Activist Pressure to Nix DOJ Program to Catch Chinese Spies Grows Despite Conviction of Harvard Professor

Charles Lieber

Aloose coalition of lawmakers, nonprofits, and academics has continued to pressure the Biden administration to end the so-called China Initiative, despite the Justice Department program to thwart Chinese spies winning a key conviction last month of a high-profile Harvard professor.

The Trump administration launched the China Initiative in 2018 to preserve America’s technological edge. The program, which the Biden administration has so far continued, is designed to identify and prosecute those engaged in hacking, stealing trade secrets, and conducting economic espionage for the Chinese government on U.S. soil.

Charles Lieber, a renowned nanotechnology professor who chaired Harvard’s Chemistry Department, became one of the China Initiative’s most prominent targets. Federal prosecutors accused him of lying to government authorities about multiple links to Beijing.

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Commentary: The U.S. Might Lose the Tech War in Its Own Hemisphere

South America has sat within the U.S. sphere of interest since the Monroe Doctrine was enunciated in 1823. Now that may be changing, thanks to the inroads that Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei are making in the region’s economies. The advent of 5G networks is showcasing Beijing’s growing ability to rival Washington in South America.

That rivalry isn’t discussed too much in the region itself. Governments in Latin America mostly take a pragmatic approach, waiting for the lowest bidder while trying to remain as friendly as possible with each side. These tendencies hold true for most facets of U.S.-China competition in Latin America, but especially in South America, which is home to several major economies that are more politically and economically independent from the United States than closer neighbors such as Mexico.

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Congress Wants to Make Big Tech Responsible for Online Speech

Person on space gray iPhone

While there is agreement between large factions of both Republicans and Democrats that social media companies should be liable for certain third-party content hosted on their platforms, the parties differ on what that content should be, and why platforms should be liable in the first place.

Congress appeared no closer to finding common ground following a House Energy and Commerce hearing Wednesday, in which lawmakers considered several bills seeking to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“Wednesday’s hearing made clear that Republicans and Democrats have drastically different solutions to hold Big Tech accountable,” Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Republicans are fighting for free speech, while Democrats continue to push for more censorship and control. Bipartisanship will not be possible until Democrats agree that we need less censorship, not more.”

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State Attorney Generals Launch Investigation into Instagram’s Effects on Kids

Young person on Instagram

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched a probe into Instagram on Thursday to examine whether the company violated state-level consumer protection laws.

The states are investigating whether Meta (formerly known as Facebook), which owns Instagram, promoted the image-sharing platform “to children and young adults” despite being aware of its negative effects, according to statements from the attorneys general. The probe cites internal Facebook communications and research leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and published by The Wall Street Journal showing Meta was aware that use of Instagram could contribute to body image and mental health issues among teens.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.

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Hackers Allegedly Breach Nine Companies Involved in Defense, Energy, and Other Vital Sectors

Ryan Olson

A security firm claims that foreign hackers have infiltrated at least nine companies in several crucial sectors of the economy and government, including defense, energy, technology, and others, according to CNN.

Palo Alto Networks (PAN) shared the information on the breaches with CNN, showing that other affected sectors include education and healthcare. They say that the National Security Agency (NSA) is working with cybersecurity researchers to expose this and other ongoing efforts by foreign entities to hack American infrastructure. PAN’s report included information contributed by a division of the NSA which focuses exclusively on threats against American industrial defense bases by foreign hackers.

Examples of the breaches include the inconspicuous theft of passwords, with the goal of using these passwords to remain inside these networks for a prolonged period of time without anyone even being aware that there was a breach. This would allow hackers to freely receive sensitive data sent over basic communications such as email or information contained on internal storage drives.

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Commentary: John Durham’s Vast Conspiracy

John Durham

Special Counsel John Durham’s 27-page false-statement indictment of lawyer Michael Sussmann avers a thus-far uncharged conspiracy by Democrat operatives, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and others to fabricate, leak, and purvey the most successful and destructive political smear in American history.

Judging from the detailed contents of the indictment, Durham appears to be well on his way to exposing the lies and corrupt schemes that were used to kneecap Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for president and hamstring his administration for the next four years.

