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  1. Amazon Now Has More Than 1 Million Employees - An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Amazon.com said it now has about 1 million employees after hiring 250,000 workers in the third quarter, part of a growth spurt driven by booming ecommerce sales during the coronavirus pandemic and a milestone for a company founded in 1995 by Jeff Bezos as an online bookseller. Despite its rapid ascent, Amazon still has fewer workers than the nation's biggest private employer, Walmart, which has 2.2 million global workers. Even so, Amazon's explosive growth underscores the historic shift in financial might from manufacturers such as General Motors, U.S. Steel and General Electric. In the 1950s, these three corporations were the country's biggest employers, with a combined workforce of more than 1 million employees at the time. Today, the three employ about 400,000 workers as the U.S. economy has shed factory jobs in favor of service-oriented work. In a conference call on Thursday, Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said the company hired "a lot more people to support the strong customer demand." After hiring 250,000 full-time and part-time workers in the quarter ended in September, Amazon has hired another 100,000 workers in October, he said. The jobs pay a minimum of $15 an hour and include benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits and parental leave, he added.

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  2. Apple Says Some AirPods Pro Have Sound Problems, Will Replace For Free - Apple said on Friday that it's replacing AirPods Pro headphones that have sound problems. CNBC reports: These problems include a static or crackling sound that increases in loud environments and issues with active noise cancellation. Apple said AirPods Pro made after October 2020 don't have the problems. Owners who experience problems can contact Apple online or make an appointment at an Apple store to get their AirPods Pro replaced for free. Only devices that are confirmed to have the issue will be replaced. The replacement applies only to the buds, not the charging case. Apple's not offering a similar program for other AirPod models.

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  3. SpaceX Will 'Make Its Own Laws On Mars' - schwit1 writes: SpaceX will not recognize international law on Mars, according to the Terms of Service of its Starlink internet project. Elon Musk's space company will instead reportedly adhere to a set of "self-governing principles" that will be defined at the time of Martian settlement. Musk revealed plans to create a self-sustaining city on Mars last week, though no timeframe is yet to be put in place for its development. Any future colony created by SpaceX would likely use constellations of Starlink satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet connection to people and machines on the surface. "For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities," the governing law section states. "Accordingly, disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement." Space systems engineer Erwan Beauvois said SpaceX's position was reminiscent of a declaration put forward by the Earthlight Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to preparing for the expansion of humanity beyond Earth. The Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity in the Universe states that space should be "considered free, by all, for all and to all."

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  4. US and UK Citizens Are World's Biggest Sources of Plastic Waste - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The U.S. and UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other major countries, according to new research. The analysis also shows the U.S. produces the most plastic waste in total and that its citizens may rank as high as third in the world in contributing to plastic pollution in the oceans. Previous work had suggested Asian countries dominated marine plastic pollution and placed the U.S. in 20th place, but this did not account for U.S. waste exports or illegal dumping within the country. Data from 2016, the latest available, show that more than half of the plastic collected for recycling in the U.S. was shipped abroad, mostly to countries already struggling to manage plastic waste effectively. The researchers said years of exporting had masked the U.S.'s enormous contribution to plastic pollution. The latest study, published in the journal Science Advances, used World Bank data on waste generation in 217 countries. It focused on the U.S. and used additional data on littering and illegal dumping within the country and on contamination by exported plastic, which is likely to be dumped rather than recycled. The researchers found the U.S. produced the most plastic waste by World Bank reckoning, at 34m tonnes in 2016, but the total increased to 42m tonnes when the additional data was considered. India and China were second and third, but their large populations meant their figures for per capita plastic waste was less than 20% of that of U.S. consumers. Among the 20 nations with the highest total plastic waste production, the UK was second to the U.S. per capita, followed by South Korea and Germany. "When the researchers estimated how much of each country's plastic waste ends up in the oceans, Indonesia and India ranked highest," the report adds. "The U.S. ranked between third and eleventh, depending on the assumptions made about waste leakage into the environment. The analysis found that up to 1 million tons of exported U.S. plastic waste ended up as marine pollution."

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  5. 'Time Cells' Discovered In Human Brains - Researchers have identified cells in the human brain that are responsible for episodic memories. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. NPR reports: The cells are called time cells, and they place a sort of time stamp on memories as they are being formed. That allows us to recall sequences of events or experiences in the right order. "By having time cells create this indexing across time, you can put everything together in a way that makes sense," says Dr. Bradley Lega, the study's senior author and a neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Time cells were discovered in rodents decades ago. But the new study is critical because "the final arbitrator is always the human brain," says Dr. Gyorgy Buzsaki, Biggs Professor of Neuroscience at New York University. Buzsaki is not an author of the study but did edit the manuscript. Lega and his team found the time cells by studying the brains of 27 people who were awaiting surgery for severe epilepsy. As part of their pre-surgical preparation, these patients had electrodes placed in the hippocampus and another area of the brain involved in navigation, memory and time perception. In the experiment, the patients studied sequences of 12 or 15 words that appeared on a laptop screen during a period of about 30 seconds. Then, after a break, they were asked to recall the words they had seen. Meanwhile, the researchers were measuring the activity of individual brain cells. And they found a small number that that would fire at specific times during each sequence of words. "The time cells that we found, they are marking out discrete segments of time within this approximately 30-second window," Lega says. These time stamps seemed to help people recall when they had seen each word, and in what order, he says. And the brain probably uses the same approach when we're reliving an experience like falling off a bike. The results help explain why people who have damage to the hippocampus may experience odd memory problems, Buzsaki says.

