27 January 2024

The economic case for a Gaza ceasefire

David Butter

The Gaza war has exacted a devastating human toll, above all on the Palestinian civilian population of the territory. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 90% of the population is displaced from their homes.

It has also caused extensive economic damage, not only to Gaza and the West Bank, but also to neighbouring countries and to Israel itself. There are powerful political and humanitarian arguments for a ceasefire, to which a strong case arising from economic self-interest can be added.

This applies not only to countries such as Jordan and Egypt, whose already vulnerable economies have been hit hard, but also to the major Gulf Arab states, which will be called upon to finance a large part of the reconstruction and recovery costs.

Neighbouring countries facing economic difficulty

Prior to the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza, the surrounding countries were facing varying degrees of economic difficulty. Lebanon remained mired in a deep financial crisis, mitigated to a small extent by increased tourism and remittances.

Syria had failed to derive any significant benefits from its readmission to the Arab League, and inflation has surged to a record level of well over 100% according to some local economists.

Jordan registered some modest improvements on the back of a revival in tourism, but its growth rate was below 3%, unemployment was over 20%, and heavy spending commitments for state salaries, subsidies and the army meant that there was little left for investment, while public debt was about 90% of GDP.

Egypt was in the throes of a severe foreign exchange crisis, with inflation hitting 40%. A strong tourism recovery and steadily increasing revenue from the Suez Canal were among the few bright spots.

Israel is still winning the political war


Even if its form is military, war is always a political struggle. And in spite of all the anti-Israel demonstrations around the world, Israel is definitely winning the political war — the real one, waged not in the streets but in the foreign ministries of adversaries, neutrals and allies.

How times have changed since 1967, when socialist Israel still enjoyed the enthusiastic support of global “progressives”, but was so diplomatically isolated that it received no support at all from Europe or America when openly threatened with war by Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Before launching its pre-emptive attack, only France had been willing to sell weapons to Israel, but Charles de Gaulle stopped all further sales as soon as the fighting started. In Rome, meanwhile, a cargo of gas masks headed for Tel Aviv was intercepted at the airport, even though Egypt’s occupying force had recently killed many in Yemen with phosgene and mustard gas.

For Israel, however, the greatest penalty of its diplomatic isolation was the inevitability of the UN Security Council imposing a ceasefire as soon as it started to win. In 1967, this came after only six days of fighting. Israeli forces had just fought their way up the steep tracks onto the Golan Heights when they had to stop. I was there myself, eager to visit Damascus when the Soviet Union found itself unopposed at the Security Council in demanding an immediate ceasefire.

It was much the same during the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Caught by surprise by simultaneous offensives from both Egypt and Syria (overconfidence is definitely an Israeli trait), the Security Council did nothing as Israel suffered 10 times as many casualties as in all of the Gaza fighting to date. Moreover, when the US finally agreed to airlift urgent supplies, neither the UK nor France nor Spain would allow its transport aircraft to fly over their airspace. Only Portugal permitted a refuelling stop in the Azores, and even US supplies stored in Europe had to be flown there before being turned around to Israel.

But once again, as soon as Israel was able to overcome initial defeat, the inactive Security Council suddenly became active. With Britain just as vehement as the Soviet Union — which was desperate to stop the rout of the Arab armies it had lavishly equipped and trained for years — the Council powers tried to impose a ceasefire on 22 October. The Israelis tried to fight on regardless, but were forced to stop two days later when Henry Kissinger decreed a nuclear alert in response to Moscow’s threat to intervene with its airborne forces.

Evolving Urban Landscapes: Urbanisation Dynamics in Tibet and Their Regional Implications



Over half the world’s population now resides in urban areas, a figure only expected to rise, with estimates suggesting an urban population of 68% by 2050. This phenomenon is most pronounced in Asia and Africa, where nearly 90% of the urban population growth is projected. The rate of urbanisation is a critical metric in assessing a nation's progress, encapsulating various aspects such as economic development (evidenced by increased activity and employment opportunities), infrastructural expansion (including new roads and enhanced public transport systems), social evolution (marked by improvements in education, healthcare, and life quality), demographic shifts (altering population density and household dynamics), global competitiveness (fostered through international trade and investments), and environmental advancements (highlighted by efficient resource use and innovations in energy).

