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

U.S. Judge Orders Norwegian Cruise Line to Pay $110 Million for Use of Cuba Port
by Maritime Professional

Norwegian Cruise Line must pay $110 million in damages for use of a port that Cuba's government confiscated in 1960, a U.S. judge ruled on Friday, a milestone for Cuban-Americans seeking compensation for Cold-War era asset seizures. The decision by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami follows her March ruling that the use of the Havana Cruise Port Terminal constituted trafficking in confiscated property owned by the plaintiff, Delaware-registered Havana Docks Corp. Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has harshly criticized the Helms-Burton Act, describing it as an extra-territorial violation of international law. Havana Docks had also sued cruise lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC under the Helms-Burton Act, which allows U.S. nationals to sue over use of property seized in Cuba after 1959. The ruling could fuel more lawsuits by Cuban exiles pursuing claims, which according to one estimate are worth $2 billion, over asset seizures under late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It may also serve as a reminder to multinational firms of the complications that can come with doing business in Cuba.

Latest Launch Marks 64th Mission for China in 2022
by Space Daily

China launched a Long March 3B carrier rocket on Thursday afternoon to transport an experimental satellite into space, completing the busiest year in terms of launch numbers for the country's space industry. The rocket blasted off at 12:43 pm at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province and then deployed the Shiyan 10-02 experimental satellite into a preset orbit, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the nation's leading space contractor, said in a news release. Among the Long March flights in 2022, the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology carried out 30, while 23 were made by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. Both are subsidiaries of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. Multiple sources inside China's space industry confirmed on Thursday that there will be no other launches in the country this year. This was the first time that China conducted more than 60 rocket liftoffs in a year. Long Lehao, a top rocket scientist at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said on Thursday that about 27 percent of all Long March flights this year were undertaken by new types of rockets developed in recent years. In 2021, China conducted 55 space launches, with the Long March series carrying out 48 of them. The final launch last year was also made by the Long March 3B model.

China Starts Work on the World's Largest Desert-Based Energy Project
by Oilprice.com

China has broken ground on a renewable energy project worth an estimated $11 billion in the province of Inner Mongolia. According to a Bloomberg report, the project will have a capacity of 16 GW and produce some 40 billion kWh of electricity to Beijing and the provinces of Tianjin and Hebei. The project will combine solar, wind, and upgraded coal power, and is set to become the largest renewable energy project in a desert region. China is the country with the greatest wind and solar generation capacity and it has one of the most ambitious investment programs for renewables, despite its still-heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Besides being the world’s largest wind and solar power generator, China also dominates the market for solar panel components, particularly panels, and is on an international expansion path with its wind energy technology. This dominance has put Europe and the U.S. on high alert as political relations between these two and China have not been the best lately. As a result, both the EU and the U.S. are trying to reduce their dependence on China in renewable energy but with few alternatives readily available, it would be a difficult task.

Egypt's Currency Crisis Is Creating a Massive Port Backlog
by The Maritime Executive

A major hard currency crisis in Egypt is causing a massive backlog across the country’s ports, where goods worth $9.5 billion are stuck - even as the government engages in desperate measures to facilitate their release and avoid a spike in the prices of essential commodities. With Egypt sinking deeper into a prolonged economic crisis, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country’s ports have recently been clogging up with goods due to a dollar shortage, a crisis which has been worsened by a substantial nosedive of the Egyptian pound. The currency has depreciated by about 36 percent since the beginning of the year. Over the period from December 1-23, the government - which has imposed restrictions on imports to save foreign currency - managed to release goods worth $5 billion. Other cargoes worth $9.5 billion are still being held at the country's ports awaiting the securing of dollars required to release them. Priority is being given to food products, food manufacturing components, medicines and production goods.

Israeli Minister Sees Possible Attack on Iran "in Two or Three Years"
by Arab News

Israel could attack Iranian nuclear sites in two or three years, its defense minister said on Wednesday, in unusually explicit comments about a possible timeline. With international efforts to renew a 2015 nuclear deal having stalled, the Iranians have ramped up uranium enrichment, a process with civilian uses that can also eventually yield fuel for nuclear bombs — though they deny having any such design. Experts say Iran could potentially raise the fissile purity of its uranium to weapons-grade in short order. But building a deliverable warhead would take it years, they say — an estimate echoed by an Israeli military intelligence general this month. “In two or three years, you may be traversing the skies eastward and taking part in an attack on nuclear sites in Iran,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told graduating air force cadets in a speech. For more than a decade, Israel has issued veiled threats to attack its arch-enemy’s nuclear facilities if it deems world powers’ diplomacy with Tehran a dead end. However, some experts doubt Israel has the military clout to deliver lasting damage to Iranian targets that are distant, dispersed and well-defended. Under an ambiguity policy designed to deter surrounding foes while avoiding provocations that can spur arms races, Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weaponry. Scholars believe it does, having acquired the first bomb in late 1966. Unlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory to the voluntary Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, which offers access to civilian nuclear technologies in exchange for the forswearing of nuclear weaponry.

Vivid New Photos Give Look at the Islands China Has Fully Militarized
by Business Insider

Want to see what China's island bases in the South China Sea look like? Take a look at some of the startling images taken by Getty Images photographer Ezra Acayan in October. They show airfields, radar installations, and military aircraft and warships stationed in the Spratly Islands, which are about 400 miles from the Chinese coast. Beijing has used both natural and artificial islands to build up its military capabilities in the area. "The function of those islands is to expand the offensive capability of the PRC beyond their continental shores," Adm. John Aquilino, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, warned in March, referring to the country's official name, the People's Republic of China. From those bases, Chinese forces "can fly fighters, bombers plus all those offensive capabilities of missile systems," such as anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, Aquilino told the Associated Press at the time, calling the islands fully militarized.

Face of U.S. Changing as Foreigners Become Major Driver of Population Growth
by Sputnik News

As growth in the US population is showing early indicators of recovery after the COVID pandemic, net migration has emerged as the largest driver behind the trend, according to the US Census Bureau. Considerably low growth rates in the US between 2020 and 2021 were followed by an uptick: the US resident population increased by 1,256,003, to 333,287,557 in 2022, according to the US Census Bureau’s Vintage 2022 data. The changes in annual growth came at a time of the simmering southern border crisis under the Biden administration. According to Customs and Border Protection data, the number of total encounters with illegals at the border during the fiscal year 2022 reached a staggering 2,378,944, while in 2021 it was 1,734,686. For comparison's sake, under then-President Donald Trump it was 458,088 in 2020; and 977,509 in 2019. The influx of international migrants – both legal and illegal – which considerably outpaces the natural change in the US is set to change the face of America in the coming decades. Thus, according to the US Census Bureau's earlier projections, a majority of the US population will be non-white by the year 2050. Demographers suggest that the white share of the US population has been dropping since 1950 and will continue to go down in the future. For their part, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans will emerge as the nation's main demographic engine. In 2019, a Pew Research poll concerning future demographic changes in the US found that just a third of American adults said that this change would be either very (17%) or somewhat (18%) good; roughly a quarter said it would be very (15%) or somewhat (8%) bad; and 42% say the change would be neither good nor bad. At the same time, however, about half of Americans said that this shift could lead to more conflicts between racial and ethnic groups. About four-in-ten suggested that a majority non-white population could "weaken American customs and values."

China's Space Station Releases Small Test Satellite into Orbit
by Space.com

China has released a small test satellite into orbit from its recently completed Tiangong space station. The satellite was released from a deployer on the Tianzhou 5 cargo ship, which is currently docked at Tiangong. Tianzhou 5 launched on Nov. 12 with the primary mission of delivering supplies to the space station to support the three Shenzhou 15 mission astronauts but also carried a number of cubesats. The cubesat has been cataloged by the U.S. Space Force's 18th Space Defense Squadron, which focuses on space domain awareness. The satellite is in a roughly circular orbit with an average altitude of 239 miles (385 kilometers) above Earth.

