Wells Fargo Hit With ‘Unprecedented’ Punishment Over Fake Accounts

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The Federal Reserve has dropped the hammer on Wells Fargo, [handing] down unprecedented punishment late Friday for what it called the bank's "widespread consumer abuses, " including its notorious creation of millions of fake customer accounts. Wells Fargo won't be allowed to get any bigger than it was at the end of last year -- $2 trillion in assets -- until the Fed is satisfied that it has cleaned up its act. Under pressure from the Fed, the bank agreed to remove three people from the board of directors by April and a fourth by the end of the year. It is the first time the Federal Reserve has imposed a cap on the entire assets of a financial institution, according to a Fed official. "We cannot tolerate pervasive and persistent misconduct at any bank, " outgoing Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in a statement. Friday was her last day on the job.... Wells Fargo admitted that its workers responded to wildly unrealistic sales goals by creating as many as 3.5 million fake accounts. The bank has also said it forced up to 570, 000 customers into unneeded auto insurance... About 20, 000 of those customers had their cars wrongfully repossessed in part due to these unwanted insurance charges. In August, Wells Fargo was sued by small business owners who say the bank used deceptive language to dupe mom-and-pop businesses into paying "massive early termination fees." The company was in the headlines again in October for charging about 110, 000 mortgage borrowers undue fees. One U.S. congressman argued that the harsh penalty "demonstrates that we have the tools to rein in Wall Street -- if our regulators have the guts to use them." Wells Fargo has also spent $3.3 billion on legal bills in just the last three months of 2017. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Five Major Credit Cards Are Now Blocking Cryptocurrency Purchases

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup said Friday they are no longer allowing customers to buy cryptocurrencies using credit cards. "At this time, we are not processing cryptocurrency purchases using credit cards, due to the volatility and risk involved, " a J.P. Morgan Chase spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. "We will review the issue as the market evolves." A Bank of America spokesperson also said in an email that the bank has decided to decline credit card purchases of cryptocurrencies. Citigroup said in a statement that it has "made the decision to no longer permit credit card purchases of cryptocurrency. We will continue to review our policy as this market evolves." Earlier in January, Capital One Financial said it has decided to ban cryptocurrency purchases with its cards. Discover Financial Services has effectively prohibited cryptocurrency purchases with its credit cards since 2015. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Are Music CDs Dying? Best Buy Stops Selling CDs

An anonymous reader quotes Complex magazine: The future of physical music isn't looking good. According to Billboard, consumer electronics company Best Buy will no longer carry physical CDs and Target may be following suit in the near future. Best Buy notified music suppliers that they will cease selling CDs at stores beginning July 1. The move is sure to hurt the already declining sales of CDs as consumers are switching to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal in large numbers. CD sales have already dropped by a sizable 18.5 percent in the past year, Billboard reports. Billboard also reports Target has given an "ultimatum" to music and video suppliers. "Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit... Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants CDs to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis..." "If the majors don't play ball and give in to the new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Remove the DRM from iTunes movies with TunesKit