Approximately 65.2% of Chinese lived in urban areas in 2022, though with significant regional disparities. The eastern coast of China exhibits the most advanced urban development, with over two-thirds of its population living in cities. In stark contrast, western and central China, including Tibet, show slower urban growth. Among Chinese regions, Tibet presents a unique urbanisation narrative. With its comparatively low level of urban development, Tibet offers a fascinating study in contrast to other areas of China.

Nestled between India and the large population centres of China, Tibet has immense strategic and cultural significance. Since China consolidated control over the region in the 1950s, Tibet has remained a focal point of global attention, particularly over the political and human rights of its inhabitants. Beyond Tibet’s geopolitics and rich cultural and religious heritage, the region’s environmental significance is underscored by the terms often used to describe it, such as the 'Roof of the World' and the 'Third Pole'. The Tibetan plateau, a source for major rivers such as the Indus, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow, supports billions across a swathe of the Asian continent. The region's distinct ecosystem and challenging geography add to its allure and complexity.

Diplomatic Waves: Navigating the India-Maldives Spat

Rakshith Shetty

The Maldives, often a tropical paradise in headlines, recently took a detour into the news for far less idyllic reasons. President Mohamed Muizzu's government has ruffled feathers in New Delhi by asking India to withdraw its military personnel by March 15, 2024, during their recent high-level core group meeting to deliberate upon a “mutually workable solution”.

Malé scrapped a key pact involving a water survey, and Muizzu chose China for one of his first overseas visits after becoming President. There, he signed 20 agreements, including one on tourism cooperation. The situation escalated with undiplomatic language from Muizzu's cabinet members directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Malé contained the damage by suspending the three leaders. The strained relations have led to growing calls in India to boycott the Maldives as a tourist destination.

The current situation puts at stake the diplomatic and political relationship between India and the Maldives, which has been meticulously cultivated over six decades. Since the British relinquished control of the islands in 1965, India initiated diplomatic ties, establishing an ambassadorial representative in 1980. In 1988, Operation Cactus underscored India's commitment to preserving stability in the Maldives. Over the years, India has invested significant effort in networking with the local population, establishing itself as the preferred destination for many Maldivians, especially for education and medical purposes. Recognising the significant dependency of many Maldivians on Indian healthcare and education, preserving a robust relationship is crucial, and efforts to boost domestic tourism should not compromise the strong ties with the Maldives

China doesn't have the military power to successfully invade Taiwan, the majority of 52 US experts said in a survey

Matthew Loh 

A new survey of leading experts from the US and Taiwan casts doubt on China's ability to invade Taiwan with its current military strength.

The survey, released on Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gathered opinions from 52 US experts in November and December last year.

These included people with extensive experience in the US government, academics, and think-tank experts who had testified in Congress before, the center said.

And only 27% of them said they strongly or somewhat agreed the People's Liberation Army had the might to pull off an amphibious invasion, per the report.

A deciding factor for many of these experts could have been the belief that the US military would directly intervene in the event of such an attack.

"An overwhelming 96% of US experts were completely or moderately confident that if China invades Taiwan in the next five years, the US military would intervene to defend Taiwan," the report said.

CSIS also surveyed 35 experts from Taiwan, of whom only 17% said they agreed China had the power to successfully execute an amphibious invasion.

The survey came after multiple reports that China had been purging the PLA of corrupt officials, with cases of graft so severe that Beijing's considerations toward any major military action in the next few years may be affected.

Could Myanmar Come Apart?

Avinash Paliwal

Since a military coup in 2021 toppled Myanmar’s democratic government, the country’s army has found itself contending with a tenacious and committed rebel insurgency. The military junta’s opponents are varied and various, including armed organizations representing Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities and militias loyal to the ousted government. Many observers had written off such resistance groups as too fractious and weak to present a genuine challenge to the junta. But that all has changed in recent months. Rebels have been strikingly successful in an offensive against the junta in the northern Shan State—which borders China—called Operation 1027, named for the day it started, October 27, 2023. The offensive has been led by a coalition of ethnic armies called the Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

