Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Heather Zeiger

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Earth at night, view of city lights in United States from space. USA on world map on global satellite photo. US terrain on dark planet.

The Chinese Spy Balloon Saga, Part 2

China continues to deny that the balloon was used for spying on military bases

The U.S. has shot down four aerial objects this month, one of which was a Chinese surveillance balloon that had traversed the U.S. from Idaho to the Atlantic Ocean. Part 1 of Mind Matters Spy Balloon Saga provides an overview of the four aerial objects that were shot down. Since then, several media outlets found additional information on China’s global high-altitude balloon program, including that the balloon shot down in the Atlantic likely launched from Hainan Island and was intended to surveil U.S. Pacific military bases in Guam and Hawaii. The balloon inadvertently traversed into the continental U.S. Here is a rundown of what of several media outlets have reported: There are 2 known launch sites in China: Dorbod Banner Read More ›

spy balloon
Spy balloon. Weather balloon with solar panels. View from the ground. Aerostatic balloon. 3d rendering

The Chinese Spy Balloon Saga (Part 1)

China may be playing a psychological game with the United States

On February 4, the U.S. shot down a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon was first spotted on January 28 over the Aleutian Islands, and then traveled over Alaska, through Canada, and then into Idaho. Chinese spokespersons maintained that it was a meteorological research balloon that had veered off-course. However, recovery crews confirmed that the balloon platform was equipped with communication surveillance and interception tools. Since then, three other aerial objects, all flown within the vicinity of sensitive U.S. military sites, have been shot down. The other three are not confirmed to be of Chinese origin and have not been identified as surveillance balloons. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) Read More ›

Beijing Financial District
Beijing, China Financial District Cityscape

Life After Zero-Covid: Protesters Are Rounded Up

The way Beijing lifted its zero-Covid measures was just as unethical as the zero-Covid measures themselves

In response to widespread protests and a slumping economy, the Chinese Communist Party abruptly reversed its zero-Covid policies. Rather than taking responsibility for bad policy, however, Beijing instead left a scared and immunologically vulnerable populous to fend for itself in a country with an inadequate healthcare structure. Analysts have said that rather than using the lockdowns as an opportunity to fortify its healthcare system, which has been inadequate to serve China’s large population even before the coronavirus, Beijing doubled down on state and local surveillance. In the next couple of articles, we will look at the aftermath of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, a policy that General Secretary Xi Jinping has used to justify the superiority of China’s socialist system over “chaotic” Read More ›

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A sheet of white paper is held by a protester in China.

China: Protesters Evade Censors and Confront State Surveillance

Chinese citizens are known for their clever plays on words to evade social media censors.

The graffiti on the bathroom wall at the university said there would be a gathering in honor of the people who had died in an apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Bathrooms usually do not have surveillance cameras, so this announcement would probably go unnoticed by censors. It is better than risking punishment by posting on social media. In another city, Chinese citizens discretely shared information about the location of a vigil for the Urumqi victims on WeChat in the guise of dinner plans. A number of people died in the fire, whose toll was likely inflated because emergency vehicles were unable to access the building due to zero-Covid measures. Social media posts showed doors that were barred shut and barricades Read More ›

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Coronavirus Pandemic. A disinfector in a protective suit and mask sprays disinfectants in office. Protection agsinst COVID-19 disease. Prevention of spreding pneumonia virus with surfaces.

When the Chinese Had Had Enough, Their Government Had To Listen

Embarrassingly, Xi had already declared victory over the virus in 2020, touting authoritarian governments as better able to respond

“The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose.” (von Clausewitz, On War) Beijing’s zero-Covid policy was not sustainable. The highly publicized events in October and November in Urumqi, Xinjiang and at the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory served as the inciting events for what became a nationwide call for ending zero-Covid, giving people their freedoms — and there were even calls for Xi Jinping to step down. In the course of a week, Beijing went from touting zero-Covid to easing restrictions to censoring mentions of zero-Covid policy online. In November in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, several residents, including four children, died in an apartment fire Read More ›

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Man in gas mask is showing an Ok gesture by his hand close up on gray background.

