Daily: 27/10/2021

US State Department Creates Bureau to Tackle Digital Threats

The State Department is creating a new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy to focus on tackling cybersecurity challenges at a time of growing threats from opponents. There will also be a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology, who will lead the technology diplomacy agenda with U.S. allies.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the organizational changes underscore the need for a robust approach for dealing with cyber threats. 

“We want to make sure technology works for democracy, fighting back against disinformation, standing up for internet freedom, and reducing the misuse of surveillance technology,” Blinken said in a speech on modernizing American diplomacy. 

Blinken said the new bureau will be led by an ambassador-at-large. The chief U.S. diplomat is also seeking a 50% increase in State Department’s information technology budget. 

The announcement comes as hackers backed by foreign governments, such as Russia and China, continue to attack U.S. infrastructures and global technology systems to steal sensitive information.

Earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that more countries are relying on cyber operations to steal information, influence populations and damage industry, but the U.S. is most concerned about Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The U.S. technology giant Microsoft said on Monday that the same Russia-backed hackers responsible for the 2020 SolarWinds breach of corporate computer systems are continuing to attack global technology systems, this time targeting cloud service resellers.

A senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday that Washington has been clear with Moscow that cyber criminals targeting the U.S. is “not acceptable.” The United States has asked the Russian government to “take action against that type of criminal behavior.” 

Confronting cyberattacks continues to be “a high priority” in U.S. relations with Russia, the senior official said.

China is also considered to be one of the United States’ main cyber adversaries, having coordinated teams both inside and outside of the government conducting cyberespionage campaigns that were large-scale and indiscriminate, according to analysts.

Over the past year, experts have attributed notable hacks in the U.S., Europe and Asia to China’s Ministry of State Security, the nation’s civilian intelligence agency, which has taken the lead in Beijing’s cyberespionage, consolidating efforts by the People’s Liberation Army. 

In addition to expanding the State Department’s capacity on cybersecurity, Blinken also unveiled other steps to modernize American diplomacy, including the launch of a new “policy ideas channel” that allows American diplomats to share their policy ideas directly with senior leadership, building and retaining a diverse workforce, as well as a plan to “reinvigorate the in-person diplomacy and public engagement.” 

The organization changes to beef up resources and staffers to tackle international cybersecurity challenges came after the State Department completed an extensive review of cyberspace and emerging technology.

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Iran Agrees to Resume Nuclear Talks

Iran said Wednesday it would resume talks with world powers about its nuclear development program by the end of November.

There was no immediate confirmation of new negotiations from the other parties to the 2015 international pact aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear arms development.

The agreement then included the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, but former U.S. president Donald Trump pulled out of it in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions against Iran.

Trump said at the time the provisions of the deal were not tough enough to deter Tehran’s nuclear arms program.

Since then, Iran has said it has ramped up its enrichment of uranium to a 60% purity level, but not to the 90% enrichment level that is considered weapons grade. Iran has over recent years continually denied it intends to assemble nuclear weapons and says its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes. 

On Wednesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who serves as Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, wrote on Twitter, “We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week.” 

The EU and the world powers have been hard-pressed to get negotiations restarted since the election of a hard-liner in Tehran — President Ebrahim Raisi. 

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is willing to restart talks if Iran is willing to adhere to its earlier commitments on the nuclear agreement and end its stepped-up enrichment of uranium. 

But Vienna-based talks between the U.S. and Iran conducted through intermediaries made little headway before being interrupted by Raisi’s election. The talks have been suspended for the last four months. 

Robert Malley, U.S. special representative to Iran, on Monday warned Iran that the U.S. had undisclosed “other options” if Iran’s nuclear work advances, although he said the Biden administration preferred diplomacy. 

Some of the material in this story came Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

 

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La Palma Eruptions Continue for 38th Day 

The Cumbre Vieja volcano continued erupting Wednesday for the 38th consecutive day, and geologists say it could continue for as long as three months.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, known as Involcan, posted a video to its Twitter account showing fountains of lava during an eruption.

The Associated Press reported that Wednesday’s eruption followed the collapse of the inner cone at the mouth of the volcano, causing lava overflows and landslides on Tuesday.

The European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service said more than 70 earthquakes occurred Tuesday night, one of them of magnitude 4.8.

Copernicus calculated that lava flowing from the volcano had covered more than 906 hectares of the island and had destroyed at least 2,162 buildings.

