Who Is Julian Assange?

Who Is Julian Assange?

Recently, the Australian computer programmer, Julian Assange was denied bail by the UK court. Let’s take a look into his life and career along with why he was denied bail.

Crux of the Matter

Who Is He?
Born on July 3, 1971, Townsville, Queensland, Australia, Assange is an Australian computer programmer who founded the media organization WikiLeaks. He calls his practice “scientific journalism” i.e., providing primary source materials with a minimum of editorial commentary.

He has released thousands of internal or classified documents from an assortment of government and corporate entities through WikiLeaks. As a teenager, he infiltrated a number of secure systems, including those at NASA and the Pentagon, under the nickname “Mendax”.

  • September 1991: He was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation. Later charged with 31 counts of cybercrime – pleaded guilty to most of them.
  • 1993: Assange gave technical advice to the Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit that assisted in prosecutions.
  • He was also involved in starting Suburbia Public Access Network, one of the first public Internet service providers in Australia.
  • He began programming in 1994.
  • In 1995 he co-authored the TCP port ‘Scanner Strobe’ which he patched to the open-source database PostgreSQL, the Usenet caching software NNTPCache in 1996.
  • In 1997, he created Rubberhose, a deniable encryption system.
  • In 2000, he created Surfraw, a command-line interface for web-based search engines.
  • October 2006: Assange created WikiLeaks to serve as a clearinghouse for sensitive or classified documents.
  • December 2006: The first post was a message from a Somali rebel leader encouraging the use of hired gunmen to assassinate government officials.

Why Is He On Trial?

  • 2010: WikiLeaks posted almost half a million documents obtained from US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (later called Chelsea Manning) mainly relating to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • November 2010: WikiLeaks began publishing an estimated 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables.
  • Classified documents dated mostly from 2007 to 2010, but they included some dating back as far as 1966.
  • Assange is facing a litany of charges in the US, including conspiracy to hack US government computers and breaching the Espionage Act.
  • He has been imprisoned in the UK since April 2019.
  • In January 2021 a UK judge refused US’ request to extradite him and deemed him at risk of suicide and self-harm.

Read about the details of his trial here: WikiLeaks Co-Founder Assange Facing Court Trial In UK

Curiopedia
  • The United States diplomatic cables leak, widely known as Cablegate, began on Sunday, 28 November 2010 when WikiLeaks began releasing classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010, the cables contain diplomatic analysis from world leaders, and the diplomats’ assessment of host countries and their officials.
  • A wiki is a hypertext publication collaboratively edited and managed by its own audience directly using a web browser. WikiLeaks was originally established with a “wiki” communal publication method, which was terminated by May 2010.
  • The Fifth Estate is a 2013 biographical thriller film directed by Bill Condon, about the news-leaking website WikiLeaks. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as its editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange, and Daniel Brühl as its former spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

The Line – A Car Free, Road Free City In Saudi Arabia

The Line - A Car Free, Road Free City In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman has announced his plans for a zero-carbon city called “The Line“. It will be built as a previously announced project NEOM. Let’s see how this vision will materialize in real life.

Crux of the Matter

What Are The Plans?
Construction of the 170 km long “The Linecity, which shall be part of a mega-project named “Neom”, will start this year, announced the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. 

Usage of Public Investment Fund
As per the Prince, the backbone of investment in “The Line” will come from the $500 billion support to NEOM by the Saudi government, Public Investment Fund, and local plus global investors, over a 10 year period.

What Is The Line?
As per various news sources, it is a walkable “belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature.”

What’s More?

  • 380,000 jobs will be created and 1 million residents will inhabit the place by 2030.
  • The estimated to cost of the infrastructure $100-$200 billion.
  • The city would be built around “ultra-high-speed transit.”
  • It would have one of the “world’s largest airports.”

What About NEOM?
Neom is part of the Prince’s plan to diversify the economy of the world’s largest crude exporter hub i.e Saudi Arabia and make a place for new smart technologies, businesses and tourism.

Where Would NEOM Be Located?
It would be a 26,500 km², a cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, near the Red Sea, and Strait of Tiran and the borders of Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

https://twitter.com/arabnews/status/1348690663471280131

Controversy Around These Plans
The NEOM project has been facing opposition from residents, who will be forced to relocate during the construction period. Analysts are questioning whether an investment is needed in a place of already well-established business hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

What Does The Prince Say?
Thinking about life after oil for his kingdom, the Prince said, “Why do we accept sacrificing nature for development?” citing the rising sea levels and carbon emissions, globally.

