Morning Digest | Army officer injured in ‘grenade accident’ at a post in J&K’s Rajouri; supply copy of FIR to NewsClick founder, court tells Delhi Police, and more

Army says officer injured in ‘grenade accident’ at a post in J&K’s Rajouri

The Army on October 5 evening said one officer has been injured in a likely grenade accident at a post in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri sector. “The officer was evacuated and stable post initial treatment. Further investigation of the incident in progress,” the Army said in an official statement. 

Sikkim flash floods death toll mounts to 18; searches on for 98 missing people

The toll in the flash flood in Sikkim mounted to 18 on Thursday as Army and NDRF teams worked their way through slushy earth and fast flowing water in the Teesta river basin and downstream north Bengal for the second day in search of those who were swept away and are still missing, officials said. Ninety eight people, including 22 army personnel, remained missing after a cloudburst over Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim in the early hours of Wednesday triggered the flash flood, Chief Secretary V.B. Pathak said.

Supply copy of FIR to NewsClick founder, court tells Delhi Police

The Patiala House Court on Thursday allowed news portal NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and its human resource head Amit Chakraborty to get a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) case filed against them by the Delhi Police. The police had opposed the application earlier in the day. Additional sessions judge Hardeep Kaur passed the order after hearing the counsel of the accused, Arshdeep Singh, and Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava.

Amit Shah suggests uniform anti-terrorism structure under NIA for all States 

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday that along with a ruthless approach, an uniform anti-terrorism structure should be established under the purview of National Investigation Agency (NIA) in all the States. Mr. Shah made the remarks at the inauguration of the two-day anti-terror conference organised by the NIA.

INDIA parties speak up for arrested AAP MP Sanjay Singh; Congress gives qualified support

The Congress has extended qualified support to Aam Aadmi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, who was arrested on Wednesday by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money laundering probe linked to the Delhi excise policy case. Equating Mr. Singh’s arrest with that of Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira in Punjab, the party’s general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said, “We cannot become those we oppose”. The remark was also a swipe at the AAP government in Punjab over the arrest of Mr. Khaira. 

IIT-Bombay ‘veg. table’ row | Dean says policy made by elected body, calls protest ‘provocative, insensitive’

As voices against the policy of a hostel canteen of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), segregating certain tables for vegetarian food begin to grow louder within the campus, the Dean of Student Affairs (SA) on October 5 sent an email to all students and staff on the issue, the first from the administration on the controversy.

India, Canada in conversation on parity of diplomatic staff: MEA

India and Canada are in conversation about attaining “parity” in the diplomatic staff posted in each other’s missions, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday. During his weekly press briefing, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi reiterated India’s charge of Canadian “interference” in India’s internal affairs and indicated that India expects Canada to reduce the total number of its diplomats stationed here. 

India conveys concerns to U.S. over American envoy to Pakistan’s visit to Gilgit-Baltistan

India on Thursday said it raised its concerns with the U.S. over American envoy to Islamabad Donald Blome’s recent visit to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and called on the world community to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi asserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.

Reports say dozens have been killed and wounded as drone strikes hit a Syrian military ceremony

A drone attack struck a packed graduation ceremony for military officers in the Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens, including civilians and military personnel, reports said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the reports could not be independently confirmed.

EU Parliament decries ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Nagorno-Karabakh

EU lawmakers on Thursday accused Azerbaijan of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” against the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, and urged the bloc to impose sanctions on Baku. Almost all of the 120,000-strong ethnic Armenia population has fled the breakaway region since Azerbaijan seized it back in a lightning offensive last month.

Chinese firm sold satellites for intelligence to Russia’s Wagner: contract

Russian mercenary group Wagner in 2022 signed a contract with a Chinese firm to acquire two satellites and use their images, aiding its intelligence work as the organisation sought to push Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a document seen by AFP. The contract was signed in November 2022, over half a year into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in which the Wagner group under its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was playing a key role on the battlefield.

Musk’s X strips headlines from news links

Elon Musk’s social media platform X has stripped headlines from news articles shared by users, in a move likely to further worsen relations with media groups. The tycoon has long railed against the “legacy media” and claims X, formerly Twitter, is a better source of information. However, he said the latest change was for “aesthetic” reasons — news and other links now appear only as pictures with no accompanying text.

Political stability, policy consistency needed to ensure Indian economy’s growth to world’s third-largest: FM

Taking on critics who argue that India will become the world’s third largest economy in a few years with or without government intervention, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that political stability and policy consistency was essential for the prospect to turn into a reality, especially in a world marred by unprecedented volatility. 

Lower prices for tomatoes, chillis and LPG may have pulled food inflation down last month

Retail food inflation may have eased in September, thanks to cooling tomato prices and a reduction in LPG cylinder prices, even as onion prices rose further during the month, a CRISIL study on food plate costs suggested. Retail inflation had eased to 6.83% in August from a 15-month high of 7.44% in July, but food price inflation stood at about 10%.

SEBI to tell court Adani inquiry began 2014, but hit dead end: sources

Markets regulator SEBI will tell the Supreme Court why it paused, then restarted investigations into the Adani Group after a tip in 2014 amid questions around regulatory delays, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. SEBI will say for the first time that India’s customs authority alerted it to an alleged misuse of offshore funds by Adani Group companies in 2014 but that the initial investigation did not yield anything and was paused in 2017, the sources said.

Asian Games | Indian compound archery teams’ domination complete

With the scores tied at 200 each, Indian archers needed to hit three perfect 10s in a row to stay alive in the compound women’s team final at the Fuyang Arena. First, Parneet Kaur hit a 10 before Aditi Swami and Jyothi Surekha followed suit with 10s to put the pressure back on Chinese Taipei. Taipei slipped up with the first arrow which assured India’s gold medal and it won 230-229 Later, the trio of Abhishek Verma, Ojas Pravin Deotale and Prathamaesh Jawkar won the men’s team gold by beating South Korea 235-230 in the final.

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Eight Hours Of Sleep And No Back-To-Back Meetings: How Mark Zuckerberg Organizes His Days

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pulling many all-nighters these days.

The CEO of Facebook parent Meta—who once embodied the hoodie-clad, hackathon, boy wonder startup founder—has grown up after running the social networking giant for almost two decades.

For years, Zuckerberg had been cast as one of Silicon Valley’s most notorious leaders, as Facebook faced ire from lawmakers and the public for allegedly crippling democracy, being used as a tool to fuel genocide and harming users as the company chased relentless growth. Zuckerberg, who turns 40 next year, has since begun a transformation into one of tech’s elder statesmen—especially as he plays foil to Elon Musk and his chaos at Facebook rival X, formerly known as Twitter.

