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China’s Rival to GPS Navigation Carries Big Risks

After more than 20 years of effort, China completed its satellite navigation system last Tuesday when the last of BeiDou’s 35 satellites reached geostationary orbit.China’s domestically developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, designed to rival the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System (GPS), is now offering worldwide coverage, allowing global users to access its high-accuracy positioning, navigation and timing services, which are vital to the modern economy.China’s state media claims the system, formally initiated in 1994, is now being used by more than half of the world’s countries, and that its navigation products have been exported to more than 120 countries.FILE – A GPS station is seen in the Inyo Mountains of California. (Shawn Lawrence/UNAVCO)Like GPS, the services are offered free of charge using public protocols. But technical experts say the differences between the two systems have profound security implications.Security risksAll other global navigation satellite systems — GPS, GLONASS (Russia) and Galileo (EU) — mainly act as beacons, beaming out signals picked up by billions of devices using them to determine their precise position on Earth.BeiDou is a two-way communication system, allowing it to identify the locations of receivers. BeiDou-compatible devices can transmit data back to the satellites, even in text messages of up to 1,200 Chinese characters.”In layman’s terms, you can not only know where you are through BeiDou but also tell others where you are through the system,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV said last month.Such a capability has raised serious security concerns. “All cellular devices, as I understand their function, can be tracked because they continually communicate with towers or satellites,” Dr. Larry Wortzel, a commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), told VOA.”So just as here in the U.S., there are concerns that police or federal agencies can track people by their cellphones. That can happen. The same is true of a cellphone relying on BeiDou, Glonass and Galileo. The question is: Who are you concerned about being tracked by?”FILE – A Long March-3B rocket carrying the Beidou-3 satellite, the last satellite of China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System, takes off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, China, June 23, 2020.Legislation passed in Taiwan in 2016 also noted that two-way communication capabilities could be used in cyberattacks. It recommended that government employees should avoid using smartphones that rely on BeiDou for their phone navigation system.In a public report, Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology said that Taiwanese using mobile phones made in the mainland might be providing Beijing with information via embedded malware. “Because the Chinese BeiDou satellite positioning system has two-way information sending and receiving function and malicious programs could be hidden in the navigation chip of the mobile phone, operating system or apps, the use of BeiDou-enabled smartphones could face security risks,” the report stated.The ministry recommended that national defense agencies monitor signals transmitted by BeiDou and warn of any anomalies as soon as possible.A Staff members walk at Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the day before the Beidou-3 satellite, the last satellite of China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System, was set to launch, in Sichuan province, China, June 15, 2020.Almost 25 years later, BeiDou is now trying to rival GPS’s dominant positions. It has overtaken its U.S. rival in size. At the end of June, there were 35 BeiDou satellites in operation, compared with 31 for GPS.”It brings full autonomy to China in matters of position and navigation services for ground, sea and air transportation means on a global scale,” said Dr. Emmanuel Meneut in a recent report published by a French think tank, the Institute of International Relations.According to a report released last month by a Chinese research firm Qianxun SI, BeiDou’s satellites were observed more frequently than GPS satellites in most parts of the world. The state media Xinhua reported last Friday that BeiDou now has 500 million subscribers for its high-precision positioning services.As an integral part of everyday life, GPS is nearly ubiquitous in the modern economy. The system is also an indispensable asset to U.S. forces at home and deployed around the globe. It provides a substantial military advantage and has been integrated into virtually every facet of military operations. Being overtaken by BeiDou could have potentially enormous implications for both high-tech industry and national security.To promote greater use of the technology, China has sought to incentivize other countries with loans and free services. Beijing signed a roughly 2 billion yuan ($297 million) agreement with Thailand in 2013, making the country the first overseas client of BeiDou. According to a report released last month by a Shanghai-based market research firm, SWS Research, by the end of 2020, at least 1,000 base stations will be built in the 10 ASEAN countries.”Widespread integration of BeiDou across the Belt and Road [a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013] will ostensibly end a member nation’s reliance on the American military-run GPS network,” Heath Sloane, a scholar at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, wrote in The Diplomat in April. “Torn between rival networks, the world may soon be bifurcated into GPS or BeiDou camps.”FILE – A GPS navigation device is held by a U.S. soldier in Kuwait, in this image taken from video.Ironically, the American military says it sometimes uses BeiDou as a backup to GPS.According to General James Holmes, the head of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, pilots of the elite U-2 spy plane wear watches that receive satellite navigation coordinates from BeiDou when GPS is jammed. “My U-2 guys fly with a watch now that ties into GPS, but also BeiDou and the Russian [GLONASS] system and the European [Galileo] system so that if somebody jams GPS, they still get the others,” Holmes said March 4 at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington.While China’s 5G networking technology has long been considered a security threat, BeiDou receives little criticism from the U.S. Moreover, the system received much-needed help from Washington in 2017.  As Beijing was rapidly developing the system, it faced a problem that only the U.S. could solve: No frequency bands were available.Under the “first come, first served” principle, GPS had occupied most of the spectrum that a global positioning system needs, since the U.S. was the first nation to start broadcasting in those frequencies.China had to obtain permission from Washington before using this limited resource. After three years of negotiations, the two countries agreed in December 2017 to allow BeiDou’s civil signals to be interoperable with GPS. As a result, the three frequency bands that BeiDou satellites use to transmit navigation signals are located adjacent to or even inside GPS frequency bands.’Biggest’ aerospace projectOfficially started in 1994, BeiDou is consistently referenced as “the biggest” aerospace program that China ever undertaken. For the past 2½ years alone, there have been more than 300,000 scientists and engineers from more than 400 research institutions and corporations involved in the program. Along with 5G, BeiDou is called by Beijing “The Two Pillars of a Great Power.”Yang Changfeng, a chief designer of BeiDou, told China’s state broadcaster CCTV last month that China was now “moving from being a major nation in space to becoming a true space power.””The rise of the Chinese GPS BeiDou system is not simply one more positioning service in competition with the U.S. One is a strategic challenge,” Meneut said.

