China

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West’s bid to subvert others is no longer a secret

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 4:56am in

Tags 

China

The US’s attempts to destabilise its perceived enemies and cling to global supremacy have been laid bare in a new book. America’s overt and covert actions to subvert other communities while claiming to spread liberal democracy are likely becoming apparent to people around the world, a new study says. It’s evident that the US and Continue reading »

Sleazy Edit By Canadian State Media Frames Video Blogger As An Agent Of Beijing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 12:26am in

The state-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has committed an absolutely jaw-dropping act of journalistic malpractice amid the west’s mad scramble to whip up public hysteria about China.

Daniel Dumbrill, a Canadian video blogger who lives in China and frequently criticizes western narratives about the Chinese government, has posted a series of videos on Twitter which proves the CBC deceitfully edited part of an interview with him to make it appear as though he was saying the exact opposite of what he’d actually said.

In a newly released segment titled “How China uses influencers to squash human rights concerns”, the CBC warns its audience about “westerners living in China with pro-government views” who act as social media “influencers” and were “invited on trips organized and often paid for by the Communist Party.” The CBC then introduces Dumbrill as a “China-based influencer” who makes “videos defending Chinese policy in Xinjiang” that were “often amplified by state media.”

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After framing Dumbrill in this way, the CBC then inserted a short, out-of-context clip of Dumbrill saying “If anywhere else in the world was doing the same thing, it would be called a marketing campaign.” After introducing Dumbrill as a pro-China influencer whose work gets amplified by Chinese state media, the sudden insertion of that clip makes it look as though Dumbrill is defending himself and confessing to being part of a Chinese marketing campaign, especially after the video then cuts away and CBC’s Steven D’Souza moves to another subject with a “But China isn’t just using influencers at home…”

A review of the interview footage that video clip was taken from however makes it abundantly clear that Dumbrill was in fact saying the exact opposite of what he was portrayed as saying.

While the CBC only used about three seconds of footage from what Dumbrill says was a 23-minute interview, Dumbrill’s own footage from that interview shows that Dumbrill had explicitly denied being part of any propaganda campaign shortly before his out-of-context “marketing campaign” comment, and that he’d used that phrase to refer not to himself but to the unbalanced way the west has been reacting to Beijing’s attempts to promote its image to the world.

You’ve actually got to watch both clips to fully understand how unconscionable the CBC’s deceitful edit was. Don’t worry, they’re quite short. First watch this clip of the way the CBC framed Dumbrill’s comment:

https://medium.com/media/cda09e84b1f7f23c8e28dd0ae6762ace/href

Now watch this footage posted by Dumbrill. Notice his explicit denial of D’Souza’s accusation that he is part of any campaign and pay attention to the context in which he makes the “marketing campaign” comment:

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Dumbrill not only denies being part of any kind of campaign but adds that he doesn’t benefit financially from his video blogging about China and in fact does so at great personal expense. His “marketing campaign” remark is snipped out of a thoughtful, nuanced objection to the way Beijing working to improve its public image gets labeled an “influence campaign”, a rather nefarious-sounding term not typically applied to western cities, provinces and nations who do more or less the same thing. It’s crystal clear that he’s not making that observation in any relation to himself and his work but rather speaking objectively about Beijing’s behavior, entirely separate from the accusation of being a propaganda influencer.

D’Souza knew this. He sat there with the CBC editors and knowingly put together a deceitful propaganda piece falsely framing someone else as admitting to being a government propagandist. All with the funding of Canadian taxpayers.

This is made even more ironic by the fact that the CBC segment is dominated by the analysis of a think tanker from the anti-China narrative management firm Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which D’Souza never bothers to inform CBC’s audience is extensively funded by governments and the military-industrial complex. Dumbrill had even posted footage of the interview where he’s seen telling D’Souza that citing think tanks funded by governments and the arms industry without telling your audience that that’s what you’re doing is journalistic malpractice, which is plainly true. And they went and did exactly that anyway.

A war machine-funded think tanker appearing on a brazenly propagandistic show on western state media to explain the dark mechanics of Chinese propaganda is so twisted it’s actually delicious.

“Do you have any shame about doing exactly what you claim others are doing: pushing state propaganda?” journalist Aaron Maté tweeted at D’Souza in response to Dumbrill’s footage. “If you have any remote interest in journalism, you should have Daniel on — live — and let him respond to your smear job.”

Somehow I doubt that’s going to happen.