So who is this new grown-up Zuck, and how does that translate into everyday life for the famous billionaire? For starters, he gets roughly eight hours of sleep. (He measures it using an Oura sleep tracker). He also shuns back-to-back meetings, allocating at least an hour to process and follow up with folks afterward.

In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes’ Kerry Dolan, Zuckerberg opened up about several other topics, including his new obsession with mixed martial arts, singing Taylor Swift songs with his young daughters, and flying (well, co-piloting) a helicopter to work.

Here are a few of the most interesting details from their conversation.

On company growth:

“One philosophy that I’ve always had is … the thing that determines your destiny is not a competitor, it’s how you execute. And I think most companies probably focus too much on competitors, and maybe even focus too much on ideas. And I think at the end of the day, a lot of what makes great companies great is the ability to just relentlessly execute, and efficiently execute and do that rigorously and just get better and better at it all the time.”

On fatherhood:

Zuckerberg has a special routine he follows every night to put his daughters–ages 7, 6 and 6 months old–to bed, says Zuckerberg’s pediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan. First, he does something with them that they really like. “Recently it’s been learning every lyric of the Taylor Swift songs,” says Chan. (They went as a family to see Swift in concert in late July, which-natch– Zuckerberg posted about on Instagram.) His two older girls read to themselves. “Right now Max is reading Harry Potter, which is a little bit scary … so sometimes I’ll read it to her,” says Zuckerberg. And, then, says Chan, “He goes through everyone that loves them, he tells them the three most important things in life are health, family and friends, and something to look forward to. And then he sings to them, I think it’s Debbie Freidman’s version of Mi Shebeirach,” a Hebrew prayer for healing. The only time Chan puts the girls to bed, she says, is if there’s a board meeting or if he’s traveling. Work dinners for her husband happen after the girls’ bedtime.

On jiujitsu and mixed martial arts:

His latest passion, picked up during the pandemic, is jiujitsu and mixed martial arts (MMA). On his Instagram account in July, Zuckerberg shared bare-chested photos of himself and his MMA sparring partners at Lake Tahoe, and another set from when his coach awarded him a blue belt in jiujitsu. And in early September, he posted a reel of him and his friends having an MMA battle on a floating dojo on Lake Tahoe. He lights up when talking about the sport, and pulls out his phone to share more photos from a recent MMA session.

“My physical routine in the morning has been really helpful for me to reset. I try to do something where I don’t or actually can’t think too much,” he says, explaining that’s why he switched from running to jiujitsu and MMA. “The thing that those have in common is you really need to focus on what you’re doing, or else you’re going to … get punched in the face.” And as he told his followers on Threads about jiujitsu: “I just love this sport. It’s so primal and lets me be my true competitive self.”

For years, Zuckerberg has publicly set himself annual challenges: learn Chinese, visit cities all over the U.S., only eat meat that he killed himself. His new challenge: “I want to do an MMA competition, or do a kind of formal fight sometime in the next year.” Who would his opponent be? “I’m probably going to do it with somebody that takes the sport really seriously and does it competitively or as a professional.”

On his daily schedule:

“I don’t stay up super late at night. … I’ll wake up and there will be a bunch of emails. Usually, people aren’t emailing me about things that are going well. It’s a very diverse set of things that are breaking across the company.”

“I’ll respond to a bunch of emails in the morning and have a bunch of time to do that. But then I want to be able to show up to work and be able to push forward.” So he takes a break to exercise (often jiujitsu or MMA —see above). “I try to work out six or seven days a week.”

Zuckerberg says he gets eight hours of sleep a night, which he describes as “very instrumented.” He uses an Oura ring, which “tells you [your] level of deep sleep, and what your heart rate is when you’re sleeping.”

On meetings:

“I actually like trying to have a rule… for every hour of meeting that I have, the team sends out the pre-reads in advance. I want to have at least an hour to read the materials and think about it. And then I want to have at least an hour to follow up with different people after the meeting.”

On what he’s learned after being CEO of Facebook and Meta for almost 20 years:

“I knew so little when I was getting started… I’d say there’s a lot about management and leadership that I’ve learned. I think probably the most important thing is I feel like I’ve learned how to express the things that are important to me in a way that is that can translate to an organization.”

On flying:

Zuckerberg flew in from his home in Lake Tahoe to the Meta offices in Menlo Park to speak with Forbes. “Normally I’d fly a helicopter. I like flying,” he says. But 100 mile an hour winds in the mountains near Tahoe derailed that plan. “You can actually do it,” Zuckerberg says of flying in winds that high. “It’s just uncomfortable.”

He says he started learning to fly a helicopter a couple years ago, and flies with a co-pilot now. The F.A.A. lists him as having a student license.

On turning down a $1 billion buyout from Yahoo in 2006:

“When I didn’t want to sell the company early on, I think the investors were like, oh, maybe we should get like, should we get a different team? And it’s like, oh, well, you can’t.”

“If someone offers you a billion dollars, you’re like, oh, well, we’re not really making much money today. So what does it mean to be worth a billion dollars, and what does that mean over time? And we haven’t really spent a lot of time, to that point, talking about the long term vision. I think most people are at the company because they just love the product and thought it was awesome and just want to make things better every day. So that was probably the hardest moment in running a company. I mean, it’s just because I didn’t know what I was doing.”

On taking big swings:

“I think over time, what matters is just taking a bunch of big swings, and being able to connect on enough of them. And I think there just aren’t that many places in the world where you can make the kind of long term bets that we have.”

On management:

“I actually think that when you’re running something, you should be as involved in the details as you can be. Obviously, there’s way more stuff that I just don’t have time to be involved with. …Anything that I’m kind of focused on or interested in or want to be in the details on, I will be. I try to be in the details of as many things as possible.”

On Threads:

“I’m optimistic about our trajectory. We saw unprecedented growth out of the gate and more importantly we’re seeing more people coming back daily than I’d expected. Now, we’re focused on retention and improving the basics. After that, we’ll focus on growing the community to the scale we think is possible. We’ve run this playbook many times before — with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Stories, Reels, and more — and this is as good of a start as we could have hoped for, so I’m really happy with the path we’re on here.”

On AI and Facebook products:

AI “will go across everything. The characters will have Instagram and Facebook profiles. And you’ll be able to talk to them in WhatsApp and Messenger and Instagram, and they’ll be embodied as avatars and virtual reality.”

