8 October 2023

The Roots of the India-Canada Clash


NEW DELHI – Rarely have two major democracies descended into as ugly a diplomatic spat as the one now unfolding between Canada and India. With the traditionally friendly relationship already at its lowest point ever, both sides are now engaging in quiet diplomacy to arrest the downward spiral, using the United States, a Canadian ally and Indian partner, as the intermediary. But even if the current diplomatic ruckus eases, Canada’s tolerance of Sikh separatist activity on its territory will continue to bedevil bilateral ties.

The current dispute began when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sensationally claimed that there were “credible allegations” about a “potential link” between India’s government and the fatal shooting in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist and Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil. India’s government fired back by demanding that Canada reduce its diplomatic staff in India, suspending new visas for Canadians, and accusing Canada of making “absurd” accusations to divert attention from its status as “a safe haven for terrorists.”

Nijjar was hardly the only Sikh separatist living in Canada. In fact, the country has emerged as the global hub of the militant movement for “Khalistan,” or an independent Sikh homeland. The separatists constitute a small minority of the Sikh diaspora, concentrated in the Anglosphere, especially Canada. Sikhs living in India – who overwhelmingly report that they are proud to be Indian – do not support the separatist cause.

The Deep Roots of the India-Canada Diplomatic Rift

C. Christine Fair

On Sept. 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained to the Canadian Parliament that “Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.” Canada came to this conclusion and opted to make a public accusation based on intelligence from intercepted electronic communications among Indian diplomats. On the same day, Canada ousted an Indian diplomat, whom Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly asserted was the Indian intelligence chief in the country. Within a few hours, India announced that it had expelled an unnamed “senior Canadian diplomat” in response.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, confirmed that “there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made,” putting a damp blanket on Indian efforts to undermine the quality of the intelligence. Two days later, the public learned that U.S. intelligence was also given to Ottawa and was helpful in making the case against India.

While much ink has been spilled and will continue to be spilled on the minutiae of the allegations and their wider diplomatic ramifications, this imbroglio was long in the making and it derives from fundamental differences in Canada and India’s priorities, values, and history. Reckoning with these divisions will be profoundly difficult and is unlikely with the countries’ current leaders.

No One Knows What BRICS Expansion Means

Anjali Bhatt

There seems to be every take under the sun about what BRICS expansion means. Recent headlines range from “BRICS expansion is all about China” to “BRICS Expansion Is No Triumph for China,” and queries like “The BRICS Summit 2023: Seeking an Alternate World Order?” and “Brics summit: Is a new bloc emerging to rival US leadership?” The various competing analyses beg the question: Does anyone really know what BRICS expansion means?

Analysts all seem to agree the grouping’s expansion means something significant – probably to do with China. Some see the new BRICS as heralding a new currency, or even world order. Beyond Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s broad claims of “unity and cooperation for the broader developing world,” however, the only clear thing to be said about BRICS expansion is how unclear its purpose and future seem to be.

BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – has always been a peculiar grouping of countries. Their economies have little in common besides being “big.” Brazil, Russia, India, and China were lumped together by Goldman Sachs in 2001 as potential emerging drivers of economic growth in the aughts and only formed as a loose geopolitical bloc in 2009 (originally dubbed as “BRIC,” with South Africa joining in 2010).

USA’s Latest Great Game East

Subir Bhaumik

Why is the US so hell-bent on pushing Bangladesh on democracy and human rights? Is Bangladesh any worse than Pakistan or many other Middle Eastern sheikhdoms on these issues? Why is the US even threatening to sanction police officers who battle Islamist radicals on the streets?

The answer can be found in an unfolding strategy that the US is putting in place to block China’s land-to-sea access routes that Beijing wants as a way to avoid, what many Chinese geo-strategists call, the “Malacca chokepoint”.

China’s two main exits into Indian Ocean are through the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (Yunnan-Rakhine) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (Xinjiang Balochistan) and understandably, the US would seek to block both up.

No wonder, the American agencies are backing both Baloch and the Rakhine insurgencies, covertly supplying them weapons and even drones through kissing-the-coast operations involving visiting US warships on port of call to Bangladesh and India dropping the consignment by quietly going close to the Rakhine (Myanmar) and Makran (Pakistan) coast.

