Musk’s SpaceX is building spy satellite network for U.S. intelligence agency, sources say

SpaceX is building a network of hundreds of spy satellites under a classified contract with a U.S. intelligence agency, five sources familiar with the program said, demonstrating deepening ties between billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company and national security agencies.

The network is being built by SpaceX’s Starshield business unit under a $1.8 billion contract signed in 2021 with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence agency that manages spy satellites, the sources said.

The plans show the extent of SpaceX’s involvement in U.S. intelligence and military projects and illustrate a deeper Pentagon investment into vast, low-Earth orbiting satellite systems aimed at supporting ground forces.

Also Read |Starlink: Why the new sovereign of low-earth orbit is bad news

If successful, the sources said the program would significantly advance the ability of the U.S. government and military to quickly spot potential targets almost anywhere on the globe.

The contract signals growing trust by the intelligence establishment of a company whose owner has clashed with the Biden administration and sparked controversy over the use of Starlink satellite connectivity in the Ukraine war, the sources said.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February the existence of a $1.8 billion classified Starshield contract with an unknown intelligence agency without detailing the purposes of the program.

Reuters reporting discloses for the first time that the SpaceX contract is for a powerful new spy system with hundreds of satellites bearing Earth-imaging capabilities that can operate as a swarm in low orbits, and that the spy agency that Mr. Musk’s company is working with is the NRO.

Reuters was unable to determine when the new network of satellites would come online and could not establish what other companies are part of the program with their contracts.

SpaceX, the world’s largest satellite operator, did not respond to several requests for comment about the contract, its role in it and details on satellite launches. The Pentagon referred a request for comment to the NRO and SpaceX.

In a statement the NRO acknowledged its mission to develop a sophisticated satellite system and its partnerships with other government agencies, companies, research institutions and nations, but declined to comment on Reuters’ findings about the extent of SpaceX’s involvement in the effort.

“The National Reconnaissance Office is developing the most capable, diverse, and resilient space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance system the world has ever seen,” a spokesperson said.

The satellites can track targets on the ground and share that data with U.S. intelligence and military officials, the sources said. In principle, that would enable the U.S. government to quickly capture continuous imagery of activities on the ground nearly anywhere on the globe, aiding intelligence and military operations, they added.

Roughly a dozen prototypes have been launched since 2020, among other satellites on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, three of the sources said.

A U.S. government database of objects in orbit shows several SpaceX missions having deployed satellites that neither the company nor the government have ever acknowledged. Two sources confirmed those to be prototypes for the Starshield network.

All the sources asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. government program.

The Pentagon is already a big SpaceX customer, using its Falcon 9 rockets to launch military payloads into space. Starshield’s first prototype satellite, launched in 2020, was part of a separate, roughly $200 million contract that helped position SpaceX for the subsequent $1.8 billion award, one of the sources said.

The planned Starshield network is separate from Starlink, SpaceX’s growing commercial broadband constellation that has about 5,500 satellites in space to provide near-global internet to consumers, companies and government agencies.

The classified constellation of spy satellites represents one of the U.S. government’s most sought-after capabilities in space because it is designed to offer the most persistent, pervasive and rapid coverage of activities on Earth.

“No one can hide,” one of the sources said of the system’s potential capability, when describing the network’s reach.

Mr. Musk, also the founder and CEO of Tesla and owner of social media company X, has driven innovation in space but has caused frustration among some officials in the Biden administration because of his past control of Starlink in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s military uses it for secure communications in the conflict with Russia. That authority over Starlink in a war zone by Mr. Musk, and not the U.S. military, created tension between him and the U.S. government.

A series of Reuters’ stories has detailed how Mr. Musk’s manufacturing operations, including at SpaceX, have harmed consumers and workers.

The Starshield network is part of intensifying competition between the U.S. and its rivals to become the dominant military power in space, in part by expanding spy satellite systems away from bulky, expensive spacecraft at higher orbits. Instead a vast, low-orbiting network can provide quicker and near-constant imaging of the Earth.

China also plans to start building its own satellite constellations, and the Pentagon has warned of space weapon threats from Russia, which could be capable of disabling entire satellite networks.

Starshield aims to be more resilient to attacks from sophisticated space powers.

The network is also intended to greatly expand the U.S. government’s remote-sensing capabilities and will consist of large satellites with imaging sensors, as well as a greater number of relay satellites that pass the imaging data and other communications across the network using inter-satellite lasers, two of the sources said.

The NRO includes personnel from the U.S. Space Force and CIA and provides classified satellite imagery for the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies.

The spy satellites will house sensors provided by another company, three of the sources said.

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The Hindu Morning Digest, March 05, 2024

Prime Minister Modi gesturing to the crowd during a public meeting at Nandanam in Chennai on March 4.
| Photo Credit: S.R. Raghunathan

Central government employees protest delays in promotion, threaten non-cooperation if demands not met

Central government employees have threatened a “non-cooperation movement” if an expedited decision is not taken regarding their promotions and the “government does not wake up from its deep slumber.” The officials said that many employees suffer stagnation in their careers and financial losses in pension as they retire without getting promoted.

Allow MPs, MLAs to speak in House without fear of harassment, says Supreme Court

A Constitution Bench on March 4 said the Parliament and State legislatures would lose their representative character in a democratic polity if MPs and MLAs are not able to attend the House and speak their minds in the exercise of their duties as members without fear of being harassed by the executive or any agencies.

Rajya Sabha polls should be free and fearless, to be given ‘utmost protection’, says SC

The Supreme Court on March 4 said the elections to the Rajya Sabha and Council of States required “utmost protection” and the right to vote should be carried out freely without fear or persecution.

No positive outcome in meeting with Amit Shah, say Ladakh bodies

Civil society leaders in Ladakh, who are protesting to demand Constitutional safeguards for the region, met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday but the “meeting did not result in any positive outcome”.

ED accuses Salman Khurshid’s wife Louise Khurshid and two others of money laundering

The Enforcement Directorate on March 4 alleged that the then Dr. Zakir Husain Memorial Trust’s project director, Louise Khurshid, the wife of senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, and two others allegedly laundered ₹71.50 lakh.

ADR says it will oppose SBI plea on electoral bonds

As the State Bank of India moved the Supreme Court seeking time till June 30 to comply with a direction to make public details of electoral bonds purchased since April 2019, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), chief petitioner in the electoral bonds case, said it was considering all legal options, including opposing the SBI plea in court.

Uttarakhand Cabinet nod for law to recover cost of damage to public property from rioters

Uttarakhand Cabinet on March 4 gave nod to the ordinance which aims to recover the damage of the public property done during riots and protests from the rioters and those involved in the act. The government has also formed a tribunal which will assess the loss for the recovery. The rioters will also have to pay a fine upto ₹8 lakhs apart from the recovery amount which will be used to pay for the expenses incurred on government staff and other work in riot control.

2024 General Election: Congress gets battle ready as manifesto committee discusses poll promises

The Congress held a series of important meetings on Monday as the party gears for the Lok Sabha elections. The Manifesto Committee, headed by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, discussed the draft manifesto and separately, meetings of screening committees were held to shortlist candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.

DoT launches services to report, monitor spam and fraud calls

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on March 4 launched Chakshu, a platform for telecom users to report fraud or spam callers. The facility, available at sancharsaathi.gov.in/sfc, aims to allow citizens to “proactively report suspected fraud communication,” the DoT said in its announcement. 

Swedish SAAB begins work on new Carl-Gustaf manufacturing facility in India

Swedish defence major Saab on Monday started construction on its new manufacturing facility in India for its iconic Carl-Gustaf M4 weapons with a formal groundbreaking ceremony. The facility is being built in the State of Haryana at MET City at Jhajjar in Haryana. The State has a strong industrial base of good potential partners and skilled employees, the company said.

‘My country is my family’, dynasts incapable of thinking beyond own families, says Modi

Hitting out at the Opposition alliance after Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad mocked him as a person who did not have a family, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 4 said the country’s “140 crore people” were his family and he was working day and night for their development.

AUKUS will ensure safety, security, and peace in the Indo-Pacific: U.S. official

The AUKUS trilateral cooperation between Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom will ensure safety, security and peace in the Indo-Pacific, said Bonnie Denise Jenkins, U.S. Undersecretary for arms control and international security. Ms. Jenkins stressed that AUKUS does not violate the non-proliferation treaty and that Australia will remain a non-nuclear state that does not acquire nuclear weapons.