On that possible fight with Elon Musk:

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

On retirement:

“I think I’m going to be running Meta for a long time.”

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StealthEX x CryptoDaily Digest: Clayton’s ETF Views, Musk’s Dogecoin Ties & Eco-Friendly Mining

Welcome to the StealthEX x CryptoDaily digest, your premier gateway to the intricate digital currency world. We meticulously curate insights each week, spotlighting the pivotal moments and market shifts that define the cryptocurrency world. Our commitment is to move past surface-level news, delving into the core dynamics that shape the market. With a focus on comprehensive understanding, we aim to equip you with knowledge that stands out from the usual buzz. Ready to explore? Let’s embark on this week’s crypto journey!

Musk's Dogecoin Ties, Eco-Friendly Mining & More in StealthEX x CryptoDaily Digest

Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton’s Positive Outlook on Bitcoin Spot ETF Approval

In a recent interview, the former SEC Chair, Jay Clayton, shed light on the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency regulations. Currently serving as an advisor at One River Asset Management, Clayton expressed optimism regarding approving a Bitcoin Spot ETF. He emphasized the significant strides the crypto market has made in maturity and regulatory compliance. 

While Clayton refrained from giving a definitive timeline for the approval, his positive stance is a beacon of hope for many in the crypto community. His insights suggest that the regulatory body might be warming up to crypto ETFs, marking a potential turning point in the broader acceptance of cryptocurrencies.

ARK Invest and 21Shares Break New Ground with Application for Spot Ethereum ETF

In a pioneering move, ARK Invest, in collaboration with 21Shares, has approached the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with an application for the first-ever Spot Ethereum ETF. This initiative is a testament to Ethereum’s growing stature in the financial world. 

The proposed ETF is designed to allow investors to gain exposure to Ethereum without the complexities of direct ownership. As Ethereum continues to solidify its position as a leading blockchain platform, this ETF could pave the way for more mainstream investment opportunities in the crypto space. 

Vitalik Buterin’s Surprising Sale of MKR Tokens Sparks Speculation

Ethereum’s co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, recently made waves in the crypto community with his unexpected decision to offload his MKR tokens. He held these tokens for two years. That’s why the sudden sale has led to a flurry of speculation. 

Analysts and enthusiasts alike are trying to decipher the reasons behind this move. Some suggest it might be a strategic diversification, while others wonder if it indicates concerns about the MakerDAO project. Buterin’s decisions have always been closely watched; this latest move is no exception.

Musk’s Deep Involvement with Dogecoin and Plans for a Blockchain Social Media Platform

Elon Musk, the tech magnate known for his ventures in space exploration and electric vehicles, has been revealed to have a deeper connection with the cryptocurrency Dogecoin than previously known. An upcoming biography of Musk has unveiled that he had been quietly funding the development of Dogecoin. 

The biography, penned by Walter Isaacson and set to release on September 12, also delves into Musk’s vision for a blockchain-based social media platform. This platform would allow users to verify their identities through payments and enable content creators to monetize their stories, videos, and music. 

Musk envisioned integrating Dogecoin as a potential payment method on this platform. Furthermore, he aspired to develop a “blockchain social media system” akin to Twitter, which he later acquired for $44 billion and rebranded as “X.” 

While “X” has secured licenses to offer payments in various states, there’s no confirmation yet on Dogecoin’s integration as a payment method.

Innovative Bitcoin Mining Power Solution: Harnessing Old Tire Incineration

An innovative solution has emerged to address the environmental concerns associated with Bitcoin mining: utilizing old tire incineration as a power source. 

This approach offers a sustainable energy alternative for mining operations and presents a viable method for waste management by repurposing discarded tires. 

As the crypto industry grapples with its carbon footprint, such solutions could play a pivotal role in its sustainable future. 

Arkham’s Analysis Reveals Grayscale’s Dominance as a Major Bitcoin Holder

Blockchain analytics firm Arkham Intelligence has identified Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust as the world’s second-largest holder of Bitcoin (BTC). The trust reportedly holds over $16 billion worth of the leading cryptocurrency, distributed across more than 1750 addresses. This revelation comes despite Grayscale’s efforts to maintain confidentiality regarding the trust’s on-chain addresses. 

Historically, Grayscale faced scrutiny concerning its Bitcoin balance, especially after the FTX exchange’s collapse. Citing security concerns, Grayscale refrained from disclosing its on-chain addresses. However, Coinbase, Grayscale’s custodial partner, later released a report detailing the assets held on Grayscale’s behalf, alleviating some speculation.

Arkham Intelligence’s disclosure further solidifies its reputation in identifying specific crypto addresses, having previously pinpointed Grayscale’s Ethereum Trust holdings and Robinhood’s crypto wallets.

Former Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky Faces Legal Challenges as US Court Freezes Assets

Alex Mashinsky, the ex-CEO of Celsius, is facing significant legal hurdles as a U.S. court has ordered a freeze on his assets, including bank accounts and a property in Texas. This decision comes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation led by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). 

Mashinsky was arrested in July on charges related to his association with the now-defunct Celsius. He is accused of misleading investors and defrauding users and investors of billions of dollars. Despite pleading not guilty and refuting the allegations, Mashinsky was released on a $40 million bail with stringent conditions. 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have also initiated civil cases against him. Following these developments, Celsius’s native CEL token significantly dropped its value.

Grayscale Urges SEC to Approve Bitcoin Spot ETF

Grayscale, a leading name in the cryptocurrency industry, is intensifying its efforts to secure approval for a Bitcoin Spot ETF from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Backed by its law firm, Davis Polk, Grayscale has submitted a compelling letter to the SEC, emphasizing the maturity of the crypto market and the efficient use of regulatory resources. 

The firm believes that the time is ripe for such an innovation. While the SEC has previously expressed concerns about potential risks, including market manipulation and regulatory oversight, Grayscale counters these arguments. Fresh from a court victory against the regulator, Grayscale is optimistic that their proposal will receive the green light, marking a significant shift in the U.S. regulatory landscape for digital assets.

This article is not supposed to provide financial advice. Digital assets are risky. Be sure to do your own research and consult your financial advisor before investing.

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

In January 2023, Telegram channels in Russia were flooded with undated pictures of an unmanned Ukranian drone that included a retrofitted Starlink satellite dish made by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company.

The images, a pro-Russian paramilitary group claimed, showed that the dish’s rear plastic casing had been hacked off to reduce its weight and make it easier to fit on the drone. On paper, the integration of Starlink’s satellite internet service meant that the machine could be controlled from anywhere and be used for everything from surveilling Russian troops to coordinating military strikes.