Top Bangladesh sources say the US has ratcheted huge pressure on the Hasina government on human rights issues and pushed for fair elections basically to push PM Hasina to sign two military-related pacts GSOMIA and ACSA and may now add more pressure to provide logistics support for a possible no-fly zone in the Bay of Bengal.

How to Break China’s Hold on Batteries and Critical Minerals

Brian Deese

The rapid growth of electric vehicle sales finally makes real the prospect of curbing the United States’ addiction to oil, as former President George W. Bush called it, limiting climate change, and reducing the geopolitical influence of petrostates such as Russia. Yet concerns about China’s dominance of the supply chains for EVs have prompted some to warn against swapping energy insecurity in oil for insecurity in the minerals and metals used to make EV batteries. This January, for example, a resolution introduced in the Wyoming state legislature called for ending the sale of EVs by 2035, citing threats to mineral supplies as one of the justifications.

While supply chain concerns are justified, the United States should view critical minerals as a challenge that can be solved with diplomacy, investment, and innovation—not an excuse for delaying electrification and clean energy deployment. In reality, the risks of import dependence for energy storage needs are not nearly as severe as those for oil, for at least three reasons.

First, energy storage is a technology problem that can benefit from the power of innovation. Nearly 50 years ago, during the oil crises of the 1970s, physicist Amory Lovins wrote a seminal article advocating a “soft path” to meeting U.S. energy needs. The “hard path,” he wrote, meant investing in capital-intensive centralized power systems and costly, technically challenging drilling and mining to extract resources from rocks through brute force. The “soft path,” by contrast, involved more efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy.

China’s next moon mission aims to do what no country has ever done. Its space ambitions don’t end there

Kathleen Magramo and Simone McCarthy

China’s lunar mission to bring back the first samples ever collected from the moon’s far side is on schedule for next year, officials say, as Beijing ramps up its ambitious plan to send astronauts to the moon this decade and build an international lunar research station.

Preparations for the next planned mission – known as Chang’e-6 – were progressing smoothly, China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement last week, adding that the mission’s accompanying relay satellite would be deployed in the first half of next year.

This week, CNSA also looked ahead to its Chang’e-8 mission slated for 2028, with Chinese officials on Monday calling for increased global collaboration for the unmanned lunar expedition during the International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Chinese expedition in 2028 would welcome joint “mission-level” projects with other countries and international organizations, according to an accompanying document released on the CNSA website.

This means China and international partners could work together on spacecraft launch and orbit operation, conduct spacecraft-to-spacecraft “interactions,” and jointly explore the surface of the moon, the document said.

A New Way Forward For US–China Relations

Sourabh Gupta

During the May 2023 G7 summit in Hiroshima, US President Joe Biden observed that ties with Beijing would ‘thaw very shortly’. Four months later, the United States and China have taken important first steps to put the balloon incident behind them and stabilise their rocky relationship.

Lines of communication have been re-opened, assurances exchanged, working groups formed and incremental forward progress recorded. Progress was made even in areas such as export controls where the two sides had previously clashed. The lack of engagement on their reciprocal tariff hikes and on senior-level defence exchanges remain the key areas where dialogue continues to lag. But even on this latter front, a provisional workaround featuring the Pentagon’s top Asia officials and senior Chinese Foreign Ministry officials has been arranged on more than one occasion.

The proposed meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the November 2023 APEC summit in San Francisco provides a ‘window of opportunity’ to lock down useful deliverables. Washington should remove the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science from its Entity List (a US trade restriction list) in exchange for a crackdown on online vendors of fentanyl precursors by Beijing. The two sides should also amend, update and formally renew their umbrella science and technology agreement — the first agreement to be signed post-normalisation in 1979.

President Biden should not rush a deal on Israel–Saudi normalization

Dr Sanam Vakil

The Biden administration is leading diplomatic efforts to support an Israel–Saudi normalization agreement. If achieved, a deal would dramatically alter Middle East alignments and could be sold as a historic foreign policy victory for President Joe Biden when he runs for re-election in 2024.

