20 May 2020

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warns about the consequences of embracing remote work permanently


Microsoft is not taking the same financial beating as many of its peers due to the pandemic. Revenue jumped 15% in the first quarter of 2020, Microsoft Teams users increased by more than 70% in April, and the company’s stock price is up 14% this year.

But financials aren’t everything to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He is still concerned about the changes to work that the coronavirus crisis is forcing. Nadella spoke with the staff of the New York Times this week about the challenges he’s navigating as Microsoft’s leader.

“What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after,” he said.

Nadella warned about the consequences of embracing telecommuting permanently:

“What does burnout look like? What does mental health look like? What does that connectivity and the community building look like? One of the things I feel is, hey, maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?”

India may have to open dialogue with Taliban, say observers

Atul Aneja

There is little doubt that after a gap of nearly two decades, Afghanistan is undergoing another major power overhaul. Taliban, ousted by the post-9/11 U.S.- led military campaign, has re-emerged as the core of a new, yet unfinished, constellation of power.

Unlike its previous avatar in the mid-nineties, when it was birthed by Pakistan and nurtured by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with covert support from the United States, Taliban 2.0 is manifestly different.

Except India, former heavyweight supporters of the Northern Alliance — a non-Pashtun coalition of ethnic groups that took over from Taliban — chiefly Iran and Russia, have significantly invested in the rebranded Taliban. This has eminently suited the Taliban, which is yearning for recognition as a symbol of Afghan nationalism, rather than a safehouse of international terror groups, including Al-Qaeda, the architect of the bombing of the twin-towers in New York.

COVID-19 in Afghanistan: Going Beyond a Ceasefire

By Ben Francis

Migration, urban density, poverty, and the ongoing conflict mean that Afghanistan is uniquely placed to experience potentially catastrophic numbers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Afghan government, backed by calls from the international community, has requested a ceasefire. The Taliban has rejected this request and continued to engage in offensive violence. 

A ceasefire is necessary to give all Afghans the best possible chance of defeating their common enemy: COVID-19. But there are limitations. Ceasefires represent an emergency stop-gap in moving toward real, sustainable progress for either of the two greatest issues facing the country now: pandemic and peace.

The novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has impacted Afghanistan as it has much of the world. The official figures of infections and death almost certainly represent a vast underestimate of the scale of the problem, with testing capacity poor and official data collection hampered by a variety of circumstances, not least the ongoing and active conflict. High profile incidents such as the infection of U.S. military staff in Kabul or the positive test results of senior officials close to the president combine with anecdotal evidence from around the country that the virus is widespread and threatens to exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities faced by many Afghans.

Poor Countries Borrowed Billions from China. They Can’t Pay It Back.

By Maria Abi-Habib and Keith Bradsher
Source Link

As the coronavirus spread around the globe, Pakistan’s foreign minister called his counterpart in Beijing last month with an urgent request: The country’s economy was nose-diving, and the government needed to restructure billions of dollars of Chinese loans.

Similar requests have come flooding in to Beijing from Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and a number of African nations, asking to restructure, delay repayments or forgive tens of billions of dollars of loans coming due this year.

With each request, China’s drive to become the developing world’s biggest banker is backfiring. Over the last two decades it unleashed a global lending spree, showering countries with hundreds of billions of dollars, in an effort to expand its influence and become a political and economic superpower. Borrowers put up ports, mines and other crown jewels as collateral.

Now, as the world economy reels, countries are increasingly telling Beijing they can’t pay the money back.

'This virus may never go away,' WHO says

Emma Farge, Michael Shields

GENEVA (Reuters) - The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it.

“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing.

“I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” he added. “I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a “massive effort” even if a vaccine was found — a prospect he described as a “massive moonshot”.

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

China’s Coronavirus Success Is Made Possible by Xi’s Brutality


There’s no doubt that China’s coronavirus response, like that of many other East Asian states, has been far more successful than Western Europe’s or the disastrous failures of the United States. After the initial outbreak in Wuhan, the coronavirus appears to have been successfully contained, mass testing introduced, and the country’s borders effectively sealed—all while maintaining strong supply chains and dampening some of the worst of the considerable economic damage.