NBBL asked to start interoperable system for net banking in 2024

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), for quicker settlement of funds for merchants, has asked NPCI Bharat BillPay Ltd. (NBBL) to implement an interoperable system for Internet Banking which should be introduced during the current calendar year.

Trump wins Colorado ballot disqualification case at US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Donald Trump a major victory on March 4 as he campaigns to regain the presidency, overturning a judicial decision that had excluded him from Colorado’s ballot under a constitutional provision involving insurrection for inciting and supporting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

UN envoy says ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe Hamas committed sexual violence on Oct. 7

The U.N. envoy focusing on sexual violence in conflict said in a new report Monday that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape, “sexualized torture,” and other cruel treatment of women during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Joe Biden, Donald Trump set to win primary races on Super Tuesday; Biden faces dissatisfied Democratic voters

Presidential candidates crisscrossed the country in the run-up to Super Tuesday (March 5) this year, when 17 U.S. States and territories hold their primaries and caucuses to pick their contenders for November’s general election. The support of more than a third of each party’s delegates (i.e., representatives who vote in the parties’ conventions to select the candidate) is up for grabs on Tuesday.

France becomes the only country to explicitly guarantee abortion as a constitutional right

French lawmakers on March 4 overwhelmingly approved a bill to enshrine abortion rights in France’s constitution, making it the only country to explicitly guarantee a woman’s right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy.

Former Twitter execs including ex-CEO Agarwal sue Musk for over $128 m in severance

Four former top Twitter executives, including former CEO Parag Agarwal, have sued Elon Musk for over $128 million in severance, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 4.

Ranji Trophy semifinal | Mumbai thrashes Tamil Nadu by an innings and 70 runs

The writing was on the wall after Mumbai’s lower-order onslaught on day two. It turned out to be a manic Monday for Tamil Nadu as the hosts completed a thumping innings and 70-run win against their familiar foe to book a berth in the Ranji Trophy final for the 48th time.

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Elon Musk: Diversity-based hiring is antisemitic

KRAKÓW, Poland — Elon Musk has upped his war on woke by saying that diverse hiring policies are “fundamentally antisemitic” and discriminatory, shortly after a private visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp.

The controversial tech billionaire was speaking at a European Jewish Association (EJA) conference in the Polish city of Kraków, amid rising criticism that his social media platform — X, formerly Twitter — has allowed rampant hate speech to spread. Musk himself sparked outrage in November when he publicly agreed with an antisemitic tweet claiming that Jewish communities have been “pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”

While his trip to Poland allowed him to push back at the charges of antisemitism, he also seized the opportunity to turn his fire against one of his favorite bugbears: “Diversity, equity and inclusion” policies.

“Always be wary of any name that sounds like it could come out of a George Orwell book. That’s never a good sign,” Musk told American right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro, who joined him onstage. “Sure, diversity, equity and inclusion all sound like nice words, but what it really means is discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation and it’s against merit and thus I think it’s fundamentally antisemitic.”

Musk, who confirmed that he does indeed write all of his own posts on X, has been vocal about his feelings toward diversity, equity and inclusion, including by claiming, without evidence, that diverse hiring initiatives at Boeing and United Airlines have made air travel less safe.

His comments feed into a broader debate on inclusive hiring policies, most especially on U.S. college campuses. The resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay over a plagiarism scandal was seized upon by Republicans, who claim top schools are examples of American institutions in the throes of a leftist political transformation. Critics argue this radical leftist culture on campuses is stoking antisemitism, and top university leaders hit heavy flak last month for their poor handling of a congressional hearing on the bullying of Jews.

On Monday, Shapiro went easy on Musk, steering the conversation towards meritocracy rather than Musk’s increasingly controversial social media outbursts and allowing the Tesla boss to continue his attacks on a subject he has made a great deal of mileage out of.

“I think we need return to … a focus on merit and it doesn’t matter whether you’re man, woman, what race you are, what beliefs you have, what matters is how good you are at your job or what are your skills,” Musk said.

In defense of X

At the EJA conference — a daylong summit on the rise of antisemitism in the aftermath of the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas — Musk also defended X against accusations of antisemitism and hate speech, saying freedom of speech must be protected even when controversial. According to the billionaire, who cited audits without offering further details, X has “the least amount of antisemitism” among all social media platforms, adding that TikTok has “five times the amount of antisemitism” that X has.

“Relentless pursuit of the truth is the goal with X,” Musk said. “And allowing people to say what they want to say even if it’s controversial, provided it does not break the law, is the right thing to do.”

Musk has faced widespread criticism over the rise of disinformation and hate content since he bought the social media platform for $44 billion in 2022, criticism that intensified in the weeks following the escalation of the Israel-Hamas war last October.

The reported spread of fake and misleading content on the conflict led the EU to launch an investigation into X. And things got worse for Musk after progressive watchdog group Media Matters published a report alleging that X had run ads for major companies next to neo-Nazi posts.

The Media Matters report and Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic post sparked a backlash from several public figures and culminated in an advertiser exodus, as multiple companies pulled their ads from the site, including giants such as Apple, IBM, Disney and Coca-Cola. According to a New York Times report, this could result in a loss of up to $75 million for X.

Musk has since apologized for the antisemitic post — admitting he should not have replied to it — and then traveled to Israel to meet with President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in what could be seen as an apology tour.

Speaking about his visit to Israel, Musk said indoctrinated Hamas fighters have to be “killed or imprisoned” to prevent them from killing more Israelis. And the next step is fighting further indoctrination in Gaza, he added.

“The indoctrination of hate into kids in Gaza has to stop,” Musk said. “I understand the need to invade Gaza, and unfortunately some innocent people will die, there’s no way around it, but the most important thing to ensure is that afterwards the indoctrination … stops.”

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks have killed over 25,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 60,000 since the attack by Hamas on October 7, in which Israeli officials say the militant group killed over 1,200 nationals and foreigners and took 240 hostages.

Musk said the West has shifted to a mentality that equates smaller, weaker groups with goodness.

“We need to stop the principle that the normally weaker party is always right, this is simply not true,” Musk said. “If you are oppressed or the weaker party it doesn’t mean you’re right.”

Musk — who joked multiple times that he considers himself “Jew by aspiration” and “by association” — was supposed to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp on Tuesday alongside other speakers and political leaders from the EJA conference, but he instead took a private tour of the site with his young son.

The Auschwitz Museum itself was among one of the entities that had called out Musk for failing to contain antisemitic content.



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From Musk and Tusk to Swift: Figures who defined 2023

From Iran to Hollywood, in the domains of space travel, football and tech, 2023 was a year shaped by strong personalities. Some inspired us, most made us reflect, and others occasionally annoyed us. As the year comes to an end, FRANCE 24 has selected some of the personalities leaving a mark on 2023.

  • Narges Mohammadi, fighting for human rights in Iran

Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”. 

The journalist plays a key role in Iran’s “Women, Life, Freedom” movement garnering global attention since the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of Iran’s police in September 2022. The movement advocates for the abolition of mandatory hijab laws and the elimination of various forms of discrimination against women in Iran.

Arrested for the first time 22 years ago, Mohammadi has been held in Evin Prison, known for its mistreatment of detainees, since 2021.

From behind bars, where she has spent much of the last two decades on charges like “propaganda”, “rebellion”, and “endangering national security”, she continues her fight against what she terms a “tyrannical and misogynistic religious regime”.

At the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo, her 17-year-old twins living in exile in France since 2015 delivered her speech.

Read moreNarges Mohammadi: Iran’s defiant voice, even behind bars

  • Donald Tusk, bringing Poland back into the fold

After eight years of nationalist rule by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), Poland’s Donald Tusk is back in his country’s top job.

Already having served as prime minister from 2007 to 2014, the committed europhile and former president of the European Council (2014 – 2019) promises to put his country solidly back on democratic rails.

His priorities are clear: to restore the rule of law and rebuild Poland’s credibility within the EU. His coalition also advocates abortion in a country where the practice is only permitted in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life or health of the mother.

However, Tusk will have to contend with Poland’s far right, which still retains meaningful political power despite losing the premiership. 

  • Taylor Swift, shining so brightly

In a world where celebrity can be fleeting, Taylor Swift has never been far from the limelight. From Nashville to New York, the 34-year-old American singer has built a romantic-pop musical empire that has captivated millions of fans, known as “Swifties”, worldwide.