Eleven days later, responding to a video of a Russian TV anchor calling him a war criminal, Musk tweeted: “We are not allowing Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes…”.

And just like that, the world was informed that a billionaire sitting 10,000 km away had effectively changed the rules of engagement for the Russia-Ukraine war.

For most of the world, Starlink’s importance in Ukraine has hammered in how high-speed satellite Internet access is quickly becoming the most valuable strategic resource in a conflict or war-stricken region. For millions of Ukranians, it was a horrifying moment of clarity on how much of their country’s future depended on the whims of just one man – an erratic tech CEO known for his ability to both push and break boundaries.

The importance of Starlink

For most of the last three decades, satellite internet ranked pretty high on the list of possible, but largely impractical, technology – somewhere between jetpacks and hover cars. The idea was simple: governments or companies would send up small satellites into space that would beam high-speed Internet to users with the help of ground stations or terminals back on earth.

In the 1990s and 2000s, most of the companies that sent up such satellites ended up failing, either due to high costs or technical difficulties. It didn’t help that the actual product at the time was bad and that the business opportunity was limited.

A lot of this changed from 2019, in large part due to Musk. Better satellites, placed closer to earth, and in a connected constellation could bring satellite internet access on par with the average broadband experience.

Today, Musk’s Starlink service is the undisputed king of the section of space called low-earth orbit (LEO). Of the roughly 7,500 active satellites that orbit Earth today, more than half are Starlink satellites.

There are a handful of competitors, some backed by governments: Viasat, OneWeb, Avanti, SES, Immarsaat, and Iridium. But none of them come close to offering the convenience, speed or affordability of Starlink.

Remote control

After the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in 2022, fibre network lines and cell towers were the first pieces of infrastructure to be destroyed, rendering Starlink as the lifeblood of Ukraine’s communication network. It also made them beholden to Musk’s mercurial personality. 

When Internet connectivity is deployed in a region, the nature of the technology is such that its operations aren’t controlled by the user, but by the company. So when the Ukrainian government wanted to switch on/off access in a particular area – for example, if a piece of territory had fallen into Russian hands and a few Starlink dishes or terminals had been lost – it had to call up Starlink each and every time. Imagine an Ukrainian army officer needing connectivity, only to find out that it’s 4 am in California and his contact at SpaceX won’t wake up for another three hours.

Musk could argue that he doesn’t want to give up control but the flipside is that he can also choose to turn the service off whenever he wishes. This is why Taiwan, in desperate need of a back-up in the event China snaps its undersea cables, suggested Starlink operate in its country through a joint venture that would have a local company own 51% of the entity. Musk refused, and talks petered out.

“If I’m China, I would ask Elon Musk to control all the satellite receivers in Taiwan. If I can control him, in an emergency I can turn it off,” Herming Chiueh, Taiwan’s deputy minister of digital affairs, later told Bloomberg.

It’s not as if a Starlink deployment can’t be customised to give any government greater control over how the service works. Media reports indicate that in June 2023, the Pentagon approved a new deal to buy 500 new Starlink terminals for Ukraine that would reduce the company’s ability to interfere in operations.

Warping how the internet works

Traditional infrastructure works on a public-utility principle. Toll-road operators don’t get to decide who uses their roads. Similarly, telecom companies don’t get to decide whether a particular region deserves no internet access because its inhabitants might use it for unsavoury purposes. Yet satellite internet companies get to insert themselves in key debates because of how the technology works and the lack of regulation.

After the September 2022 protests in Iran, the government shut off internet access in large parts of the country. Musk quickly stepped in to turn on Starlink connectivity. Activists and protestors smuggled in satellite dishes, and to date over 100 Starlink terminals are active in Iran, although the government there has declared it illegal. Short of shooting down Starlink’s satellites, Iran’s government can’t do anything.

There aren’t many that would oppose giving non-violent and democratic protestors the right to safely communicate. But it’s when the other side of the penny drops that the problem of Starlink’s monopoly becomes clear.

The New York Times reports that Musk refused Ukraine’s request in 2022 to provide Starlink connectivity near Crimea. The Ukrainian army wanted to send an explosive-filled maritime drone into Russian ships. It was only months later that Musk said that he wouldn’t allow Starlink to be used for long-range drone strikes.

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, who serves as Musk’s lieutenant, went a step further and took Ukraine to task over their use of the satellite internet technology, saying the country had leveraged it in ways that were “not part of any agreement”.

Starlink sits outside the realm of a typical government-to-government defence deal, yet these decisions get to be taken not by a government accountable to its citizens but a handful of tech company employees.

A satellite race

The obvious solution is that we need more LEO satellite constellations – government, private or some combination of the two – that provide Internet access.

Starlink’s monopoly was the result of many factors. Admittedly, Musk’s foresight is one; extremely light regulation from the Federal Communications Commission is another.

The secret sauce though is that SpaceX’s partly reusable rockets give Starlink a non-stop elevator to get satellites into LEO in a relatively inexpensive manner. This is where its serious competitors trip up.

Rival firm OneWeb, whose biggest shareholders are Bharti Airtel’s holding company and the U.K. government, were forced to abort a launch in Russia after Putin demanded the satellites not be used against Moscow. OneWeb took a $230 million hit after Russia refused to return its satellites too.

This is why more government-specific projects are needed. In 2022, the European Union earmarked EUR 2.4 billion to set up a “sovereign” satellite constellation to be rolled out by 2027. China has its own plans to deploy a 13,000-satellite LEO mega constellation to rival Starlink.

Starlink’s disputes with Ukraine and other countries should serve as a wake-up call of how the power of the stars is quickly being concentrated in the hands of just one man, and a worrying lesson for any country or government looking to depend on Musk for connectivity.

Anuj Srivas is a freelance technology writer.

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Space Force raises the stakes as rocket companies compete for lucrative military missions

A Falcon Heavy rocket launches the USSF-67 mission on January 15, 2023 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


The U.S. military is raising the stakes — and widening the field — on a high-profile competition for Space Force mission contracts.

The Space Force plans to buy even more rocket launches from companies in the coming years than previously expected, granting more companies a chance at securing billions in potential contracts.

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“This is a huge deal,” Col. Doug Pentecost, the deputy program executive officer of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command, told reporters during a briefing this week.

Earlier this year the Space Force kicked off the process to buy five years’ worth of launches, under a lucrative program known as National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3. Now it’s boosting the scale.

