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  • Harvard Will Allow Some Students on Campus This Fall So Long as They Take Coronavirus Tests Every 3 Days
    Harvard University is welcoming freshmen and some other students back to campus this fall semester, but students will have to take coronavirus tests every three days, classes will still be taught online and it won't discount tuition, the school announced Monday. From a report: Upperclassmen will be able to petition to return if they don't have sufficient technology at home or have challenging family circumstances. The total percentage of undergraduates living on campus would be limited to around 40%. "Assuming that we maintain 40% density in the spring semester, we would again bring back one class, and our priority at this time is to bring seniors to campus," Harvard said. "Under this plan, first years would return home and learn remotely in the spring." It expects to release a decision about the spring in early December. Harvard is the latest school to announce its fall semester plans as coronavirus cases continue to spike the U.S. Harvard previously announced that all teaching would occur online. Today it also said tuition will not be discounted from $49,653, although students enrolled remotely won't pay housing fees. The semester will begin as scheduled on Sept. 2 and all students living on campus will be expected to leave by Thanksgiving.

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  • Hong Kong Government Tells Schools To Remove Books Breaching Security Law
    Hong Kong's government on Monday ordered schools to review and remove any books that might breach a sweeping new security law that Beijing imposed last week on the restless city. From a report: "In accordance with the four types of offences clearly stipulated in the law, the school management and teachers should review teaching and learning materials in a timely manner, including books," the Education Bureau said. "If they find outdated content or content that may concern the four aforementioned offences, they should remove them," the bureau added. Last week China enacted a security law outlawing four national security crimes: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. Authorities promptly declared political views espousing independence or self-autonomy would be viewed as illegal under the new law. Rights groups and legal analysts have warned the broad wording of the law, which was kept secret until it was passed, would have a chilling effect of political freedoms in the semi-autonomous hub. The order for schools to review and remove any contraband books comes two days after Hong Kong's libraries said they were also pulling titles deemed to breach the law for a review. Among those withdrawn from shelves was one by prominent activist Joshua Wong, another by pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan and multiple other titles written by Chin Wan, a scholar who is seen as the godfather of a "localist" movement advocating greater self-determination for the city. Hong Kong has some of Asia's best universities and a campus culture where topics that would be taboo on the mainland are still discussed and written about.

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  • US Secret Service Reports an Increase in Hacked Managed Service Providers
    The US Secret Service sent out a security alert last month to the US private sector and government organizations warning about an increase in hacks of managed service providers (MSPs). From a report: MSPs provide remote management software for companies. MSPs can be simple services like file-sharing systems to complete solutions that manage a customer's entire computer fleet. Most MSP services are built around a server-client software architecture. The server part can be remotely hosted with the MSP inside a clout infrastructure, or installed on-premise with the client. Usually, getting access to the server component of an MSP grants an attacker full control of all software clients. In a security alert sent out on June 12, Secret Service officials said their investigations team (GIOC -- Global Investigations Operations Center) has been seeing an increase in incidents where hackers breach MSP solutions and use them as a springboard into the internal networks of the MSP's customers. Secret Service officials said they've been seeing threat actors use hacked MSPs to carry out attacks against point-of-sale systems, to perform business email compromise (BEC) scams, and to deploy ransomware.

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  • US Tech Giants Halt Reviews of Hong Kong Demands For User Data
    Facebook and Twitter have confirmed they have suspended processing demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities following the introduction of a new Beijing-imposed national security law. From a report: A spokesperson for Facebook told TechCrunch it will "pause" the processing of data demands until it can better understand the new national security law, "including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts." The spokesperson added: "We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions." Facebook said its suspension will also apply to WhatsApp, which it owns. Soon after, Twitter also confirmed it followed suit. "Given the rapid pace at which the new National Security Law in China has been passed and that it was only published in its entirety for the first time last week, our teams are reviewing the law to assess its implications, particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition," said a Twitter spokesperson. "Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law," the spokesperson said.

