Category Archives: Business

Economy and business news. Business is the practice of making one’s living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). It is also “any activity or enterprise entered into for profit.” A business entity is not necessarily separate from the owner and the creditors can hold the owner liable for debts the business has acquired

EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3 Portable Power Station

EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3 Portable Power Station + 220W Solar Panel. 4kWh Capacity, 4kW Output

Crafted with automotive-grade LFP cells, the EcoFlow DELTA Pro 3 features the industry’s first IP65-rated battery pack, resisting impacts, water, dust, and fire. With 4000 cycles to 80%, enjoy 11 years* of daily power. Dependable in any weather, ensuring peace of mind. *Tested under controlled laboratory conditions with charging and discharging at 0.5C rate under 77°F conditions.

X-Guard BMS monitors 44 safety indicators 24/7, app-managed for smart, secure energy.

CTC design, UL-certified 5VA fireproof shell fortify DELTA Pro 3, setting new standards for resilience.

5-year warranty, streamlined support for swift solutions, minimal downtime. Quality redefined.

Specs:
Capacity: 4096Wh 4000W,6000W(X-Boost);
Supports up to two DELTA Pro 3 Smart Extra Batteries / DELTA Pro Smart Extra Batteries;
AC Output: 7 outlets, 4000W Max. (Surge 8000W);
Max Device(s): Power Supported by X-Boost 6000W;
USB-A Fast Charge, USB-A2, 5V 2.4A 9V 2A 12V 1.5A 18W Max;
USB-C Output, USB-C
2, 5/9/12/15/20V 5A 100W Max;
12V DC Output: 12.6V/30A 378W Total, DC5521 * 1, 5A Max., Anderson Port * 1, 30A Max;
AC Charging Input: 100-240V~15A,50/60HZ, 120V 1800W Max., 240V 3600W Max;
Solar Charging Input: 2600W, 2 ports: HPV:30-150V/15A, 1600W Max., LPV:11-60V/20A, 1000W Max;
Car Charging Input: 12V 8A Max., 48V 20A Max;
Battery Chemistry: LFP;
Cycle Life: 4000 cycles to 80% capacity;
Connection: WiFi 2.4GHz/Bluetooth/CAN;
Net Weight: 51.5kg (113.54 lb);
Dimension: 693mm341mm410mm.

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EcoFlow DELTA Pro Portable Power Station

Introducing the world’s first portable home battery with an expandable ecosystem for home backup, outdoor recreations, professional production, smart energy management, lower energy bills, and more. The EcoFlow DELTA Pro is the next leap in portable power technology, offering you power security and independence, wherever you are.

Power for any situation. From tailgate power to extreme blackouts that last for days on end, DELTA Pro delivers up to 25kWh of capacity. With that, you’re covered for any situation. That’s the industry gold standard.

All the AC output you’ll need. A single DELTA Pro unit packs a 3600W AC output, which can be expanded up to 4500W with X-Boost technology. Power 99.99% heavy-duty devices at home, outdoors, or at work. You can even pair two units together to achieve 7200W.

The world’s fastest charging portable power station. MultiCharge delivers record-breaking speeds at 6500W. To reach 6500W, you can opt for these charging methods.

Industry’s First Drive & Charge Portable Power Solution. Never run out of power on your road trips with the EcoFlow 800W Alternator Charger. Utilize the excess energy generated by your vehicle to turn every minute on the road into a free battery recharge.

A battery that lasts for years on end. DELTA Pro sports a brand-new LFP battery with 6500 cycles, which means you can use DELTA Pro for years and years before your unit reaches 50% of the original capacity. EcoFlow’s battery management system provides real-time analysis and regulation of voltage, current, and temperature. This unique protection mechanism makes DELTA Pro an incredibly safe and efficient home battery.

Plug and play home backup power. Simple, sustainable, and affordable whole-home backup power solutions with an output power of up to 7200W and a whopping 21.6kWh capacity for security and comfort. Easily chain together two DELTA Pros using the Double Voltage Hub and plug in to your breaker panel via a transfer switch. The solution provides a convenient home battery system without rewiring or running dangerous extension cables through your home.

A clean energy alternative. Replace noisy, smoky generators with a silent, fume-free, portable home battery. Unlike generators, batteries are ideal for both outdoor and indoor use, running all your essentials during a blackout. And, with the help of solar energy, recharge during an extended outage.

our email: buy@sellines.com
our skype: isgnet

Russian election meddlers hurting Biden, helping Trump, US intelligence warns

WASHINGTON — Russia is turning to a familiar playbook in its attempt to sway the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, looking for ways to boost the candidacy of former President Donald Trump by disparaging the campaign of incumbent President Joe Biden, according to American intelligence officials. 

A new assessment of threats to the November election, shared Tuesday, does not mention either candidate by name. But an intelligence official told reporters that the Kremlin view of the U.S. political landscape has not changed from previous election cycles.

“We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections,” the official told reporters, agreeing to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that preference has been further cemented by “the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia.”

The caution from U.S. intelligence officials comes nearly four years after it issued a similar warning about the 2020 presidential elections, which pitted then-President Trump against Biden.

Moscow was using “a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment,’” William Evanina, the then-head of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at the time.

“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” he added. 