The U.S. sees a rising impetus to improve its military capabilities in space, spurring the need to almost triple the number of launches in Phase 3 that it bought in Phase 2 in 2020.

“That just blows my mind,” Pentecost said. “We had only estimated 36 missions in Phase 2. For Phase 3, we’re estimating 90 missions.”

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In February, Space Force outlined a “mutual fund” strategy to buying launches from companies. It split NSSL Phase 3 into two groups. Lane 1 is the new approach, with lower requirements and a more flexible bidding process that allows companies to compete as rockets debut over the coming years. Lane 2 represents the existing approach, with the Space Force planning to select a set number of companies for missions that meet the most demanding requirements.

Pentecost said Space Force hosted an industry day in February to go over the program’s details and had 22 companies show up. Since then, Space Force made a number of adjustments to Phase 3. It has added more missions, introduced a price cap, expanded Lane 2, and has set an annual schedule for mission assignments.

The government weighs bids by a company’s “Total Evaluated Price” per launch. That’s split into “Launch Service,” meaning how much it costs to build and launch a rocket, and the “Launch Service Support,” which covers special requirements the military may have for launch. The Launch Service Support amount is capped at $100 million per year per company.

“We implemented some cost-constraining tools so that we don’t balloon. We don’t want [a situation where] everybody gets a mission — you get a mission, you get a mission, you get a mission — because then there’s no real competition,” Pentecost said.

“We do think that all of our industry partners want to be the number one guy, so we think that will provide competitive pricing to keep our costs down,” Pentecost added.

Widening Lane 2

While Lane 1 is expected to draw the largest number of bids and award 30 missions, Lane 2 is the big show.

With Lane 2, Space Force gives out the most valuable contracts to launch national security satellites with the highest stakes. 

“These are the ones that are a $1 billion [satellite] payload going to unique orbits,” Pentecost said.

Not only has Lane 2 seen an increase in how many missions are up for grabs — currently estimated at 58 launches, up from 39 in February — but Space Force also made the decision to expand the available slots for eventual awards to three companies, instead of limiting it to two.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, were assumed to be the two leading contenders for Lane 2, but now there’s a door open for another company like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

Space Force will assign 60% and 40% of 51 missions to the top two bidders, respectively, and the remaining seven launches will go to the third-place bidder. 

Regardless of where a company ranks, it must demonstrate that it can meet all the Lane 2 requirements, which include having launch sites on both the east coast and west coast, and the ability to hit nine “reference” orbits with high accuracy several of which are much further from Earth than the low Earth orbit requirement of Lane 1.

Asked by CNBC how many companies are developing rockets that can meet those requirements by the deadline for launches, a Space Force spokesperson declined to specify, saying the military is “tracking several” that are “expanding their launch capabilities into most of these orbits.”

“We’re hoping that it’s not just ULA, SpaceX and Blue Origin competing for that, as there are others who have messaged interest in the past,” Col. Chad Melone, the chief of Space Systems Command’s Launch Procurement and Integration division, said during the briefing.

Securing supply

Space Force is introducing an annual Oct. 1 deadline for assigning missions to companies that have won a contract.

Pentecost explained the first assignments are up for grabs in October 2025, but noted contracts don’t guarantee assignments, which protects Space Force from delays companies may have in developing and flying rockets.

“You could actually have won the contract, that you’ve got this great plan on how you’re going to be flying by [fiscal year] 2027. But since you’re not flying yet, and I have a satellite that needs to fly in two years, we will not give you that mission — we will move it to the other guy,” Pentecost said.

Space Force aims to finalize its request for bidders by September and then have all the proposals in by December, to then award the contracts in October 2024.

Space Force officials said a big driver of that push is to “guarantee capacity,” as there are “a ton of other companies” trying to buy launches for satellites and Space Force needs to lock down its orders.

“We wanted to make sure that we essentially hedged against the launch scarcity that could happen because, if there’s a very large demand for launch and everyone is [buying], prices could be very high,” Melone said.

But despite that fear, Pentecost said 2026 “seems to be the sweet spot” when a number of companies’ rockets will be done with development and ready to fly. And companies that stay on track will have the upper hand in NSSL Phase 3.

“If you’re flying before that, or if your schedule is showing that you’re going to be flying before that, you will get significant strengths, which will put you in a better position to win the best provider or second best in this competition,” Pentecost said.

Why Starship is indispensable for the future of SpaceX

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Tesla Investor Rode A 14,800% Gain Due To A 27-Year-Old Analyst

Koney had no real background in the auto industry when he first encountered Tesla. (File)

Owuraka Koney forms part of an elite group on Wall Street: Those who foresaw Tesla Inc.’s wild growth potential before it even went public.

Koney was just 25 when he stumbled across the fledgling electric-vehicle maker while researching other companies for Jennison Associates. He was immediately taken with Tesla’s vision and by 27 managed to convince his colleagues at Jennison to gamble on the stock.

A dozen years and some 14,800% later, Koney isn’t satisfied. He still sees lots of room for additional gains as the company releases a “tsunami” of new cars in the coming years. At the same time, he expects the auto industry to undergo a massive consolidation as it makes the challenging shift away from combustion engines.

Koney, talking for the first time publicly about how Jennison built a Tesla position now worth $5.9 billion, said the Elon Musk-led company built EV expertise early and has fine-tuned its products, positioning itself to be among the survivors. Koney thinks by 2026, Tesla could be pumping out twice the 2 million or so cars it’s expected to deliver this year. That will set it up for further growth, even as dreamy notions of fully self-driving cars remain years away.

“They are mostly a car company today. That’s what drives the majority of their revenue,” Koney said. “A few years from now that will still be the case.”

When Tesla posts quarterly earnings on Wednesday, Koney won’t be especially worried about the company’s seemingly constant volatility. The results will be a barometer for how well a series of price cuts are working in an increasingly crowded market, in which both legacy automakers and startups are constantly introducing alternatives to the Model 3 and Model Y, Tesla’s two workhorse vehicles.

Koney said he’s thinking more about three years from now, when he expects next-generation Tesla cars will be rolling off a newly built assembly line in Mexico. He sees those models being made cheaply at high volumes, putting investors like Jennison in line for another Musk windfall.


Chance Meeting

Koney had no real background in the auto industry when he first encountered Tesla. He was born in Ghana and spent part of his childhood in Gambia. His father was a judge, and his mom worked for Ghana Airways. After studying economics and political science at Williams College, he got his first job in finance as an aerospace analyst at UBS Group AG.

