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International press review Extrema Ratio - 28 April

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law & national security.


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Extrema Ratio

G e N Iuvinale

Il 26 aprile 2023, Xi Jinping ha promulgato la quarta "Legge della Repubblica popolare cineseLegge della Repubblica popolare cinese contro lo spionaggio", la cui bozza è stata rivista e adottata in pari data dal Comitato permanente della XIV Assemblea nazionale del popolo. La norma entrerà in vigore il 1° luglio prossimo.

Tale nuova regolamentazione - che amplia la portata soggettiva ed oggettiva di quella precedente - presenta evidenti analogie con la legge sullintelligence nazionale (NIL) con particolare riferimento all'introduzione dell'obbligo erga omnes di collaborare con l'intelligence di stato, anche quando i soggetti passivi (cittadini, imprese , organizzazioni, ecc.) risiedono al di fuori dei confini nazionali.

In tal modo, tutte le persone fisiche e giuridiche interessate dalla legge sul controspionaggio divengono una potenziale estensione all'estero dell'intelligence di stato cinese.

G Iuvinale

The Chinese public security agency's "Fox Hunt 2022" operation arrested more than 700 people from overseas and recovered 1 billion yuan of stolen goods. The news published today by China News Agency.


China

  • A Chinese combat drone that state media says can carry a heavy weapons payload has flown around Taiwan, according to the island’s defense ministry. The drone was one of 19 military aircraft that had entered the island’s air defense identification zone in 24 hours. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.

  • China vows to retaliate if US continues case against police officers. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice charged 44 suspects involved in a ‘transnational repression scheme’ to harass Chinese nationals living in the US. Mao Ning, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, accused the US of ‘weaponising and politicising the law’. Vanessa Cai. South China Morning Post

  • Chinese navy ships head to Sudan on evacuation mission. 1300 Chinese citizens have been evacuated, according to Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning. Citizens from five other countries also used the Chinese ships to leave Sudan. Zhao Ziwen.South China Morning Post

  • Human rights organisations urge Thailand to improve immigration detention facilities after second uyghur asylum seeker dies in custody. Mattohti Mattursun had been detained in Thailand for more than nine years after fleeing China. Human Rights Watch called for an end to Thailand’s ‘inhumane and counterproductive’ policy of indefinitely detaining people accused of violating immigration law. Jintamas Saksornchai.The Independent

  • China expresses ‘strong dissatisfaction’ to South Korea over its joint statement with the United States. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is on a six-day visit to the US, during which a joint statement was issued that stressed the need for peace in the Taiwan Strait. Liz Lee.Reuters

  • Politburo says Chinese economy lacks ‘internal drive’. Top leaders met to discuss promoting consumption and stabilising investment in China. The meeting called for further development of NEVs, battery charging stations and the transformation of power grids. Evelyn Chang.CNBC

  • China investment consensus cracks as political discomfort sets in. Growing wariness in investment community over how to price new risks for capital in China. Tom Westbrook.Reuters

  • Germany’s China dilemma takes on a new urgency. Series of China papers and strategies signal growing alarm about China. Constanze Stelzenmüller.Financial Times

  • Why Xi Jinping’s self-serving call to Ukrainian president is bad news for Taiwan. In the high-profile exchange between Xi and Zelenskyy, Kyiv reaffirmed ‘Ukraine’s unwavering position on adherence to the “One China” policy’. Sophia Yan.The Telegraph

  • China is cracking down on bankers. Here are some of the targets. A profile of the prominent figures and firms in the financial sector that have been put under investigation or sanctions this year. Claire Fu.The New York Times

  • Chinese, Indian Defense Chiefs Seek to De-escalate Border Tensions. Li Shangfu’s visit to India (Bloomberg) yesterday marked the first time that a Chinese defense minister had traveled to India since 2020, when Chinese and Indian troops clashed in a deadly skirmish at their countries’ shared Himalayan border.

  • China/Japan: China’s ambassador to Japan said a Japanese employee of a pharmaceutical firm is being detained in China on suspicion of espionage (Nikkei). Tokyo has lodged an official protest over the incident.

Defence One Ma Xiu and Peter W. Singer

A now-deleted post reveals a research contract to test-fire 203mm shells, bigger than anything in the U.S. or Chinese arsenal.

Beijing’s cybersecurity review into US memory chip maker Micron opens opportunity for Chinese suppliers to fill gap in market South China Morning Post Ann Cao and Lilian Zhang China’s cybersecurity review into Micron Technology, the United States’ largest memory chip maker, has opened an opportunity for mainland suppliers, led by Yangtze Memory Technologies Co, to plug any potential gap in the market, according to local analysts and merchants.