A declassified post-election assessment, released in March 2021, reaffirmed the initial findings. Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party” while offering support for Trump, the report said. 

U.S. intelligence officials said they have been in contact with both presidential campaigns and the candidates but declined to share what sort of information may have been shared.

Trump pushback

The Trump campaign Tuesday rejected the U.S. intelligence assessment as backward.

“Vladimir Putin endorsed Joe Biden for President because he knows Biden is weak and can easily be bullied, as evidenced by Putin’s years-long invasion of Ukraine,” national press secretary Karoline Leavitt told VOA in an email.

“When President Trump was in the Oval Office, Russia and all of America’s adversaries were deterred, because they feared how the United States would respond,” she said.

“The only people in America who don’t see this clear contrast between Biden’s ineffective weakness versus Trump’s effective peace through strength approach are the left-wing stenographers in the mainstream media who write false narratives about Donald Trump for a living,” she added.

The Biden campaign has so far not responded to questions from VOA about the new U.S. assessment.

Russian sophistication

Russian officials also have not yet responded to requests for comment on the latest allegations, which accuse the Kremlin of using a “whole of government” approach to see Trump and other American candidates perceived as favorable to Moscow win in November.

“Moscow is using a variety of approaches to bolster its messaging and lend an air of authenticity to its efforts,” the U.S. intelligence official said. “This includes outsourcing its efforts to commercial firms to hide its hand and laundering narratives through influential U.S. voices.”

Russia’s efforts also appear focused on targeting U.S. voters in so-called swing states, states most likely to impact the outcome of the presidential election, officials said.

Some of those efforts have already come to light.

Russia and AI

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the seizure of two internet domains and of another 968 accounts on the X social media platform, part of what officials described an artificial intelligence-driven venture by Russian intelligence and Russia’s state-run RT news network.

A Justice Department statement said Russian intelligence and RT used specific AI software to create authentic-looking social media accounts to mimic U.S. individuals, “which the operators then used to promote messages in support of Russian government objectives.”

A joint advisory, issued simultaneously by the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, warned Russia was in the process of expanding the AI-fueled influence operation to other social media platforms.

The U.S. intelligence official who spoke to reporters Tuesday described such use of AI as a “malign influence accelerant,” and warned the technology had already been deployed, likely by China, in the run-up to Taiwan’s elections this past January.

China waiting

For now, though, U.S. intelligence officials see few indications Beijing is seeking to interfere in U.S. elections, as it did in 2020 and 2022. 

China “sees little gain in choosing between two parties that are perceived as both seeking to contain Beijing,” said the U.S. intelligence official, noting things could change.

“The PRC is seeking to expand its ability to collect and monitor data on U.S. social media platforms, probably to better understand and eventually manipulate public opinion,” the official said. “In addition, we are watching for whether China might seek to influence select down-ballot races as it did in the 2022 midterm elections.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, which has denied previous U.S. allegations, responded by calling the U.S. “the biggest disseminator of disinformation.”

“China has no intention and will not interfere in the US election, and we hope that the US side will not make an issue of China in the election,” spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA in an email.

‘Chaos agent’

The new U.S. election threat assessment warns that in addition to concerns about Russia and China, there is growing evidence Iran is seeking to play the role of a “chaos agent” in the upcoming U.S. vote.

“Iran seeks to stoke social divisions and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions around the elections,” according to an unclassified version of the assessment. 

It also warned that Tehran “has demonstrated a long-standing interest in exploiting U.S. political and societal tensions through various means, including social media.”

As an example, officials Tuesday pointed to newly declassified intelligence showing Iran trying to exploit pro-Gaza protests across the U.S.

“We have observed actors tied to Iran’s government posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protests, and even providing financial support to protesters,” said National Intelligence Director Avril Haines.

Haines cautioned, though, that Americans who interacted with the Iranian actors “may not be aware that they are interacting with or receiving support from a foreign government.”

Iranian officials have not yet responded to VOA’s request for comment.

 

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LogOn: Unfired earth blocks surpass modern building codes

 A new homebuilding method with ancient roots in adobe offers protection from wildfires, earthquakes, high winds and floods, while being climate friendly and sustainable. The secret ingredient: compressed earth blocks made from mud. Shelley Schlender has the story in this week’s episode of LogOn from Superior, Colorado.

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TikTok has launched tons of trends. Will its influence last?

new york — TikTok and its bite-sized videos arrived in the United States as a global version of the Chinese app Douyin in 2018. Less than six years later, the social media platform is deeply woven into the fabric of American consumerism, having shortened the shelf life of trends and revamped how people engage with food and fashion. 

The popularity of TikTok — coupled with its roots in Beijing — led the U.S. Congress — citing national security concerns, to pass a law that would ban the video-sharing app unless its Chinese parent company sells its stake. Both the company, ByteDance, and TikTok have sued on First Amendment grounds. 

But while the platform faces uncertain times, its influence remains undisputed. 

Interest in bright pink blush and brown lipstick soared last year, for example, after the cosmetics were featured in TikTok videos with looks labeled as “cold girl” and “latte” makeup. An abundance of clothing fads with quirky names, from “cottagecore” to “coastal grandma,” similarly owe their pervasiveness to TikTok.   

