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last updated 02:40 GMT w/ 3 items on 2023.5.14

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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