22 February 2024

Israel behind gas pipeline attacks in Iran—report

Two Western officials and an Iranian military strategist linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have accused Israel of being behind attacks on two major natural gas pipelines in Iran last week, The New York Times reported on Friday.

On Feb. 14 at around 1:00 a.m., blasts hit several points along two pipelines in the Iranian provinces of Fars and Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari. Iranian officials immediately labeled them “sabotage.”

The IRGC military strategist said Iran held Israel responsible given the complexity and size of the operation, according to the report. He said collaborators inside Iran were almost certainly involved to discern how and where to strike.

Jerusalem declined to comment on the attack.

The blasts signify an escalation in the shadow war waged between Iran and Israel, the paper noted. While Israel has long targeted Iran’s military and nuclear sites, by blowing up energy infrastructure it disrupted the supply of heat and cooking gas to millions of civilians.

Israel has been accused of waging cyber attacks affecting Iranian civilians, including an October 2021 cyber attack on Iran’s fuel distribution system that paralyzed the Islamic Republic’s 4,300 gas stations.

“The enemy’s plan was to completely disrupt the flow of gas in winter to several main cities and provinces in our country,” Iranian oil minister Javad Owji told the press on Friday.

“Except for the number of villages that were near the gas transmission lines, no province suffered a cut,” said Owji.

Memo to the 'Experts': Stop Comparing Israel's War in Gaza to Anything. It Has No Precedent | Opinion

John Spencer

Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza has inevitably drawn comparisons to other battles or wars, both modern and from the past. These comparisons are mostly used to make the case that Israel's operations in Gaza are the most destructive in history, or the deadliest in history.

Yet while the use of historical analogy may be tempting for armchair pundits, in the case of Israel's current war, the comparisons are often poorly cited, the data used inaccurate, and crucial context left out. Given the scale and context of an enemy purposely entrenched in densely populated urban areas, as well as the presence of tunnels, hostages, rockets, attackers that follow the laws of war while defenders purposely do not, and proximity between the frontlines and the home front, there is basically no historical comparison for this war.

Let's start with the context: After Hamas crossed into Israel on Oct. 7, murdering over 1,200 Israelis in brutal ways that included mutilation and sexual assaults as well as taking over 200 hostages back into Gaza, Israel formally declared a defensive war against Hamas in Gaza in accordance with international law and the United Nations charter. Since, the IDF estimates it has killed 10,000 Hamas operatives, while Hamas claims that the total number of casualties is 24,000 (Hamas does not distinguish civilian deaths from militant deaths).

The truth is that Israel has painstakingly followed the laws of armed conflict and implemented many steps to prevent civilian casualties, despite enormous challenges. Israel's military faced over 30,000 Hamas militants in over 400 miles of defensive and offensive tunnels embedded in and under civilian areas, populations and protected sites such as hospitals, mosques, schools, and United Nations facilities across multiple cities.

While Israel Continues the War in Gaza, Another War Looms | Opinion

Daniel R. DePetris

This week, U.S., Israeli, Egyptian, and Qatari officials met in Cairo to continue discussions on how to hammer out a truce in Gaza. As one might expect, getting Israel and Hamas onboard a plan they can both accept is turning out to be the diplomatic equivalent of the world's most painful root-canal. President Joe Biden has told Americans that he's working around the clock to cement a deal that stops the fighting, frees the rest of the hostages in Hamas' custody, and increases humanitarian aid shipments into the coastal enclave.

The wrench in the gears is that everybody at the table has a different interpretation of a good deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has offered Hamas a six-week cessation of hostilities and more Palestinian prisoner releases in exchange for the remaining hostages, numbered at 136. Hamas is willing to release the hostages, but only on its terms. The Islamist group came back with a draft proposal of its own, a three-stage plan that would be implemented over a period of four and a half months and result in Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners (including senior militants), withdrawing from Gaza and ending the war permanently. Netanyahu strongly opposed Hamas' framework, calling it "delusional."

It's not a surprise that the talks in Egypt adjourned without significant movement. That's the bad news. The good news is that despite what looks like an imminent Israeli military offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of the entire territory's population now resides, talks haven't broken down yet.

For the sake of Gaza's people, one can only hope the negotiations succeed. Success could also have a positive effect on another conflict more than 100 miles to the north, where the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah have been shooting at each other nearly every day for more than four months. On Feb. 14, Hezbollah fired rockets near the Israeli city of Safed, killing one. The Israelis responded immediately, launching airstrikes on multiple Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's attack came days after Israel attempted to assassinate a Hezbollah commander as he was driving in his car.

Israel Stepping Up Rescue and Kill Raids in New Phase of Gaza War

Tom O'Connor

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is preparing to conduct more raids to both rescue hostages and take out high-value targets as it looks to enter a new, more surgical phase of the war in Gaza.