This article is the second in a series regarding the Sussmann indictment which, given its detailed content, strongly indicates that Durham has in hand documentary and supporting evidence to prove how Sussmann and others conspired to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful functions of the United States government by dishonest means in order to, among other goals, subvert our political and electoral processes, including the 2016 presidential election.

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Republican Lawmakers Say China’s Cryptocurrency Crackdown Is an Opportunity for America

Person holding phone with cryptocurrency info on screen

Republican lawmakers say China’s recent crackdown on financial technologies could offer an opportunity for the U.S. to press its advantage in innovation.

China’s central bank issued a statement Friday morning declaring all cryptocurrency transactions and services illegal, banning coin mining operations and vowing to crack down on its citizens’ use of foreign crypto exchanges.

Several Republicans say China’s loss could be the United States’ gain.

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Group of State Attorneys General Urge Passage of House Bills Targeting Big Tech

Smartphone with display of social media apps

A bipartisan group of 32 state attorneys general sent a letter to leading lawmakers in the House and Senate on Monday urging the passage of a series of antitrust bills targeting major technology companies.

The letter, led by attorneys general Phil Weiser of Colorado, Douglas Peterson of Nebraska, Letitia James of New York, and Herbert H. Slatery III of Tennessee, was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The attorneys general urged Congress to modernize federal antitrust laws and enhance consumer protections by passing a series of bills introduced in the House Judiciary Committee in June that target big tech companies.

“A comprehensive update of federal antitrust laws has not occurred in decades,” the attorneys general wrote. “The sponsors of these bills should be commended for working to ensure that federal antitrust laws remain robust and keep pace with that of modern markets.”

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Internet Watchdog Says Ex-Intelligence Community Officials Are Echoing Big Tech Talking Points

A warning by former national security officials about the dangers of regulating technology companies is in lockstep with arguments made by Big Tech chief executives, according to a report from an internet watchdog group.

A group of former intelligence community officials sent a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy arguing against the passage of a series of antitrust bills advanced in the House Judiciary Committee in June. The warnings echo talking points made by groups lobbying for the tech industry and major tech firms themselves, according to a report by the Internet Accountability Project, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group focused on issues related to Big Tech.

The intelligence community officials argued the bills would make the U.S. less competitive with China and could even compromise America’s national security. 

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Commentary: The Other Back to School Story

Back to school stories this year will focus, naturally, on the Covid-19 pandemic’s toll on students and families and on remedying these difficulties.

But another story is being shortchanged: it’s about how parents sought new options for their children like homeschooling, small learning pods, and micro-schools, with civic entrepreneurs and their partners creating new organizations or expanding existing ones to meet this demand.

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Apple Engaged in ‘Anticompetitive Conduct,’ Court Rules in Antitrust Lawsuit

A judge ruled Friday that Apple engaged in anticompetitive conduct in its App Store, concluding a lawsuit filed by game developers alleging the tech giant was an illegal monopolist.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled Friday that Apple’s policy of preventing app developers from linking to third-party payment systems within their apps was anticompetitive, forcing the iPhone maker to change its app store guidelines. However, Rogers ruled in favor of Apple on several other allegations, finding the tech giant did not illegally maintain a monopoly.

“While the Court finds that Apple enjoys considerable market share of over 55% and extraordinarily high profit margins, these factors alone do not show antitrust conduct,” Rogers wrote. “Success is not illegal.”

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Commentary: Four Scientific Questions We May Never Know the Answers To

Questions set the scientific method in motion. Without that initial curiosity, that “I wonder…”, that “What if…”, we would not have the technology, the medicine, nor the knowledge that we have today.

But not all questions have readily attainable answers. Despite our formidable advances in probing reality over the years, there are some things we are still incapable of concretely knowing. One day, that could change, but for these topics it’s currently hard to fathom how. Here are four questions that humans may never know the answers to:

Do You See Red Like I See Red?

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Apple and Google Face First Major Challenge to Their App Store Dominance

smartphone app store

Apple and Google might change their app store business practices because of a new South Korean law similar to recent legislative efforts by U.S. lawmakers.

The new law would prohibit app stores, including Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, from forcing developers to use the tech giants’ payment systems, The Wall Street Journal reported. The bill, passed by South Korea’s National Assembly, will become law once signed by President Moon Jae-in.