Thanks to their efforts, the junta is rocking on its heels. The Three Brotherhood Alliance now controls Laukkai, the capital of the Kokang region, and many other towns in Shan State. Trade routes with China and other key arteries remain under rebel control. Critically, Operation 1027 has spurred into action other resistance groups, some independent and some led by the National Unity Government, a shadow administration that includes many supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader who was overthrown by the coup. The junta has lost control of its border crossing with India near Mizoram and is struggling to dominate the heartland region of Mandalay. In Kayah State, the junta is under pressure from the Karenni Army, whereas the People’s Defence Force—an assortment of groups that emerged to resist the junta, which are nominally under the control of the National Unity Government—and the Karen National Liberation Army are harassing the junta in the south Tanintharyi region and the eastern regions bordering Thailand. In the sensitive Rakhine State—ground zero of the genocide against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority between 2016 and 2018—the Arakan Army broke a tenuous two-year cease-fire that it had signed with Myanmar’s army and struck at their positions.

The junta is on the back foot in most parts of the country. These rebel offensives have proved so effective that Myanmar’s president warned in November that the country risks “breaking apart.” Out of desperation, Myanmar’s army has become increasingly violent. Beijing’s struggle to broker a fresh cease-fire between the Three Brotherhood Alliance and the junta led an irate Naypyidaw to launch punitive aerial strikes against civilians and insurgents alike. Even after a cease-fire agreement was signed in January 2024, the junta continued to breach it, according to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army. Such collective punishment, though par for the course for the junta, continues to cement Naypyidaw’s territorial and political losses. Morale in the army appears low, and, unsurprisingly, the violence has triggered a fierce debate among Myanmar watchers about the country’s future.

The Reason China Can’t Stop Its Decline

Howard W. French

Herd sentiment among pundits and others who analyze the direction of Chinese affairs has always been subject to sudden shifts. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, China was mostly a neat geopolitical story in the West: Mao Zedong had died, and what perished with him was China’s long-standing focus on autarky and decades of overt opposition to the capitalist world order. Western leaders and media cheered on the rise of the smiling and friendly-seeming Deng Xiaoping. Though they were hopeful about China’s economic growth, few expected the country to rapidly emerge as an economic competitor of the first order.

How China Exploited Taiwan’s Election—and What It Could Do Next

Rishi Iyengar

In the weeks leading up to Taiwan’s Jan. 13 presidential election, a 300-page ebook titled “The Secret History of Tsai Ing-wen” began to circulate on social media platforms and even email inboxes, containing scandalous—and false—allegations about the island’s president gaining power through sexual promiscuity.

The Red Sea Crisis Proves China Was Ahead of the Curve

Parag Khanna

Over the past two months, a sudden surge in Houthi rebel attacks in the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea prompted the world’s largest shipping carriers to halt transit through the Suez Canal for several weeks—with even more rerouting their vessels as the United States and Britain launched strikes on Yemen and the situation has escalated.

Salvo Of Chinese YJ-21 Hypersonic Missiles ‘Attack’ US Aircraft Carrier In Simulated Drills; Claims To ‘Overwhelm’ US Radars

Ashish Dangwal

In a simulation conducted at a secretive research lab in Chengdu, China, scientists demonstrated a hypothetical scenario where a Chinese military launched a salvo of hypersonic anti-ship missiles, supported by a space-based electromagnetic weapon system, to target the US warships effectively.

The activity was executed by researchers associated with the Science and Technology on Electronic Information Control Laboratory, a division operating under the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, Hong Kong-based South China Moring Post claims.

The exercise involved an American aircraft carrier strike group navigating at full speed in the ocean, equipped with warplanes boasting a combat range of 1,000 km (620 miles).

From a distance of 1,200km (745 miles), the PLA launched a salvo of hypersonic anti-ship missiles, reaching an altitude of over 200km (124 miles) before homing in on the US warships.

The missiles went undetected by the carrier group’s radars until a mere 10 minutes post-launch when they were just 50km (30 miles) away. The simulation also showcased the People’s Liberation Army’s potential utilization of space weaponry.

The success of the undetected missile launch was attributed to China’s space-based electromagnetic weapon system, suppressing the escort ships’ radars in a “top-down” approach.

The Chinese scientists emphasized the traditional significance of a commanding height in warfare. During the simulation, Chinese missiles received support from low-orbit electronic warfare satellites strategically positioned above the American aircraft carrier.