Speaking to Newsweek during a press briefing hosted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said that anyone who "threatens Israel, is about to maybe strike or attack—we will go after him wherever is needed, if it's on the Lebanese border or anywhere in Gaza."

"You can see this as this battle unfolds. The form and how it's being executed is different," Hecht said. "You're seeing now inside of Gaza a more sort of surgical style of operation; it's with our special forces division, the 98th Division, under the commander, our great [Brigadier] General Dan Goldfuss."

"It's more surgical, less armor, more infantry and special forces," he added, "but these raids are happening."

The remarks came shortly after the IDF announced a joint operation conducted alongside intelligence and police forces on Monday to successfully rescue two Israeli hostages being held in Rafah in southern Gaza. The two men were among more than 200 people seized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions during their October 7 surprise attack that sparked the war.

Hamas rejected the IDF's account of the operation. At a press conference, senior official Osama Hamdan pointed to "field press accounts that indicate that the two captives were not in the possession of the Hamas movement, but rather in the possession of a civilian family, which casts doubt on the credibility of the occupation's narrative, and confirms its effort to exaggerate the event in search of a missing achievement in the face of the resistance."

Netanyahu's Big Gamble

David Brennan

A diplomatic row is brewing between Israel and the U.S. over Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plans to push into the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, which after four months of devastating warfare has become the "last refuge" for almost 2 million displaced Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this past weekend that Israel's campaign in Gaza has put victory "in reach," although his stated goal of "eradicating" the Hamas militant group still appears some way off.

As IDF units fight in the southern Hamas stronghold of Khan Younis, Israeli planners are preparing to push all the way south to Rafah, which sits along the Gaza-Egypt frontier.

"We're going to do it," Netanyahu said. "We're going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion."

The threats have prompted protests from the White House, with President Joe Biden warning there should be no Rafah offensive "without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than 1 million people sheltering there."

President Joe Biden speaks while sitting beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. The relationship between the two leaders has been strained by Israel's war against Hamas.

Netanyahu, who has never been a firm friend of Biden's over a relationship spanning decades—has repeatedly shown a willingness to defy Israel's prime benefactor. The battle of Rafah could prove his biggest statement yet.

From Homer to Gaza, the History of Books in Wartime

Claudia Roth Pierpont

At Christmas, 1939, a few months into the new World War, London bookshops were very busy. The war was bringing in a public eager to learn about weapons, planes, and the nature of the country that was once again the enemy. Confidence was high and curiosity, as much as fear, prevailed. Among recent titles, “I Married a German” had gone through five editions, and the Lewis Carroll-inspired illustrated satire “Adolf in Blunderland”—featuring Hitler as a mustachioed child and a Jewish mouse who has been in a concentration camp—sold out in days. Publishers, proudly demonstrating how different the English were from the book-burning Germans, had issued a newly translated version of “Mein Kampf,” unabridged, which was selling fast; royalties were diverted to the Red Cross, which sent books to British prisoners of war. It was only the next summer, after the wholly unexpected collapse of France, when bombs began to fall and politicians warned that a German invasion was imminent—when even Churchill questioned “if this long island story of ours is to end at last”—that people confessed they were finding it difficult to read.

But not impossible. “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Gone with the Wind”: American stories of earlier wars became big best-sellers as this war went on. When bombs forced thousands of Londoners to shelter in the city’s underground train stations, small libraries were often installed to boost spirits. One of the most famous photographs of wartime London shows a group of calmly composed men, in hats, examining books on the miraculously intact shelves of a Kensington mansion’s bombed-out library. The photograph was almost certainly posed, as Andrew Pettegree, a prolific British expert on the history of books, points out in “The Book at War” (Basic), but it was a true image of the way that books were used in catastrophic times: as solace and inspiration, as symbols of resistance against barbarism and of a centuries-old culture that remained an honored trust.

Israelis, Newly Vulnerable, Remain Traumatized and Mistrustful

Steven Erlanger

After the Hamas invasion on Oct. 7, Doron Shabty and his wife and their two small children hid in Sderot, near the border with Gaza, and survived. A reservist in the infantry, he went into the army the next day.

He just returned after more than 100 days in Gaza, having lost friends. Mr. Shabty, 31, who sees himself on the political left, said he felt no sense of revenge, even if other soldiers did. Nor did he justify every act of the Israeli military, expressing sorrow over the many thousands of Gazans killed in the fight against Hamas.

But he said he felt certain that to restore Israelis’ faith in their country’s ability to protect them, there cannot be a return to the situation of Oct. 6. “We can’t live with an armed Gaza — we just can’t do that,” he said. “And in order to disarm Gaza, you need to pay a terrible price.”

The shock of Oct. 7 was emotional, physical and psychological, undermining the idea of security, both personal and national, and reminding Israelis that they have powerful enemies next door who wish them dead and gone.