Jennison, an affiliate manager of PGIM with about $175 billion under management, hired Koney in 2007 to cover the industrial sector. Two years later, the analyst embarked on a nationwide tour of the EV ecosystem to understand why one of the companies he followed, Johnson Controls Inc., was considering building a lithium-ion battery business. One of the startups he visited impressed him so much he began forming a whole new investment idea.

When Koney met with Tesla at its retail store in Silicon Valley, Deepak Ahuja, Tesla’s then-chief financial officer, said the company would first break into the market at the high end, where consumers were willing to pay a premium for an EV. Then they would drive downmarket as quickly as possible, increasing volume and lowering the price of each successive model.

Koney came away bullish, but Tesla still faced a lot of risks. He kept a close watch on the company as it gained a stronger footing. In April 2010, the carmaker received a low-interest $465 million loan from the US Department of Energy – a lifeline as it was creating the Model S. A month later, Tesla bought a shuttered factory once owned by a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. That June, Tesla went public at $17 a share, valuing the company at about $1.7 billion.

Koney met more executives, including its then-chief technology officer, JB Straubel, and its head designer, Franz von Holzhausen. By 2011, convinced Tesla was “for real,” it was time for him to pitch Jennison on the idea.

“Owuraka believed that Tesla was going to revolutionize the auto industry,” said Kathleen McCarragher, head of growth equity at Jennison. “He had a deep understanding of the significance of Tesla’s competitive advantages.”

Among the factors Koney highlighted to the team was that Tesla had created its own battery system, had structural cost advantages compared to traditional automakers and had a “unique company culture that could create innovative solutions,” McCarragher said.

Jennison owns more than 20 million Tesla shares, making it one of the company’s largest investors. The asset manager declined to say how profitable its bet on Tesla has been over the years, citing compliance issues. The stock has gained more than 135% in 2023 and is up 14,853% since mid-2011, when Jennison first disclosed its initial shareholding in a regulatory filing.

High Volatility

For nearly a dozen years, Koney has ridden the waves of stomach-churning volatility, a similar experience to the other company he pegged as a potential behemoth early in his time at Jennison: Netflix Inc. Few stocks are as polarizing as Tesla, and each day begins with absorbing the news flow, checking Reddit and “aggressive lurking” on Twitter.

Some of the ups and downs have been triggered by Musk himself, and behind the scenes Koney has found himself in disagreements with the multibillionaire.

In 2016, Tesla wanted to acquire SolarCity, a rooftop solar-panel installer run by Musk’s cousins. Some investors balked: Tesla was in the throes of working on the Model 3, its first mass-market car, and the deal seemed ill-timed.

As Tesla lobbied shareholders for support, the company arranged for a phone conversation between Koney and Musk. The analyst was rushing home to his infant daughter when the call from the CEO came through. His mother, who’d been helping with childcare, picked up as Koney walked in the door and told him “this guy called Elon” was on the phone.

Shareholders overwhelmingly approved the SolarCity deal; Jennison voted against it. Solar still isn’t a big part of Tesla’s energy business, where much of the excitement is focused on the company’s Megapack batteries for utilities.

“I was not a fan of that deal, and I’m still not,” Koney said. “I like Elon. But I’m not a fanboy, per se. We don’t just sign off on everything.”

By 2018, Tesla was in a manufacturing ramp-up period so taxing and capital intensive, Musk called it “production hell.” According to the CEO’s retelling, the company was weeks away from bankruptcy, and key executives quit.

That was also the year Musk infamously tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420, and had “funding secured.” Koney shot Tesla an email and was ultimately deposed by investors who sued Musk in federal court (the transcript of the analyst’s deposition is sealed).

Early 2019 was equally rough: Tesla closed stores and missed delivery targets, and Ahuja left. But Koney saw the second quarter of the year as a turning point: Tesla became cash-flow positive, proving it could build the Model 3 and make money. It’s still the only US company with a profitable EV business.

Tesla is not immune to risks. The company itself says it is highly dependent on Musk, who is also the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. In October, he acquired Twitter Inc. for $44 billion. This month, he announced the leadership team for xAI, his latest startup.

“Elon is a big driver for Tesla’s success,” said Koney. “The less time he spends on Twitter and the more time he spends on Tesla, I’m happy.”

Full Self-Driving

In March, Tesla gave a lengthy investor presentation at the company’s headquarters and factory in Austin, and Musk shared the stage with several other executives. Koney was there in person, paying close attention to the more than 160 slides that Tesla showed.

Besides the breadth of executive talent, Koney’s biggest takeaway was the “unboxed” assembly process that Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, highlighted. He said the company will move away from complex and cumbersome methods the industry has used for more than a century, eliminating hundreds of parts and simplifying assembly processes. Koney believes Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot, could ultimately be put to work on production lines to install seats and interior panels.

That could reduce costs, which would be especially helpful as Musk slashes prices of Tesla models to keep growing sales as other carmakers release waves of competing electric vehicles.

While those cuts will pressure profit margins, Musk has said the company could make so much money on autonomous-driving software in the future, it doesn’t need to make upfront returns on vehicle sales. The CEO has long made lofty claims about AI-powered cars that haven’t come to pass.

Koney thinks that Full Self-Driving Beta – Tesla’s name for its driver-assistance software – is getting incrementally better, and requiring less input from the driver. He should know: He has a Model X with FSD Beta and regularly drives it in Manhattan.

“It’s extremely cautious around pedestrians, which it should be,” Koney said. “There’s a ways to go before FSD works in a city like New York, let alone a place like Mumbai.”

More bullish for Koney is the fact Tesla is building a new factory in Mexico that will make its next-generation cars.

Though details are scant – vehicles were shrouded under white sheets during its investor day – Tesla expects them to be winning products. The company wants to make 20 million vehicles a year by 2030 and will need a cheaper, high-volume models to get there.

It’s a far cry from 2009, when Koney was excited about the fledging EV maker but much of Wall Street questioned whether the company was viable.

“When I look at Tesla today, I’m no longer worried about survival,” said Koney. “It’s just a question of how successful they will be.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Billionaire Brawl: Now Who’s Winning The Fight Between Musk And Zuckerberg?

Musk and Zuckerberg continue to deal blows to each other, even if the cage fight is still metaphorical—for now.

By Phoebe Liu, Forbes Staff

The yearslong battle between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg—which might turn physical—continued this week. The Meta CEO dealt a blow to Musk on Wednesday, when he launched a direct competitor to Musk’s Twitter, called Threads, in a surprise announcement accompanied by Zuckerberg’s first tweet in a decade: the Spiderman meme often used to poke fun at two very similar things.

