Foreign Students Must Leave the US If Their Universities Transition To Online-Only Learning

ugen shares a report from Reuters: Foreign students must leave the United States if their school’s classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday. It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many U.S. universities as they often pay full tuition. ICE said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement.

The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data. The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.

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Source: Slashdot – Foreign Students Must Leave the US If Their Universities Transition To Online-Only Learning

PlayStation's Secret Weapon: A Nearly All-Automated Factory

According to Nikkei Asian Review, much of the PlayStation’s success can be attributed to an unassuming factory in Japan that is almost entirely operated by robots. From the report: On the outskirts of Kisarazu, a large, white building towers over an otherwise suburban landscape. Once inside, visitors are greeted by the whirring of motors as dozens of robots seamlessly churn out PlayStation 4 consoles. Just a few humans were present to deal with a handful of tasks — two to feed bare motherboards to the line, and two to package the finished consoles. But the actual assembly is done entirely by articulated robots, supplied by Mitsubishi Electric. The 31.4-meter line, completed in 2018, has the ability to churn out a new console every 30 seconds.

The Kisarazu plant is operated by Sony Global Manufacturing & Operations, or SGMO, the group’s manufacturing arm. The unit has worked with video game unit Sony Interactive Entertainment to bring cutting-edge technologies to the facility. One of the plant’s crowning achievements is the use of robots to attach wires, tape and other flexible parts to the consoles. Twenty-six out of 32 robots at the Kisarazu plant are dedicated to the task, deftly handling materials most robots would find too finicky. “There’s probably no other site that can manipulate robots in this manner,” said an engineer. Every process — all the way to final packaging — is automated. The blend of robotic and human labor is painstakingly optimized with a priority on return on investment.

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Source: Slashdot – PlayStation’s Secret Weapon: A Nearly All-Automated Factory

Fujitsu Announces Permanent Work-From-Home Plan

Technology firm Fujitsu announced a new “Work Life Shift” program that will offer unprecedented flexibility to its 80,000 workers in Japan. “Staff will be able to work flexible hours, and working from home will be standard wherever possible,” reports the BBC. From the report: In a statement sent to the BBC, Fujitsu said it “will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society.” Under the plan employees will “begin to primarily work on a remote basis to achieve a working style that allows them to flexibly use their time according to the contents of their work, business roles, and lifestyle.” The company also said the program would allow staff to choose where they worked, whether that was from home, a major corporate hub or a satellite office. Fujitsu believes that that the increased autonomy offered to its workers will help to improve the performance of teams and increase productivity.

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Source: Slashdot – Fujitsu Announces Permanent Work-From-Home Plan

Supreme Court Upholds Cellphone Robocall Ban

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a 1991 law that bars robocalls to cellphones. The case, argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, only arose after Congress in 2015 created an exception in the law that allowed the automated calls for collection of government debt. Political consultants and pollsters were among those who asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire 1991 law that bars them from making robocalls to cellphones as a violation of their free speech rights under the Constitution. The issue was whether, by allowing one kind of speech but not others, the exception made the whole law unconstitutional.

Six justices agreed that by allowing debt collection calls to cellphones Congress “impermissibly favored debt-collection speech over political and other speech, in violation of the First Amendment,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote (PDF). And seven justices agreed that the 2015 exception should be stricken from the law. “Americans passionately disagree about many things. But they are largely united in their disdain for robocalls,” Kavanaugh noted at the outset of his opinion.

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Source: Slashdot – Supreme Court Upholds Cellphone Robocall Ban

Broadband's Underused Lifeline For Low-income Users

The federal government’s main program to keep lower income people connected is only serving one-fifth of the people it could help, even during a pandemic that has forced school and work online. From a report: Millions of Americans still lack access to the high-speed internet service that’s become vital as people remain stuck at home and reopenings reverse. The Lifeline program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy (more on tribal lands) to companies that provide phone or broadband service to low-income consumers, generally at no out-of-pocket cost to the customer. Less than a fifth of the 38 million households that qualify for the program are actually enrolled. And despite a recent uptick, enrollment remains down sharply from the Obama era. “It’s very clear that the program is needed now more than ever,” Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks told Axios. “It’s a program that is severely underutilized, and it has got to really meet the moment here.”

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Source: Slashdot – Broadband’s Underused Lifeline For Low-income Users

Facial-Recognition Firm Ends Operations in Canada, Watchdog Says

Canada’s privacy watchdog said facial recognition software provider Clearview AI will no longer offer its services in the country, suspending a contract with its last remaining client, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. From a report: The move comes almost five months after privacy authorities at the federal level and in three provinces launched an investigation into the New York-based firm over allegations it collected personal information without consent and provided data to law enforcement. That probe is still ongoing, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in a statement Monday. At the end of February, the national watchdog opened a separate investigation into the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology and it also plans to complete that inquiry.