Named the Person of the Year 2023 by Time magazine on December 6, Swift, who started her career more than 15 years ago, boasts a long list of world records. Her albums frequently top the charts in the United States – since she debuted in 2006, 13 of her 14 albums have reached number one in US sales.

In October, Swift released concert film, “The Eras Tour”, which went on to become the highest-grossing concert film of all time, earning $249.9 million worldwide. 

In September, the singer demonstrated her cultural force. After a short message on Instagram encouraging her 272 million followers to register to vote, the website she directed them to – the nonprofit Vote.org – recorded more than 35,000 registrations in just one day.

Committed to maintaining musical independence, the feminist icon re-recorded the tracks from her first six albums in 2019 to regain control of the rights after her former record label was acquired by music industry magnate Scooter Braun. 

  • Hollywood’s striking writers and actors, fighting and winning

In May 2023, Hollywood ignited. The industry’s writers, followed by actors in July, went on strike. The stakes in the negotiations included both base and residual pay – which actors say has been undercut by inflation and the business model of streaming – and the threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence (AI) by studios.

The strike – the most significant since 1960 – paralysed film and series production for several months, costing the US economy at least $6 billion.

At the heart of the protest were fears that studios would use AI to generate scripts or clone the voices and images of actors without compensation. The strikers, supported by the public, refused to back down.

They chanted “When we fight, we win”, a slogan that has become the rallying cry for workers across the United States, from the automotive industry to hospitality. Prominent names in cinema join the picket lines, including actress and producer Jessica Chastain and “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston.

In September, the writers reached a salary agreement with the studios which included protections relating to the use of AI. Actors finally returned to sets in November after 118 days off the job.

  • Elon Musk, genius or man-child?

Elon Musk will leave 2023 an even more divisive figure than when he entered it. With a fortune of $250 billion, Musk has grand ambitions to conquer space, roads, and social networks.

Twitter, renamed X in late July after Musk bought the company in October 2022, has had a chaotic year: mass layoffs, a showdown with the EU over misinformation, controversy over certified accounts, and plummeting advertising revenues. Its survival is now an open question after Musk told advertisers who suspended their advertising over his repost of a tweet widely deemed anti-Semitic to “Go f—k yourself”.

Beyond X, Musk’s company SpaceX has been instrumental in the war in Ukraine with its satellite internet product Starlink. It has also made progress on the Starship Rocket, which could revolutionise space transportation. However, the two launches this year didn’t go as planned, raising concerns about the project’s feasibility.

In the workshops of Tesla, his electric car company, an international strike movement that is still gaining momentum has already tarnished his image. 

Finally, his Neuralink project, which aims to develop brain implants to assist paralysed individuals or those with neurological diseases, has also faced criticism. Some experts believe the risks this project poses to are too high.

Whether you love him or hate him, it seems Musk can’t stay out of the headlines. 

  • Jennifer Hermoso, the face of change for Spanish football

Until this summer, Jennifer Hermoso was only known by football enthusiasts. But the wave of support she received after the Women’s World Cup has made her a symbol.

As the Spanish player was being crowned world champion in Sydney, she was unexpectedly kissed on the mouth by Luis Rubiales, then president of the Spanish Football Federation. The image, broadcast live on television, circled the globe and sparked outrage.

A few days later, Hermoso broke her silence and denounced an “impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act”. She filed a complaint against Rubiales, who claimed it was just a consensual “little kiss”.


<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Official Announcement. August 25th,2023. <a href=”https://t.co/lQb18IGsk2″>pic.twitter.com/lQb18IGsk2</a></p>&mdash; Jenn1 Hermos0 (@Jennihermoso) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Jennihermoso/status/1695155154067087413?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>August 25, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Ultimately forced to resign, Rubiales was charged with sexual assault by the courts and suspended for three years from any football-related activity by FIFA. The scandal led to a boycott by Spanish players of the national team for several days until the federation promised “immediate and profound changes”.

  • Mortaza Behboudi, Afghan journalist fighting for press freedom

Most of 2023 unfolded behind bars for Franco-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi. His crime? Simply doing his job. 

It all started on January 7 when he was arrested on charges of espionage in Kabul by the Taliban. During his 9 months in prison, he was regularly tortured and threatened with death.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its support committee, created by his wife Aleksandra Mostovaja, moved heaven and earth to secure his release. Their determination eventually paid off, and he was released on October 18.

Working for French news outlets including France Télévisions, TV5Monde, Libération, and Mediapart, he already wants to return to Afghanistan. “My fight is to give a voice to those who don’t have it,” he told FRANCE 24.

According to the annual round-up compiled by RSF, 45 journalists were killed worldwide in connection with their work (as of 1 December 2023). 

  • Rayyanah Barnawi, first Saudi woman in space

On May 21, Rayyanah Barnawi became the first Saudi woman to travel to the International Space Station. A biomedical science graduate, she dedicated her ten-day mission to the field of cancer stem cell research.

Her journey is an important symbol for Saudi Arabia, where women face restrictions. Barnawi is emblematic of a new generation of highly educated and ambitious Saudi women ready to take on important roles in the historically conservative society.

The journey is also part of the Saudi monarchy’s strategy to renew its international image.

  • Sam Altman, the father of ChatGPT

At 38, Sam Altman is one of the most prominent names in the tech world. He is the CEO of OpenAI, the San Francisco-based AI lab that created ChatGPT – a chatbot with 100 million weekly users now disrupting the technology ecosystem.

On top of being a prolific entrepreneur, Altman officially launched Worldcoin, a new cryptocurrency with an identity verification system using the human iris. Like Elon Musk, with whom he co-founded OpenAI in 2015, his grand ambition and sometimes controversial methods have earned him criticism. Some accuse him of prioritising security over innovation.

In November 2023, he was dismissed by the board of directors of OpenAI, only to be reinstated in his position after most of the company’s employees threatened to leave the group.

Watch moreSam Altman to return as OpenAI CEO after his tumultuous ouster

His activity is not restricted to entrepreneurship. In May, Altman invested $375 million in Helion, a nuclear fusion startup.

  • Barbie, a triumphant return

For better or worse, Barbie has been a icon since she first hit store shelves in 1959. The 29-centimetre doll has had an impact on generations of girls and women: long reviled by feminists, she had an image makeover in 2023.

This summer, Barbie experienced a triumphant return thanks to a film directed by Greta Gerwig starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Released in July, the film is a critical and commercial success praised for its intelligent script, impeccable performances, and feminist message.

Gerwig created a world where Barbie is a rebellious icon fighting against gender stereotypes, surrounded by strong and independent female characters.

In the process, Gerwig became the first woman to direct a film grossing more than a billion dollars at the box office. The 40-year-old capped off her stellar year by being named jury president at Cannes 2024. 

This article is translated from the original in French. 

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Musk’s woes deepen as Tesla strike spreads across Scandinavia


Sweden v. Musk

The labour dispute between Tesla and its repair workshop mechanics that originated in Sweden on October 27 has escalated to include Denmark, Finland and Norway. As the stakes rise, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle manufacturer continues to resist signing a collective agreement with its Swedish employees.

Tesla majority-shareholder and CEO Elon Musk faces growing resistance in Scandinavia’s social democracies after refusing to sign a collective agreement determining the minimum wage of his employees.

The dispute, which initially involved only 130 mechanics at ten Tesla repair workshops across seven Swedish cities, has ballooned into an international strike movement.

“The mistake [American multinational] Tesla made was challenging the collective agreements that set sector-specific minimum wages in Sweden, a country where 70% of the population is unionised, compared with only 8% of private sector workers in France,” says Yohann Aucante, a political scientist and Scandinavia specialist at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris.

Concerned about safeguarding collective agreements, which cover nearly 90% of all employees in Sweden, 15 Swedish unions have joined the strike at the request of the powerful IF Metall union since it kicked off on October 27.

Transporters are refusing to deliver vehicles while electricians are declining to repair charging stations. Cleaning staff have stopped cleaning showrooms, garbage is piling up outside Tesla centres as refuse collectors refuse to pick it up, and the Swedish postal service has stopped delivering license plates essential for registering new Teslas.

On the retail end of the supply chain, car dealerships have stopped offering Teslas and Stockholm taxis have suspended their Tesla purchases.

Neighbours join fight

Far from stopping in Sweden, the “sympathy strike” has spread to the country’s Nordic cousins who also see Tesla’s ambitions as threatening their labour models.