Four months into the war, with mounting deaths, hostages still held by Hamas and no clear victory in sight, their own pain has numbed many Israelis to the suffering of Gazans, let alone the pain of the Palestinian citizens of Israel itself.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health says that more than 28,000 Gazans have been killed in the war, largely civilians, though the figures do not distinguish between them and combatants. The toll vastly outnumbers Israeli deaths since Oct. 7, when some 1,200 people were killed, according to Israeli officials. The latest cumulative Israeli figures say that a total of 779 civilians, including 76 foreign citizens, and 633 soldiers and police officers have died in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. More than 100 people are held as prisoners by Hamas.

Advancing the India-U.S. Partnership on AI


In a mid-term review of the India-U.S. initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), senior officials from both countries reiterated the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to their strategic bilateral partnership.

Based on closed-door discussions held at the Global Technology Summit 2023 on the sidelines of the iCET review, we outline five areas where India and the United States should collaborate to advance their partnership on AI.


As founding members of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), both India and the United States can help build scientific consensus on the nature of the risks emerging from AI systems. A shared understanding of safety risks would help establish a set of common standards to mitigate concerns around bias, privacy, security, and lack of trust.

While some efforts are already underway to develop such standards, more needs to be done. Specifically, there is a need for global benchmarks to evaluate the safety and efficacy of large language models (LLMs) before they can be made available to consumers. Another potential area of collaboration is to develop a common taxonomy for AI systems so that they can be classified and defined based on their primary function and the risk of causing harm.

Given their prior experience in developing standards for the telecom and space sectors, the expectation is that India and the United States will adopt a balanced approach that incentivizes innovation and nurtures a vibrant technology ecosystem while promoting the principles of fairness, accountability, and transparency in AI systems.


Access to computing power, more commonly referred to as “compute,” is now a critical geopolitical issue. The scarcity of resources required to run advanced AI systems and the acute concentration of such resources in a few Western countries could lead to an unequal distribution of the benefits of AI between the Global North and the Global South.

Five ways Imran Khan’s party used technology to outperform in Pakistan’s elections

Uzair Yonus

Pakistan’s electorate made themselves heard on February 8, when the country held general elections after months of delays. As results came in, it was evident that efforts to curb support for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is currently in jail, and his political party fell short on election day. Candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the largest bloc in parliament, winning ninety-three seats (out of 264). On February 13, the two parties that won the second and third largest shares of seats announced that they would form a coalition government, excluding the PTI from power. Nonetheless, the strong result of PTI-affiliated candidates in the election reveals an important trend emerging in Pakistani politics.

Popular anger about sky-high inflation and growing repression, combined with more younger voters entering the fray, did play a key role in the results. But one cannot ignore PTI’s use of technology—much of it not cutting-edge—that not only disrupted the traditional political status quo but also set a new benchmark for electoral campaigns around the world.

Here are five ways in which PTI’s technology and digital media strategy helped the party outmaneuver its rivals in Pakistan’s general elections:

1. Cultivating a culture of bottom-up innovation

Business leaders who have tried to push the adoption of technology in legacy organizations know full well that innovation requires bottom-up support, especially in larger organizations. While PTI’s approach to political engagement has always been fundamentally different from its predecessors, it set itself further apart in this electoral cycle.

Pakistan Can’t Stop the Cycle of Discontent

Husain Haqqani

The results of Pakistan’s general elections on Feb. 8 reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the country’s civil and military establishment, but they seem to have brought about the opposite of what many voters wanted. Independent candidates affiliated with former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party—barred from running under its banner—won more seats in parliament than any major party, but not enough for a majority. Parliamentary arithmetic necessitates a coalition, and Khan, who is in prison on corruption charges, refuses to negotiate with his rivals.

Who will lead the way to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban?

James Durso

In January 2024, Chinese president Xi Jinping accepted the credentials of the ambassador of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban) to China. And in September 2023 China was the first country to name a new ambassador to the Islamic Emirate since August 2021.

Today, over a dozen countries maintain diplomatic representation in Kabul, though none have formally recognized the Taliban government. All the countries that border Afghanistan – China, Iran, Pakistan, and the Central Asian republics – maintained diplomatic missions after the departure of NATO troops and the previous Afghan government. The United States, which is absent, is represented by the State of Qatar.

In February, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America reported, “The United States is cautiously exploring the possibility of consular access to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan” based on the U.S. State Department “Integrated Country Strategy” for Afghanistan. However, a State Department spokesperson replied there are “no near-term plans to return any diplomatic functions to Kabul.”

Though the U.S. and its allies may not return to Kabul soon, everyone else in the region is planning – and acting.