But that success comes from very clear roots of state control, not public trust or civil society. After an initial and disastrous cover-up, the systems that allowed the government to successfully act are the same ones that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses to maintain its control over citizens—and that are currently being used as part of a campaign of mass imprisonment and cultural genocide against Uighurs and other minorities in the western region of Xinjiang. Those systems were already in place in most of China—from tracking people’s movement via their phones to a widespread camera system linked to facial recognition technology, mixed with lower-tech methods including police databases of supposedly suspect individuals such as religious believers and critical thinkers. This omnipresent domestic control apparatus is funded out of a so-called stability maintenance budget larger than that for national defense. These systems are not necessary for success, as Taiwan and South Korea have shown, but in China they proved critical. Up until the pandemic, these systems were often relatively lightly applied outside Xinjiang, but they’ve now been turned on with full force almost everywhere.

US, China Should Pursue Peace, Not Military Brinkmanship

Neither side wants to appear weak, but recent actions and rhetoric by both sides has put all of us in greater danger of U.S.-China military tensions sliding into armed conflict.

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the U.S.-China relationship — but in the opposite of the way that many expected. While the world hoped this pandemic might lead to more cooperation between these two great powers, American and Chinese leaders instead fell into a blame game and allowed their increasing suspicions, or even enmity, to guide their decision-making. And while hostile leaders finger-point at each other, a less-noticed series of military and policy actions by both sides has put all of us in greater danger of U.S.-China military tensions sliding into armed conflict. Tensions are increasing over intensified military activities taken by both sides, how the virus is impacting each side’s readiness to use military force, and the rising mistrust among both peoples. But there is a peaceful way out of this spiral. 

The COVID-19 pandemic broke out within the context of what the American side already was calling great power competition. That framing partly explains why Washington and Beijing believe each is seeking to position themselves advantageously for the post-pandemic landscape. Each side describes the other as being aggressive while justifying themselves as merely responding to provocations, especially when it comes to military affairs: the U.S. stresses that China is expanding its sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and China believes that the U.S. is determined to keep the PLA within the first island chain

How do China's five-year plans set goals, missions for national defense?

By Le Tian
Source Link

Each of China's Five-Year plans (FYP) signal the government's vision for future reforms for all fields, with the defense field being no exception.

This year is the end of the 13th Five-Year plan (2016-2020). It aims at breaking down systematic, structural, and policy barriers, modernizing the organization of the military and improving combat capacity, the 13th FYP called for completing national defense and armed forces reforms by 2020.

Troops make preparation for a military parade at Zhurihe training base in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, July 30, 2017. /Xinhua

In retrospect, like the 13th FYP, each FYP has set targets and tasks for national defense, mapping out the blueprint for the country's military development.

One principle runs through it all. China's defense development serves the demands of national development, security and military strategies, and takes both the actual condition and long-term development needs into account.

Defensive in nature

The United States Can’t Afford to Turn Away Chinese Talent

Source Link

The pandemic threatens a reckoning in U.S.-China relations. COVID-19’s arrival has highlighted the range of risks that can arise from the connectivity between the two countries. American policymakers are grappling with complex questions about how to recalibrate the character of U.S.-China economic interdependence and technological entanglement. But some of the answers that have been proposed are far too simple and may backfire on U.S. competitiveness.

As the consensus among American policymakers shifts toward seeing China as a competitor, even an adversary, continuing to welcome Chinese students and scientists to the United States has come to seem risky or threatening to U.S. technological leadership. For instance, U.S. President Donald Trump is reported to have claimed in reference to China that “almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.” Sen. Tom Cotton also recently recommended excluding Chinese postgraduate students from critical technology disciplines: “If Chinese students want to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that’s what they need to learn from America. They don’t need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.” In a May 7 letter, he and three other Republican senators called for restrictions on immigration that would include the suspension of H-1B visas and the curbing of the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign students to work in the United States after graduating.

Is All Hope Lost for a Global Cease-Fire Resolution at the U.N.?

Richard Gowan, Ashish Pradhan 

Is it too late for the United Nations Security Council to make even a modest contribution to international stability during the coronavirus pandemic? After negotiating for the better part of two months, the council’s member states have yet to agree on a resolution addressing the security consequences of COVID-19. Last Friday, the United States refused to endorse a text that the body’s 14 other members were ready to back. It is not clear that a compromise is possible.