“There are also strong collective agreements and unions in Norway, especially in Denmark, where these agreements determine the majority of labour law,” says Aucante. “Therefore, Norwegians and Danes are keen on this model which gives unions some negotiating power against employers.”

After Denmark’s largest union, 3F, declared a solidarity strike with Swedish workers on December 5, Norway’s largest private sector union warned on December 6 that it would block the transit of Tesla cars to Sweden if the American automaker did not reach an agreement with its Swedish workers by December 20.

The following day, the Finnish transport workers’ union AKT offered the same pledge. “It is a crucial part of the Nordic labour market model that we have collective agreements and unions support each other,” AKT president Ismo Kokko said in a statement.

International sympathy strikes are rare, but not unprecedented says Aucante. The last major mobilisation dates back to 1995 when the American toy company Toys “R” Us tried to bypass unions and impose its own salary rules. The retailer eventually yielded after three months of strikes in Sweden and Europe. 

Musk outraged

The revolt has provoked outrage from Musk who described the industrial action as “insane” on his social network, X, on November 23.

In response, Tesla filed a request to compel the Swedish postal operator to deliver the license plates and sought compensation for a loss of over €87,000. However, its prosecution request was rejected on December 7 by a Swedish court.

The carmaker is now actively seeking a government affairs specialist in Sweden to help resolve the issue. A job listing posted recently on the Tesla careers website shows the company is looking for someone with a “proven track record of getting regulatory changes made in the Nordics”.

Nordic investors ‘deeply concerned’

Another, more serious threat to Musk is a group of powerful pension funds in the region which have begun criticising Tesla’s conduct.

A group of Nordic investors, which include Norway‘s largest pension fund KLP, Sweden’s Folksam and Denmark‘s PFA, defended the Swedish labour market model in a letter sent to Tesla on Thursday, saying they are “deeply concerned” about the situation.

“We as Nordic investors acknowledge the decade-old tradition of collective bargaining, and therefore urge Tesla to reconsider your current approach to unions,” the letter reads.

The investor letter also asks for a meeting with Tesla’s board in early 2024 to discuss the matter.

Some funds, acting individually, have gone further in their critique. Kiran Aziz, head of responsible investments at KLP, which holds around €195 million in Tesla shares, said it’s not “just about the labour model in the Nordic but about fundamental human rights”.

Read moreMacron, Musk meet in Paris to discuss future investment in France

In Denmark, the pension fund PensionDanmark has decided it’s already seen enough. It sold its 476 million Danish crowns (€64 million) in Tesla holdings on December 7.

The Norges Bank Investment Bank (NBIM), which operates the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund and is the seventh-largest Tesla shareholder with a stake of around €6.3 billion, did not sign on to the letter. However, it declared last week that it would continue to pressure the company to respect labour rights, such as collective bargaining.

A blow to branding

For Tesla, the stakes are high. “As Scandinavians are the leading consumers of Tesla in Europe, the company has no interest in prolonging a conflict that will severely damage its image,” says Aucante, who believes Tesla will have to make concessions.

“With the trend towards greening economies, it’s ‘bad form’ to produce cars in China when building an electric car aimed at reducing carbon impact,” adds Aucante. “That’s why Tesla is trying to bring back some of its production to Europe, but labour costs are not the same, and there are more regulations here.”

While the strike currently affects only northern European countries, there is speculation it could inspire the 11,000 employees at Tesla’s largest European operation, the Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg.

German employees secured a 4% salary increase in early November as a result of pressure from German unions – a concession which could be linked to the fear of the strike in Nordic countries migrating south, according to the Washington Post.

Across the Atlantic, Tesla workers have yet to unionise. However, after the United Auto Workers (UAW) successfully negotiated deals with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in November, Tesla is likely worried about unions back home, too.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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NeverEnding Story: Elon Musk attending Giorgia Meloni’s fantasy party

Elon Musk and VOX’s leader Santiago Abascal will be among the guests attending Giorgia Meloni’s bizarre 4-day fantasy-themed Christmas party, “Atreju”, which celebrates Italy’s conservative youth.

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This year, Giorgia Meloni’s Christmas party for young conservatives, called “Atreju”, is going to have a little more sparkle than the festival had in the past 26 years.

Back in 1998, Meloni was not a well-known figure in Italian politics. But as the head of the Rome branch of Azione Giovani (the youth section of the now defunct Alleanza Nazionale party), she created a nationwide event dedicated to celebrating the country’s conservative youth.

The event was named by Meloni after Atreyu, one of the main characters of the 1984 fantasy film “The NeverEnding Story.”

For those who already know about Meloni’s obsession with the fantasy genre, which she consistently interprets through her right-wing lens, this name won’t be surprising. 

Neither would be the fact that she got the idea to create Atreju after attending Hobbit Camp in the 1990s, a Woodstock-like retreat organised by the post-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano party for young people to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.

But this edition of this right-wing fantasy festival, which will run from Thursday 14 December to Sunday 17 December, and is now backed by Meloni’s party Brothers of Italy, will be different from the ones that have come before.

First of all, Meloni is no longer at the fringe of Italian politics, but right at its top. Second, Meloni’s new role has allowed her to attract some high-profile guest stars to her bizarre, fantasy-themed event, including tech billionaire Elon Musk and leader of Spanish populist party Vox Santiago Abascal, recently at the centre of a nasty controversy.

What’s the festival about?

According to Piero Garofalo, Professor of Italian Studies at the University of New Hampshire in the US, Atreju is “less a political convention than a partisan political event.” The festival, which this year will have a Christmas village and an ice rink, features youth-oriented concerts, exhibits, debates, and humour and has a focus on socialising rather than just talking politics.

The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Bentornato orgoglio italiano’ (‘Welcome Back Italian Pride’),” a title that’s perfectly in line with Meloni’s electoral manifesto and constant mantra. And while the event has kept its traditional social, jovial nature, its political importance is undeniable this year.

“Today, with Giorgia Meloni’s political ascent and Brothers of Italy’s recent electoral successes, Atreju has gained increasing importance by [previously] attracting high-profile guests – like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon – and media attention,” Garofalo tells Euronews.

“The festival now serves as a platform to showcase Giorgia Meloni’s international stature and the Italian right’s integration into the international community,” he added. 

Who’s going to attend?

The guest list of the party is a who’s who of the European and international right.

Among the most prominent guests, there are Elon Musk, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, and Spanish leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, “who shares with Giorgia Meloni unorthodox approaches to addressing the influx of migrants, will apparently meet with Premier Meloni on Saturday morning during the festival though not necessarily at the festival,” Garofalo says.

According to Garofalo, participation at Atreju does not automatically signal solidarity with or support for Giorgia Meloni.

“For example, several leaders of opposition parties, including Matteo Renzi, Carlo Calenda, Angelo Bonelli, and Michele Emiliano, will also attend the festival in the hope of attracting votes and making themselves relevant,” he says.

“Indeed, participation signals the increasing importance and visibility that the Atreju platform provides speakers. That said, beyond the attendees, who will likely exceed 100,000, and the extensive media coverage (due in large part to the prominent guests) over the next four days, Atreju is not an event followed with particular interest by the general public although it will certainly take centre-stage this week,” he added.

Notably, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has declined Meloni’s invitation to the festival.

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What’s with ‘The NeverEnding Story’?

The Italian rendering of the name Atreju is an homage to the dragon-riding warrior protagonist of the 1979 German fantasy novel, The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, Garofalo explains.

The novel became a Hollywood hit in 1984 and made more than $100 million at the global box office. It was particularly successful in Germany where five million people flocked to the cinema to watch the epic fantasy movie, which featured special effects which were groundbreaking at the time. 

“This name was chosen because, for the event’s organisers, the fantasy character represents committed youth who in the eternal battle between good and evil resist nihilism to preserve ideals,” he says.

Giorgia Meloni underscored the novel’s importance in a 2019 Facebook post commemorating the 40th anniversary of the novel’s publication, writing: “A very significant novel that marked my childhood. Atreju’s struggle and victory against The Nothing, an enemy trying to wear down the imagination of youth by stripping it of values, still represents an inspiring symbol today. With this model in mind, I have always carried forward my political passion!.”

“The Neverending Story” and Atreyu are far from the first fantasy novels and heroes that Meloni has co-opted for her political use. During her long career, she has often mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, which was the subject of a major exhibition in Rome this year.