About 7,500 people have been forced to leave their homes since the volcano began erupting a month ago. 

Scientists say the volcano is more active than ever.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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Європейський суд зобов’язав Польщу сплачувати по 1 млн євро щодня у справі про верховенство закону

Каменем спотикання стала палата Верховного суду Польщі, створення якої у ЄС розкритикували

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СБУ перевіряє можливе «фінансування тероризму» «Укрексімбанком» після розслідування «Схем»

У Офісі генпрокурора зазначили, що провадження відкрили після звернень народних депутатів, які посилались на матеріал програми «Схеми»

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У США видали перший паспорт зі статевою приналежністю «X»

Спеціальний дипломатичний посланець з прав ЛГБТ Джесіка Стерн назвала це рішення історичним.

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Five Things Facebook Has to Worry About After Whistleblower Disclosures

The past several weeks have been difficult for the social media behemoth Facebook, with a series of whistleblower revelations demonstrating that the company knew its signature platform was exacerbating all manner of social ills around the globe, from human trafficking to sectarian violence.   

The tide shows no sign of receding. New revelations this week have demonstrated that the company’s supposed commitment to freedom of expression takes a back seat to its bottom line when repressive governments, like Vietnam’s, demand that dissent be silenced. They showed that Facebook knew its algorithms were steering users toward extreme content, such as QAnon conspiracy theories and phony anti-vaccine claims, but took few steps to remedy the problem.

 

In statements to various media outlets, the company has defended itself, saying it dedicates enormous resources to assuring safety on its platform and asserting that much of the information provided to journalists and government officials has been taken out of context.   

In a conference call to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that recent media coverage is painting a misleading picture of his company.   

“Good faith criticism helps us get better,” Zuckerberg said. “But my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. The reality is that we have an open culture, where we encourage discussion and research about our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.”   

The revelations, as well as unrelated business challenges, mean that Facebook, which also owns Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, has a lot of things to worry about in the coming weeks and months. Here are five of the biggest. 

A potential SEC investigation 

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former product manager with the company, delivered thousands of pages of documents to lawmakers and journalists last month, prompting the wave of stories about the company’s practices. But the documents also went to the Securities and Exchange Commission, raising the possibility of a federal investigation of the company. 

Haugen claims the documents provide evidence that the company withheld information that might have affected investors’ decisions about purchasing Facebook’s stock. Among other things, she says that the documents show that Facebook knew that its number of actual users — a key measurement of its ability to deliver the advertising it depends on for its profits — was lower than it was reporting.   

 

The SEC has not indicated whether or not it will pursue an investigation into the company, and a securities fraud charge would be difficult to prove, requiring evidence that executives actively and knowingly misled investors. But even an investigation could be harmful to the company’s already bruised corporate image. 

In a statement provided to various media, a company spokesperson said, “We make extensive disclosures in our S.E.C. filings about the challenges we face, including user engagement, estimating duplicate and false accounts, and keeping our platform safe from people who want to use it to harm others . . . All of these issues are known and debated extensively in the industry, among academics and in the media. We are confident that our disclosures give investors the information they need to make informed decisions.”   

Antitrust suit 

Facebook is already being sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which claims that between the company’s main site, Instagram, and WhatsApp, Facebook exercises monopoly power in the social media market. The agency is demanding that the three platforms be split up.   

Facebook has publicly claimed it does not have monopoly power, but internal documents made available by Haugen demonstrate that the company knows it is overwhelmingly dominant in some areas, potentially handing the FTC additional ammunition as it attempts to persuade a federal judge to break up the company.  

Legislative action 

Congress doesn’t agree on much these days, but Haugen’s testimony in a hearing last month sparked bipartisan anger at Facebook and Instagram, especially over revelations that the latter has long been aware that its platform is harmful to the mental health of many teenage users, particularly young girls. 

Several pieces of legislation have since been introduced, including a proposal to create an “app ratings board” that would set age and content ratings for applications on internet-enabled devices.  

  

Others seek to make social media companies like Facebook liable for harm done by false information circulating on the platform, or to force the company to offer stronger privacy protections and to give users the right to control the spread of content about themselves. 

Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute and a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School, is one of many academics who have been pushing for lawmakers to require Facebook and other social media platforms to allow researchers and journalists better access to data about their audiences and their engagement.   

“We’ve seen increased interest among lawmakers and regulators in expanding the space for research and journalism focused on the platform, reflecting the understanding that in order to effectively regulate the platforms we need to better understand the effect that they are having on society and democracy,” she told VOA.