This is a pity, because the draft resolution the U.S. nixed—worked out by France and Tunisia, the former a permanent member of the council and the latter an elected one—centers on a fairly straightforward proposal to limit the suffering stemming from the pandemic. It repeats U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal back in March for a general cessation in hostilities so that aid workers and health experts could help conflict-affected communities navigate the coronavirus. The draft calls for a 90-day humanitarian pause in armed conflicts in general, in addition to a more specific demand for an immediate halt to violence in crises that are already on the council’s agenda, such as in South Sudan and Libya

The Thorium Fuel Experiments

Ella Alderson
We begin with an unlikely setting. South India’s shores are rimmed with blue ocean and swarming with shade from the tilted palm trees overhead. The country’s sun soaked coasts are heavy with mineral deposits of the flesh-colored kind. The jagged mineral monazite blushes in colors from oxblood red to a creamy sweet pink. While most of it is found on the eastern and southern coasts of India, it’s also abundant in the foreign countries of Australia and Brazil. Monazite contains an average of 7% thorium phosphate, though this number can be as high as 12%.

Thorium, when pure, is lustrous and silvery but later tarnishes to a heady black. It inhabits the dry land where it can be found in trace amounts in most rocks or soils, though for all its proximity to the sea thorium is insoluble and not readily available in ocean water. Compared to uranium it’s 3 times more abundant in the Earth’s crust. And it’s this metal that countries — like the monazite heavy India — are hoping to exploit to create the nuclear energy we should have had. Many believe the only reason our reactors depend on uranium and not thorium has to do with the development of nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. Weaponry fabrication is more easily done using the waste from uranium reactors than that from a thorium one.

The new geography of America, post-coronavirus


When there is a general change in conditions, it is as if the entire creation had changed, and the whole world altered — Ibn Khaldun, 14th Century Arab historian

For a generation, a procession of pundits, public relations aces and speculators have promoted the notion that our future lay in dense — and politically deep-blue — urban centers, largely on the coasts. Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, suburbia’s future seemed perilous, with experts claiming that many suburban tracks were about to become “the next slums.” The head of President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development proclaimed that “sprawl” was now doomed and people were “moving back into central cities.”

That idea was always overwrought with enthusiasm, but, with the COVID-19 pandemic heavily concentrated in these urban centers, the case for forced densification promoted by “urban supremacists” seems increasing dubious. By some estimates, the death rate in large urban counties has been well over twice those of high-density suburbs, nearly four times higher than lower-density ones, with even larger gaps with smaller metros and rural areas.

The pandemic has been toughest on those areas that suffer what demographer Wendell Cox called “exposure density.” In the worst case, which is in New York’s outer boroughs, this pattern is exacerbated by living in crowded apartments, walking packed streets, traveling cheek to jowl in the subway and then forced into a crowded workplace. This could explain why sprawling, large and relatively less-dense urban areas in Texas, California and Florida — each with their own pockets of poverty — have also experienced far lower infection and fatality rates than New York.

The Sino-Russian Partnership Gains Momentum

by Jeff Hawn
Source Link

Though they have not always been on the best of terms, China and Russia are now cooperating more intensely in order to protect their interests from the United States. 

It has been widely noted that the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying global economic shock is likely to lead to significantly deeper ties between China and Russia. This is an acceleration of a trend that has been underway since 2008 and does not look to deviate anytime soon. There are still significant stumbling blocks to a highly integrated NATO-like alliance between China and Russia, including a history of mutual animosity and historical territorial disputes. A closely coordinated partnership, however, is unnecessary to serve both nation’s interests when a looser entente will more than suffice. 

To date, U.S. actions have primarily served to strengthen the gradually warming relationship between Beijing and Moscow. If Washington does not begin trying to splinter the two nations as it previously did during the Nixon era, the Chinese-Russian partnership could become a keystone to both states’ geopolitical strategy, much to the United States’ detriment.