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  6. A 5-Story Building In Shanghai 'Walks' To a New Location Using Technology - In Shanghai's latest effort to preserve historic structures, engineers have relocated an 85-year-old, five-story building in its entirety using new technology dubbed the "walking machine." CNN reports: [E]ngineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-story building, according to Lan Wuji, chief technical supervisor of the project. The supports act like robotic legs. They're split into two groups which alternately rise up and down, imitating the human stride. Attached sensors help control how the building moves forward, said Lan, whose company Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the new technology in 2018. "It's like giving the building crutches so it can stand up and then walk," he said. A timelapse shot by the company shows the school inching laboriously along, one tiny step at a time. According to a statement from the Huangpu district government, the Lagena Primary School was constructed in 1935 by the municipal board of Shanghai's former French Concession. It was moved in order to make space for a new commercial and office complex, which will be completed by 2023. Workers had to first dig around the building to install the 198 mobile supports in the spaces underneath, Lan explained. After the pillars of the building were truncated, the robotic "legs" were then extended upward, lifting the building before moving forward. Over the course of 18 days, the building was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters (203 feet) away to its new location. The relocation was completed on October 15, with the old school building set to become a center for heritage protection and cultural education. The project marks the first time this "walking machine" method has been used in Shanghai to relocate a historical building, the government statement said.

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  7. Sony Close To Buying Crunchyroll For Nearly $1 Billion - According to Nikkei, Sony is close to acquiring U.S. anime-streaming service Crunchyroll for more than $957 million. From the report: Sony has its own popular anime, titles like "Demon Slayer" and "Kimetsu no Yaiba," but has been licensing it to streaming services. Sony's Aniplex, the studio behind "Kimetsu no Yaiba," has a variety of content, including movies and music, that is mainly distributed by overseas companies. If the acquisition is realized, global competition for content among companies like Netflix and Hulu will intensify. Crunchyroll was founded in 2006 and has its headquarters in San Francisco. In 2018, AT&T, the U.S. telecommunications giant, became its parent company. Sony recently obtained the exclusive right to negotiate for Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll has 70 million free members and 3 million paying subscribers in more than 200 countries and regions, including the U.S and Europe. Crunchyroll would also give Sony more than 1,000 titles that it can use to vary its offerings.

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  8. Russian Hackers Targeted California, Indiana Democratic Parties In Repeat of 2016 Attacks - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The group of Russian hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election earlier this year targeted the email accounts of Democratic state parties in California and Indiana, and influential think tanks in Washington and New York, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The attempted intrusions, many of which were internally flagged by Microsoft Corp over the summer, were carried out by a group often nicknamed "Fancy Bear." The hackers' activity provides insight into how Russian intelligence is targeting the United States in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. The targets identified by Reuters, which include the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said they had not seen any evidence of successful hacking attempts. Fancy Bear is controlled by Russia's military intelligence agency and was responsible for hacking the email accounts of Hillary Clinton's staff in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to a Department of Justice indictment filed in 2018. News of the Russian hacking activity follows last month's announcement here by Microsoft that Fancy Bear had attempted to hack more than 200 organizations, many of which the software company said were tied to the 2020 election. Microsoft was able to link this year's cyber espionage campaign to the Russian hackers through an apparent programming error that allowed the company to identify a pattern of attack unique to Fancy Bear, according to a Microsoft assessment reviewed by Reuters. The thrust of espionage operations could not be determined by Reuters. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in August here that Russian operations were attempting to undermine the campaign of presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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  9. Apple Added a Secret Button To Your iPhone - Your iPhone got a new button last month, and you may not have even noticed. The Verge reports: No, Apple didn't sneak into your house and secretly superglue a button onto your smartphone. But it did release iOS 14, the latest version of its iPhone software, which includes a feature called Back Tap. Back Tap adds a fascinating new "button" to your phone that blurs the line between hardware and software. Back Tap turns the entire back of your iPhone into a giant touch-sensitive button that you can double or triple tap to trigger specific functions on your phone. There's a good chance that you haven't noticed it yet. Apple slipped the settings for Back Tap into its Accessibility menu. Its intended purpose is to give users more options for interacting with their devices. Most of Back Tap's options reflect that, with settings to open the app switcher, notification menu, or control center; scroll through an app or webpage; trigger Siri; or take a screenshot. But Back Tap also ties into Apple's incredibly robust Shortcuts app, which means you can effectively make those new buttons do almost anything you can imagine. It's a fascinating kind of button: entirely invisible to the naked eye, completely nonfunctional until it's enabled through software, but can be tasked to open, interact with, or accomplish nearly any task on your smartphone with just a quick tap.

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  10. Under Armour To Sell MyFitnessPal For $345 Million, After Acquiring It In 2015 For $475 Million - Global fitness giant Under Armour announced this morning that it will be selling MyFitnessPal to investment firm Francisco Partners for $345 million, five and a half years after acquiring it for $475 million. The company also announced that it will be winding down the Endomondo platform which it also acquired at the same time for $85 million. TechCrunch reports: In a press release announcing the news, Under Armour said the reason for this decision was to simplify and focus its brand, keeping it aimed at its "target consumer -- the Focused Performer" in the interest of building "a singular, cohesive UA ecosystem." The fact that Under Armour is selling MyFitnessPal at a discount (not even including five years of inflation and stated MyFitnessPal user growth) indicates there's more to this than just maintaining focus. It's definitely true that both MyFitnessPal (which claimed 80 million users in 2015 at the time of acquisition, and has more than 200 million users according to today's press release) and Endomondo were aimed at more casual and entry-level fitness users, who might be working out for the first time, or looking to improve their daily health, but aren't likely training for endurance-sport competitions. Under Armour's overall brand image is more associated with professional athletics, and with an enthusiast/semi-pro clientele (or those aspiring to that designation). What's more likely going on here is that Under Armour sees diminishing value in this segment over the long term... The company is going to continue to own and operate the MapMyFitness platform, which includes MapMyRun and MapMyRide.

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