 

Internal dissent 

One of the most striking things about the documents released this week is the amount of anger inside Facebook over the company’s public image. The disclosures include reams of internal messages and other communications in which Facebook employees complain about the company’s unwillingness to police content on the site.   

“I’m struggling to match my values to my employment here,” one employee wrote in response to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which was partly organized on Facebook. “I came here hoping to effect change and improve society, but all I’ve seen is atrophy and abdication of responsibility.”  

The documents show that the company is losing employees — particularly those charged with combating hate speech and misinformation — because they don’t believe their efforts have the support of management. 

Advertiser boycott 

Last year the Anti-Defamation League organized a campaign to pressure companies to “pause” their advertising on Facebook in protest over its failure to eliminate hateful rhetoric on the platform. In a statement given to VOA, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the group’s CEO, said it is preparing to do so again. 

“Mark Zuckerberg would have you believe that Facebook is doing all it can to address the amplification of hate and disinformation,” Greenblatt said. “Now we know the truth: He was aware it was happening and chose to ignore internal researchers’ recommendations and did nothing about it. So we will do something about it, because literally, lives have been lost and people are being silenced and killed as a direct result of Facebook’s negligence.”   

He continued, “We are in talks to decide what the best course of action is to bring about real change at Facebook, whether it’s with policymakers, responsible shareholders, or advertisers,” he said. “But make no mistake: We’ve successfully taken on Facebook’s hate and misinformation machine before, and we aren’t afraid to do it again. It’s time to rein in this rogue company and its harmful products.” 

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Саакашвілі «щодня втрачає сили, скаржиться на порушення процесуальних прав і свободи совісті» – Денісова

Відмова Саакашвілі від медичної підтримки – «негарний дзвінок, зараз потрібно, щоб лікар кожної хвилини був при ньому», каже омбудсмен

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German Parliament to End ‘Epidemic Situation’

Leaders of Germany’s newly-installed Bundestag – the lower house parliament – said Wednesday they will not extend the “epidemic situation of national scope” when it expires next month, though certain public health measures will remain to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

The declaration of the health emergency allows the federal and state governments to order key coronavirus prevention measures without the approval of parliament. It was first established by the Bundestag in March 2020 and has been repeatedly extended.

 

But speaking to reporters in Berlin, leaders of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) – winners of last month’s parliamentary elections and likely members of the new government – said they plan to let the designation expire when it lapses November 25.  

 

They said even though COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise, the situation had fundamentally changed, most significantly because about two-thirds of the population had been vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

 

But SPD Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Dirk Wiese said that November 25 will not be a “freedom day” from all COVID-19 safety measures, and the nation needs to go through the coming winter responsibly. He said the group agreed to transitional arrangements that will allow German states to enact “low-impact safeguards” until the beginning of spring.”

 

But Wiese said that one thing is certain, “there will no more be school closures, lockdowns or curfews again, as these measures are also disproportionate in the current situation.”

 

The lawmakers said some measures, like obligatory mask wearing in public spaces, restrictions on entry to certain venues to only those who have been vaccinated or financial support for workers who have been hit hard by the pandemic, will stay in place until March.

 

In addition, individual states can still decide to implement stricter measures, if needed.

 

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press.

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У США заборонили роботу китайського оператора через загрозу національній безпеці

China Telecom (Americas) Corp. зобов’язана припинити свою діяльність у Сполучених Штатах протягом 60 днів

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Затриманий військовими голова уряду Судану повернувся до резиденції

Місце перебування інших затриманих міністрів, як і раніше, залишається невідомим

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«Я Зеленському претензій не висувала б» – Гонтарева про «Офшор 95» і 40 мільйонів «Приватбанку»

Раніше президент України Володимир Зеленський заявив, що команда «Кварталу 95» займалася «виключно творчістю», а не відмиванням грошей

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«Велика ганьба для наглядової ради банку» – Гонтарева про скандал в «Укрексімбанку»

11 жовтня наглядова рада «Укрексімбанку» звільнила Євгена Мецгера з посади голови банку

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У Парижі учень погрожував розправою директору ліцею «в ім’я Кадирова»

За інформацією поліції, юнак заявляв, що «ненавидить Францію, Захід та Європу» і збирається спалити французький прапор на шкільному дворі

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International Police Operation Cracks Down on Illegal Internet Drug Vendors

U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet. 