Plenty of TikTok-spawned crazes last only a week or two before losing steam. Yet even mini trends have challenged businesses to decipher which ones are worth stocking up for. A majority of the more than 170 million Americans who use TikTok belong to the under-30 age group coveted by retailers, according to the Pew Research Center. Whether fans of the platform or not, shoppers may have a #tiktokmademebuyit moment without knowing the origin story behind an eye-catching product. 

Platform’s algorithm is ‘secret sauce’

What made TikTok such a trendsetter compared to predecessor platforms? Researchers and marketing analysts have often described the platform’s personalized recommendation algorithm as the “secret sauce” of TikTok’s success. The company has disclosed little about the technology it employs to populate users’ “For You” feeds.   

Jake Bjorseth, founder of the advertising agency Trndsttrs, which specializes in Generation Z, thinks the app’s use of an interest-based algorithm instead of personal contacts to connect like-minded people is what gave TikTok the edge. 

TikTok also changed the standard for what was considered desirable in social media content. The beginner-friendly platform featured videos made without filters, lighting setups or production-level audio. TikTok creators could develop more intimate relationships with their followers because they appeared more authentic, Bjorseth said. 

The platform has plenty of critics. Some experts argue that TikTok, like other social media sites, can be addictive and promote unnecessary spending. Others accuse TikTok of encouraging harmful behavior, like girls engaging in skin care rituals intended for older women. 

Yet for all the detractors who won’t mourn TikTok if it goes away, a vocal base of fans hopes it doesn’t come to that. 

Influencing fashion, accessories

Casey Lewis, a trend analyst based in New York, said TikTok’s clout in the fashion arena first became apparent to her when videos about Birkenstock’s Boston clogs overtook her “For You” feed in 2022.   

As the number of TikTok videos exploded, creators advised their followers where they could find the suddenly sold-out clogs. Lewis thought it was odd since her brother, whom she described as a “frat boy” and not a fashionista, wore the cork-soled comfort shoes in college.   

“I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s some psychology where your brain goes from thinking like, ‘How weird? Is that fashion?’ And then suddenly you’re obsessed with it,” she said.   

The pace with which TikTok-shaped trends pop can be dizzying. In the last year, the hot pink ensembles of “Barbiecore” coexisted with the deliberately unsexy looks of “dadcore” — think chunky white sneakers, baggy jeans and polo shirts. The linen-draped “coastal grandma” aesthetic gave way to “eclectic grandpa.”   

While the rotating cast of “cores” may not drive their adherents to buy entire wardrobes, they’re “influencing spending in small ways, and that adds up,” Lewis said.   

Influencers provide tips, tricks

Daniella Lopez White, 21, a recent college graduate on a tight budget, said TikTok influencers provided tips on finding affordable clothes but also connected her to plus-size creators featuring fashions for larger-bodied women, which made her more confident. 

“Those TikTok trends really helped me figure out what parts of my body I want to accentuate and feel cute in, and still incorporate my sense of style,” she said. 

A go-to spot

With easy-to-follow cooking videos and clever hacks, TikTok became a go-to spot for home cooks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform made humble ingredients a star and earned endorsements from some of the stars of the food world.   

“Every day, honestly, I am blown away by the creativity from the FoodTok community,” restaurateur and chef Gordon Ramsay said in a TikTok video late last year.   

Like the clothing styles of earlier eras, foods that had fallen out of fashion were resurrected via TikTok. U.S. sales of cottage cheese jumped 34% between April 2022 and April 2024 after videos promoting cottage cheese ice cream, cottage cheese toast and other recipes racked up millions of views. 

Ben Sokolsky, the general manager of sales and marketing for Dallas-based dairy company Daisy Brand, said cottage cheese is seeing its highest sustained growth in nearly 50 years. The curdled milk product used to be a “secret sensation,” but social media helped expose new customers to its benefits, Sokolsky said. 

Topics that went viral on TikTok have even spawned analog equivalents. Last summer, TikToker Olivia Maher posted what she called her “girl dinner” of bread, cheese, pickles and grapes. It was a hit, with more than 1.6 million views. A handful of “girl dinner” cookbooks soon followed.   

But the eagerness to try trendy foods had a downside. A 14-year-old in Massachusetts died after trying a challenge involving an extremely spicy tortilla chip that appeared on TikTok and other social media sites. An autopsy of the boy, who had a congenital heart defect, found that eating a large quantity of chile pepper extract caused his death. Paqui, the maker of the chip, pulled it off the market. 

Upending cosmetic industry

TikTok has upended the cosmetics industry by causing ingredients to get labeled as the next miracle cure or to be avoided and featuring videos of people gleefully applying or panning the contents of their latest shopping hauls. 

Influencers on TikTok and elsewhere have made freckles an asset with clips showing how to add faux ones with eyebrow pencils or broccoli florets. The “clean girl” aesthetic, a renamed version of the no-makeup makeup look, prompted both luxury and drugstore brands to rush out their own versions of skin tints and lip oils. 

Some veteran users of TikTok have noted the platform is almost too good in its role as both a tastemaker and a shopping search engine. A popular category of beauty videos shows influencers “decluttering” drawers filled with piles of barely used lipsticks, blushes and eyeshadow palettes. 

Though the desire for clicks can encourage creators to follow the same hair and makeup trends, TikTok’s defenders credit the platform with forcing brands to create products for a wider range of skin tones and hair types. 