Not the Likeliest Alliance

The Right Way to Fix the EU

By Matthias Matthijs
On January 30, 2020, representatives from the European Union’s 28 member states gathered at the European Parliament, in Brussels, to approve the United Kingdom’s official exit from the EU. After the vote was cast, the parliamentarians from the 27 remaining members waved their British counterparts goodbye while singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the Scottish farewell song that celebrates lasting friendship and the passing from old times to new. Among the departing British, some wept tears of sorrow, others tears of joy. 

On the continent, most consider the British decision to leave a tragic mistake. Even so, the Brexiteers’ core contention—that the European Economic Community they joined in 1973 has grown far beyond an international union of sovereign states and into something far more ambitious and intrusive—is hard to deny. So is the claim that the EU’s own missteps in handling the process of European integration played some part in driving the British out.

If the union wants to maintain its legitimacy and global influence after Brexit, it should use this moment as an opportunity to rectify those mistakes. Above all, the EU should stop putting economic logic ahead of political reality when it should be the other way around—as the original guiding principles of European integration held. The goal of integration, as the British historian Alan Milward wrote, was not to create a giant internal market or to eventually become a new global superpower but to rescue Europe’s nation-states from the threat of collapse, annexation, and forced occupation—threats that many European states had failed to resist in World War II. Those states had failed in their primary task, to defend their national territory and protect their citizens. For the sake of their own survival, European states needed some degree of coordination to achieve the twin goals of political stability and economic prosperity. That would require some surrender of national sovereignty to a supranational entity, but the underlying objective would be to buttress the legitimacy of member states.

Yes, France Did 'Sink' a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

by Caleb Larson

The French Rubis-class is France’s first-generation nuclear attack submarine class. Though old, they’re still capable. The first of the class, the Rubis, originally launched in 1979. Though the class is nuclear-powered, they are smaller than typical attack submarines in the American or British navies, and displace only about 2,500 tons.

Since the Rubis-class is nuclear powered, they benefit from having virtually unlimited range. The only limits to operational range are crew needs, such as fresh water and food, and ammunition. Interestingly, the Rubis-class are only able to carry a modest ammunition load of fourteen anti-surface torpedoes and missiles that can be mixed and matched.

In addition to standard 21-inch torpedoes, the Rubis-class can also fire Exocet SM39 missiles. The Exocet SM39 is a submarine-launched variant of France’s standard anti-ship missile, and entered service in 1984, just as the Rubis-class was becoming active. The SM39 is a short-range missile with a range of 50 kilometers or just over 30 miles. These anti-surface missiles are fired not through vertical launch tubes, which the Rubis-class lacks, but instead via the torpedo tubes inside a watertight container. Once the container makes contact with the surface, the SM39 is ejected into the air and flies towards a predetermined target. En route, the SM39 maintains a low flight profile to avoid detection by enemy radar. It has a 165 kilo, or about 360 pound high-explosive warhead.

Why Banning H-1B Workers Harms America's Economic Edge

by Alex Nowrasteh

The Trump Administration is reportedly working on an executive order to ban the issuance of new H-1B visas. His order is expected to be issued before the end of this month. His order would be quite a negative blow to the U.S. economy and hit American economic innovation the hardest. The H-1B visa system has problems: It’s unreasonably costly to change firms, workers are restrained from starting their own firms, and the wait times to adjust their status to a green card are absurdly long. Complete H-1B worker portability between firms, allowing workers to sponsor themselves if they start a firm, and reducing the backlog, as well as other reforms, need to be implemented. But ending the H-1B visa is not the way forward and will hurt American innovation especially.

H-1B visas are for highly skilled workers in specialty occupations. They have to make a minimum of $60,000 a year. Annually, 85,000 are available to U.S. firms with an additional uncapped number available for non‐​profit research institutions, universities, and governments. Many workers who get an H-1B visa start as students in an American university, adjust to an H-1B visa, and eventually earn an employment‐​based green card – but often with obscenely long waits. H-1B workers primarily labor in STEM and computer occupations.

When — and How — Should the U.S. Economy Reopen?