Tashkent recently secured Qatar’s support for the 573-kilometer Trans-Afghan Railway to connect Uzbekistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan, which will ensure that China isn’t the only player in local infrastructure development. The Taliban will be incentivized to secure the route to show they are a responsible government in control of their territory, to keep Qatar interested in future investments, and as a thank-you for Doha’s mediation efforts with the U.S. and Europe on the Islamic Emirate’s behalf.

Fortifying Taiwan: Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacific Era

Alex Wang Ting-yu (王定宇)

Executive Summary:
  • The development of asymmetric military capabilities, including indigenous weapons systems, is crucial for Taiwan’s defense and deterrence strategies against potential aggression from the PRC.
  • Strengthening alliances and cooperation, especially in advanced military technologies and training, is key to bolstering Taiwan’s defense force and contributing to regional stability in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Taiwan is adapting to evolving geopolitical challenges by enhancing its defense capabilities, with the United States shifting to a case-by-case arms sales approach to improve responsiveness to Taiwan’s security needs.
Taiwan is confronting unprecedented security challenges. Within a tumultuous and evolving geopolitical context, it is imperative for Taiwan to steadfastly enhance its defense capabilities. The United States, during both the Trump and Biden administrations, has shifted its approach to arms sales to Taiwan from the previous bundled format to a case-by-case basis. This allows for real-time responsiveness to the country’s defense needs and regional security challenges. This positive and crucial transformation ensures that Taiwan not only has sufficient defense capabilities but also is granted treatment akin to other US allies.

Recent delays in arms sales are due to the war in Ukraine and pandemic supply chain backlogs. Reassuringly, improvements are now underway. The war has prompted nations around the world to reassess their security strategies. Taiwan, as a pivotal player in the Indo-Pacific region, must not only maintain defensive capabilities against potential aggression from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it must also exhibit strategic deterrence to dissuade the PRC from taking any hasty actions. This would align with the deterrent strategy consistently followed by democratic allies such as the United States and Japan, and is worth emulating.

Middle East CrisisCrew Abandons Cargo Ship After Houthi Missile Attack

Vivian Nereim, Farnaz Fassihi and Gaya Gupta, Patrick Kingsley, Rick Gladstone, Vivian Yee, Marlise Simons and Ephrat Livni, Patrick Kingsley, Ana Ionova and Paulo Motoryn

Here’s what we’re covering:

The Rubymar cargo ship at the Black Sea in 2022.

The crew of a cargo ship in the Red Sea was forced to abandon ship after it came under attack on Monday from the Houthi militia in Yemen, who have been firing missiles at ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in what the group says is a campaign to pressure Israel to end its war in the Gaza Strip.

The attack on the ship, the Rubymar, appeared to be one of the Houthis’ most damaging so far. Most of the armed group’s missile and drone assaults on ships have failed to inflict serious damage.

But the strike on Monday night, involving two anti-ship ballistic missiles launched from Yemen between 9:30 and 10:45 p.m., according to the U.S. military, was enough to drive the crew off the vessel. The military’s Central Command said that one of the missiles struck the Rubymar, “causing damage” and prompting the crew to make a distress call.

A warship that is part of a U.S.-led coalition, as well as another merchant ship, responded to the call, and the crew was taken “to a nearby port by the merchant vessel,” Central Command said in a statement.

A Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement on Monday that the militia had fired “a number of missiles” at the vessel, severely damaging it, bringing it to a “complete halt” and leaving it “at risk of sinking.” The New York Times could not verify those claims.

Sea Power: “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

Claude Berube

The oceans have always been battlefields since mankind first set sail. As early seafarers plied their trade, it became vulnerable to state and non-state actors. Warships and later navies emerged to deter those offenders and protect legitimate trade. This ensured stability in the provision and exchange of goods and currency. In the past two years alone, maritime security has proved itself no less a problem. In the Russo-Ukrainian War, Kyiv’s Navy sunk, among other ships, the Russian cruiser Moskva. A British warship recently arrived in Guyana as Venezuela threatened its neighbor, desiring its offshore oil. In the Red Sea, U.S. and allied naval vessels counter drone attacks, ballistic missile strikes, and unmanned explosive-laden boats threatening merchant ships. The Chinese military continues to make incursions in and over Taiwan waters, threatening that nation’s sovereignty. In the wake of the United States’ longest two land wars, the media, and the general public are being reminded of the role and importance of the oceans as these incidents and operations continue to escalate.

These events are not isolated. They are part of a general destabilization that can occur without a force—or partnership of like-minded forces—to protect legitimate commerce, deter self-interested and non-state actors, and defeat those who carry out violence on the high seas. Navalists have not been silent. Reports from various think tanks, other organizations, and media have warned of a maritime crisis for years. Their voices echo that of the patron saint of modern navalists, Alfred Thayer Mahan.