China’s search engines have more than 66,000 rules controlling content, report says The New York Times Steven Lee Myers China’s internet censorship is well known, but a report has quantified the extent of it, uncovering more than 66,000 rules controlling the content that is available to people using search engines.

How translator-influencers bring banned foreign videos onto China’s internet Rest of World Emily Liu The Great Firewall can be breached. The barrier that blocks Chinese users from accessing international sites, from Facebook to LinkedIn, is routinely hopped by users in the country with VPNs. But even those without a technical bent can get a glimpse of what’s trending beyond the firewall, thanks to Weibo’s translator-influencers. These new influencers are dubbed “translator-creators” (译制博主). They take short videos from banned foreign social media platforms, like YouTube or TikTok, and translate, subtitle, and edit them for local consumption.

China’s dominance over U.S. solar market grows despite efforts to stem it The Wall Street Journal Phred Dvorak China is maintaining its tight grip on the U.S. solar market despite efforts to loosen it, according to new data, underscoring how tough it is to supplant Chinese producers with domestic suppliers.

The long arm of China’s overseas influence operations Foreign Policy Danielle Pletka On April 17, the FBI arrested two men, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, on federal criminal charges associated with the operation of a Chinese police outpost in Brooklyn, New York. These are the some of the first such charges against the more than a hundred overseas Chinese “police stations” operating internationally, many of them without the permission of the host country. “Today’s charges are a crystal clear response to the PRC that we are onto you, we know what you’re doing and we will stop it from happening in the United States of America,” Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney, said.

USA

  • Former Fugees rapper convicted for multi-million dollar foreign influence scheme. Pras Michel was found guilty of concealing foreign campaign contributions, as well as lobbying the Government to drop 1MDB investigation and deport Guo Wengui to China. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail. US Department of Justice

  • U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan gave a speech on Washington’s economic policy toward Beijing that echoed messaging (FP) from U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and European Union officials, who have argued against full economic decoupling from China. Sullivan’s speech came after some of Washington’s European allies expressed concerns about the hawkishness of U.S. economic policy toward China.

  • US-China ties are spiraling. The Cabinet’s stuck in a turf war. As tensions with China rise, three Cabinet secretaries are jockeying to be the US’ lead China envoy: Antony Blinken, Janet Yellen and Gina Raimondo. Bob Davis.Politico

  • The Biden administration yesterday announced plans to open new migrant processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala as part of efforts to reduce undocumented immigration. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people are expected to be processed monthly, but this will be scaled up. The number of deportations for those ineligible to be in the United States will also be doubled or tripled as the country braces for a spike in undocumented immigration when COVID-19 processing rules end in May. Will Grant and Kathryn Armstrong report for BBC News.

  • Iran has seized a U.S.-bound oil tanker from international waters in the Gulf of Oman, according to the U.S. Navy’s Central Command yesterday. The vessel had sailed from Kuwait and was broadcasting its destination as Houston, Texas. Iran’s conventional army said the seizure followed a collision with an Iranian boat, injuring two. The crew of the seized vessel said they did not know of a collision or why their ship had been targeted. David Sheppard and Najmeh Bozorgmehr report for the Financial Times.

  • Jack Teixeira, accused of leaking intelligence reports, kept an arsenal of guns and said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people,” prosecutors said yesterday, calling for Teixeira to remain in jail for his trial. The judge put off an immediate decision on whether Teixeira should be kept in custody. Nomaan Merchant and Michelle R. Smith report for AP News.

  • Members of an all-female tactical combat unit in Afghanistan, who were evacuated during the United States withdrawal, met with lawmakers in Congress yesterday, saying that their service in Afghanistan has earned them the right to stay in America permanently. The soldiers are in the United States under a two-year humanitarian parole set to expire in August. The soldiers hope to revive a bill to create a legal pathway for permanent residency for Afghans who had risked their lives to help Americans. The bill stalled amid Republican concerns about vetting. Luke Broadwater and Ava Sasani report for the New York Times.

  • Three soldiers were killed, and a fourth was injured after two helicopters collided in mid-air and crashed in Alaska yesterday, the 11th Airborne Division said. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Phil Helsel reports for NBC News.

  • A federal appeals court sided with Governor Ron DeSantis yesterday when it overturned a lower court’s decision on a controversial voting law. In March 2022, District Judge Mark Walker ruled that the law, which would restrict the use of drop boxes and set new requirements for voter registration groups, was discriminatory against minorities and placed unconstitutional burdens on voters. Walker ordered the state to get court approval a decade before enacting changes in three election law areas. However, the Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Walker’s order was based on legal errors and “clearly erroneous” findings of fact. Bruce Ritchie and Gary Fineout report for POLITICO.

