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posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @08:48AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Electric vehicles may become a new front in America's tech war with China after a US senator called for Washington DC to block Chinese-made EVs to protect domestic industries and national security.

Sherrod Brown, senator for Ohio and chair of the Senate Banking Committee, penned a letter to President Biden, claiming "there are currently no Chinese EVs for sale in the United States, and we must keep it that way."

He warned that "Chinese EVs, highly subsidized by the Chinese government, could decimate our domestic automakers, harm American workers, and give China access to sensitive personal data," insisting the US government must ban Chinese-made EVs as soon as possible, calling it "a matter of economic and national security."

The move comes as the dispute between the two economic superpowers over technology rumbles on, with the US last week sanctioning four more Chinese companies, claiming they were involved with providing chips for accelerating AI to China's military and intelligence users.

Among those added to the Entity List maintained by the US Department of Commerce was Sitonholy (Tianjin) Co, understood to be one of the largest distribution channels for Nvidia's datacenter products in China, thus cutting off supplies of Nvidia GPUs to many Chinese companies.

[...] The number of Chinese cars purchased by US customers is understood to be very low as these are subject to an extra 25 percent tariff on top of the regular 2.5 percent import duty that DC applies to imported vehicles.

However, Senator Brown notes in his letter that BYD already sells an electric hatchback named the "Seagull" for the equivalent of less than $10,000. This compares with the $28,140 that has been reported as the starting price of the current cheapest electric car available in the US, the 2024 Nissan LEAF S.

There is also a national security twist as Senator Brown claims that data collected by the sensors and cameras in Chinese EVs could pose a threat. "China does not allow American-made electric vehicles near their official buildings. To allow their vehicles freedom to travel throughout the United States would be foolish and highly dangerous," he stated.

Senator Brown also claims in his letter that nearly 20 percent of all electric vehicles sold in Europe during 2023 were made in China, citing this as a cautionary example.

The European Commission last year announced an investigation into subsidies in the Chinese EV industry, but there are said to be misgivings in Germany and elsewhere that a ban on Chinese EVs could backfire, with Beijing retaliating by locking Western carmakers out of the lucrative China market entirely.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday April 11, @08:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the ask-not-what-Ukraine-can-do-for-you... dept.

The Beeb reports on hackers (crackers in my old usage) in various countries that are helping Ukraine defend itself.

A team of vigilante hackers carrying out cyber-attacks against Russia has been sent awards of gratitude by Ukraine's military.

The team, One Fist, has stolen data from Russian military firms and hacked cameras to spy on troops.

The certificates are a controversial sign of how modern warfare is shifting.

Concerns have been raised about the practice of states encouraging civilian hackers.

One of the hackers called "Voltage" has been co-ordinating hacks from his home in the US.

His real name is [redacted for SN] and he is an IT worker from Michigan.

The 53-year-old told the BBC he is delighted his efforts for Ukraine have been officially recognised with a certificate of gratitude.

One Fist is made up of hackers from eight different countries including the UK, US and Poland. They have collectively launched dozens of cyber-attacks - celebrating each one on social media.

The certificates were sent to them all for "a significant contribution to the development and maintenance of vital activities of the military". They were signed by the commander of the Airborne Assault Forces of Ukraine.

The story goes on to describe various contributions to Ukraine's defense, such as defeating Russian access to public cameras in Ukraine.

While what appears to be the real name of "Voltage" appears in the BBC story, your AC submitter thought it wise to redact that name (although I think there is a high chance that it is an alias).

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday March 26, @02:52PM   Printer-friendly

The US must provide assurances that Julian Assange will not receive the death penalty if convicted, before a UK court rules on whether he can appeal against his extradition.

The court has adjourned its decision by three weeks to give the US government time to comply.

US authorities say the Wikileaks founder endangered lives by publishing thousands of classified documents.

His lawyers have argued that the case is form of "state retaliation".

In a High Court judgment on Tuesday, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said that Mr Assange would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds, unless assurances were given by the United States.

