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    - No Implants Needed For Precise Control Deep Into the Brain
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: In April, Guoping Feng and colleagues at MIT, along with [Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist and bioengineer at Stanford University] demonstrated a minimally invasive optogenetic system that required drilling a small hole in the skull, then being able to control opsin-expressing neurons six millimeters deep into the brain using blue light. This approach used of a type of opsin that slowly activates neurons in a step-wise manner. In the most recent study [published in the journal Nature Biotechnology], Deisseroth and colleagues sought to instead enable both deep and fast optogenetics without surgery. The Stanford team expressed in the brain cells of mice a powerful new opsin called ChRmine (pronounced like the deep-red color "carmine"), discovered by Deisseroth's group last year in a marine organism. Then, they shined a red light outside the skull and were able to activate neural circuits in the midbrain and brainstem at depths of up to 7 millimeters. With the technique, the scientists turned on and off brain circuits with millisecond precision. "It really worked well, far better than we even expected might be possible," says Deisseroth. The team then tested the effectiveness of the system. In one instance, they used light to quickly and precisely stop seizures in epileptic mice, and in another to turn on serotonin-producing neurons to promote social behavior in mice. Most optogenetic techniques involve injecting viruses with an opsin gene of choice directly into the brain with a needle. To avoid this, the Stanford team used a type of PHP virus developed at CalTech that can be injected in the blood. The virus then crosses the blood-brain barrier to deliver its payload, an opsin gene, to brain cells. In this case, even the delivery of the gene is noninvasive -- no needle penetrates the brain. Deisseroth's team is now testing the non-invasive technique in fish and collaborating with others to apply it to non-human primates. They're also working with the Seattle-based Allen Institute to develop mouse lines bred with ChRmine in their cells.

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    - The Explosive Problem of 'Zombie' Batteries
    AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents waste firms like Biffa, Veolia and Suez, says too many batteries are going into either recycling bins or black rubbish bags, where they are easily damaged by sorting equipment and start to burn -- so-called "zombie" batteries. The ESA has launched a campaign called Take Charge which encourages people to dispose of batteries properly. "Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not put in the proper recycling bins. Fires caused by carelessly discarded zombie batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services," says Jacob Hayler, executive director of ESA. Lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, tablets and toothbrushes, can be extremely volatile if damaged. CCTV footage taken at several recycling centers shows explosions sending flames and debris shooting across sorting areas. And those sorts of batteries are a growing menace. Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were suspected to have caused around 250 fires at waste facilities. That is 38% of all fires, up from 25% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from ESA. In many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established but ESA says it is likely that lithium-ion batteries account for an even bigger proportion of fires.

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    - Samsung, Stanford Make a 10,000 PPI Display That Could Lead To 'Flawless' VR
    Samsung and Stanford University have developed OLED technology that supports resolutions up to 10,000 pixels per inch -- "well above what you see in virtually any existing display, let alone what you'd find in a modern VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2," reports Engadget. From the report: The newOLED tech uses films to emit white light between reflective layers, one silver and another made of reflective metal with nano-sized corrugations. This "optical metasurface" changes the reflective properties and allows specific colors to resonate through pixels. The design allows for much higher pixel densities than you see in the RGB OLEDs on phones, but doesn't hurt brightness to the degree you see with white OLEDs in some TVs. This would be ideal for VR and AR, creating a virtually 'flawless' image where you can't see the screen door effect or even individual pixels. This might take years to arrive when it would require much more computing power, but OLED tech would no longer be an obstacle.

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    - 'Iranian YouTube' CEO Sentenced To 10 Years Over Video Uploaded By User
    The founder and manager of Iran's main video-sharing platform, referred to by some as Iran's YouTube, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of "encouraging corruption" over a video posted by a user. Radio Free Europe reports: In the video posted on Aparat.com last year, children were asked whether they know how they were born, Iranian media reported. The verdict against Aparat Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Javad Shakuri Moghadam was reported by domestic media on October 25. The sentence was reportedly issued in mid-October by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided over by judge Mohammad Moghiseh, who is known for handing down harsh sentences. Moghiseh was last year blacklisted by the U.S. State Department for miscarriage of justice. Shakuri Moghadam, who was awarded a government medal of honor as one of the country's top entrepreneurs about two years ago, can appeal the sentence. The controversial video was said to have been removed an hour after being posted on Aparat, which has millions of Iranian users. The producers of the video were also arrested with authorities then claiming that they had received complaints from concerned citizens and families. The BBC reported that seven others accused in the case have been each sentenced to 11 years in prison after being convicted of "encouraging corruption" and "publishing vulgar content."