More and more people watch movies and TV shows at home, exclusively through the use of streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, but I'm not one of them. I'm not against streaming: the problem is that my partner and I live, full-time, in a 40 foot long motorhome, puttering around North and Central America. A lot of times, our rambles take us to places where the Internet connectivity is lousy. The upload/download speeds we get from RV parks or in the parking lots we surf are good enough for me to do my work online, but make for a buffering-filled nightmare if I even think about streaming anything. And if we decide to camp for a few weeks in a national park, I have to travel back towards civilization and a cellphone signal, just to check my email. We read a lot of books, but we both love movies. To keep us entertained, I've collected a hard drive full of just over 500 movies, and close to 300 hours of TV shows. Some are ripped from DVDs that I bought over the years, but most of them were purchased and downloaded from Apple. For the last several years, I've had a real hate on for iTunes. So far as software goes, it's twitchy, slow and far from user friendly. I can't count how many times that iTunes has lost the artwork for the movies that I own. It makes me a little nuts. I also absolutely loathe iOS 11's TV app. It takes forever to show me what movies I have loaded on my tablet or phone and, as I don't stream, I find it's constant suggestions of what to watch really intrusive. Sadly, since Apple locks the video content they sell with DRM, there's not a lot of options for freeing yourself from either app. Unless you're prepared to spend some cash. While it's far from perfect, I found that TunesKit's $40 DRM Media Converter will rip the digital rights management locks right out of iTunes purchased content. Would Apple frown on this? Yep. But I have a hard time caring: If I buy something, I should be able to do what ever I damn well please with it. In this case, what I please involves my using apps and hardware other than those approved by Apple to watch the films I own. For this purpose the utility that Tuneskit's software provides works a treat. To use it, all you have to do is open Tuneskit on your computer. Tuneskit, in turn, will access your iTunes library. This allows you to choose which of your iTunes videos you want to strip of their DRM. The amount of time that it takes to create a DRM-free copy of each video file you feed into the software depends on how long the video in question is. On the whole, I found the user experience to be relatively fast and frustration free. Almost. After buying the Mac OS version of the software, I discovered that it isn't compatible with Mac OS High Sierra. A quick email conversation with Tuneskit's support department revealed that the latest version of the operating system made the application unusable. Because of this, they offered me a license for the Windows version of the software. After installing it on my MacBook's Bootcamp partition, the app worked perfectly. Since then, I'm able to watch videos purchased through iTunes using any iOS video app I want to, on my computer or Android handset. If you're so inclined, you can still watch your videos and transfer them to your iPhone using iTunes, too. It's worth mentioning that the software works on content rented from iTunes as well. But removing the DRM from rented videos to keep after the rental period is up is theft, plain and simple. Do what's right for you. If you've had enough of being told by Apple what to do with the movies you own, I think Tuneskit's a pretty good way to go. Screen capture: Seamus Bellamy

Apple to repair iPhone 7s with ‘no service’ bug for free

Today Apple announced it's launching a repair program for a "small percentage" of iPhone 7 owners who are affected by a "no service" issue. Late last year MacRumors said Apple was investigating the problem and appeared ready to replace affected devices, which would display "No service" in their status bar even when cell signal was clearly available. The cause of the problem is apparently a failed component on the logic board, and Apple says affected units (with model #s A1660, A1679, and A1780) extend through its entire production run from September 2016 until now. If your unit is on the list then Apple will fix it free of charge (within two years of the original purchase date) by sending it to a repair center. If you've already paid for a repair then look out for an email about reimbursement, and if it doesn't show up then give Apple a call. This is hardly the first recall/repair program we've seen for various iPhone issues, which have recently included battery problems (that preceded the software update that slowed down affected phones) for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 Plus " touch disease ." Source: Apple

New Orleans pulls 46 tons of Marti Gras beads from storm drains

In temperate and tropical locales, storm drains are a vital bit of urban infrastructure. As a channel for rain water to drain from city streets, they play an important role in keeping the places most of us live habitable and our roads passable during wet weather. When storm drains get clogged with debris, the water they're meant to carry can't flow and things go sideways, fast. As such, most cities throw a lot of money at cleaning them – and the catch basins that feed into them – out, several times per year. New Orleans? They've got storm drains. Given the city's history of catastrophic flooding, to say that keeping their waste water flowing would be an understatement. It's a tough job, made more difficult by the annual influx of drunken, horny tourists. On January 28th, the Times-Picayune reported that in addition to the mud, leaves and garbage that New Orleans public works employees have to suck out of storm drains this year, they discovered something else: 46 tons of Marti Gras beads . For the sober uninitiated, the tradition of passing out strands and necklaces of Mardi Gras beads to boozy revelers started back in the 1800s when people parading as part of the annual celebration handed out the inexpensive mementos to onlookers. As anyone who's been to the five-day festival recently will tell you, just as many strands of the beads wind up on the ground as they do around necks. While the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up after the days-long party, the beads still end up getting into places that you don't want them to – kind of like macro-sized glitter. In an effort to keep so much discarded plastic out of the city's infrastructure and, more importantly, the environment, New Orleans' local government has asked that city residents pitch in by cleaning the catch basins in their neighborhood. Photo via Flickr, courtesy of Mark Gstohl  