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Facebook Removes False Accounts Linked to Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Social media giant Facebook said Wednesday that it had removed dozens of accounts linked to supporters or employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as part of an investigation into the spread of false news online.Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement that 73 Facebook and Instagram accounts, 14 pages and one group had been removed. Brazilian courts have been investigating the spread of false news in connection with Bolsonaro.There was no immediate comment from the presidential office about Facebook’s action.Facebook’s executive said the accounts were linked to the Social Liberal Party, which Bolsonaro left last year after winning the 2018 presidential election, and to employees of the president; two of his sons, Senator Flávio Bolsonaro and congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro; and two other lawmakers.”This network consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on a combination of duplicate and fake accounts — some of which had been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to evade enforcement, create fictitious personas posing as reporters, post content, and manage pages masquerading as news outlets,” Gleicher said in the statement.He added that some of the content posted by the accounts had already been taken down for community standards violations, including hate speech.Gleicher said about 883,000 accounts followed one or more of the Bolsonaro linked pages and an additional 917,000 followed one of more of the Instagram accounts that were removed.

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Science & Health
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Researchers Say Climate Change Causing Arctic Spider Population Boom

A new study suggests earlier Arctic springs driven by climate change are providing wolf spiders in the region the opportunity to have more babies. The study, published in the June 24 edition of the biological sciences journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that Arctic wolf spiders are taking advantage of the early spring season by producing more batches of offspring — called clutches — because warmer temperatures extend the season when the spiders are active. Authors of the study, from the Arctic Research Center at Denmark’s Aarhus University, dissected individual egg sacs from the spiders and counted the number of eggs and partially developed juvenile spiders. They compared those egg contents with the size of the mothers and determined that the spiders were producing two separate clutches, something previously only observed in spiders living in lower latitudes. The spiders hatched during the second clutch appeared significantly later in the season. In years when the snowmelt happened earlier, the first clutches occurred earlier, and the second clutches were larger, the study shows. The study provides the first evidence of invertebrates in the Arctic producing additional clutches as a result of global warming. The researchers say this could be a “common but overlooked phenomenon due to the challenges associated with long-term collection of life-history data in the Arctic.”  Researchers say that this effect could also have implications for Arctic ecosystems as a whole because wolf spiders are widely distributed. 
 

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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Kanye West Breaks Ranks with Trump, Vows to Win Presidential Race

Rapper Kanye West signaled he no longer supported U.S. President Donald Trump and said he would enter the presidential race to win it, according to an interview published on Wednesday.West, previously a vocal supporter of Trump, announced on Saturday that he would run for president in 2020. West and his reality TV star wife Kim Kardashian West have visited Trump in the White House.”I am taking the red hat off, with this interview,” West told Forbes magazine, referring to Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life, I’m doing (this) to win.”Kanye West? The Girl Scouts? Hedge funds? All Got PPP LoansThe government’s small business lending program has benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the recipients include many you probably wouldn’t have expectedHe said he would run under a new banner – the Birthday Party.There was no record of West filing any official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states.West denied that his aim was to split the Black vote and hurt the chances of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. It was “a form of racism and white supremacy” to suggest all Black people should support the Democrats, he said.Trump, who hosted Kanye West in a widely publicized visit to the Oval Office in 2018, said the rapper’s candidacy “would be a great trial run” and that he had a “real voice,” according to an interview Tuesday with Real Clear Politics news website.Kanye West Wants the Oval OfficeEntertainer says he’s running for presidentWhite House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Wednesday called Kanye’s announcement “a scathing indictment of the Democrat Party, not just their policies on abortion, the Planned Parenthood, but also the policies that disproportionately affected African Americans in a negative way.”West told Forbes he believed “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.” The group provides reproductive health care and education, with most of that being preventive care.The rapper also said he had been ill in February with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and would be suspicious of any vaccines developed to prevent the infection. Reiterating false theories that link vaccines with child developmental disorders, he said: “So when they say the way we’re going to fix COVID is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious.”