BHP Set to Face $12 Billion U.K. Suit Over Brazil Dam Disaster
by Mining.com

A UK judge set a trial date of April 2024 for a case against BHP Group over a Brazilian mining-waste disaster, with claimants seeking an estimated £10 billion ($12 billion). An eight-week hearing is scheduled to proceed almost nine years after a dam collapse unleashed a torrent of waste, killing 19 and polluting waterways in two Brazilian states. “Given the scale and nature of the litigation, it is not surprising that there have been challenges, appeals and changes to the claims,” Judge Finola O’Farrell wrote in a judgment published Wednesday. “However, it is now time to avoid further delay and make substantive progress in determining the dispute.” Current and former executives of London-listed BHP will face cross examination regarding their roles in the disaster, according to Pogust Goodhead, the firm leading the case on behalf of more than 400,000 Brazilian claimants. It will be the largest group litigation in English civil court history, the firm estimates. BHP said in an email the hearing will not consider any compensation payment and that there has been no decision regarding BHP’s alleged liability or whether and when there will be any determination of payments to plaintiffs.

NIH Awards $2.8 Million to Use AI for Precision Dosing
by Healthcare IT News

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Laboratory of Applied Pharmacokinetics and Bioinformatics at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles $2.8 million over four years to use artificial intelligence to anticipate dosing and target the condition of individual critically ill patients over time and improve clinical treatment. The lab will build a series of neural networks to predict variability in kidney function in children over time and how that influences their response to medication. By tapping into the hospital's massive Virtual Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (VPICU) database, machine learning could unlock the patterns in the clinical measurements from 20,000 critically ill children who have been treated at the hospital since 2009, according to the announcement. Variables like medication volume and clearance in a child's body can change from day to day or moment to moment. "Doctors can estimate the dose of medication needed, but that may not necessarily be the right dose for a particular patient. We make models of drug systems in patients to try to understand how the drug is behaving," Dr. Michael Neely, professor of pediatrics and clinical scholar at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, said in a statement. Computer modeling of how medications behave in patients can account for dosing differences among individuals to some extent but is limited at using present or past measurements to predict future dosages. The researchers will test these algorithms using 5,000 VPICU blood plasma measurements of the antibiotic vancomycin to measure patient exposure over time.

Chinese EV Maker Nio Hit in US$2.25 Million Ransomware Data Breach

Chinese smart electric vehicle (EV) start-up Nio said on Wednesday it was being blackmailed by hackers who have stolen user and vehicle sales data and are asking for US$2.25 million in bitcoin as ransom. “Nio deeply regrets that this incident happened and is doing everything possible to support its users,” William Li Bin, Nio’s founder, CEO and chairman, said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Shanghai-based Nio issued a statement in Chinese late on Tuesday on its own community app explaining that the company had received an email on December 11, in which the sender claimed to have access to Nio’s internal data. They were also demanding US$2.25 million in bitcoin in return for not releasing this data. The automobiles industry, and smart carmakers in particular, have reported many data security concerns recently. German tyre maker Continental, for example, revealed in November that it had lost 40 terabytes of data during a cyberattack it reported in August.

$698 Million Deal Ending Oregon's Monsanto PCB Pollution Lawsuit
by Insurance Journal

Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, will pay Oregon $698 million to end a lawsuit over PCB pollution associated with products made by Monsanto, the agriculture giant it now owns. It’s the largest environmental damage recovery in Oregon’s history and “magnitudes larger” than any other state settlement over PCB contamination by Monsanto, Rosenblum said. The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Oregon against Monsanto in 2018 for 90 years of pollution in the state until PCBs were banned in the late 1970s. PCBs are toxic compounds formerly used in coolants, electrical equipment such as fluorescent lights, and other devices. They still contaminate Oregon’s landfills and riverbeds and show up in fish and wildlife. “Monsanto’s toxic legacy unfortunately lives on in our lands, rivers and other waterways, and poses ongoing risks to the health of our people and our environment,” Rosenblum said. “This is all the more reason why this settlement is so vitally important. Oregon and Oregonians will be the better for it.” Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, said in a statement that the settlement over “legacy Monsanto PCB products” fully resolves all Oregon’s claims and releases the company from any future liability. The Oregon agreement contains no admission of liability or wrongdoing by the company, the statement said.

Some 11% of Young Dutch Can't Find a New home; Doubled Since 2015
by NL Times

The proportion of young adults who would like to move to a new home but cannot find one has doubled in the past six years. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), about 11 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 wanted to move in 2021, but were unable to do so. In 2015, roughly 5 percent were looking for a new home but could not find one. That includes about 12.3 percent of young adults who want to move out of their parents’ home, and a similar 13.0 percent, or 1 in 8 young people, in a social housing rental unit who cannot find a suitable home when looking for a change. The proportion is less for young people living in an owner-occupied home, with about 3.6 percent unable to find a new residence when they wanted to move last year. According to CBS economist Peter Hein van Mulligen, these trends are not only noticeable among young people. The tight housing market means "if you haven't moved yet, it's more difficult to achieve.” Tenants looking for other rental properties are also often disappointed. In recent years, housing corporations have built little or no additional homes. "Affordable rent has also become less accessible as a result," says Van Mulligen.

U.S. Farmland Escapes Real Estate Slump as Prices Soar to Record
by Bloomberg

Buying a plot of land in rural America has never been so expensive. And that's even with soaring interest rates. Rising commodity prices mean farmers made record amounts of money this year, spurring a rush for space to plant in 2023. More demand comes just as people fled to the countryside during the pandemic - with non-metropolitan areas growing faster than urban ones - and investors turned to fields as a hedge against inflation. Farmland prices in the Midwest, the nation's breadbasket, jumped 20% just in the third quarter from a year earlier - bucking a downturn in the residential real estate market, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the National Association of Realtors. That was the eleventh consecutive quarter of gains, the longest streak since 2014. More demand for farmland coincides with pandemic-induced shifts in population. The number of people living in non-metro counties rose 0.3% in the 12 months ended in July 2021, the first time the growth in rural population outpaced that of urban areas since the mid-1990s, according to USDA. Tom Halverson, chief executive officer of CoBank, a cooperative lender serving rural America, said the expansion of broadband and the ability to work from home helped fuel that shift. Farmland has also become more attractive as owners seek to make money from the shift to clean energy. Demand for renewable diesel - made from vegetable oils but with identical chemical properties to the petroleum-based fuel - is expected to triple in the next five years, according to BloombergNEF.

Calls for Iranian Forces to Close Strait of Hormuz
by Rigzone

Set against the backdrop of continuing internal disquiet in Iran, media outlets loyal to the regime call for Iranian forces to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to what it cites as foreign intervention. That’s what Dryad Global noted in its latest Maritime Security Threat Advisory (MSTA), adding that Egypt has assumed responsibility for the CTF (Combined Task Force) - 153 within the Red Sea area. “The closure of the Strait of Hormuz is a popular call in Iran, especially in times of turbulence,” Dryad Global stated in the MSTA. “However, in reality, Iran processes little capability to realize this. Further still this would be significantly against Iranian strategies interests,” Dryad Global added in the MSTA. Last week, the Egypt State Information Service (SIS) website announced that Egyptian naval forces took over the command of CTF - 153 on December 13. The organization is tasked with combating illegal activities in the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden, SIS - which describes itself as the nation’s ‎main informational, awareness and public relations agency - noted.