The drumbeat of public discussion suggests that with US support and underwriting, a deal is forging ahead. Leaders on all sides have publicly acknowledged that progress and have also made clear their demands.

The administration of former president Donald Trump, Biden’s likely opponent in 2024, brokered the Abraham Accords, signed between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in 2020.

An Israel-Saudi deal would demonstrate Biden’s equal ability to achieve ‘wins’ for the US in the region, and counter Trump campaigning on any failure by the current administration to make progress and counter China’s influence in the Middle East.

However, the deal comes with a high price tag, not just for Biden, but also for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Palestine’s Mahmood Abbas.

Will Ukraine's effort go bankrupt gradually...then suddenly?


How might Ukraine’s war effort go bankrupt? Developments over the past few weeks recall the words of Ernest Hemingway: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Should that prove true, it will spell bad news not only for those insisting on an unconditional Ukrainian victory, but also for those pressing for a diplomatic settlement of the conflict.

The gradual part is already well underway. The U.S. Congress’s decision to pass a “clean” stopgap spending bill over the weekend to fund our government for another 45 days — bowing to pressure from some GOP members to strip Ukraine aid from the bill — is the latest sign of how quickly the political tide has begun to turn. Such a vote would have been unthinkable last December, when Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed a televised joint session of Congress to fawning media reviews, and ceremoniously presented a flag signed by the determined defenders of the besieged city of Bakhmut.

Ten months later, Bakhmut has fallen. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has sputtered. A series of opinion polls has indicated that most Americans now oppose additional aid to Kyiv. When he arrived in Washington last month, Zelensky was treated more as an interloper than as an inspiring hero. House Speaker McCarthy blocked Zelensky from addressing a joint session of Congress, claiming that there was insufficient time.

Canada, Nazis and Ukraine

Andrew Mitrovica

The perpetual outrage-du-jour circus otherwise known as Canada’s political discourse is, surprisingly, on pause.

By my count, it’s been about 48 hours or so since the bucolic capital, Ottawa, has been seized by a real or manufactured convulsion that has caused the country – thought by most outsiders to be the much larger, North American equivalent of dull, sedate Switzerland – to appear to have lost its senses.

What a welcomed relief it has been. If only for a moment, Canada has returned to its once reliably boring self.

This week’s big, devoid-of-any-rage news was the election of a new speaker of the House of Commons – a genteel, universally respected Liberal member of parliament, Greg Fergus, who is the first Black Canadian to hold the job.

Of course, the ex-speaker was encouraged to resign after he invited an old Nazi, Yaroslav Hunka, to the House, where the “hero” was feted with a fulsome standing ovation by every member of parliament, including a beaming prime minister and his beaming cabinet, as well as the visiting and beaming president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russia leaves Armenia ally to burn in Azerbaijan


Vladimir Putin, self-declared protector of ethnic Russian and other allied communities along Russia’s borders, failed last week to defend nominal Armenians allies who live in Azerbaijan from being driven out of the country by the Azeri army.

Though distant geographically, the Azerbaijan offensive was a byproduct of Putin’s failure to conquer Ukraine, where the Russian leader has also pledged to defend ethnic Russian allies. Such active solidarity is one of the Kremlin’s key foreign policy talking points.

But Azerbaijan took the opportunity of Russia’s preoccupation with Ukraine to end more than three decades of war with pro-Russian Armenians living in the breakaway Azeri region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians are now effectively no longer in Azerbaijan.

Russia’s war in Ukraine seems to have played a role in the spasm of violence. The Azerbaijan government gambled that Putin would be unwilling to take on a new military operation, however small, while fighting a full-scale war in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s race against geopolitics