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Economy & business/Silicon Valley & Technology
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Facebook Civil Rights Audit: ‘Serious Setbacks’ Mar Progress

A two-year audit of Facebook’s civil rights record found “serious setbacks” that have marred the social network’s progress on matters such as hate speech, misinformation and bias.
 
Facebook hired the audit’s leader, former American Civil Liberties Union executive Laura Murphy, in May 2018 to assess its performance on vital social issues. Its 100-page report released Wednesday outlines a “seesaw of progress and setbacks” at the company on everything from bias in Facebook’s algorithms to its content moderation, advertising practices and treatment of voter suppression.
 
The audit recommends that Facebook build a “civil rights infrastructure” into every aspect of the company, as well as a “stronger interpretation” of existing voter suppression policies and more concrete action on algorithmic bias. Those suggestions are not binding, and there is no formal system in place to hold Facebook accountable for any of the audit’s findings.
 
“While the audit process has been meaningful, and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” the audit report states.
 
Those include Facebook’s decision to exempt politicians from fact-checking, even when President Donald Trump posted false information about voting by mail. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has cited a commitment to free speech as a reason for allowing such posts to remain on the platform, even though the company has rules in place against voter suppression it could have used to take down — or at least add warning labels to — Trump’s posts.
 
Last month, Facebook announced it would begin labeling rule-breaking posts — even from politicians — going forward. But it is not clear if Trump’s previous controversial posts would have gotten the alert. The problem, critics have long said, is not so much about Facebook’s rules as how it enforces them.
 
“When you elevate free expression as your highest value, other values take a back seat,” Murphy told The Associated Press. The politician exemption, she said, “elevates the speech of people who are already powerful and disadvantages people who are not.”
 
More than 900 companies have joined an advertising boycott of Facebook to protest its handling of hate speech and misinformation.
 
Civil rights leaders who met virtually with Zuckerberg and other Facebook leaders Tuesday expressed skepticism that recommendations from the audit would ever be implemented, noting that past suggestions in previous reports had gone overlooked.
 
“What we get is recommendations that they end up not implementing,” said Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color for Change, one of several civil rights nonprofits leading an organized boycott of Facebook advertising. 

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Rock Legend Ringo Starr Turns 80 

Legendary rock musician and former drummer of the Beatles Ringo Starr turned 80 Tuesday and celebrated with an online concert. Starr made an appearance Tuesday — wearing a mask with peace signs on it and practicing social distancing — along with his wife, Barbara Bach, at the “Peace and Love” statue to promote his online birthday concert, the proceeds from which, among other causes, went to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The iconic drummer told reporters “peace and love around the world” was his birthday wish and he believes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is part of that. He said, “You can’t say ‘peace and love’ with someone’s knee on your throat,” referring to the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police department. Starr looked fit and healthy as he spoke with reporters and was, asked if he had a secret. He said, “God blessed me with these good looks. I don’t know, I work out, I eat right, I just do the best I can for the body and the mind.” His online concert, “Ringo’s Big Birthday Show” was streamed live on YouTube and other online channels, and featured, among other acts, his former Beatle bandmate Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, and Sheryl Crow, and included birthday wishes from celebrities.      

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Science & Health
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After US Departure, WHO Looking at Germany    

In the wake of America’s official departure from the World Health Organization, a former senior director at the U.N. health agency predicted that other countries, particularly Germany, would likely step in to fill any void left by the single-biggest financial contributor.   At a briefing on Wednesday morning, Dr. David Heymann, a former assistant WHO director-general and an American, said he was “very disappointed” at the U.S. decision to exit the agency.   He says the U.S. has been behind incredibly important activities at WHO, noting it was the U.S. and its Cold War enemy Russia that spearheaded the global initiative to eradicate smallpox.   Heymann said, however, that WHO would likely just get on with its work.   He says Germany has become an important partner in global health recently and other countries are stepping up as well.   He says: “As much as it would be terrible if the U.S. leaves WHO and leaves [with] that expertise it has provided throughout the years, the WHO would continue to function.”   FILE – World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also been scheduled to appear at the briefing, but pulled out moments before it began. Heymann dismissed the idea that Tedros was unwilling to face questions over the U.S. departure. 

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