US dropped ball on Navy railgun development—now China is picking it up

Photos posted by a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) observer show what appears to be an electromagnetic railgun being affixed to a PLAN tank landing ship, the Haiyang Shan . The LST is being used to test the weapon because its tank deck can accommodate the containers for the gun's control system and power supply, according to comments from a former PLAN officer translated by " Dafeng Cao ," the Twitter handle of the anonymous analyst. For nearly a decade, the US Navy's Office of Naval Research  (ONR) and various contractors worked to develop a railgun system for US ships . A prototype weapon was built by BAE Systems. Testing at the US Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia was deemed so successful that the Navy was planning to conduct more testing of the gun at sea aboard a Spearhead -class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).  The program promised to deliver a gun that could fire projectiles at speeds over Mach 7 with a range exceeding 100 miles. The 23-pound hypervelocity projectile designed for the railgun flying at Mach 7 has 32 megajoules of energy—roughly equivalent to the energy required to accelerate an object weighing 1,000 kilograms (1.1 US tons) to 252 meters per second (566 miles an hour). Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fidel Castro’s eldest son commits suicide

The eldest son of Fidel Castro, 68-year-old Fidel Angel Castro Diaz-Balart, committed suicide after a months-long treatment depression. Living in Cuba, Diaz-Balart, also knows as "Fidelito," was hospitalized for his depression but had been released for outpatient care. According to NBC : He was known for studying how to develop nuclear energy on the island of Cuba, according to his official bio from the Academy of Sciences. Diaz-Balart is the cousin of NBC News and Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart as well as current Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, who is a staunch anti-Castro figure. His uncle, Raul Castro, has led Cuba since 2008 when he took over the role of president of Cuba from Fidel Castro — who ruled his island home beginning in 1959, antagonized 11 U.S. presidents and died in 2016 aged of 90. The way in which he killed himself has not been disclosed. https://youtu.be/icyD0xTIzQA

Chrome OS update comes with Spectre fix and new screenshot shortcut

Chrome OS version 64 has made its way to stable channel, which means it's hitting your device very, very soon if it hasn't yet. It'll add a handful of new features and improvements, including a screenshot shortcut if you have a Chromebook with a 360-degree hinge like the Acer Spin . You only have to press the power and the volume down buttons at the same time, like what you'd do on an Android phone. It also adds a flag to make Split View easier to activate and gives Android apps the ability to run in the background. In addition, the update improves your lockscreen's performance, presumably making it faster, and finally enables the use of VPN for apps downloaded from Google Play. While Google is keeping the list of bug fixes under wraps until most people have installed the update, it has revealed that the version includes "additional browser mitigations" to protect your device against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Chrome OS version 64, of course, comes with version 64 of the Chrome browser. That you're also getting improved pop-up blockers, as well as another feature that can protect you against malicious auto-redirects. Via: 9to5google Source: Chrome releases

Women’s bladders brim with never-before-seen viruses that can kill bacteria

Enlarge / Viral gold. (credit: Getty | UniversalImagesGroup ) Plumbing the depths of women’s bladders may shower researchers with viral gold. In a wee survey, Loyola University researchers found a sac-like organ brimming with never-before-seen viruses that can kill and manipulate bacteria . Their findings, published this week in the Journal of Bacteriology , offer a first-pass catalogue of the rich diversity of bacteria-infecting viruses—aka “phages” or “bacteriophages”—in the bladder microbiome. The researchers suggest that further studies into the streaming viruses could one day lead to phage-based methods to void bacterial infections and identify disorders. “The thought that there’s not bacteria in urine is false,” Catherine Putonti told Ars straight away. Putonti, a bioinformatics researcher and microbiologist at Loyola, is the leading author of the study. “The big picture is that there are a lot of viruses that are part of these bacterial communities as well.” Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments