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Business and Technology News


Toy companies break down barriers to be more inclusive

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 03:38:01 UT

NEW YORK — Toy companies are working harder to think outside their usual box, offering more-inclusive items like dolls with disabilities, female superhero figures and characters with a range of skin tones. What that means on the shelves is Barbies that have a greater variety of body types, eye colors and facial structures, a Lego mini-figure of a boy who uses a wheelchair, and an American Girl doll with accessories like a diabetes kit and arm crutches in addition to the hearing aids and service dogs it has offered before. Jennifer Weitzman, whose 5-year-old daughter Hannah has cochlear implants, has the American Girl doll with hearing aids and a Tinker Bell doll with a cochlear implant that Weitzman bought from a British site called The trend started a few years ago, pushed by parents who didn’t see enough diversity in the toy aisle and were turning to the Internet or startups to find items. [...] it also realized it needed more racial diversity, and last fall introduced a black character called Ruby Rails and has since then added a Latina engineer called Valentina and other characters. The nation’s largest toy maker launched the Barbie Fashionista collection last year that offered more skin tones, eye colors and facial structures. Spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni says the company is also looking to add different body shapes to the Barbie career line and the Fairytale doll collection. Walmart’s My Life As doll collection has expanded the number of skin shades available, and Hasbro is adding more skin tones to its Baby Alive doll for next year. The White House held a conference on gender stereotypes in media and the toys, drawing executives from major toy companies.

‘Lions hunting zebras’: Ex-Wells Fargo bankers describe abuses

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 03:36:10 UT

Wells Fargo would like to close the chapter on the sham account scandal, saying it has changed its policies, replaced its chief executive and refunded $2.6 million to customers. [...] lawmakers and regulators say they will not let it go that quickly, and emerging evidence that some victims were among the bank’s most vulnerable customers has given them fresh ammunition. What proportion of the harmed customers are old, members of ethnic minorities or military veterans? The absence of a Social Security number made it simpler for Wells Fargo employees to open fraudulent accounts in those customers’ names. Of the 2 million potentially unauthorized accounts the bank uncovered in its internal review, the affected customers “skewed to younger people, not older people,” he told the House Financial Services Committee. In the Los Angeles area, for instance, college campuses were considered prime spots for employees seeking to rack up new accounts because younger customers had a tendency to trust a banker’s advice. The banker was then able to list as many accounts under that application as he wanted — or, in many cases, as many as he needed to hit sales goals for that day. Steven Curtis, who also worked at several Wells Fargo branches in the Los Angeles area, said that when college students showed up asking for overdraft fees to be waived, bankers would sometimes tell them they could do so only by closing their account and opening a batch of new ones. Among the complaints was that employees specifically sought out Mexican citizens because their identity documents were easier to misuse. If customers complained, Wells Fargo employees advised them “to ignore the unauthorized fees and letters from collection agencies because the lack of a Social Security number means the debt will not affect them,” the lawsuit said. Since the scandal broke, Wells Fargo says it has eliminated the sales goals that pressured bankers to open sham accounts. “This was an action I took as an individual looking to sever ties with what I regard as a dishonest financial institution,” he said by email.

DNS servers vulnerable spot for hackers

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 07:50:58 UT

For two hours, users around the country had trouble accessing certain websites on the Internet because Dyn, a firm that hosts domain name servers, was attacked electronically. Domain Name System (DNS) servers are key to directing traffic on the Internet. When those servers get bogged down by attacks, they are unable to redirect the Internet traffic to the appropriate sites, resulting in sites not loading properly on computers and smartphones, until a backup server picks up the traffic. Dyn said on its website that it started monitoring and mitigating the attack, which initially affected the East Coast, at 4:10 a.m. Pacific Time and resolved the issue at 6:20 a.m. But by 8:52 a.m. PT, Dyn said it was again investigating an attack against its servers.

