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last updated 00:19 GMT w/ 4 items on 2023.10.31

China Makes a Major Breakthrough in Obtaining Kg-Level Molybdenum Isotopes
by AtomInfo.RU

The Research Institute of Physical and Chemical Engineering of Nuclear Industry/Company (IPCE) of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has recently succeeded in obtaining, for the first time, kilogram-level molybdenum-100 isotopes with abundance of 99%. The remarkable achievement was made through independent research and development, and marks a major breakthrough in the independent supply of molybdenum isotope key material in China. The breakthrough has changed the situation the country completely relied on imports of molybdenum isotopes for a long time and indicates that China has reached the world's leading level in the field of high-abundance stable isotope research, making it one of the few countries that can obtain molybdenum isotopes in bulk. In order to meet domestic demand and change the situation of long-term dependence on imports and insufficient supply of molybdenum isotope materials, the CNNC scientific research team, relying on its nearly 30 years of continuous research and development experiences, have carried out bold innovation, made breakthroughs in the key technology of isotope separation, and for the first time obtained the kilogram-level abundance 99% molybdenum-100 isotope products, which has filled the gap in the domestic technical field and laid a solid foundation for protecting people's health, promoting scientific and technological progress, and improving the safety of nuclear power.

Ex-Russian Spy Can Sue British Gov't for Revealing Identity, Court Rules
by IntelNews.org

A former Soviet KBG officer, who now lives in the United Kingdom under witness protection, can sue the British state for revealing his identity to Latvian authorities, which may have put his life in danger, a judge has ruled. Boris Karpichkov, 64, joined the Soviet KGB in 1984, but became a defector-in-place for Latvian intelligence in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. He then allegedly spied on Latvia for one of the KGB’s successor agencies, the Federal Security Service, before switching sides again and spying on Russia for the Latvians. He also claims to have spied on Russia for French and American intelligence. In 1998, carrying two suitcases filled with top-secret Russian government documents, and using forged passports, he arrived with his family in Britain, where he has lived ever since. Shortly after he was granted asylum, the British government issued Karpichkov with a new identity to protect him from the Russian security services. In 2018, Karpichkov claimed that, despite the British government’s efforts to protect him, Russian intelligence had tried to kill him three times since 2006.

Sri Lanka Lets Chinese Ship Conduct Research Despite Spying Concerns
by Space War

Sri Lanka has granted 48 hours for a Chinese vessel to conduct marine research off the island's west coast under supervision, the foreign ministry said Sunday, despite Indian concerns that it could be a spy ship. Ministry spokesman Kapila Fonseka said Chinese research ship Shi Yan 6, which has been in Colombo since Wednesday, would be allowed to carry out work for two days starting Monday. Earlier, Sri Lanka allowed the vessel to enter the main port of Colombo only for "replenishments" over concerns raised by neighbouring India that the craft could be used to spy against them. New Delhi is suspicious of China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka, which is strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes. A spacecraft-tracking Chinese vessel last year raised security concerns from India, and Sri Lanka prohibited it from undertaking any research activities while in its waters. Another Chinese research vessel, Yuan Wang 5, which specialises in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship, visited Sri Lanka last year. It docked in Hambantota, a port in Sri Lanka's south under a 99-year lease to the Chinese company that built it after Colombo was unable to service a $1.4 billion loan taken for the project. Sri Lanka defaulted on its $46 billion external debt last year in an unprecedented economic crisis partly blamed on Chinese loans used to build white-elephant infrastructure projects between 2005 and 2015. China owns 52 percent of Sri Lanka's bilateral debt, and Beijing's approval is crucial for any efforts by Colombo to restructure its outstanding loans.

More Banks Are Shuttering Branches
by MFI Miami

The newest trend in banking is expanding as more banks are shuttering branches. Fifth Third Bank filed notice with the OCC last week they are closing 19 brick-and-mortar locations across the country. Unfortunately, they are not the only one. The Cincinnati based bank closed eight branches in Ohio and four in Michigan. In addition, they closed two in Kentucky and two in North Carolina. Fifth Third operates over 1,000 branches in ten states. Citizens Bank also filed notice with the OCC to shutter seven branches. In addition to the six locations it had applied to close the week prior. However, it also filed to open three branches in Florida and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, PNC Bank filed to close three branches with one in Alabama, one in Illinois and one in Texas. In total the OCC reports that firms filed to shut 42 branches under its jurisdiction between October 15 and 21. These also included closures from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Capital One. Of the seven branches which Citizens Bank filed to close three were in New York and three in New Jersey. In addition to one in Mystic, Connecticut. New Jersey had seen the highest proportion of bank closures of any US state between January and August this year.

Australia: Former U.S. Marine Aviator Extradited for Allegedly Training Chinese Pilots
by ABC

The phone rings. Then comes an automated message highlighting the gravity of the situation. "You are about to receive a phone call from a correctional facility. "The conversation will be recorded and may be monitored." Daniel Duggan, 54, says "Hello". The Australian citizen and former US Marine pilot is calling from his maximum-security cell in New South Wales. It's the first time he's spoken publicly. Talking to 7.30 comes with risk. His words could be used as evidence against him. He's been in isolation for nine months. "It's not that I want to speak out or decided to speak out, but I feel that I've had a very unfair ability to defend myself," he told 7.30. Mr Duggan's locked up indefinitely while he fights extradition to the United States over allegations he trained Chinese military pilots more than a decade ago. Mr Duggan's facing charges of conspiracy, arms trafficking and money laundering brought by the US government. He faces up to 65 years in jail if he's found guilty. The accusations against Mr Duggan stem from his work between 2010 and 2012 as an instructor at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa. His lawyer Bernard Collaery told 7.30 he believed the charges were politically motivated amid tensions between the United States and China. He claimed Australia, as an ally of the US, had a conflict of interest. The US indictment alleges Mr Duggan received more than $182,000 for providing a range of services, including teaching Chinese pilots how to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. The indictment alleges Mr Duggan trained Chinese military pilots without permission from the US State Department. He's adamant he taught civilian test pilots.

Researchers Find "Backdoor" in Encrypted Police and Military Radios
by Vice

A group of cybersecurity researchers has uncovered what they believe is an intentional backdoor in encrypted radios used by police, military, and critical infrastructure entities around the world. The backdoor may have existed for decades, potentially exposing a wealth of sensitive information transmitted across them, according to the researchers. While the researchers frame their discovery as a backdoor, the organization responsible for maintaining the standard pushes back against that specific term, and says the standard was designed for export controls which determine the strength of encryption. The end result, however, are radios with traffic that can be decrypted using consumer hardware like an ordinary laptop in under a minute. The research is the first public and in-depth analysis of the TErrestrial Trunked RAdio (TETRA) standard in the more than 20 years the standard has existed. Not all users of TETRA-powered radios use the specific encryption algorithim called TEA1 which is impacted by the backdoor. TEA1 is part of the TETRA standard approved for export to other countries. But the researchers also found other, multiple vulnerabilities across TETRA that could allow historical decryption of communications and deanonymization. TETRA-radio users in general include national police forces and emergency services in Europe; military organizations in Africa; and train operators in North America and critical infrastructure providers elsewhere.

Japan Looking at Taiwan's Aid During a Chinese Invasion
by Telegraph

Japan would likely come to Taiwan’s aid if a Chinese invasion provoked the same outpouring in international support as for Ukraine, the country’s minister of state for defence has said. Questions of whether and how Tokyo would support Taiwan in the event of an attack by China have risen up alongside mounting tensions over the democratic island, which Beijing claims as its own and has refused to rule out invading. Japan has pursued a policy of de facto strategic ambiguity, refusing to publicly clarify how or if it would respond to a Taiwan-related contingency. But the Ukraine war has been a wake-up call to the possibility of a conflict breaking out on its doorstep, and the future of Taiwan is now foremost on Tokyo’s mind. He conceded, however, that Tokyo had not yet decided what form that support would take. Officials in Tokyo are acutely aware of the parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Beijing’s increasingly bellicose behaviour over Taiwan and other islands it claims as its own. China’s aggressive rearmament under Xi Jinping has also caused alarm. Tokyo is rushing to respond, with a 60 per cent hike in military spending planned over the next five years, including a radical overhaul of its national defence strategy. Japan would have to choose whether to give its approval to Washington, an ally and its main security partner, while weighing up the risks of Chinese retaliation against its own territory and people. Japan would also have to decide whether to actively join the fight. It may also seek defence cooperation with important allies such as the US and Britain, Mr Ino added.

Companies Requiring Full-Time In-Office Are Struggling to Recruit New Employees
by Time

The beginning of 2023 brought the end of some remote-work policies as Disney, Starbucks, and Activision Blizzard all said they would require employees to come into the office more frequently. Employees complained, and there was some anecdotal evidence that in-office mandates were costing those and other companies good workers, who voted with their feet and went elsewhere. Now, the proof is getting stronger that a lack of flexibility can hurt in the long term. Companies with flexible work policies are growing more quickly than those that require people to be in the office full-time, according to The Flex Index, released July 18, which collects office requirements on more than 4,500 companies with 30,000 locations and that employ more than 100 million people globally. Specifically, in the last year, companies—regardless of their size—that are fully flexible added jobs at more than twice the rate of companies that were full-time in office. Even companies that offer some level of flexibility, whether it be two or three days working from home, have grown more quickly than those that require full-time in-office. Among companies that have between 500 and 5,000 employees, for example, structured hybrid companies (i.e., that require employees to come in on some specific days, but not on others) grew headcount 4.6% over the year, while fully flexible companies of that size grew 4.5%. Full-time in-office companies of that size grew only 2.1%, by comparison. But there’s a limit to what kind of hybrid arrangement employees seem willing to commit to. Companies that require 1-3 days in the office grew much faster than those that required four or five, the report found.

Retirees to Work at McDonald's
by 24/7 Wall ST

Study after study shows that older Americans have not saved enough for retirement. Some have not saved any at all. Many Americans will live into their 80s or beyond. This means that they will outlive their nest eggs in many cases. Older Americans will need to find work. They will have no choice. (This is what it costs to retire comfortably in each state.) For most people, more than Social Security payments are needed to live on. A typical Social Security payment is under $2,000 a month, and people have to pay taxes on that and pay for Medicare. That leaves very little for housing, medicine, food and transportation. Walk into a McDonald’s, Starbucks or Walmart. Aside from a modest number of young and middle-aged people are those over 65. Some are much older. People can work indefinitely at some of these retailers. Starbucks, for example, has no age requirement. McDonald’s partnered with AARP at one point to find older Americans jobs. The challenge for older Americans is that, at some point, many will not be able to work at retail establishments. That means their employment options may disappear. Working at McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart usually offers extremely low compensation. The base salary at Starbucks is $17 an hour. In short, Americans are going to have an old age poverty problem What were supposed to be the golden years, will turn out to be made out of tin.