The Korean bill is similar to a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, and Marsha Blackburn to the U.S. Senate earlier this month that seeks “to promote competition and reduce gatekeeper power in the app economy, increase choice, improve quality, and reduce costs for consumers.” Both bills prevent app stores from requiring the use of their billing systems and take aim at the tech giants’ commission structure.

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Apple to Overhaul Its App Store in $100 Million Class Action Settlement

Apple proposed a settlement with app developers Thursday, requiring the tech company to restructure its app store and change some of its more controversial practices.

The agreement, still pending court approval, would settle a class action antitrust lawsuit filed by app developers against Apple for alleged anticompetitive practices in its app store.

The company will now permit app developers to use information obtained in their apps to directly communicate with consumers about payment options outside the app store, Apple announced in court filings Thursday. This helps developers avoid paying Apple a commission on app purchases, and grants developers greater control over their apps.

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Bipartisan Bill Targets Apple, Google for App Store Tactics

Marsha Blackburn

Senators from both parties introduced a bill Wednesday targeting alleged anticompetitive conduct among Apple and Google app stores.

The Open App Markets Act, introduced Wednesday by Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn along with Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar, would prevent app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store from requiring developers to use the tech giants’ in-app payment systems as a condition of distribution. The bill would also stop Apple and Google from taking “punitive action” against developers who offer different pricing terms in other app stores.

“This legislation will tear down coercive anticompetitive walls in the app economy, giving consumers more choices and smaller startup tech companies a fighting chance,” Blumenthal said in a joint statement.

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Apple Will Scan All U.S. iPhones for Illegal Child Abuse Imagery, Prompting Privacy Concerns

Apple plans to scan all iPhone in the U.S. for potential child abuse imagery.

The move announced Thursday generated shock waves among security experts who say it could allow the company to surveil many millions of phones for reasons unrelated to images of child abuse.

“This sort of tool can be a boon for finding child pornography in people’s phones. But image what it could do in the hands of an authoritarian government,” tweeted Johns Hopkins professor and cryptographer Matthew Green.

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36 States Sue Google over Alleged Anticompetitive Practices in Play Store

Google Play Store on Android

State attorneys general of 36 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Wednesday alleging the company engaged in anticompetitive practices in its Play Store for Android.

The complaint argues Google holds and unlawfully maintains a monopoly in the market of “Android app distribution,” using anticompetitive tactics such as blocking competitors from accessing the Play Store, discouraging the creation of competing app stores, and acquiring smaller app developers. The complaint also alleges Google charges app developers up to a 30% commission when customers purchase their products through the Google Play Store.

“Google has taken steps to close the ecosystem from competition and insert itself as the middleman between app developers and consumers,” the plaintiffs argue.

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Commentary: Remote Work’s Impending Transformation of Middle America

Computer with video chat on screen and mug next to laptop

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a great deal about America and Americans. Most have acquiesced to anything and everything government bureaucrats asked for in the name of public safety. Masks have been donned, churches have been shuttered, and many of us stayed at home for months, working remotely.

This last item may end up being the largest and most permanent transformation of the United States. The mobility that comes with remote work may end up transforming middle America as left-coast technologists migrate inward. Freed from the work-based ties that bind them to Silicon Valley and New York City, they can now easily take their jobs and their left-wing politics to the heartland, ushering in a transformative moment in American politics.

Thomas Edsall, writing for The New York Times, discusses how many from densely populated urban areas on the coasts are finding that remote work enables them to have big city paychecks while living in suburban or rural areas with lower costs of living. 

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Commentary: Too Much Data, Too Little Wisdom

Every day, we are bombarded with information. A police shooting under questionable circumstances. A tense encounter between people of different races. A flood of statistics on COVID-19 cases, mortality, and vaccine effectiveness. 

We receive the data in the form of easily digested soundbites and a never-ending reel of videos. We are supposed to respond by taking a stand and making a judgment. If there is any doubt as to what that stand should be, the mood music on the news and the explicit narratives on social media make it plain what we are supposed to feel and think. 

Objectively speaking, these videos present as many questions as they present answers. Maybe it’s grainy and fast moving. Maybe the lens is distorting perspective. With YouTube, we can slow it down, rewind, and enhance the color. Ah ha! See! The kid dropped the gun a tenth of a second before the officer’s shot went off, says the know-it-all. 

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