In this environment, a timely new book revisits a century-old topic, enlightens readers with previously undiscovered research, and corrects misinterpretations. Nicholas Lambert’s The Neptune Factor: Alfred Thayer Mahan and the Concept of Sea Power. As with his monumental 2021 study, The War Lords and the Gallipoli Disaster: How Globalized Trade Led Britain to Its Worst Defeat of the First World War, Lambert delves into how economics shaped Mahan’s theories, most famously articulated in his classic work The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (1890). The text heavily influenced domestic and international policymakers at the turn of the century. In reading the entirety of Mahan’s published works and discovering previously buried correspondence, Lambert resurrects the first American navalist in a way that challenges those who venerate him.

Preparing Supply Chains for a Coming War

John G. Ferrari and Mark Rosenblatt

Multiple threats to US national security are converging.1 With wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, record migration flows,2 and AI-fueled disinformation, Washington has arguably not faced so many crises simultaneously since World War II.3 The US is handling these challenges with a greatly weakened defense industrial base that cannot simultaneously equip the US and its allies and partners to fight.4

Any of these threats could rapidly escalate into a wider, more dangerous, and protracted conflict, a scenario not lost on Beijing or Moscow, which continue to strengthen their anti-Western alliance.5 Yet the US has not broken China’s choke hold on US military munitions and defense platforms, despite ample evidence of acute supply-chain vulnerabilities and a shrinking window to address them.

What is not discussed openly, but is probably widely known in China, is the US industrial base’s dependency on Taiwan for supplying the military with critical materials such as semiconductors. This dependency, contrary to what some may believe, does not strengthen deterrence of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan via a “silicon shield” defense.6 Indeed, it weakens deterrence, creating “non-deterrence,” as the US cannot build many military platforms and weapons without access to Taiwan.7 Moreover, as the American Enterprise Institute’s Chris Miller has noted, this “silicon shield” “emboldens China to attack, by making China think that the U.S. is less likely to come to Taiwan’s aid.”8

Therefore, to bolster deterrence and its ability to prosecute a long war, America must ensure it can resupply its defenses even if its supply lines to Taiwan and China are severed. Failing to do so may signalthat the US is not ready for a protracted conflict. As a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies report aptly stated, “Potential adversaries might decide that a nation that lacked the capacity to sustain protracted offensive operations also lacked political resolve.”9

Avdiivka Map Shows Russian 'Tactical Turning Movement' to Force Ukraine Out

Isabel van Brugen

Ukrainian forces may be forced to withdraw from their positions in the key eastern town of Avdiivka as Russian forces conduct a "tactical turning movement" in the embattled region, according to a U.S. think tank which published a new war map of the ongoing offensive.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, said on Thursday that while Kyiv's troops have yet to completely pull out from Avdiivka amid continued positional fighting in the Donetsk region, geolocated footage suggests that Russian troops are making significant gains to the northwest of the town.

This map from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) from February 15, 2024, shows the ongoing offensive around Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast.

Russia in October launched a major offensive on the key frontline town, which been the target of Moscow's forces' aggression since 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Both Moscow and Ukraine have suffered heavy losses of troops and equipment in the fight for the region, which is seen as a gateway to nearby Russian-occupied Donetsk city. For Russia, seizing the region would present the Kremlin with a battlefield victory ahead of the country's presidential election, which is taking place in March. Newsweek has contacted Russian and Ukrainian authorities for comment by email.

That night in her apartment Julia Hunt ordered in sushi and watched the coverage of Slake’s botched press conference on her living room sofa. Days later, Slake’s panicked responses to the questions about Castro’s death continued to air, and they appeared even worse on the news.

Hunt raised a piece of salmon sashimi between two chopsticks as she read the chyron for the next story: Castro Autopsy Leaked on Common Sense Confirms Foul Play and White House Lies. She dropped the fish onto her lap.

News of the withheld autopsy exploded. On every channel the prime-time anchors flashed printed copies of the report to the camera. They read whole sections aloud, describing the dimensions of the marble-sized mass of cells inexplicably lodged in Castro’s aorta and the excerpted transcript of the autopsy itself, in which the chief internist concluded, “This can’t be the same heart.”

Within the hour, Truthers flooded the streets in cities around the country. As Hunt scrolled the channels, a news crew in Lafayette Park was conducting interviews with the growing mass of protesters, one of whom she recognized; it was the man in the wheelchair she’d met on the Metro. She had thought of him often. Now she learned his identity: retired gunnery sergeant Joseph William Sherman III. Beneath his name on the screen were the words Truther Volunteer Organizer. She placed his name in a search engine and learned that he’d lost his legs in the Spratly Islands and that the Chinese nuclear attack on San Diego had killed his wife and three daughters, who’d lived at nearby Camp Pendleton. Hunt could hear in Sherman’s voice how deeply he resented a president who while alive flaunted constitutional norms by clinging to power for an attempted fourth term and whose successor, Smith, now flaunted norms again by withholding an autopsy and refusing to be transparent about his predecessor’s death.

