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The Daily Brief: Spy Software ‘Pegasus’ Accused of Targeting World Leaders

Spy Software ‘Pegasus’ Accused of Targeting World Leaders

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Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Summary:

  • The Israel-based NSO Group responsible for developing Pegasus software has been accused of spying on journalists, activists, and even world leaders.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and three current prime ministers — Imran Khan of Pakistan, Mustafa Madbouly of Egypt, and Saad Eddine El Othmani of Morocco are all a part of the group of 15 world leaders said to be targeted by Pegasus.
  • None of the leaders are willing to provide their phones for forensic testing, however thirty-seven other phones have been identified to have signs of a breach.
  • Many attribute the ease of breaching privacy to the fact that all personal information is now easily accessible in one device, the phone.
  • The NSO Group completely denies allegations and states that all of their customers are carefully assessed to prevent the misuse of their service.
  • Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the NSO Group including Facebook who claims the firm hacked their branch application Whatsapp.
  • Sources:

https://www.euronews.com/next/2021/07/21/pegasus-spyware-scandal-emmanuel-macron-among-14-heads-of-states-identified-as-possible-ta

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57910355.amp

  • Tweets:

 

Other Headlines:

First Ever Hijabi Referee, Sara Gamal, Makes Olympic History

  • 32-year-old Sara Gamal will take the court in Tokyo as the first hijabi basketball referee in the Olympics.
  • Gamal’s breakthrough first happened in 2017 when she effectively ended the ban on Islamic headscarves in the International Basketball Federation as they changed their rules regarding headgear.
  • Gamal stated “In the past, many thought they would never be able to take charge of international games, and that they would only be restricted to local matches…But now I’m happy to have played a part in making the difference…Veiled referees now have every reason to believe that they can take their careers to the international level. Many have called me to say they were encouraged to follow suit.”

Tweets:

Permafrost Thawing in Russia Due to Extreme Heat

Permafrost in High Arctic 2
Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Extremely hot summer temperatures in the Russian Arctic are thawing permafrost, causing massive wildfires in northern Siberia and showing the dramatic effects of climate change.
  • The fires release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. In the last three years, the fires have accelerated, creating uncertainty for the villagers’ livelihood.
  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is having structural problems due to permafrost melting, which causes a change in the slope and bends several of the braces. It is one of the world’s largest pipelines, and an oil spill would be nearly impossible to clean up.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the thawing of permafrost could lead to “very serious social and economic consequences.” Russia recently passed a law requiring businesses to report greenhouse gas emissions.

Tweets

Lebanon Close to Trying Political Figures for Beirut Explosion

Mehr News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Judge Tarek Bitar sought to lift the immunity of political figures in order to investigate and try them for the Beirut blast earlier this month. His initiative is reported to be supported by dozens of MPs.
  • Parliament may transfer the case to the Supreme Council, which deals with matters of impeachment. Currently the case is under a special judicial body, which many people are critical of because it shields the officials from prosecution.
  • The list of those being tried is as follows: caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Public Works Ministers Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Finianos, and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.
  • The explosion in Beirut in August 2020 killed more than 200 people and injured more than 5,000 people. The explosion was caused by hundreds of tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate that was unsafely stored, allegedly with the officials’ permission.

Tweets

Women Soccer Players Kneel at Day One of Tokyo Olympics

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Dick Thomas Johnson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • The Tokyo Olympics kicked off day one with Britain’s women soccer players taking a knee in their match against Chile. In similar fashion, the US and Swedish women soccer players did the same in their match,
  • The players took a knee against discrimination and racism in the midst of recent relaxed rules allowing players to express their opinions in a non disruptive manner.
  • The rise of Covid-19 cases in Japan raised concerns about the hosting of more than 11,000 athletes and staff. Some athletes and attendees of the Olympic games have contracted Covid, leading senior officials to discuss the cancellation of the games if infections increase.

Tweets

Tesla Will Most Likely Restart Acceptance of Bitcoin Payments 

  •  Tesla will restart the acceptance of bitcoin payments for vehicle purchases, according to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
  • Musk had stated the decision to suspend bitcoin use in May on Twitter, citing the concern of “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”
  • Since Tesla’s suspension of bitcoin, Beijing expelled crypto miners – many of whom travelled to North America for mining.
  • The United States is home to some of the cheapest sources of power, which are more often renewable sources of energy – it is estimated that bitcoin mining in the U.S. is more than 50% powered by renewables, a reason Musk cited for continuing bitcoin use.

Tweets:

Tunisia President Announces Army Takeover to Handle COVID Crisis

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Brahim Guedich, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied has announced Wednesday that the military health department will take over management of the COVID-19 health crisis, as the nation grapples with a resurgence with overwhelmed hospitals and limited supplies.
  • Tensions between Mr. Saied and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi have led to the announcement with Mr. Mechichi accusing the Health Minister of making “criminal” decisions that led to overcrowding and slow vaccinations.
  • Tunisia has received aid from Europe and Arab countries, including three million vaccine doses and field hospitals – the nation is suffering its worst financial crisis and on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • Out of 11.6 million residents, only 940,000 residents have been vaccinated – the death toll from COVID-19 infections has reached 18,000.