Internet attacks cause major Web outage

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 02:59:03 UT

A series of malicious cyberattacks — known as distributed denial of service, or a DDoS attack — took down Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company that, among other things, provides domain name services, online traffic management and email connectivity to hundreds of companies. The attack may turn out to be among the biggest in history, as mounting evidence pointed to similarities between Friday’s attack and a record-setting assault last month that shut down the website of a security journalist using compromised devices from the so-called Internet of Things. Any number of devices — including televisions, smart watches, alarm clocks, vacuum cleaners, children’s toys and anything else with an Internet connection — are vulnerable to being infected and, without their owners’ knowledge, used in that kind of attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Homeland Security were monitoring the situation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday. Typically, DDoS attacks are targeted at single websites, not a big DNS hosting provider. The scope is much bigger than the usual attack, said Brian White, chief operating officer of security firm Red Owl Analytics. DDoS attacks launch large quantities of phony traffic — usually co-opted from hacked devices — at a company’s servers in order to overload the system and shut down its ability to respond to real users. Friday’s attack, which was characterized as malicious by the White House, targeted New Hampshire-based Dyn and impacted Internet users across the country. Unless the website or app they use can reroute its operations and get back online, there’s nothing a customer can do but sit and wait. Dyn said the onslaught of junk traffic crippling its servers seemed to be coming from tens of millions of IP addresses from around the world. Several security firms pointed out that the attack was reminiscent of a record-sized attack launched against cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs’ website last month. Typically in a DDoS attack, hackers will deploy a botnet, or a network of computers infected with malicious software (or malware), to route phony traffic to a certain site or server with the intent of shutting it down. The attack on Krebs’ website was slightly different in that the specific botnet used, known as Mirai, was built using infected devices like Internet-enabled cameras. Most attacks today are designed to avoid detection and steal information, but DDoS is a very public demonstration. Amazon, Zendesk and other companies rerouted their domain operations through different service providers to mitigate the damage from the attacks on Dyn. Local in-office catering startup Zesty said the midday outage prevented some customers from viewing its online menus, but it was able to maintain service by switching to phone communication, rather than relying on its website. While the first attack largely impacted Internet users on the East Coast, subsequent assaults appeared wider-reaching, with people in California and other parts of the U.S. reporting connectivity issues, as well as some in parts of Europe and Asia, according to several outage monitoring sites.

Why the Web went down: DNS and DDoS explained

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 02:47:29 UT

Domain Name System (DNS) servers are key to directing traffic on the Internet. The servers take in Web addresses typed by users, like, translate them into numerical addresses computers understand, and route them to the sites they seek. When those servers get bogged down by attacks, they are unable to direct Internet traffic to the appropriate sites. [...] one reason people target the servers is for the spectacle of causing major disruption. Hackers start by building networks of computers infected with malicious software — botnets, or networks of machines that have been “botted,” or taken over so they can be remotely controlled without their owners knowing. Household devices, toys and other machines connected to the Internet are being taken over and used to send spurious traffic. Attacks are launched in several ways, but they fall into four categories: TCP connection attacks that attempt to use up all the available connections to a source; volumetric attacks, which aim to consume available bandwidth and thus cause enough congestion to slow or limit access to a site or sites; fragmentation attacks, where the botnets send a flood of fragmented data that the target must try to reassemble, overwhelming its ability to do so; and application attacks that try to overwhelm a specific part of an application or service.