Musk is fighting back. On July 5, the day Threads launched, an attorney for Twitter threatened legal action against Meta, accusing the company of misusing Twitter’s “trade secrets and other intellectual property.” Threads’ user experience differs from that of Twitter in several key ways, including eschewing hashtags and the chronological timeline, but still looks a lot like Twitter. Musk referred to Threads as a metaphorical “tapeworm.”

Still, Threads seems to be off to a solid start, reporting more than 30 million sign-ups within 24 hours, including a smattering of billionaires, pop stars and politicians. Analyst optimism around Threads’ launch also helped push Zuckerberg’s net worth, mostly held in Meta stock, up by $1.2 billion this week. He is the world’s 8th-richest person, according to Forbes’ real-time tracker. Musk, who reclaimed his spot as the world’s wealthiest person last week, had an even better week than Zuckerberg. Shares of his electric vehicle maker Tesla climbed 5%, translating to a $8.2 billion jump in Musk’s net worth. As of Friday’s market close, Musk is worth $246 billion, while Zuckerberg is worth $103 billion.

Despite their public brawling, both tech executives are riding high—really high—this year. Zuckerberg’s wealth has grown by the bigger percentage, while the richer Musk has added more wealth in sheer dollar terms. Since the beginning of 2023, Zuckerberg’s fortune has jumped 137%, from $43.8 billion to $103 billion. Over the same period, Musk’s net worth has climbed by 68%, from $146.5 billion to $246 billion. Their main shareholdings, Meta and Tesla, are the second- and third-best performing stocks in the S&P 500 in the first half of 2023, up 141% and 123% respectively.

Opinions differ on whether the physical fight will occur: Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, says they’ve been planning; Walter Isaacson, Musk’s biographer, says the cage match won’t happen. Still, even aside from Twitter vs. Threads and net worths, there’s much to compare:

  • Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Musk debuted on Forbes’ Billionaires List four years later, worth $2 billion and ranked no. 634
  • Zuckerberg appears on Forbes’ 2023 list of America’s most generous givers, while Musk doesn’t. Musk gifted Tesla shares last year, but it’s unclear whether they were actually disbursed to charity.
  • Zuckerberg has a sprawling real estate portfolio worth an estimated $300 million—including some 1,500 acres of land and a former sugar plantation in Hawaii. Musk pledged to sell almost all of his real estate two years ago.
  • Musk has led more companies (including Tesla, Twitter, SpaceX and Neuralink) causing some critics and investors to worry that he’s distracted. Zuckerberg has focused his attention on Facebook-turned-Meta, which he famously launched from his Harvard dorm nearly two decades ago.
  • Musk owns more of the main company that made him rich. He has approximately 20% of Tesla shares, while Zuckerberg owns just under 15% of Meta.
  • Musk immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa via Canada and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Zuckerberg, the son of a dentist, grew up in Westchester County in New York. He dropped out of Harvard during his sophomore year.
  • Zuckerberg has three children with his wife, Priscilla Chan (All are named after Roman emperors). Musk has at least nine living children with three women, including triplets and two sets of twins; one is named X. Still he has expressed worries about population collapse.

Here’s how the net worths of Musk and Zuckerberg fared in the week spanning from market close on Friday, June 30, to the close on Friday, July 7:

Elon Musk





Musk is once again the world’s richest person, after sitting at the No. 2 spot for six months. His net worth is up $8.2 billion this week, thanks to Tesla’s 5% stock jump. Over the weekend, the world’s top-selling electric vehicle brand announced a quarterly delivery record of nearly 500,000 sedans and crossovers, aided by price cuts—beating analysts’ expectations and enriching Musk, who owns around one-fifth of the company.

Mark Zuckerberg





Multiple analyst upgrades for Meta followed the launch of Twitter competitor Threads, leading to an uptick in Meta stock this week. After more than a year out of the world’s top ten richest, Zuckerberg reentered those ranks late last month. Meta’s new product and its cost-cutting narrative—including 21,000 layoffs since late 2022—in what Zuckerberg has called a “year of efficiency” has helped rocket its stock price up from a November 2022 low.


MORE FROM FORBES‘Like Gen Z’s Takeover Of Twitter’: Creators React To Threads, Meta’s New Social AppMORE FROM FORBESSilvio Berlusconi’s Five Children Are Now BillionairesMORE FROM FORBESHow A Magazine Claiming To Empower Female Founders Was ‘Birthed’ By A Controversial ChurchMORE FROM FORBESWhy It Took A Civilian To Save The Military’s $8.5 Billion Retail OperationMORE FROM FORBESBrazil’s Nubank Is Leaving U.S. Digital Banks In The Dust

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Blinken Set To Travel To Beijing Amid Continuing U.S.-China Strains

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, a long-time confidant of President Joe Biden, will travel to Beijing amid continuing strains in relations between the world’s two largest economies as part of a trip that begins on June 16, the State Department said in a statement today.

“While in Beijing, Secretary Blinken will meet with senior PRC (People’s Republic of China) officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship,” the statement said. “He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges.”


Neither side has said whether Blinken, a journalist and lawyer earlier in his career, would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. One likely topic would be a possible Xi visit to the U.S. for a meeting of APEC leaders in San Francisco in November. Blinken last week just concluded a trip to Saudi Arabia, where members of the Gulf Cooperation Council later gathered to express warm support of Arab-China business amid a big push by Beijing to expand its ties to that region.

Blinken’s visit follows the postponement of a planned trip earlier this year after an alleged spy balloon from China floated over the U.S. heartland in February, creating a political uproar in Congress. China later targeted U.S. companies in the mainland on security grounds, including due diligence and research firms Bain and Mintz Group, and announced an anti-espionage law to take effect on July 1 that American businesses fear could cover many routine business activities.

Biden last month called the balloon “silly” and has faced criticism for not making public an investigation into the matter. However, adding to pressure on already strained ties, the U.S. this week acknowledged that China has set up a spy base in Cuba, and added 31 Chinese companies to a list of businesses engaged in activity that hurt American security.


U.S. business leaders looking to the China market as an offset to slow economic growth at home will privately support any lowering of tension between the two countries, though try to avoid any public comments owing to fears of being questioned by the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a knowledgeable former diplomat said. That Congressional group is “committed to working on a bipartisan basis to build consensus on the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and develop a plan of action to defend the American people, our economy, and our values,” according to its website.