U.S. Sues 'Consent Farm' Operator for '"Massive" Telemarketing Deception
by Reuters

The U.S. government on Monday sued a New York-based company for allegedly operating a so-called "massive 'consent farm' enterprise" to trick nearly 1 million people a day into providing personal information and consent to receive telemarketing calls. Fluent LLC was accused of having since 2011 used deceptive ads and websites to promise free rewards, including from familiar brands such as Amazon and Walmart, that were impossible to obtain, and interviews for jobs that did not exist. The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission said Fluent's true purpose was to sell "leads" to telemarketers that later inundated consumers with robocalls, texts and emails about auto warranties, debt reduction, for-profit education, pain cream, solar energy and other products and services. According to a complaint filed in the West Palm Beach, Florida federal court, tens of millions of people were deceived, including many on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, with Fluent in 2018 and 2019 alone generating $93.4 million in revenue from selling more than 620 million leads. Fluent operates under such names as Flash Rewards, the National Consumer Center, The Reward Genius, Up Rewards, FindDreamJobs, JobsOnDemand and StartACareerToday, the complaint said.

China Expands Its Expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic Regions
by The Maritime Executive

China has launched additional expeditions to the Arctic and the Antarctic as it seeks to expand its foothold in the polar regions. Last week, China’s natural resources authority said that the country is preparing for its 40th Antarctic expedition. At the same time, the authority flagged off its 13th Arctic Ocean mission. “We are continuously improving the national polar observation and monitoring network and accelerating the construction of the fifth Antarctic research station,” said China’s Minister of Natural Resources Wang Guanghua. In April, the Chinese Antarctic Scientific Expedition completed the 39th expedition to Antarctica. The mission lasted for 163 days from October 2022 to April, involving 255 researchers. Two research icebreakers, Snow Dragon and Snow Dragon 2, were used for the expedition. The researchers focused on impacts of climate change to the Southern Ocean and oceanic ecosystem investigations at the South Pole. Most of the observations and data analysis was carried out in four of China’s Antarctic research stations. A fifth one is currently under construction.

Pakistan: Construction Begins of China-Supplied Hualong One Nuclear Plant

Pakistan has begun construction of its seventh commercial nuclear power plant, the China supplied Chasnupp-5 (also known as Chasma-5). Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and senior Chinese officials attended a televised groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in the central city of Chashma on Friday (14 July). Press reports said the new plant is estimated to cost at least $3.5bn (€3.1bn). The plant will become the third in Pakistan to use China’s domestically developed Generation III pressurised water nuclear technology, the Hualong One or HPR1000. China has already supplied two Hualong One units for the Kanupp, or Karachi, nuclear power station, west of the city of Karachi in southern Pakistan. In April 2022 Kanupp-3 became the world’s fourth Hualong One unit to achieve commercial status and the second outside China. A sister unit, Kanupp-2, began commercial operation in May 2021. China has supplied every unit in Pakistan’s seven-unit nuclear fleet.

China Has Begun Launching Its Own Satellite Internet Network
by Phys.ORG

Since 2019, Elon Musk and SpaceX have led the charge to create high broadband satellite internet services. As of May 2023, the Starlink constellation consisted of more than 4,000 satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and roughly 1.5 million subscribers worldwide. Several competitors began launching constellations years before Starlink began, and several companies have emerged since. This includes HughesNet, OneWeb, and Amazon's Kuiper Systems. But Starlink's latest challenger could be its most fearsome yet: a company in China backed by the Beijing government. On Sunday, July 9, a prototype internet satellite was launched aboard a Long March 2C carrier rocket from China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia. The satellite has since entered a predetermined orbit, where it will conduct several tests to validate the broadband satellite technology. The long-term aim of the project is to create a constellation of 13,000 satellites code-named "Guo Wang,"—which loosely translates to "state network" in Mandarin—reflecting Beijing's vision for a state-run share of the satellite internet market. This project was created by China's State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), which oversees China's largest state-owned enterprises and is led by Chinese company SatNet. According to filings issued to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the company intends to create two constellations (GW-A59 and GW-2) with a coverage of 37.5 to 42.5 GHz (space-to-Earth) and 47.2 to 51.4 GHz (Earth-to-space). According to multiple sources, this constellation is part of a wider effort by China to stake its claim to the growing satellite internet market.

Microsoft Lost Its Keys, and the U.S. Government Got Hacked
by TechCrunch

Microsoft still doesn’t know — or want to share — how China-backed hackers stole a key that allowed them to stealthily break into dozens of email inboxes, including those belonging to several federal government agencies. In a blog post Friday, Microsoft said it was a matter of “ongoing investigation” how the hackers obtained a Microsoft signing key that was abused to forge authentication tokens that allowed the hackers’ access to inboxes as if they were the rightful owners. Reports say targets include U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. State Department officials and other organizations not yet publicly revealed. Microsoft disclosed the incident last Tuesday, attributing the month-long activity to a newly discovered espionage group it calls Storm-0558, which it believes has a strong nexus to China. U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA said the hacks, which began in mid-May, included a small number of government accounts said to be in the single digits and that the hackers exfiltrated some unclassified email data. While the U.S. government has not publicly attributed the hacks, China’s top foreign ministry spokesperson denied the allegations on Wednesday. Where China has used previously unknown vulnerabilities to individually hack into Microsoft-powered email servers to steal corporate data, this hacking group instead went directly to the source by targeting new and undisclosed vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s cloud. In its blog post, Microsoft said the hackers acquired one of its consumer signing keys, or MSA key, which the company uses to secure consumer email accounts, like for accessing Outlook.com. Microsoft said it initially thought the hackers were forging authentication tokens using an acquired enterprise signing key, which are used to secure corporate and enterprise email accounts. But, Microsoft found that the hackers were using that consumer MSA key to forge tokens that allowed them to break into enterprise inboxes. Microsoft said this was because of a “validation error in Microsoft code.” Compounding the key leak and its misuse was a lack of visibility into the intrusions by the government departments themselves. Microsoft is also taking heat for reserving security logs for the government accounts with the company’s top-tier package that may have helped other incident responders identify malicious activity.

President of Serbia Orders Suspension of All Arms Exports
by B92

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, has decided to suspend the export of weapons and military equipment for the next 30 days, "Novosti" has learned. As stated by that newspaper, Vučić made the decision on the basis of the Law on the President of the Republic and the Law on the Serbian Armed Forces, and due to the complication of the security situation in the country. The decision refers to proposing to the Government that acts be passed in order to suspend the export of weapons and military equipment in the next 30 days. According to the information of that media, after the expiry of the specified deadline, the head of state, together with the National Security Council, will decide whether there will be an extension. Also, in the Decision, the President demands that weapons and military equipment, stored, produced or in the production phase - in economic entities on the territory of Serbia, should be made available to our armed forces and the Ministry of Defense as a matter of priority.

TSA Deploys "Voluntary" Facial Recognition Program to 400 More Airports
by TechDirt

Ever since the fall of 2018, the DHS has been threatening the American public with increased surveillance on top of the insults and intrusions TSA officers physically perform at security checkpoints. The first inklings of this rollout came in the form of a Privacy Impact Assessment released by the DHS in September 2018. The assessment suggested there wasn’t enough privacy impacted to prevent the expansion of this program from international airports (where terrorism might be more of a threat) to domestic airports and wholly domestic flights, to ensure all citizens boarding aircraft were forced to interact with the TSA’s biometric collection/verification programs. This was confirmed a month later, when the TSA announced the expansion of the program to extend past borders/international airports to cover PreCheck passengers and, finally, everyone else who hadn’t decided to opt in or had been forced to opt in by passing through an international airport. Despite it being clear for a half-decade the DHS intends to subject all travelers to problematic tech, the DHS and TSA reps continue to pretend this collection/verification process is still optional. The TSA would prefer it be far less optional, since it will allow it to reduce the number of officers it employs and let machines do (most of) the work. In fact, the TSA has said as much publicly. In March of this year, TSA administrator David Pekoske again noted the process is still (supposedly) optional, but that it’s not going to stay that way for long. How long that will be remains to be seen, but as Wilfred Chan reports for Fast Company, the rollout is continuing with hundreds more airports on the horizon. The TSA is currently “assessing” the facial recognition program at 25 airports. TSA press secretary Robert Langston said this small sample size has been an unmitigated success, with the TSA’s algorithm reportedly matching people with a 97% success rate “across demographics.” And the TSA still maintains the program is optional for travelers. And yet real world experience seems to indicate the TSA is just hoping everyone encountering the scanners believes it isn’t. Others reported feeling there was no alternative option or that opting out would subject them to body frisks or detainment. So, technically optional, but with plenty of travelers being made to feel engaging with the TSA’s biometric scanners is the only real option.

Services, Researchers Again Warn U.K. Against Mandating Compromised Encryption
by TechDirt

Pretty much everyone who isn’t a UK legislator backing the Online Safety Bill has come out against it. The proposal would give the UK government much more direct control of internet communications. Supposedly aimed at limiting the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), the proposal would do the opposite of its moniker by making everyone less safe when interacting with others via internet services. While proponents continue to offer up nonsensical defenses of a bill that would compromise encryption, if not actually outlaw it, people who actually know what they’re talking about have been pointing out the flawed logic of UK regulators, if not promising to exit the UK market entirely if the bill is passed. As the bill heads for another round of votes, entities that actually want to ensure online safety continue to speak up against. The group of critics includes Apple, which knows from first hand experience the negative side effects created by demanding broken encryption and/or client-side scanning. Also speaking up (again), but probably not being heard (again), are encrypted communication services WhatsApp and Signal — both of which have promised to stop offering their services in the UK if the Online Safety bill becomes law.

Roadway Bombs Planted by Drug Cartel in Mexico Kills 6 in Tlajomulco, Jalisco
by Associated Press

A drug cartel set off a coordinated series of seven roadway bombs in western Mexico that killed four police officers and two civilians, officials said Wednesday. The governor of Jalisco state said the explosions were “a trap” set by the cartel to kill law enforcement personnel. Luis Méndez, the chief prosecutor of Jalisco state, said the blasts late Tuesday in the township of Tlajomulco were so powerful they left craters in the road, destroyed at least four vehicles and wounded 14 other people. It appeared to be the first time that a Mexican cartel killed law enforcement personnel with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and was the latest example of the increasingly open, military-style challenge posed by the country’s drug cartels.

Australia Calls on China, Solomon Islands to Publish New Policing Deal
by ABC News

The Australian government has called on Solomon Islands and China to "immediately" publish a new policing plan between the two countries, saying it is concerned the deal will invite "regional contest" in the Pacific. The concern from Canberra comes on the back of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's visit to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the two countries' new "comprehensive strategic partnership". It is the second time the two have met, with Mr Sogavare travelling to China in 2019 after the Pacific Island nation cut ties with Taiwan and formally established relations with Beijing. The relationship between the two countries has been the cause of major tension in Canberra. And it triggered more nervousness last year after China and Solomon Islands formalised a secretive security pact.