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The Ugly Face of War: How Technology is Set to Change the Battlefield

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 10:17pm in

Tags 

China, Russia

The Ugly Face of WarHow Technology is Set to Change the Battlefield

Iain Overton explores how facial recognition technology is being applied to military conflict

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The horror of a future war is often revealed incrementally.

Last week, it was reported that Clearview AI, an American technology company, had won a contract to provide the US Air Force with glasses equipped with facial recognition systems.

The $50,000 contract promises to help protect airfields by, it might be assumed, allowing guards to get alerts if a ‘hostile face’ appears in their bespectacled field of view.

Clearview, backed by Facebook and Palantir investor Peter Thiel, is on a mission to help America’s military identify potential enemies. No doubt, images of America’s most wanted terrorists – such as Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub or Mohammed Ali Hamadei – are already uploaded to their facial recognition servers. 

It is a company well-placed to do this, having harvested more than three billion images of people’s faces from social media. It is so good at identifying people that it even has a facial recognition app that lets a person take a picture of someone, upload it and then see all the photos of them currently on the web, with links to where these photos are posted. It seems, horribly, like a stalker’s paradise.

But why should we be concerned with the world’s most powerful military getting into facial recognition defence? After all, police departments in the United States have been using facial recognition tools for almost two decades, cross-checking images such as mug shots with driver licenses?

The reason is because what Clearview does is far superior.

It operates a neural net that converts the image of a face into what is best described as a mathematical formula. Vectors are ascertained from a face’s geometry – how long the nose is, how wide the mouth – put into groups of images with similar geometric shapes. So, when a new photo is uploaded, it can be converted into geometrical code and then quickly compared with the other facial groupings. A person can be identified in an instance. 

It sounds very exciting. But when it is imagined how a military drone might be equipped with such facial recognition systems, something approaching horror emerges. 

Imagine for a moment, swarms of drones – fully-electric, solar-powered autonomous drones – ever present in the skies of a conflict zone. Imagine them being used to search out and assassinate key targets, constantly referencing backed to an enormous online kill list that has been extracted from social media and other websites.

It is a dystopian vision.


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Total War

But the technology to realise this is already happening, albeit incrementally.

As Forbes has pointed out, an American patent application was filed by Tel Aviv-based AnyVision back in August 2019. It was to help drones to attain the best angle in order for on-board facial recognition systems to work, and for that drone to reference the shot with a store of faces stored downstream.

In December 2021, AnyVision executives announced that they had partnered in a joint venture called SightX with the Israeli defence company Rafael. Their executives reportedly said that facial recognition features were in development. 

So far, so bad.

But some may say: so what? Surely it is better to have drone systems that are programmed only to blow up in the face of a pre-approved target? Particularly considering that, when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 90% of those killed or injured are civilians, targeted killings sound like a better form of war.

But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Ignore, for a moment, what the use of distanced assassination drones means for due judicial process, and all the possibilities of extra-judicial killings. Ignore, too, the fact that national intelligence agencies are well known for providing such poor intel that it is far from certain that the ‘right’ faces will be uploaded to their kill lists.

But do consider this concerning development: that if the US have it, then Russia and China – countries that US intelligence chiefs have identified as their main threat – will also have facial recognition-equipped lethal drones. Or at least they will soon.

The outcome of this could be quite profound, not least for what it does to transparency and accountability.

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It does not take long to realise that, if such drones are unleashed in the first hours of war by the enemy, those drones would be programmed to search for the faces of all senior military personnel. Given this threat, a natural and logical response would be wholesale armed forces anonymity.

Facebook posts would be banned. Twitter profiles deleted. Photo ops shunned. The militaries of the developed world would be forced to march quickly into the shadows.

Worryingly, this would lead to a great shutting down of transparency. In a world in which someone’s face can be weaponised, militaries necessarily have to be faceless. It will become harder and harder to hold individuals to account, as they would be protected by a security right to privacy. 

The decline of accountability is the natural offspring of targeted warfare. 

If you know my face, the logic goes, you will hunt me down and kill me – so, I won’t let you know my face. But the entire basis of due legal process in liberal democracies is about identifying the accused. And, if the accused cannot be identified, then prosecutions for matters such as war crimes or murder will be more difficult to levy. Generals will become anonymous. Commanders will wear masks.

This might also create problems of morale. The public praise of the battle hero will no longer be possible. Anonymity does not lend itself towards propaganda-fuelled medal ceremonies. 