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    - Lee Kun-hee, Who Built Samsung Into a Global Giant, Dies At 78
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Lee Kun-hee, who built Samsung into a global giant of smartphones, televisions and computer chips but was twice convicted — and, in a pattern that has become typical in South Korea, twice pardoned -- for white-collar crimes committed along the way, died on Sunday in Seoul, the South Korean capital. He was 78. Samsung announced the death but did not specify the cause. Mr. Lee had been incapacitated since a heart attack in 2014. When Mr. Lee took the helm at Samsung Group in 1987, after the death of his father and the conglomerate's founder, Lee Byung-chull, many in the West knew the group's electronics unit only as a maker of cheap televisions and unreliable microwaves sold in discount stores. Lee Kun-hee pushed the company relentlessly up the technological ladder. By the early 1990s, Samsung had surpassed Japanese and American rivals to become a pacesetter in memory chips. It came to dominate flat-panel displays as screens lost their bulk. And it conquered the middle-to-high end of the mobile market as cellphones became powerhouse computing devices in the 2000s. Samsung Electronics today is a cornerstone of South Korea's economy and one of the world's top corporate spenders on research and development. Mr. Lee -- who was chairman of Samsung Group from 1987 to 1998, chairman and chief executive of Samsung Electronics from 1998 to 2008, then Samsung Electronics chairman from 2010 until his death -- was South Korea's richest man. "In 1996, Mr. Lee was convicted of bribing the country's president, then pardoned," The New York Times notes. "More than a decade later, he was found guilty of tax evasion but given another reprieve, this time so he could resume lobbying to bring the Winter Olympics to the mountain town of Pyeongchang in 2018." "Soon after the Pyeongchang Games, Lee Myung-bak, South Korea's president from 2008 to 2013 and no relation, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting $5.4 million in bribes from Samsung in exchange for pardoning Mr. Lee."

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    - Chrome OS May Finally Be Getting a Dark Mode
    New submitter andreavenezia shares a report from The Verge: Chrome OS may finally be getting a dark mode, but so far it's only been spotted in its experimental Canary channel, Android Central reported. Before you go tinkering with Canary just be advised: Canary is Google's "bleeding edge" Chrome OS path, which receives daily updates of features before they've been widely tested. It can only be accessed from Chromebooks switched into a special developer mode (not to be confused with the Chrome OS Developer channel). Google warns that Canary can be "unstable." But at the moment, to activate dark mode on your Chromebook, you need to have the Canary channel installed. Once you've done that, Android Central says you just open Chrome and type in chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark and chrome://flags/#enable-webui-dark-mode into the URL bar. I should note I tried this on my older Chromebook and wasn't able to get it to work. But here's the view Android Police captured. Android Central says the dark mode has some bugs, but notes it seems to apply across the UI, not just as darker backgrounds.

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    - Pakistan's PM Asks Facebook To Ban Islamophobic Content
    Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called on Facebook to ban Islamophobic content on its platform, warning of a spike in radicalization amongst Muslims, hours after he hit out at the French president for "attacking Islam." Reuters reports: Pakistan summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad as anger spread on Monday over President Emmanuel Macron's reaction to the murder last week of a French teacher by an Islamist. Khan, in an open letter posted on Twitter on Sunday, said "growing Islamophobia" was encouraging extremism and violence worldwide, especially through social media platforms such as Facebook. "I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust," Khan said. "One cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, these are acceptable against others," Khan said, adding such a stance was "reflective of prejudice and bias that will encourage further radicalization." In response, a Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters the company opposed all forms of hate and did not allow attacks based on race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. "We'll remove this hate speech as soon as we become aware of it," the spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that Facebook had "more work to do."