2054, Part II: Next Big Thing


Middle of the night, alone in his lab, was just how he liked to work. News of Castro’s death was everywhere, and he’d come here to escape it. Stylishly dressed in a cashmere Cucinelli hoodie, he was blasting his music. Tonight it was Dean Martin, and he was mouthing the words to “That’s Amore,” muttering to himself about the moon hitting his eye like a big pizza pie while he reviewed the genetic code of dozens of monarch butterflies, the subject of that evening’s work. Without too much trouble, he’d teased apart their nucleotide bases and found a sequence of mRNA that would switch the color in their wings from reddish brown to green, to blue, to yellow, to nearly anything he wanted, really. He had, a week before, met a girl, a diving instructor from Tokyo newly arrived on the island, and he’d wanted to impress her. She had a tattoo of colored butterflies on her wrist.

Since he was a kid, most people called him Big Texas. His actual name was Dr. Christopher Yamamoto. The girl with the butterfly tattoo had teased him when she’d heard the nickname. Most people did. Raised by a single father, a chief petty officer in the US Navy, he’d moved around a lot. Small for his age and asthmatic, he earned the nickname at a Northern Virginia high school known for its football team. Each day he arrived at school with little more than a handful of change for lunch, which he usually bought from the vending machine in the form of an enormous chocolate chip cookie called the Big Texas. He had a special way of eating the cookie. He sat in the cafeteria, typically alone, and removed all the chocolate chips—counting out every last one, usually over a hundred, while tabulating a daily average in his head. He placed the chocolate chips in a pile. He ate the cookie, then the chocolate chips, one at a time. Other kids noticed, and Yamamoto became Big Texas. Even his father began to call him that, or B.T. for short.

2054, Part III: The Singularity


B.T. had proven easy enough to find. When he went dark, Lily figured he was in one of the world’s three gambling capitals—Vegas, Monte Carlo, or Macau. It only became a matter of checking with a handful of five-star hotels in each, something Sherman was happy to handle for her. In the days since Castro’s death, it was Sherman who’d stoked Lily’s concern for B.T. Each morning, Sherman came in parroting another conspiracy theory as to who or what was behind the president’s untimely demise. He’d even gone so far as to place a #TRUTHNOTDREAMS sticker adjacent to the US Marine Corps sticker on his wheelchair. Lily nearly said something to him about the sticker—given the firm’s policy on remaining apolitical—but she couldn’t quite bring herself to. She, too, had her suspicions about Castro’s death, and B.T.’s involvement in it.

Shriver wanted to see her before she left. When she suggested lunch, he asked if they could meet after dinner instead. Per usual, she reserved the room and he arrived late, after 10 at night. When she saw him at the door—in his crumpled suit looking as though he hadn’t slept in a day or two—he had the same effect on her as always, and she had the same effect on him. He clearly had things to say and so did she, but all that would wait. Their feet tangled together as they toppled onto the bed. Thirty minutes later, maybe an hour—time had a way of losing its proportions when she was with him—the two lay cradled together, insensate with lovemaking. The room was dark, and Shriver whispered, “Don’t go …”

“What do you mean?”

Her body fitted against his, she waited for his response. “I mean don’t go to Macau.”

Lily quickly sat up. “I’ll be back in a few days, a week at the most.” She told him not to worry. She knew how busy he was. She completely understood the pressures and constraints he was under, particularly given the current political crisis. She liked seeing him when he had time. They had fun together, and she’d make sure to call him when she got back.

Why America Can’t Have It All

Stephen Wertheim

The Biden administration took office intending to inject strategic focus into U.S. foreign policy. The president and his team promised to end the United States’ forever wars and make the country’s international engagements serve the needs of a disaffected public. In its first year, the administration terminated the two-decade-old war in Afghanistan, pledged to “right-size” the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, and even pursued a “stable and predictable” relationship with Russia. By placing less emphasis on certain regions, the logic went, Washington could concentrate on what most affects U.S. interests: managing competition with China and tackling transnational threats such as climate change and pandemics.

Today that vision lies in tatters. The United States is now immersed in multiple wars in Europe and the Middle East, precisely where the administration sought to keep things quiet. Meanwhile, relations with China and Russia have deteriorated so strikingly as to raise the realistic prospect of the first major-power conflict since 1945.

One can hardly blame U.S. policymakers for the turmoil. It was Russian President Vladimir Putin who decided to invade Ukraine in 2022, and Hamas that chose to attack Israel in 2023. No one had a crystal ball to predict these shocking actions years in advance. Yet American officials bear responsibility for making a failed wager of their own. They hoped entire regions of the world would sit still because they preferred to turn their gaze elsewhere, even as the United States remained ensconced in those regions’ security arrangements. The Biden administration wanted to prioritize what in its view mattered most while declining to disentangle the United States from what mattered less.