John Raine

As summer moves into autumn, Ukraine’s spring offensive continues to be absorbed by entrenched and heavily mined Russian defences. In Europe and the United States, support for Ukraine and the containment of Russia continues, but the form and duration of that support are being called into question. The expected timeline of the war not only stretches out further than initially expected but also beyond what fiscal and military provisions can easily accommodate. In Russia, neither sanctions nor isolations have weakened President Vladimir Putin’s position or shaken his base. Only Yevgeny Prigozhin, a renegade radical more committed to the war than Putin himself, has threatened him. The liberal elite have mostly left the country, with their assets if possible. Neither Kyiv or Moscow is ready to give up or cut a deal. The fighting is set to be vicious and prolonged. But the outcome may not be decided by military power or even by events inside Russia, but instead by the pace of geopolitical trends unconnected with the war – and many of these are developing in Putin’s favour.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and possibly because of it, certain mutually enhancing trends have intensified: a rise in the strategic assertiveness of small and middle powers; the strengthening of like-minded groups of countries who feel disempowered under the post-Second World War dispensations; the promotion of nationalist agendas; and a revalorisation of authoritarian government. All of these favour Putin’s Russia, more by coincidence than design. Many of the states at the forefront of these trends also seek amicable relations with the US, but that gives complexity to the diplomatic landscape rather than reassurance to the West.

Israeli arms quietly helped Azerbaijan retake Nagorno-Karabakh, to the dismay of region’s Armenians


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel has quietly helped fuel Azerbaijan’s campaign to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh, supplying powerful weapons to Azerbaijan ahead of its lightening offensive last month that brought the ethnic Armenian enclave back under its control, officials and experts say.

Just weeks before Azerbaijan launched its 24-hour assault on Sept. 19, Azerbaijani military cargo planes repeatedly flew between a southern Israeli airbase and an airfield near Nagorno-Karabakh, according to flight tracking data and Armenian diplomats, even as Western governments were urging peace talks.

The flights rattled Armenian officials in Yerevan, long wary of the strategic alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan, and shined a light on Israel’s national interests in the restive region south of the Caucasus Mountains.

“For us, it is a major concern that Israeli weapons have been firing at our people,” Arman Akopian, Armenia’s ambassador to Israel, told The Associated Press. In a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, Akopian said he expressed alarm to Israeli politicians and lawmakers in recent weeks over Israeli weapons shipments.

‘It’s going to be huge’: Cyber Command gains new authorities to hire & buy


WASHINGTON — The 13-year-old US Cyber Command had grown dramatically in size, power and bureaucratic heft since its creation in 2010. Its most recent expansion came this week, with the beginning of a new federal fiscal year Oct. 1, when new fiscal and hiring authorities granted by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act came into effect.

“This will be the first year that we execute those new authorities,” CYBERCOM executive director Holly Baroody told a Billington webinar Tuesday. “We have a team in our J-8 [planning staff] who focuses on budget, [and] every day they are working [on this], not only within their team, but across all of the services, to make sure that we have all the right processes in place, the right systems in place, the right training… to take advantage of the authorities and execute them well.”

“It’s going to be huge,” she said.

What’s the big deal? Since the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the 1980s, there has been a sharp legal and administrative division in the Defense Department between the armed services — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Space Force — and combatant commands (COCOMs) such as CYBERCOM. By law, the services recruit, train, organize and equip servicemembers, who then get assigned to COCOMs for specific periods or missions. Essentially, services hire the people, buy the weapons and form them into units, while COCOMs command those units in the field.


Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan

The Russian military recently transferred several Black Sea Fleet (BSF) vessels from the port in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea to the port in Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Krai, likely in an effort to protect them from continued Ukrainian strikes on Russian assets in occupied Crimea. Satellite imagery published on October 1 and 3 shows that Russian forces transferred at least 10 vessels from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.[1] The satellite imagery reportedly shows that Russian forces recently moved the Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen frigates, three diesel submarines, five landing ships, and several small missile ships.[2] Satellite imagery taken on October 2 shows four Russian landing ships and one Kilo-class submarine remaining in Sevastopol.[3] Satellite imagery from October 2 shows a Project 22160 patrol ship reportedly for the first time in the port of Feodosia in eastern Crimea, suggesting that Russian forces may be moving BSF elements away from Sevastopol to bases further in the Russian rear.[4] A Russian think tank, the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, claimed on October 3 that the BSF vessels’ movements from occupied Sevastopol to Novorossiysk were routine, however.[5] Russian forces may be temporarily moving some vessels to Novorossiysk following multiple strikes on BSF assets in and near Sevastopol but will likely continue to use Sevastopol’s port, which remains the BSF’s base. Former Norwegian Navy officer and independent OSINT analyst Thord Are Iversen observed on October 4 that Russian vessel deployments have usually intensified following Ukrainian strikes but ultimately returned to normal patterns.[6] ISW will explore the implications of Ukrainian strikes on the BSF in a forthcoming special edition.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and marginally advanced on October 4. Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks towards the rail line between Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), and the Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success near these settlements.[7] Geolocated footage published on October 4 indicates that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced east of Novoprokopivka (5km southeast of Robotyne) in western Zaporizhia Oblast,