Curiopedia
  • NEOM means “New Future“. The first three letters of NEOM (“NEO”) come from the Latin word for “New”; the final letter (“M”) is an abbreviation of the Arabic word “Mostaqbal” which means “Future”.
  • Lusail, the city set to host the FIFA World Cup final in 2022, doesn’t exist yet. It is planned to have marinas, residential areas, island resorts, commercial districts, luxury shopping and leisure facilities, and a golf course community, man-made islands, and several entertainment districts. Construction is still ongoing.
  • The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. It is composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, known as the First Saudi state, and his brothers, though the ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Ibn Saud, the modern founder of Saudi Arabia.

Why Is US Delisting Chinese Stocks?

Why Is USA Delisting Chinese Stocks?

As straight as a Jalebi, this deal has managed to gain all the footage since New Year’s Eve. A derivative would be easier to understand when compared with this case of NYSE delisting the Chinese stocks. A rare event wherein NYSE has seemed as a flip-flopper, let us try and dissect the chunks of this not so simple case.

Crux of the Matter

But First, Terminologies

  • Delisting means the removal of listed security from a stock exchange, thus barring all further trades in that market.
  • Secondary Listing is when the company is listed on stock exchanges other than its primary listing exchange (market where its IPO was released).
  • American Depositary Shares (ADS) are equity shares of non-US Companies held by US Depositary Bank and are available for purchase to American investors.

The Turn Of Events
November 12, 2020: The executive order passed by Donald Trump banned US  investments in Chinese firms that are linked with the ‘military of People Republic of China’.

Trump claimed that Beijing is exploiting US Capital to finance the development & modernization of its military through its civilian corporates listed in US Stock Exchange. Moreover, China has never complied with the US Audit Standards reasoning them with national interest of Mainland and thus the Chinese firms lack financial transparency and accountability

The Delisting Plan
As per the November orders,  the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) had decided to delist the stocks on New Year’s Eve.
The three telecom firms within gunshot were:

  • China Mobile Limited
  • China Telecom Corporation
  • China Unicom Hong Kong Limited

Changing Course

  • January 4, 2021: The NYSE announced that it is not going to delist the Chinese firms under the rubric that they had consulted with the relevant regulators.
  • January 6, 2021: NYSC again changed the plan and decided to carry on with the delisting of the Chinese telecom majors on January 11th. The decision came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin criticized the decision to grant pardon to the firms.

Aftermath

  • These Chinese firms made their secondary listing in the Hong Kong stock market. Thus, all international investors will still be accessible to the firm. 
  • Investments will now be going into HK’s Index instead of the US markets, whereas significant money inflow may still come from US investors.
  • The firms said that US investors who wish to continue investing can get Hong Kong Listed Shares in return to their American Depositary Shares (ADS) deposit in a predefined proportion. 

The Undecided Part
Will Joe Biden continue with this executive order or will he further reverse the decision? The question remains unanswered and so does the sustainability of this delisting. 

Curiopedia
  • The Shanghai Stock Exchange is one of the world’s largest stock markets by market capitalization at $4.0 trillion as of November 2018. Unlike the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Shanghai Stock Exchange is still not entirely open to foreign investors and often affected by the decisions of the central government.
  • The bid-ask spread is the difference between the prices quoted for an immediate sale and an immediate purchase for stocks, futures contracts, options, or currency pairs. The size of the bid-ask spread in, security is one measure of the liquidity of the market and of the size of the transaction cost. If the spread is 0 then it is a frictionless asset.
  • A ticker symbol or stock symbol is an abbreviation used to uniquely identify publicly traded shares of a particular stock on a particular stock market. A stock symbol may consist of letters, numbers or a combination of both. “Ticker symbol” refers to the symbols that were printed on the ticker tape of a ticker tape machine.

Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Why Has Signal App Become The Talk Of The Town?

Ever since WhatsApp gave an ultimatum to its users for abiding by the new privacy rules or leaving the popular messaging app, an underdog has risen: Signal. The latter has been topping charts in app stores after being supported by whistleblower Edward Snowden and currently the world’s richest man, Elon Musk. Let’s see what’s the hype all about.

Crux of the Matter

Underdog Rises On App Stores
Over 1 lakh users downloaded Signal, both on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s app store whereas WhatsApp’s new downloads declined 11% after its announcement of new privacy rules.

What Is Special About It?
On Whatsapp, you have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. However, on Signal, you can use ‘Note to Self’ to jot down thoughts while messaging others.

How Secure Is It?
Like Whatsapp, Signal uses open-source Signal Protocol, for implementing End-to-End Encryption. But it goes one step further by encrypting metadata too via ‘Sealed Sender’.

What Is Sealed Sender?
It is a new way to communicate between the sender and the recipient wherein no one, including Signal, will know who is messaging whom, which ensures ultimate privacy

Which Data Does It Collect?
None. It claims to use only the mobile number for registration and doesn’t link it to the user’s identity, unlike rivals WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, etc.