Chinese Vessels Spotted Near Strategic Reed Bank
by Maritime Executive

The Philippine military has reported a "swarm" of Chinese vessels at Iroquis and Sabina Shoal, raising new concerns about Chinese intentions in this oil and gas-rich region of the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) no less than forty-eight Chinese fishing vessels have been spotted at anchor at Iroquois Reef, located south of Reed Bank in the South China Sea. The surveillance information and publicly-released photos come from an aerial patrol conducted on June 30. Earlier overflights confirmed a trend of increasing numbers of Chinese fishing vessels, all exhibiting the characteristics of the Chinese maritime militia: commercial trawlers loitering in large numbers in a strategic area without making any efforts at fishing. In addition, the AFP reports an uptick in Chinese naval activity at Sabina Shoal, a feature to the south. Three China Coast Guard (CCG) ships and two People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships regularly loiter there, according to the AFP. For the AFP, the Chinese presence at these locations is an "alarming concern." Nearby Reed Bank is believed to have high oil and gas potential, but has never been developed, largely because of Chinese interference in the Philippine EEZ.

Israel, U.S. Holding Another Joint Air Drill Apparently Focused on Iran
by Times of Israel

The Israeli and American air forces on Sunday launched a joint drill, the latest in a series of exercises apparently aimed at readying the Israel Defense Forces for a potential strike in Iran. In a statement Monday, the IDF said the drill, dubbed Juniper Oak, would include the Israeli Air Force carrying out airstrikes against “strategic targets in the depth,” an apparent reference to Iran’s nuclear facilities. Additionally, the air drills would simulate “achieving aerial superiority in the region and cyber ​​defense against a variety of threats,” the IDF said. During the drill, IAF fighter jets were to refuel from an American Boeing KC-46, of which Israel has ordered four and is expected to receive the first in 2025. For Israel, the KC-46 aircraft are seen as necessary to conduct potential major strikes against targets in Iran, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Israel and far outside the normal flight range of Israeli jets.

Ransomware Criminals Are Dumping Kids' Private Files Online After School Hacks
by Insurance Journal

The confidential documents stolen from schools and dumped online by ransomware gangs are raw, intimate and graphic. They describe student sexual assaults, psychiatric hospitalizations, abusive parents, truancy — even suicide attempts. “Please do something,” begged a student in one leaked file, recalling the trauma of continually bumping into an ex-abuser at a school in Minneapolis. Other victims talked about wetting the bed or crying themselves to sleep. Complete sexual assault case folios containing these details were among more than 300,000 files dumped online in March after the 36,000-student Minneapolis Public Schools refused to pay a $1 million ransom. Other exposed data included medical records and discrimination complaints. Rich in digitized data, the nation’s schools are prime targets for far-flung criminal hackers, who are assiduously locating and scooping up sensitive files. Often strapped for cash, districts are grossly ill-equipped not just to defend themselves but to respond diligently and transparently when attacked, especially as they struggle to help kids catch up from the pandemic and grapple with shrinking budgets. Months after the Minneapolis attack, administrators have not delivered on their promise to inform individual victims. Unlike for hospitals, no federal law exists to require this notification from schools. The Associated Press reached families of six students whose sexual assault case files were exposed. The message from a reporter was the first time anyone had alerted them. “Truth is, they didn’t notify us about anything,” said a mother whose son’s case file has 80 documents.

China Metal Curbs, Rare Earths Risks Fuel Hunt for Safe Sources
by asiafinancial

Beijing’s new export restrictions on two key chipmaking metals and a growing risk of similar curbs on the country’s supply of rare earths has rekindled global efforts to ‘de-risk’ and reduce reliance on China. Firms across the globe have been scrambling to assess the impact on supply chains from the restrictions China announced this week, a retaliatory measure to efforts by the US and its allies Japan and the Netherlands to hobble Chinese semiconductor and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Meanwhile, a top Chinese trade advisor warned the move was “just a start,” leading analysts to expect similar measures on exports of rare earths, in which China accounts for 70% of global mine production.

China's BYD to Build Brazilian Electric Vehicle Complex

China’s largest EV manufacturer BYD on 5 July announced that it will build a production complex for new energy vehicles (NEVs) in Camacari in Brazil’s northeastern state Bahia. The complex will comprise three production facilities — one each for electric coach and truck chassis, new energy passenger cars and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery material. Its designed capacity is 150,000 units/yr for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrids. BYD will invest 3bn reals (4.5bn yuan) to build the complex, which is scheduled to launch production in the second half of 2024. The firm signed a letter of intent with the Bahia state government on 27 October last year to set up the three production lines. BYD has been expanding its EV and battery footprint outside China to take advantage of a rapidly-evolving global EV market. Its first overseas production project is in Rayong of Thailand with a 150,000 units/yr capacity and the launch is targeted for 2024. BYD sold 10,536 vehicles outside China in June 2023. The company signed an initial agreement with the Indonesian government in May as its seeks to explore potential for greater EV investment between Indonesia and China. It has also rolled out electric buses in Bogota, Colombia, as cities in Latin America push forward to electrify their bus systems. BYD reported record-high NEV output and sales in 2022, surpassing US electric vehicle maker Tesla as the world’s largest EV producer. BYD’s NEV sales target will exceed 3mn units in 2023, up from 1.86mn in 2022. It is also a major battery manufacturer in China, installing 11.816GWh of power and energy storage batteries in June, up by 72pc from a year earlier.

U.S. Has "Options for Iran's Nuclear Threat," CENTCOM Air Force Chief Tells 'JPost'
by The Jerusalem Post

The US regularly updates its military options for threats from Iran’s evolving nuclear facilities, US Lt. Gen. and CENTCOM Air Force Chief Alexus Grynkewich told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview. Israel also seeks regularly to gauge how much of a threat Iran’s nuclear program presents and how much backing Jerusalem would have from the US if it needed to confront that threat with preemptive strikes. The Post asked the AFCENT chief whether the US military would continue to be able to potentially handle the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the construction of a new, deep, underground nuclear facility at Natanz. “You can assume we are keeping a very close eye on Iranian facilities out there, continuing our evaluation of what it means, what Iran is using it for, what options we might have for those facilities,” Grynkewich said. His comments were some of the most detailed to date – in terms of the US regularly working on and updating military options – including with respect to new Iranian moves. Despite the impressive capabilities of the US military, Grynkewich was queried about the possibility that deterrence from Washington was not working. With respect to the nuclear program, Grynkewich was adamant: “Every recent president has said we will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon.” “Our job is to ensure that Iran does understand we can bring forces in here quickly to respond to any provocation. There are plenty of options on the table with respect to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Our job is to ensure that the military options are well thought out and robust,” the US general said. One element that Grynkewich has emphasized in multiple public comments is Task Force 99’s contribution to stability in the region, including confronting Iran. He discussed the role Task Force 99 could have in confronting Iran and other adversaries in the region. The AFCENT chief said that the use of drones had grown exponentially over the past several years, particularly one-way attack drones. He suggested that if there were one-way attack drones “or something else” of which “we could have a fleet of a very large number of unmanned platforms, which are relatively inexpensive,” it is possible that they could be used “to impose dilemmas on our adversaries.” Questioned about which kind of drones he was contemplating tactically, including kamikaze drones, Grynkewich responded, “It could be a kamikaze version or it could be a non-kamikaze version. You know if you send a swarm of several hundred intelligence surveillance drones and reconnaissance drones somewhere, your adversary is going to have to react to it in some way, either to prevent the collection you’re doing or to prevent an attack.”

Cyber Insurance Premiums Surge by 50% as Ransomware Attacks Increase
by Bloomberg

US cyber insurance premiums surged 50% in 2022 as increased ransomware attacks and online commerce drove demand for coverage. Premiums collected from policies written by insurers reached $7.2 billion in 2022 and tripled in the past three years, ratings firm AM Best said in a study released this week. Ransomware attacks soared last year, pushing demand for coverage after the pandemic-induced work-from-home era also made remote workers more vulnerable to digital attacks. Those attacks also spurred companies and individuals to adopt more robust cybersecurity measures. Loss ratios for standalone and packaged policies settled down to 43% and 48%, AM Best said, in signs of life for the industry after incurred losses had increased in 2020 and 2021. Surplus lines insurers, which patch unique risks uncovered by conventional policies, are also gaining popularity.

India Considers Lithium Mining Royalty at 3% of LME Price
by Mining.com

India’s federal government plans to fix the rate of royalty that mining companies must pay for extracting lithium at 3% of the prices prevailing at the London Metal Exchange (LME), two government sources said. India, which has been exploring ways to secure supplies of lithium – a critical raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries – in February found its first lithium deposits in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir. The government is expected to auction the newly found lithium blocks, with estimated reserves of 5.9 million tonnes, later this year. At least a dozen Indian and foreign companies such as Adani Enterprises, Vedanta Ltd, Reliance Industries, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Himadri Chemicals and Korea’s LX International are likely to take part in the auction, said the sources, asking not to be named as the information is not public. India’s plans to auction its lithium reserve – estimated as the seventh largest deposit – comes amid a push by major economies to secure lithium supplies. The United States, Canada and other countries have established a new partnership aimed at securing the supply of critical minerals, including lithium.

China Navy Training Ship Visits the Philippines
by AFP

A Chinese navy training vessel berthed in the Philippines on Wednesday (June 14) for a rare port visit as the two countries contest reefs and waters in the South China Sea. Dragon dances and a brass band greeted the 165-metre (542-foot) Qi Jiguang in Manila to mark its final stop on a Southeast Asian tour through Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei. "It's a goodwill visit," Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian told reporters, without offering details. Commissioned in 2017, the ship "conveys the concept of mutual trust concerning China's peaceful development", read a leaflet distributed by its crew to visitors. Beijing claims most of the strategic South China Sea including waters close to Philippine shores, ignoring a 2016 international tribunal ruling that voided its claims. Chinese coastguard or navy vessels routinely block or shadow Philippine ships carrying out supply missions to islands in the disputed sea that host Philippine garrisons, Manila says. In February, Manila accused a Chinese ship of shining a military-grade laser at a Philippine coastguard boat escorting a supply vessel to the Spratly Islands. The Qi Jiguang, which is larger than any Philippine warship or coastguard vessel, is the first Chinese navy ship to visit the Philippines since Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency last year.

American Men Died of Overdose at 2-3 Times Compared to Women in 2020-2021
by Medical Express

Men were significantly more vulnerable than women to overdose deaths involving opioid and stimulant drugs in 2020-2021, according to a new study analyzing death records data from across the United States. The study found that men had a 2–3 times greater rate of overdose mortality from opioids (like fentanyl and heroin) and psychostimulants (like methamphetamine and cocaine). While it has been known that men use drugs at higher rates than women, the researchers found that this alone does not explain the gap in overdose deaths, noting that biological, behavioral, and social factors likely combined to increase the mortality risk for men. The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, was led by investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. In 2021, nearly 107,000 people died of a drug overdose, largely driven by potent, illicit fentanyl which now contaminates the drug supply. Data have consistently shown that the rate of drug overdose deaths is significantly higher for men than women. The higher overdose death rate in men was observed across the lifespan (ages 15-74 overall) and was consistent across states, even after accounting for other demographic factors such as household net worth. In addition, when the authors analyzed the data by 10-year age groups, they found that for overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, men had greater rates than women across each group within the entire 15-74 age range measured in the study. For the three other drug categories assessed, men also had greater overdose mortality rates compared to women across the lifespan, with few exceptions. Due to limited data, for heroin, the youngest and oldest age groups (age ranges 15-24 and 65-74) were excluded from analysis; for psychostimulants and cocaine, the oldest age group (age range 65-74) was excluded from analysis. While researchers also found that men reported misusing drugs more than women, the magnitude of difference recorded for overdose mortality between men and women was substantially greater than the difference of reported drug misuse. For example, by comparing the data from CDC WONDER and NSDUH, the researchers found that men had a 2.8 greater rate of cocaine overdose mortality compared to women, though men only had a 1.9 greater rate of cocaine misuse compared to women.