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    - CBP Refuses To Tell Congress How It's Tracking Americans Without a Warrant
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is refusing to tell Congress what legal authority the agency is following to use commercially bought location data to track Americans without a warrant, according to the office of Senator Ron Wyden. The agency is buying location data from Americans all over the country, not just in border areas. The lack of disclosure around why CBP believes it does not need a warrant to use the data, as well as the Department of Homeland Security not publishing a Privacy Impact Assessment on the use of such location information, has spurred Wyden and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Ed Markey, and Brian Schatz on Friday to ask the DHS Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) to investigate CBP's warrantless domestic surveillance of phones, and determine if CBP is breaking the law or engaging in abusive practices. The news highlights the increased use of app location data by U.S. government agencies. Various services take location data which is harvested from ordinary apps installed on peoples' phones around the world, repackages that, and sells access to law enforcement agencies so they can try to track groups of people or individuals. In this case, CBP has bought the location data from a firm called Venntel. "CBP officials confirmed to Senate staff that the agency is using Venntel's location database to search for information collected from phones in the United States without any kind of court order," the letter signed by Wyden and Warren, and addressed to the DHS OIG, reads. "CBP outrageously asserted that its legal analysis is privileged and therefore does not have to be shared with Congress. We disagree." As well as not obtaining court orders to query the data, CBP said it's not restricting its personnel to only using it near the border, the Wyden aide added. CBP is unable to tell what nationality a particular person is based only on the information provided by Venntel; but what the agency does know is that the Venntel data the agency is using includes the movements of people inside the United States, the Wyden aide said.

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    - It's Time for the Movie Studios to Step In To Save the Movie Theaters
    M.G. Siegler, former reporter at TechCrunch and now a VC at Google Ventures, writes: [...] It seems inevitable at this point that there's going to need to be a new path forward. And that path may very well be one that looks similar to a path forged at the beginning of the business. That is, studios owning theaters. People will remember that this type of vertical integration is what led to the Paramount Decree in the 1940s. The studios used to control not only the production of movies, but the exhibition of them and were forced to divest from the latter in the name of competition. As the above 400ish words should make clear: the world is very different now. And as a good bit of timing luck would have it, the consent decrees are being unwound. This doesn't mean studios will be able to partake in any kind of anti-competitive behavior, but it should mean they can own theaters again. Because, again, the world is a very different place than it was in the 1940s. One could imagine Disney or the like stepping in to save AMC. Perhaps with the notion that they would still agree to show other studios' films as well. But perhaps they would go above and beyond to showcase their own. Or maybe Disney+ subscribers would get a deal. Etc. And then maybe ViacomCBS (Paramount) buys Regal. Comcast (Universal) buys Cinemark. Sony buys Cineplex. Etc. Or maybe Amazon buys one of them. Netflix has already bought/saved a couple of theaters, perhaps that continues. Again, in that case, it's less about the theatrical business model and more about marketing. And you know who loves marketing just as much as anyone else? Apple. A decade ago, it would have seemed comical to have Apple potentially owning movie theaters. Now with all the money they're pouring into Apple TV+ and wooing the best Hollywood talent, it may seem downright logical. Imagine a movie theater that isn't a public restroom, but instead is a cinematic palace. You know, like they were in the old days. Certainly, those still exist in places. But the AMCs of the world spent the last 20 years wiping them out and screening films in their hollowed out carcasses. It sounds crazy to hope for a world where some of the biggest companies on the planet -- the Amazons, the Apples, the Disneys -- step in to save movie theaters, but such is the state of the world.

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    - NASA Confirms Water Molecules On Moon
    NASA has confirmed the presence of water on the moon's sunlit surface, a breakthrough that suggests the chemical compound that is vital to life on Earth could be distributed across more parts of the lunar surface than the ice that has previously been found in dark and cold areas. From a report: "We don't know yet if we can use it as a resource," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, but he added that learning more about the water is crucial to U.S. plans to explore the moon. The discovery comes from the space agency's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA -- a modified Boeing 747 that can take its large telescope high into Earth's atmosphere, at altitudes up to 45,000 feet. Those heights allow researchers to peer at objects in space with hardly any visual disruptions from water vapor. The water molecules are in Clavius crater, a large crater in the moon's southern hemisphere. To detect the molecules, SOFIA used a special infrared camera that can discern between water's specific wavelength of 6.1 microns and that of its close chemical relative hydroxyl, or OH. "Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million -- roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water -- trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface," NASA said in a release about the discovery. "This is not puddles of water but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water," said Casey Honniball, the lead author of a study about the discovery. The data confirm what experts have suspected, that water might exist on the moon's sunny side. But in recent years, researchers had been able to document only water ice at the moon's poles and other darker and colder areas. Experts will now try to figure out exactly how the water came to form and why it persists. NASA scientists published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

