TurboTax Started Charging the Disabled, Unemployed and Students To Make Up For Trump Tax Law

The 2017 tax overhaul directly threatened the lucrative business of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, so it pushed students, the disabled, and unemployed to a paid tier to make up for the lost profits. ProPublica reports: Although the company draws in customers with the promise of a “free” product, its fortunes depend on getting as many customers as possible to pay. It had been regularly charging $100 or more for returns that included itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. Under the new law, many wealthier taxpayers would no longer be filing that form, qualifying them to use the company’s free software. Intuit executives came up with a way to preserve the company’s hefty profit margins: It began charging more low-income people. Which ones? Individuals with disabilities, the unemployed and people who owe money on student loans, all of whom use tax forms that TurboTax previously included for free. The shift was described to ProPublica by two people familiar with the process.

Because the new law almost doubled the standard deduction, Intuit faced a loss of users of its Deluxe edition. Most of the millions of Americans who would no longer be itemizing their deductions are relatively affluent — making more than $75,000 a year — but they would now potentially be eligible to use the Free Edition. In response, the company bumped a number of forms typically used by lower-income filers, which were previously available in the Free Edition, into paying editions. “They were always supposed to be customer focused, customer first,” one former staffer said. But the income levels of the groups that were being driven to paid products “was never really considered.” One of these forms was for a tax credit that goes exclusively to poor taxpayers who are elderly or get disability benefits. Another is used by low- to middle-income households that receive a credit for putting money in a retirement account. A third is used by taxpayers who collected unemployment benefits.

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Source: Slashdot – TurboTax Started Charging the Disabled, Unemployed and Students To Make Up For Trump Tax Law

Microsoft warns 10,000 customers they’re targeted by nation-sponsored hackers

Glass and steel skyscraper with flags of multiple nations in front of it.

Enlarge / United Nations HQ in New York. (credit: Javier Carbajal)

Microsoft said on Wednesday that it has notified almost 10,000 customers in the past year that they’re being targeted by nation-sponsored hackers.

According to a post from Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt, about 84% of the attacks targeted customers that were large, “enterprise” organizations such as corporations. The remaining 16% of attacks targeted consumer email accounts. Burt said some of the 10,000 customers were successfully compromised while others were only targeted, but he didn’t provide figures.

“This data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics, or achieve other objectives,” Burt wrote. Microsoft presented the figures Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum.

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Source: Ars Technica – Microsoft warns 10,000 customers they’re targeted by nation-sponsored hackers

Making the Case For a Microsoft Surface Phone That Runs Android

Zac Bowden from Windows Central makes the case for why Microsoft may want to make a Surface phone that runs Android. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: While a Surface Phone running Android would never sell to the quantity that Samsung smartphones do (or at least not a first- or second-generation phone), Microsoft could utilize the Surface brand to showcase the best of Microsoft’s Android efforts all in one place, just like it has done for Windows PCs. I’m picturing a Surface-branded, Microsoft-built smartphone that comes with Microsoft Launcher, Edge, Office, Your Phone phone-mirroring integration, and more, out of the box. In fact, that’s one of four unique selling points that a Surface Phone running Android could have:
— Showcase the best of Microsoft’s efforts on Android. — Seamless integration with Windows PCs using Your Phone. — Provide the best security and update support on Android. — Brand recognition that can rival Apple and Samsung.

That last point is more for Microsoft fans, but the first three are important. A Surface Phone running Android would be the only smartphone out there that’s always guaranteed to work with all of Your Phone’s features. I have a wide array of Android smartphones, yet 90 percent of them don’t support all of Your Phone’s features on Windows 10. Screen mirroring is only available on select devices, and while that may improve, there’s no guarantee your smartphone will ever get it, or if it’ll work well. Microsoft could also provide enhanced features, such as the ability to take cellular phone calls on your PC directly from your Surface Phone. It could also build out dedicated Phone and SMS apps that sync up with the Messages app on your PC, instead of having to relay it through the Your Phone app. There’s so much more potential when you build your own Android phone.