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Source: Slashdot – Facial-Recognition Firm Ends Operations in Canada, Watchdog Says

China Confirms Case of Bubonic Plague In Inner Mongolia

China has confirmed one case of bubonic plague in northern province Inner Mongolia, according to a statement on the local health authority’s website. From a report: The patient is now under treatment at a hospital and is in a stable condition, the Bayannur health commission said in a late Sunday night statement. It also issued a level-three alert, warning of the risks of human-to-human infection and urging citizens to report dead animals, suspected plague cases and patients running a fever for unidentified reasons. Bubonic plague, also called the ‘Black Death,’ killed 50 million people in a 14th century outbreak in Europe and about 12 million globally in the 19th century. It’s now the most common type of plague and can be treated with antibiotics.

Inner Mongolia reported four cases in November while Madagascar sees some cases nearly every year between the months of September and April. Mongolia also confirmed two cases of bubonic plague earlier this month, triggering a quarantine in the province that borders China and Russia. While the ailment is treatable, unlike the novel pathogen which has caused the ongoing pandemic, Chinese health authorities are wary of any infectious disease spreading after a hard-fought containment of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Source: Slashdot – China Confirms Case of Bubonic Plague In Inner Mongolia

DNA Inherited From Neanderthals May Increase Risk of Covid-19

A stretch of DNA linked to Covid-19 was passed down from Neanderthals 60,000 years ago, according to a new study. From a report: Scientists don’t yet know why this particular segment increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. But the new findings, which were posted online on Friday and have not yet been published in a scientific journal, show how some clues to modern health stem from ancient history. “This interbreeding effect that happened 60,000 years ago is still having an impact today,” said Joshua Akey, a geneticist at Princeton University who was not involved in the new study. This piece of the genome, which spans six genes on Chromosome 3, has had a puzzling journey through human history, the study found. The variant is now common in Bangladesh, where 63 percent of people carry at least one copy. Across all of South Asia, almost one-third of people have inherited the segment.

Elsewhere, however, the segment is far less common. Only 8 percent of Europeans carry it, and just 4 percent have it in East Asia. It is almost completely absent in Africa. It’s not clear what evolutionary pattern produced this distribution over the past 60,000 years. “That’s the $10,000 question,” said Hugo Zeberg, a geneticist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who was one of the authors of the new study. One possibility is that the Neanderthal version is harmful and has been getting rarer over all. It’s also possible that the segment improved people’s health in South Asia, perhaps providing a strong immune response to viruses in the region.

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Source: Slashdot – DNA Inherited From Neanderthals May Increase Risk of Covid-19

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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Source: Slashdot – Harvard Will Allow Some Students on Campus This Fall So Long as They Take Coronavirus Tests Every 3 Days

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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Source: Slashdot – Hong Kong Government Tells Schools To Remove Books Breaching Security Law

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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Source: Slashdot – US Secret Service Reports an Increase in Hacked Managed Service Providers

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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Source: Slashdot – US Tech Giants Halt Reviews of Hong Kong Demands For User Data

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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Source: Slashdot – The Stunning Second Life of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

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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Source: Slashdot – Next-gen Games May Cost . It’s Overdue, But Also Worrisome.

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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Source: Slashdot – BMW is Going All-in On In-car Microtransactions

Uber Agrees To Buy Food-Delivery Service Postmates for $2.65 Billion in Stock

Uber has bought food-delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion in stock, the companies announced Monday. From a report: The deal brings together the fourth-largest U.S. food delivery service with Uber Eats, which trails only DoorDash in market share, according to Second Measure and Edison Trends. The companies said Uber intends to keep the Postmates app running separately, “supported by a more efficient, combined merchant and delivery network.” Uber previously was in the running to buy rival food delivery service GrubHub, but talks broke down as the companies could not agree on a break-up fee, and the ride-sharing company grew frustrated with what it perceived as stalling tactics, CNBC previously reported. GrubHub instead sold to European food delivery service JustEatTakeaway in early June. Uber is banking on food delivery to help sustain its business during the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for ride-sharing has plunged. In its first-quarter earnings call, Uber said gross bookings revenue for its rides segment was down 80% in April from a year earlier, while gross bookings revenue in eats was up more than 50% during the period.

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Source: Slashdot – Uber Agrees To Buy Food-Delivery Service Postmates for .65 Billion in Stock

Venture Capitalists' Critiques of Journalism Secretly Leaked to Journalists

A confrontation between venture capitalists and journalists has been slowly playing out on Twitter — and in an incendiary article on VICE US.
It started when…

A luggage startup’s co-CEO complained on Instagram about young reporters who “forgo their personal ethics.”
A New York Times reporter called the posts “incoherent” and “disappointing.”
Angel investor Balaji S. Srinivasa (also the former CTO of Coinbase) later said the reporter “attacked” the co-CEO, who he then needed to defend — calling the reporter a sociopath in a multi-tweet thread.
The New York Times reporter tweeted that VC had “been ranting about me by name for months now.”