China Accused of Building on Unoccupied Reefs in South China Sea
by Bloomberg

China is building up several unoccupied land features in the South China Sea, according to Western officials, which they said was part of Beijing’s long-running effort to strengthen claims to disputed territory and potentially bolster its military presence in a region critical to global trade. Fishing fleets that operate as de facto maritime militias under the control of authorities in Beijing have carried out construction activities at four features in the Spratly Islands over the past decade, according to officials with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified to discuss sensitive information. Some sand bars and other formations in the area expanded more than 10 times in size in recent years, they said. Satellite photos shared with Bloomberg News depicted what they said was a Chinese maritime vessel offloading an amphibious hydraulic excavator used in land reclamation projects at Eldad Reef in the northern Spratlys in 2014. New land formations have since appeared above water over the past year, according to the officials, who said that images showed large holes, debris piles and excavator tracks at a site that used to be only partially exposed at high tide. They said similar activities have also taken place at Lankiam Cay, known as Panata Island in the Philippines, where a feature had been reinforced with a new perimeter wall over the course of just a couple of months last year. Other images they presented showed physical changes at both Whitsun Reef and Sandy Cay, where previously submerged features now sit permanently above the high-tide line. While China has previously built out reefs, islands and land formations that it had long controlled — even establishing small outposts and runways in some cases — the latest images represent what the officials called the first known instances of a nation doing so on territory it doesn’t already occupy. The officials warned that Beijing was seeking to advance a new status quo by building up the cays and reefs in the Spratly Islands, even though they said it was too early to know whether China would seek to militarize them.

Spain Will Not Support "So-Called Kosovo's" E.U. Bid
by Tanjug

Spanish Secretary of State for the EU Pascal Navarro said on Tuesday his government would not back an EU membership bid submitted by the so-called Kosovo as it did not recognise the territory as independent. "Spain does not recognise Kosovo as independent and will therefore vote against any procedural decision and against giving Kosovo candidate status," the notimerica.com news portal quoted Navarro as telling a Senate commission on EU affairs. "The government will not back the candidacy in the present circumstances, and that stance has not changed," Navarro noted. Spain is one of the five EU member states that do not recognise the so-called Kosovo, alongside Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia.

The Risk of Escalation from Cyber Attacks Has Never Been Greater

In 2022, an American dressed in his pajamas took down North Korea’s Internet from his living room. Fortunately, there was no reprisal against the United States. But Kim Jong Un and his generals must have weighed retaliation and asked themselves whether the so-called independent hacker was a front for a planned and official American attack. In 2023, the world might not get so lucky. There will almost certainly be a major cyberattack. It could shut down Taiwan’s airports and trains, paralyze British military computers, or swing a US election. This is terrifying, because each time this happens, there is a small risk that the aggrieved side will respond aggressively, maybe at the wrong party, and (worst of all) even if it carries the risk of nuclear escalation. This is because cyber weapons are different from conventional ones. They are cheaper to design and wield. That means great powers, middle powers, and pariah states can all develop and use them. Researchers have worked on this problem using game theory, the science of strategy. If you’ve ever played a game of poker, the logic is intuitive: It doesn’t make sense to bluff and call none of the time, and it doesn’t make sense to bluff and call all of the time. Either strategy would be both predictable and unimaginably costly. The right move, rather, is to call and bluff some of the time, and to do so unpredictably. With cyber, uncertainty over who is attacking pushes adversaries in a similar direction. The US shouldn’t retaliate none of the time (that would make it look weak), and it shouldn’t respond all of the time (that would retaliate against too many innocents). Its best move is to retaliate some of the time, somewhat capriciously—even though it risks retaliating against the wrong foe. The same logic guides potential attackers. Knowing the US won’t retaliate all of the time and might even punish the wrong country creates an incentive to take electronic risks—ones they would never take with a missile.

Fierce Dogfights in the Aegean – Over 100 Violations by Turkish Fighters
by Tovima

The Turks in the Aegean exceeded all limits of provocation today by carrying out massive violations with dozens of fighters, even armed ones. The Greek fighters proceeded to intercepts after fierce air battles, while after many years there were 20 engagements between Greek and Turkish fighters. According to the data made public by GEETHA, 32 Turkish F-16s, including 20 armed ones, i.e. an entire squadron, violated the National Airspace 43 times, while another 59 violations were carried out by an Unmanned Aircraft, reaching a total of 102 violations. Violations occurred almost all over the Aegean, North-East, Central and South-East while all the Turkish ones were recognized and intercepted according to international rules, according to standard practice.

U.K. Government Proclaims Netflix Password Sharing Now "Illegal"
by TorrentFreak

The UK Government's Intellectual Property Office published new piracy guidance today, and it contains a small, easily missed detail. People who share their Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+ passwords are violators of copyright law. And it gets worse. The IPO informs TorrentFreak that password sharing could also mean criminal liability for fraud. Following a limited launch in 2007 with just 1,000 titles, Neflix now carries more than 6,600 movies and TV shows for the enjoyment of more than 223 million subscribers. There’s little doubt that Netflix password sharing contributed to the company’s growth and by publicly condoning it, the practice was completely normalized – globally. The message was clear – Netflix loves you, you love Netflix, and now all your friends love Netflix too. Thanks for sharing. Netflix and similar streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime and Disney+, still want you to love them, but password sharing? Not so much.

U.K. Sees More Hoarding of Supplies as Financial and Energy Crises Escalates
by Sky News

Behind a locked door in Barry's house is a room he's been getting ready for the past year. Driven by uncertainty, he has been stockpiling food, first aid, torches and battery-powered lamps. "The cost-of-living crisis, power outages, fuel shortages, those things I'm well prepared for now," he says. On the shelves are at least a dozen boxes of tinned and dried food goods - all carefully labelled and meticulously stored to keep them dry and airtight. "There is about four months of food for three of us, here at the moment," Barry says. "But my goal now is to have enough food, for three of us, for six months." Asked why, he replies: "Because you just don't know. Life is just very unpredictable right now." Barry is a so-called prepper, part of a growing community in the UK defined by the phrase: "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst." The prepping movement started in the US, where it is more frequently associated with preparing for Doomsday-like events. It is different from the Survivalist movement, which focuses on surviving full societal breakdown. But here in the UK, prepper and psychologist Dr Sarita Robinson says it's become "much more mainstream". Dr Robinson, who lectures on the psychology of survival at the University of Central Lancashire, describes herself as a "low-grade prepper". "It's just about having enough in reserve in case the government or local authorities can't really do things for you immediately," she says. For Dr Robinson, it's just about "being ready before an emergency hits, because by the time you're in a crisis, it's too late". "It's like in the pandemic when suddenly there was no loo roll anywhere, that wasn't because of preppers," she says. "Because preppers will have had 100 loo rolls under the stairs for months."

People in Lebanon Are Still Robbing Banks to Access Their Own Savings
by NPR

On a recent weekday in Lebanon's second-largest city, the atmosphere at a branch of the IBL Bank is tense. Security and police are gathered outside. Soldiers are clutching M16 rifles. People are crowding the entrance. Inside, Zahra Khaled, a 53-year-old in a wheelchair who's in urgent need of medical care, is refusing to leave until she is given her savings. The bank has frozen all of it — tens of thousands of dollars. After selling personal possessions and exhausting all other options, she and her adult daughter have now entered the bank and will not budge. Lebanon's banks froze most accounts three years ago amid an economic collapse. This year, faced with increasingly desperate circumstances, more people are resorting to extreme measures to access their savings. Khaled's protest is one of the milder tactics. Other Lebanese have taken to robbing banks for their own funds, brandishing real or toy guns. Most take only what they are owed, and so far no one has been reported killed in a robbery. Kamel Wazni of the Lebanese Control Commission, which supervises the country's banking sector, can't rule out that some of the depositors' money might be gone for good. Billions of Lebanon's dollar reserves have been taken out of the country, and billions more have been spent on subsidies and seeking to respond to the economic collapse. Banks do allow withdrawals of $400 per account per month, plus some Lebanese currency, in a strategy that he says will repay as many as 70% of depositors. But this does little to help those who need larger and more immediate sums. So depositors have started coordinating their actions, even forming a movement.

