The insurer is refusing to cover legal fees and potential piracy damages in Cox's case against BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback."

This Gizmo Knows Your Amex Card Number Before You've Received It ( 42

itwbennett writes: A small device built by legendary hacker Samy Kamkar can predict what new American Express card numbers will be and trick point-of-sale devices into accepting cards without a security microchip. Because American Express appears to have used a weak algorithm to generate new card numbers, the device, called MagSpoof, can predict what a new American Express card number will be based on a canceled card's number. The new expiration date can also be predicted based on when the replacement card was requested.

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Are Losing Their Meaning ( 135 writes: Brad Tuttle reports at Money Magazine that while the terms "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" are more ubiquitous than ever, the importance of the can't-miss shopping days is undeniably fading. Retailers seem to want it both ways: They want shoppers to spend money long before these key shopping events, and yet they also want shoppers to turn out in full force to make purchases over the epic Black Friday weekend. When they use the "Cheap Stuff!" card day after day and week after week, the deals on any single day stop seeming special. Add to that the trend of manufacturers creating stripped-down versions of their electronics to sell on Black Friday, and consumers have less reason than ever to flood retail stores.

The true story behind Black Friday is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the "red to black" concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America's stores finally turned a profit.

The Almighty Buck

Cuban Talks Trash At Intel Extreme Masters, Drops $30K of F-Bombs For Charity ( 51

MojoKid writes: Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn't known for holding his tongue, even when their are fines involved. If you thought that might change in the eSports arena, you'd be mistaken. The billionaire trash talker dropped a couple of f-bombs at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in San Jose this past weekend, and he'll have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doing so. Not that he minds. In fact, after being informed on stage during a post-match interview that he was was being fined $15,000 for dropping an f-bomb, and that the funds would go to charity, he promptly asked if he'd be hit with another one if he did it again. His intentional outburst meant that he'd be on the hook for $30,000, all of which will go to the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides expert help and advice for cyberbullying victims and their families. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also squared off on opposing teams in a game of League of Legends.
The Military

Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed For Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still In Use 147 writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651's manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating "a false sense of security" that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city's airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would "continue to raise concerns" over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 "does exactly what it's designed to. It makes money."

With $160 Billion Merger, Pfizer Moves To Ireland and Dodges Taxes ( 358

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: In a $160 billion dollar acquisition, drug company Allergan, a small company based in Ireland, "purchased" Pfizer, allowing the drug producing giant to move to Ireland and lower its tax rate from about 25 percent to 17-18 percent. Ars reports: "Such inversions, which are said to cost the American government billions in lost tax revenue, have drawn scorn from the Obama Administration and the Treasury Department. Last year, President Obama referred to the deals as 'unpatriotic' loopholes and proposed to close them. And last week, the Treasury announced new rules to make such deals more difficult. But Pfizer’s reverse-inversion skirts the rules, in part by keeping ownership split somewhat evenly between the two companies. After the deal is complete, current shareholders of Allergan, which has the majority of its operations in the US, will own 44 percent of the mega company. The remaining 56 percent will be owned by current Pfizer shareholders."

NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines ( 70

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.
The Almighty Buck

"Clock Boy" Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million In Damages 769

phrackthat writes: The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the boy who was arrested in Irving, Texas has threatened to sue the school and the city of Irving if they do not pay him $15 million as compensation for his arrest. To refresh the memories of everyone, Ahmed's clock was a clock he disassembled then put into a pencil case that looked like a miniature briefcase. He was briefly detained by the Irving city police to interview him and determine if he intended for his clock to be perceived as a fake bomb. He was released to his parents later on that day and they publicized the matter and claimed Ahmed was arrested because of "Islamophobia".

FTC Amends Telemarketing Rule To Ban Payment Methods Used By Scammers 48

An anonymous reader writes: The Federal Trade Commission has approved final amendments to its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including a change that will help protect consumers from fraud by prohibiting four discrete types of payment methods favored by scammers. The TSR changes will stop telemarketers from dipping directly into consumer bank accounts by using certain kinds of checks and "payment orders" that have been "remotely created" by the telemarketer or seller. In addition, the amendments will bar telemarketers from receiving payments through traditional "cash-to-cash" money transfers – provided by companies like MoneyGram, Western Union, and RIA.

Coinbase Issues Bitcoin-Based Debit Card ( 52

An anonymous reader writes: Coinbase, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges, introduced a "Shift Card" today, which is a Visa debit card that allows users to spend bitcoin wherever Visa is accepted within 24 U.S. states (other states are blocked by regulations for now). The card acts as a currency exchanger, debiting your Coinbase-controlled bitcoin wallet for an appropriate amount of bitcoins, based on market rates, while sending U.S. dollars to the merchant at the other end of the transaction. It represents a very simple way for bitcoin holders to spend it on real-world goods. That said, it'll be interesting to see how much adoption there is. If you prefer to keep full control of your bitcoin wallet, or prefer to keep your name from being attached to it, then the card probably won't work for you. It seems likely that most people who actually own bitcoins would fall into one or both of those categories.

Investigation Reveals How Easy It Is To Hijack a Science Journal Website ( 18

sciencehabit writes: With 20,000 journal websites producing millions of articles — and billions of dollars — it was probably inevitable that online criminals would take notice. An investigation by Science magazine finds that an old exploit is being used on academic publishers: domain snatching and website spoofing. The trick is to find the tiny number of journals whose domain registration has lapsed at any given time. But how do they track their prey? Science correspondent and grey-hat hacker John Bohannon (the same reporter who submitted hundreds of computer-generated fake scientific papers in a journal sting) proposes a method: Scrape the journal data from Web of Science (curated by Thomson Reuters) and run WHOIS queries on their URLs to generate an automatic hijack schedule.