Tiffany Watson, who currently has more than 31,00 followers on TikTok and has done paid partnerships with brands like Colourpop Cosmetics, said the platform has promoted a more inclusive image of beauty compared to other sites. 

“I see more diversity on TikTok because (with) every video you’re swiping, you’re seeing somebody new,” she said. 

Russian-linked cybercampaigns focus on Olympics, French elections

paris — Photos of blood-red hands on a Holocaust memorial. Caskets at the Eiffel Tower. A fake French military recruitment drive calling for soldiers in Ukraine, and major French news sites improbably registered in an obscure Pacific territory, population 15,000.

All are part of disinformation campaigns orchestrated out of Russia and targeting France, according to French officials and cybersecurity experts in Europe and the United States. France’s legislative elections and the Paris Olympics sent them into overdrive.

More than a dozen reports issued in the past year point to an intensifying effort from Russia to undermine France, particularly the upcoming Games, and President Emmanuel Macron, who is one of Ukraine’s most vocal supporters in Europe.

The Russian campaigns sowing anti-French disinformation began online in early summer 2023, but first became tangible in October, when more than 1,000 bots linked to Russia relayed photos of graffitied Stars of David in Paris and its suburbs.

A French intelligence report said the Russian intelligence agency FSB ordered the tagging, as well as subsequent vandalism of a memorial to those who helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust.

Photos from each event were amplified on social media by fake accounts linked to the Russian disinformation site RRN, according to cybersecurity experts. Russia denies any such campaigns. The French intelligence report says RRN is part of a larger operation orchestrated by Sergei Kiriyenko, a ranking Kremlin official.

“You have to see this as an ecosystem,” said a French military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal information about the Russian effort. “It’s a hybrid strategy.”

The tags and the vandalism had no direct link to Russia’s war in Ukraine, but they provoked a strong reaction from the French political class, with denunciations in the legislature and public debate. Antisemitic attacks are on the rise in France, and the war in Gaza has proven divisive.

The Stars of David could be interpreted either as support for Israel or as opposition. The effect was to sow division and unease. French Jews in particular have found themselves unwittingly thrust into the political fray despite, at just 500,000 people, making up a small proportion of the French population.

In March, just after Macron discussed the possibility of mobilizing the French military in Ukraine, a fake recruitment drive went up for the French army in Ukraine, spawning a series of posts in Russian- and French-language Telegram channels that got picked up in Russian and Belarusian media, according to a separate French government report seen by The Associated Press. On June 1, caskets appeared outside the Eiffel Tower, bearing the inscription “French soldiers in Ukraine.”

The larger disinformation efforts show little traction in France, but the Russian audience may have been the real target, officials said, by showing that Russia’s war in Ukraine is, as Putin has said, really a war with the West.

Among the broader goals, the French military official said, was a long-term and steady effort to sow social discord, erode faith in the media and democratic governments, undermine NATO, and sap Western support for Ukraine. Denigrating the Olympics, from which most Russian athletes are banned, is a bonus, according to French officials monitoring the increasingly strident posts warning of imminent unrest ahead of the Games.

On June 9, the French far-right National Rally trounced Macron’s party in elections for the European Parliament. The party has historically been close to Russia: One of its leading figures, Marine Le Pen, cultivated ties to Putin for many years and supported Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. And its leading contender for prime minister, Jordan Bardella, has said he opposes sending long-range weapons to Kyiv.

In more than 4,400 posts gathered since mid-November by antibot4navalny, a collective that analyzes Russian bot behavior, those targeting audiences in France and Germany predominated. The number of weekly posts ranged from 100 to 200 except for the week of May 5, when it dropped near zero, the data showed. That week, as it happens, was a holiday in Russia.

Many of the posts redirect either to RRN or to sites that appear identical to major French media, but with the domain — and content — changed. At least two of the more recent mirrored sites are registered in Wallis and Futuna, a French Pacific territory 10 time zones from Paris. A click on the top of the fake page redirects back to the real news sites themselves to give the impression of authenticity. Other posts redirect to original sites controlled by the campaign itself, dubbed Doppelganger.

The redirects shifted focus for the European elections and continued after Macron called the surprise legislative elections with just three weeks to spare. Three-quarters of posts from the week ahead of the June 30 first-round legislative vote that were directed toward a French audience focused on either criticizing Macron or boosting the National Rally, antibot4navalny found in data shared with The Associated Press.

One post on a fake site purported to be from Le Point, a current affairs magazine, and the French news agency AFP, criticizing Macron.

“Our leaders have no idea how ordinary French people live but are ready to destroy France in the name of aid for Ukraine,” read the headline on June 25.

Another site falsely claimed to be from Macron’s party, offering to pay 100 euros for a vote for him — and linking back to the party’s true website. And still another inadvertently left a generative artificial intelligence prompt calling for the rewrite of an article “taking a conservative stance against the liberal policies of the Macron administration,” according to findings last week from Insikt Group, the threat research division of the cybersecurity consultancy Recorded Future.

“They’re scraping automatically, sending the text to the AI and asking the AI to introduce bias or slants into the article and rewrite it,” said Clément Briens, an analyst for Recorded Future.