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Source: Slashdot – Making the Case For a Microsoft Surface Phone That Runs Android

CW's Pandora Is an Embarrassment

For the past few years, the CW has been on a hot streak. The network is producing some of the best comic book shows on television and has branched out beyond the DC universe with Riverdale, Charmed, and others. Its latest venture into hard sci-fi, Pandora, accomplishes something the CW hasn’t done in years: It’s made…

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Source: Gizmodo – CW’s Pandora Is an Embarrassment

Dota Underlords' Meta Is In An Awkward Spot

Ideally, Dota Underlords, like its auto-battler kin, plays out as a game of slow-build strategy in which you amass an army of heroes based on synergies between them. Maybe that means a chanting brood of surprisingly survivable warlocks. Maybe that means a beefy team of brawny boys who are even beefier together than…

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Source: Kotaku – Dota Underlords’ Meta Is In An Awkward Spot

Former Magic: The Gathering Pro Arrested On Sexual Assault Charges

Conley Woods, a former Magic: The Gathering Pro and contributor to the game’s official website, has been arrested in Santa Fe on charges of “criminal sexual penetration, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and other crimes”.

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Source: Kotaku – Former Magic: The Gathering Pro Arrested On Sexual Assault Charges

Google's Project Dragonfly 'Terminated' In China

An executive at Google said the company’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China has been “terminated.” The project was reportedly put on hold last year but rumors that it remained active persisted. From a report: “We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Google executive Karan Bhatia told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Buzzfeed, which reported the new comments, said it was the first public confirmation that Dragonfly had ended. A spokesman for Google later confirmed to the site that Google currently had no plans to launch search in China and that no work was being done to that end.

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Source: Slashdot – Google’s Project Dragonfly ‘Terminated’ In China

Netflix Is Bleeding Customers for the First Time In Years

Netflix, our collective trash heap of mostly unwatched or unwanted content, would like you to know that despite a tidal wave of speculation that it’s not going to start serving you up ads. The stock market darling is suddenly losing subscribers and executives appear to be a little touchy about it. Halfway through its

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Source: Gizmodo – Netflix Is Bleeding Customers for the First Time In Years

Netflix Stock Tumbles After US Subscribers Drop For the First Time Ever

Netflix saw its first-ever decline in paid U.S. subscribers in the second quarter, losing 126,000 U.S. users when Wall Street was expecting 352,000 domestic adds. Barron’s reports: The slight drop in Netflix’s U.S. subscriber base, combined with fewer-than expected international adds in the second quarter, sent the company’s stock tumbling over 10% in after-hours trading Wednesday. The streaming company still reported better-than-expected earnings, but investors tend to focus on its subscriber trends and not much else. The company said it sees a return to subscriber growth in the third quarter.

For the second quarter, Netflix reported 60 cents in earnings per share, versus the 56 cents analysts had been expecting. Revenue came in at $4.9 billion, about equal to the consensus estimate. That compares with 85 cents in earnings per share on $3.9 billion in sales in the same period last year. Second-quarter net income was $270.7 million. But Netflix’s subscriber numbers tend to be the most important metric for investors, and Netflix fell short where it mattered. It added 2.8 million net new international subscribers but lost 126,000 U.S. users in the second quarter. Wall Street had been expecting 352,000 domestic and 4.8 million international adds, and Netflix had guided to a total of 5.0 million new subscribers. For the third quarter, Netflix “calls for $1.04 in EPS, $5.3 billion in revenue, and for user numbers to return to growth to the tune of 800,000 new domestic subscribers and 6.2 million international subscribers,” the report says. “That compares with 89 cents in EPS on $4 billion in sales in the same period last year, when Netflix also added 1.1 million new domestic subscribers and 5.9 million international subscribers.”

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Source: Slashdot – Netflix Stock Tumbles After US Subscribers Drop For the First Time Ever

The Game of Thrones Creators Just Changed Their Mind About Appearing at SDCC

The men primarily responsible for Game of Thrones won’t be attending San Diego Comic-Con after all. David Benioff and DB Weiss have pulled out of the show just two days before they were scheduled to appear in front of a crowd of thousands.