Beverly Hills plans for driverless vehicle fleet

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:16:37 UT

LOS ANGELES — The ubiquitous Ferraris and Bentleys and Lamborghinis of Beverly Hills may soon be sharing the road with a new form of auto exotica: robot cars. City leaders plan to put a robot fleet of mass transit vehicles on its roads as soon as it’s practical, in an attempt to make the wealthy little city of 34,000 a world leader in the early deployment of driverless vehicles. [...] the city has taken a series of early steps, and sees itself as perfect proving ground for autonomous public transit: 5.7 square miles, a low-density population, well-marked and well-maintained streets unblemished by potholes. The City Council in April adopted a resolution supporting driverless vehicles for public transit. The planning and information technology departments are actively developing a strategy to make it happen. City officials are meeting with major and minor players in the field — from Google and Ford to small startups — inviting them to use the city’s roads as a driverless test bed. “If you’re an innovator, test it here, put your vehicles on the roads of Beverly Hills,” said Grayson Brulte, a technology industry consultant and adviser to the municipality’s Smart City/Technology Committee. A closure of Rodeo Drive for a driverless car demonstration day is also in the works, Brulte said. Styling itself as a technology innovator preparing for a fast-arriving future, the city in December will start laying fiber optic cable to carry super-speed Internet service into every business and home. Researchers, dependent on huge volumes of traffic data generated by robot cars bristling with sensors, could tap into that high-speed network to collect it. In July, Tesla founder Elon Musk announced plans for a “high passenger density urban transport” vehicle that is in the early development stages “and should be ready for unveiling next year.” [...] the glitzy city is known as a place where people come to cruise the streets in their own luxury cars — not line up at the corner bus stop to ride public transit. Autonomous vehicles, he said, will prove a more effective, less expensive way to provide public transportation than costly rail projects. Joel Kotkin of Chapman University insists that most Americans prefer suburban-style living, and an autonomous public transit system would suit such communities well. Whatever the motivations and the social effects, driverless vehicles are emerging as an economic driver, and Mirisch wants Beverly Hills to be part of it.

Online lenders move to clean up their acts

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:06:36 UT

By distancing themselves from payday lenders and other businesses whose predatory tactics have drawn regulatory fire, online lenders hope to avoid a similar crackdown. Last year, a group of firms and small-business experts called the Responsible Business Lending Coalition published a “bill of rights” for borrowers of small-business loans and other credit products. Dozens of lenders representing community development financial institutions and online companies have signed on to the agreement, which calls for clear disclosures, no hidden penalty fees and high confidence that a borrower will be able to repay the loan, among other provisions. [...] Fundera, an online lender focused on small businesses and a founding member of the “bill of rights” initiative, published a special disclosure statement for telling potential borrowers about the terms of its services.

Tesla eyes ride hailing; Cigna eases addiction paperwork

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 23:46:49 UT

Does Tesla Motors have plans to get into the ride-hailing businesses? A spokeswoman isn’t commenting, but the company hinted at the venture this week when it announced that all of its cars would come equipped with hardware needed to drive themselves. The company says in a disclaimer that use of self-driving Teslas to make money with ride hailing or sharing will be allowed only on Tesla’s own network. Two big vacuum cleaner companies have ended a two-year legal battle over ads that touted their prowess in suction and deep cleaning. The move announced Friday comes after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raised questions about whether the insurance company’s requirement delayed treatment. Addiction treatment involves specialized drugs, combined with therapy, to help addicts recover while minimizing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

AT&T said to be in advanced merger talks with Time Warner

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 23:44:16 UT

The apparent interest in Time Warner comes more than two years after AT&T announced a $48.5 billion deal for DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite television provider. Distributors like AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast have been either investing or buying companies that produce the content to gain control over their customers’ entertainment experiences. By purchasing DirecTV, AT&T obtained the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, giving customers access to every football game. The company also created a joint venture in 2014 with the Chernin Group to invest in media businesses and start internet streaming video services. Comcast owns NBC Universal and has a stake in newer digital media properties, including BuzzFeed and Vox. Today’s Time Warner is the byproduct of many rounds of spin-offs and acquisitions, dating back to 1989, when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications, then creating the largest media conglomerate in the world, with cable, publishing and movie assets. After the dot-com bubble burst, the value of AOL declined significantly and the company had to write off a $99 billion loss. Today, Time Warner’s units include such premium channels as HBO and Cinemax, as well as Turner, which operates TBS, Turner Sports and others, in addition to CNN.

Corrections, Oct. 22

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 23:11:27 UT

Key publisher in tech world, Oct. 21, Business, C1 An obituary for technology publisher David Bunnell misstated his role in the founding of Upside Magazine. He joined the publication as a board member after its start and later became CEO. Louisville, Pitino accused of violations, Oct. 21, Sports, B3 A sports roundup item on Washington State coach Mike Leach being fined $10,000 for accusing Arizona State of stealing signs misstated the details of their game. The two teams play Saturday in Arizona.