Inside Israel Defense Forces training on ‘more versatile’ Eitan APC


SOUTHERN ISRAEL — Israeli Defense Forces Capt. Yuval Levy knows a lot about armored personnel carriers (APCs). Over the last several years she has trained soldiers on the older Israeli M113s, the 60-ton Namer that entered service in 2008, and now on the latest Israeli APC, the wheeled Eitan, which began deployments just this year.

To Levy, the Eitan represents a Goldilocks capability: more protected than the M113 but more agile than the ponderous Namer.

“The Eitan APC is less heavy than the Namer. Because it is less heavy it can go faster and it can traverse mountainous terrain such as in an environment like the Golan. It has more abilities. The eight wheels are more versatile than a tank because they are higher,” Levy said. Meanwhile, Levy joking compared the M113 to a “taxi to the battlefield” due to its relatively light armor.

Capt. Yuval Levy, the training commander for the Eitan, standing on a dune in Israel’s southern Negev desert at an urban warfare training facility, the Eitan APC behind her. 

Are Ukraine’s Airstrikes in Russia Effective?

Daniel Byman

In addition to using airstrikes to attack Russian military forces on or near the battlefield, Ukraine has also conducted more than 100 attacks, mostly with an array of drones, inside Russia itself and against Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine has bombed not only numerous military targets, but also the Expo Center exhibition complex and a skyscraper under construction in Moscow, oil facilities in Crimea, and infrastructure in other areas, such as an electric substation. These strikes are now a regular occurrence and, while causing few casualties, have temporarily shut down various airports and otherwise disrupted daily life.
These attacks hinder Russian warfighting, but Ukrainian leaders probably also seek to have a more strategic impact, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declaring that the strikes show that war is “gradually returning” to Russia. How might Ukraine’s air attacks coerce Russia, if at all?

Most studies of the strategic use of air power warn that having a major impact on adversary decision-making through air power alone is difficult. Drawing on the history of strategic bombing in World War II, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Kosovo, and other campaigns, scholars have concluded that strategic effects are rare. Adversary leaders and publics rally in the face of bombing, at times becoming more supportive of their regimes or, at the very least, finding themselves unable to rebel against powerful governments, and these campaigns can divert air assets from the battlefield.

Yet these and other works also suggest that strategic bombing can have a range of effects, from diverting scarce air defense resources to building up morale in the country carrying out the bombing.

Global Internet Freedom Declines, Aided by AI


Global internet freedom declined for a thirteenth consecutive year in 2023, partially as a result of AI being used to sow disinformation and enhance content censorship, according to a new report from U.S.-based nonprofit Freedom House.

The 2023 Freedom on the Net report, published on Oct. 4, assesses the state of internet freedom in 70 countries through a comprehensive methodology examining obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. The report found that many countries—including Myanmar, the Philippines, Costa Rica—have drastically restricted online freedoms this year. China has the lowest levels of internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year, the report said.

Freedom House, established in 1941, publishes Freedom in the World and Freedom on the Net annually. These reports assess countries’ civil and political liberties, and their online liberties respectively.

Although the root causes of internet repression are complex and vary by country, there are two major drivers of the trend of the last decade, says Allie Funk, research director for technology and democracy at Freedom House. First is the broader decline in democracy, also tracked by Freedom House. Second, is “the success of the Chinese government in being able to export its model of cyber sovereignty abroad.”