Briens said metrics tools embedded within the site are likely intended to prove that the campaigns were money well-spent for “whoever is doing the payouts for these operations.”

The French government cybersecurity watchdog, Viginum, has published multiple reports since June 2023 singling out Russian efforts to sow divisions in France and elsewhere. That was around the time that pro-Kremlin Telegram feeds started promoting Olympics has Fallen — a full-length fake Netflix film featuring an AI-generated voice resembling Tom Cruise that criticized the International Olympic Committee, according to the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center.

Microsoft said this campaign, which it dubbed Storm-1679, is fanning fears of violence at the Games and last fall disseminated digitally generated photos referring, among other things, to the attacks on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

The latest effort, which started just after the first round of the elections on June 30, merges fears of violence related to both the Olympics and the risk of protests after the decisive second round, antibot4navalny found. Viginum released a new report Tuesday detailing the risks ahead for the Games — not for violence but for disinformation.

“Digital information manipulation campaigns have become a veritable instrument of destabilization of democracies,” Viginum said. “This global event will give untold informational exposure to malevolent foreign actors.” The word Russia appears nowhere.

Baptiste Robert, a French cybersecurity expert who ran unsuccessfully as an unaffiliated centrist in the legislative elections, called on his government — and especially lawmakers — to prepare for the digital threats to come.

“This is a global policy of Russia: They really want to push people into the extremes,” he said before the first-round vote. “It’s working perfectly right now.”

Australia plans to build secret data centers with Amazon

SYDNEY — Australia said Thursday a $1.35 billion deal with U.S. technology giant Amazon to build three secure data centers for top-secret information will increase its military’s “war-fighting capacity.”

The data centers are to be built in secret locations in Australia and be run by an Australian subsidiary of the U.S. technology company Amazon Web Service, the government said.

The deal is part of Australia’s National Defense Strategy, outlining its commitment to Indo-Pacific security and maintaining “the global rules-based order.” The country has a long-standing military alliance with the United States and is a member, with the United Kingdom, U.S., Canada and New Zealand, of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

Australian officials said the project would create a “state-of-the-art collaborative space” for intelligence and defense agencies to store and gain access to sensitive information in a centralized network.

Andrew Shearer, director-general of Australia’s Office of National Intelligence, said in a statement that the project would allow “greater interoperability with our most important international intelligence partners.”

Similar data clouds have been set up in the United States and Britain, allowing the sharing of information among agencies and departments.

Richard Marles, Australia’s deputy prime minister and defense minister, told reporters that highly sensitive national security data will be safely secured in the new system.

“If you consider that any sensor which is on a defense platform, which in turn feeds that data to a high tech capability, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which will use that to engage in targeting or perhaps to defend itself from an in-coming threat, or … to defend another asset, such as a ship — all of that is top secret data,” Marles said.

The government said the Amazon Web Services storage system will use artificial intelligence to detect suspected intrusions and to retrieve data.

Richard Buckland, a professor in CyberCrime, Cyberwar and Cyberterror at the University of New South Wales, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the storage plan has risks.

“Putting more data together in a central spot and sharing it widely as people intend to do obviously increases the risk of a data breach,” he said.

In a statement, Amazon Web Services’ managing director in Australia, Iain Rouse, said the system would “enable the seamless sharing of classified data between Australia’s National Intelligence Community and the Australian Defense Force.”

The so-called top-secret cloud is scheduled to be in operation by 2027.

Silicon Valley steps up screening on Chinese employees to counter espionage

Washington — Leading U.S. technology companies reportedly have increased security screening of employees and job applicants, which experts say is necessary to counter the cyber espionage threat from China.

While the enhanced screening is being applied to employees and applicants of all races, those with family or other ties to China are thought to be particularly vulnerable to pressure from the Beijing government.

But at least one Chinese computer science graduate student at a U.S. university is hoping to make his ties to China an asset. Zheng, who does not want to reveal his first name for fear of retaliation from the Chinese government, says he recently changed his focus to cybersecurity in hopes of improving his job prospects in the United States.

“The goal is a bit high, but I think I know more about China as a person born and raised in China. I hope to become a force with my own characteristics in cybersecurity and a role in fighting against Chinese cyber-attacks,” said Zheng, who is seeking political asylum in the United States.

While Zheng said he is not very worried that increased security checks will affect his job prospects, he said many international students in his class worry that they will be shut out from cybersecurity jobs.

Google, OpenAI and Sequoia Capital are among a number of technology and venture capital firms that have stepped up security checks on employees and potential recruits, according to a recent report by The Financial Times.

The newspaper cited sources at those companies saying they were responding to warnings from the U.S. government about a growing threat from Chinese espionage over the past two years.

Chinese cyber espionage concerns

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered one such message in a speech in April, saying the Chinese government has tried to steal “intellectual property, technology and research” from American industries.

In response, the U.S. government has stepped up security measures over the last two years, including updating its export control regulations to restrict China’s ability to obtain advanced computing chips and artificial intelligence. The strengthened warnings to U.S. companies are part of that response.

Ivan Kanapathy, senior vice president with Beacon Global Strategies, told VOA that Silicon Valley executives share the U.S. government’s concern. “In recent years, emerging technology companies have become more wary; they don’t want to fall victim to China’s technology absorption strategy,” he said.