Court: Comcast Must Identify Accused BitTorrent Pirate
by TorentFreak

Strike 3 Holdings has been a familiar name in U.S. federal courts for a while now. Last year, the adult entertainment company filed a record-breaking number of lawsuits against alleged BitTorrent pirates. The company is keeping up this pace in 2023, averaging dozens of lawsuits per week. Most of these are never mentioned in the press and a large number are settled behind closed doors. Every now and then, an accused Internet subscriber objects, but these cases rarely go to trial. According to some, the lawsuits’ main objective is to collect settlement payments and default judgments. This line of reasoning was also brought up by a “John Doe” defendant whose IP address was targeted in a recent complaint. The defendant submitted a motion to quash, hoping to prevent Comcast from revealing their identity. The accused pirate’s motion raised questions about the accuracy of the evidence and whether it can accurately detect infringers. For example, if a subscriber has an open wifi network, others including neighbors might use it as well. The motion to quash highlighted the Doe defendant’s fears that exposing their identity could lead to undue embarrassment and all sorts of related problems. Specifically, it “would be highly embarrassing to Defendant, unjustifiably stigmatizing to Defendant, injurious to Defendant’s character and reputation, and potentially jeopardizing to Defendant’s employment.”

Russia Starts Building Ships for North-South Trade Route to Iran
by Maritime Executive

The first block for a new class of Russian domestic containership that is also capable of carrying dry bulk cargo was laid down at the Lotos Shipyard, part of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation. In addition to the unique design, the shipbuilding corporation is reporting the ships will be a key contributor to Russia’s plans for the North-South International Transport Corridor and proof that Russian shipbuilding is proceeding despite the sanctions. Construction is beginning on the first of four vessels that will be the lead to the class. The vessels measure approximately 463 feet in length and have a 55-foot beam and depth of up to approximately 20 feet giving them the maximum dimensions to transit the Volga-Don Canal. The 60-mile long waterway opened in the 1950s makes it possible to sail from Saint Petersburg to the Caspian Sea. Officials of USC highlighted the start of the project with the keel laying on May 4 as evidence of the strength of Russian shipbuilding. The Lotos Shipyard where the vessels are being built was one of 28 subsidiaries as well as United Shipbuilding Corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State in April 2022 as being part of the Russian defense establishment. The sanctions implemented in response to the war in Ukraine prevent U.S. companies from working with, financing, or providing supplies to the sanctioned shipyards. The new vessels are part of an agreement highlighted by Russia to build trade on the Caspian Sea. The corridor stretches some 4,500 miles and links to Iran’s railway and road system. The endpoint is the port of Bandar Abbas and from there, cargo will also be able to continue by sea to India. Branches along the route also make it possible to send cargo to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

Germany and China's COSCO Forge Partnership on Hamburg Port Amid Criticism
by marine insight

Germany’s approval of a Chinese firm’s purchase of a minority stake at a container terminal at the Port of Hamburg is expected to boost its role as a crucial logistics hub for the China-Europe trade, well-known market watchers reported on Thursday. The German government declared on Wednesday that it approved the 24.9% shareholding of COSCO Shipping Ports Ltd at Container Terminal Tollerort, now owned by Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, a container terminal operator based in Germany. HHLA had been urging Germany’s government to decide since the HHLA and the CSPL declared the investment agreement in 2021 (September). CSPL is a business unit of China COSCO Shipping Corp, the country’s greatest shipping major by both fleet size and market share. HHLA welcomed the approval and mentioned that the investment would make the terminal a preferred handling location for flourishing trade with China, where freight typically flows between Europe and Asia will be concentrated, per its statement issued after the German government’s announcement. With both HHLA and CSPL saying that they are going to finalize the transaction soon, the tie-up will exclusively support the growth of China and Germany’s trade in the years ahead, stated Lin Meng, Director of Modern Supply Chain Research Institute, associated with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, Beijing.

Smartphone Addiction Among Seniors a Serious and Growing Problem
by Japan Today

According to data compiled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications,  more than 80% of individuals age 60 and over utilize a smartphone --- nearly as high as the 90% owned by those in their 20s and 30s. The percentage of smartphone users among the older segment, moreover, was higher than those who watch TV (67%) or those using a personal computer (60%). The activity having greatest negative influence on the brain is decline in ability to process information and cognitive functions, and Dr. Yoshitake is convinced that overuse of Twitter et al aggravates these. It's apparent that more seniors are become addicted to smartphones out of their increasing sense of isolation as they grow older. Elderly persons are rapidly approaching 30% of Japan's total population, and of these, 17% of the males and 23% of females are living alone. In an ideal world, smartphones would serve as an ideal tool for them to engage with others and sublimate their loneliness and alienation. Unfortunately, however, excessive time spent logged onto an SNS have been found to exacerbate their isolation. When they log onto Facebook, for example, and constantly read about the successes and happiness that others appear to enjoy, their sense of envy may spur depression and possibly even an early death. It is not widely known, but Yoshitake points out that not only does Japan boast the world's largest number of beds in dedicated mental hospitals, but the average hospitalization at such facilities --- around 400 days --- is considerably longer than in other major nations. And that figure does not include many others who are being treated on an outpatient basis.

Beijing Asks Intel to Set Up China Base Amid U.S. Sanctions
by asia financial

Beijing has asked US chipmaking giant Intel to establish a base in China to help maintain the stability of the global industrial supply chain, state radio reported on Wednesday. China’s Vice President Han Zheng told Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger that multinational companies need to “overcome difficulties and challenges” to promote better global cooperation, according to the report. Gelsinger is attending an Intel forum in Beijing, state media China Daily reported, adding that he called China’s role in the company’s business goals “incredibly important.” Beijing’s request comes amid a deepening chip war between China and the US, which has seen American allies Japan and Netherlands joining a move to implement export restrictions on advanced chips and chipmaking gear. The moves aim to hobble China’s semiconductor industry and cut the Chinese military’s access to advanced technology. “China adheres to the basic state policy of reform and opening-up,” state media Xinhua quoted Vice President Zheng as saying. Beijing will “continue to provide better services to foreign companies,” he added. “Intel is welcome to stand committed to the Chinese market and contribute to promoting China-US economic and trade cooperation,” Zheng said, according to the report.

CNNC Unveils Namibian Engineering Research Center
by AtomInfo.RU

The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) launched its Namibian engineering technology R&D center during a meeting at Rossing Uranium in Namibia on April 1. Rossing Uranium has shown stable business performance since it was acquired by the CNNC in 2019. Meanwhile, relevant research institutions of the CNNC have conducted fruitful cooperation and exchanges with the mining company. Zhang Jianhua, director of the National Energy Administration of China, and Cao Shudong, vice-president of the CNNC, addressed the meeting.

Berlin Reviewing Decision to Allow Chinese Investment in Hamburg Port Terminal
by Maritime Logistics

Berlin is reviewing its decision to allow China's Cosco to take a stake in one of logistics firm HHLA's three terminals at the Hamburg port, a spokesperson for the German economy ministry said on Wednesday. Responding to a question about the reported classification of Tollerort as critical infrastructure, the spokesperson said it was being determined whether and under what conditions Cosco would be allowed to take a stake in the terminal named Tollerort. The German cabinet gave Cosco the go-ahead to take a 24.9% stake in the port in October last year. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the green light at the time despite strong pushback within his three-way coalition amid fears of growing Chinese influence on the German economy.

New Israeli Spyware Targets Journalists, Politicians: Watchdog
by AFP

New Israeli-made spyware resembling the notorious Pegasus program has been used to target journalists and opposition politicians in several countries, a Canadian watchdog said Tuesday. The spyware and related exploit or hacking software was created by the little-known firm QuaDream Ltd, which was established by a former Israeli military official and veterans of NSO Group, the creator of Pegasus, according to Citizen Lab. Citizen Lab, which studies the abuse of digital technologies, said it identified at least five people targeted by QuaDream spyware and exploits in North America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. "Victims include journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO worker," it said, saying it would not identify them at the moment. Spyware like Pegasus has been widely used by governments and other actors to spy on opponents, media and activists. The programs can be placed on computers and cellphones by phishing communications and backdoor exploits, and can survey and transmit information on the phone back to an operator without the user's knowledge. The White House said in late March that Pegasus has been used by governments "to facilitate repression and enable human rights abuses." Citizen Lab said that, one placed on a user's phone or computer, QuaDream's spyware can record audio from a phone call, record external sounds from a device's microphone, take pictures from cameras, and search the device's files, all without the user's knowledge. The spyware can also generate its own two-factor authentication codes to enable continual access to the device owner's cloud accounts. The spyware includes a self-destruct feature to hide its previous presence once it is no longer used, Citizen Lab said. Citizen Lab identified servers in 10 countries that received data from victims' devices, including Israel, Singapore, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Bulgaria. QuaDream has marketed its spyware and services to government clients including Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco, Citizen Lab said.

Renminbi's Share of Trade Finance Doubles Since Start of Ukraine War
by Financial Times

The renminbi’s share of trade finance has more than doubled since the invasion of Ukraine, analysis by the Financial Times has found — a surge that analysts say reflects both greater use of China’s currency to facilitate trade with Russia and the rising cost of dollar financing. Trade financing data from Swift, the international payments and financing platform, shows that the renminbi’s share by value of the market had risen from less than 2 per cent in February 2022 to 4.5 per cent a year later. Those gains put China’s currency in close contention with the euro, which accounts for 6 per cent of the total. Both are, however, still a tiny fraction of the dollar’s share. This stood at 84.3 per cent in February 2023, down from 86.8 per cent a year earlier. “This is a substantial move,” said Mansoor Mohi-uddin, chief economist at Bank of Singapore. “It’s hard to think of anything else that could be behind this step change other than what’s happened with the war in Ukraine.” The Chinese currency’s growing share of trade finance — in which lenders extend credit to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods — represents a boon for Beijing in its drive to accelerate renminbi internationalisation and a stark challenge to the west, which has sought to use sanctions to bar major Russian financial institutions from utilising Swift. “It’s likely that a lot of this, given the timing, represents Russian trade [with China] which is done through intermediaries,” said Arthur Kroeber, founding partner of China-focused research group Gavekal Dragonomics. “The fact that Russia itself is cut off from Swift is perhaps irrelevant.”