Washington becomes first state to adopt health data protections post-Roe The Washington Post Cat Zakrzewski Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed a first-of-its-kind bill into law that creates new protections for reproductive data, responding to concerns that sensitive data collected and sold by tech companies could be used to aid prosecutions related to abortions after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Bipartisan Senate bill would ban social media algorithms for minors TechCrunch Morgan Sung In a bipartisan effort to “protect kids from harm,” an unlikely cohort of senators introduced a bill that would restrict minors’ access to social media, as well as ban companies from using algorithms to recommend content to minors.

The rapid rise of generative AI threatens to upend US patent system Financial Times Richard Waters When members of the US supreme court refused this week to hear a groundbreaking case that sought to have an artificial intelligence system named as the inventor on a patent, it appeared to lay to rest a controversial idea that could have transformed the intellectual property field. The justices’ decision, in the case of Thaler vs Vidal, leaves in place two lower court rulings that only “natural persons” can be awarded patents. The decision dealt a blow to claims that intelligent machines are already matching human creativity in important areas of the economy and deserve similar protections for their ideas. But while the court’s decision blocked a potentially radical extension of patent rights, it has done nothing to calm growing worries that AI is threatening to upend other aspects of intellectual property law.

Cyber thieves target new victims with more sophisticated card-skimming devices CBS News Ash-har Quraishi, Amy Corral and Ryan Beard Data analytics company FICO monitors more than 2 billion financial transactions a month, looking for unusual spending behavior, things that are out of the ordinary like skimming. According to data it collected, the number of compromised cards jumped 368% last year compared to the year before.

How technology is changing immigration lines Foreign Policy Rishi Iyengar and Clara Gutman-Argemí According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency as of last year had around 1,800 fewer agents than it needed to process people entering the United States. And the problem will likely get worse before it gets better, even though CBP has lots of fancy new gear that is meant precisely to streamline the whole process. The agency acknowledges it’s an issue. CBP has deployed a patchwork of different technologies over the past decade to ease the load, starting with “automated passport control” kiosks that it debuted in 2013 that allowed incoming travelers to scan their passport, take their picture, and, when necessary, provide fingerprints and additional information. As of now, however, CBP is increasingly leaning on a biometric facial comparison system known as Simplified Arrival.

Americas

  • Upcoming Paraguayan Election to Highlight Taiwan Policies. Efraín Alegre, the opposition’s chief presidential candidate in Sunday’s national elections, has vowed to review Paraguay’s diplomatic relations (AP) with Taiwan if elected. Paraguay is the only country in South America that officially recognizes Taiwan.

  • U.S./Colombia/Guatemala: U.S. officials announced the establishment of migrant processing centers (Politico) in Colombia and Guatemala that will screen northbound migrants for refugee resettlement. More centers will be set up in other countries as Washington seeks to stem migrant flows that are expected to increase when pandemic-related border policies expire next month.

Brazilian court orders suspension of Telegram over neo-Nazi groups The Wall Street Journal Samantha Pearson A Brazilian court ordered internet providers to suspend the messaging app Telegram in the country, saying it failed to supply information on neo-Nazi groups connected to school shootings—the latest in a series of clashes between Brazil’s authorities and the platform.

Australia

Cybersecurity Connect

David Hollingworth

While the Chinese Communist Party may have softened its diplomatic rhetoric in recent years, a new report suggests that it has nonetheless been ramping up its use of online influence operations — particularly when it comes to influencing Western democracies. The new report — Gaming public opinion: The CCP’s increasingly sophisticated cyber-enabled influence operations, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute — has revealed the extent of the pro-China Spamouflage network’s covert influencing operations on a range of platforms.

Foreign Policy

Danielle Pletka

Another nexus is with China’s talent recruitment effort- a reverse brain drain program that seeks to encourage, lure, or pressgang both Chinese nationals and foreigners to the mainland to work in critical tech areas. Unsurprisingly, much of this talent recruitment is aimed at attracting tech transfer to People’s Liberation Army-affiliated companies. The Thousand Talents Think Tank, for instance, “claims to hold data on 12 million overseas scientists, including 2.2 million ethnic Chinese scientists and engineers,” according to an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report.

AGL asks fed gov for stronger cyber security leadership iTnews Richard Chirgwin The federal government needs to set a better example on cyber security - hardening its systems, achieving mandated maturity levels and sharing threat intelligence with the community, AGL Energy has argued.