This is a form of wishful thinking—perhaps as naive as invading countries to liberate them—and ought to be recognized as such. The Biden administration is not the first to indulge in it. The rationale for American global dominance after the Cold War, as articulated by the Pentagon in 1992, was that by maintaining military primacy in most world regions, the United States would suppress competition among other countries, dissuade challengers from emerging, and keep the peace at a reasonable cost to Americans. But the unipolar era is over. Going forward, the options are stark: the United States can selectively retrench and control costs and risks, or it can stick with global primacy and lurch from crisis to crisis.

Europe’s Cyber Resilience Act: Redefining open source

Mark Stone

Amid an increasingly complex threat landscape, we find ourselves at a crossroads where law, technology and community converge. As such, cyber resilience is more crucial than ever. At its heart, cyber resilience means maintaining a robust security posture despite adverse cyber events and being able to anticipate, withstand, recover from and adapt to such incidents.

While new data privacy and protection regulations like GDPR, HIPAA and CCPA are being introduced more frequently than ever, did you know that there is new legislation that specifically addresses cyber resilience?

The European Union’s recent amendment to the Cyber Resilience Act (CRA) has sent ripples through the tech world. The legislation was proposed in September 2022 and achieved political agreement with a controversial amendment in December 2023. The act aims to bolster cybersecurity across the EU but has taken an unexpected swerve by redefining the very essence of open-source software.

The amendment redefines open-source software, which could signal a potential paradigm shift in how open-source software is developed, shared and perceived in the European digital landscape.

The tech industry’s reaction has been an unholy recipe of cautious optimism mixed with apprehensive scrutiny, reflecting the diverse implications for open-source developers and the broader software ecosystem.

By exploring the layers of the CRA’s latest amendment, we can focus on its impact on the open-source community, the industry’s temperature check and the journey of open-source software through the legislative labyrinth of the CRA.

Russian nuclear anti-satellite weapons would require a firm US response, not hysteria

Clementine G. Starling and Mark J. Massa

The prospect of space combat is gripping Washington this week. The White House on Thursday confirmed that Russia is developing a “troubling” anti-satellite capability, following statements from leading members of Congress and ensuing reports that Russia is working on a nuclear-armed, on-orbit, anti-satellite weapon. The news has sparked concern about the imminence and degree of such a threat. If fielded, Russian nuclear-armed anti-satellite weapons, or ASATs, would directly challenge norms of responsible behavior in space and present a serious risk to all nations’ satellites. With or without such a system, nuclear and space threats from Russia call for a firm response by the United States and its allies and partners.

So what’s all the fuss about ASATs anyway?

Anti-satellite weapons have existed almost as long as satellites have. They are used to destroy or incapacitate satellites, either through physical destruction (crashing into a satellite with a missile or another satellite) or through non-kinetic attacks, such as by electromagnetic jamming, lasers, and cyberattacks.

Satellites orbiting in space are essential to everyday functions of life on Earth. Data that transits through satellites support the positioning, navigation, timing, and communications that modern society relies on—from financial transactions to Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation. Beyond these civilian uses, space systems support secure military and government communications, such as intelligence, command and control, missile warning, and more.

2024 Cyber War Gets Hot—It’s Time to Dynamically Respond


For years, cybersecurity experts have been saying that organizations’ cyber defenses must evolve as quickly as threat actors’ constantly changing tactics. Whether or not this advice has been heeded is specific to each organization and security professional. Most often it is not. Organizational IT is largely (and understandably) focused on the daily needs of the business. Across most industries, IT departments generally lack the operational bandwidth and the relevant data necessary to calibrate defenses against rapidly changing threats.

Organizations can no longer afford to continue eschewing this advice. In 2022 and 2023, security researchers witnessed an unparalleled “hockey stick” curve in the rate of threat evolution. A landscape once characterized by predictable threat evolution has given way to threat affiliate groups demonstrating the ability to compromise virtually any application and operating system, rapidly dismantle organizational systems using the company’s own tools within hours, retool their arsenals at an accelerated pace, and leverage expansive affiliate networks to disseminate new vulnerabilities almost immediately after discovery.

The idea that security tools, processes, and procedures can be set and then forgotten never worked, though it has been practiced routinely by overstretched IT teams. Today, this mindset leaves companies wide open to the white-hot hacker industry that is actively attacking and crippling U.S. and international organizations’ ability to operate. Worse, threat actor activity is expected to continue to escalate in the coming year. Companies that fail to continuously adjust their defenses against emergent tactics will see their security investment depreciate. Despite potentially having the right tools in place, their defenses become less secure daily in the absence of continuous evolution, re-calibration, and proper orchestration across people, process, policy, and product. Callibrating defenses to real-time tactics also enables organizations to focus both their investments and efforts to where they are needed most, becoming more efficient in the long run.