This may also lead to ‘softer’ targets being acquired by the enemy. Politicians, healthcare chiefs, trauma medics, fire service personnel, police officers – their faces may be targeted. Total War might be waged because Face-Targeted War cannot be fought against soldiers wearing balaclavas.

Sadly, perhaps this is all simply inevitable. Technology’s blind impetus is already moving to this logical position. But, what humans can make, humans can unmake – so just as the systems are programmed to recognise our faces, perhaps we should quickly recognise that the face of this violent future is the furthest from a defence utopia that some imagine.

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Prime Minister Dutton Promises To Not Wash Anyone’s Hair But May Strangle Their Puppy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 8:18am in

Tags 

Politics, China

Australia’s Minister for the Dark Arts Peter Dutton has been telling colleagues that if they give him the Prime Ministership he will not wash anyone’s hair, however, he will not promise to stop strangling people’s puppies.

”The Dark Lord has been on the phones over the weekend trying to shore up numbers to bring on a spill,” said a Government Insider. ”He does bring a lot to the table, especially the promise to not wash any random person’s hair.”

”Sure, his habit of strangling puppies doesn’t play well in all electorates, but it does poll highly in Queensland.”

When asked if the party would seriously consider changing leaders this close to an election, the Government Insider said: ”Well, if we’re not going to change leaders what are we going to do for the next four months, govern?”

”The Australian people know that Governments don’t really do much this close to an election anyway so why not change up the leadership.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go out and purchase some fresh puppies for the Dark Lord.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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MPs Raise Concerns as Government’s Reliance on Controversial Foreign COVID Testing Firm Continues

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/02/2022 - 2:00am in

MPs Raise Concerns as Government’s Reliance on Controversial Foreign COVID Testing Firm Continues

John Lubbock investigates why domestic lateral flow test manufacturers are still being left out in the cold by the Government

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At least £980 million worth of lateral flow tests (LFTs) were ordered in the last four months of 2021 from companies that rely heavily on Chinese supply chains, an investigation of Government contracts by the Byline Intelligence Team has revealed. 

Such reliance on Chinese-made testing kits, despite it being more than two years since COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, raises questions about why the UK appears to be reluctant to support the production of domestically-produced LFTs – with opposition MPs accusing the Government of “stifling” British manufacturers.

In December 2021, at the height of the Omicron wave, there was a national shortage of LFTs – the home-applied tests that form a core part of the national ‘Test and Trace’ system. In response, the Government spent hundreds of millions on lateral flow tests over the New Year from foreign firms, which use foreign production lines, to meet an “urgent and unforeseeable” demand – despite the fact that UK-manufactured LFTs have been readily available for more than a year. 

One company awarded at least £752 million in three new testing contracts in December 2021, for instance, was Innova Medical Group. Innova was already the single-biggest winner of UK Government contracts during the Coronavirus pandemic. Innova is an American company and its tests are almost entirely produced in China. 

These newly-awarded contracts take Innova’s total income to £4.5 billion from the UK Government during the crisis – equivalent to the 2020 budgets of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (£2.1 billion) and the Foreign Office (£2.4 billion) combined.

Due to commercial confidentiality, it is not possible to find out how many LFTs the UK has bought from Innova.


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Such an over-reliance on a single company, though, raises concerns about supply chain integrity.

In March 2021, Innova was forced to recall almost 80,000 tests in the US due to a “risk of false test results”. The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement “warning the public to stop using the Innova Medical Group… test for diagnostic use”, adding that it had “significant concerns that the performance of the test has not been adequately established, presenting a risk to health”.

Despite such concerns, following a June 2021 review by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK Government decided to continue sourcing LFTs from Innova.

Although it is not known how much Innova has made in profits on its UK contracts (private US companies do not have to file public accounts), Dr Charles Huang, CEO of Pasaca Capital, which owns Innova, donated considerable amounts of money to external causes in 2021.

In September, the University of Strathclyde announced that it had received its largest ever donation from an individual. £30 million of this £50 million gift to the university will go towards a new building named after Dr Huang. Dr Huang has also donated $40 million to Wuhan University, in the city where he was born and grew up. A news item paid for by the Charles Huang Foundation said that the money, “will be used to support six programmes named after Innova Medical Group Inc and Pasaca Capital”.