As states across the U.S. experiment with lifting lockdowns in varying degrees, economists, policymakers and many others are struggling to find the right approaches to reopen the economy while putting safeguards in place to avoid a spike in new COVID-19 cases. How exactly things will play out remains largely uncertain – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Of the many challenges the pandemic has raised, “the most fundamental one is how much we are willing to pay, or more accurately lose, by shutting down the economy in order to save lives,” Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli wrote in an April 30 column in Human Resource Executive. “This sounds like a policy question, but it is also a practical management problem because employers are gearing up for the challenge of bringing employees back to work when we know that doing so and ending social isolation will increase the risk that more people will get sick and die.”

An analysis by the Penn Wharton Budget Model released on May 1 (and updated most recently on May 11) shows that as states relax their policies and residents reduce social distancing, jobs and GDP grow, but so does the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths — to alarming levels.

Five Strategies for Putting AI at the Center of Digital Transformation

Across industries, companies are applying artificial intelligence to their businesses, with mixed results. “What separates the AI projects that succeed from the ones that don’t often has to do with the business strategies organizations follow when applying AI,” writes Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions Kartik Hosanagar in this opinion piece. Hosanagar is faculty director of Wharton AI for Business, a new Analytics at Wharton initiative that will support students through research, curriculum, and experiential learning to investigate AI applications. He also designed and instructs Wharton Online’s Artificial Intelligence for Business course.

While many people perceive artificial intelligence to be the technology of the future, AI is already here. Many companies across a range of industries have been applying AI to improve their businesses — from Spotify using machine learning for music recommendations to smart home devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. That said, there have also been some early failures, such as Microsoft’s social-learning chatbot, Tay, which turned anti-social after interacting with hostile Twitter followers, and IBM Watson’s inability to deliver results in personalized health care. What separates the AI projects that succeed from the ones that don’t often has to do with the business strategies organizations follow when applying AI. The following strategies can help business leaders not only effectively apply AI in their organizations, but succeed in adapting it to innovate, compete and excel.

New US Electronic Warfare Platform

by Bruce Schneier 

…the Silent Crow pod is now the leading contender for the flying flagship of the Army’s rebuilt electronic warfare force. Army EW was largely disbanded after the Cold War, except for short-range jammers to shut down remote-controlled roadside bombs. Now it’s being urgently rebuilt to counter Russia and China, whose high-tech forces — unlike Afghan guerrillas — rely heavily on radio and radar systems, whose transmissions US forces must be able to detect, analyze and disrupt.

It’s hard to tell what this thing can do. Possibly a lot, but it’s all still in prototype stage.

Historically, cyber operations occurred over landline networks and electronic warfare over radio-frequency (RF) airwaves. The rise of wireless networks has caused the two to blur. The military wants to move away from traditional high-powered jamming, which filled the frequencies the enemy used with blasts of static, to precisely targeted techniques, designed to subtly disrupt the enemy’s communications and radar networks without their realizing they’re being deceived. There are even reports that “RF-enabled cyber” can transmit computer viruses wirelessly into an enemy network, although Wojnar declined to confirm or deny such sensitive details.[…]

Coronavirus threats highlight need to improve federal government’s cyber policy

Andrew Eversden

About 30 minutes into a virtual Senate hearing on revamping U.S. cyber policy, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI sent an alert warning of Chinese hackers targeting health care institutions.

The joint alert from the FBI and DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the bureau is investigating hacks by Chinese-backed actors stealing intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The statement also warned that “the potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee pressed members of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission on their 75 cyber policy recommendations. The commission’s aim was to improve U.S. cyber policy and the cybersecurity of America’s critical infrastructure, such as that related to health care or the electric grid.

“One of the things this pandemic has showed us is how vulnerable we are,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said as a witness at the hearing. King serves as a co-chair on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

The ‘Swedish Model’ Is a Failure, Not a Panacea

Frida Ghitis 

When economies around the world started grinding to a halt in an effort to stop the carnage inflicted by the coronavirus, Sweden stood out with an approach that appeared to defy the prescription of most experts. Instead of shutting down, the Swedish government opted for much milder measures. The idea looked appealing. It suggested the possibility of containing the pandemic at a much lower economic cost.

The final judgment on Sweden’s unorthodox approach cannot be rendered until the crisis moves into the history books. So far, however, the statistics suggest that the Swedish model is more disaster than panacea. If the pandemic ended today, the actions of Swedish authorities, which have so far earned the support of the population, may ultimately be viewed by future generations of Swedes as a shameful chapter in the country’s history, one that resulted in large-scale suffering and thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Why Europe Still Matters


The spread of the new coronavirus was met with exhortations to the population to bring out its wartime spirit and fight the virus.