Japan Authorizes Enemy Base Strike Capability in Major Defense Policy Shift
by Kyodo News

Japan decided Friday Dec. 16th to acquire the capability to strike enemy bases and double defense spending in a dramatic shift in its postwar security policy under the nation's war-renouncing Constitution, provoking a harsh backlash from China. With the security environment surrounding Japan becoming unstable amid threats from China, North Korea and Russia, Tokyo, which has rejected warfare for the past 77 years, will be able to directly attack another country's territory in case of an emergency. Obtaining the ability to deter attacks from outside forces, called a "counterstrike capability," was stipulated in the government's three key defense documents, including the National Security Strategy, updated by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet. Critics note that the Constitution only allows Japan to act in self-defense, but the NSS said the nation needs to have the ability to "make effective counterstrikes in an opponent's territory as a bare minimum self-defense measure." The NSS mentioned that Japan is facing the "most severe and complicated security environment" since World War II, while the government has pledged to stick to its commitment to the "exclusively self-defense-oriented policy" and "not to become a military power." In their first revision since 2013, the long-term security policy guidelines said that missile defense alone is insufficient to deal with the "significant reinforcement of missile forces" by Japan's neighboring countries, which have opposed its renewed defense policy. Under the new defense buildup program, around 43 trillion yen will be allocated to defense budgets for five years from fiscal 2023, a jump from 27.5 trillion yen under the existing plan for the five years from fiscal 2019. Out of the 43 trillion yen, some 5 trillion yen will be used to acquire "standoff missiles," which are capable of being launched from beyond the range of enemy fire by extending the range of Self-Defense Forces' surface-to-ship guided missiles, as well as procuring U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of about 1,600 kilometers.

India Successfully Tests Agni V Nuclear Ballistic Missile
by India Today

India on Thursday Dec. 15th successfully tested the nuclear capable Agni V missile capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 kilometres with a very high degree of accuracy. India successfully carried out the night trials of the Agni V nuclear-capable ballistic missile today, defence sources said. This comes days after Indian and Chinese troops clashed in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The test was carried out to validate new technologies and equipment on the missile, which is now lighter than before. The trial has proved the capability to enhance the range of the Agni V missile, if required, defence sources said on Thursday. The test-firing of the missile from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast came amid India's ongoing border row with China.

South Africa's Biggest Industry Is in a Downward Spiral
by BusinessTech

South Africa’s R1 trillion mining industry is in a downward spiral, say economists at Nedbank, with the sector recording its ninth consecutive month of decline in October. Mining production declined by 10.4% year on year in October, the bank noted this week, after shrinking by 5.1% in September. Month-on-month, mining production dropped by a sharp 2.5% MoM, after declining by 0.1% and 0.4% in September and August, respectively. The diminished output of platinum, manganese ore and diamonds drove the monthly decline, Nedbank said. Making matter worse, mining production has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and remained 13.4% below the level achieved in October 2019, highlighting the continued strain on the sector. Mineral sales grew by 0.5% YoY in October, slower than 21% in September. On top of prevailing market conditions and the state of South Africa’s electricity grid, mining companies are now also speaking up about extortion rackets that are increasingly disrupting their businesses. In an interview with Bloomberg this month, chief executives from several local mining groups, including AngloPlatinum and Implats, spoke of so-called “procurement mafias” that mobilise communities into violent extortion schemes. According to the Hawks, the mining industry is under attack, with syndicates “creating their own mafia-type groupings that exert pressure.

A Visit to the City Responsible for China's Police Stations in Europe
by Spiegel

China's secret police stations abroad have caused outrage around the world. But the idea apparently didn't come from Beijing. The representations came from individual Chinese cities – one of which is Qingtian, a city with many international ties. The Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese of Qingtian is located on the 12th floor of a high-rise building on the city's main street. With the reporter from DER SPIEGEL showing up unannounced, the office staff agree after a brief discussion that they have no time. But they do welcome the reporter to check out the Qingtian Emigrant Museum, which is located one floor below. A large display board on the wall is titled: "Protecting the Interests of Overseas Chinese." Several photos show agency employees conferring at long tables. One caption reads: "On April 8, 2021, the County (Qingtian) Public Service Bureau held a video conference with seven of its service centers in Barcelona, Milan, Frankfurt, etc." When asked if he could also share something about this police work, the historian was silent, before saying, "I think it's better if we end the tour here." In Qingtian, they are proud enough of their foreign police stations to hang them up in the museum. Have the local authorities really somehow overlooked just how problematic their police stations are under international law? After all, such issues aren't usually within their remit. The Chinese diplomats who supported the initiative, on the other hand, cannot claim such ignorance for themselves. In a 2018 article, a state-run media quoted Lu Cijun, then the vice consul general in Barcelona, as praising the establishment of the stations. After the international controversy erupted, the Spanish daily El Correo was able to speak with an anonymous official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The newspaper quotes him as saying, "I don't see what's wrong with pressuring criminals to face justice." Even if it is true that the Chinese police stations abroad weren't based on a central government plan, Beijing knew about them and obviously considered them advantageous.

Despite Blacklisting NSO, U.S. Said to Use Other Israeli-Made Spyware
by ynet

The Biden administration took a public stand last year against the abuse of spyware and blacklisted the Israeli firm NSO Group, but it didn't prevent the U.S. from using other Israeli offensive spyware to hack into mobile phones, The New York Times reported. According to the report, the Biden administration allowed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to deploy a tool called Graphite, made by the Israeli firm Paragon, according to five people familiar with the agency’s operations. Very little information has been published about the company, which mostly consists of Israeli military cyberintelligence veterans and even some past NSO workers. Even Ehud Barak, Israel's former prime minister, is a member of the board of directors at Paragon, which is funded by an American venture capital fund. Just like NSO's Pegasus spyware, Graphite can invade mobile phones and harvest data. However, unlike Pegasus, the Paragon spyware vacuums up content mostly from the cloud. The Biden administration is attempting to impose some degree of order on this spyware chaos, but it ultimately tries to have the cake and eat it at the same time.

Former Twitter Employee Sentenced for Spying for Saudi Arabia
by NBC News

A former Twitter employee found guilty of spying on users on behalf of the Saudi royal family has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Ahmad Abouammo, a dual U.S.-Lebanese citizen who helped oversee media partnerships for Twitter in the Middle East and North Africa, was part of a scheme to acquire the personal information of users, including phone numbers and birth dates, for a Saudi government agent. He was sentenced Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The Justice Department has said it believes that another former Twitter employee accused of accessing user accounts and a man accused of helping the Saudi government with the scheme have fled to Saudi Arabia to evade American authorities. The Saudi consulate did not respond to a request for comment.

FBI's Vetted Info. Sharing Network 'InfraGard' Hacked
by Krebs on Security

InfraGard, a program run by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to build cyber and physical threat information sharing partnerships with the private sector, this week saw its database of contact information on more than 80,000 members go up for sale on an English-language cybercrime forum. Meanwhile, the hackers responsible are communicating directly with members through the InfraGard portal online — using a new account under the assumed identity of a financial industry CEO that was vetted by the FBI itself. On Dec. 10, 2022, the relatively new cybercrime forum Breached featured a bombshell new sales thread: The user database for InfraGard, including names and contact information for tens of thousands of InfraGard members. In response to information shared by KrebsOnSecurity, the FBI said it is aware of a potential false account associated with the InfraGard Portal and that it is actively looking into the matter. KrebsOnSecurity contacted the seller of the InfraGard database, a Breached forum member who uses the handle “USDoD” and whose avatar is the seal of the U.S. Department of Defense. USDoD said they gained access to the FBI’s InfraGard system by applying for a new account using the name, Social Security Number, date of birth  and other personal details of a chief executive officer at a company that was highly likely to be granted InfraGard membership. The CEO in question — currently the head of a major U.S. financial corporation that has a direct impact on the creditworthiness of most Americans — told KrebsOnSecurity they were never contacted by the FBI seeking to vet an InfraGard application. USDoD told KrebsOnSecurity their phony application was submitted in November in the CEO’s name, and that the application included a contact email address that they controlled — but also the CEO’s real mobile phone number.

