- France’s foreign minister has spoken of his “anger” and “bitterness” and has criticized the US and Britain, after the allies agreed a deal to supply nuclear submarines to Australia, undoing Paris’ $40-billion deal for French subs. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio on Thursday morning, after the leaders of Australia, the UK and US convened a virtual press conference on Wednesday night, announcing the AUKUS pact and the delivery of conventionally-armed nuclear-power submarines to Canberra.
- The War on Terror was a veritable feeding frenzy for defense contractors, with the sector profiting to the collective tune of trillions. However, it wasn’t the only industry cashing in – as a new report produced by three US campaign groups reveals, “household names in tech like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have respectively reaped billions from selling tech to the war machine.” In all, 86% of government contracts awarded to Amazon and 77% to Google to date are said to have been related to the War on Terror. That income played a pivotal role in transforming these organizations from small start-ups, literally operating from basements, into global behemoths.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called on the EU to counter rising Chinese investment with a new infrastructure program, Global Gate. “We want to create links and not dependencies,” she said in her address. Boom Bust’s Christy Ai and Professor Richard Wolff offer their forecasts on the EU’s latest proposal to counter China’s new Silk Road.
- In a statement on Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed the need for an outright ban on AI applications that are not in compliance with international human rights law, while also urging for a pause on sales for certain technologies of concern. The UN’s human rights chief has called for a moratorium on the use of some artificial intelligence tech, such as bulk facial recognition, until there are “adequate safeguards” against its potentially “catastrophic” impact.
- Sequoia National Park in the US state of California, known for its giant sequoias, has been closed to visitors due to a major wildfire outbreak that prompted the evacuation of its employees, the park administration said on 16 September. The fire started on 9 September after a lightning strike, and soon broke off into two separate areas – the Paradise and the Colony fires – which currently cover the territory of a total of 7,039 acres (26 square kilometers), the park said.
- Microsoft announced on Thursday that its users can forget about passwords – now they will be able to log in via fingerprints, facial recognition, and authenticator apps instead. Users will be able to ditch passwords starting today; however, Microsoft noted the “feature will be rolled out over the coming weeks”. According to the tech giant, the change is intended to make users more secure. “Weak passwords are the entry point for the majority of attacks across enterprise and consumer accounts. There are a whopping 579 password attacks every second – that’s 18 billion every year” ~ Vasu Jakkal Microsoft Corporate Vice President For Security
- [Always “rules for thee but not for me”] Facebook shields the rich, famous, and powerful from its own community standards and rules. The programme, which was internally referred to early on as “Shielding”, but then rebranded as “Crosscheck” or “XCheck”, reportedly protected 5.8 million people in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. This programme makes some high-profile accounts, including celebrities, politicians, and journalists immune to enforcement actions and allows them to post rule-violating materials. The documents show that the programme gave selected VIPs free rein to harass other netizens or incite violence, violations which would typically lead to Facebook purges of ordinary users.
News Burst 17 September 2021