ChatGPT vs. Gemini: Which AI Chatbot Subscription Is Right for You?


THE PROBLEM WITH testing AI chatbot subscriptions like Google’s Gemini Advanced and OpenAI’s ChatGPT Plus is their generality. The same tool is used for disparate applications; the same software service that developers in San Francisco are using to build their latest app might also be used by parents in Kansas to plan a Paw Patrol birthday. Even though companies often tout esoteric benchmarks to prove their chatbot’s superiority, it can be hard to discern how a chatbot’s technical prowess translates into a better experience for you, the user.

Google is the latest company to offer one of its best AI chatbots as a subscription product. In early February, the company began offering access to Gemini Advanced for $20 a month. In doing so, Google was following the precedent set by OpenAI, which sells access to its GPT-4-powered chatbot for $20 a month. Additionally, Microsoft sells subscriptions to its top tool, Copilot Pro (which is also powered by ChatGPT-4), for the same price. But, do you really need to factor another pricey subscription into your budget? After hours of testing these subscription chatbots and prodding at their limitations, my two core takeaways remain the same in 2024 as they were last year when these services first arrived.

First, most people are fine with the free option. If you have a specialized need for the tool, like coding, or want to experiment with powerful AI models and features currently available, then Gemini Advanced or ChatGPT Plus might be worth $20 a month. For the average chatbot user, who may utilize AI to craft emails at work and Rick and Morty fan fiction at home, the basic versions of ChatGPT and Gemini are free, competent, and wildly more powerful than anything available in the recent past.

My second key takeaway? Don’t immediately trust the output. It’s been said a million times, and I’m here to say it again: Chatbots love to lie. For example, in previous tests ChatGPT’s image analysis feature confidently mislabeled my daily multivitamin as a prescription pill for erectile dysfunction, a potentially dangerous mix-up.

SpaceX Launched Military Satellites Designed to Track Hypersonic Missiles


Two prototype satellites for the Missile Defense Agency and four missile-tracking satellites for the US Space Force rode a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into orbit Wednesday from Florida's Space Coast.

These satellites are part of a new generation of spacecraft designed to track hypersonic missiles launched by China or Russia and perhaps emerging missile threats from Iran or North Korea, which are developing their own hypersonic weapons.

Hypersonic missiles are smaller and more maneuverable than conventional ballistic missiles, which the US military's legacy missile defense satellites can detect when they launch. Infrared sensors on the military's older-generation missile tracking satellites are tuned to pick out bright thermal signatures from missile exhaust.
The New Threat Paradigm

Hypersonic missiles represent a new challenge for the Space Force and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). For one thing, ballistic missiles follow a predictable parabolic trajectory that takes them into space. Hypersonic missiles are smaller and comparatively dim, and they spend more time flying in Earth's atmosphere. Their maneuverability makes them difficult to track.

A nearly five-year-old military organization called the Space Development Agency (SDA) has launched 27 prototype satellites over the last year to prove the Pentagon's concept for a constellation of hundreds of small, relatively low-cost spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. This new fleet of satellites, which the SDA calls the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, will eventually number hundreds of spacecraft to track missiles and relay data about their flight paths down to the ground. The tracking data will provide an early warning to those targeted by hypersonic missiles and help generate a firing solution for interceptors to shoot them down.

Google’s AI Boss Says Scale Only Gets You So Far


FOR MUCH OF last year, knocking OpenAI off its perch atop the tech industry looked all but impossible, as the company rode a riot of excitement and hype generated by a remarkable, garrulous, and occasionally unhinged program called ChatGPT.

Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis has recently at least given Sam Altman some healthy competition, leading the development and deployment of an AI model that appears both as capable and as innovative as the one that powers OpenAI’s barnstorming bot.

Ever since Alphabet forged DeepMind by merging two of its AI-focused divisions last April, Hassabis has been responsible for corralling its scientists and engineers in order to counter both OpenAI’s remarkable rise and its collaboration with Microsoft, seen as a potential threat to Alphabet’s cash-cow search business.

Google researchers came up with several of the ideas that went into building ChatGPT, yet the company chose not to commercialize them due to misgivings about how they might misbehave or be misused. In recent months, Hassabis has overseen a dramatic shift in pace of research and releases with the rapid development of Gemini, a ”multimodal” AI model that already powers Google’s answer to ChatGPT and a growing number of Google products. Last week, just two months after Gemini was revealed, the company announced a quick-fire upgrade to the free version of the model, Gemini Pro 1.5, that is more powerful for its size and can analyze vast amounts of text, video, and audio at a time.

A similar boost to Alphabet’s most capable model, Gemini Ultra, would help give OpenAI another shove as companies race to develop and deliver ever more powerful and useful AI systems.