He found 24 journals indexed by Thomson Reuters whose domains were snatched over the past year. Most are under construction or for sale, but 2 of them now host fake journals and ask for real money. And to prove his point, Bohannon snatched a journal domain himself and Rickrolled it. (It now hosts an xkcd cartoon and a link to the real journal.) Science is providing the article describing the investigation free of charge, as well as all the data and code. You can hijack a journal yourself, if you're so inclined: An IPython Notebook shows how to scrape Web of Science and automate WHOIS queries to find a victim. Science hopes that you return the domains to the real publishers after you snatch them.

Operating Systems

Jolla Goes For Debt Restructuring ( 45

jones_supa writes: Months after the smartphone company Jolla announced its split and intent to focus on Sailfish OS licensing, its financial situation has not improved. Jolla's latest financing round has been delayed and so they have had to file for debt restructuring in Finland. As part of that, the company is temporarily laying off a big part of its personnel (Google translation of Finnish original). Jolla co-founder Antti Saarnio said, "Our operating system Sailfish OS is in great shape currently and it is commercially ready. Unfortunately the development until this point has required quite a lot of time and money (PDF). To get out of this death valley we need to move from a development phase into a growth phase. At the same time we need to adapt our cost levels to the new situation. One of the main actions is to tailor the operating system to fit the needs of different clients. We have several major and smaller potential clients who are interested in using Sailfish OS in their projects."
The Almighty Buck

Exploit Vendor Publishes Prices For Zero-Day Vulnerabilities 20

An anonymous reader writes: An exploit vendor published a price list for the zero-day bugs it's willing to buy. The highest paid bugs are for remote jailbreaks for iOS. Second is Android and Windows Phone. Third there are remote code execution bugs for Chrome, Flash, and Adobe's PDF Reader. This is the same company that just paid $1 million to a hacker for the first iOS9 jailbreak.

French ITER Fusion Project To Take At Least 6 Years Longer Than Planned ( 193

sciencehabit writes: The multibillion dollar ITER fusion project under construction in France will take at least an additional 6 years to complete, compared with the current schedule, a meeting of the governing council was told this week. ITER management has also asked the seven international partners which are backing the project for additional funding to finish the job. Under recent estimates, ITER was expected to cost some $13 billion and not begin operations until 2019. The new start date would be 2025.

EU Set To Crack Down On Bitcoin and Anonymous Payments After Paris Attack ( 274

An anonymous reader writes: Home affairs ministers from the European Union are set to gather in Brussels for crisis talks in the wake of the Paris attacks, and a crackdown on Bitcoin, pre-paid credit card and other forms of 'anonymous' online payments are on the agenda. From the article: "According to draft conclusions of the meeting, European interior and justice ministers will urge the European Commission (the EU executive arm) to propose measures to strengthen the controls of non-banking payment methods. These include electronic/anonymous payments, virtual currencies and the transfers of gold and precious metals by pre-paid cards."

ISIS Help Desk Assists In Covering Tracks ( 145

An anonymous reader writes: The ISIS terror group appears to have 5 to 6 members offering 24-hour support on how to encrypt communications, hide personal details and use apps like Twitter while avoiding surveillance. It's kind of like a 'help desk,' though not an actual call center hiding in the hills. It is a group of IT specialists answering questions from locations spread out all over the world, according to Aaron Brantly at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. It has been find out that the advice is largely being relayed on an ISIS channel on Telegram, a messaging app that has become popular among members of the group because it allows for special secret chats. The jihadi help desk has lengthy training manuals, and Brantly has reviewed over 300 pages of training documents and roughly 25 YouTube videos that provide tips to evade intelligence agencies and law enforcement.

Julia Programming Language Receives $600k Donation 106

jones_supa writes: The Julia programming language has received a $600k donation from Moore Foundation. The foundation wants to get the language into a production version. This has a goal to create more efficient and powerful scientific computing tools to assist in data-driven research. The money will be granted over the next two years so the Julia Language team can move their core open computing language and libraries into the first production version. The Julia Language project aims to create a dynamic programming language that is general purpose but designed to excel at numerical computing and data science. It is especially good at running MATLAB and R style programs.
The Almighty Buck

Another Crowd-funded Drone Project Collapses ( 211

An anonymous reader writes: Less than two weeks after we heard about the "robotic dragonfly" project failing, the BBC brings news that an even bigger crowd-funded drone project has given up development as well. The ZANO mini-drone raised a whopping £2.3 million on Kickstarter ($3.5 million), after asking for a mere £125,000 to get off the ground. They were supposed to start delivering drones in June, and a few hundred of them slowly trickled out. In October, they posted a long update detailing their plans for shipping the other ~15,000 drones they had been paid for. Their latest update, posted today, says, "Having explored all options known to us, and after seeking professional advice, we have made the difficult decision to pursue a creditors' voluntary liquidation." This will leave thousands of backers without a drone, despite paying £140 or more apiece.

AMA Calls For Ban On Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs ( 305 writes: The Associated Press reports that the American Medical Association has called for a ban on direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices, saying they contribute to rising costs and patients' demands for inappropriate treatment. According to data cited in an AMA news release, ad dollars spent by drugmakers have risen to $4.5 billion in the last two years, a 30 percent increase. Physicians cited concerns that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives. "Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," said the AMA's Patrice A. Harris. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

The AMA also calls for convening a physician task force and launching an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs. Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report saying that a high cost of prescription drugs remains the public's top health care priority. In the past few years, prices on generic and brand-name prescription drugs have steadily risen and experienced a 4.7 percent spike in 2015, according to the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending.