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    - AT&T Eats a $15.5 Billion Impairment Charge As DirecTV Debacle Continues
    An anonymous reader writes: AT&T lost 617,000 customers from DirecTV and its other TV businesses in the final quarter of 2020, capping a year in which it lost nearly 3 million customers in the category, AT&T reported today. AT&T today also informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has taken "noncash impairment charges of $15.5 billion" related to its ongoing DirecTV debacle. AT&T said the $15.5 billion charges reflect "changes in our management strategy and our evaluation of the domestic video business... including our decision to operate our video business separately from our broadband and legacy telephony operations." This operational decision "required us to identify a separate Video reporting unit and to assess both the recoverability of its long-lived assets and any assigned goodwill for impairment," AT&T said. AT&T said it also logged "charges of approximately $780 million from the impairment of production and other content inventory at WarnerMedia, with $520 million resulting from the continued shutdown of theaters during the pandemic and the hybrid distribution model for our 2021 film slate." The charges were added to AT&T's Q4 expenses. As a result, AT&T reported a $13.9 billion net loss in the quarter, compared to a net profit of $2.4 billion a year ago. Q4 revenue was $45.7 billion, down from $46.8 billion year over year. The Q4 net loss swung AT&T to a full-year net loss of $5.4 billion.

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    - Personal Experiences Bridge Moral and Political Divides Better Than Facts, Research Finds
    AmiMoJo shares a report from Live Science: In his inaugural address last week, President Joe Biden called for unity. But how can Americans come together, given what seems to be growing political contention and deep divides? New research suggests the answer can be found in stories, not statistics. People respect those they disagree with more when their position comes from a place of personal experience, not facts and figures, finds a new series of experiments published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is especially true when the personal stories are rooted in experiences of harm or vulnerability. "In moral disagreements, experiences seem truer than facts," said Kurt Gray, a psychologist and director of the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding at the University of North Carolina. For the new research, Gray and his colleagues focused on how facts versus experiences affected people's perceptions of their opponent's rationality and their respect for that opponent. Over 15 separate experiments, they found that, although people think they respect opponents who present facts, they actually have more respect for opponents who share personal stories.

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    - Clash and Byte, Two of TikTok's Competitors, Are Merging
    Yesterday, Clash announced it was acquiring Byte, a short-form video app launched by Vine cofounder Dom Hofmann. The announcement comes "at a time when TikTok itself now appears to be here to stay," reports CNN. From the report: Dubsmash, another TikTok competitor with a similar algorithmic feed serving up entertaining videos, was acquired last month by Reddit. Meanwhile, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, which launched a TikTok clone called Reels days after then President Donald Trump said he would ban TikTok, recently admitted "TikTok is ahead." He also hinted at a need for Instagram to simplify or consolidate its video product offerings. Clash was one of the many competitors that seemed poised to benefit from TikTok's troubles. Like TikTok, Clash lets users upload short videos set to music and offers an algorithmic feed serving up content it thinks you'd like. Byte offers a similar experience, except with hidden follower counts and likes. [...] The Byte app will "continue to have the same great in-app experience" Clash said, but it will add new ways to monetize and other features. Clash said it's working on ways for its creators to earn money directly on the platform, including from viral videos and top fans giving payments on a regular basis, which it hopes will help it stand out in a crowded market.

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    - Discord Bans the r/WallStreetBets Server As Subreddit Goes Private
    According to The Verge, Discord has banned the r/WallStreetBets server for allowing "hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings." It did not ban the server for financial fraud. We have also learned that Reddit's WallStreetBets subreddit has been set to private. Here is Discord's full statement: The server has been on our Trust & Safety team's radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation. Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin. Today, we decided to remove the server and its owner from Discord for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings. To be clear, we did not ban this server due to financial fraud related to GameStop or other stocks. Discord welcomes a broad variety of personal finance discussions, from investment clubs and day traders to college students and professional financial advisors. We are monitoring this situation and in the event there are allegations of illegal activities, we will cooperate with authorities as appropriate. UPDATE: Reddit says the subreddit's moderators were the ones to make it private. According to The Verge's Dieter Bohn, the mods now say that "We are unable to ensure Reddit's content policy and the WSB rules are enforceable without a technology platform that can support automation of this enforcement. WSB will be back." Developing... Stories to help you get caught up: Former SEC Chairman Calls For an Agency Investigation Into Online Stock Trading Platforms AMC Spikes 260% as Day Traders Ignite Shorted Stocks like GameStop, BlackBerry, and Bed Bath & Beyond GameStop Jumps After Hours As Elon Musk Tweets Out Reddit Board That's Hyping Stock GameStop Stock Jumps To New Record Gaming the System: How GameStop Stock Surged 1,500% In Nine Months

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    - iCloud For Windows Gaining Support For iCloud Passwords Chrome Extension
    Apple yesterday released a new version of iCloud for Windows 10, and based on multiple reports and the update's release notes, it appears Apple is introducing an iCloud Passwords extension designed for Chrome, which will allow "iCloud" Keychain passwords to be used on Windows machines. MacRumors reports: As noted by The 8-Bit and a few other sources, the update adds support for an "iCloud" Passwords Chrome extension." After installing version 12 of "iCloud" for Windows, there's a new "Passwords" section in the app with an "iCloud" Keychain logo. When attempting to use the feature, though, the "iCloud" app prompts users to download a Chrome extension, but the extension is broken and clicking to install leads to a broken web page. This is likely a bug that will be addressed in the near future, and it sounds like when it is functional, Windows users will be able to access their "iCloud" Keychain passwords on their Windows machines through the Chrome browser. It's not clear if Apple will offer this extension for Mac machines in the future as well, and it appears to be limited to Windows at this time.

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    - Tesla Model S Gets a Radically Redesigned Interior and 520-Mile Range
    During its fourth-quarter earnings announcement, Tesla unveiled the long-rumored refresh for its Model S sedan. CNET reports: On the outside, the Model S has a new front bumper with slightly different intakes, a tweaked rear diffuser and new 19- and 21-inch wheel designs. All of the exterior trim is now finished in black to match the Model Y, but the paint color palette remains the same, with white being the only no-cost option. The interior is the star of the show, though. It's been completely redesigned, marking the Model S' first major update since its debut in 2012. There's a large 17-inch central screen much like that of the Model 3 and Model Y, but the S retains a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster in front of the driver, as well. Tesla says the new center screen is basically a gaming computer with 10 teraflops of processing power, and the released images show it running the popular fantasy RPG game Witcher 3. Most radical is the new steering wheel. It isn't exactly a wheel anymore, instead looking like a yoke right out of Star Wars or Knight Rider. There are no stalks, either, meaning the turn signals, lights and other typical features are now controlled by touch buttons on the "wheel." There's more carbon fiber or wood trim covering parts of the dashboard and door panels, and the door cards and center console have been redesigned for more storage space and better looks. The rear seats look more sculpted and have a new fold-down armrest with cupholders. Rear-seat passengers get an 8-inch screen that offers the same infotainment and gaming functions as the main screen, and it even works with wireless gaming controllers. The Model S has three-zone climate control, a 22-speaker audio system, heated seats all around (and ventilated front seats), ambient lighting and a glass roof as standard. White, black and beige remain the only interior color options. The maxed-out "Plaid Plus" model, which comes in at $139,990, features over 1,100 hp and will hit 60 mph in under 2 seconds. "It also boats a sub-9-second quarter-mile time, a top speed of 200 mph and a range of over 520 miles," reports CNET.

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    - GitLab Reshuffles Its Paid Subscription Plans, Drops Its Bronze/Starter Tier
    An anonymous reader writes: GitLab, the increasingly popular DevOps platform, today announced a major update to its subscription model. The company is doing away with its $4/month Bronze/Starter package. Current users will be able to renew one more time at the existing price or move to a higher tier (and receive a significant discount for the first three years after they do so). The company's free tier, it is worth noting, is not going away and GitLab argues that it includes "89% of the features in Bronze/Starter." To ease the pain, Bronze users will be able to renew their existing subscription before January 26, 2022 for an additional year at the existing price. They can also opt to move to the Premium tier at a discounted price for the next three years, starting at $6/user/month in Year 1, but that price then goes up to $9/user/month and $15/user/month in Year 2 and 3 respectively. For new users, the Bronze package is no longer available, starting now. With this change, GitLab now offers three tiers: Free, Premium and Ultimate (it's also doing away with the "Silver/Premium" and "Gold/Ultimate" naming). "The Bronze tier, we were selling at a loss," GitLab founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij told TechCrunch. "We were just losing money every time we sold it -- just on hosting and support. To be a sustainable business, this was a move we had to make. It's a big transition for our customers but we want to make sure we're a sustainable company and we can keep investing."

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    - Miami Uploads Bitcoin White Paper To Municipal Website
    The city of Miami on Wednesday uploaded a copy of the Bitcoin white paper to its municipal website, joining a growing chorus of governments and companies now hosting bitcoin's original blueprint. From a report: Mayor Francis Suarez emphasized his commitment to "turn Miami into a hub for crypto innovation" in his tweet announcing the upload. He's been pumping the U.S. city's potential as a landing ground for California tech expats for weeks on social media. Miami is the "first municipal government to host Satoshi's white paper," Suarez asserted. Also see: Twitter thread on who else is participating.

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    - GameStop, AMC Trading Now Being Restricted at TD Ameritrade, Schwab
    Some major brokerage houses have begun to respond to a frenetic surge in the price of shares of companies that has been attributed to rabid buying by individual investors on social-media platforms. From a report: On Wednesday, TD Ameritrade said it was restricting trading for GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings, as well as other names, amid a triple-digit percentage surge in the price of those companies in recent days. "In the interest of mitigating risk for our company and clients, we have put in place several restrictions on some transactions in $GME, $AMC and other securities," a spokeswoman for TD Ameritrade told MarketWatch, referring to the ticker symbols of the companies. "We made these decisions out of an abundance of caution amid unprecedented market conditions and other factors," she said. Charles Schwab, which bought TD Ameritrade but is still operating as an independent retail brokerage platform, said that it has tightened margin requirements in some of those trading names, including GameStop. A Schwab spokeswoman said that the platform changed its margin requirements, or how much an investor can borrow, on Jan. 13 and said it has placed "restrictions in place on certain transactions in GME and other securities."

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    - China Starts Using Anal Swabs To Test 'High-Risk' People for Covid
    Joe2020 shares a report: China has begun using anal swabs to test those it considers to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, state TV has reported. Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week, according to the state broadcaster CCTV, while those in designated quarantine facilities have also had the tests. Small, localised outbreaks in recent weeks have resulted in multiple cities in northern China being sealed off from the rest of the country and prompted mass testing campaigns, which had mostly been conducted using throat and nose swabs. The anal swabs method "can increase the detection rate of infected people" as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing's Youan hospital, told CCTV. CCTV said on Sunday anal swabs would not be used as widely as other methods, as the technique was "not convenient."

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    - Bill Gates: It's Not Too Soon To Start Thinking About the Next Pandemic
    Bill Gates and Melinda Gates write in their annual letter, shared by reader cusco: To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war. The world needs to double down on investments in R & D and organizations like CEPI that have proven invaluable with COVID-19. We also need to build brand-new capabilities that don't exist yet. Stopping the next pandemic will require spending tens of billions of dollars per year -- a big investment, but remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to cost the world $28 trillion. The world needs to spend billions to save trillions (and prevent millions of deaths). I think of this as the best and most cost-efficient insurance policy the world could buy. The bulk of this investment needs to come from rich countries. Low- and middle-income countries and foundations like ours have a role to play, but governments from high-income nations need to lead the charge here because the benefits for them are so huge. If you live in a rich country, it's in your best interest for your government to go big on pandemic preparedness around the world. Melinda wrote that COVID-19 anywhere is threat to health everywhere; the same is true of the next potential pandemic. The tools and systems created to stop pathogens in their tracks need to span the globe, including in low- and middle-income countries. To start, governments need to continue investing in the scientific tools that are getting us through this current pandemic -- even after COVID-19 is behind us. New breakthroughs will give us a leg up the next time a new disease emerges. It took months to get enough testing capacity for COVID-19 in the United States. But it's possible to build up diagnostics that can be deployed very quickly. By the next pandemic, I'm hopeful we'll have what I call mega-diagnostic platforms, which could test as much as 20 percent of the global population every week.

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    - Former SEC Chairman Calls For an Agency Investigation Into Online Stock Trading Platforms
    Arthur Levitt Jr., a former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, writes at Bloomberg Opinion: They say history occurs first as tragedy, then as farce -- I fear we're about to see that in U.S. financial markets. Two decades ago, U.S. financial markets were riding all-time records. Day traders were using chat rooms to swap what they thought were reliable tips about stocks that were about to pop. Stocks with negative earnings were trading at astronomical valuations by almost any measure. People without any experience in stock market trading -- no less any understanding of how to read a financial statement or earnings report -- were confidently pouring dollars saved for college tuition or rent into short-term bets on companies they knew little to nothing about. And the surest sign of mania was this: People found stock market investing terribly entertaining. I remember high school students asking me for stock tips. It all came to a crashing end as the dot-com bubble burst, blowing up a few companies and several billion dollars of investor savings. And in retrospect, it seemed so obvious. All the signs of a market bubble were there. People chose not to pay attention. [...] By all indications, today's investors are repeating the same mistakes. Consider the following: Significant stock movements are now spurred by social-media-driven gossip about the company and short squeezes (when an investor betting against a stock is forced to pay up for shares to cover their position). Novice investors are learning about investing not through fundamental rules of the road (study the company and its leadership, read its filings, study its markets, consider its price-to-earnings ratios, evaluate its cash generation versus its debt load, review its earnings expectations versus reality, etc.) but rather through a casino-like focus on ticker symbols alone. It's quite common for novice investors on day-trading platforms to buy a stock for the same reason they might choose a specific color of sweater -- for aesthetic purposes only. This is all terribly familiar.[...] Now, with the benefit of hindsight and history, how do we not repeat the dot-com experience as a dark comedy? [...] WH Press Secretary said moments ago at a briefing that Biden team is "monitoring the situation" around GameStop.

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    - 10-year-old Sudo Bug Lets Linux Users Gain Root-Level Access
    A major vulnerability impacting a large chunk of the Linux ecosystem has been patched today in Sudo, an app that allows admins to delegate limited root access to other users. From a report: The vulnerability, which received a CVE identifier of CVE-2021-3156, but is more commonly known as "Baron Samedit," was discovered by security auditing firm Qualys two weeks ago and was patched earlier today with the release of Sudo v1.9.5p2. In a simple explanation provided by the Sudo team today, the Baron Samedit bug can be exploited by an attacker who has gained access to a low-privileged account to gain root access, even if the account isn't listed in /etc/sudoers -- a config file that controls which users are allowed access to su or sudo commands in the first place.

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    - Nintendo Sued by European Gamers Hampered by Broken Controllers
    Nintendo faces a complaint from BEUC, a European consumer group, over what it calls "systematic problems" with the controllers for the company's popular Switch games console. BEUC said it filed a complaint with the European Union and national consumer protection organizations after evidence from users showed that in 88% of cases, "the game controllers broke within the first two years." A report adds: The group said some 25,000 gamers and other consumers across Europe, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, complained about a "recurring technical problem with Nintendo Switch controllers, commonly referred to as 'Joy-Con Drift,' according to a statement on Wednesday. The problem causes a glitch where characters can move within games without any input from the user.

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    - Social Media Damages Teenagers' Mental Health, Report Says
    Teenagers' mental health is being damaged by heavy social media use, a report has found. From a report: Research from the Education Policy Institute and The Prince's Trust said wellbeing and self-esteem were similar in all children of primary school age. Boys and girls' wellbeing is affected at the age of 14, but girls' mental health drops more after that, it found. A lack of exercise is another contributing factor - exacerbated by the pandemic, the study said. According to the research: One in three girls was unhappy with their personal appearance by the age of 14, compared with one in seven at the end of primary school. The number of young people with probable mental illness has risen to one in six, up from one in nine in 2017. Boys in the bottom set at primary school had lower self-esteem at 14 than their peers. The wellbeing of both genders fell during adolescence, with girls experiencing a greater decline, the report said.

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