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What Happened Today: September 8, 2023
Phone Wars; Retail employees under assault; North Korean crypto bandits
The Big Story
The export ban wars between Washington, D.C., and Beijing could be going China’s way as state-backed Huawei masters the types of advanced semiconductors D.C. has tried to keep the Chinese from acquiring. A new Huawei phone, a Mate 60 Pro, is powered by a seven-nanometer semiconductor chip that was manufactured domestically by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. The Trump administration’s export controls on American chips that began in 2019 and were later expanded by the Biden administration aimed to prevent precisely this outcome.
Willy Shih, an economist at Harvard Business School, told The Washington Post that the forced technological leap for China is reminiscent of the Russians’ domestic attempt to overcome the U.S. monopoly on GPS technology during the Cold War. Said Shih, “It went from a situation where the U.S. really dominated that technology and everyone would come to the U.S. to buy it, to now there are all these different alternatives … You have to wonder if the same thing is happening now with Huawei.” The new model also appears to include components from South Korean chip maker SK Hynix, which claims to have stopped doing business with Huawei after the United States imposed sanctions.
As The Scroll noted earlier this week, the Chinese government has been telling its employees not to bring iPhones to work—a mandate that appears to have since broadened, according to new Bloomberg reporting, to include a wider array of government-affiliated companies and agencies. Apple stock was hit hard by the news, falling from $189 a share on Tuesday to $178 on Friday, as the company relies on China for about 20% of its total sales. Paul Haenle, a former China director on the National Security Council in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told The Wall Street Journal that the move is likely two-pronged, intended to shore up cybersecurity in sensitive places and to push consumer demand toward domestic phone makers such as Huawei.
In The Back Pages: The Fiddler in a Desert War
→ A recently translated video of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is circulating online, and it contains some especially egregious rhetoric. Speaking to the Fatah Party’s Revolutionary Council, Abbas shared his view that Ashkenazi Jews are actually Khazars and “not Semites.” He went on to say that Hitler attempted to exterminate them not for their religious identity but for their “social role,” which “had to do with usury, money, and so on,” and their supposed sabotage of the German war effort in WWI. Score one for the Mizrahim, though, as Abbas said, “As for the eastern Jews, they are Semites.”
→ Low wages and an ongoing rise in customer violence against store workers means the situation for the United States’ 8 million retail workers is as bad as it’s ever been. According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, 78% of retailers report that “guest-on-associate violence” has risen in the past five years, while 71% say they’ve seen a rise in “organized retail crime” and 53% report a rise in “gun violence.” And although retail wages are up 55% since 2006, they’re still well below the median American hourly wage; in 2022, retail median hourly wage was $15 compared to $22 across all jobs.
→ Climate change activists from the group Extinction Rebellion delayed the U.S. Open semifinal between American 19-year-old star Coco Gauff and the Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova by about one hour. One of the activists, wearing a T-shirt reading, “End Fossil Fuels,” glued his feet to the concrete, requiring medical intervention and the NYPD to safely remove him from the stadium. Gauff said in a post-game (she won) presser that while she supports climate change activism in general, “would I prefer it not happening in my match—100%, yeah.”
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→ On Thursday, Senate Democrats shot down Ohio Republican J.D. Vance’s bill that would have banned the federal government from imposing any national mask mandates between now and the end of 2024. “What I would like is for the freedom of a school child to not be thrown out of class because he doesn’t wear a mask,” said Vance. “We cannot repeat the anxiety, the stress, and the nonstop panic of the last couple of years.” Countering that, Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts called the bill a “red herring” and said it would “be tying the hands of healthcare professionals.” A recent Frontiers in Public Health study found that “the efficacy of masking school children remains uncertain, and may even pose potential risks.”