At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools. 

The 10-month dragnet called “Operation HunTor” — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.

“This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. 

Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills. 

“We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances.” 

The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.

 

“No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s deputy executive director.

 

The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies. 

Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills. 

“Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don’t know what they’re getting,” Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down “DarkMarket,” the world’s largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web. 

Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.

More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine. 

U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected.

 

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British Court to Rule on US Extradition of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange

A British court will consider this week whether Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website, can be extradited to the United States on charges of hacking and theft. The two-day hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday in London’s high court. 

U.S. prosecutors appealed a British district court verdict from January, which ruled that Assange should not be extradited because it was possible he could commit suicide in a maximum-security U.S. prison.

That premise will be challenged by prosecutors, said lawyer Nick Vamos, a former head of extradition at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, now a partner at London-based law firm Peters & Peters. 

“What the U.S. government (has) now done is come forward with a specific assurance about exactly how, where and in what condition he will be detained. So, provided his medical condition and his risk of suicide hasn’t changed, then you would assume that the U.S. government (has) met the test that the district judge in the first judgment set them,” Vamos told VOA. 

Other developments since the January ruling could affect the case. Sigurdur Thordarson, a former Wikileaks insider-turned-FBI informant, has said he fabricated evidence used by the prosecution. 

Meanwhile last month, Yahoo News published a story alleging the CIA plotted to kidnap or even kill Assange in 2017 when he sought asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Yahoo said the story was based on interviews with 30 former U.S. intelligence and national security officials. 

Vamos said the defense will claim there is political motivation behind the extradition request.

“It will be argued that, well, if the CIA were willing to assassinate him — that’s one arm of the U.S. government — then really, you can’t trust the other arm of the U.S. government, the Department of Justice, to act fairly and to prosecute him in accordance with human rights standards and what we would consider to be a fair trial,” he said. 

The CIA and U.S. lawyers leading the extradition appeal have yet to comment on the Yahoo story. Former CIA director and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Megyn Kelly Show podcast in September that all actions taken were “consistent with U.S. law.” 

“We desperately wanted to hold accountable those individuals that had violated U.S. law, that had violated requirements to protect information and had tried to steal it. There is a deep legal framework to do that. And we took actions consistent with U.S. law to try to achieve that,” Pompeo said. 

Military leak 

In 2010 and 2011, Assange oversaw the publication by Wikileaks of tens of thousands of diplomatic cables and military reports relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the leaks exposed abuses by the U.S. military. 

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012 after facing accusations of rape in Sweden, a case that was later dropped. He stayed there for seven years until Ecuador allowed British police to arrest him in April 2019. He was then jailed for 50 weeks for breaching bail. 

Now 50, he is currently being held in Belmarsh prison in London, as he is considered a flight risk. 

Experts say the extradition case raises vital questions about freedom of the press.

“There is the huge, huge issue of global media freedom and the way that this case could set a terrible precedent for any journalist, any publisher, trying to expose the misdeeds and wrongdoing of government, so that government can be held accountable,” Julia Hall of Amnesty International said in an interview with VOA. 

Assange faces 18 U.S. federal charges relating to allegations of hacking, theft of classified material and the disclosure of the identities of U.S. informants, which prosecutors say put the informants’ lives at risk. 

A verdict on the extradition appeal will likely take several weeks. Whoever loses can appeal the decision to Britain’s Supreme Court, which could take several years. However, Supreme Court judges may rule against considering the case, Vamos said.

“It has to be on a point of law of general public importance. The Supreme Court doesn’t hear factual disputes and doesn’t hear arguments that have been settled well before in lower courts,” he told VOA. 

 

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British Court to Rule on Assange Extradition Request

British Court to Rule on Assange Extradition Request

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Німеччина: повноваження Меркель офіційно завершені, тепер вона в.о. канцлера до формування нового уряду

26 жовтня відбулося перше організаційне засідання нового німецького парламенту

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У США та Європі заарештували 150 людей через причетність до «темної мережі»

Згідно із заявою США, серед вилученого – підроблені ліки, опіоїдні таблетки, понад 152 кілограми амфетаміну, 21 кілограм кокаїну та 32,5 кілограми екстазі

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У зоні ООС вперше застосували безпілотний комплекс «Байрактар» – Генштаб ЗСУ

За допомогою високоточних бомб Bayraktar може вражати цілі у радіусі 8 кілометрів

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