These satellites detected radar signals from the US warships and countered with similar high-powered signals. This approach ensured that even if radar waves were reflected by the missiles, the echoes could not be distinguished from the strong background noise.

China's rapidly dwindling future will shape the world for decades to come

Linette Lopez 

2024 is the year of the incredible shrinking China.

The country's growth has been treated like an inevitability for decades. Everything was getting bigger — its cultural influence, geopolitical ambition, population — and seemed poised to continue until the world was remade in China's image. The foundation for this inexorable rise was its booming economy, which allowed Beijing to throw its might around in other areas. But now China's economy is withering, and the future Beijing imagined is being cut down to size along with it.

The clearest sign of this diminishment is China's worsening deflation problem. While Americans are worried about inflation, or prices rising too fast, policymakers in Beijing are fretting because prices are falling. The consumer price index has declined for the past three months, the longest deflationary streak since 2009. In the race for global economic supremacy, deflation is an albatross around Beijing's neck. It's a sign that the Chinese economic model has well and truly run out of juice and that a painful restructuring is required. But beyond the financial problems, the sinking prices are a sign of a deeper malaise gripping the Chinese people.

"China's deflation is the deflation of hope, the deflation of optimism. It's a psychological funk," Minxin Pei, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College, told me.

The fallout won't be contained to China's shores. Because the country's growth sent money stampeding around the globe over the past few decades, its contractions are creating a seesaw effect in global markets. The foreign investors who helped to power China's rise are running to avoid catching the funk on their balance sheets, and governments the world over are starting to question the narrative of China, the dauphin. What Beijing does — or fails to do — to fight this malaise will determine the course of humanity for decades to come.

China Serves as Economic Lifeline to Sanctioned Russia

Alla Hurska

Executive Summary:
  • China has become Russia’s primary economic partner in helping the Kremlin circumvent Western sanctions, with bilateral trade turnover reaching $225 billion in 2023.
  • Beijing’s supply of dual-use components and critical electronic equipment enhances Moscow’s defense production capabilities.
  • Chinese banks play a key role in supporting the Russian banking system through increased investments in yuan.
In 2023, Russia’s trade turnover with China reached $225 billion, representing a 22-percent surge from 2022 and a 60-percent increase from 2021 (Iep.ru, December 25, 2023). The volume of Chinese exports to Russia via Central Asia has also seen a notable increase, further strengthening Beijing’s role as the main trading ally and supplier to Russia’s war economy (Twitter.com/RobinBrooksIIF, January 14). As a result, China has become the Kremlin’s principal partner, with Beijing holding a dominant position (see EDM, January 22). The impact of Western sanctions has significantly isolated Russia from the global community, resulting in a growing dependence on China for its economic needs.

China has refrained from officially supporting anti-Russian sanctions. Beijing, nevertheless, maintains policies that may result in the imposition of secondary sanctions, particularly on its banking institutions. The Chinese government’s position deters many major state-owned corporations from partnering with Russia for fear of falling victim to sanctions. This approach, however, does not hinder private enterprises, including drone manufacturers, from actively participating in trade with Moscow (Tsn.ua, August 21, 2023).

How U.S. Destroyers Keep Shooting Down Houthi Anti-Ship Missiles Without Fail


The undeclared missile war between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the United States Navy has made one thing irrefutably clear: the tens of billions of dollars the service has poured into protecting its warships has paid off.

The U.S. is allied with most countries in the Red Sea region, but the recently declared terrorist group, the Houthis, is making trouble by hijacking commercial ships and lobbing missiles at them as they sail past their coastline. The rebels are backed by the larger, expansionist regional power, Iran, which uses the Houthis as a proxy to attack other regional powers, arming and equipping them with weapons including anti-ship and ballistic missiles.

Following the major attack on American ally Israel by the terrorist group Hamas, Houthi rebels have entered the war by launching drones and firing missiles at Israel. These drones and missiles take a path over the Red Sea—the flattest stretch of terrain in the region—to simplify their route and ensure they reach their target. In their path lie U.S. Navy destroyers—three destroyers, as of December 18—acting to defend America’s ally from these long-range attacks.