Strategic Inflection Point: The Most Historically Significant And Fundamental Change In Character Of War Is Happening Now—While Future Is Clouded In Mist And Uncertainty

General Mark A. Milley

When we look to the future, we can see broad outlines, but the details are clouded in fog and mist. Our path is rarely clear and never certain. Nevertheless, we must make choices for the future of the Joint Force. We know we will not get it right, but we must strive to get it less wrong than the enemy, paraphrasing the late historian Michael Howard.1 The new Joint War­fighting Concept (JWC) is our guide to that future. It will drive our doctrine, organizational design, training, and ultimately warfighting itself.

This is not the first time we have adapted to address an uncertain future. Seventy-nine years ago, on June 6, 1944, ordinary Americans came from all walks of life to enter the crucible of combat. Over 154,000 troops from eight Allied nations boarded 6,000 vessels to cross the choppy English Channel. As the moon illuminated the night sky, 24,000 Allied paratroopers and glider infantry drifted down to the coast of France. The continuous roar from the 88mm guns pierced the serenity of the night. The stream of lead from the German MG-42s raked the beaches of Normandy. For many American Soldiers, the taste of saltwater and the sharp smell of gunpowder were their first experiences of combat. These brave troops answered our nation’s call to defend freedom and democracy. The cost was tremendous. Twenty-six thousand Americans were killed in action from the storming of Normandy to the liberation of Paris. Between 1914 and 1945, 150 million people were slaughtered in the Great Power wars of World War I and World War II.

Fool’s Gold: Overhyped Tech Startups Distract From Military Innovation

Joe Buccino

Every day, all throughout the country, tech startups are building capital and equity against their newest AI, machine learning, satellite-based, or unmanned system solution to an identified inefficiency in military operations. They are ready participants in what the Biden administration, borrowing from analyst Dr. Jonathan D.T. Ward, terms the "decisive decade" of competition with China. They are encouraged by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who promises to make it easier for groups like theirs to enter the DoD investment process.

Lured by the perception of a Pentagon tech gold rush and the successful application of some new solutions in Ukraine, these companies tether themselves to venture capital funding, generating equity, goodwill, and publicity. These startups gain access to military bases and audiences with military generals. They promise to either modernize some existing capability or build a brand new solution to a problem vexing operational commanders. In some cases, they are solving problems commanders don’t even know they have.

These startups move faster than the defense giants and offer cheaper and more adaptable solutions. Run mainly by former special operators and often championed by newly retired military generals, these small companies are closer to the modern battlefield than the big, established firms. Unbound by the lumbering layers of administration associated with Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, they can move faster on solutions.

SoftBank CEO: AI Will Surpass Human Intelligence by 2030

The CEO of Japan’s SoftBank says artificial general intelligence is on the cusp of exceeding human knowledge.

“Take advantage of it or be left behind,” said Masayoshi Son, whose comments at the annual SoftBank World event were reported by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Wednesday (Oct. 4).

The tech investor told his audience that by the end of the decade, artificial general intelligence (AGI) — a computer system that can match human thought and reasoning — will be 10 times more powerful than all of humanity.

According to the WSJ, Son believes this will usher in an era that will see a complete transition to self-driving vehicles, and AGI generating “Nobel Prize-worthy” scientific achievements.

He apparently spoke with the image of a goldfish in a bowl behind him to illustrate his beliefs about people who choose not to make AI part of their lives.

“Do you want to be a goldfish?” Son asked, arguing that people who avoid AI and those who use it will be as different as apes and humans in intellectual abilities.