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    - Surveillance Startup Used Own Cameras To Harass Coworkers
    An anonymous reader shares a report: Verkada, a fast-growing Silicon Valley surveillance startup, equips its offices in downtown San Mateo, California, with its own state-of-the-art security cameras. Last year, a sales director on the company's sales team abused their access to these cameras to take and post photos of colleagues in a Slack channel called #RawVerkadawgz where they made sexually explicit jokes about women who worked at the company, according to a report in IPVM, which Motherboard independently verified and obtained more information about. "Face match... find me a squirt," the sales director wrote in the company Slack channel in August 2019, according to one screenshot obtained by Motherboard. The comment was posted along with a series of photos of employees' faces captured with the office's surveillance system which were patched together using a Verkada facial recognition feature. "Face search," as it's called, can pinpoint an individual in a sea of faces. The pinpointed face, in this instance, belonged to a Verkada employee, her mouth wide open. In addition to verifying the incident with three sources who worked at Verkada at the time, Motherboard compared the format of the images posted to those included in Verkada's publicly available demo videos to verify that they were indeed captured by the company's surveillance cameras.

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    - Vaccine Hopes Rise as Oxford Jab Prompts Immune Response Among Old as Well as Young Adults
    One of the world's leading COVID-19 experimental vaccines produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus. From a report: The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday. A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people. "It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher," an AstraZeneca spokesman said. "The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222," the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech's candidate, as the world tries to plot a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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    - Over 100 Irrigation Systems Left Exposed Online Without a Password
    More than 100 smart irrigation systems were left exposed online without a password last month, allowing anyone to access and tamper with water irrigation programs for crops, tree plantations, cities, and building complexes. From a report: The exposed irrigation systems were discovered by Security Joes, a small boutique security firm based in Israel. All were running ICC PRO, a top-shelf smart irrigation system designed by Motorola for use with agricultural, turf, and landscape management. Security Joes co-founder Ido Naor told ZDNet last month that companies and city officials had installed ICC PRO systems without changing default factory settings, which don't include a password for the default account. Naor says the systems could be easily identified online with the help of IoT search engines like Shodan. Once attackers locate an internet-accessible ICC PRO system, Naor says all they have to do is type in the default admin username and press Enter to access a smart irrigation control panel. Here, Naor says attackers can pause or stop watering events, change settings, control the water quantity and pressure delivered to pumps, or lock irrigation systems by deleting users.

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    - Ransomware Hit a Georgia County. That Didn't Stop Its Ballot Counting.
    A Georgia county has reverted to matching some absentee ballot signatures to paper backups, rather than an online system, after a ransomware infection spread to part of its election department. From a report: Poll workers in Hall County have since caught up on a backlog of absentee ballots, state officials said, and said there's no danger of the ransomware extending to systems used to cast or count votes. But the infection is the first known example in the 2020 general election of opportunistic criminal hackers incidentally slowing the broader election process, something that federal cybersecurity officials have warned is a strong possibility. But the attack does not indicate any broad effort to tamper with U.S. voting or show systemic vulnerabilities to the U.S. election system. "They switched over to their paper backups, which is required of them," said Jordan Fuchs, Georgia's deputy secretary of state. "It took a little bit of work on their part -- I think they had 11 days of catch-up to do -- and they completed their task," she said.

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    - Facebook Steps Into Cloud Gaming -- and Another Feud With Apple
    Facebook will soon be the latest tech giant to enter the world of cloud gaming. Their approach is different than what Microsoft or Google has built, but Facebook highlights a shared central challenge: dealing with Apple. From a report: Facebook is not building a console gaming competitor to compete with Stadia or xCloud; instead, the focus is wholly on mobile games. Why cloud stream mobile games that your device is already capable of running locally? Facebook is aiming to get users into games more quickly and put less friction between a user seeing an advertisement for a game and actually playing it themselves. Users can quickly tap into the title without downloading anything, and if they eventually opt to download the title from a mobile app store, they'll be able to pick up where they left off. Facebook's service will launch on the desktop web and Android, but not iOS due to what Facebook frames as usability restrictions outlined in Apple's App Store terms and conditions. [...] For a user downloading a lengthy single-player console epic, the short pitstop is an inconvenience, but long-time Facebook gaming exec Jason Rubin says that the stipulations are a non-starter for what Facebook's platform envisions, a way to start playing mobile games immediately without downloading anything. "It's a sequence of hurdles that altogether make a bad consumer experience," Rubin tells TechCrunch.

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