After the U.S. destroyers thwarted a number of Houthi attacks, the rebels turned their missiles on the ships themselves. Since then, American guided-missile destroyers have swatted down numerous drones and missiles using radar and missile systems designed to protect aircraft carriers from sophisticated mass attacks—and the fight isn’t even close.

Myanmar's army is losing - and facing fire from a militant monk

Jonathan Head

Min Aung Hlaing, the country's military ruler, should step aside, he said, and let his deputy General Soe Win take over.

The man who led the 2021 coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, provoking a catastrophic civil war, has faced plenty of international censure, and is loathed by much of Myanmar's population.

This though was criticism from an unusual quarter. The monk, Pauk Ko Taw, is part of an ultra-nationalist fringe of the Buddhist clergy, which has until now been staunchly behind the military junta.

But a series of crushing defeats suffered by the army at the hands of ethnic insurgents in recent weeks has prompted Min Aung Hlaing's one-time cheerleaders to reconsider.

Running out of friends

"Look at Soe Win's face," Pauk Ko Taw said to the crowd. "That's the face of a real soldier. Min Aung Hlaing is not coping. He should move to a civilian role."

It is not clear what kind of backing Pauk Ko Taw has in the armed forces. But his comments echo those made by other junta supporters, who are increasingly frustrated by the seeming inability of Myanmar's military leaders to turn the tide against their opponents. Pauk Ko Taw declined to be interviewed by BBC Burmese.

That he chose to give his speech in Pyin Oo Lwin will have added weight to it. The one-time British colonial hill-station is now home to the prestigious Defence Services Academy, where the army's top brass are trained. They could hardly miss the thinly-veiled warning: that they are running out of friends.

Iran’s Missile Strikes Reveal Its Weakness

Afshon Ostovar

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, Iran and its archipelago of proxies have steadily advanced a collective campaign against Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East. That campaign—which has included Hezbollah’s strikes into northern Israel from Lebanon, the Houthis’ attempted blockade of shipping through the Red Sea from Yemen, and near-daily rocket attacks by Shiite militias on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria—has threatened to drag the United States into an expanding conflict. With its recent missile strikes on three neighboring states, Iran signaled a potential new phase in the evolving turmoil, one that seemingly inched the Middle East closer toward a regionwide war.

Biden’s Confrontational Approach With Saudi Arabia Backfires

Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth

President Biden’s personal war with Saudi Arabian royalty has pushed the Kingdom further into the sphere of Chinese and Russian influence and closer to Iran. Prior to his election, candidate Biden labeled Saudi Arabia a “pariah state,” vowing that he would make the Saudis “pay the price” for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Of the Saudi royal family, Biden said there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”

Once in office, Biden revoked former President Donald Trump’s branding of the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and the White House announced “an end to offensive support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis.”

Then, in October 2022, angered by a decision from the Saudi-led OPEC+ to cut oil production as gasoline prices in the U.S. soared, Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “There’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia.” Afterward, the White House announced he would “reevaluate the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia and expressed openness to retaliatory measures offered by congressional Democrats such as curbing arms sales or permitting legal action against the cartel.”

Riyadh did not take the public dressing down lightly.

Saudi Arabia signed a three-year currency swap with China estimated to be worth $7 billion in non-oil trade — meaning they will trade in yuan, and not dollars. For now, the scale is symbolic, but the message to Washington was clear regarding “consequences” for verbally attacking Saudi Arabia.

Beijing brokered a March 2023 deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore bilateral relations — a process that symbolized a diplomatic win for Chinese President Xi Jinping and a loss for Washington. Pointedly, Riyadh was signaling to Biden that it very much is not a pariah state and that it has geostrategic options. Meanwhile, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Riyadh in December, Saudi Arabia and Russia called for all OPEC+ members to join the oil production cuts to drive up prices.

Russia accuses Ukraine of shooting down military plane carrying 65 Ukrainian POWs

Henry Austin

Russia on Wednesday accused Kyiv of shooting down a military transport plane, killing all 74 people on board including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The flight was on its way to the southern region of Belgorod ahead of a prisoner exchange at the border when it was brought down by a "terrorist act," the Kremlin said.

NBC News could not independently verify who was on board the flight or what caused it to crash. Ukrainian officials cautioned against sharing “unverified information” but did not immediately deny the claims or offer further details.