How Big Tech is co-opting the rising stars of artificial intelligence

In 2021, a group of engineers abandoned OpenAI, concerned that the pioneering artificial intelligence company had become too focused on making money. Instead, they formed Anthropic, a public-benefit corporation dedicated to creating responsible AI. This week, the do-gooders at Anthropic threw in with a surprisingly corporate partner, announcing a deal with Amazon worth up to $4 billion. The arrangement highlights how AI’s insatiable need for computing power is pushing even the most anti-corporate start-ups into the arms of Big Tech. Before Anthropic announced Amazon as its “preferred” cloud partner, it boasted in February of a similar relationship with Google. (Anthropic’s February blog post no longer has the word “preferred.”) Spokespeople for both companies said Google and Anthropic’s relationship is unchanged. The AI boom is widely seen as the next revolution in technology, with the potential to catapult a new wave of start-ups into the Silicon Valley stratosphere. But instead of breaking Big Tech’s decade-long dominance of the internet economy, the AI boom so far appears to be playing into its hands. Big Tech’s warehouses of powerful computer chips are necessary to train the complex algorithms behind AI chatbots, giving Amazon, Google and Microsoft immense sway over the market. And while upstarts like Anthropic AI may have created powerful breakthrough tech, they still need Big Tech’s money and cloud computing resources to make it work.

8 rules for “civilian hackers” during war, and 4 obligations for states to restrain them

Tilman Rodenhäuser and Mauro Vignati

As digital technology is changing how militaries conduct war, a worrying trend has emerged in which a growing number of civilians become involved in armed conflicts through digital means. Sitting at some distance from physical hostilities, including outside the countries at war, civilians – including hacktivists, to cyber security professionals, ‘white hat’, ‘black hat’ and ‘patriotic’ hackers – are conducting a range of cyber operations against their ‘enemy’. Some have described civilians as ‘first choice cyberwarriors’ because the ‘vast majority of expertise in cyber(defence) lies with the private (or civilian) sector’.

Examples of civilian hackers operating in to the context of armed conflicts are diverse and many (see here, here, here). In particular in the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, some groups present themselves as a ‘worldwide IT community’ with the mission to, in their words, ‘help Ukraine win by crippling aggressor economies, blocking vital financial, infrastructural and government services, and tiring major taxpayers’. Others have reportedly ‘called for and carried out disruptive – albeit temporary – attacks on hospital websites in both Ukraine and allied countries’, among many other operations. With many groups active in this field, and some of them having thousands of hackers in their coordination channels and providing automated tools to their members, the civilian involvement in digital operations during armed conflict has reached unprecedented proportions.

A Look at the PCLOB Report on Section 702

Stewart Baker

On Sept. 28, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) published its long-expected report on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The report is timely, if not overdue. Section 702 is scheduled to expire in three months if Congress does not renew it. The report is also dauntingly lengthy. Its three separate opinions total nearly 300 pages.

Origins of Section 702

For students of the program, though, the report is a valuable guide to statutory and procedural intricacies that have multiplied since the provision was first written into law in the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Section 702 can be understood only through its history.

It has its origin in the days after 9/11, when intelligence officials realized that the attackers had evaded detection largely because of the government’s strict separation of domestic and foreign intelligence. In essence, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA were conducting surveillance of terrorists’ activities and communications outside the United States, while the FBI was focused on what terror suspects did and said inside the country.

Each domain had its own legal rules. To simplify a bit, outside the U.S., national security surveillance was aggressive, flexible, and relatively free from statutory and political constraint, while inside the U.S.,

Massive Low Earth Orbit Communications Satellites Could Disrupt Astronomy

Eurasia Review

Observations of the BlueWalker 3 prototype satellite show it is one of the brightest objects in the night sky, outshining all but the brightest stars.

Astronomers have raised concerns that without mitigation, groups of large satellites could disrupt our ability to observe the stars from Earth and perform radio astronomy.

Several companies are planning ‘constellations’ of satellites – groups of potentially hundreds of satellites that can deliver mobile or broadband services anywhere in the world.

However, these satellites need to be in ‘low-Earth’ orbit and can be relatively large, so their potential to disrupt night-sky observations is a concern.

Now, an international team of scientists led by astronomers from the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (CPS) and including Imperial College London researchers, have published a paper in Nature assessing the detailed impact of the prototype BlueWalker 3 satellite on astronomy.

Dr Dave Clements, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, said: “The night sky is a unique laboratory that allows scientists to conduct experiments that cannot be done in terrestrial laboratories. Astronomical observations have provided insights into fundamental physics and other research at the boundaries of our knowledge and changed humanity’s view of our place in the cosmos. The pristine night sky is also an important part of humanity’s shared cultural heritage and should be protected for society at large and for future generations.”