Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Cyber Regulation Could Be Coming Following Spate of Hacks, Ransomware Attacks

The United States may soon look to regulate private companies, mandating higher standards for cybersecurity following a series of damaging hacks and ransomware attacks against key firms and critical infrastructure.U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominees to fill two top cyber roles in his administration warned Thursday that malign actors are currently operating with impunity and that too many private sector organizations have, so far, failed to take the necessary precautions.FILE – In this June 8, 2013 photo, Chris Inglis, then deputy director of the National Security Agency testifies on Capitol Hill. Inglis is being nominated as the government’s first national cyber director at the Department of Homeland Security.”Enlightened self-interest, that’s apparently not working,” Chris Inglis, tapped to be the country’s first national cyber director, told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Market forces, that’s apparently not working.””When they’re conducting critical activities upon which the nation’s interests depend, it may well be we need to step in and we need to regulate or mandate in the same way we’ve done that for the aviation industry or the automobile industry,” he added.Jen Easterly, nominated to head up the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, agreed.”As a nation, we remain at great risk of a catastrophic cyberattack,” she said. “It seems to me that voluntary standards are probably not getting the job done and that there is probably some sort of role for making some of these standards mandatory, to include notification.”The question of how best to take on a range of cyberthreats, from state-sponsored hackers to ransomware networks, has been thrust into the spotlight following a series of high-profile attacks in recent months, starting with discovery of the hack of SolarWinds, a Texas-based software management company, last December.That breach, described by U.S. intelligence agencies as a Russian espionage operation, exposed as many as 18,000 A JBS meatpacking plant is seen in Plainwell, Michigan, June 2, 2021.More recently, ransomware networks forced Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, pauses to speak with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, June 10, 2021.”Congress needs to act,” Mark Warner, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Axios Thursday at a virtual event, when asked about the recent attacks.”The Biden administration has moved aggressively, but they can only do a certain amount of things,” Warner said. “We need to put this mandatory reporting bill in place.”Last month, Biden signed an executive order that requires internet service providers to share certain information about breaches into their networks, mandates higher standards for software development, and creates a playbook for how government agencies should respond to a breach.On Thursday, Inglis told lawmakers that the recent series of high-profile hacks and ransomware attacks “signal the urgent need to secure our national critical infrastructure” and that if confirmed as national cyber director, he would work to strengthen not just the technology but the people using the technology, as well.”What we need to do is make these systems defensible — they’ll never be secure,” Inglis said. “We need to then defend them … such that we can change the decision calculus of adversaries.”Every one of us needs to learn how to cross the cyber street in the same way we learned to cross a physical street when we were young,” he added.

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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White House Launches Broader Scrutiny of Foreign Tech

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden this week dropped a Trump-era measure that barred Americans from downloading TikTok and several other Chinese smartphone apps. But analysts say the order also broadens the scrutiny of foreign-controlled technology.Biden’s move replaced three Trump administration executive orders that sought to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat and transactions with eight other Chinese apps. The FILE – A counter promoting WeChat, a product of Tencent, for reading books for the blind is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, March 18, 2015.”This means that TikTok may have to go through another review, and any decision won’t be easily challenged in court,” he added. “This is the start of Round 2, and TikTok may not get off as easily this time.”When asked during a briefing Wednesday if the White House still intended to ban TikTok or WeChat, an administration official told reporters that all apps listed on the revoked executive orders would be reviewed under the new process and criteria.Key order standsJulian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, told VOA that Biden had maintained one of Trump’s most important executive orders. Trump signed the “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain” order in May 2019, declaring a national emergency posed by foreign adversaries “who are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services.”Biden is “not revoking the basic framework, which is that the U.S. government should be trying to prevent transfer of personal data to a foreign adversary,” Ku told VOA in a phone interview. “He reserves the right in theory to come back and go after those companies or other companies that would potentially be threatening the personal data of America.”Both TikTok and WeChat did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.TikTok, a social networking app for sharing short, user-produced video clips, and WeChat, an app that includes messaging, social media and payment platforms, both collect extensive data on their users. The core concern is that the Chinese government will be able to access this data and potentially leverage it for espionage or blackmail. U.S. officials also worry that the heavy censorship of these apps will result in biased political opinions and increased spread of misinformation.A Ban on WeChat and TikTok, a Disconnected World and Two Internets Some policy analysts from America’s closest allies welcome the latest hardline approach by the Trump AdministrationThe American Civil Liberties Union applauded Biden’s move but warned against “taking us down the same misguided path by serving as a smokescreen for future bans or other unlawful actions” with the requirement of a new security review. The rights group considered the Trump-era bans a violation of First Amendment rights.BREAKING: The Biden administration has revoked Trump-era executive orders that targeted TikTok and WeChat and violated our First Amendment rights.— ACLU (@ACLU) June 9, 2021Senator Josh Hawley criticized Biden’s move, calling it a “major mistake.”It “shows alarming complacency regarding China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as China’s growing corporate influence,” he said on Twitter.This is a major mistake – shows alarming complacency regarding #China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as #China’s growing corporate influence https://t.co/AP8KswDHNW— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 9, 2021Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said in Thursday’s daily briefing that the revocation of Trump-era bans was “a step towards the right direction” and that officials hoped to see Chinese companies “treated fairly.”