The neighbors have traded conflicting accusations throughout the war, which is approaching the two-year mark.

The Ilyushin Il-76 was “performing a scheduled flight” to an airfield near the border when it was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile system, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“On board the plane were six crew members, 65 Ukrainian military personnel for the exchange and three Russian military personnel accompanying them. The crew and all passengers of the plane were killed,” the statement said.

Russian radar systems “observed the launch of two Ukrainian missiles,” it added. The Defense Ministry said that Ukraine’s government “knew very well that, according to established practice,” a military transport aircraft would be flying that route ahead of the planned prisoner swap.

Ukraine’s military said in a statement that its forces “take all measures to protect Ukraine and Ukrainians.” Pointing to recent aerial attacks by Russia on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, it said that: “In order to reduce the missile threat, the Armed Forces of Ukraine not only control the airspace, but also monitor in detail the launch points of missiles and the logistics of their delivery, especially with the use of military transport aviation.”

Ukraine's 'Blackjack' hackers breached 500 Russian military sites and caused chaos, says military intelligence

Rebecca Rommen
  • The Ukrainian hacking group "Blackjack" successfully targeted Russian military sites and mined data.
  • The data includes intel on Russian military bases, air-defense installations, and weapons arsenals.
  • Operatives mined data from more than 500 Russian military sites, Ukrainian intelligence said.
"Blackjack," a Ukrainian group of hackers with possible ties to the country's main spy agency, stole construction plans for over 500 Russian military sites, Newsweek reported.

The cyber operatives are believed to have links to the Security Service of Ukraine.

Ukraine's military-intelligence agency, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, or GUR, confirmed the successful operation on Friday.

"Blackjack blew the jackpot," GUR shared in Ukrainian on Telegram.

GUR said a successful cyberattack had been launched against a Russian state enterprise overseeing all construction contracts for Russia's Ministry of Defence.

They wrote that operatives had transferred critical information about Russian military facilities that have already been completed, constructed, reconstructed, or planned for construction to the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine.

The Blackjack group amassed 1.2 terabytes of classified data on Vladimir Putin's military apparatus.

The data includes detailed maps of more than 500 Russian military bases across Russia and Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.

The F-16 at 50: Why it's still in demand

Stephen Dowling

Were it not for one test pilot's quick thinking 50 years ago, the entire F-16 programme might never have made it past its first fateful flight.

When pilot Phil Oestricher climbed into the cockpit of the General Dynamics YF-16 prototype at Edwards Air Force Base in California on 20 January 1974, his mission was a relatively straightforward one – a high-speed taxi test where the aircraft would travel on the ground under the power of its own engine.

The YF-16 had only been unveiled to the public just over a month earlier. The first flight was not scheduled to take place until early February.

But the futuristic-looking jet had other ideas.

As Oestricher raised the aircraft's nose slightly, the YF-16 started rolling – so sharply that the aircraft's left wing and right tailplane hit the tarmac. "As Oestricher desperately fought to maintain control of his wild steed, the situation became increasingly dire as the YF-16 began to veer to the left," wrote the Seattle Post Intelligencer, reporting on the almost disastrous first flight. Oestricher realised he would have to depart from the planned test and get the aircraft airborne – and very quickly – before it crashed.

After some heart-stopping moments – at one point the aircraft dropped back down onto the runway – Oestricher managed to pick up enough speed for the prototype to take into the air and complete a dramatically unexpected six-minute-long flight before landing back at the base.

By virtue of his skillful flying, Oestricher had prevented disaster – and helped bring to life an aircraft that has become one of the most successful in living memory. Fifty years later, more than 4,600 F-16s have rolled off the factory lines, and production shows no sign of stopping.

How COVID-19 Vaccines and Infections Are Tweaking Our Immunity


Your immune system may be getting smarter every time you encounter COVID-19, a new study suggests. After getting vaccinated and infected, the immune system generates broader defenses against the virus, including against new variants.