These assurances are that the 52-year-old would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment - which protects freedom of speech in the US; that he would not be "prejudiced at trial" due to his nationality; and that he would not face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Judges have given the US authorities three weeks to make those assurances, with a final hearing potentially taking place on 20 May.

"If assurances are not given then we will grant leave to appeal without a further hearing," said Dame Victoria in the court's ruling.

"If assurances are given then we will give the parties an opportunity to make further submissions before we make a final decision on the application for leave to appeal."

See also: Julian Assange faces further wait over extradition ruling

posted by hubie on Wednesday March 13, @10:22AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Russian troops in Ukraine have allegedly been using SpaceX’s Starlink terminals to get internet access during the ongoing war that has seen hundreds of thousands of casualties on each side. And now, House Democrats are finally asking hard questions of SpaceX leadership about how this could be happening, according to an open letter published on Thursday.

The letter to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell from some top Democrats in the House makes the case that Starlink’s high-speed satellite internet access is considered essential to Ukraine’s continued ability to fight against Russia’s invasion, which first started in February 2022.

The letter from the Democrats, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Rep. Robert Garcia of California, stresses that Russia’s use of Starlink tech would be “potentially in violation of U.S. sanctions and export controls.”

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on February 15 that Russian troops have been using Starlink internet for “quite a long time,” according to Ukraine’s Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov.

Russia is believed to be acquiring the Starlink terminals from black market sellers, sometimes posing as German appliance manufacturers according to the Journal, but SpaceX leaders presumably have insight into who and how these terminals might be used by illicit Russian actors. For example, Musk shut off Starlink access for Ukrainian-controlled devices in Crimea early in the war, ostensibly to stop an “escalation” of the conflict.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday February 16, @04:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the some-battles-you-cannot-win dept.

I have my country and my convictions. And I don't want to give up on either. I can't betray either one. If your convictions mean anything, you must be ready to stand up for them. And, if necessary, make sacrifices [for them]. If you're not ready [to do that], then you have no convictions. You just think you do. But those aren't convictions or principles; they're just thoughts in your head.

It so happens that in today's Russia, I have to pay for my right to have and to openly express my convictions by sitting in solitary confinement. And, of course, I don't like being in prison. But I won't renounce my convictions or my homeland. My convictions aren't exotic, sectarian, or radical. On the contrary, everything I believe in is based on science and historical experience. Those in power must change. The best way to elect leaders is through honest and free elections. Everyone needs a fair court. Corruption destroys the state. There should be no censorship. The future lies with these principles.

Alexey Navalny, Russia's most famous dissident, has died. (4 June 1976 – 16 February 2024).

Returning to Russia in 2021, after having been treated in Berlin for novichok poisoning, Navalny was immediately arrested on arrival at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. Since then, he has been in and out of (but mostly in) solitary confinement all over the country, with his final station being the Polar Wolf penal colony in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Siberia.

On Monday, he had been visited by his parents. In reacting to the news of her son's death, his mother reacted:

"I don't want to hear any condolences. We saw our son in the colony on Feb. 12th. He was alive, healthy, cheerful."

More info here.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday February 08, @12:48PM   Printer-friendly

The European Parliament has reached a provisional deal on EU regulations to strengthen consumers' right to repair.

Negotiations over the bill have been ongoing for a while now - the rules were first proposed in March 2022, and the hope is that new requirements will be finalized in 2024.

The thinking is that consumers should be better informed about the lifespan and repairability of products before buying them, and there should be measures to boost repair after the legal guarantee period has expired.

All told, the bill looks set to bolster the repair sector. Manufacturers must make spare parts and tools available for "a reasonable price" and be prohibited from using contractual clauses or hardware or software blocks to obstruct repairs. While singling no company out specifically, the European Parliament said: "In particular, they should not impede the use of second-hand or 3D issued spare parts by independent repairers."

Other consumer rights in the deal include options for borrowing a device while their own is being repaired or opting for a refurbished unit, an additional one-year extension of the legal guarantee for repaired goods, and free online access to indicative repair prices.