China: Massive Protests at Cell Phone Plant Continue

One accusation against Apple is that it has consistently failed to live up to its responsibilities as a global leader at the top of the supply chain.

At the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou where thousands of employees walked out on October 29, protests broke out on November 23. They were led by new hires staying on a campus dormitory after they learned that they would have to work an additional two months at lower pay before they receive their promised bonuses for coming to Foxconn to cover for the October exodus. Additionally, workers complained of inadequate food and fear of Covid exposure. Workers were offered 25,000 yuan (US$3,500) for two months of work, a 50% increase on the posted maximum wage. When they learned of changes in their agreement, employees at the dorm responded by pulling down outdoor tents (for Covid testing) and destroying a surveillance camera. Read More ›

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Scared young girl in mask, coronavirus panic

China’s Foxconn Walkout: How Fear Messaging Can Backfire

Workers were caught in a conflict between unrealistic COVID Zero messaging from the government and seasonal performance demands from the employer

Around this time of year, the factories that produce Apple’s iPhones hire thousands of additional workers to meet the demand for the holiday season. While Apple is an American company and the electronics are designed in-house, the manufacturing is done overseas where labor costs are cheaper. One of the largest manufacturers for Apple’s iPhone products is Hon Hai Technology Group, better known as Foxconn, a Taiwan-based company with factories in several countries, including mainland China. One of its largest facilities is in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province — dubbed “iPhone City” by the locals. Thus the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory was slated to make 80% of the iPhone 14 models and 85% of the iPhone Pro models before the end Read More ›

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Coronavirus maps disease 2019 situation update worldwide coronavirus spread,World map Coronavirus or Covid-19 Close-up countries with Covid-19, Covid 19 map confirmed cases report worldwide globally.

Lab Leak Theory: A Biohazard Was First Noted in 2019

The dispatches indicate a “grave and complex situation” prompting an emergency visit from the director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

A US Senate interim report has recently concluded that that “the Covid-19 pandemic was, more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident.” The 35-page report, prepared by the minority oversight staff of the of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), used publicly available documentation to justify the findings. However, it did not include the 236-page report submitted by language expert Toy Reid, who analyzed Chinese Communist Party dispatches between scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and their supervisors in Beijing. Katherine Eban of Vanity Fair and Jeff Kao of ProPublica were given advanced access to the Senate researchers’ documents and spent months conducting their own investigation. They interviewed Reid, talked with members Read More ›

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Neural networks of the human brain. 3d illustration of abstract nerve centers. Electrical impulses in brain. Bright full color

Rats with Human Brains? The Real Story About Brain Organoids

Human brain organoids use adult stem cells from volunteer donors; they bypass the use of fetal tissue from abortions

In Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy (2013) , the characters in the first book navigate a dystopian near-future with few ethical boundaries. Chicken has been genetically modified to be nothing more than meat and a mouth. For entertainment, they watch either pornography or televised executions. One of the central characters, the scientist who made the genetically engineered humans, ends up unleashing a synthetic pathogen intended to rid the world of evil. The excesses are reminiscent of Earth as described in the Flood narrative in the Bible (“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” Genesis 6:11). As in the Biblical account, a “flood” occurs when the synthetic pathogen ends up killing most of humanity. The remaining Read More ›

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The zero covid text on china flag 3d rendering

China’s Covid Theater: It’s Not Really About the Disease

Not exactly. As the Twentieth National Congress looms, the Chinese Communist Party does not want any COVID in Beijing

The Chinese Communist Party’s zero-Covid policy, heralded by Xi Jinping, is killing China’s economy and sinking citizens’ morale. Zero-Covid is viewed as a litmus test for support for the Communist Party, and Xi Jinping in particular. The goal is not saving lives but ensuring that the virus does not spread to Beijing ahead of the twentieth National Congress on October 16. Some hope that restrictions will ease after the National Congress. Others are less optimistic. The CCP under Xi Jinping declared “war on the virus” two years ago but the casualties in the Party’s pathogenic war have been the Chinese people. In the lead-up to the Twentieth National Congress in which Xi Jinping will announce his third term as General Read More ›

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An advanced CPU printed with a flag of USA on a neon glowing electronic circuit board. Illustration of the concept of United States made high-end micro chips.