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Among Meloni’s fantasy idols, there is also George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” and the manga character and space pirate Captain Harlock. 

Playing into an old tradition

“The fascination with and appropriation of the fantasy genre by the post-fascist far-right pre-dates Giorgia Meloni and emerges as a recognisable phenomenon in 1970s Italy,” Garofalo explains. “Italian nationalists positioned themselves as a small fellowship of truth-holders who stand against an overwhelming obfuscating force that enshrouds society.”

Fantasy narratives provide vivid oppositions to and rejections of the modern world, according to Garofalo, depicting “as noble the struggles of traditional societies to preserve an idealised past against the threats of change embodied by external forces.”

In this context, Meloni’s appropriation of fantasy symbolism in the political discourse plays into this tradition “precisely because it provides a teleological rationale for political actions whose immediate effects are not recognizably relatable to long-term goals,” Garofalo says.

“When the symbol is real, the end result is real. As Giorgia Meloni has stated: ‘I don’t consider The Lord of the Rings fantasy’.”

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Meet The Iranian-Born Billionaire Helping NASA Get Back To The Moon

Kam Ghaffarian isn’t a household name. But unlike Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who made fortunes elsewhere first, Ghaffarian actually got rich by shooting for the stars. His long-term plan? The first for-profit space station, opening by 2031.

By Giacomo Tognini, Forbes Staff


Less than 24 hours before jetting off to the Middle East and South Korea to meet investors, Kamal Ghaffarian has found a couple of hours in his schedule. Taking off his jacket, he settles into a chair in his office, a nondescript, four-story building in suburban Maryland. He asks: “Did you hear people call me ‘crazy Kam’?”



It’s a fair question. The list of companies Ghaffarian has founded reads like the pages of a science fiction novel: Axiom Space is building the world’s first commercial space station in partnership with NASA and also designed the next generation of astronaut spacesuits. (“The next time you see astronauts walking on the surface of the moon, they will be wearing Axiom Space spacesuits,” he adds.) Intuitive Machines builds lunar landers and will send one to the moon’s south pole in January (weather permitting), one of several launches it is planning that will open the moon up to commercial missions. Quantum Space is creating a space “superhighway” that will help spacecraft refuel and travel in the region between the Earth and the moon. And back down on this planet, X-Energy is making small, advanced (and meltdown-proof) nuclear reactors that can power everything from a remote military base to Dow’s 4,700-acre chemicals plant on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Crazy, indeed. But all the businesses have a common goal, according to Ghaffarian. “We need to be a multi-planetary species and also be able to go to other stars. But until then, we only have one home, right?” he says, adding, with a chuckle: “If you sort of summarize everything, [we need to] take care of our existing home and find a new home.”

The space industry is dominated by larger-than-life moguls who have poured money into rockets, rovers and rides into orbit. But, unlike Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, Ghaffarian, 65, is a rare example of someone who is a billionaire largely because of his space pursuits, rather than one who got into it after making his fortune. The key to that success? Culture, culture, culture, he says. But in a $546 billion business that’s still driven by the U.S. government, according to the nonprofit Space Foundation, it’s actually contracts, contracts, contracts.

“No one is better than Kam Ghaffarian at winning, on a competitive basis, dollars from the U.S. government,” adds J. Clay Sell, the CEO of X-Energy and a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Uncle Sam isn’t the only game in town, of course. Ghaffarian already has a laundry list of commercial clients, including the Cedars-Sinai health system (for stem cell research in microgravity), champagne producer G.H. Mumm (bubbly designed to be tasted in space) and Japanese conglomerate Mitsui, which also has a partnership with Axiom Space. Then there’s foreign governments, such as Canada and Saudi Arabia, plus individuals who will pay to access space: the firm already completed two successful, all-private crewed missions to the International Space Station (ISS) with Musk’s SpaceX in April 2022 and last May, with the first featuring three commercial astronauts and the second hosting two Saudi astronauts. As of August, the company claimed to have secured more than $2.2 billion in customer contracts.

That track record has helped him win over investors. In August, Axiom Space raised an additional $350 million in a funding round led by Saudi Arabia’s Aljazira Capital and South Korean pharma outfit Boryung; the firm is valued at $2.1 billion, according to filings from another backer, ARK Invest. That same month, Intuitive Machines—which listed on Nasdaq through a blank check firm in February—closed on a $20 million private investment, shoring up its finances after a rocky debut as a public company. X-Energy, which counts Dow and private equity outfit Ares Management as investors, was valued at roughly $1.1 billion in September. The newest, and smallest, part of his fortune is Quantum Space, which raised $15 million in December. Altogether, Forbes estimates Ghaffarian is worth $2.2 billion, thanks mostly to his stakes in his space and nuclear startups. Not bad for an Iranian immigrant who landed in Washington, D.C. in 1976 with a $2,000 loan from his uncle to attend college.

“People think of Bezos, Musk, Branson and rightly so,” explains Chris Stott, the founder and CEO of Lonestar Data Holdings, which is partnering with Intuitive Machines to store data on the lunar surface. “They should also tack Kam Ghaffarian onto that list because he’s doing as much, and he’s been quite smart because he’s leveraging everything Jeff and Elon are doing.”

Ghaffarian may be an asteroid in a big galaxy compared to the likes of Musk and Bezos, who are deploying billions of dollars. But he sees those magnates not as competition so much as partners: “I have a great deal of respect for Elon and [SpaceX president] Gwynne Shotwell, they’re awesome friends. Jeff Bezos, the same,” he says.

Like these other better-known space entrepreneurs, Ghaffarian has much bolder plans. The immediate goal of building the first ever commercial space station and the lunar landers is to lower the costs of entry into space, much in the same way that SpaceX’s reusable rockets made it cheaper, easier and faster to launch missions. Think of a Tom Cruise flick shot on an actual space station or drug development in zero gravity—both of which Ghaffarian’s companies are helping turn into reality.

No one is better than Kam Ghaffarian at winning, on a competitive basis, dollars from the U.S. government.

But that’s just the start. Longer term, he says: “Our ultimate destiny is for the human race to become interstellar.”

The first step is low Earth orbit, meaning the space station. Then the moon, with landers and a human outpost. And then? “Technologies that can go beyond our solar system.”


Ghaffarian’s out-of-this-world dreams date back to his childhood in the ancient city of Isfahan, Iran, where he loved to gaze at the stars. On the night of July 20, 1969, the then-11-year-old huddled around the black-and-white TV in his neighbor’s home and watched as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the moon. “It was really a transformational moment,” he recalls. “That really triggered for me that this is what I wanted to do.”

The last American mission to the moon was in 1972. Four years later, Ghaffarian flew to Washington D.C. to study at the Catholic University of America with a $2,000 loan from his uncle. At night, he would park cars in downtown D.C. to repay that debt while finishing a double degree in computer science and engineering. Ghaffarian graduated in 1980—one year after the Iranian revolution—and never looked back.

His first job out of college was at Virginia-based IT firm Compucare, all while continuing his studies with a degree in electronics engineering and a master’s in information management. Ghaffarian’s first foray in the space industry came in 1983 when he got a gig at aerospace giant Lockheed, later moving onto Ford Aerospace, where he continued to work on contracts for NASA and the federal government. Then, in 1994, he struck out on his own with Harold Stinger, whom he’d met at Lockheed. The pair founded a company called Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies with the help of a federal program that helps minority-owned businesses. Their first office was in Ghaffarian’s basement.

“We decided to open our own company doing the same thing, basically the government contracting business,” he says. “I mortgaged a house and got $250,000 that I put together, and that’s how we got started.”

By 2006, SGT had become the 20th largest contractor for NASA with $100 million in contracts to provide engineering services and mission support. Three years later, he bought out Stinger’s stake. “He has a skill set for government contracting,” says Chris Quilty, the founder and co-CEO of space market research firm Quilty Space. “And since this is intrinsically a government market, that is a very important skill set to have.”

Another skill: his ability to coax NASA veterans to join him in the private sector. Ghaffarian’s companies are stacked with at least 18 ex-NASA rockstars, bringing a wealth of government experience but also convincing investors that they can succeed in an increasingly crowded market. In 2013, he teamed up with Stephen Altemus—the former deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which led the Apollo landings on the moon—to launch Intuitive Machines. Three years later, he convinced Michael Suffredini, who managed NASA’s International Space Station program for a decade, to join him in founding Axiom Space.