A Tale of Two Nuclear Plants Reveals Europe's Energy Divide
by Wired

A forest of wind turbines rises out of the fields on both sides of the highway running east out of Vienna. But at the border with Slovakia, which stretches between Austria and Ukraine, they stop. Slovakia gets only 0.4 percent of its energy from wind and solar. Instead it is betting its energy transition on nuclear power. Without Russian gas, Europe has been racing to avoid blackouts. Every day, Paris is turning off the Eiffel Tower’s lights an hour early, Cologne has dimmed its street lights, and Switzerland is considering a ban on electric cars. Nuclear power advocates, like Strýček, are using this moment to argue that Europe needs nuclear technology to keep the lights on without jeopardizing net-zero targets. “It provides an immense amount of secure, predictable, stable baseload, which renewables are not able to provide,” he said at the World Utilities Congress in June. The energy crisis is not a deal breaker in Europe’s nuclear debate, but in some countries it is boosting the pro-nuclear side of the argument, says Lukas Bunsen, head of research at consultancy Aurora Energy Research. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany has announced it will keep the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants open until April 2023. Belgium proposed to keep its nuclear plants running for another 10 years. In October, Poland signed a deal with the US company Westinghouse to build its first nuclear power plant. But Europe remains deeply divided on the use of nuclear power. Of the European Union’s 27 member states, 13 generate nuclear power, while 14 do not. “It’s still a very national debate,” says Bunsen. That means public attitudes can drastically change from one side of a border to the other. Surveys show that 60 percent of Slovakians believe nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of their neighbors in Austria are against it being used at all—the country has no active nuclear plants.

ROCOR Expresses Concern for Persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church
by Orthodox Christianity

The hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are alarmed by the increasing persecution against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The ROCOR Synod of Bishops met in New York on December 8. Among other items, the hierarchs addressed the tragic situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Security Service has been conducting searches at UOC monasteries, churches, and diocesan administrations over the past few weeks, and several hierarchs and clerics are being officially investigated by the Ukrainian Security Service. The state has also imposed sanctions upon a growing number of hierarchs and clerics. Local administrations have declared bans on the Church in various places throughout the country, and there are bills before the Parliament to adopt a nationwide ban.

Police Raid Offices of Predator Spyware Seller Intellexa in Athens, Greece
by ekathimerini

The Athens offices of Intellexa, which sells the Predator spyware in Greece, and Krikel, an ICT and electronic security systems provider, were among six companies raided by police as part of the investigation into the wiretapping affair on Tuesday. Two other companies which share offices with the aforementioned companies or have the same shareholders were also raided by officers from the police’s cybercrime division. The raids also targeted the homes of executives of all six companies. The prosecutors who ordered the raids were acting on evidence and documents that emerged in recent days, including in reports in Sunday’s Documento newspaper, as well as other information.

As Illegal Foreigners to the E.U. Accelerates, Which State Will Lose Its Identity First?
by Sputnik

As Europe becomes increasingly globalized and diverse, it faces new challenges that include the possible loss of established national identities, as borders and boundaries get increasingly blurred because of mass migration ranging from economic migrants to asylum seekers. Although touted as a remedy against low birthrates and labor shortages, immigration also leads to new, previously unknown challenges through poor integration, such as segregation, social exclusion zones and the attrition of the social fabric. The debate on these issues is notoriously febrile, as the media and the lawmakers are often reluctant to recognize the realities and their consequences that could threaten their societies, despite all sorts of polls indicating citizens' desire to limit immigration or tighten integration procedures.

Sears Hometown Files for Bankruptcy in Delaware
by yahoo! Finance

Sears Hometown Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy on Monday, court papers show. The retailer listed assets of no more than $50 million and liabilities of at least $50 million in its bankruptcy court petition, filed in Delaware. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies to continue operating while working on a plan to repay creditors. Sears Hometown is a branch of the retailer that focuses on selling appliances, tools, hardware and lawn and garden equipment. Sears spun off the Hometown business in 2012 to raise cash for its struggling parent company. Representatives for Sears did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hometown wasn’t part of Sears Holdings Corp.’s 2018 bankruptcy, and Transformco, a company backed by former Sears Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert, purchased it in 2019 as part of a strategy to focus Sears’s future business on appliances. Instead the company has continued to fade away, with Transformco shuttering stores and selling off signature brands like Craftsman and DieHard. The now-bankrupt Sears Hometown entity is at least partially owned by Lampert, according to court papers.

In Africa, China Is Building Influence, Brick by Brick

Earlier this month, officials in the Nigerian capital of Abuja broke ground for the new headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). When completed in just over two years, the complex will enable the regional bloc of 15 member countries to conduct business in one centralised site instead of the three separate locations they now work in. The US$32 million facility to be on 7 hectares (17 acres) of government-donated land is being paid for by China – the latest in a series of high-profile donations in several African countries as Beijing increases its clout on the continent. “To sponsor and construct the new headquarters is a vivid reflection of China’s support to the work of ECOWAS, as well as the traditional friendship between China and the West African countries,” said Cui Jianchun, China’s ambassador to Nigeria. “China will continue to promote the common development of China and Africa, and is ready to make new contributions to building the China-Africa community.” Cui said the building showed China’s “sincere determination” to support the unity, peace and development of Africa, as well as efforts to promote Africa’s infrastructure development. The project, which had been agreed to in 2018, is being funded by the Chinese government through the China International Development Cooperation Agency. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the effort “a symbol of China’s commitment to ECOWAS”.

Japanese Government Wants to Give People an Extra ¥80,000 to Have Babies
by Japan Today

Japan has been struggling to find ways to increase its low and declining birth rate for some time now, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is hoping that the promise of some extra cash in the bank will encourage more people to add a baby to their family. Currently, new parents in Japan receive a Childbirth and Childcare Lump-Sum Grant of 420,000 yen upon the birth of their child. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato wants to up that amount to an even 500,000 yen, and met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week to discuss the proposal, which is expected to be approved and put into effect for the 2023 fiscal year, which starts in the spring. However, while such an increase in the grant amount isn’t likely to make anyone less motivated to have children, it may not be all that effective of an incentive either. Though it’s called the Childbirth and Childcare Lump-Sum Grant, little, if any, of it is left over after the “Childbirth” part. Though the grant is funded through Japan’s public medical insurance system, child delivery expenses are paid out of pocket, and according to Mainichi Shimbun the nationwide average for delivery costs is approximately 473,000 yen. That means that even if the grant is increased, parents would be looking at, on average, less than 30,000 yen of it remaining once they’re home from the hospital, or less than the amount Asahi Breweries is gifting workers to eat out this holiday season. That’s not going to go very far against the total costs of raising a child to self-sufficient adulthood, and it’s doubtful in the first place that an 80,000-yen boost is going to cross over anyone’s make-it-or-break-it point for having a baby.

Chinese Shipyards Gorge on Record LNG Carrier Orders as Rivals Struggle
by gCaptain

China is making fast inroads in the market for newbuild liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers as local and foreign shipowners turn to its shipbuilders for the specialty vessels because long dominant yards in South Korea are fully booked. Three Chinese shipyards – only one of them having experience building large LNG tankers – won nearly 30% of this year’s record orders for 163 new gas carriers, claiming ground in a sector where South Korea usually captures most of the business. LNG tanker order books for Chinese yards tripled as China’s gas traders and fleet operators sought to secure shipping after freight rates soared to records following the upending of global energy supply flows by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With South Korean shipbuilders swamped by orders to service Qatar’s massive North Field expansion, Chinese yards also attracted more foreign bookings, including first overseas orders for some ship makers only recently certified to build membrane-type LNG carriers.