Business groups balk at tougher cyber rules for directors InnovationAus Joseph Brookes Australia’s business and employer groups have rejected proposals that would see them face tougher rules and more responsibility for cyber incidents, but are open to a new Cyber Security Act if it consolidates existing regulations.

‘End of an era’: Cyber accelerator program CyRise to shut down The Australian David Swan Australia’s only dedicated cyber security accelerator CyRise is shutting down, with backers Deakin University and Japanese giant NTT deciding the program has “come to its natural conclusion” despite rampant interest in the fast-growing sector.

Asia

  • UN Security Council Condemns Taliban’s Ban on Women UN Employees. The fifteen-member Security Council unanimously passed (UN News) a resolution calling for the immediate reversal of the ban, which the Taliban implemented earlier this month.

  • China/Pakistan: A Pakistani court ruled that a Chinese national accused of blasphemy committed no wrongdoing (Bloomberg). The man has been granted bail until his case concludes, which could take several months.

Ukraine - Russia

  • Senate Armed Services Committee members rebuked top military commanders at a hearing yesterday and called for the expedited delivery of Abrams tanks as Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive to retake territory from Russia. Senators on both sides of the aisle are frustrated with the Pentagon’s monthslong timeline for shipping the tanks. Connor O’Brien reports for POLITICO.

  • The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia’s Federal Security Service and the intelligence organization for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for what it said was a pattern of wrongfully detaining Americans to use them for political leverage. Vivian Salama and Ann M. Simmons report for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Amnesty International has for months refused to publish a report that is critical of Amnesty’s accusation that Ukrainian forces violated international humanitarian law by putting civilians in danger. While the report acknowledged that it is “entirely appropriate” for a rights organization to criticize violations by a victim of aggression, “provided that there is sufficient evidence of such violations,” it concluded Amnesty’s accusation was “not sufficiently substantiated” by the available evidence. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.

  • At least 12 people have been killed after Russia launched a wave of air strikes on cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv. Ukraine’s air defense system shot down 21 out of 23 missiles and two attack drones, officials said in a post on Telegram. Hugo Bachega and Antoinette Radford report for BBC News.

  • The Iranian drones sold to Russia are powered by an engine based on stolen German technology, according to Conflict Armament Research, a UK-based organization that investigates weapons’ components. Tim Lister reports for CNN.

  • Kyiv Vows Response to Deadly Russian Missiles Strikes Russia will “face a fair response” (Reuters) to missile attacks that killed at least nineteen people (AP) in central and southeastern Ukraine last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on the social media platform Telegram. The missile barrage was the first to target Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv in nearly two months, though no casualties were reported there. Most of the deaths occurred at an apartment building in central Ukraine, far from the war’s front lines, and three children were among those killed.

  • Ukraine’s defense minister said today that the country’s forces are ready to launch (AFP) a long-awaited ground counteroffensive that aims to take back Russia-occupied territories. Ukraine’s foreign minister said the latest strikes on civilians showed that Russia is not interested in a peace deal.

Ukrainian man arrested for selling data on 300 million people to Russians The Record by Recorded Future Daryna Antoniuk A 36-year-old Ukrainian citizen was arrested this week for allegedly selling the personal data of over 300 million people to Russia, the Ukrainian cyber police said in a statement. The man used the messaging app Telegram to market the stolen information,which included passport data, taxpayer numbers, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and bank account data belonging to citizens of Ukraine and various European countries.

Pro-Russian hacktivism isn’t real, top Ukrainian cyber official says CyberScoop AJ Vicens In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a flurry of pro-Russian “hacktivist” groups have claimed to carry out attacks on Russian enemies in a fit of patriotism. But that’s largely a fiction, a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official told CyberScoop on Thursday. Most of those groups are fronts for various Russian government agencies, and in other cases, they are coerced by the Russian government into performing attacks or publishing hacked materials obtained by more established Russian government hacking units, said Illia Vitiuk, the head of the Department of Cyber Information Security in the Security Service of Ukraine.

Europe

  • Pope Francis will meet with Ukrainian war refugees today while visiting Hungary (BBC), where he is expected to spread a pro-migration message. The pope and Hungarian President Viktor Orbán have both called for peace in Ukraine, though Pope Francis’s statements more clearly stress Ukraine’s right to self-defense.

  • UK and Europe falling behind in biotech, says Astrazeneca boss. Pascal Soriot said progress in China had been ‘incredible’ in recent years but recent tax moves in the UK were making it ‘very unattractive for companies to invest’ here. Julia Kollewe.The Guardian

  • Scholz’ determination for China port deal triggers row in German coalition. Scholz and Social Democratic Party allies face objections by Greens and Free Democratic Party over proposed COSCO investment in Hamburg Port. Hans von der Burchard and Gabriel Rinaldi.Politico

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to deepen their economic, trade, and agricultural cooperation. Putin was speaking at a ceremony to mark the delivery of nuclear fuel to Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, which Russia is building. Reuters reports.