What Difference Has the CHIPS Act Made to the U.S. and Taiwan?

We need to first look at the broader picture of what the CHIPS Act is intended to do

In a previous article, I discussed the semiconductor industry and Taiwan’s supremacy in manufacturing microchips, the foundry portion of the semiconductor supply chain. Now let’s look at the U.S. perspective on the semiconductor industry and its relationship to Taiwan. In order to do that, we have to talk about the CHIPS+ Act Congress passed a bipartisan bill, the CHIPS and Science Act in July, after a year of negotiations in committee. President Biden signed the act into law on August 9 and the CHIPS Act Implementation Strategy was launched on September 6 through an executive order. CHIPS, or “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors,” is a $250B initiative that incentivizes businesses to bring semiconductor manufacturing, research and innovation back to Read More ›

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China Taiwan and USA flag print screen to microchip on electronic board for symbol of military conflict war and economic business partnership concept.

Taiwan Has Bet Its Uncertain Future on Advanced Microchips

An increasingly belligerent China has long claimed to own Taiwan, which manufactures 90% of the world’s *advanced* microchips

Taiwan is the world’s largest manufacturer of microchips*, and not just by a small margin. Taiwan manufactures 65% of the microchips used in everything from smartphones to missiles. This compares to the U.S. at 10% and China at 5%. South Korea and Japan produce the rest. More important, Taiwan manufactures 90% of the world’s advanced microchips. In other words, without Taiwan, the world’s supply of microchips would come to a standstill, something that has been keenly felt since 2021 when chip shortages affected the auto industry. So far, the world’s dependence on Taiwan’s chips has protected the self-governing island nation from a potential invasion or ruinous trade sanctions from China. Earlier, we looked at U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit Read More ›

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technician with wafer

Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Matters to China. And to Your Computer

China staged an impressive display of military firepower at U.S, lawmaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit Taiwan — prominent in the globally crucial semiconductor “chips” industry

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan at the beginning of August included a meeting with Mark Liu, head of the Taiwan Manufacturing Semiconductor Corporation (TMSC), which is the world’s largest producer of computer microchips — and makes most of the world’s advanced ones. Plans for Pelosi’s visit were first reported in Financial Times, after the trip was rescheduled due to COVID. China responded to the announcement with a global propaganda to present the visit as an act of defiance against the U.S. One China Policy. The U.S. One-China Policy recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China but it does not necessarily agree with the PRC on Taiwan being a part of China. Read More ›

Computer algorithm productivity efficiency, cyber security concepts

How China’s Pre-Crime Algorithms Work — and Their Fatal Flaw

The algorithms target, for example, those who complain about or draw attention to social injustices and abuses

In a previous article, we looked at the way George Orwell ’s dystopian 1984 is looking less and less like fiction as the Chinese Communist Party exploits the capabilities of AI and Big Data to surveil its entire population. But beyond surveilling citizens’ movements in real time, the CCP also hopes to predict crimes and protests before they happen. In a follow-up story in the New York Times, Paul Mozur, Muyi Xiao, and John Lui look at how the CCP is also bringing the dystopian world of Philip K. Dick ’s Minority Report (2002) to real life, with one difference: Rather than human “precogs” who can predict the future, the CCP relies on algorithms that can interrogate large swaths of Read More ›

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Hacking and malware concept

Largest Data Grab Ever Stole Shanghai’s Mass State Surveillance

The police, dutiful in monitoring everyone, flunked data security. Now it’s all for sale on the Dark Web

Beijing wants to create a centralized database with personal information on everyone living in China. To do that, the government saves massive amounts of data acquired through surveillance technologies such facial and voice recognition and cell phone monitoring. In a previous article, we saw that the Chinese government’s surveillance network is much more extensive than once thought. However, while the Chinese government has prioritized collecting massive amounts of data, it has not prioritized protecting it. Thus, a hacker has acquired police data files on 1 billion Chinese residents (approximately 23 terabytes of data) from the Shanghai National Police database. The files include name, national ID number, cell phone number, birthdate, birthplace, ethnicity, education level, marital status, and delivery records. They Read More ›