Under the regulation, manufacturers must inform customers of the duty to repair and be obligated to fix "common household products," such as a washing machine or smartphone. The European Parliament has left open the possibility of adding more items over time.

[...] It will be a while before this all goes into effect, though. Once both Council and Parliament adopt the directive, member states will have 24 months to get it into national law.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Sunday December 24, @03:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the precious-ICs-flood-my-soul dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Although China cannot flood the global market with chips produced with cutting-edge fabrication technologies, strong subsidies for the semiconductor sector in China make it possible for the country to flood the market with chips made on legacy process technologies, thus undercutting much-needed sales that generate revenue that is vital for R&D at Western firms. This tactic could spur the U.S. government to impose tariffs on products using mature processing nodes, reports Bloomberg.

[...] China is known for providing hefty funds to its chipmakers. For example, China-based SMIC invested $24 billion in capital expenditures from 2020 to 2023 with support from banks, local governments, and state-controlled funds, far exceeding its earnings in the period, according to Nikkei. Other semiconductor companies also have generous support from the government, which is how they can quickly expand production capacity using tools that they can procure without any limitations and start producing chips like display driver ICs (DDICs) or power management ICs (PMICs) that are sold in billions of units every year.

[...] The survey's findings are set to guide the U.S. in formulating responses that could include the imposition of tariffs or the use of other trade tools to counteract China's aggressive expansion in the semiconductor industry. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has already indicated that the U.S. is ready to use every tool it has to stop China from flooding the market with low-cost legacy chips. However, she clarified that the most stringent export controls would remain reserved for more advanced process technologies and not for these older generation nodes, so Chinese companies will still be able to procure legacy chipmaking tools.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 30 2023, @02:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the petty-level-disputes dept.

If Congress does not pass a measure to fund the government by Sunday, October 1, a partial shutdown of the United States government will begin. Much of the federal government is funded each fiscal year by 12 appropriations bills. None of the appropriations bills for the 2024 fiscal year have been signed into law, which is not especially uncommon at the start of a new fiscal year. Instead, Congress authorizes funding at the levels from the previous fiscal year through a continuing resolution (CR), and then the appropriations bills are signed into law when they are ready. The Senate is scheduled to vote on such a CR on Saturday, though any Senator can refuse the expedited process for debating the bill, and delay the vote until Monday. Although the CR is expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support, the House is highly unlikely to pass any funding bills before the government shutdown begins.

The impending government shutdown is likely to have significant effects on scientific research, as noted in a Nature article:

Fuelled by infighting among Republicans in the House of Representatives over spending cuts, the United States is barreling towards a government shutdown. Lawmakers in the US Congress have until 30 September (the end of the fiscal year) to reach an agreement over how to keep money flowing to federal agencies, or the government will have to close many of its doors and furlough staff — including tens of thousands of scientists — without pay. Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, work at science agencies will stop, interrupting experiments, delaying the approval of research grants and halting travel to scientific conferences.

A lot of academic research is funded from government grants from agencies like NSF. For grants that have already been approved, universities can continue to conduct research. However, the shutdown will halt the review and approval of new grants. The same article from Nature reports:

The US National Science Foundation (NSF), expects to halt work for 1,487 out of its 1,946 employees, once short-term funding runs out, for example. Scientists can continue to submit applications for funding to the agency, which pays for about one-quarter of the taxpayer-supported basic research in the United States, but no new projects will be approved. The Department of Health and Human Services, which houses the US National Institutes of Health, a significant funder of biomedical research, plans to furlough some 37,325 people — 42% of its staff — by the second day of a shutdown. 'Essential' staff working at its clinical centre or on public-safety missions such as monitoring for viral outbreaks will continue to report to work.

An article in Science states that many clinical trials supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be affected:

NIH was mostly spared in the last shutdown because its budget had already been approved by Congress, but this time it will feel the impact. A subset of its nearly 19,800 employees—just 4427, or 22%—will remain on duty to care for patients at the NIH Clinical Center and maintain research animals and cell lines for labs in the agency's intramural research program. No new patients will be enrolled in trials unless their illness is life threatening. The agency also expects to keep open PubMed, which holds biomedical research abstracts needed for health care, and the registry, where reporting of clinical studies is a legal requirement.