NBA in VR; Dorothy’s ruby slippers; a ‘Nasty’ mashup

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:30:51 UT

NBA in VR; Dorothy’s ruby slippers; a ‘Nasty’ mashup The NBA said it will livestream at least one game a week in virtual reality, starting with the Sacramento Kings vs. the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 27. At first, viewers will be able to use only Samsung Gear VR headsets with NextVR’s app, and the games are available only to subscribers of NBA League Pass. The museum launched a campaign Monday to raise $300,000 to preserve the ruby slippers that whisked Dorothy back to Kansas at the end of “The Wizard of Oz.” When Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during Wednesday’s debate, the Internet moved quickly.

New York state cracks down on illegal Airbnb rentals

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:26:47 UT

Supporters of the measure say many property owners use sites like Airbnb to offer residential apartments as short-term rentals to visitors, hurting existing hotels while taking residential units off the already expensive housing market in New York City. “In typical fashion, Albany backroom dealing rewarded a special interest — the price-gouging hotel industry — and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Josh Meltzer, Airbnb’s head of public policy in New York. The complicated rules mean many New Yorkers may not know whether they can legally rent out their homes — and Airbnb says it does not have the ability to remove listings that violate the 2010 law. Supporters say the fines are meant to go after commercial operators who rent large numbers of vacant units in apartment buildings or those who exploit tourists by renting out unsafe, unregulated lodgings. Airbnb mounted a last-minute campaign to kill the measure and this week proposed alternative regulations that the company argued would address concerns about short-term rentals without onerous fines. An investigation of Airbnb rentals from 2010 to 2014 by the state attorney general’s office found that 72 percent of the units in New York City were illegal, with commercial operators constituting 6 percent of the hosts and supplying 36 percent of the rentals.

Best budget Blu-ray players

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:07:44 UT

Best budget Blu-ray players The Samsung is one of the fastest Blu-ray players we’ve tested for under $100. The unit offers decent streaming options, and only a dedicated streaming box will do it better for the same money. The ergonomics of the remote and the user interface — especially the “seek” function — could be improved. The Samsung offers excellent image quality, speedy disc access and great bang for the buck. The Sony offers excellent picture quality in a compact package. Streaming media is the prime focus, and users can assemble shortcuts the way they like for the first time on a Sony player. The ability to play PlayStation Now games is a bonus. Compared with a Roku, the Sony is slow to load streaming apps. If you’re looking for a streaming box that not only does Blu-ray movies but also plays games, then the Sony is an absolute bargain. The number of streaming apps is solid, and disc loading times are fairly respectable. The implementation of the PlayStation Now gaming app is relatively poor. The BDP-S3700 offers a lot of features for little money, but a lack of input responsiveness can spoil some of the fun. The LG is a budget player with image quality that’s basically the same as more costly models. The player is very slow at loading discs and streaming services. The LG is capable of fine image quality, but its sluggish load times keep it from earning our recommendation. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit

Walmart, offer more choices ahead of Singles Day

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 20:54:56 UT

Walmart and are offering more choices for Chinese shoppers ahead of Singles Day, one of the world’s biggest online shopping days of the year. Walmart bought an initial stake in, China’s No. 2 e-commerce site, this year in a deal that gave ownership of its Chinese e-commerce site Yihaodian. Singles Day was launched by Chinese college students in the 1990s as a version of Valentine’s Day for people without romantic partners.

Ship traffic, October 23

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 19:02:56 UT

Ship traffic Due to arrive today SHIP FROM PORT Ever Shine Los Angeles OAK Iris Sky Japan SFO London Express Los Angeles OAK MSC Ela Vancouver, B.C. OAK NYK Demeter Vancouver, B.C. OAK Straits Voager Long Beach BNC Due to depart today SHIP TO PORT APL Boston Kaohsiung, Taiwan OAK Ever Lucid Qingdao, China OAK K. Spinel Port Unknown SCK Source: S.F. Marine Exchange