Ehud Barak Deletes Tweet on Israel's Nuclear Weapons
by Arutz Sheva

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has deleted the problematic tweet he published on Tuesday, in which he revealed that Israel possesses nuclear weapons. Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity on the nuclear issue. In the tweet, Barak sought to describe the concerns among Western countries over the government’s proposed judicial reform and wrote, "It sounds weird to us. But in Israelis' conversations with diplomatic officials in the West, their deep concern emerges about the possibility that, if the coup d'état in Israel succeeds, a messianic dictatorship will be established in the heart of the Middle East, possessing nuclear weapons, and which fanatically wishes for a confrontation with Islam centered on the Temple Mount. In their eyes - it's really scary. It's not going to happen. Have a happy holiday." Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was shocked by Barak's words and claimed that he was echoing lies in order to harm the State of Israel. "This delusional and irresponsible man, along with Yair Lapid and several hundred other BDS activists from the left, have been traveling the world in recent weeks, making contact with foreign government officials, Jewish leaders, and economic agents, selling this abominable lie, sowing terror, and mobilizing everyone to harm the foreign relations and the economy of the State of Israel," said Smotrich.

South Africa says Contentious Chinese Ship Is for Research, "Not Surveillance"
by Bloomberg

A Chinese ship — capable of tracking rocket and spacecraft launches — that docked at a South African port is a research vehicle and not a surveillance vessel, the African nation’s port operator said. The Yuan Wang 5 was in Durban port for refueling, fresh water and replenishments, South Africa’s Transnet National Ports Authority said in an emailed response on Thursday. Its presence has previously raised concern in India, China’s geopolitical rival, which in August objected to the ship’s visit to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. The vessel’s berthing comes less than two months after South Africa drew the ire of Western nations by holding naval exercises with China and Russia and may add to fears that Africa’s most industrialized economy is moving closer to the two countries. That’s even as the bulk of its total trade is with Western nations. The ports operator isn’t aware of the objective of the vessel’s mission in South African waters because it “doesn’t have a mandate to request such information,” it said. Those details are gathered during a security clearance process that’s facilitated by the authorities, including the Department of Transport, before a ship enters the port limits, Transnet said. The Department of Transport didn’t immediately respond to queries.

Zurich Exits Insurance Climate Alliance
by Bloomberg

Zurich Insurance Group AG is leaving a coalition of major insurers that have committed to reach net-zero emissions, the second high profile exit from the group in a matter of days. The Swiss insurer said in a statement that it’s withdrawing from the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, which is a sub-unit of the larger Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. The move comes after Munich Re said Friday it also will exit the group, which was convened by the United Nations in 2021 and has about 30 members. Zurich’s departure will raise further questions about the workability of voluntary industry associations targeting emissions reductions. While GFANZ, as the biggest finance sector initiative with sub-groups covering insurance to banking, has raised the awareness among senior executives about the need to address climate change, some members have complained it adds an administrative burden and may expose them to legal risks.

Two-Fifths of IT Professionals Told to Keep Data Breaches Quiet
by infosecurity

Over two-fifths (42%) of IT professionals have been told to keep a security breach under wraps, potentially inflaming regulatory compliance risk, according to a new study from Bitdefender. The security vendor polled 400 IT professionals, from IT junior managers to CISOs across various industry sectors, in organizations with over 1000 employees. The resulting report, Bitdefender 2023 Cybersecurity Assessment, found that over half (52%) had suffered a data breach or leak over the previous 12 months, rising to 75% in the US. The US also topped the list in terms of the share of respondents who claimed they’d been told to keep a breach secret (71%). In all other countries surveyed (France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK), the figure was under the global average. Separately, nearly a third (30%) of respondents said they kept a breach to themselves even though they knew it should be reported. The figure once again was much higher in the US (55%).

China's Intensifying Nuclear-Armed Submarine Patrols Add Complexity for U.S., Allies
by Reuters

China is for the first time keeping at least one nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine constantly at sea, according to a Pentagon report - adding pressure on the United States and its allies as they try to counter Beijing's growing military. The assessment of China's military said China's fleet of six Jin-class ballistic missile submarines were operating "near-continuous" patrols from Hainan Island into the South China Sea. Equipped with a new, longer-range ballistic missile, they can hit the continental United States, analysts say. The note in the 174-page report drew little attention when it was released in late November, but shows crucial improvements in Chinese capabilities, according to four regional military attaches familiar with naval operations and five other security analysts. Even as the AUKUS deal will see Australia field its first nuclear-powered submarines over the next two decades, the constant Chinese ballistic missile patrols at sea pile strain on the resources of the United States and its allies as they intensify Cold War-style deployments. The new patrols imply improvements in many areas, including logistics, command and control, and weapons. They also show how China starting to operate its ballistic missile submarines in much the same way the United States, Russia, Britain and France have for decades, military attaches, former submariners and security analysts say. Their "deterrence patrols" allow them to threaten a nuclear counterattack even if land-based missiles and systems are destroyed. Under classic nuclear doctrine, that deters an adversary from launching an initial strike. The Chinese subs are now being equipped with a third-generation missile, the JL-3, General Anthony Cotton, the commander of the US Strategic Command, told a congressional hearing in March. With an estimated range of more than 10,000 kilometres (6,214 miles) and carrying multiple warheads, the JL-3 allows China to reach the continental United States from Chinese coastal waters for the first time, the Pentagon report notes. Previous reports had said the JL-3 was not expected to be deployed until China launched its next-generation Type-096 submarines in coming years. The Chinese defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the Pentagon report and its submarine deployments. The Pentagon did not comment on its earlier assessments or whether the Chinese deployments posed an operational challenge.

As Japan Ages, Young Indonesians Train to Fill Caregiver Jobs
by Reuters

A labour attache at the Japanese embassy in Jakarta, estimates only about 130,000 of the 340,000 special skilled job vacancies in Japan have been filled. Japan is one of the world's most rapidly ageing societies, with people who are 65 or older now accounting for 28% of the population, according to UN data. Births in Japan fell to fewer than 800,000 for the first time last year, according to official data, as Japan's working-age population shrinks. Hiroki Sasaki, labour attache at the Japanese embassy in Jakarta, estimates only about 130,000 of the 340,000 special skilled job vacancies in Japan have been filled. A foreign workforce, therefore, is becoming increasingly necessary, he said. As of December 2022, there were more than 16,000 Indonesians working under Japan's special skilled worker scheme, the second-highest number behind Vietnam.

How the U.S. Came to Use Spyware It Was Trying to Kill
by The New York Times

The secret contract was finalized on Nov. 8, 2021, a deal between a company that has acted as a front for the United States government and the American affiliate of a notorious Israeli hacking firm. Under the arrangement, the Israeli firm, NSO Group, gave the U.S. government access to one of its most powerful weapons — a geolocation tool that can covertly track mobile phones around the world without the phone user’s knowledge or consent. If the veiled nature of the deal was unusual — it was signed for the front company by a businessman using a fake name — the timing was extraordinary. Only five days earlier, the Biden administration had announced it was taking action against NSO, whose hacking tools for years had been abused by governments around the world to spy on political dissidents, human rights activists and journalists. The White House placed NSO on a Commerce Department blacklist, declaring the company a national security threat and sending the message that American companies should stop doing business with it. The secret contract — which The New York Times is disclosing for the first time — violates the Biden administration’s public policy, and still appears to be active. The contract, reviewed by The Times, stated that the “United States government” would be the ultimate user of the tool, although it is unclear which government agency authorized the deal and might be using the spyware. It specifically allowed the government to test, evaluate, and even deploy the spyware against targets of its choice in Mexico. Asked about the contract, White House officials said it was news to them.

China Boosts South Pacific Influence with Solomons Port Deal
by AFP

A state-backed Chinese company has won a contract to develop a key port in Solomon Islands, a major victory in Beijing's quest to gain a strategic toe-hold in the South Pacific. Solomon Islands' government on Tuesday announced that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation had been chosen to lead a $170 million project to develop the international port in the capital Honiara. The Solomons have become the unlikely epicentre of a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, after it signed a secret security pact with Beijing in 2022. Both China and Solomon Islands denied the pact would lead to the establishment of a permanent Chinese naval base, but the details of the agreement have never been revealed. Major infrastructure projects in the sprawling South Pacific archipelago are increasingly reliant on Chinese investment, notably the construction of a new stadium for the upcoming Pacific Games in Honiara. The Chinese company won a $7 million contract in 2020 to build a new terminal at Munda International Airport in Solomon Islands' Western Province, according to government contract notices.

Cost Estimates for Repairs to HMS Prince of Wales Skyrocket
by Maritime Executive

The UK’s troubled plagued aircraft carrier the HMS Prince of Wales is the focus of a new controversy after The Times [London] published a report at the end of last week contending the problems were known before the Royal Navy took delivery and that taxpayers will now have to pay for the repairs to the vessel. The carrier remains in a dry dock in Scotland with her return to service being delayed till late spring with the Ministry of Defense having also launched an investigation into the carrier and its issues. Costing an estimated £3.2 billion ($4 billion) to build, the carrier which was the most expensive warship ever built for Britain was delivered to the Royal Navy in December 2019. Reports indicate that the vessel has spent more time undergoing repairs since her delivery than in service as the Royal Navy sought to complete her commissioning and preparation for active duty. In August 2022, she was set to begin one of her highest-profile duties since delivery with a tour that was to cross the Atlantic for joint exercises with the U.S. Navy. Shortly after departure from Portsmouth, however, the carrier was forced to anchor and it was later determined that a coupling had failed on her starboard shaft causing significant damage to the shaft and propeller, with superficial damage to the rudder. The British tabloids are highlighting new accusations that the delivery of the carrier may have been rushed to suit political purposes and that there may have been an awareness of potential problems with the shafts. They are alleging that reports show that issues were identified with the shafts but that it was decided to take delivery regardless of the potential for failure. They contend that the carrier’s problems stem from a misalignment of the shafts during construction. Ministry of Defense investigators are said to be looking into who knew about the potential problems and when they were first identified as a concern. They also want to know if the issue was ignored or who made the decision not to highlight the issues up the chain of command.

Rogue ChatGPT Extension FakeGPT Hijacked Facebook Accounts
by Security Affairs

Guardio’s security team uncovered a new variant of a malicious Chat-GPT Chrome Extension that was already downloaded by thousands a day. The version employed in a recent campaign is based on a legitimate open-source project, threat actors added malicious code to steal Facebook accounts. The legitimate extension is named “ChatGPT for Google” and allows the integration of ChatGPT on search results. The new malicious Chrome Extension is distributed since March 14, 2023, through sponsored Google search results and uploaded to the official Chrome Store. Experts noticed that it was first uploaded to the Chrome Web Store on February 14, 2023. According to the researchers, it is able to steal Facebook session cookies and compromise accounts in masses. Netizens searching for “Chat GPT 4” because interested in testing the new algorithm of the latest version of the popular chatbot, end up clicking on a sponsored search result. The link redirects victims to a landing page offering the ChatGPT extension from the official Chrome Store. The extension will give users access to ChatGPT from the search results, but will also compromise their Facebook account. Once the victim installed the extension, the malicious code uses the OnInstalled handler function to steal Facebook session cookies. Then attackers use stolen cookies to log in to the victim’s Facebook account and take over it.