Tiananmen Square surveillance
Surveillance cameras at Tiananmen square in Beijing, China

China Is Quite Serious About Total Surveillance of Every Citizen

Local governments are buying enough surveillance equipment to constantly watch 1.6 billion people, documents show

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously… There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment… It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised. – George Orwell, 1984 The New York Times in partnership with ChinaFile has come out with a new report on the extent of China’s surveillance state. It is nothing short of an attempt to achieve total surveillance of its 1.4 billion people: Read More ›

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Chinese flags on barbed wire wall in Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China.

Digital Data Leaks Reveal Extent of Uyghur Oppression in China

Only in the last decade or so has true technological oppression of an entire people group was even possible. But at least it is a two-edged sword

Hawagul Tewekkul’s tear-filled eyes are the first thing you see at the BBC’s interactive article, “The Faces from China’s Uyghur Detention Camps.” Her photo is one of 5,000 photos of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities found in one of the largest data leaks on the Chinese Communist Party’s widespread oppression, internment, and cultural annihilation of the minorities living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. Hawagul Tewekkul was fifty years old in October 2017 when she was “detained for re-education.” Her offense was not stated. Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have been sent to prison, often on unreasonable charges, or t “vocational re-education centers” as a part of Xi Jinping’s anti-terrorism campaign. Sometimes the training centers have been converted to Read More ›

Beijing, CHN, Jan. 2022: Beijing 2022 flag waving in the wind wi

2022 Beijing Olympics: Politicizing the Olympic Games

One columnist wrote that unlike the 2008 games, the 2022 games “carries a distinct sense of foreboding.”

Despite admonitions to not “politicalize the games,” Beijing’s opening ceremonies for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games conveyed a political message to the world. Politics has always been part of the Olympic Games. The impetus behind the modern Olympic Games, as conceived by William Penny Brookes and Pierre baron de Coubertin, was to use sports for promoting peace among nations, an inherently political agenda. Decisions on whether dignitaries will attend or who lights the torch are intentional on the part of the visiting and hosting countries, particularly since the first televised Games in 1960. Therefore, when the Chinese Olympic Committee chose first-time Olympic athlete Dinigeer Yilamujiang, also spelled Dilnigar Ilhamjan,* a twenty-year-old cross-country skier of Uyghur heritage, the country was Read More ›

Bunch of old used outdated mobile phones and batteries. Recycling electronics

Surveillance and Silence at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Why are countries instructing their Olympic athletes to use burner phones?

In a previous article, I looked at the security issues with the MY2022 app, the official app for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, and the app that everyone who attends must download. The app has two key vulnerabilities that leave user data exposed when sending information over WiFi.* Aside from these vulnerabilities, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab found a list of censored keywords in the app’s code, as well as the capability to report someone who has sent politically contentious content over the messaging service. The keyword feature does not seem to be active, but as Jeffrey Knockel, author of the Citizen Lab report, told the New York Times, they could censor content with “the flip of a switch.” This is one Read More ›

Blurred. Live broadcast blogger or journalist using a mobile phone in the auditorium. Pink background. Vertical photo or video mode. Soft focus. Copy space.

2022 Winter Olympics: Security Vulnerabilities in the MY2022 App

All Olympics attendees are required to download the MY2022 app to track their health and other personal data, despite security concerns

This February should be a time of celebration in China. The opening ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is the day after the beginning of Lunar New Year. The Olympic Games commence two days later on February 4th. However, the Chinese government has put a damper on celebrations by continuing to pursue its “zero-Covid” strategy even though every other country has eased restrictions and begun transitioning from a “pandemic” to “endemic” mentality.  People in Beijing along with surrounding regions have become exasperated over the daily testing protocols and harsh measures that are in place to ensure the Chinese Communist Party can save face over its prior claims of having defeated the virus. Among many of the issues plaguing the Read More ›