Satellite Images Show Saudi Arabia's 'Line' Megacity Construction Underway
by MIT Technology Review

In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up to 9 million people in a zero-carbon megacity, 170 kilometers long and half a kilometer high but just 200 meters wide. Within its mirrored, car-free walls, residents would be whisked around in underground trains and electric air taxis. Satellite images of the $500 billion project obtained exclusively by MIT Technology Review show that the Line’s vast linear building site is already taking shape, running as straight as an arrow across the deserts and through the mountains of northern Saudi Arabia. The site, tens of meters deep in places, is teeming with many hundreds of construction vehicles and likely thousands of workers, themselves housed in sprawling bases nearby. Analysis of the satellite images by Soar Earth, an Australian startup that aggregates satellite imagery and crowdsourced maps into an online digital atlas, suggests that the workers have already excavated around 26 million cubic meters of earth and rock—78 times the volume of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Official drone footage of The Line’s construction site, released in October, indeed showed fleets of bulldozers, trucks, and diggers excavating its foundations.

E.U. Commission Silent on Greek Spyware Sale to Madagascar
by euobserver

The EU Commission says it works closely with EU states on dual-use exports but will not comment on new revelations that Greece authorised the sale of spyware software to Madagascar. "We do not comment on individual cases or exchanges we have with member states," a European Commission spokesperson, told reporters in Brussels on Friday (9 December). The revelation, exposed in a investigation by the New York Times on Thursday, adds to the mounting body of evidence of spyware being used by EU state actors against politicians, journalists, lawyers and others. The Greek government confirmed to the paper that it had granted the company, Intellexa, licences to sell Predator spyware to Madagascar. Amnesty International, in a report, faulted Madagascar for harassing journalists, its prison detention of children, and state-led discrimination against the LGBTI community. EU dual-export rules, which governs civilian technologies with possible military or security uses, includes provisions on cyber surveillance technologies. Those provisions are supposed to ensure their trade is legitimate and will not be used to violate human rights. National authorities are responsible for deciding on whether to grant authorisation. But the commission also says "it works in close cooperation with member states to ensure that the rules are implemented correctly." However, when asked if this includes Intellexa's Predator sale to Madagascar, the EU commission refused to say.

Libyan Government Lifts Force Majeure on Oil Exploration
by LibyaHerald

The Tripoli-based Libyan government led by Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba announced today the lifting of the state of force majeure on exploration operations for the production of oil and gas. The government further called on international oil companies that have concluded contracts with the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to resume their work in Libya, stressing its readiness to provide the necessary support and provide them with a safe work environment. The Aldabaiba government said the lifting of force majeure on oil exploration is based on a request by the NOC and after a realistic assessment of the security situation in the country. It added that the security situation has improved a lot and has allowed for exploration in areas previously not possible. The government said that it has given instructions to all relevant parties to provide all the necessary cooperation to oil and gas exploration companies.

Chinese Shake Up Israel's New Car Market
by Globes

256,700 new cars were delivered in Israel in the first 11 months of 2022, down 9.8% from the corresponding period of 2021, and close to the average over the past decade. But overall numbers aside the past year has seen remarkable changes in the car market as the emphasis shifts from gasoline and diesel fueled cars to electric vehicles. Nearly 10% of new cars sold in 2022 are electric vehicles compared with 1% three years ago and about 35% of the new cars sold in November were electric vehicles. This percentage could rise further in December as buyers rush to bring in an electric vehicle before purchase tax rises from 10% to 20% in January. The shift to electric cars has also shaken up the mix of brands being sold in Israel with Chinese companies moving strongly into the local market. In the first 11 months of 2022, 24,000 electric vehicles were sold in Israel including 6,000 in November alone and 64% of the electric vehicles sold in Israel this year were made in China. This figure includes Western brands that are manufactured in China such as Tesla and Polestar (Volvo) although the Chinese see them as exports to the west.

Japan Eyes 56% Increase in Defense Budget Over Five Years
by Space War

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed ministers on Monday to boost the country's defence budget by 56 percent over the next five years to $318 billion. The government is overhauling its defence and security strategies in response to regional threats from nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly assertive China. Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Kishida told him that "the size of the medium-term defence programme for the next five years, which is currently being arranged, should be around 43 trillion yen ($318 billion)". The amount would be more than 1.5 times larger than the current five-year spending plan of 27.5 trillion yen. The decision comes a week after Kishida announced he wanted to increase defence spending to two percent of GDP by 2027. For decades, Japan has spent around one percent of GDP or less on defence, less than the NATO standard of two percent. But growing pressure from China, including military exercises and the presence of boats around disputed islands, has helped build support for a bigger budget.

U.S. Navy Lowers Entrance Exam Requirements in Bid to Get More Recruits
by MilitaryTimes

As the military struggles to attract new recruits, the Navy on Monday began a pilot program that will let in those who have lower scores on part of the entrance exam used to gauge a recruit’s ability to serve. Potential sailors are required to take the Armed Forces Qualification Test, or AFQT, to determine whether they are qualified to serve, as part of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, better known as the ASVAB. Under the Navy’s pilot program, the service will accept lower scores on the AFQT, between the 10th and 30th percentile, as long as the prospective sailor’s ASVAB individual line scores are still high enough to qualify for a Navy rating. The test score change announcement comes after the Navy raised its maximum enlistment age to 41 last month, up from 39. The sea service barely made its active-duty enlisted recruiting goal for FY22, which ended Sept. 30, bringing in just 42 bodies more than the goal of 33,400 new members.

Exxon Mobil Raises CEO Pay by 10 Percent as Oil Giant Makes Huge Profits
by Houston Chronicle

Exxon Mobil is raising the base pay for its CEO and other executives as the company posts record quarterly profits. The annual salary for Chairman and CEO Darren Woods will rise to $1.88 million next year from $1.7 million, about 10 percent, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The annual salary for Chief Financial Officer Kathryn Mikells, who joined the company in 2021 with pay of $437,500, will rise to $1.2 million. The salaries for executives are a small part of total compensation. Woods' total compensation package for 2021 was about $23.6 million. Other executives seeing raises will be senior vice presidents Neil Chapman, whose salary will increase to $1.2 million and Jack Williams, who will receive $1.21 million next year, according to the SEC filing. Exxon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Filmmakers Want to Link ISP Subscriber Data to "Pirating" YTS and Reddit Users
by TorrentFreak

The filmmakers accuse the ISP of failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who were repeatedly flagged for sharing copyrighted material. They want to hold WOW! liable for these pirating activities, which could lead to millions of dollars in damages. The ISP challenged the claims and filed a motion to dismiss the case. Among other things, it argued that an IP address is not sufficient to prove that subscribers downloaded or shared any infringing material. The filmmakers opposed this motion, which has yet to be decided on by the Colorado federal court. In the meantime, another issue has raised its head. Both sides are gathering evidence to prepare for the case moving forward. As part of that process, the filmmakers have demanded the personal details of roughly 14,000 subscribers whose WOW! accounts were allegedly used to pirate content. WOW! objected to this request, arguing that the names and addresses of its subscribers are irrelevant to the core question of whether it reasonably implemented a repeat infringer policy. The filmmakers disagreed, noting that the information can be cross-checked to determine whether the ISP notified its subscribers and terminated accounts in response to infringement notices.