Mexican Government Seizes U.S.-Owned Marine Terminal Near Cancun
by Maritime Executive

An American construction materials company says that the Mexican military has seized a privately-owned rock quarry and port facility near Playa del Carmen, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Alabama-based Vulcan Materials Company has run a limestone quarry in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo for more than 30 years, supplying crushed rock for cement manufacturing on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The port is operated by Sac-Tun, a local subsidiary of Vulcan. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has tussled with the operator for more than a year, calling on Vulcan to convert the limestone quarry into a tourist park and claiming that the operation has caused environmental damage. He is also believed to have an interest in Vulcan's marine terminal for the quarry, which is the only dock in the region capable of handling rock shipments for construction of the gigantic Maya Train rail line project - a controversial piece of Obrador's development program. Obrador has been pushing to accelerate the line's construction, and the train relies on imported rock. Obrador's administration ordered Vulcan to shut down its underwater quarrying operations at the site in May 2022, citing environmental concerns - an order which Vulcan believes to be illegal under Mexican law. The government then suspended Vulcan's customs permit for exports, which had just been renewed two months earlier. These two "arbitrary and illegal" interventions forced the facility to shut down. Vulcan had an agreement with Mexican cement maker Cemex to allow it to use the quarry's marine loading terminal, but that contract ended on December 31, and Vulcan asked Cemex to renegotiate. In ongoing litigation, Vulcan obtained a court injunction prohibiting Cemex or the Mexican government from taking over the facility; however, according to Vulcan, Cemex representatives returned with the Mexican armed forces and seized the property on March 14. Gate camera footage appeared to capture clear video imagery of government troops accompanying workers in Cemex-branded company pickup trucks as they entered the complex.

FCC Implements New STIR/SHAKEN and Robocall Mitigation Rules
by CommLawBlog

At the FCC Commissioners’ meeting on March 16, the FCC imposed new STIR/SHAKEN and robocall mitigation requirements on all providers, including intermediate providers and regardless of their STIR/SHAKEN implementation status. All providers are now required to take “reasonable steps” to mitigate illegal robocall traffic and must submit a certification and mitigation plan to the Commission’s Robocall Mitigation Database. The deadline to comply with the new “reasonable steps” mitigation standard is 60 days following Federal Register publication of these new rules. The certification and mitigation plan must be filed by the later of: (1) 30 days following publication in the Federal Register of notice of approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”); or (2) any deadline set by the Wireline Competition Bureau through Public Notice. Any updates to this filing must be filed with the Robocall Mitigation Database within 10 business days of any change to the information previously submitted. Within 90 days after the deadline to file certifications and mitigation plans with the Robocall Mitigation Database, downstream providers will be required to block traffic from any intermediate provider or originating provider that has not yet filed a certification with the Robocall Mitigation Database. Importantly, the FCC set a maximum fine of $23,727 per call for violations of this mandatory blocking requirement. By December 31, 2023, the new rules also require the first intermediate provider in the path of an unauthenticated Session Initiation Protocol (“SIP”) call to authenticate the call using STIR/SHAKEN when the intermediate provider receives the unauthenticated SIP call directly from the originating provider.

Hackers Claim to Have Breached T-Mobile More Than 100 Times Last Year
by techdirt

Back in January, it was noted that T-Mobile had recently revealed it had been hacked eight times over the last five years. But a new report by security expert Brian Krebs suggests it could be far worse than that. According to Krebs, hackers are making a compelling case that they’ve managed to compromise the wireless giant’s network and internal systems 100 times in just 2022 alone. T-Mobile’s problems have been twofold. One, the company has been repeatedly busted for over-collecting and selling sensitive U.S. consumer location data. Two, the company has repeatedly failed to stop SIM hijackers from porting user identities out from under their feet (often with T-Mobile employee help), then robbing them blind. The wild thing is none of this is really new. T-Mobile has been fined numerous times for these behaviors, but like most U.S. regulatory fines, they’re a tiny fraction of the money made (or saved) from over-collecting and monetizing user data or cutting corners on security practices. It’s a modest cost of business that’s quickly factored in… and promptly ignored. T-Mobile routinely proclaims that it’s dedicated to learning from its failures, but it continues to not only fight the belated, modest wrist slap fines from agencies like the FCC, but it keeps expanding the scope of the data it collects.

Japanese Cabinet Approves Law to Allow Nuclear Reactor Operation Beyond 60 Years

The Japanese cabinet has approved legislation which will allow commercial nuclear power plants to operate longer as part of plans for a nuclear power comeback to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and energy security concerns. Under the new rules, Tokyo will abolish the current 60-year operating limit for reactors and introduce a new system in which additional operating extensions can granted every 10 years after 30 years of service, with no maximum limit specified. The move is a major step away from the current 40-year operating limit with a possible one-time extension of up to 20 years. The rules were introduced as part of stricter safety standards adopted after the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant accident. Last month, the government’s plans received the backing of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority. In December 2022, Japan adopted a new energy policy promoting greater use of nuclear power as it seeks to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and to reduce carbon emissions. The government adopted a plan last month to maximise the use of nuclear energy, including accelerating restarts of halted reactors, prolonging the operational life of aging plants and development of next-generation reactors to replace those designated for decommissioning.

Turkish Imports of Russian Oil Hit Four-Month High in February
by Reuters

Amid an embargo on Russian seaborne crude to the European Union, NATO-member Turkey’s imports of Urals crude from Russia hit a four-month high in February thanks to resumption of purchases by Azerbaijan-owned STAR refinery in Turkey, Reuters reports exclusively. Citing Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data, Reuters reports that Turkey imported 860,000 tonnes of Urals crude in February, compared to 620,000 tonnes in January and 370,000 tonnes in December. In February, 300,000 tonnes of Urals crude went into the STAR refinery, which had halted imports of Russian oil for a month in late December. This is still far from the peaks of 2022, however. Reuters notes that Turkey was importing up to 1.4 million tonnes of Urals crude per month between August and October, half of which fed the STAR refinery. These rising numbers will positively impact Russia’s oil revenues and its spending on the invasion of Ukraine, despite a $60 price cap placed on Russian oil by the G7. Reuters reports that this month should see Russia experience an increase in oil export revenues due to solid demand and declining freight rates. This setup could see Urals near the $60 price cap on Russian oil implemented by the G7.

China's Factories See Fastest Growth Spurt in a Decade
by asia financial

China’s manufacturing activity appears to have bounced back strongly, with data for February showing it expanded at the fastest pace in a decade. Official figures released on Wednesday were higher than expected with production rising finally after the lifting of Covid restrictions in early December. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) shot up to 52.6 from 50.1 in January, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, above the 50-point mark that separates expansion and contraction in activity. The figure far exceeded an analyst forecast of 50.5 and was the highest reading since April 2012. China’s manufacturing sector had been under pressure this year with factory-gate prices falling in January, data last month showed, due to still cautious domestic consumption and uncertain foreign demand. Manufacturing companies have also seen surging purchasing prices in steel and related downstream industries, the NBS said.

Western Decline: Most Young Men Are Single. Most Young Women Are Not
by The Hill

More than 60 percent of young men are single, nearly twice the rate of unattached young women, signaling a larger breakdown in the social, romantic and sexual life of the American male. Men in their 20s are more likely than women in their 20s to be romantically uninvolved, sexually dormant, friendless and lonely. They stand at the vanguard of an epidemic of declining marriage, sexuality and relationships that afflicts all of young America.  “We’re in a crisis of connection,” said Niobe Way, a psychology professor and founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at New York University. “Disconnection from ourselves and disconnection from eachother. And it’s getting worse.” "Scholars say the new era of gender parity has reshaped relationship dynamics, empowering young women and, in many cases, removing young men from the equation. “Women don’t need to be in long-term relationships. They don’t need to be married. They’d rather go to brunch with friends than have a horrible date,” said Greg Matos, a couple and family psychologist in Los Angeles, who recently penned a viral article titled “What’s Behind the Rise of Lonely, Single Men.” As of 2022, Pew Research Center found, 30 percent of U.S. adults are neither married, living with a partner nor engaged in a committed relationship. Nearly half of all young adults are single: 34 percent of women, and a whopping 63 percent of men.  Not surprisingly, the decline in relationships marches astride with a decline in sex. The share of sexually active Americans stands at a 30-year low. Around 30 percent of young men reported in 2019 that they had no sex in the past year, compared to about 20 percent of young women. Only half of single men are actively seeking relationships or even casual dates, according to Pew. That figure is declining.

Netanyahu Said to Huddle Repeatedly with Military Brass Over Possible Attack on Iran
by Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly held a series of secret high-level meetings with top military officials aimed at upping preparations for a possible confrontation with Iran. The report, which was not attributed to any source, included few other details about the discussions, and may itself be designed to telegraph the seriousness of Israeli threats to resort to military action in order to shut down Iran’s suspected drive toward a nuclear weapon, which Netanyahu has described as an existential threat. The report said the result of the meetings — that Israel will act alone if the international community does not step in — had been shared with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and French President Emmanuel Macron. Netanyahu on Tuesday night repeated his stance that the international community needed to back its promises to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions with serious threats to take military action or by actually putting bombers in the air. Israel reportedly came close to carrying out strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities on multiple occasions under previous Netanyahu governments. Former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak said that Netanyahu aborted plans in both 2010 and 2011 to strike Iran, having been dissuaded by the IDF chief of staff at the time and by ministerial colleagues. Barak also said there were plans in 2012 for a similar strike, but the operation was  called off because Israel was conducting a military exercise with the US at the time and Netanyahu did not want to draw the American military into a war with Iran.

Senior Boeing Official in Israel to Push Sale of Advanced F-15 Jets for Iran Strike
by Times of Israel

The chief of the Boeing aircraft manufacturer’s defense wing was in Israel on Sunday and Monday to advance the supply of new, long-awaited refueling planes and fighter jets for the Israeli Air Force looking to boost its capabilities to strike Iran. Speaking to reporters at the Boeing Israel offices in Tel Aviv, Ted Colbert, the Boeing Defense, Space and Security President and CEO said the company would be supplying Israel with 25 F-15IA fighter jets — the Israeli variant of the advanced F-15EX — with options for 25 more. The military is looking to both add to and upgrade its existing fleet of F-15s, which can carry the kind of heavy weapons Israel would need to penetrate Iran’s nuclear sites, most of which are buried deep underground. Colbert said the payload capability of the F-15EX is “unmatchable,” and combined with the range of the KC-46 refueling planes, it would “support the long arm of Israel.” There is no timeline yet, but the earliest Israel would likely receive the new jets would be in 2028. Israel is expected to push for faster delivery. Colbert said Boeing was working “as fast as it can” to supply the aircraft to Israel as soon as possible. If the deal goes through and Israel returns to purchasing F-15s, it would mark the first Boeing fighter jet acquisition by the Israeli Air Force in two decades. In the years since, Israel has bought 100 F-16s and another 50 F-35 stealth jets from Boeing’s chief competitor, Lockheed Martin. The first of four KC-46 tankers, which Israel would need in order to conduct a strike in Iran, is still scheduled to be delivered in 2025. Israel has asked that this date be moved up — which would require the US to give up its spot in line to receive planes from Boeing — but Washington has thus far rejected the request. For Israel, the aircraft are seen as necessary to conduct potential major strikes against targets in Iran, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Israel and far outside the normal flight range of Israeli jets. In light of the growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers, the past two years have seen the IDF ramp up efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear sites.