“I called him and said, ‘Kam, the only thing I know how to do is build and operate a space station,’” Suffredini says of a phone call he had with Ghaffarian soon after leaving NASA. “He said, ‘okay, let me think about that.’ He called back the next day and said, ‘let’s go build a space station.’”

“It’s the most important component and it clearly is a competitive advantage,” says Kurt Scherer, managing partner at Washington, D.C.-based investment firm C5 Capital, which invested in both Axiom Space and his nuclear reactor firm X-Energy, which Ghaffarian founded in 2009.

Ghaffarian’s track record of winning contracts from NASA—he claims that SGT had a win ratio of 80%, compared to an industry average below 50%—helped Axiom Space and Intuitive Machines clinch major bids, from the spacesuits to the commercial lunar program. “This ability to bid on contracts and succeed is our secret sauce,” he adds. Even X-Energy is active in space: Last year, a joint venture with his Intuitive Machines won a $5 million contract from NASA and the Department of Energy to design a portable nuclear reactor for the lunar surface.

All of these projects require investment. That’s why Ghaffarian sold SGT in 2018 to publicly traded KBR for $355 million, giving him the cash to push his other ventures forward. “There are times that I think maybe I shouldn’t have sold, because SGT was an incredible cash flow business. But these are technology companies,” he says, pointing to Axiom Space, Intuitive Machines and X-Energy. “You’ve got to pour a lot of money into them.”

Seed funding only goes so far in space, and Ghaffarian managed to sway deep-pocketed investors to commit the funds needed to get those businesses off the ground. “Kam is one of the very few people who has the ability to see a big, bold, ambitious future and is able to get a lot of people to believe in that vision,” says Dakin Sloss, the founder and general partner of Jackson, Wyoming-based VC firm Prime Movers Lab, which has invested in both Axiom Space and Quantum Space.

Public markets haven’t been as kind as private backers. X-Energy terminated its SPAC merger with Ares Acquisition Corp. in October, a month after revising its valuation downwards by 42%. Intuitive Machines’ stock has fallen 70% since its stock market debut, as investors priced in delays to the firm’s first lunar launch. Initially scheduled for November—which would have made Ghaffarian the first to bring America back to the moon since 1972—it was pushed back to January due to “pad congestion” at Cape Canaveral. (Another U.S. company, Astrobotic, has its own lander that’s expected to launch on Christmas Eve, potentially beating Ghaffarian to the punch.)

And the competition is fierce across the board: In the nuclear industry, Bill Gates’ TerraPower, which is making a pilot reactor larger than X-Energy’s, also won a Department of Energy contract at the same time as Ghaffarian’s firm in 2020. In the realm of space stations, Axiom Space will also have to contend with Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space—founded by billionaire couple Eren and Fatih Ozmen—plus industry titans Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which are partnering with Denver-based Voyager Space, and other startups including crypto billionaire Jed McCaleb’s Vast. And besides Astrobotic and Blue Origin, Japanese startup iSpace is planning a second mission to the moon in 2024 after its first lander crashed into the lunar surface last April due to a software glitch.

Ghaffarian isn’t worried, envisioning a future where there’s more than enough business to go around for multiple small nuclear reactors, space stations and firms ferrying payloads to the moon. “Competition is healthy. It makes you more creative and innovative,” he says. His investors agree: “We want to encourage competitors because this is going to be a growing market,” adds C5 Capital’s Scherer.

The most ambitious Ghaffarian project is the Limitless Space Institute, a nonprofit that he says he came up with when he was at home meditating and thinking about the universe. (“What drives me is my spirituality and trusting God,” he says.) Based in Houston, the institute—also led by NASA veterans—partners with schools and universities and funds research into technologies that could one day enable interstellar travel, ranging from fusion-powered spacecraft (theoretically possible, but far from being a reality) to “space drives, wormholes and space warps” (still entirely conceptual).

Ghaffarian likely won’t be around if any of those happen. But he does envision a near-term future where humans live full-time on a space station and the moon. The next step in that vision is the Intuitive Machines launch to the moon in January. Then comes Axiom Space’s next astronaut mission, also scheduled for early next year. The first section of the new space station is expected to attach to the ISS in 2026—Axiom Space is the only company that can connect its modules there—with the whole structure up and running by 2031, when the ISS will be retired.

“When you talk about 10, 15, 20 years from now, my hope is that we have a space city, a place where people can actually go and live,” he says. “That would be a really nice building block toward further space exploration for human beings.”

To Ghaffarian, the motivation for building a space station and lunar landers was never just to get rich—even though his investments in them have helped make him very wealthy.

“I didn’t want to be the richest man in the cemetery and I didn’t want my life to be just about making more money,” he says, reflecting on when he sold his first business. “I wanted my life to be more about making a difference, changing the world for the better.”

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Israel Hamas war: Civil order ‘breaks down’ in Gaza as strikes damage hospital and death toll rises

All the latest developments from the Israel Hamas war.

Palestinian Red Crescent: Israeli strikes damaged Gaza hospital

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The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has announced that Israeli strikes on Sunday damaged sections in the packed Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, after receiving two phone calls from the Israeli military to evacuate.

A video the Red Crescent posted on X, formerly Twitter, of the hospital following the strikes shows rooms covered in debris and dust and the windows blown out. People covered their noses and mouths, panicking as they tried to leave the hospital with their children.

The PRCS-run hospital administration said that evacuating the hospital was impossible, as its hundreds of patients included children in incubators and wounded people in the intensive-care unit. In a statement, it said many of the 14,000 people seeking shelter there are Palestinians displaced by the ongoing Hamas-Israel war.

Israeli strikes targeted areas around the hospital throughout Sunday. The director-general of the World Health Organization has previously said that it would be “impossible” to evacuate hospitals without endangering people’s lives.

Hamas reports ‘violent fighting’ with Israeli army in northern Gaza

Hamas has reported “violent fighting” underway between its fighters and Israeli forces in the north of the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army has been carrying out ground incursions since Friday evening.

“Our fighters are currently engaged in heavy combat using automatic and anti-tank weapons with the occupation forces carrying out an incursion into the northwest of Gaza,” said the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in a statement.

The al-Qassam brigades also announced shortly beforehand that they had fired “mortar shells and rockets” at an Israeli military position in Erez, the main crossing point between the Palestinian territory and Israel, closed since the start of the war

Number of children killed in conflict soars

The number of children killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip since the start of the Hamas-Israel earlier this month has exceeded the number of children killed in armed conflict every year globally since 2019, international charity Save the Children has announced. 

In a statement, the charity cited numbers from the Gaza Health Ministry of at least 3,195 children killed in the war. It also mentioned the deaths of 33 children in the occupied West Bank and 29 children killed in Israel.

“The numbers are harrowing and with violence not only continuing but expanding in Gaza right now, many more children remain at grave risk,” Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory Jason Lee said in a statement. “One child’s death is one too many, but these are grave violations of epic proportions. A cease-fire is the only way to ensure their safety.”

UN Secretary General renews calls for humanitarian cease-fire

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that “the world is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe taking place before our eyes” in Gaza, with over two million people denied the essentials of life and subjected to relentless bombardment.

“I urge all those with responsibility to step back from the brink,” he told reporters at a meeting with Nepal’s prime minister in Kathmandu on Sunday. “We must join forces to end this nightmare for the people of Gaza, Israel and all those affected around the world.”

The UN chief reiterated his appeal for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, the unconditional release of all hostages and delivery of aid at scale to Gaza.

Guterres again condemned Hamas’ “appalling attacks” on Israel on 7 October, stressing that “there is no justification, ever, for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians.”

He also reiterated that all parties to conflict are required under international humanitarian laws to protect civilians and provide them with food, water, medicine and other essentials, stressing that “those laws cannot be contorted for the sake of expedience.”

“The number of civilians who have been killed and injured is totally unacceptable,” Guterres added.

Israel drops leaflets on Gaza, asking civilians to ‘surrender’

Israel’s military, which has said repeatedly that it is not at war with civilians in Gaza but rather with Hamas, dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip Sunday asking civilians to “surrender.” Written in Arabic, the leaflets told civilians to lay down all their weapons, put their hands up, wave white flags and follow instructions from the Israeli military.

“Hamas leaders are exploiting you,” the flyers read. “They and their families are in safe places, while you die in vain.”