The overall atmospherics of the U.S.-China economic relationship have improved somewhat following a series of high-level government meetings between the two countries. Daniel Kritenbrink, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and China’s Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu held meetings on June 5 that both said were productive. China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington last month followed by a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in Detroit on the margins of an APEC trade gathering. Those meetings followed talks in May between U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi in Vienna.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon — both with business interests in China — have also visited the country in recent weeks. (See related post here.) Bill Gates reportedly arrived in Beijing today.

Tension soared after a Taiwan visit by then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last August prompted Beijing to cut back official contacts with the United States and to launch military drills around the island. The mainland claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, a democratically run economy of 24 million people that is one of the world’s most important semiconductor manufacturing centers.

In November, a meeting between Biden and Xi in Bali led to expectations the relationship between the two countries was going to stabilize. Relations plunged again, however, following the spy balloon incident.


During the first term of the Obama Administration, Blinken was national security advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden, according to Blinken’s State Department biography. “This was the continuation of a long professional relationship that stretched back to 2002,” it notes, when Blinken began his six-year stint as Democratic staff director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then-Senator Biden was the chair of that committee from 2001 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009.

Earlier in his career, the department said, Blinken, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, was a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2001 and 2002. Before joining government, he also practiced law in New York and Paris. Blinken earlier was a reporter for The New Republic magazine.

See related posts:

China’s “Fits And Starts” Economy Needs Private Sector Boost — Matthews Asia’s Andy Rothman


Forbes China Global 2000: China’s Ranks Thin As Real Estate Woes Persist

Elon Musk Visit To Beijing Highlights Business Role In U.S.-China Ties


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RFK Jr. And Elon Musk: Two Great Dicks That Taste Like Sh*t!

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sure has come a long way from 2014, when he angered fossil fuel lobbyists by saying that climate change deniers should be jailed. Or maybe not such a long way; by 2005 he was already spreading the anti-vax gospel and falsely claiming that childhood vaccines cause autism. And now he’s running for president and everyone is reminding you what a complete freakass whackaloon he is.

We’ll do our part. Hey, remember that long-ago time in 2022 when he said, of COVID vaccine mandates, that at least in Nazi Germany “you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”

Kennedy did his part to help out that educational endeavor Monday night by sitting down with chief Twitter troll Elon Musk, who seems to love conspiratorial bullshit nearly as much as Kennedy does. He started out by thanking Musk for ending all the terrible “censorship” on the platform — by making it a free-for all for COVID and vaccine disinformation, not to mention for Nazis, far-Right conspiracy theories, and rampant hatred of transgender people, but also by actually censoring people on behalf of authoritarian governments. Kennedy also explained that in 2021, “the government pressured Mark Zuckerberg” to ban him from Instagram, although now his account has been restored because he’s running for president. Talk about ineffective censorship!

Rolling Stone reports that for the first 40 minutes of the Twitter Spaces chat, Kennedy barely talked about his candidacy, because he and Musk were too busy telling each other how much they admired each other for being courageous and shit, which is honestly what free speech is for.

At one point, Kennedy asked where Musk got the courage to be like one of America’s Founders by being “willing to take this huge, massive, unspeakable economic hit on behalf of a principle for a country in which you weren’t even born?” Musk, who does kind of have US citizenship after all, replied, “I should say I do very much consider myself an American.” Musk also acknowledged that advertisers had deserted the platform because he was so very committed to democracy, at least for people who think he’s cool, so it’s been “frankly a struggle to break even” (he is not breaking even) and then everyone with an $8 blue checkmark felt very warm that they had done their part to save America and/or Twitter.

After they both agreed that free speech is the very best, and that they both really love free speech the most, Kennedy bemoaned the sad fact that “we’re no longer living in a democratic system,” because Big Pharma controls the government and silences brave advocates of medical disinformation, which would explain why we only hear from anti-vaxxers everywhere on social media but not yet in (most) doctors’ offices.

Among other great trolls, Musk and Kennedy were joined by Tulsi Gabbard and Michael Shellenberger, author of books about how environmentalism is bad for everyone and global warming is happening but is honestly no big deal, yeesh, calm down. UPDATE/CORRECTION: I initially had a brain fart and confused Shellenberger with a different “contrarian” dipshit, Alex Berenson, formerly of the New York Times. Wonkette regrets the error.

Kennedy and Musk agreed that America shouldn’t be supporting the Ukrainian government, since as Kennedy put it, the Ukrainian people are “almost equally” victimized by America as by Russians. Musk added that the war was kind of our fault anyway, since “We are sending the flower of Ukrainian youth and Russian youth to die in the trenches, and it’s morally reprehensible,” and when you think about it, we probably shouldn’t be ordering Russia’s youth flowers around like that, how would we like it huh?

The conversation got even more sane when Gabbard added that

the U.S. had turned Ukraine into a “slaughterhouse” and blamed the conflict on an “elitist cabal of war-mongers” who had seized control of the Democratic Party.

Those war-mongers, Kennedy warned, hadn’t just taken control of the Democratic party: They were in control of the Deep State as well.

He recalled being told by Donald Trump’s former CIA Director Mike Pompeo that the “top layer of that agency is made up almost entirely of people who do not believe in the American institutions of democracy,” which is pretty rich coming from a top guy in the Trump administration.

Kennedy also said he opposed an assault weapons ban, because the Second Amendment is pretty awesome, and anyway, the problem isn’t guns, it’s antidepressant meds, which turn people into mass shooters, explaining that

“prior to the introduction of Prozac, we had almost none of these events in our country. […] The one thing that we have, it’s different than anybody in the world, is the amount of psychiatric drugs our children are taking.” He then alleged that the National Institutes of Health won’t research the supposed link between these drugs and shootings “because they’re working with the pharmaceutical industry.”

It’s pretty convincing until you remember that antidepressants are prescribed worldwide, but in countries where there aren’t more guns than people, there aren’t a bunch of school shootings. Also, maybe someone could have pointed out that only about a quarter of mass shooters use antidepressants, while 100 percent of them use firearms, albeit not usually with a doctor’s prescription.

Along the way, Kennedy also insisted that COVID was a “bioweapon,” lied that after the passage of the Affordable Care Act the “Democrats were getting more money from pharma than Republicans” (it’s the other way around, according to STAT News, but then STAT News believes vaccines work), and promised to go to the US-Mexico border to “try to formulate policies that will seal the border permanently,” so he really sounds like the mainstream Democrat that everyone on the far Right has been looking for, the end and OPEN THREAD.

[Rolling Stone / Insider / NYT]

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