However, the Science article notes that some astronomy research will continue to be conducted during the shutdown due to leftover funds from the current fiscal year or other external funding:

As for research infrastructure that NSF supports, a small number of employees deemed essential will continue to provide support for research programs in the Arctic and Antarctic. And many NSF-funded telescopes should be able to remain open for an extended period thanks to extra funding the agency provided this year to tide them over in case of a shutdown. Most of the optical telescopes are managed for NSF by a nongovernmental organization, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). It has "sufficient financial resources to maintain our functional and research activities for a reasonable length of time," an AURA spokesperson told ScienceInsider.

At the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), run by a university coalition, "We are doing exactly nothing special to prepare for the shutdown," Director Tony Beasley says. That contrasts with the government shutdown of 2013, when NRAO was forced to switch off its U.S.-based facilities after just a few days.

Other agencies will continue to provide services that are deemed essential but will cease other operations. For example, the National Weather Service will continue to issue forecasts and warnings but research to improve weather forecasts will be halted during a shutdown. As in the 2019 government shutdown, the forecasters who issue alerts such as tornado and hurricane warnings will be expected to do so but won't be paid until the shutdown ends.

In summary, the looming government shutdown will not halt science-related activities that are deemed necessary to imminently protecting life and property, such as issuing weather warnings. However, the employees who provide those services will not get paid until after the government shutdown ends. For agencies that do not have supplemental funds available, scientific research will generally be halted.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday September 17 2023, @02:03AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

The decision, published Friday, was hailed by conservative litigation group the New Civil Liberties Alliance as a victory for free speech. But Eric Goldman, a professor, Santa Clara University School of Law, believes Biden administration foes may have scored an own-goal.

The lower court ruling [PDF], from Louisiana federal district Judge Terry A. Doughty on July 4, partially granted an injunction that broadly limited the extent to which US government agencies can deem content so potentially harmful that they urge social media sites to remove it from their services.

Judge Doughty determined that the plaintiffs – the State of Missouri, the State of Louisiana, Dr Aaron Kheriaty, Dr Martin Kulldorff, Jim Hoft, Dr Jayanta Bhattacharya, and Jill Hines – made sufficiently strong arguments that their speech was suppressed at the direction of the government that they are likely to succeed at trial.

In short: the judge partially granted their request to prohibit the government from telling social media companies how to moderate content.

The United States government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'

"Although this case is still relatively young, and at this stage the court is only examining it in terms of plaintiffs' likelihood of success on the merits, the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario," Judge Doughty wrote in a memorandum explaining his ruling.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth.'"

[...] The Fifth Circuit, called the "most politically conservative circuit court" in the US, dialed that injunction back somewhat. The appellate ruling [PDF] affirmed part of the ruling, reversed part of it, vacated part of the injunction, modified part of the injunction.

The three-judge appeals panel said nine of the lower court's ten prohibitions were vague and overly broad at this stage of the litigation.

"Prohibitions one, two, three, four, five, and seven prohibit the officials from engaging in, essentially, any action 'for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing' content moderation," the appeals panel said. "But 'urging, encouraging, pressuring' or even 'inducing' action does not violate the Constitution unless and until such conduct crosses the line into coercion or significant encouragement."

And citing problems with prohibitions eight, nine and ten, they vacated all save for the sixth, which they modified to state that government officials or their agents can take "no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech."

Not all speech in the US is protected, so this injunction – in place while the case is being heard – does not apply to government communication to social media companies about: incitement to imminent unlawful action; harassment; credible threats; defamation; obscenity and child pornography; among other exceptions.

"The line between impermissible state intervention and ordinary government functions is really murky, and this opinion doesn't really try to clarify that," Santa Clara University’s Goldman told The Register in a phone interview.

"They simply decide some things are impermissible. Other things are okay. And that makes the rule from the case impossible to operationalize, for the government and possibly for the services. Nobody exactly knows what they're going to be required to do based on this ruling."