Meanwhile, a dangerous and divisive war of words has been escalating between the U.S. administration and China’s leadership. And on March 31, 2020, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned that the pandemic is the greatest crisis since World War II, posing great risks of “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”

This dangerous space, bereft of leadership, is one where a greater involvement of Europe would matter.

The commemoration of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8 reminded the world of the devastation of nationalism, authoritarianism, and war—and of the achievements of peace thanks to U.S. commitments and through integration in Europe.

The other story of this pandemic is one of solidarity, cooperation, mutual support, and empathy. This story is shaped everyday through individual compassion and mobilization to support those more in need, through bottom-up entrepreneurship and creativity in making up for the failings of leaders and governments. There are similar stories across the globe.

COVID-19 could spur automation and reverse globalization – to some extent

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended global value chains.
The full extent and scale of the damage is still unknown.

Experts Adnan Seric and Deborah Winkler predict that as a result of coronavirus, we will see a surge in automation, whilst subsequently seeing globalisation diminish.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed the vulnerabilities of global value chains (GVCs) which are characterised by high interdependencies between global lead firms and suppliers located across several continents. Many countries are currently facing supply shortages of critical medical equipment, in particular from China, which has also been labelled ‘supply-side contagion’ (Baldwin and Tomiura 2020). Firms and nations are also facing risks associated with protectionist national trade policies: high import tariffs may have caused shortages of critical medical products and equipment from China in the US (Bown 2020), while export restrictions on medical supplies may have exacerbated supply shortages (Evenett et al. 2020).

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to mitigate supply chain risks, increase flexibility, and improve product standards, global lead firms have relied on Industry 4.0 technologies, such as robots, 3D printing, and smart factories, and occasionally reshored parts of their production. Even in developing countries like Bangladesh, for instance, contract manufacturers in the apparel industry have started replacing workers with robots to adapt to increasing wages (Wall Street Journal 2018). Confronting this pandemic could accelerate some of the trends of the past few years including technology adoption and the use of new data (Goldberg 2020). In view of those pertinent changes, this column aims to examine the following policy relevant question: could the current crisis further spur automation and reshoring in GVCs?

US officially warns China is launching cyberattacks to steal coronavirus research

By Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood and Zachary Cohen

Washington (CNN)The US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a "public service announcement" Wednesday warning that China is likely launching cyberattacks to steal coronavirus data related to vaccines and treatments from US research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, calling it a "significant threat."

The joint warning from the FBI and DHS's cyber arm, CISA, warns "organizations researching COVID-19 of likely targeting and network compromise by the People's Republic of China (PRC). Healthcare, pharmaceutical and research sectors working on COVID-19 response should all be aware they are the prime targets of this activity and take the necessary steps to protect their systems."

The notification elevates the accusation by the US government that China is taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out significant cyber espionage on critical institutions fighting the virus.

The statement did not provide any evidence of China's involvement.

Contact-tracing apps are political

In the rush to contain COVID-19, the world has plunged head-first into contact-tracing apps. In the hopes that with sufficiently surgical digital precision we might not only stop the spread of the disease, but also soon return to work, applications to enable digital contact tracing of the disease are being rolled out around the world. But the decision to deploy a digital contact-tracing system is as much a political decision as it is a technological intervention, and the public health impact of these interventions will be deeply shaped by political considerations.

Contact tracing isn’t, traditionally, a technology-heavy process. It involves testing patients and, for those that test positive, interviewing them about their whereabouts and human contact during the known infectious period. Effective contact tracing requires a clear understanding of how a virus transmits and for how long and the people with whom an infected person has been in contact.

Unfortunately, the science of how COVID-19 transmits remains unsettled, as is often the case in emergent epidemics. As a result, contact tracers are left casting a wide net. Smartphone apps that track a person’s movements and the people with whom they cross paths can potentially provide a more complete record of the places a person has been while contagious. National governments, leading universities, and major technology companies are now rolling out ways to collect that kind of information and share it with public health authorities.