Latin America Looks to Capitalize on Soaring Lithium Demand
by Oxford Business Group

With the success of the energy transition closely tied to the ability to store solar and wind power, battery manufacturers are zeroing in on Latin America’s so-called lithium triangle of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. These three countries alone contain 52m, or 53%, of the 98m tonnes of global lithium reserves, according to the US Geological Survey. In late January Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Argentina and Chile to secure lithium supply for carmakers Mercedes-Benz Group and Volkswagen to produce electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Germany reached a memorandum of understanding with Argentina for increased supply and plans to offer Chile a deal that is reportedly more favourable than its current arrangement with China. Days before Chancellor Scholz’s trip, Chinese firms Contemporary Amperex Technology, its subsidiary Brunp Recycling and the mining company CMOC signed a $1bn agreement with Bolivia’s state-owned mining company Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos to explore for lithium in the country, which has the largest identified lithium reserves in the world, at 21m tonnes. Perhaps the most important precondition for refined lithium supply for batteries is processing. China has long held a dominant position in this regard, accounting for nearly 60% of global refining capacity in 2022, albeit down from a 65% share in 2021. Most Latin American lithium carbonate already finds its way to China for processing. Of Chile’s exports in November 2022, some $455m – or 66% of the total – went to China, with 13% going to South Korea and 10% to Japan. Two weeks ago German carmaker BMW announced it will construct an $800m plant in the state of San Luis Potosi, with more than half of the investment going towards building a new high-voltage battery assembly plant. Tesla is expected to make a similar announcement in the near future to build a battery and car manufacturing plant in Mexico, according to Marcelo Ebrard, the country’s foreign affairs minister.

U.S. Container Imports See Biggest Drop in Over a Decade
by gCaptain

Container imports into the U.S. saw their biggest decline in more than a decade last month. In his latest ports report, industry veteran John McCown said inbound containers at the ten largest U.S. ports declined 17.9% year over year in January, marking the highest monthly decline since the 2008 financial crisis. January now marks seven straight months of expanding year over year declines. Granted, the first half of last year set multiple monthly records as the pandemic-driven imports surge continued in the first six months of 2022 before dropping off. West Coast ports once again the biggest declines in January, down 23.5% year-over-year, as potential labor unrest continues to strain on volumes. For comparison, East and Gulf Coast ports showed only a 12.6% decline in January.

China's Taking Control of LNG as Global Demand Booms
by Bloomberg

A rush by China to sign new long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) deals promises to give the nation even more control over the global market at a time when competition for cargoes is booming. Chinese companies are sealing the most LNG purchase agreements of any nation and increasingly are becoming the sector’s key import intermediary. The Chinese buyers are reselling many of the cargoes to the highest bidders in Europe and Asia, effectively taking charge over a hefty chunk of supply. Firms based in China account for roughly 15% of all contracts that’ll begin delivering LNG supply through 2027, according to an analysis of BloombergNEF data. That trend is set to increase as the companies seek to lock in more long-term agreements, which will effectively give their traders control over the fuel for decades. From copper to rare earths, China is expanding its influence over commodities that are vital to both the nation’s economy and the world’s transition away from the dirtiest fossil fuels. China has become one of the world’s top LNG importers nearly overnight amid a push from Beijing to ensure energy security. The Asian nation’s position in the market could be a double-edged sword: China can provide stability during periods of global shortages, but it could withhold supply and drive up prices if the needs at home must be met.

Taliban to Turn Ex-Military Bases into Special Economic Zones
by BBC

Afghanistan's Taliban government says it will turn some former foreign military bases into economic zones for businesses. Afghanistan has faced a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis since the Taliban regained control of the country in August 2021. Afghanistan is estimated to be sitting on natural resources - including natural gas, copper and rare earths - worth more than $1tn (£831.5bn). However, much of those reserves remain untapped due to decades of turmoil in the country. In August 2021, the last US military flight left Kabul airport, marking the end of a 20-year presence in Afghanistan and America's longest war. Since the withdrawal of foreign military forces Afghanistan's finances have since been hit by a number of other major issues. Sanctions have been placed on members of the government, the central bank's overseas assets have been frozen, and most foreign aid - which previously supported its economy - has been suspended. Earlier this year, the Taliban said it planned to sign a contract with a Chinese firm to drill for oil in northern Afghanistan. The 25-year deal underscores China's economic involvement in the region. Launched by Xi Jinping in 2013, the initiative provides financing for emerging countries to build infrastructure like ports, roads and bridges.

Iran Unveils Underground Airbase Tasked with Responding to Israeli Attack
by The Times of Israel

Iran unveiled what it said was its first underground air force base on Tuesday, with the head of the Islamic Republic’s military saying the site would be among those used to launch a response to any potential strikes by Israel or others. “Any attack on Iran from our enemies, including Israel, will see a response from our many air force bases including Eagle 44,” Iran’s armed forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri told IRNA, according to the Reuters news agency. IRNA said the Eagle 44 site was one of Iran’s most important military facilities, and would be home to fighter jets equipped with long-range cruise missiles. The location of the base was not disclosed as part of attempts by Iran to put key military and nuclear facilities out of the way of potential strikes. Israel is suspected of launching a series of attacks on Iran, including an assault on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges.

Getty Images Lawsuit says 'Stability AI' Misused Photos to Train AI
by Reuters

Stock photo provider Getty Images has sued artificial intelligence company Stability AI Inc, accusing it in a lawsuit made public on Monday of misusing more than 12 million Getty photos to train its Stable Diffusion AI image-generation system. The lawsuit, filed in Delaware federal court, follows a separate Getty case against Stability in the United Kingdom and a related class-action complaint filed by artists in California against Stability and other companies in the fast-growing field of generative AI. Getty declined to comment on the Delaware lawsuit. Representatives for Stability did not immediately respond to a request. Seattle-based Getty accused Stability of copying millions of its photos without a license and using them to train Stable Diffusion to generate more accurate depictions based on user prompts.

French Strikes Halt Fuel Shipments from Refineries and a Fuel Depot
by Reuters

A nationwide strike in France over a proposed pension reform interrupted on Tuesday the shipment of fuels from refineries and a fuel depot of TotalEnergies, the French supermajor told Reuters. Workers and employees in various sectors, including the energy sector, civil servants, and teachers, have been staging strikes for weeks to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age. Workers at the oil refineries at Donges and Feyzin, operated by TotalEnergies, are on strike today, a representative of the Force Ouvriere trade union told Reuters. Workers at the fuel depot Flandres have also joined the massive industrial action in France, the official added. This is not the first time that fuel deliveries have been disrupted by strikes this year. Two weeks ago, the strike in France halted wholesale fuel deliveries from three refineries operated by TotalEnergies on the first day of a series of planned nationwide strikes in many sectors. The Donges, Normandy, and Feyzin refineries of TotalEnergies stopped the wholesale supply of gasoline and diesel, while the refinery at Feyzin had to reduce processing rates to a minimum on January 19. TotalEnergies and the French unit of ExxonMobil hold most of the refining capacity in France. The strikes against Macron’s unpopular pension reform are expected to continue.

Creation of Largest U.S. Lithium Mine Draws Closer Despite Protest Over Land Use
by ARS Technica

Construction will reportedly soon begin on a mine that’s expected to become the United States’ largest source of lithium. This mine is viewed as critical to Joe Biden’s $2 trillion clean energy plan by powering the nation’s increased production of electric vehicles. A US district judge denied the majority of legal challenges raised by environmentalists, ranchers, and indigenous tribes, upholding that the federal government’s decision to approve the Thacker Pass mine in 2020 was largely not made in error. However, chief judge Miranda Du did agree with one of the protesters' claims, ordering the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete a fresh review to determine if Lithium Americas Corp has the right to deposit waste rock on 1,300 acres of public land that the mining project wants to use as a waste site. Because this waste site may not contain valuable minerals, there’s a possibility that this land may not be validly claimed as a waste site under current US mining laws, Du wrote in the order. A mining law from 1872 requires that mining projects must validate all claims to public lands before gaining federal approval, and that means Lithium Americas must now provide evidence that valuable minerals have been found on the proposed Thacker Pass waste site to resume the project.

Global Copper Shortage Now Developing in 2023

A copper deficit is set to inundate global markets throughout 2023 — and one analyst predicts the shortfall could potentially extend throughout the rest of the decade. The world is currently facing a global copper shortage, fueled by increasingly challenging supply streams in South America and higher demand pressures. Copper is a leading pulse check for economic health due to its incorporation in various uses such as electrical equipment and industrial machinery. A copper squeeze could be an indicator that global inflationary pressures will worsen, and subsequently compel central banks to maintain their hawkish stance for longer. Peru has been rocked by protests since former President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December in an impeachment trial. The South American nation accounts for 10% of the global copper supply. Glencore announced Jan. 20 it was suspending operations in its Antapaccay copper mine located in Peru, after protesters looted and set fire to its premises. Additionally, Chile — the world’s largest copper producer which accounts for 27% of global supply — recorded a year-on-year decline of 7% in November. The reopening of China and growth in the automotive and energy transition industry have stoked demand for the red metal, putting further strain on copper resources.

Mediterranean Ship-to-Ship Loadings of Russian Oil Hit Record in January
by Reuters

Ship-to-ship (STS) loadings of Russian Urals blend crude oil hit a record high in January in the Mediterranean as traders moved cargos onto larger vessels to make long-haul shipments to Asia more cost effective, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. Since the European Union banned purchases of Russian sea-borne oil in December over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, the bulk of Russian oil has been diverted to Asia.  STS operations involve the transfer of cargo in international waters from smaller to larger vessels, improving the profitability of long-haul trips. According to Refinitiv Eikon and Reuters calculations, STS volumes in the Mediterranean for deliveries to Asia jumped eight-fold in January from December to a record-high of 1.7 million tonnes. The data also showed that some 1 million tonnes of Urals blend were loaded via STS operations in January near the Spanish port of Ceuta in the Strait of Gibraltar. Some 600,000 tonnes were loaded near the Greek port of Kalamata. All the cargoes were delivered to Asia, mainly to India, where at least 800,000 tonnes of Urals were expected to arrive from January’s operations.

U.S. Companies in Taiwan Make Contingency Plans Amid Tensions with China
by Reuters

Almost half of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taiwan are revising or plan to revise their business continuity plans amid tensions with China, while a growing number reported being impacted by those strains. In a survey released on Tuesday, which took place between Nov. 15 and Dec. 16, AmCham Taiwan said 33% of respondents said their operations had been "significantly disrupted" by the increase in tensions, compared with 17% when it did a flash survey in August right after China began war games. AmCham Taiwan, which said that 214 of its 437 members responded to the December survey, said one-third of companies reported being disrupted by elevated concern or policy changes from their global headquarters, followed by increased shipping, insurance, or financial costs and staff anxiety.