“Companies can’t afford to help a competitor that will put them out of business. We’ve seen that happen across many industries already. It’s only natural for American and other allied cutting-edge companies to be concerned and take steps to mitigate the risks of PRC state-sponsored espionage,” he said.

Ray Wang, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research Inc., said that the theft of American intellectual property has become more rampant since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and that people with ties to China were often targeted.

“During COVID, many folks with relatives in China were put in compromising positions where they were asked to do things for the Chinese government, or one’s relatives would be put at risk,” Wang said. “China has infiltrated almost every aspect of the U.S., and the U.S. is facing systemic problems.”

Kanapathy said China might also obtain American technology through talent poaching, meaning they recruit someone with experience in a particular technology and ask the person to take the technology to start a new company in China. Although it is ethically questionable, it is sometimes legal.

“China likely also tries to place its own people, including engineers, into certain companies that have desirable technologies. It’s a multipronged strategy,” he said.

In a statement to VOA, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu acknowledged the accusations but said the U.S. government “is short on delivering solid evidence.”

“We firmly oppose to the groundless accusations and smears towards China and hope the relevant parties can view China’s development objectively and fairly,” he wrote.

Liu also pointed out that the World Intellectual Property Organization last year named China as the world’s highest ranking middle-income economy and 12th overall in terms of independently creating intellectual property rights.

“China’s scientific and technological achievements are never made through ‘stealing.’ The Chinese people, including our intellectuals, made such achievements with our talent and hard work,” he wrote.

Security screening concerns

While the enhanced security reviews usually apply to all employees, Wang said. Google and OpenAI have imposed stricter reviews for Chinese employees, and Microsoft is transferring some of its most important Chinese engineers from China to other regions of the world; NVIDIA has also been highly vigilant in screening.

Microsoft employees in China, mostly involved with cloud computing, were recently offered the opportunity to work in the United States, Australia or Ireland, among other countries, state-run outlet said in a report. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft asked as many as 800 employees, mostly engineers with Chinese nationality working on cloud computing and AI, to consider relocating.

He said companies should exercise caution to avoid triggering xenophobia.

“So almost every new worker, not just Chinese nationals, should undergo the same vetting process. I think it’s really important. As Asian Americans, we have to be very careful about those implications,” he said.

So far, that has not been a problem for Joey Wu, a Chinese software engineer in California. Wu told VOA he has not seen stringent measures exercised against Chinese people, nor has he been treated differently due to his Chinese citizenship.

“I think the U.S. is relatively tolerant and open,” Wu said. “It is not easy for a large technology company to have so many foreign employees. Chinese companies, such as Huawei, are full of Chinese faces, with very few foreigners, and it is unlikely that Americans will be hired to play a more important role.”

Kanapathy pointed out that the founders of many technology companies are from China or India themselves, and these are the people who request security checks on Chinese citizens.

VOA contacted Google, OpenAI and Sequoia Capital for comments but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

VOA’s Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

Alliance sets sights on minerals needed for global shift to green energy

The U.S. government’s representative to the Minerals Security Partnership, an alliance of mostly Western countries that aims to speed the development of energy mineral supply chains, said last month that a Chinese company was using “predatory” tactics to hold down the price of cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Henry Wilkins looks at what this means for Africa.

Russian satellite breaks up, forces space station astronauts to shelter

WASHINGTON — A defunct Russian satellite has broken up into more than 100 pieces of debris in orbit, forcing astronauts on the International Space Station to take shelter for about an hour and adding to the mass of space junk already in orbit, U.S. space agencies said. 

There were no immediate details on what caused the breakup of the RESURS-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, which Russia declared dead in 2022. 

U.S. Space Command, tracking the debris swarm, said there was no immediate threat to other satellites. 

The event took place about noon EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday, Space Command said. It occurred in an orbit near the space station, prompting U.S. astronauts on board to shelter in their spacecraft for roughly an hour, NASA’s Space Station office said. 

Russian space agency Roscosmos, which operated the satellite, did not respond to a request for comment or publicly acknowledge the event on its social media channels. 

U.S. Space Command, which has a global network of space-tracking radars, said the satellite immediately created “over 100 pieces of trackable debris.” 

By Thursday afternoon, radars from U.S. space-tracking firm LeoLabs had detected at least 180 pieces, the company said.  

Large debris-generating events in orbit are rare but of increasing concern as space becomes crowded with satellite networks vital to everyday life on Earth, from broadband internet and communications to basic navigation services, as well as satellites no longer in use. 

The satellite’s breakup was at an altitude of roughly 355 km (220 miles) in low-Earth orbit, a popular region where thousands of small to large satellites operate, including SpaceX’s vast Starlink network and China’s station that houses three of its astronauts. 

“Due to the low orbit of this debris cloud, we estimate it’ll be weeks to months before the hazard has passed,” LeoLabs said in a statement to Reuters. 

The some 25,000 pieces of debris bigger than 10 cm (4 inches) in space caused by satellite explosions or collisions have raised concerns about the prospect of a Kessler effect — a phenomenon in which satellite collisions with debris can create a cascading field of more hazardous junk and exponentially increase crash risks. 

Russia sparked strong criticism from the U.S. and other Western countries in 2021 when it struck one of its defunct satellites in orbit with a ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from its Plesetsk rocket site. The blast, testing a weapon system ahead of Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, created thousands of pieces of orbital debris. 