In a paper published Jan. 19 in Science Immunology, researchers in South Korea compared immune cells in the lab from people with a variety of vaccine and infection histories throughout the different Omicron waves, which began in late 2021 with BA.1. People who had been vaccinated with the original Pfizer-BioNTech series and then got infected with any Omicron variant showed good levels of memory immune cells—called T cells—that defended not only against the variants causing the infection, but also related ones in the Omicron family that came later. For example, people who were vaccinated with three doses of the original COVID-19 shot and then got infected with the BA.2 variant generated T cells that could target not just BA.2 but also BA.4/5 and XBB viruses, which didn’t emerge until later.

“This is evidence of cross adaptation between the virus and human beings overall,” says Dr. Eui-Cheol Shin, professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and senior author of the paper. “It also means we are on the way to an endemic era for COVID-19.”

Shin and his team found that the T cells—which are more durable than antibodies and are designed to retain memory of the viruses they encounter—generated against Omicron variants recognized the parts of the virus that remained conserved, as opposed to portions that had changed among the different variants. This, in part, helps people to not get as sick from reinfections.

The fact that the immune system is able to concentrate on these consistent parts of the virus could be an encouraging sign that the virus is evolving in a way to co-exist with humans, says Shin. There’s precedent for viruses becoming endemic in this way, since a handful of coronaviruses that started off as deadly now cause the common cold.

Fishing for the Fourth Institutional Cycle

George Friedman

I have written a great deal about socio-economic cycles but far less on institutional cycles, specifically how the fourth institutional cycle in American history will emerge. But now some issues in the new cycle are beginning to take shape – revealing themselves over a fishing dispute, of all things.

In “The Storm Before the Calm,” I summarized institutional cycles as follows:

“The first cycle created the federal government, the second redefined the relationship of the federal government to the states, the third cycle redefined the federal government’s relation to the economy and society, and the fourth cycle will redefine the relationship of the federal government to itself. By this I mean redefine how the federal government sets priorities, how it focuses on achieving the priorities, and how it is held accountable. This sounds like a relatively minor shift. It is, in fact, as radical as the shift after World War II.”

The third institutional cycle emerged from World War II, which was won by experts who built bombers, landing craft and atomic bombs. The heroes were the men who fought, but the experts were the winners. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used experts in a wide array of tasks that had previously been given to simply intelligent people. Knowledge of the rare became key.

During the war and after, the federal government organized itself around expertise on various subject matters. But the inherent weakness of expertise is that it is narrowly focused. It can solve a problem without grasping the broader consequences of the solution. The COVID-19 pandemic was a great example: It required medical expertise, but heading the search for solutions were medical experts focused on medical solutions. They did not take into account the consequences of their solutions, such as stunted social development among children not being able to play with other children at an age when this is critical to their learning and experience.

Embedding experts into the federal system defined a problem too narrowly and falsely. There was no one with power to step back to see the unintended consequences. There was rarely control over experts who saw only the problem they were trained to solve, rather than the consequences of a plan that needed modification.

Will AI Take Your Job? Maybe Not Just Yet, One Study Says


Will artificial intelligence take our jobs? If you listen to Silicon Valley executives talking about the capabilities of today’s cutting edge AI systems, you might think the answer is “yes, and soon.”

But a new paper published by MIT researchers suggests automation in the workforce might happen slower than you think.

The researchers at MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory studied not only whether AI was able to perform a task, but also whether it made economic sense for firms to replace humans performing those tasks in the wider context of the labor market.

They found that while computer vision AI is today capable of automating tasks that account for 1.6% of worker wages in the U.S. economy (excluding agriculture), only 23% of those wages (0.4% of the economy as a whole) would, at today’s costs, be cheaper for firms to automate instead of paying human workers. “Overall, our findings suggest that AI job displacement will be substantial, but also gradual—and therefore there is room for [government] policy and retraining to mitigate unemployment impacts,” the authors write.

Tasks like analyzing images from diagnostic equipment in a hospital, or examining trays to ensure they contain the right items, are given in the paper as examples of the kind of “vision tasks” that today’s AI could feasibly achieve. But tasks like these are often so fragmented, the authors argue, that it is uneconomical to automate them.

“Even though there is some change that is coming, there is also some time to adapt to it,” Neil Thompson, the study’s lead author, tells TIME. “It’s not going to happen so rapidly that everything is thrown into chaos right away.”