Innova’s lucrative contracts have also helped one British firm. Disruptive Nanotechnology, which was in debt at the end of 2019, made profits of £20.5 million last year, helping to secure Innova’s LFT contracts.

The Domestic Market

Some argue that such shortages could be averted if there was a greater plurality of supply options of LFTs, including sourcing the testing kits from British supplies.

Professor Prashant Yadav, a supply chain expert at INSEAD, told Byline Times that “building resilience in the supply chain for rapid tests is extremely important” and that “while resilience doesn’t mean having all of rapid test production in the UK, a better balancing of supply is definitely needed”.

“In the short-term it may be seductive for a government procurement team to buy from manufacturers with large capacity who can supply quickly, but that loses track of the medium/long term objectives of building a sustainable manufacturing base,” he added.

Despite such calls to action, a number of UK-based companies that were given funding by the Government to produce LFTs have faced hurdles in getting their products accredited.

The Government’s scientific laboratory at Porton Down has refused to accredit an LFT produced by UK company Mologic, for instance, saying that its LFT had failed its tests. 


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Professor Sanjeev Krishna, of St George’s University of London and a consultant to Mologic, said of the rejected tests: “If Porton Down couldn’t get [them] to work then we need a powerful spotlight on this… what are the procedures, how are they being done?”

“What we’re seeing here,” Professor Krishna added, “is some process which is at variance with international processes to passing these tests.”

Opposition MPs who talked to Byline Times also criticised the Government’s inaction on the domestic production of COVID tests.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said that “it’s deeply concerning that UK manufacturers may have been overlooked when the Government was handing out large contracts”.

“It becomes clearer every day that we need a truly independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, right now,” the MP added.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Florence Eshalomi said: “It’s two years since the pandemic began and it is unacceptable that the Government is stifling the ability for British manufacturers to support testing. Labour will work with British manufacturers to make sure we always have a supply of tests when we need them.”

A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson told Byline Times: “All tests used by the UK Government must go through a rigorous validation process to ensure they are highly effective at detecting people who are infectious with COVID-19. Manufacturers that are unsuccessful in completing the validation process are not eligible for procurement but we remain committed to supporting British manufacturers and suppliers, wherever possible.”

Innova did not reply to Byline Times’ request for comment.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The Tantalizing Dream of a “Regional” Olympics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/02/2022 - 4:22am in

Four years before Nagano, Japan was to host the 1998 Winter Olympics, journalist Ben Hills traveled to the site designated as the geographical center of the games. What he found there shocked him. 

“There is not a piece of machinery in sight, not a sign, not even a fence marking the spot,” he wrote. How could this be the place where hundreds of thousands would converge for one of the world’s biggest sporting events?

The short answer is, it wasn’t. The Nagano Olympics were, in reality, a regional Olympics, in which many events were held in other cities more than 90 minutes away. It wasn’t the first time the games had spread out over a vast area. The 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France took place across an area of about 650 square miles. Only two events, figure skating and speed skating, actually took place in Albertville, with the rest held at sites up to two hours away.

But these were unusual cases. Typically, the entire enterprise is crowded into one area, with perhaps a satellite location or two for events with topographical requirements, like skiing. This is the case with the 2022 Winter Olympics, which open this week in Beijing. The majority of events will be held in the city’s Chaoyang and Yanqing districts, with a few others (mostly skiing) in the bordering city of Zhangjiakou. It’s a massive undertaking for one city, albeit somewhat less so this year, with tight controls on spectators

olympicsPreparations for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Credit: Shutterstock

But the Games at Nagano and Albertville raise an intriguing question: Why not always make the Olympics a regional event? The Games have become such a cumbersome beast that many cities now dread their arrival, knowing they’ll result in huge debts and massive amounts of unneeded infrastructure. Why not disperse all that infrastructure — along with its imposing costs — across an array of co-hosting cities?

As it turns out, the idea has been floated before, most recently by former New York governor George Pataki, who wanted to bring the Winter Olympics back to Lake Placid in the early 2000s. Lake Placid has hosted the Games twice, most recently in 1980. But since then, the Olympics had been super-sized into a multi-billion-dollar spectacle — too heavy a lift for a small mountain village of 2,500 in upstate New York.

“The games have outgrown our tiny resort town in the last 34 years,” read a wistful editorial in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. “Our 1980 event has been heralded as the last small-town Olympics.”