In the roughly 88-minute window of RESURS-P1’s initial breakup, the Plesetsk site was one of many locations on Earth it passed over, but there was no immediate indication from airspace or maritime alerts that Russia had launched a missile to strike the satellite, space tracker and Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell said. 

“I find it hard to believe they would use such a big satellite as an ASAT target,” McDowell said. “But, with the Russians these days, who knows.” 

He and other analysts speculated the breakup more likely could have been caused by a problem with the satellite, such as leftover fuel onboard causing an explosion. 

What happens to old satellites?  

Dead satellites either remain in orbit until they descend into Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise years later, or in widely preferred — but less common — circumstances, they fly to a “graveyard orbit” some 36,000 km (22,400 miles) from Earth to lower the risk of crashing into active satellites. 

Roscosmos decommissioned RESURS-P1 over onboard equipment failures in 2021, announcing the decision the following year. The satellite has since appeared to be lowering its altitude through layers of other active satellites for an eventual atmospheric reentry. 

The six U.S. astronauts currently on the space station were alerted by NASA mission control in Houston late Wednesday evening to execute “safe haven” procedures, where each crew member rushes into the spacecraft they arrived in, in case an emergency departure is required. 

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams boarded their Starliner spacecraft, the Boeing-built capsule that has been docked since June 6 in its first crewed test mission on the station. 

Three of the other U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut went into SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule that flew them to the station in March, while the sixth U.S. astronaut joined the two remaining cosmonauts in their Russian Soyuz capsule that ferried them there in September last year. 

The astronauts emerged from their spacecraft roughly an hour later and resumed their normal work on the station, NASA said. 

The prospects of satellite collisions and space warfare have added urgency to calls from space advocates and lawyers to have countries establish an international mechanism of managing space traffic, which does not currently exist.

Chinese hackers have stepped up attacks on Taiwanese organizations, cybersecurity firm says

Hong Kong — A suspected Chinese state-sponsored hacking group has stepped up its targeting of Taiwanese organizations, particularly those in sectors such as government, education, technology and diplomacy, according to cybersecurity intelligence company Recorded Future. 

In recent years, relations between China and Taiwan, a self-governed island across the Taiwan Strait that Beijing claims as its territory, have deteriorated. The cyberattacks by the group known as RedJulliett were observed between November 2023 and April 2024, during the lead up to Taiwan’s presidential elections in January and the subsequent change in administration. 

RedJuliett has targeted Taiwanese organizations in the past, but this is the first time that activity was seen at such a scale, a Recorded Future analyst said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of safety concerns. 

The report said RedJuliett attacked 24 organizations, including government agencies in places like Laos, Kenya and Rwanda, as well as Taiwan. 

It also hacked into websites of religious organizations in Hong Kong and South Korea, a U.S university and a Djiboutian university. The report did not identify the organizations. 

Recorded Future said RedJuliett accessed the servers of those places via a vulnerability in their SoftEther enterprise virtual private network, or VPN software, an open-source VPN that allows remote connections to an organization’s networks. 

RedJuliett has been observed attempting to break into systems of more than 70 Taiwanese organizations including three universities, an optoelectronics company and a facial recognition company that has contracts with the government. 

It was unclear if RedJuliett managed to break into those organizations: Recorded Future only said it observed the attempts to identify vulnerabilities in their networks. 

RedJuliett’s hacking patterns match those of Chinese state-sponsored groups, according to Recorded Future. 

It said that based on the geolocations of IP addresses, RedJulliett is likely based out of the city of Fuzhou, in China’s southern Fujian province, whose coast faces Taiwan. 

“Given the close geographical proximity between Fuzhou and Taiwan, Chinese intelligence services operating in Fuzhou are likely tasked with intelligence collection against Taiwanese targets,” the report said. 

“RedJuliett is likely targeting Taiwan to collect intelligence and support Beijing’s policy-making on cross-strait relations,” the Recorded Future report said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately comment.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson dismissed the allegations.

“I don’t know the specifics of what you mentioned, but I can tell you that it’s not the first time the company you mentioned has fabricated disinformation on so-called Chinese hacking operations. There is absolutely no professionalism or credibility to speak of in what the company does,” the spokesperson, Mao Ning, said.

Microsoft reported in August last year that RedJuliett, which Microsoft tracks under the name Flax Typhoon, was targeting Taiwanese organizations. 

China has in recent years stepped up military drills around Taiwan and imposed economic and diplomatic pressure on the island. 

Relations between Taiwan and Beijing worsened further after the election in January of Taiwan’s new president Lai Ching-te, who China has deemed a “separatist,” after he said in his inauguration speech that Taiwan and China were not subordinate to each other. Like his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen, Lai has said that there is no need to declare Taiwanese independence because it is already an independent sovereign state. 

Like many other countries including the U.S., China has been known to engage in cyberespionage. Earlier this year, the U.S. and Britain accused China of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people. 

Beijing has consistently denied engaging in any form of state-sponsored hacking, instead saying that China itself is a major target of cyberattacks. 

According to Recorded Future, Chinese state-sponsored groups will likely continue to target Taiwanese government agencies, universities and critical technology companies via “public-facing” devices such as open-source VPN software, which provide limited visibility and logging capabilities. 