Tweets:

Death Toll in South Africa Riots Rises to 276

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Hilton1949, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
  • The death roll from riots in South Africa has risen to 276 as the nation witnessed a week of violence, protest, and criminal activity.
  • Police are investigating 168 cases of murder as poverty and inequality fueled the ongoing unrest – South African society continues to grapply with inequities nearly three decades after the apartheid in 1994.
  • While authorities have curtailed the violence, the economic cost is estimated at 20 billion rand equivalent to 1.37 billion U.S. dollars.
  • While noxious smoke, looting, and vandalism of homes and businesses became rampant during the riots, several volunteers came forward to help clean remaining debris off the streets and other areas heavily damaged by the violence.

Tweets

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Daily Brief

Salman Rushdie Severely Stabbed due to his Publication of the Book “The Satanic Verses”

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Salman Rushdie 2014
  • Salman Rushdie, an author, was severely stabbed in his neck and abdomen on stage by a suspect named Hadi Matar, causing him to be on a ventilator and potentially losing an eye.
  • An Iranian leader back in the 20th century wanted Rushdie killed because of his novel, Satanic Verses, that many Muslims found disrespectful. This led Salman to go into hiding for almost a decade.
  • Translators from different countries reading this book were harshly stabbed to death when the book came out and Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini called for Salman’s execution for three million dollars.
  • The Iranian government has not yet responded to this issue, but many Iranians in the media claim him to be an apostate who later became an atheist.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

China Threatens Consequences if Pelosi Visits Taiwan

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  • US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed inTaiwan. Prior to the visit, China’s Foreign Ministry has voiced their disapproval, stating that “China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized in response  that “The speaker will make her own decisions about whether or not to visit Taiwan,” and that the US is looking to Beijing to “act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward.”
  • The US has made it clear that members of Congress routinely visit Taiwan and that this trip is non-threatening and has precedent. Even so, some officials have expressed concern that China may invade Taiwan’s air defense zone or send missiles near Taiwan in retaliation.
  • Pelosi has criticized China’s leadership and vocalized support for Taiwan in the past. She is currently on her tour of Asia, with scheduled visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

First Grain Ship Departs Ukraine After Six Months of Russian Blockade

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Odesa pristav
  • The first shipment of grain departed the port of Odesa on Monday after Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports for the last six months trapped around 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn.
  • Russia recently made a deal with Ukraine, brokered by the UN and Turkey, allowing grain exports to resume, appeasing fears of a global food supply crisis and rising prices.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba celebrated the shipment, calling it a “day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.”
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was more hesitant to celebrate the shipment, stating “it is too early to draw any conclusions and make any forecasts” and he wants to “see how the agreement works and whether security will be really guaranteed.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Concerns Rise As US Teeters on the Brink of Recession

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US Stock Market Investing in the United States
  • The US economy declines for the second quarter in a row, causing, what other countries would consider, an economic recession. 
  • The prices for groceries, gas, and other basics are rising at the fastest pace since 1981. The US Central Bank is quickly trying to raise borrowing costs in order to cool the economy and ease the prices on goods, but with the contraction, at the annual rate of 0.9% in the 3 months to July, many are still getting concerned. 
  • President Biden struggles to convince the public that the economy is sound, with the unemployment rate at a low 3.6%. But with inflation in the US hitting 9.1% in June, the fastest price appreciation in 4 months, consumer spending has slowed at an annual rate of 1%. 
  • Many other countries, such as China and the UK, have been hit harder by the surge in energy prices and the War in Ukraine, causing risks from abroad. Other countries are facing much more serious problems and once they’re hit, their problems can spill over and affect the US. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

North Korea Could Possibly Be Preparing another Nuclear Test

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  • North Korea could be preparing a seventh nuclear test, especially after Mr. Kim announced that the country is fully ready for any military confrontation with the US at a Korean War Anniversary event. 
  • A US special representative in North Korea states that Jong-Un has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year—31 to 25. Jong-Un also stated that threats from the US required North Korea to achieve the urgent historical task of strengthening its self-defense. 
  • Jong-un also stated that South Korea is reviving a plan to counter North Korea’s threat by mounting precautionary strikes; in June alone, South Korea launched 8 missiles of its own.
  • The North Korean regime is especially angry with South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk-yeol and his so-called Kill Chain strategy. This strategy allows South Korea to launch ballistic missiles and air strikes on North Korean targets if it ever feels threatened. 
  • North Korea has also not been getting as much engagement with Washington ever since Biden replaced Trump, and could be hinting at some sort of deliberate escalation by the North, and preparations have been underway at the Punggye Ri test site since March.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Russia Limits Gas Supply to Germany

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Black Sea port of Theodosiya panoramio
  • Gazprom, a major Russian energy provider, has stated it will reduce the supply of gas to Germany by half via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline due to repair work. 
  • Germany has said that they see no technical reason for the decrease in gas supply. The European Union continues to accuse Russia of weaponizing energy, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stating, “This is an open gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe.”
  • Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to allow the export of grain via the Black Sea after Russia continued to block millions of tonnes from being exported. The next day, Russia struck missiles at the port, some of which hit the infrastructure of the port.
  • The US and Ukraine are optimistic that the agreement will still be implemented, with the US State Department stating, “Despite these attacks, we do understand that the parties are continuing preparations to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for food and fertilizer exports…we also continue to expect that the Black Sea agreement will be implemented.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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