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Ex-Rentboy.com CEO pleads guilty in U.S. prostitution case

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The former chief executive of male escort website Rentboy.com pleaded guilty on Friday to having promoted prostitution, in a case that outraged gay and civil rights activists when it was announced last year.

Jeffrey Hurant, 51, entered his plea in federal court in Brooklyn. Easy Rent Systems Inc, which did business as Rentboy.com, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering.

Hurant told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Levy that for over a decade, he agreed to accept payment from multiple advertisers on Rentboy.com and promote the exchange of sexual conduct in return for a fee.

Under a plea deal, Hurant agreed to not appeal any prison sentence of two years or less, while Easy Rent agreed not to appeal any fine of $10 million or less. Both are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 2.

The guilty pleas came over a year after the August 2015 arrest of Hurant and six employees of Rentboy.com, which the U.S. Justice Department said was the largest online male escort website before being shuttered by the government.

The website, which was founded in 1996 and targeted gay men, carried disclaimers saying its advertisements for escorts were for companionship and not sexual services. But prosecutors said Rentboy.com was intended primarily to promote prostitution.

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Escorts paid at least $59.95 per month and up to several hundred dollars to advertise on Rentboy.com, which attracted 500,000 unique visitors daily and generated more than $10 million from 2010 to 2015, prosecutors said.

The case prompted criticism from some gay rights activists and sex worker rights groups, who questioned why prosecutors were targeting the service after it had operated transparently for nearly two decades.

The New York Times, in an editorial in August 2015, said prosecutors had not justified shutting down “a company that provided sex workers with a safer alternative to street walking or relying on pimps.”

Following the criticism, federal prosecutors in February dropped charges against the six Rentboy employees.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

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Walmart got a $2.2 billion tax cut — now it’s laying off workers

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Walmart announced it will lay off hundreds of workers in North Carolina despite receiving billions in tax cuts that the Republican Party and President Trump claimed would spur job growth.

The giant retailer will lay off about 570 employees and close its corporate office near the Charlotte airport, despite signing a 12-year lease just four years earlier, the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

The work done at the Charlotte facility will be outsourced to a firm in Arkansas, according to the report.

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Amazon, Google and Facebook warrant antitrust scrutiny for many reasons – not just because they’re large

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There’s a growing chorus of U.S. politicians, antitrust scholars and consumer watchdogs calling for stricter antitrust treatment of Amazon, Google, Facebook and other tech giants. Some even say they should be broken up.

Most recently, U.S. lawmakers launched a sweeping review to determine if these companies have become so big and powerful that they are stifling competition and harming consumers, while federal regulators are also gearing up to take action.

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Hacker used $35 computer to steal restricted NASA data

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A hacker used a tiny Raspberry Pi computer to infiltrate NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory network, stealing sensitive data and forcing the temporary disconnection of space-flight systems, the agency has revealed.

The April 2018 attack went undetected for nearly a year, according to an audit report issued on June 18, and an investigation is still underway to find the culprit.

A Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized device sold for about $35 that plugs into home televisions and is used mainly to teach coding to children and promote computing in developing countries.

Prior to detection, the attacker was able to exfiltrate 23 files amounting to approximately 500 megabytes of data, the report from NASA's Office of inspector General said.

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