Companies and organizations can best protect themselves by prioritizing and patching vulnerabilities once they become known, Recorded Future’s threat intelligence analyst said.

Trump, Biden woo voters on TikTok. Will it make a difference?

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump agree on few things, but a ban of the Beijing-based social network TikTok is one of them. Now with a presidential election at stake, both are joining the platform they previously attempted to take down. Will it make a difference on Election Day? Tina Trinh reports.

India, US to strengthen high technology cooperation 

New Delhi — Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his third term in office, India and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation in high technology areas during a visit by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi.

Sullivan met Modi, the Indian foreign minister and his Indian counterpart during the visit that reaffirmed both countries will pursue closer ties.

“India is committed to further strengthen the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership for global good,” Modi wrote on X after meeting Sullivan on Monday.

The main focus of Sullivan’s visit was to hold discussion with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on a landmark initiative launched by the two countries in January last year to collaborate more closely in high-technology areas including defense, semiconductors, 5G wireless networks and artificial intelligence.

The initiative, launched with an eye to countering China, marks a significant push in tightening the strategic partnership between the two countries.

“The visit by Sullivan in the early days of Modi’s new administration signals that the U.S. wants to maintain the momentum in the high technology partnership between the two countries,” according to Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

A joint fact sheet by the two countries following Sullivan’s meeting with Doval said that they launched a new strategic semiconductor partnership between U.S. and Indian companies for precision-guided ammunition and other national security-focused electronics platforms.

They also agreed to co-invest in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earths deposit in Africa “to diversify critical mineral supply chains” and discussed possible co-production of land warfare systems, according to the fact sheet.

Growing the domestic defense manufacturing sector remains a top focus for the Modi administration as it looks to lower its dependence on imported arms. Although India has diversified its imports of military equipment, it is still heavily reliant on Russia.

For India, the technology initiative is a top priority as it looks to strengthen the country’s security and build its capabilities in high technology areas.

“India wants to become one of the leading countries in cutting edge technologies and it is of great benefit for New Delhi to partner the U.S. which is the leader in these areas,” said Joshi. “The idea is to get into co-production, co-development, innovation and attract American companies to set up bases here.”

Sullivan also met Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, who has been retained as the external affairs minister in Modi’s new administration, signaling a continuation in the country’s foreign policy. “Confident that India-US strategic partnership will continue to advance strongly in our new term,” Jaishankar wrote on X.

In Washington, White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters Monday that India and the U.S. “share a unique bond of friendship and Mr. Sullivan’s trip to India will further deepen the already strong U.S.-India partnership to create a safer and more prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

New Delhi’s ties with Washington have expanded in recent years amid mutual concerns in both countries about an assertive China — India’s military standoff with Beijing along their disputed Himalayan borders remains unresolved four years after a clash between their troops.

As Sullivan visited India, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, charged with trying to hire a hitman to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader in the U.S., appeared in court in New York Monday following his extradition from the Czech Republic. The alleged plan was foiled.

Allegations by U.S. prosecutors of the involvement of an Indian government official in the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual US-Canadian citizen, have raised concerns about a strain in bilateral ties.

The U.S. allegations followed accusations leveled by Canada in September of involvement of Indian nationals in the killing of a Canadian Sikh leader.

India, which views Sikh separatist groups overseas as security threats, has denied its involvement in both the killing in Canada and the alleged plot in the U.S. But it said it has set up an inquiry committee to examine the information provided by Washington.

Analysts in New Delhi say ties are unlikely to be adversely impacted by the alleged murder plot. “The U.S. is quite pragmatic on these matters. They are continuing to stress that ties with India are important, so I don’t think a failed conspiracy will derail ties,” Joshi said.

Smartphone stroke detection breakthrough announced by Australian team

SYDNEY — A new technology that allows smartphones to identify strokes far quicker than existing methods has been developed by researchers in Australia.

The new technology uses artificial intelligence as it scans a patient’s face for symmetry and certain muscle movements, which are called action units. People who have suffered a stroke often have one side of their face looking different from the other.  

The biomedical engineers at Melbourne’s RMIT University say the smartphone technology can detect facial asymmetry, potentially identifying strokes within seconds – much sooner and more precisely than current technologies.

Professor Dinesh Kumar, who led the research team, explained to Australian Broadcasting Corp. how the AI-driven device works.

“It takes a video of a person who is doing a smile, and the model determines whether this particular smile is indicative of (a) person who has had a stroke,” Kumar said. “We then inform the paramedic or the clinician who is aware of the very high risk of this person having a stroke and, thus, can be treated immediately.”

Strokes affect millions of people around the world.  They occur when the supply of blood to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, which stops brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients.  Experts say that if treatment is delayed by even a few minutes, the brain can suffer permanent damage. 

Symptoms of stroke include confusion, speech impairments and reduced facial expressions.

The RMIT team reports that the smartphone tool has an accuracy rating of 82% for detecting stroke. They stress that it would not replace comprehensive medical diagnostic tests for stroke, but instead would guide initial treatment by first responders by quickly identifying patients who need urgent care.  

The Australian study, which was a collaboration with São Paulo State University in Brazil, is published in the journal, Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine.

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