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Washington calls on Israel to make ‘distinction’ between Hamas and Palestinian civilians

The United States said on Sunday that Israel must make a “distinction” in its military operations between Hamas and Palestinian civilians, as the Israeli army intensifies its bombings and ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

“What we believe is that every hour, every day of this military operation, the Israeli government should take every possible measure at its disposal to distinguish between Hamas – terrorists who are legitimate military targets – and civilians who are not,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN.

Hamas militants killed near Erez crossing – Israel

Israel’s military have claimed that ground forces killed a number of Hamas militants as they were exiting a tunnel near the Erez crossing, which used to be the sole pedestrian passageway out of the coastal enclave into Israel before it was destroyed in the fighting. It was unclear how many militants were killed by Israeli forces.

Videos of the ground operation released by the military showed tanks traversing small, sandy hills and bulldozers clearing mountains of debris. Hamas has a sprawling network of tunnels underneath Gaza where it is believed to be stockpiling weapons, food, and other supplies.

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Sunak and Macron insist on the need for ‘urgent humanitarian support’ – Downing Street

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office says he has spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron about the importance of getting urgent humanitarian support into Gaza and maintaining regional security following the expansion of Israel’s military operation against Hamas.

The leaders “agreed to work together on efforts both to get crucial food, fuel, water and medicine to those who need it, and to get foreign nationals out,” Downing Street said in a statement on Sunday.

“They expressed their shared concern at the risk of escalation in the wider region, in particular in the West Bank. The Prime Minister and President Macron updated on the conversations they have had with leaders in the region to stress the importance of working to ensure regional stability,” the statement added.

Sunak and Macron agreed that it was important not to lose sight of the long-term future of the region and, in particular, the need for a two-state solution, the statement said, adding, “They underscored that Hamas does not represent ordinary Palestinians and that their barbarism should not undermine the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

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Pope calls for cease-fire and release of hostages

Pope Francis repeatedly called for a cease-fire in Gaza on Sunday.

“Let’s continue to pray for Ukraine and for the serious situation in Palestine and Israel and for other regions with wars,” Francis said.

“In particular, in Gaza, leave space to guarantee humanitarian aid. And let the hostages be freed immediately. Let no one abandon the possibility to stop the arms. Cease fire,” he added, speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace above St. Peter’s Square.

The pope cited the Reverend Ibrahim Faltas, the vicar of the Custody the Holy Land, as joining him in the urgent plea for a cease-fire.

“Stop yourselves brothers and sisters, war is always defeat. Always! Always!” he concluded.

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Netanyahu apologises after criticising security officials

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologised after criticising security officials for having underestimated the risks of a major Hamas attack.

He posted a message on X – formerly Twitter – which he later deleted before apologising.

“Never, under any circumstances, has the Prime Minister been alerted to the warlike intentions of Hamas,” Netanyahu wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

“All security officials, including the head of military intelligence and the head of internal security, believed that Hamas was afraid to act and was seeking an arrangement. This is the assessment that was submitted several times to the prime minister and to the cabinet by all security officials and the intelligence community. Until the moment the war broke out,” Netanyahu continued.

The post was removed in the morning and no longer appeared on X, only to be replaced a few minutes later by an apology.

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“I was wrong. What I said after the press conference should not have been said and I apologise for it. I fully support all security officials. I support the chief of staff, the commanders, and the soldiers of the IDF (Israeli Army) who are on the front lines and who are fighting for our home. Together we will win,” Netanyahu wrote.

During his press conference with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz, member of the Knesset, the Prime Minister admitted the Hamas attack was “a terrible failure” for Israel.

“There has been a terrible failure here and it will be examined to the end. I promise that there will not be a stone left unturned. For now my mission is to save the country and lead the soldiers to total victory over Hamas and the forces of evil,” Netanyahu declared.

Many political analysts in Israel believe that Netanyahu’s political career has been seriously compromised by not having been able to ensure the protection of his population – one of his electoral promises.

Thousands loot UN aid warehouses in Gaza as desperation grows and Israel widens ground offensive

Thousands of people broke into aid warehouses in Gaza to take flour and basic hygiene products, a UN agency said on Sunday, in a mark of growing desperation and the breakdown of public order three weeks into the war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

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Thomas White, director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said the warehouse break-ins were “a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza. People are scared, frustrated and desperate.”

UNRWA provides basic services to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza. Its schools across the territory have been transformed into packed shelters housing Palestinians displaced by the conflict. Israel has allowed only a small trickle of aid to enter from Egypt, some of which was stored in one of the warehouses that was broken into, UNRWA said.

Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the agency, said the crowds broke into four facilities on Saturday. She said the warehouses did not contain any fuel, which has been in critically short supply since Israel cut off all shipments after the start of the war.

Situation in Gaza becomes ‘increasingly desperate’, warns UN chief

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed alarm at an “increasingly desperate” situation in the Gaza Strip, deploring that Israel had “intensified its military operations” there.

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“The situation in Gaza is becoming more desperate by the hour. I regret that instead of a sorely needed humanitarian pause, supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations,” Guterres said during a visit to Nepal, after a four-day trip to Qatar.

He described as “totally unacceptable” the number of civilians killed and injured in the war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by the Islamist movement’s bloody attack on 7 October on Israeli soil.

Israeli army increases troop numbers in Gaza – spokesperson

The Israeli army has increased the number of its troops entering the Gaza Strip where it is at war against Palestinian Hamas, its spokesperson announced on Sunday.

“During the night (Saturday to Sunday), we increased” the number of army forces entering the Gaza Strip “and they joined those already fighting there,” General Daniel Hagari said. 

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“We are gradually increasing ground operations and the extent of our forces in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Palestinian Red Crescent: Israel says Al-Quds Hospital ‘going to be bombed’

The Palestinian Red Crescent – PRCS – say they have received “serious threats” from the Israeli forces to “immediately evacuate the Al-Quds Hospital as it is going to be bombed”.

Since this morning, there have been raids 50 metres away from the hospital, a statement on X – formerly Twitter – said.

Israel strikes near Gaza’s largest hospital after accusing Hamas of using it as a base

Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes early Sunday near Gaza’s largest hospital, which is packed with patients and tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter. Israel has said Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have a command post under the hospital, without providing much evidence.

The strikes came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a “second stage” in Israel’s war on Hamas, three weeks after Hamas launched a brutal incursion into Israel on 7 October. Ground forces pushed into Gaza over the weekend as Israel pounded the territory from air, land and sea.

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The bombardment – described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war – knocked out most communications in the territory late Friday, largely cutting off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world. Communications were restored to many people in Gaza early Sunday, according to local telecoms companies, Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmation on the ground.

Residents said the latest airstrikes destroyed most of the roads leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which is part of the northern half of the besieged territory, which Israel has told people to evacuate. Israel says most residents have fled to the south, but hundreds of thousands remain in the north, in part because Israel has also bombarded targets in so-called safe zones. Tens of thousands are sheltering in Shifa, which is also packed with patients wounded in strikes.

“Reaching the hospital has become increasingly difficult,” Mahmoud al-Sawah, who is sheltering in the hospital, said over the phone. “It seems they want to cut off the area.” Another Gaza City resident, Abdallah Sayed, said the Israeli bombing over the past two days was “the most violent and intense” since the war started.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment when asked about reports of strikes near Shifa.

The army recently released computer-generated images showing what it said were Hamas installations in and around Shifa Hospital, as well as interrogations of captured Hamas fighters who might have been speaking under duress. Israel has made similar claims before, but has not substantiated them.

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Internet and telephone connectivity restored for many in Gaza

Internet and telephone connectivity has been restored for many people in Gaza, according to the telecoms company Paltel, Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmation on the ground.

The besieged Gaza Strip had suffered a communication blackout since late Friday, leaving its 2.3 million residents cut off from the outside world amid heavy Israeli air and land bombardment.

Hamas Health Ministry announces death toll of more than 8,000

The Hamas health ministry has announced that more than 8,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war with Israel.

“The death toll linked to Israeli aggression exceeds 8,000, half of whom are children,” on the night of Saturday to Sunday the ministry told AFP.

UN warns of collapse of ‘civil order’ after looting of aid centres

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned on Sunday of a collapse of “civil order” in the Gaza Strip after the looting of warehouses and food aid distribution centres it runs.

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“Thousands of people entered several UNRWA warehouses and distribution centres in the central and southern Gaza Strip,” the UN agency said in a statement. “It is a worrying sign that civil order is beginning to collapse after three weeks of war and a siege on Gaza,” they add.