Chinese Security Firm Advertises Ethnicity Recognition Technology, Faces U.K. Ban
by The Guardian

A Chinese security camera company has been advertising ethnicity recognition features to British and other European customers, even while it faces a ban on UK operations over allegations of involvement in ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang. In a brochure published on its website, Hikvision advertised a range of features that it said it could provide in collaboration with the UK startup FaiceTech. These included using facial recognition for retail security, border control, and anti-money laundering checks for retail banking. The brochure also advertised “Optional Demographic Profiling Facial analysis algorithms”, including “gender, race/ethnicity, age” profiling. A second, Italian-based, company was also cited on Hikvision’s website as offering racial profiling. The company removed both claims from its website following an inquiry from the Guardian, and said the technology had never been sold in the UK. The document, it said, detailed the “potential application of our cameras, with technology built independently by FaiceTech and other partners”. FaiceTech denied ever having worked with Hikvision, and said the brochure was created and published without its knowledge or consent. In a legal letter sent to Hikvision, seen by the Guardian, the British company demanded the document be removed since it “is likely to deceive the public into a mistaken belief that our client is in some way associated with Hikvision”. The brochures were first discovered by the campaign group Big Brother Watch. In a statement, Madeleine Stone, the group’s legal and policy officer, said: “It is deeply alarming that the same racist technology being used in Xinjiang to repress the Uyghur population is being marketed in Britain. Hikvision is normalising deeply intrusive surveillance capacities which have no place in a democracy.

Microsoft 365 Faces More GDPR Headwinds as Germany Bans It in Schools
by The Register

Germany's federal and state data protection authorities (DSK) have raised concerns about the compatibility of Microsoft 365 with data protection laws in Germany and the wider European Union. According to the German watchdog's report [PDF], which was written after two years of negotiations with Microsoft, the body says that the product "remains in breach" of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The 2020 working group was put together to bring the cloud service into line with the Schrems II decision of the European Court of Justice – and relates to ongoing European concerns about cloud data sovereignty, competition, and privacy rules. Under the GDPR, children below the age of 13 are incapable of consenting to their data being collected, while consent may be given by those with parental responsibility for those under 16 but not younger than 13. When platforms do store data on adults, those customers are meant to be able to request the deletion of their records. The report adds: "Many of the services included in Microsoft 365 require Microsoft to access the unencrypted, non-pseudonymized data." The DSK report means the office suite is therefore not suitable for legally compliant use in schools or public authorities in Germany, although it won't affect use by businesses or consumers.

79,000 People Lost Their Jobs Last Month, Up 400% Year Over Year
by 24/7 Wallstreet

Everyone expected more job losses in November, but the size of the increase may not have been expected. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Thursday morning that U.S.-based employers fired 78,835 workers last month, an increase of 127% month over month and 417% year over year. Job losses so far in 2022 total 320,173, a year-over-year increase of 6%. The tech sector accounted for two-thirds of November’s firings. November’s total is the highest for the sector since Challenger, Gray began keeping records in 2000 and is the highest total since 2002 when tech companies chopped 128,563 jobs during the dot-com bust. Job losses in the tech sector are more than 500% higher so far this year than in 2021. Excepting the carnage in the pandemic-related layoffs in the travel and leisure industry in 2020, the last time any sector cut this many jobs was 2015, when the U.S. Army announced a three-year plan to cut more than 40,000 troops. Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray commented, “The Tech sector has announced the most job cuts this year by far. While other industries are cutting jobs at a slower pace, hiring appears to have slowed as well.” The company’s year-to-date data indicates that U.S. companies have announced plans to hire 1.43 million workers, compared to plans for hiring 1.75 million at the same point last year. Auto industry workers also have been hit hard with job losses. More than 30,000 autoworkers have lost their jobs in the first 11 months of this year, a year-over-year increase of almost 200%. Rising mortgage rates and inflation have led to nearly 8,000 job losses in the real estate industry, an increase of 187% compared to 2021’s losses in the sector.

CGN Is Being Forced Out of Britain
by AtomInfo.RU

The recent decision of the British government on public investment in the Sizewell C NPP construction project is equivalent to a complete withdrawal from the project of the Chinese state corporation CGN. Chinese nuclear giants CNNC and CGN have a lot in common with Rosatom in their structure, however, unlike the Russians, their portfolio of foreign orders for the construction of nuclear units can be said to be empty. From this point of view, the units built by CNNC in Pakistan can be mentioned as the only Chinese success, but it is difficult to call it a victory by the ultimate rating, since only Chinese companies can build nuclear power plants in Pakistan due to the twists of international law. Chinese analysts have never said out loud the strategy that should have been chosen by the sworn friends of CNNC and CGN to repeat the foreign successes of Rosatom. One can restore the adopted strategy. studying the ways and actions of Chinese corporations. It is obvious that in the struggle for foreign orders, Chinese nuclear scientists have relied on the provision of loans. But they went even further. To overcome the natural doubts about the ability of CNNC and CGN to implement major projects outside of China, the following approach was adopted: "We will pay you to build a unit or units with reactors of your choice, and for this you will then allow us to build a unit or units with Chinese reactors." Fortunately, the Chinese nuclear scientists have enough money for such generosity. CNNC adhered to this strategy in Argentina (heavy water unit first, then "Dragon"), and CGN - in Romania (heavy water units at the Chernavoda nuclear power plant and a possible second nuclear power plant with Dragons) and Britain (EPR first, then Dragon). In all three cases, the Chinese strategy failed. Chinese analysts could not adequately take into account in their calculations and forecasts the risks of political opposition from those forces that do not like the technological cooperation of their countries with China. The CGN corporation was ousted from Romania in 2020, and in 2022 the participation of CGN in the British new construction program is coming to an end.

Britain: Census Reveals The Massive Impact of Immigration on Society
by Migration Watch U.K.

In the last 20 years the population of England and Wales has increased by around eight million entirely as a result of immigration. This has meant huge population shifts and churn in different areas of the UK but particularly in London, the South East and East of England, and the West and East Midlands. As a result, the white British are now a minority in London, Birmingham and Manchester. 1) The Census statistics for 2021show that the total ethnic minority population in England and Wales has risen by eight million in twenty years. It stands at nearly 15 million (nearly tripling from 5.7 million in 2001) and has more than doubled from 12% of the population to 26% since 2001. 2) The overall population of England and Wales rose by around eight million since 2001 – rising from 52 million to nearly 60 million in 2021. However, although there was a plateauing of the White British and Irish populations, the rise in the ethnic minority population accounted for nearly all of net population growth (increasing by a total of 8.4 million). 3) Since 2001, the UK has 3.2 million more people of Asian background, 2.4 million more from White Other backgrounds, 1.3 million more from Black backgrounds, a million more from mixed race backgrounds, and half a million more from other ethnic backgrounds. Meanwhile, the white British population has essentially plateaued over that period at around 44 to 45 million. 4) It is not surprising that immigration has driven population growth as every year between 600,000 and a million migrants come here long-term while about 300,000 to 500,000 leave. The resulting overall net migration total of a quarter of a million more means huge demographic shifts, especially in major cities and areas adjacent to them – such as the East of England and south-eastern suburbs of London and Birmingham and its surrounding environs. 5) A comparison with ONS figures released for 2016 show a remarkable change in the population makeup in the top 5 five cities in England and Wales in just five years, with the white British population in the five major cities in England and Wales declining by a total of 800,000 since that year, with the bulk of this shift being from London and the next largest drop in Birmingham (90,000). Two of the top three cities (Birmingham and Manchester) have become minority White British.