It is Open Source
Signal’s source code is published for anyone to examine and use under a GPLv3 license for clients and an AGPLv3 license for the server. This means it has less potential for hidden vulnerabilities.

What’s More?
By default, Signal encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. It also supports encrypted group calls and encrypted local backup and allows disappearing messages, from 5 seconds to 1 week.

Curiopedia
  • When Facebook announced its plans to acquire WhatsApp in February 2014, WhatsApp’s founders attached a purchase price of $16 billion: $4 billion in cash and $12 billion remaining in Facebook shares. But the actual price Facebook paid was $21.8 billion, or $55 per user.
  • Brian Acton is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded WhatsApp. Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation in 2018 with initial funding of $50 million.
  • Matthew Rosenfeld, known as Moxie Marlinspike, is an American entrepreneur, cryptographer, and computer security researcher. Marlinspike is the creator of Signal, co-founder of the Signal Foundation, and currently serves as the CEO of Signal Messenger. He is also a co-author of the Signal Protocol encryption used by Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.

Who Is QAnon Shaman, The “Proud” Participant In US Capitol Siege?

Who Is QAnon Shaman, The "Proud" Participant In US Capitol Siege?

Remember this QAnon Shaman famously seen in the recent US Capitol violence? Well, in a recent interview with VICE News, he claimed to be “proud” of his participation in the event with no regrets. In doing so he has brought the far-right conspiracy group QAnon to the spotlight. Let us look at how the group was started, its core beliefs, and its rise in US politics.

Crux of the Matter

Viking At The Capitol
VICE News recently interviewed Jake Angeli, who is the bare-chested man with face paint, fur coat, and Viking-horns famously seen at the recent US Capitol siege and violence.

Angeli calls himself “QAnon Shaman” as per USA Today, with QAnon being among several far-right groups involved in the US Capitol incident.

I’m quite proud of my participation. I’d like to think I was an observer of history being made right in front of me.

Jake Angeli, the ‘QAnon Shaman’

What Is QAnon?

  • QAnon is a conspiracy theory movement pro-Trump in nature.
  • Started in 2017 after an anonymous user “Q” started posting conspiracy theories on 4chan.
  • 4chan is a discussion site like Reddit but with extremely less censorship – mostly used by extremists.

Identity

  • Q claims to be a high-rank intelligence officer – claims to have “Q security clearance” for accessing top-secret information.
  • Q’s exact identity unclear – an operating group also possible.

Core Beliefs Of QAnon
QAnon followers believe that:

  • The world is run by a Satan-worshipping group of pedophiles.
  • Thousands of “deep state operatives” involved with such a group.
  • The group list includes Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Hollywood stars like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.
  • Donald Trump would save the world by eradicating the group.
  • “The Storm” would come when the “deep state” members would be arrested and executed.

More recent beliefs include:

  • Anti-Semitic views.
  • Covid-19 is a hoax designed by Democrats.


Problem

  • QAnon was earlier a fringe group – now open in public with estimated millions of followers.
  • 2018: A QAnon follower was arrested for planning a bomb planting in Illinois to raise awareness about “Pizzagate”.
    Pizzagate” is a conspiracy theory claiming that Hillary Clinton runs a child- trafficking racket from a pizza parlour’s basement in Washington.
  • Facebook data shows that QAnon membership grew by 581% amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • FBI has termed it as a potential source of ‘domestic terrorism’ – several incidents of violence noted.
    Recent Capitol siege prime example.

Trump Support

  • Trump publicly claims that he is not much aware of QAnon except that they “love our country (US)”.
  • However, he has never denounced QAnon and is widely thought of as its staunch supporter.

As per Media Matters For America (December 20)

  • Trump has “amplified QAnon-promoting Twitter accounts in at least 258 instances”.
  • At least 89 Republican candidates for Congress and 20 Republican state legislature candidates expressed open support for QAnon (2 and 4 of them won respectively) in 2020.
Curiopedia
  • As of November 2020, 4chan received more than 20 million unique monthly visitors, with more than 900,000 posts made daily. The site hosts boards dedicated to a wide variety of topics, from anime and manga to video games, music, literature, fitness, politics, and sports, among others.
  • Trump owned the Trump Taj Mahal – a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He even called it the ‘8th Wonder of the World’. It was under Trump’s possession for 26 years before going bankrupt in 2016.
  • In its most basic sense, an “anon” is an anonymous or pseudonymous Internet poster. On July 2, 2016, the anonymous posterFBIAnon“, a self-described “high-level analyst and strategist” who claimed to have “intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Clinton case“, began posting false information about the 2016 investigation into the Clinton Foundation and claimed that Hillary Clinton would be imprisoned if Trump became president