The line between impermissible state intervention and ordinary government functions is really murky, and this opinion doesn't really try to clarify that

[...] "The court said it is impermissible for the government to commandeer content moderation practices," he said. "But that's exactly what the Florida and Texas social media censorship laws did. They literally overrode the social media companies' editorial discretion via government edict.

"And thus, the Fifth Circuit, the same court, upheld those interventions, saying that was constitutionally permissible for the government to dictate content moderation operations. In other words, this opinion is in irreconcilable tension with the Fifth Circuit's earlier opinion on the social media censorship laws."

Also, Goldman observed that the Fifth Circuit seems to be saying that these social media companies risk becoming state actors by engaging with government officials.

For example, with regard to platform cooperation in limiting health misinformation, there's passage in the opinion that says, "In sum, we find that the White House officials, in conjunction with the Surgeon General's office, coerced and significantly encouraged the platforms to moderate content. As a result, the platforms’ actions 'must in law be deemed to be that of the State.'"

"That's a huge problem for the government," he continued. "If internet companies become state actors, then they cannot report information about their users to law enforcement unless they comply with all the laws on criminal procedure."

As an example, Goldman cited how the government requires internet services to provide data about child sexual abuse material. If those companies become state actors through government intervention, he said, then those reports become impermissible evidence because they haven't been done in compliance with legal rules that constrain the government.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 31 2023, @10:39AM   Printer-friendly

On tech, the EU doesn't speak for Europe:

The European Commission of President Ursula von der Leyen vowed in 2019 to make "a Europe fit for the digital age," dubbing the 2020s Europe's "digital decade."

Building on the European Union's flagship privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Brussels's regulatory race to the top gained historic momentum over the past four years. And from digital markets to content moderation, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, computer chips and data governance, the Commission has left little on the table in terms of regulation.

Bolstered by mended ties with the administration of United States President Joe Biden and increased coordination with the U.S. through the Trade and Technology Council (TTC), the von der Leyen Commission seems to have achieved the impossible in an often rancorous 27-member bloc — a unified Europe around a common digital agenda.

But this narrative of unity obfuscates a much more complex reality in which the Commission's policies are dominated by its two largest — and most zealously regulatory — countries: France and Germany. In fact, Europe's smaller but most tech-oriented members rarely feel heard in the halls of Brussels, even as they often disagree with the Commission's agenda.

Privately, officials from these countries say the Commission's strategy will hamper innovation by imposing complex compliance rules on smaller companies that can't afford to implement them. They also worry that foreign investment — particularly from U.S. investors, which are responsible for a whopping 76 percent of foreign investment in European tech companies — will wane as the Commission goes after large American tech firms. And many lament that Brexit took away the United Kingdom's counterbalancing voice, leaving a vacuum for France and Germany to fill.

While these concerns are rarely aired publicly, simply put, Central and Northern Europe know that when it comes to tech, the EU doesn't speak for Europe.

And no wonder: None of the EU's major institutions — the Commission, the European Council or the European Parliament — have Central Europeans at the helm, even as the power balance in Europe shifts eastward after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Proportional representation in the Parliament also means that the largest countries — France, Germany and Italy — have the most power in terms of votes. Even if all the Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries voted as a block — which they don't — they would still have fewer votes (191) than just France, Germany and Italy (251).

As a result, smaller countries then need to prioritize focusing on the most critical issues — defense and security — and the Parliament's ability to set Europe's tech agenda is then hamstrung by the Commission's sole power to propose legislation.

But just as the power balance on defense and deterrence is shifting to the east and north, so are the economic headwinds when it comes to tech innovation and investment.

For example, Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn have higher growth rates for capital invested in startups than London, Munich and Paris. And while unicorns — or firms valued at $1 billion or more and are still predominantly privately owned — in Western Europe still raise nearly double the amount of money as those in "new Europe," the latter has the highest valuation-to-investment ratio on the Continent.

In short, tech companies in Central and Eastern Europe do more with less.

Original Submission