If You Offer Internet Service, Your Speech Is Now Highly Regulated by the FCC
by CommLawBlog

In an order released on November 17, 2022, the FCC dictates in detail the specific words that an Internet service provider must use when communicating with its customers. The FCC has adopted new rules requiring specific information (referred to as the broadband consumer label) to be displayed at the point of sale when offering mass-market retail Internet access service by wire or radio. Internet service providers must display unique identifiers for each of their Internet service plans that must consist of their FCC Registration Number followed by 15 alphanumeric characters. A provider’s broadband consumer label must include the information on the FCC’s label template (see page 6 of the FCC order). Any customization of the label is prohibited. Smaller providers will have one year to come into compliance with the new rules after Federal Register publication of OMB’s approval. A small Internet service provider is one with 100,000 or fewer subscriber lines. Larger providers have six months to display the broadband consumer labels. In addition to the order adopting the new label rules, the FCC also issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on whether the FCC should impose additional requirements for broadband consumer labels. In that rulemaking proceeding, the FCC will consider whether it should require additional pricing information on labels, more speed and latency metrics, service reliability measurements, cybersecurity practices, mandatory foreign languages, and making the labels interactive. The deadline for filing comments regarding additional label requirements will be 30 days after Federal Register publication.

IDF Holds Joint Air Drills with U.S., Simulating Strikes on Iran and Proxies
by The Times of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday published footage and details of a series of joint aerial exercises it held with the US military this week, simulating strikes against Iran and its regional terror proxies. In a statement, the IDF said that during drills, which took place over Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, four IAF F-35i fighter jets, accompanied four American F-15 aircraft and an American KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, refueled several IAF F-16i fighter jets. The IDF said the drills also “simulated an operational scenario and long-distance flights.” The joint drill was agreed upon during IDF chief Aviv Kohavi’s trip to the US last week. The IDF said Kohavi told American defense officials in Washington that the two militaries must accelerate joint plans for offensive actions against Iran. Last Thursday, he said joint activities with the US military in the Middle East would be “significantly expanded.” Jerusalem opposes US President Joe Biden’s attempts to revive a nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers that traded sanctions reliefs for curbs on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. In light of growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the deal, the past two years have seen the IDF ramp up efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear sites.

U.K. Court Orders Crypto Firms to Share Data to Track Thieves
by Bank Info. Security

A British court ordered six cryptocurrency exchanges to reveal the identities of account holders allegedly tied to a 2020 hack of an anonymous English cryptocurrency platform during which thieves stole $10.7 million worth of digital assets. The exchanges must share the status of the stolen funds, the "know your customer" details of the alleged hackers and their bank account and payment card details, email addresses, residential addresses, phone numbers and bank statements, High Court Justice Christopher Butcher ruled. His Tuesday order on behalf of a plaintiff whose identity isn't public - the plaintiff goes by the moniker LMN in court and isn't associated with a similarly named NFT collection of cartoon lemons - directs the exchanges to cooperate without "avoidable delay." The exchanges are Binance, Bitflyer, Payward - which operates as Kraken, Luno PTE, Coinbase Global, and Huobi Global. The victim company initially contacted law enforcement authorities and later hired a cryptocurrency expert to trace the stolen funds. That investigation hit a dead end with the platforms, since the wallet addresses the investigator found were omnibus accounts used by the platforms to manage the trades of multiple individuals. Ari Redbord, a former senior adviser to the Department of the Treasury on money laundering and an ISMG contributor, said, "It will be interesting to see how the exchanges in this case respond." Most will likely respond to the court order, he said. "That said, it is hard to enforce legal process outside of the jurisdiction. So if an exchange decides not to comply, enforcement could be a challenge." The exchanges, including Coinbase - which actively participated in a Nov. 11 hearing leading to the order - did not respond to a request for comment, including whether they intend to comply with Butcher's order. The British judge issued the order despite the exchanges' location outside the United Kingdom by citing an October 2022 update to civil procedure law that streamlined orders for information disclosure against foreign entities in cases of fraud intended to be pursued in English or Welsh courts.

Majority of U.S. Defense Contractors Not Meeting Basic Cyber Security Requirements
by info. security

Nearly nine in 10 (87%) of US defense contractors are failing to meet basic cybersecurity regulation requirements, according to research commissioned by CyberSheath. The survey of 300 US-based Department of Defense (DoD) contractors found that just 13% of respondents have a Supplier Risk Performance System (SPRS) score of 70 or above. Under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), a score of 110 is required for full compliance. Anecdotally, a score of 70 is believed to be “good enough” to be considered compliant, according to the study authors. DFARS, which was enacted into law in 2017, is designed to bolster cybersecurity in the defense industrial base. Defense contractors also must comply with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a certification framework they must pass to bid for contracts with the DoD. The first version of CMMC was released in January 2020, with an updated version, 2.0, coming into effect in May 2023. It offers five certification levels spanning one through five, with five being the highest. Each level maps to a different level of process maturity. The new study suggests the vast majority of DoD defense contractors are neither meeting current DFARS obligations or in a position to comply with the updated version of CMMC.

Israel Beefs Up Protection of Its Senior Spies, as Proxy War with Iran Intensifies
by Intelnews.org

Israeli authorities have stepped up measures to protect its senior intelligence and security figures, over concerns they may be targeted by agents of the Iranian state, according to news reports. The news comes amidst widespread concerns that the ongoing shadow conflict between Israel and Iran is escalating in the shadow of the Russo-Ukrainian war. On Thursday, Israel’s state-owned broadcaster and news agency, Kan, reported that  the government of Israel had implemented additional security measures to protect current and former members of its security and intelligence agencies. The report added that the measures are focused largely on current and former members of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, as well as those associated with Israel’s intelligence and security apparatus that are living abroad. The report comes amidst concerns among security observers that a clandestine war between Israel and Iran is growing in intensity. To a notable extent, this growth is being fueled by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Iran’s supply of cheap and reliable attack drones appears to be enabling Moscow to subvert and outright destroy Ukraine’s national infrastructure. In what seems like a direct response to Iran’s actions, Israel war materiel is now flowing into Ukraine, reportedly through a NATO country.

Meet the Man on a Mission to Expose Sneaky Price Increases
by The New York Times

A few weeks ago, Edgar Dworsky got a promising tip by email. “Diluted cough syrup,” read the message, accompanied by a photo of two packages of syrup with a curious difference: The new one appeared to be half the strength of the old one. Mr. Dworsky gets emails like this frequently, alerting him to things like a bag of dog food that discreetly shrank from 50 pounds to 44 pounds. A cereal box that switched from “giant” to “family” size and grew about an inch taller — but a few ounces lighter. Bottles of detergent that look the same, but the newer ones come with less detergent. The cough syrup message looked intriguing. Mr. Dworsky made plans to investigate. He has dedicated much of his life to exposing what is one of the sneakier tricks in the modern consumer economy: “shrinkflation,” when products or packaging are subtly manipulated so that a person pays the same price, or even slightly more, for something but gets less of it. Consumer product companies have been using this strategy for decades. And their nemesis, Mr. Dworsky, has been following it for decades. He writes up his discoveries on his website, mouseprint.org, a reference to the fine print often found on product packaging. Print so tiny “only a mouse could read,” he says. He writes about shrinkflation in everything — tuna, mayonnaise, ice cream, deodorant, dish soap — alongside other consumer advocacy work on topics like misleading advertising, class-action lawsuits and exaggerated sale claims. One recent Mouse Print report explored toilet paper shrinkflation. “Virtually every brand of toilet paper has been downsized over the years,” Mr. Dworsky wrote, documenting more than a decade of toilet paper shrinkage.

Massive Cancellations Make Mess of Already Low New-House Sales
by Wolf Street

Sales of new single-family houses have been zigzagging along low levels for months. In October, they rose 7.5% from September, after having plunged 11% in September, according to the Census Bureau today. At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 632,000 houses, they were down 5.8% from the already low levels a year ago, and down 37% from two years ago. These sales are based on signed contracts between buyer and homebuilder, and they’re no indication of how many of those deals actually close. And those sales that actually close are far lower amid a huge wave of cancellations.

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