Germany in talks to limit export of chip chemicals to China Bloomberg Michael Nienaber, Jenny Leonard and Kamil Kowalcze Germany is in talks to limit the export of chemicals to China that are used to manufacture semiconductors as Berlin steps up efforts to reduce its economic exposure to the Asian nation. The proposal is part of a package of measures that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is discussing that would cut off China’s access to goods and services needed for the production of advanced semiconductors, according to people familiar with the matter.

How China’s Huawei spooked Germany into launching a probe POLITICO Louis Westendarp The latest freak-out over Chinese telecommunications equipment in Germany, which led to the announcement of a probe in March, has its origins in a little-known piece of Huawei technology that is supposed to control power consumption, POLITICO can reveal.

UK

  • UK/Yemen: Authorities from the United Kingdom (UK) said they are investigating an “incident” in which unidentified assailants fired at a UK vessel (Bloomberg) off the coast of Yemen.

Sports Direct owner defends live face-recognition camera use BBC Chris Vallance Sports Direct's parent company says live face-recognition technology has cut crime in its shops. The cameras check faces against a watch-list, using a system called Facewatch. On Monday, 50 MPs and peers supported a letter opposing the use of LFR by Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, which owns the company and other chains such as Flannels.

Misc

Hackers are finding ways to evade latest cybersecurity tools Bloomberg Jordan Robertson As hacking has gotten more destructive and pervasive, a powerful type of tool from companies including CrowdStrike and Microsoft has become a boon for the cybersecurity industry. Called endpoint detection and response software, it’s designed to spot early signs of malicious activity on laptops, servers and other devices – “endpoints” on a computer network — and block them before intruders can steal data or lock the machines.

America’s first IVF baby is pitching a way to pick the DNA of your kids MIT Technology Review Antonio Regalado Elizabeth Carr is head of commercial development at Genomic Prediction, a New Jersey genetic testing startup that says it will assess embryos created in IVF clinics for their future chance of common diseases and then rank them, so parents can pick the one with the best future.

Middle Estern and Africa

  • Israel Independence Day cyberattack takes down major news website The Jerusalem Post The websites of major Israeli news outlet Maariv, sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, was taken offline on Wednesday, Israeli Independence Day, in a DDoS cyberattack. Credit for the cyberattack was claimed by the group Anonymous Sudan. The group said the attack was meant to coincide with Independence Day.

  • Heavy fighting continues in Sudan’s capital, despite the rival factions of Sudan’s military agreeing to renew a three-day ceasefire shortly before it expired. At least 512 people were killed in the fighting, and almost 4,200 were injured. Robert Greenall reports for BBC News.

  • Burkina Faso: At least thirty-three soldiers were killed (Reuters) when insurgents attacked a military outpost in the country’s east. The army said its fighters killed dozens of the attackers.

  • An estimated 200,000 people attended one of Israel’s largest right-wing demonstrations yesterday supporting the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary. The crowd was mostly comprised of Israelis from the religious Zionist group who believe secular liberal elites control the judiciary, the mainstream media, and the bureaucratic establishment. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.

  • Tens of Thousands Rally in Jerusalem to Support Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul. The mass demonstrations last night showed support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s justice system. It prompted opponents of the reforms to pledge further protests (Haaretz) of their own.

Research

Missing Links: A comparison of search censorship in China Citizen Lab Jeffrey Knockel, Ken Kato, and Emile Dirks Search engines are the information gatekeepers of the Internet. As such, search platform operators have a responsibility to ensure that their services provide impartial results. However, in this report, we show how search platforms operating in China infringe on their users’ rights to freely access political and religious content, by implementing rules to either block all results for a search query or by only selectively showing results from certain sources, depending on the presence of triggering content in the query.

The main resource is the human: A survey of AI researchers on the importance of compute Center for Security and Emerging Technology Micah Musser, Rebecca Gelles, Ronnie Kinoshita, Catherine Aiken and Andrew Lohn Progress in artificial intelligence depends on talented researchers, well-designed algorithms, quality datasets, and powerful hardware. The relative importance of these factors is often debated, with many recent “notable” models requiring massive expenditures of advanced hardware. But how important is computational power for AI progress in general? This data brief explores the results of a survey of more than 400 AI researchers to evaluate the importance and distribution of computational needs.


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? (Italian)

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

To download the book index, preface and introduction: https://www.extremarationews.com/reuters-news

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