Why Every Modern Leader Is Now A Chief AI Officer

Sherzod Odilov

AI is no longer just a technological tool. It's a significant societal influencer, reshaping the way we work, communicate and interact. As it becomes increasingly accessible, its transformative power is being recognized by organizations worldwide, leading to the introduction of a new leadership role: the Chief AI Officer. However, the evolution of AI impacts every aspect of an organization, from strategy and operations to processes and culture. Consequently, the responsibility for AI can no longer be relegated to a single individual or department. Instead, every modern leader must view AI as a strategic imperative and a fundamental competency. In essence, they must become 'Chief AI Officers' themselves, assuming three critical roles: AI Expert, AI Coach and AI Movement Maker.

1. AI Expert

Love it or hate it, AI is here to stay. In fact, according to a recent survey by Korn Ferry, over 82% of senior leaders believe AI will have a significant impact on their business. In addition, The Conference Board found that 56% of workers are already using generative AI on the job. That means every modern leader needs to become an AI expert, not necessarily a technical one, but someone who understands the basics: what AI can and cannot do and how it can be applied to their own domain.

A pivotal competency for these modern leaders will be the ability to identify the opportunities and challenges that AI can effectively address within their field. They must possess the acumen to evaluate the feasibility of AI solutions for their unique problems. Moreover, these leaders will need to diligently monitor the performance and impact of AI systems within their domain. Only then can they confidently guide their organizations through the ongoing AI transformation journey.

Tech execs say a type of AI that can outdo humans is coming, but have no idea what it looks like

Ryan Browne

Executives at some of the world’s leading artificial intelligence labs are expecting a form of AI on a par with — or even exceeding — human intelligence to arrive sometime in the near future. But what it will eventually look like and how it will be applied remain a mystery.

Leaders from the likes of OpenAI, Cohere, Google’s DeepMind, and major tech companies like Microsoft and Salesforce weighed the risks and opportunities presented by AGI, or artificial general intelligence, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

AGI refers to a form of AI that can complete a task to the same level as any human or, even beat humans at solving any task, whether it’s chess, complex math puzzles, or scientific discoveries. It’s often been referred to as the “holy grail” of AI due to how powerful such a conceived intelligent agent would be.

AI has become the talk of the business world over the past year or so, thanks in no small part to the success of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s popular generative AI chatbot. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are powered large language models, algorithms trained on vast quantities of data.

That has stoked concern among governments, corporations and advocacy groups worldwide, owing to an onslaught of risks around the lack of transparency and explainability of AI systems; job losses resulting from increased automation; social manipulation through computer algorithms; surveillance; and data privacy.

AGI a ‘super vaguely defined term’

OpenAI’s CEO and co-founder Sam Altman said he believes artificial general intelligence might not be far from becoming a reality and could be developed in the “reasonably close-ish future.”

2024 Cybersecurity Predictions: AI, IoT, EVs And More

Tim Liu

As we turn the page on another year, it’s a great time to review what we're likely to see in cybersecurity in 2024. From a high-level view, many things will remain the same—ransomware and data leakage will persist as the key concerns—but new technologies and threat vectors will ensure that security programs continue to be critically important. Here’s a brief recap of what we’re watching, in no particular order:

The Impact Of AI

Last year saw an explosion in consumer and business usage of artificial intelligence (AI), spurred by the release of ChatGPT in late 2022. AI is actually a fairly old technology; it’s been used in many industries, including by cybersecurity vendors, for a decade or more. The new availability for end-users through ChatGPT, Bing, Bard and others can be invaluable tools to boost creativity, propel productivity and enhance workflows in general.

AI remains a field in disarray, although regulation is underway. Meanwhile, there are multiple threat vectors of concern in AI. For example, data has to feed into the AI model, and that data just becomes a new target for hacktivists and other actors as well as potentially providing new points of entry into your network.

Phishing and other social engineering exploits are another area to watch. In the past, phishing scams were fairly easy to identify due to misspellings, bad grammar and stilted language. Now, with AI, these tactics have become more polished, accurate and targeted. For instance, imagine getting a deepfake voice message generated by AI from your "CEO" asking for confidential information. How would you respond?

And finally, consider that some AI bots can even be used to create malicious code to be deployed by hackers. Essentially, the new freely available chatbots have democratized AI for good—but also for evil. How it all plays out remains to be seen.