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Source: io9 – The Game of Thrones Creators Just Changed Their Mind About Appearing at SDCC

Get a First Look at the Next Wave of Comixology Originals With Afterlift

It’s almost become a bit of a tradition at this point that Comixology heralds the arrival of another San Diego Comic-Con with the reveal of a new wave of comics coming to its Originals Imprint. This year is no exception, and io9 can exclusively reveal one of the new titles revealed at the convention today: Afterlift,…

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Source: io9 – Get a First Look at the Next Wave of Comixology Originals With Afterlift

Amazon Faces Antitrust Probe In Europe Over Use of Merchant Data

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Amazon faces a formal European Union antitrust investigation (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source) into its dealings with merchants that sell goods on its site, marking an expansion of a multi-pronged regulatory push that has ensnared other U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Google. The European Commission, the EU’s top antitrust enforcer, said Wednesday that its investigation will examine whether Amazon is abusing its dual role as a marketplace where independent sellers can offer products and as a retailer of products in its own right. In particular, the probe will study whether Amazon is using nonpublic data from independent merchants to compete unfairly against them. Investigators will also examine what data Amazon uses to pick a seller as the default option for a given product when a user clicks the “buy” button — and whether Amazon has an unfair advantage to be designated the default for products it sells. The probe could eventually lead to formal charges, fines and orders for the company to change business practices, but it could also be dropped.

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Source: Slashdot – Amazon Faces Antitrust Probe In Europe Over Use of Merchant Data

Zombifying fungus bypasses the brain to make ants its puppets, study finds

A dead ant that has been taken over by a species of <em>Cordyceps</em> in the Rio Claro Reserve in Colombia.

Enlarge / A dead ant that has been taken over by a species of Cordyceps in the Rio Claro Reserve in Colombia. (credit: National Geographic/Justin Maguire)

Pity the poor unsuspecting carpenter ant who unwittingly becomes infected with spores scattered by a parasitic fungus in the Cordyceps genus. The spores attach to the ant and germinate, spreading through the host’s body via long tendrils called mycelia. Cordyceps essentially turns its host into a zombie slave, compelling the ant to climb to the top of the nearest plant and clamp its tiny jaws in a death grip around a leaf or twig.

The fungus then slowly devours the ant, sprouting through its head in one final indignity. Then the bulbous growths on the ends of the mycelia burst, releasing even more spores into the air, to infect even more unsuspecting ants. It’s not a great way to go: the entire process can take four to 14 days.

There are more than 400 different species of Cordyceps fungi, each targeting a particular species of insect, whether it be ants, dragonflies, cockroaches, aphids, or beetles. The zombification aspect has made the fungus a favorite of nature documentaries. It has also worked its way into popular culture, such as the zombie-apocalypse video game, The Last of Us (2013), in which a parasitic fungus mutates so that it also infects humans. But scientists are keen to study Cordyceps to learn more about the origins and intricate mechanisms behind these kinds of pathogen-based diseases.

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Source: Ars Technica – Zombifying fungus bypasses the brain to make ants its puppets, study finds

What The Hell Did I Just Watch?: Another Trippy Video From Animator Cyriak

Remember ‘RIP’, that trippy dancing skeleton video from animator Cyriak? That shit was weird. And now he’s back with ‘Breakfast’, another freaky animation, this time based on a black and white video of a man eating breakfast at a table in the middle of the road that gets hit by a car. If you’re going to watch it, you should watch the whole thing because it only goes deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. And you know how I feel about rabbit holes. “Not a huge fan.” Nope, twisted my ankle accidentally stepping in one. Love rabbits otherwise though.

Keep going for the video.

Source: Geekologie – What The Hell Did I Just Watch?: Another Trippy Video From Animator Cyriak

Mattel Is Bringing Back the Original Vintage He-Man Figures Now Packed With Articulation

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe sits in the upper echelons of popular and fondly remembered ‘80s toy lines. Decades after debuting way back in 1982, there have been several attempts to revive those original figures, but starting in 2020, io9 can exclusively reveal that Mattel will release a new Masters of the

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Source: io9 – Mattel Is Bringing Back the Original Vintage He-Man Figures Now Packed With Articulation

ZFS On Linux Has Figured Out A Way To Restore SIMD Support On Linux 5.0+

Those running ZFS On Linux (ZoL) on post-5.0 (and pre-5.0 supported LTS releases) have seen big performance hits to the ZFS encryption performance in particular. That came due to upstream breaking an interface used by ZFS On Linux and admittedly not caring about ZoL due to it being an out-of-tree user. But now several kernel releases later, a workaround has been devised…

Source: Phoronix – ZFS On Linux Has Figured Out A Way To Restore SIMD Support On Linux 5.0+