Taiwan Deploying Minelayers in Preparation for Chinese Amphibious Assault
by Eurasian Times

Incidentally, Taiwan is purchasing Volcano mines from the United States. It is also buying M977A4 HEMTT 10-ton cargo trucks worth 180 million dollars that the mine deployment system will be mounted on. These are anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. The Volcano mine system can deploy 960 anti-personnel/anti-tank mines in an area 1,100 meters long by 120 meters wide, and it can be deployed by truck or helicopter. The prime contractors for sale are Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Corporation, the manufacturers of munitions and trucks. In the Indo-Pacific region, South Korea is the other country whose forces use the Volcano mine system for their operations against potential invaders from North Korea. The US sale of Volcano is intended to strengthen Taiwan’s capacity for “asymmetric warfare” in the face of rising tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to take the island by force if necessary. Incidentally, last year, Taiwan commissioned its Navy’s First and Second Mining Operations Squadrons, which operate ships that automatically sow large numbers of small but powerful mines at high speed without divers. This was a significant development for two reasons. The mines to be used by these squadrons are believed to be the improved versions of Mk 6 Mod 15 that Taiwan had acquired from the United States. It is said that there have been at least 15 variants of the Mk 6 since its introduction more than a century ago (1917), with the inert Mk 6 Mod 15 being the training mine that has been pictured aboard a minelayer during the Taiwan Navy’s mine-loading exercise last year.

First Fighters Land Aboard India's First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier
by The Drive

In a first-of-its-kind event, an Indian-made fighter jet has landed aboard an Indian-made aircraft carrier — the new INS Vikrant, which began at-sea trials back in August 2021, as you can read more about here, and which was commissioned last September. While today’s arrival of the HAL Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy version on the deck of the carrier is a significant moment for the Indian Navy and the country at large, hopes of fielding a production version of the jet have now been superseded by a highly ambitious plan for a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter, or TEDBF, and plans for another new carrier are well advanced. All these carrier fighter developments are also in process to provide the air wing for India’s next carrier, the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 2, or IAC-2, which will be named INS Vishal, and which is planned to be significantly bigger than the Vikrant, at around 65,000 tons, compared to 40,000 tons for the earlier warship.

Iran Suffers UAV Strike After Israel, U.S. Simulate Attack on Islamic Republic
by Fox News

An explosion at an Iranian military facility Saturday evening, which authorities said was the result of a drone strike, comes just days after the United States and Israel conducted joint military drills in the region. Details on the Isfahan attack, which happened Saturday, remain scarce and the Iranian Defense Ministry did not reveal whom it suspected to have carried out the attack. It comes after U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a massive military drill in Israel earlier this week. The Israelis have deployed more than 1,000 soldiers and officers, six ships, and a significant number of aircraft, including F-35Is, F-16s, F-15s, G550 reconnaissance aircraft, B707 refueling aircraft, UAVs and helicopters. Israel is suspected of launching attacks on Iran, including an April 2021 assault on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges. In 2020, Iran also blamed Israel for a sophisticated attack that killed its top military nuclear scientist. Israeli officials rarely acknowledge military operations and deny any official involvement.

Bed Bath & Beyond Warns of Possible Bankruptcy
by Axios

Bed Bath & Beyond — whose 20% coupons, towel towers and wedding registry have been a staple of the American shopping landscape — warned Thursday that its dismal performance threatens the company's future. Driving the news: The beleaguered retailer said in a public filing that it faces "substantial doubt" about its ability to continue operating on its own — and that it could file for bankruptcy protection. Why it matters: Bed Bath & Beyond still had some 32,000 employees and 955 stores as of last summer. That included the company's other properties: buybuy Baby and Harmon. State of play: Bed Bath & Beyond has been distressed for years, having failed to reinvent itself in the digital age despite efforts to declutter its stores and remake its coupon strategy. The retailer said Thursday that it expects to report a 33% sales decline in the quarter that ended Nov. 26, "driven by lower customer traffic and reduced levels of inventory availability, among other factors." The company also said it expects to report a net loss of $386 million, up from $276 million a year earlier.

Scotland Police Rename Pedophiles as "Minor Attracted People" at Direction of E.U.
by European Conservative

After facing sharp criticism for referring to pedophiles as “minor-attracted people”—a label used to normalize sex abuse against children—in a high-level report, Scottish police have stated that they did so at the direction of the European Union. Scottish Police Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, in his year-end report which provides an overall assessment of policing performance for the annum, said that the force had been working to support a European project whose stated primary objective is to “avoid the victimization of children by engaging Minor-Attracted People (MAPs) and provide them with the necessary support, treatment and guidance to help prevent criminal activities.” Following intense publish backlash, with many suggesting the police were attempting to normalize sex crimes against children, a police spokesman claimed that the phrase “minor-attracted people” was not commonly used to describe pedophiles, and explained that the annual report’s reference to MAPs had to do with the police force’s involvement with the European Union’s Horizon Europe Project—Prevention of Child Sexual Exploitation.

Taiwan's Anti-Ship Missile Program Sends Instrument to China by Mistake
by Maritime Executive

Taiwan's missile development institute has come in for criticism after it sent a measurement device used for antiship missile production out for repairs - and it ended up in mainland China. Taiwan's National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) designs and builds the nation's antiship missiles, including the heavyweight Hsiung-Feng III (Brave Wind III). On its production line for the Hsiung-Feng III, the NCSIST uses a precision theodolite to take measurements of the missile, the launcher and other elements related to missile setup and testing. The device of choice is built by a Swiss manufacturer and is commonly employed in aerospace, shipbuilding and other manufacturing industries for the precise measurement of large objects. NCSIST purchased two theodolites in 2021. While the units were still under warranty, the institute decided to send them back to the Taiwanese distributor for factory service. The data cards containing measurement information were removed, and the equipment was shipped to Switzerland for repairs. The theodolites came back in good working order some months later. However, the device's repairs were actually carried out somewhere else - a regional service hub in Qingdao, China. When the delivery of two antiship missile test instruments to the mainland was discovered, it came as unwelcome news for Taiwanese security officials: any accidental release of data on the Hsiung-Feng III's systems and capabilities could allow China to engineer better defenses.

Japan to Use Self-Defense Forces to Guard Nuclear Power Plants
by Nikkei

The Japanese government will task the country's Self-Defense Forces with protecting critical infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants, as it plans to respond immediately if civilian facilities become the target of an attack. According to people familiar with the government's thinking, authorities will revise the SDF's operating policy, which is currently limited to responding to emergencies, and conduct peacetime drills with the police and Japan Coast Guard in municipalities where the SDF is located to practice intercepting missiles. In Japan's National Security Strategy, which was approved by the cabinet in December, the government states that measures to ensure the safety of critical facilities will be taken, not only in the event of an armed attack but in the run-up to a crisis that does not lead to such an attack.

Netanyahu Warns Iran Deal Still Possible, Vows to Revert to "Openly" Opposing It
by Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he would change Israel’s strategy toward countering Iranian nuclear ambitions, promising to bring the fight back to the court of public opinion. Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that it was still a “possibility” that Western powers would resuscitate efforts to sign a nuclear deal with Iran and that he would apply public pressure to prevent it. The most recently discussed nuclear agreement with Iran was panned as a “bad deal” by Israel’s previous government and security establishment, because it would release billions of dollars to Tehran without guaranteeing a real curb to its nuclear ambitions. Israel has long vowed it will act to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Google Paying Indiana $20 Million to Resolve Privacy Suit
by Insurance Journal

Google will pay Indiana $20 million to resolve the state’s lawsuit against the technology giant over allegedly deceptive location tracking practices, state Attorney General Todd Rokita announced. Rokitas filed a separate lawsuit against Google when negotiations between the company and a coalition of state attorneys general stalled, he said. Those states agreed to a $391.5 million settlement with the company in November. As a result of the separate lawsuit, Indiana received about twice as much money as it would have under the deal with the 40 states in the coalition, Rokita said in his announcement. States began investigating after a 2018 Associated Press story that found that Google continued to track people’s location data even after they opted out of such tracking by disabling a feature the company called “location history.” Google did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the deal with Indiana. Indiana’s lawsuit alleged Google uses location data to build detailed user profiles and target ads. It alleged that the company has deceived and misled users about its practices since at least 2014. Rokita said he sued Google because even a limited amount of location data can expose a person’s identity and routines. Such data can be used to infer personal details such as political or religious affiliation, income, health status or participation in support groups, as well as major life events such as marriage and the birth of children, he said.

U.K. Cost-of-Living Payments: Three Installments Totaling £900 Confirmed
by BBC

Eight million people receiving benefits and on low incomes will receive their £900 cost-of-living payments in three instalments, the government has said. The first payment of £301 will be made in the spring, with a second of £300 in the autumn and a final £299 instalment in the spring of 2024. Exact dates are yet to be finalised, but ministers said the money would help households with high energy bills. A £400 discount for all energy billpayers looks set to end by April. Charities have called on the government to do more to protect vulnerable households from soaring costs, claiming that support had not improved for those already struggling. The government also confirmed that a £150 cost-of-living payment would automatically go to those with disabilities during the summer, and a further £300 payment would be paid to pensioners during the winter of 2023-24. Cost-of-living payments have provided additional support for more vulnerable households, or those with higher energy costs, since the summer. The government also set a cap on the unit price of energy for households, which means the typical household pays £2,500 a year. This will rise to £3,000 a year when the cap is reset in April. However, the universal £400 discount, which is being paid in monthly instalments over this winter is not expected to be continued.

Japan's Business Owners Can't Find Successors as Young Dwindle
by New York Times

Hidekazu Yokoyama has spent three decades building a thriving logistics business on Japan’s snowy northern island of Hokkaido, an area that provides much of the country’s milk. Last year, he decided to give it all away. It was a radical solution for a problem that has become increasingly common in Japan, the world’s grayest society. As the country’s birthrate has plummeted and its population has grown older, the average age of business owners has risen to around 62. Nearly 60 percent of the country’s businesses report that they have no plan for what comes next. While Mr. Yokoyama, 73, felt too old to carry on much longer, quitting wasn’t an option: Too many farmers had come to depend on his company. “I definitely couldn’t abandon the business,” he said. But his children weren’t interested in running it. Neither were his employees. And few potential owners wanted to move to the remote, frozen north. So he placed a notice with a service that helps small-business owners in far-flung locales find someone to take over. The advertised sale price: zero yen. Mr. Yokoyama’s struggle symbolizes one of the most potentially devastating economic impacts of Japan’s aging society. It is inevitable that many small- and medium-size companies will go out of business as the population shrinks, but policymakers fear that the country could be hit by a surge in closures as aging owners retire en masse. In an apocalyptic 2019 presentation, Japan’s trade ministry projected that by 2025, around 630,000 profitable businesses could close up shop, costing the economy $165 billion and as many as 6.5 million jobs. Economic growth is already anemic, and the Japanese authorities have sprung into action in hopes of averting a catastrophe. Government offices have embarked on public relations campaigns to educate aging owners about options for continuing their businesses beyond their retirements and have set up service centers to help them find buyers. To sweeten the pot, the authorities have introduced large subsidies and tax breaks for new owners.

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