But Pataki and the town’s local boosters had an idea: What if Lake Placid could co-host the Games with another medium-sized city like Albany, more than 100 miles away? Even Montreal was floated as a potential partner, raising the tantalizing prospect of a trans-national Olympics. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Canada was already focused on Vancouver’s upcoming 2010 Olympics, and New York City was busy shepherding a bid for the 2012 Games. Momentum sputtered, and the idea was abandoned. 

Even after it fizzled, however, Governor Pataki expressed hope that a regional Olympics would someday take shape. “It’s down the road,” he promised. “We’ll have an excellent chance of doing it again.”

olympicsThe Olympic Ski Jumping Center from the 1984 Sarajevo Games, now abandoned. Credit: Wikipedia

Taking the burden off a single city has obvious merits. Each subsequent Olympics grows bigger and more unwieldy than the last, leaving red ink, empty stadiums and exasperated locals in its wake. Three years after hosting the 2016 Games, Rio de Janeiro still owed $160 million to creditors, and efforts to repurpose the infrastructure had been met with mixed success. In Rio’s condo-converted Olympic Village, for instance, just 10 percent of the 3,600 units had found buyers, and a subway line constructed to connect sporting venues had been ridiculed as a train to nowhere

This type of post-Olympics infrastructure glut is an unfortunate paradox, given that most cities really do need the kinds of infrastructure upgrades the Olympics can provide. Spreading the wealth between two or more cities could diffuse some of the impact of the Games, while also bestowing each location with infrastructure of a more reasonable, sustainable scale. It could also open up the process to smaller cities that rarely get that level of investment, and generate the kind of inter-city transit connections that would otherwise be tough to get off the ground.

Case in point: the bullet train that today carries 10 million yearly passengers from Tokyo to Nagano in 80 minutes was built for the 1998 Games. Albertville’s sprawling Olympics also resulted in a new train line connecting the host city to Paris. And little Pyeongchang, South Korea (population: 43,000) got a world-class high-speed rail connection to Seoul out of its 2018 Winter Games. 

olympicsA Shinkansen bullet train in Nagano station, a link to Tokyo that was built for the 1998 Olympic Games. Credit: Steve Boland / Flickr

The more you think about it, the less outlandish the idea seems. Why not a Columbus-Cincinnati-Indianapolis Summer Games? Or a Winter Olympics co-hosted by Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava? What could better reflect the hands-across-the-world comity inherent to the Olympic brand than a joint effort designed to mutually benefit everyone involved?

In reality, the concept faces major hurdles. Nagano prepared diligently for the logistical challenge of hosting a major event spread out over hundreds of miles. Some 900 buses shuttled 60,000 athletes, officials and journalists from venue to venue, and even then, the low-speed, two-lane roads created significant traffic problems. In Albertville, some critics felt that the multi-city dynamic took away from the spirit of the games. Britain’s Daily Telegraph wrote that the sense of global conviviality “was lost on the wind. Competitors, from Switzerland to Senegal, complained about the lack of atmosphere.”

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It’s also against the rules. As stipulated by the International Olympic Committee, a single city must be declared the host, even if the events themselves occur over a larger area. But at Albertville in 1992, Juan Antonio Samaranch, then-president of the IOC, told the Christian Science Monitor that he thought a truly regional Olympics would materialize someday. “We are envisioning the possibility of holding future games in several regions or even in more than one country,” he said, “but with one city given overall responsibility for the project.”

The Games beginning this week in Beijing will display some of this potential. As the sole host city, the Chinese capital is coordinating the entire event. But because Beijing proper doesn’t have room for all the large venues required, two neighboring areas are sharing the burden: Zhangjiakou, a city on Beijing’s southeastern flank that will host events like the biathlon, snowboarding and nordic skiing; and Yanqing district in northwestern Beijing that will host the bobsled, skeleton, luge and alpine skiing about 50 miles outside the city center.

It’s easy to imagine how a future Olympics could stretch even further — our world today is far more technologically linked than it was when Nagano hosted. Now, it’s perfectly normal for a Londoner to telecommute full-time to Mumbai, or for a college student in Lagos to attend classes remotely at a school in Tel Aviv. The Tokyo Games last year saw an explosion in digital spectatorship: some 28 billion video views, a 139 percent increase over the Rio Games just four years prior. As a sports reporter for the Times of London imagined it in Albertville, a regional Olympics is the next logical step, “a simultaneous but separate gathering of world championships, linked only by television.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Next City.

The post The Tantalizing Dream of a “Regional” Olympics appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

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