The reporter and the angel investor both finally ended up on Clubhouse, an elite invitation-only audio social network popular with venture capitalists, but the reporter left early. Later Vice published leaked audio of the subsequent conversation, which included Srinivasa and several other Andreessen Horowitz venture capitalists, in which Vice says participants “spent at least an hour talking about how journalists have too much power to ‘cancel’ people and wondering what they, the titans of Silicon Valley, could do about it.”

Then things got really ugly…

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Source: Slashdot – Venture Capitalists’ Critiques of Journalism Secretly Leaked to Journalists

Political Protests Are Now Happening in Videogames

Business Insider reports that some players are adapting their avatars in the game world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the real world:
In “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” players are creating customized signs and clothing for their game characters that say “BLM” and depict symbols of “No justice, no peace….” Anyone with access to a Nintendo Online account can host an online protest in the game; one such virtual protest was held on June 7.

As there’s a limit of only eight players allowed to be on another player’s island at a time, interested players were directed to a site which put folks in line to gain access. When the player’s turn came, they were given a special code needed to enter the island. The protest host made customized signs, pillows, and memorial photos, and carved out a special path and area on their island to hold the sit-in protest. Players were encouraged to bring in-game currency (also known as bells) to the island, which would be converted into a charity donation by the host in the name of the player who contributed. This protest raised money for six different charities. including the NAACP, the National Bail Fund Network, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Meanwhile, Forbes reports:
Roblox, a popular game among children and early teens that announced 100 million active players last year, has become a small-scale battleground in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. The BBC is reporting that hackers are taking over accounts to spread pro-Trump propaganda, dressing them up in red hats like Trump supporters and putting pro-Trump messages in profiles…

There are ton of posts on social media from players who say that their accounts have been hacked, and Gamespot notes that since Roblox accounts are indexed by Google, it’s easy to see a ton of accounts featuring the same message in the “about field”: Ask your parents to vote for Trump this year!#Maga2020. A search on Google yields about 1,800 results… They also appear to be spamming friend requests and friend lists to send out pro-trump messages far beyond the single hacked account.

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Source: Slashdot – Political Protests Are Now Happening in Videogames

Tesla to Make Molecule Printers for Gates-Backed Vaccine Developer

Tesla is building mobile molecule printers to produce a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed in Germany by CureVac, reports Reuters:

CureVac, an unlisted German company, has said it is developing portable, automated mRNA production units that it calls printers and which Musk described as “RNA microfactories”. They are being designed to be shipped to remote locations, where they can churn out its vaccine candidate and other mRNA-based therapies depending on the recipe fed into the machine. But for the immediate pandemic use — should its vaccine candidate win market approval — it has production sites with regulatory approval in Germany with a capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses. The company, based in Tuebingen and backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a pioneer of the so-called messenger RNA approach, which is also pursued by BioNTech and its partner Pfizer as well as Moderna….
The “microfactories” would be built at Tesla Grohmann Automation in Germany, Musk said in a Twitter thread late on Wednesday night.

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Source: Slashdot – Tesla to Make Molecule Printers for Gates-Backed Vaccine Developer

Why Apple Stopped Updating Over 15,000 Games in China's App Store

Apple “has faced mounting pressure from the Chinese government in recent weeks to comply with local regulations, including that all games show proof of a government granted license,” writes Engadget.
And now it’s finally come to a head, CNBC reports:
Apple has blocked updates on tens of thousands of revenue-generating iPhone games on its App Store in China amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, according to a report from The Financial Times…

There are currently around 60,000 mobile games hosted on the China App Store that are paid for or have in-app purchases, according to AppinChina figures cited by the FT. However, China’s regulators have only issued slightly more than 43,000 licenses since 2010, while just 1,570 were given out in 2019… Developers were told in February that they’d finally have to comply with China’s mobile video game laws by June 30…

“Android app stores have largely observed the license rule since 2016,” notes Engadget. “Apple, however, took a looser approach, allowing developers to publish their games while they waited for authorization, which could take months.” (CNBC points out that “Grand Theft Auto” maker Rockstar Games “relied on the loophole for years.”)
They also report that Apple’s App Store earns more money in China than any other country — including about 20% of all of Apple’s in-app advertising revenue. A columnist at The Street estimates that Apple earned about $2.2 billion last year from App Store revenue in China. “If I am right in my calculations, gaming app revenues from China add up to roughly one-sixth of the total company’s number” for App Store revenues

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Source: Slashdot – Why Apple Stopped Updating Over 15,000 Games in China’s App Store