Israel aims to bring back all the hostages

Netanyahu told the nationally televised news conference that Israel is determined to bring back all the hostages, and maintained that the expanding ground operation “will help us in this mission.” He said he couldn’t reveal everything that is being done due to the sensitivity and secrecy of the efforts.

“This is the second stage of the war, whose objectives are clear: to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home,” he said in his first time taking questions from journalists since the war began.

Netanyahu also acknowledged that the 7 October “debacle,” in which more than 1,400 people were killed, would need a thorough investigation, adding that “everyone will have to answer questions, including me.”

The Israeli military said it was gradually expanding its ground operations inside Gaza, while stopping short of calling it an all-out invasion.

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“We are proceeding with the stages of the war according to an organised plan,” Hagari, the military spokesman, said. The comments hinted at a strategy of staged escalation, instead of a massive and overwhelming offensive.

Despite the Israeli offensive, Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel, with the constant sirens in southern Israel a reminder of the threat.

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Elon Musk May Have Given Up On Privacy For His Jet Travels, But Taylor Swift Hasn’t

Forbes got an exclusive look at the celebrities and billionaires who’ve used a federal program to hide their private-plane flights. Here’s why it’s not working.


When he bought Twitter in October 2022, Elon Musk’s to-do list included giving Jack Sweeney the boot.

Sweeney, a college student from Orlando, Florida, had been tracking Musk’s $65 million Gulfstream G650 and tweeting the whereabouts of the richest man on Earth. Musk wasn’t amused. He saw his privacy as a security issue. “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” he told Sweeney in a direct message.

Musk took his quest for privacy one step further. He enrolled in a free Federal Aviation Administration program called PIA that allows private-jet owners to hide their location by having their planes transmit alternative identity codes.

It didn’t work. Sweeney is still publishing the movements of Musk’s G650 in real time — he’s just switched to Instagram, BlueSky and Facebook. It was easy to crack the FAA’s privacy code, Sweeney told Forbes. “You can do it in a day.” Eventually, Musk and his crew quit trying, Sweeney said, and now Musk flies unmasked. Musk didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The FAA’s PIA program has cloaked the travels of 48 private jets this year, according to JetSpy, a subscription flight-tracking service. The Chicago-based company has been able to figure out the owners of 38 of those planes and shared those findings exclusively with Forbes. They’re a mix of the bold-faced names of celebrity gossip and billionaire masters of the tech and financial universes, with some surprising exceptions.


FREQUENT FLYERS

Here are the jet-setters who tried and failed to travel under the radar.


Despite the jet owners’ enrollments in PIA, it’s still possible to see how frequently Taylor Swift has visited her tall American boyfriend, Travis Kelce, in Kansas City; where Magic Johnson is chasing the next deal in his Gulfstream III; how many times Kenneth Griffin has visited France, or where Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin and Evan Spiegel — or at least their planes — have taken off and landed.

The public can also follow jets owned by Walmart and employee-owned WinCo Foods as they zig-zag the country, and we’re privy to the otherwise hush-hush athlete-recruiting efforts of the University of Kansas, which has been taking flak for years from faculty over the expense of its Cessna Citation CJ4.


TRANSPONDER SIGNALS

Plane watchers follow the aircraft by tracking transponder signals that planes have been required to transmit since 2020. The transponders flash out location, altitude, speed and a unique ID code assigned by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The system is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B. When it was first sketched out in the 1990s, its designers didn’t anticipate that plane-spotting enthusiasts would use inexpensive receivers to capture the signals and collaborate online to create coverage maps that track planes around the world.

Hence the FAA’s privacy program, which allows jets to send out fake codes to thwart identification by everyone except the authorities. It costs nothing to enroll in PIA — short for Privacy ICAO Aircraft Address — but it’s complicated and time-consuming for plane owners to change their codes and test whether they’re functional.

Experts told Forbes that the program isn’t working because not enough aircraft are using it — the FAA said it’s issued about 390 alternate ID codes since PIA began in 2019 — and jet owners don’t change their fake codes frequently enough.

“It’s useless,” says Martin Strohmeier, cofounder of the European crowd-sourced flight-tracking website OpenSky Network. “At worst you could even say it’s dangerous because people may believe it gives them some sort of cover, which it does not.”


TAYLOR + TRAVIS

Not that Taylor, if we can call her that, can hope for any cover. Millions of Swifties follow the pop icon’s every move. Still, flight tracking may provide special insight into her heart. Her plane has visited Kansas City three times so far in October. Just about everyone knows Swift was in the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium on October 12 to watch a football game featuring the guy whose career she made. JetSpy — and Sweeney’s Instagram account @taylorswiftjets — inform us that her jet dropped her off that day, returned home to Nashville, then came back to Kansas City on October 14. Heart-hands emoji.

Others fly to destinations for reasons unknown to outsiders. Griffin, for example. Forbes estimates his net worth at $33.5 billion; one of his firms, Citadel Securities, acts as the intermediary for more than one in three U.S. stock trades. His plane, a Bombardier Global Express (price tag: $12 million used), has notched 195 flights this year through Monday, traveling 257,000 nautical miles. According to JetSpy, the billionaire’s plane has visited France more often this year than Chicago, where Citadel was headquartered until last year (it moved to Florida) and where it still has a big presence.

Though we have no special insight into Griffin’s heart — he didn’t respond to requests to talk about his air travel — we can surmise that he, like Musk, has security reasons for wanting his jet to fly under the radar. For instance, Griffin’s whereabouts are tracked on Reddit by retail stock investors who blame him for the controversial 2021 halt in GameStop trading on the Robinhood platform, which helped big trading houses dig out from under billions of dollars in losses while hurting many of the trade-at-home folks. Griffin denied involvement.

“I’ve seen my clients deal with threats to their safety because of people that were tracking them,” Dan Drohan, CEO of Solairus Aviation, a company that manages over 300 private jets for their owners but has no connection to Griffin, told Forbes. “It’s most upsetting for the ones that have kids.”

Sweeney, who Musk allowed to set up a new account on X (nee Twitter) tracking Musk’s jet as long as he waits 24 hours to announce its location, defends cracking the PIA codes and publicizing what he finds. “This account has every right to post jet whereabouts,” he tweeted in 2022 before he was banished. The transmissions of planes’ locations are public information, he said, and “every aircraft in the world is required to have a transponder, even AF1,” a reference to Air Force One, the U.S. president’s plane.

Another reason for the jet set’s touchiness: environmental advocates have used plane-tracking to measure the harm that private jets cause to the world’s climate and to shame their owners. For instance, the average American produces 16 tons of carbon dioxide a year. By comparison, Griffin’s jet, in the first nine-plus months of 2023, has emitted about 12 million tons.


LEGAL ESPIONAGE

Tracking also allows for corporate espionage of the legal variety. Brad Pierce, who owns Restaurant Equipment World, told Forbes that the sales calls he makes in his Cirrus SR-22 have enabled him to expand his Florida-based business. He said it’s also allowed a large competitor that he won’t name to monitor his travels and then drop in on the potential customers he’s been pitching. He said that the sources for that information are the company’s executives themselves, who’ve confessed to him at industry conventions. “They said, ‘We have one guy in our office who is just nonstop trying to track where you are so we can send our own people in afterward,’” Pierce told Forbes.

Gaining an edge in business is a selling point for subscription jet-tracking sites like JetSpy, Quandl and JetTrack.

For PIA to work, aircraft owners should ideally change their fake identity codes for every flight, according to Strohmeier of OpenSky Network.

Right now that’s impossible, said Rene Cervantes, operations vice president for aircraft manager Solairus Aviation, which has a handful of clients who use PIA. Changing the code requires the transponder manufacturer to produce a software update on a compact disc, of all things, which can take a month. Many owners interested in the program don’t follow through after hearing what’s involved, Cervantes told Forbes.

Some PIA enrollees appear to have given up. Among those who haven’t flown under an alternate address since last year are Kim Kardashian, Mark Zuckerberg and the private-equity giant Blackstone Group, led by billionaire Stephen Schwarzman.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault has given up, too. But he’s taken it one step further. Last year, after the CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH came under fire from a Twitter account looking to shame him over his carbon-dioxide emissions, he sold the company jet.

Arnault, whose $187.6 billion fortune Forbes said this month makes him the second-wealthiest person in the world, is now a renter, not an owner.

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Bitcoin Turns Bearish as Risk Assets Dip on Middle East War, BNB, XRP, DOGE, Oct.9



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