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  • The Stunning Second Life of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'
    A fifteen-year-old cartoon is an unlikely contender for most-watched show in America. And yet when "Avatar: The Last Airbender" arrived on Netflix, in May, it rose through the ranks to become the platform's No. 1 offering, and even now it remains a fixture in the Top Ten for the U.S. From a report: The series first ran from 2005 to 2008 on Nickelodeon, and swiftly made a name for itself as a politically resonant, emotionally sophisticated work -- one with a sprawling but meticulously plotted mythos that destined the show for cult-classic status. Last summer, after "Game of Thrones" flubbed its finale, fans and critics held up "Avatar" as a counterexample: a fantasy series that knew what it wanted to be from the beginning. Like all such stories, "Avatar" (created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, and no relation to the James Cameron blockbuster) demands some exposition. In a world where nations are defined by their connection to one of the four elements -- water, earth, fire, and air -- maintaining the peace falls to the Avatar, the only person who can achieve mastery of them all. Just as the Fire Nation launches an attack, he vanishes. The series begins a century later, when a twelve-year-old boy named Aang is discovered and revived by a pair of Water Tribe teen-agers -- and the Fire Nation is well on its way to global conquest. The first two episodes are largely what you'd expect: world-building punctuated by moments of whimsy. In the third, Aang returns to the temple where he was born to find the aftermath of a genocide. He is, he discovers, both the Avatar and the last of the Air Nomads. Where earlier shows might have hinted at such an atrocity for adult viewers' benefit, "Avatar" is overt, taking seriously its young audience's capacity to confront the consequences of endless war. Moral ambiguity abounds, and people from all nations see the conflict as, variously, an opportunity or a tragedy; there are Earth Kingdom citizens who have become cynical or apathetic after generations of fighting, and those from the Fire Nation who are fully capable of doing good. Aang, like the monks who raised him, is a pacifist at heart, but the series makes it clear that his is not the only way of bringing balance to the world. On the eve of his confrontation with the Fire Lord, one of his past lives -- a warrior named Kyoshi, who has killed would-be conquerors before -- counsels that "only justice will bring peace."

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  • Next-gen Games May Cost $70. It's Overdue, But Also Worrisome.
    For years, it was long believed that $60 is the only price that the U.S. games market could bear (and they're often more expensive in international markets). But industry leaders and journalists have questioned the stubborn stickiness of the sticker price in recent years. And the last three years saw an explosion of varying price tiers, anywhere from free (like "Fortnite") to monthly subscription services, like Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass. And much of the industry's total game sales are digital downloads anyway. From a report: "The shift to $69.99 should have taken place in 2013, [in my opinion]," tweeted analyst Mat Piscatella of market research firm The NPD Group. "But folks thought mobile was a threat to the console business. ... Instead we got collector's, silver and gold editions [which offer additional content or perks] that elevate above $59.99 anyway." Big publishers like Activision, Ubisoft and EA all regularly release marked up "special editions" of games. These prices often only come with marginal bonuses (a skin or emote), but it's essentially charging people extra on nothing but a promise that more content is coming. EA's disastrous launch of "Anthem" in 2018 was a high-profile example of a game that charged a premium for promised content and barely delivered. Games haven't always been $60 though. Pricing in the 1990s usually depended on your local stores. Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games were anywhere from $40 to $100 a cartridge. It wasn't until 2005 that a retail price was unofficially standardized.

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  • BMW is Going All-in On In-car Microtransactions
    BMW has detailed an overhaul to the digital systems that power its luxury vehicles, including a new map and navigation system, a revamped digital assistant, a "digital key" (first shown off at Apple's annual developer conference last month), and wireless Android Auto. But the most interesting thing BMW shared about the changes is that the company is going all-in on in-car microtransactions. From a report: Cars are more full of computers and software than ever before, which has made it possible for automakers to add new features or patch problems on the fly with over-the-air software updates. This has also presented these automakers with new ways of making money. Take Tesla, which pioneered them and currently sells access to a variety of features after purchase. It even used to ship cars with battery packs that had their range limited by software, and owners could pay a fee unlock the full capacity. BMW now wants to take this to a far more specific level. The German automaker announced on Wednesday that all cars equipped with its newest "Operating System 7" software will soon receive an update that makes it possible for the company to tinker with all sorts of functions in the car, like access to heated seats and driving assist features like automatic high beams or adaptive cruise control. And the company unsurprisingly plans to use this ability to make money.

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