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Science & Health
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Restrictions Lift as COVID-19 Deaths and Cases Fall in Washington

Washington-area residents are increasingly out and about as COVID-19 cases fall in the U.S., including the capital region. But reluctance to get vaccinated persists in some quarters, despite extensive campaigns promoting inoculation — and warnings of the dangers of failing to get the jab. VOA’s Laurel Bowman has our story.Camera: Laurel Bowman

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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US Again Condemns Nigeria’s Twitter Ban 

The U.S. has condemned Nigeria’s continuing ban of Twitter in the country, saying the action “has no place in a democracy.”“Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday in a statement calling for the African nation to reverse its Twitter suspension.He said the U.S. “condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter. The United States is likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.”The U.S. had joined the European Union, Britain, Ireland and Canada last weekend in criticizing the Nigerian action. The Abuja government indefinitely banned Twitter after the U.S. social media company deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules.Tweet about unrestBuhari’s tweet referred to the country’s civil war four decades ago in a warning about recent unrest, referring to “those misbehaving” in violence in the southeastern part of the country. Officials there blame the prohibited separatist group IPOB for attacks on police and election offices.”Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” the president had posted on Twitter.Buhari’s office denied the Twitter suspension was a response to the removal of that post.”There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences,” presidency spokesperson Garba Shehu said in a statement.Shehu said the removal of Buhari’s tweet was “disappointing” and that “major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities.”Twitter said it was working to restore the social media network in Nigeria, but government officials warned they would prosecute violators.

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Science & Health
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Biden Administration Won’t Require Shots for Federal Workers Returning to Offices

U.S federal workers will not be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the office, according to guidance from the Biden administration released Thursday.The guidance says federal agencies should base their reopening plans on the percentage of employees who are vaccinated, but said revealing vaccination status would be voluntary.The guidance urged agencies to build in more flexibility for some workers, including more remote work and working outside normal business hours.About 60% of the 4-million-person federal workforce has been operating remotely during the pandemic, Reuters reported.Agencies are required to submit their plans for reopening by next week, the guidance stated, and they should be ready to implement the plans by July 19.According to the guidance, agencies’ “eventual post-pandemic operating state may differ in significant ways from [their] pre-pandemic operating state.” 

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Science & Health
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Sunrise Special: Solar Eclipse Thrills World’s Northern Tier

The top of the world got a sunrise special Thursday — a “ring of fire” solar eclipse.  This so-called annular eclipse began at the Canadian province of Ontario, then swept across Greenland, the North Pole and finally Siberia, as the moon passed directly in front of the sun.An annular eclipse occurs when a new moon is around its farthest point from us and appearing smaller, and so it doesn’t completely blot out the sun when it’s dead center.  The upper portions of North America, Europe and Asia enjoyed a partial eclipse, at least where the skies were clear. At those locations, the moon appeared to take a bite out of the sun. The moon is seen blotting out 81 percent of the sun during a solar eclipse in Washington, D.C., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)It was the first eclipse of the sun visible from North America since August 2017, when a dramatic total solar eclipse crisscrossed the U.S. The next one is coming up in 2024.A total lunar eclipse graced the skies two weeks ago.

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Science & Health
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India Breaks World Record After Posting 6,000 COVID Deaths in a Day

India posted a single-day world record Thursday of more than 6,000 COVID-19 deaths after one state revised a set of numbers.The eastern state of Bihar, one of India’s largest and poorest states, revised its death toll Wednesday from about 5,500 to 9,500 after the state’s high court ordered the government to review its records.Many experts have said India’s death toll is far higher than official reports after a devastating surge of new infections in April and May saw the emergence of hundreds of makeshift crematoriums and scores of bodies floating in rivers.The revised count pushed India’s one-day death toll to 6,148, outpacing the 5,444 recorded by the United States on February 12, according to Reuters.The world’s second-most populous nation now has 29.1 million total confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 355,705 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, second only to the United States with 33.4 million total cases and 598,766 deaths.In other news, a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Medicine reveals a slightly higher risk of a bleeding disorder from the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.  Researchers discovered some people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Scotland had developed a condition called ITP, or immune thrombocytopenic purpura, which causes bruising in some cases and also serious bleeding in others.The study also found very small increased risks of arterial blood clots and bleeding possibly associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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UEFA Orders Change to Ukraine Football Jersey

Soccer’s governing body in Europe, UEFA, ruled Thursday that Ukraine can keep a map that includes Crimea on its jerseys, but must remove part of a slogan that it said has military connotations.
 
Russia had filed complaints with UEFA about the jersey that Ukraine will wear at the 24-nation European Championships that begin Friday.
 
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
 
UEFA said Ukraine must remove the slogan “Glory to the heroes” that appears on the inside of the jersey’s collar.
 
A second slogan, “Glory to Ukraine,” is allowed to remain.   
 
UEFA said it previously approved “Glory to Ukraine” but it found after further analysis the combination of the two slogans had “historic and militaristic significance.” 

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