→ Shivanthi Sathanandan, the second vice chairwoman of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party suffered a terrible carjacking attack in her Minneapolis neighborhood on Tuesday that resulted in “a broken leg, deep lacerations on my head, bruising, and cuts all over my body,” says Sathanadan. She went on to write of the attack, “REMEMBER ME when you are thinking about supporting letting juveniles and young people out of custody to roam our streets instead of HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.” While Sathanadan thanked the MPD for being “incredible” in this case, in 2020 she wrote, “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”
→ With the cooling labor market and fewer jobs remaining vacant, Walmart has begun to lower its entry-level wages for most new workers, according to internal documents from July reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. This will erase small distinctions in pay between departments and allow new employees to be more freely utilized in different areas of the store, says a Walmart spokesperson, which “could enable workers to learn new skills to move up in the company.” David Bassuk, global leader of the retail practice at consulting firm AlixPartners, says the move is an attempt to head off “increasing costs” and that “we are starting to see the pendulum start to swing back to a different set of priorities.”
→ A “mass killing” was reported on Wednesday evening at the Seascape café in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, and police rushed to the scene. When they arrived, it turned out the group of people laying on the ground were merely in the middle of a yoga practice. The café later clarified on Facebook, “We are not part of any mad cult or crazy clubs … All in all, this situation turned out positive and we are of course grateful.”
→ Graph of the Day:
On Wednesday the FBI announced it had traced a $41 million cryptocurrency heist from Stake.com back to state-sponsored Lazarus Group of North Korea, bringing the total 2023 haul of Lazarus’ crypto thievery to more than $200 million. The above graph shows that North Korea-sponsored crypto theft has increased dramatically in recent years, peaking at more than $1.6 billion in 2022—which, according to blockchain analysis firm TRM Labs, “has coincided with an apparent acceleration in the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.” President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are set to meet in the coming days to discuss a new arms deal. Meanwhile, in July, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Crypto-Asset National Security Enhancement and Enforcement Act intended to combat this kind of cybercrime in the crypto space, though it would require crypto ATM operators to verify users’ identities, removing the anonymity that crypto was designed to provide.
TODAY IN TABLET:
Nabokov, Religion, and the Holocaust by Maxim D. Shrayer
The Russian American master and the anxieties of Jewish conversion
The Fruit of the Land by Dana Kessler
Israeli chefs are focusing on locally sourced produce to redefine the country’s culinary offerings
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The Fiddler in a Desert War
When Chaim Topol died this past March, few mentioned one of the actor’s most impressive achievements
In 1967 I was working for oil consultants in London and knew there would be a war. When the shooting started on June 5, 1967, I was in the Upper Galilee as a welcome guest of the very undermanned local defense of Kfar Blum, headed by a red-haired ex-Canadian lieutenant colonel no less, kept from more glorious service by a severe heart condition.
In 1973 I was caught by surprise because I too believed that Sadat would not start a war he was bound to lose, lacking the imagination to consider the possibility that Sadat would invade Israel to kick diplomacy into action, even if he did lose.
So I was in Washington, D.C., when the news came on Oct. 6, 1973, and it was not until Oct. 10 that I reached Lod airport via London, Rome, and Athens, with the last leg flown on El Al after other airlines had prudently canceled their flights.
Having remained in Israel till 1972 as a contractor for Major-General Aharon Yariv, the celebrated head of Israel’s military Intelligence, it was to him that I turned to find somewhere I could do something useful. At that point Yariv was a newly retired reservist just recalled to assist the chief of staff, but he found the time to locate a cooperating lieutenant colonel in a mechanized infantry battalion in Sinai, and sent me there with a Plymouth sedan staff car, telling me that they would have a helmet and weapon waiting for me.
I stretched out on the back seat and was trying to sleep, but on top of the intense traffic noises—we kept passing heavy trucks—the driver periodically added his humming. Considering the circumstances—Israel had just suffered a very severe defeat when its tanks rushed headlong into an abundance of Egyptian antitank missiles—the humming was all the more jarring for being decidedly cheerful. I had scarcely looked at the driver before getting into the back seat, and did not recognize his voice either.
It was not until the driver offered a ride to a hitchhiking young soldier that I discovered who my driver was. Chaim Topol! He shouted. You are Chaim Topol!It was only then that I realized that my driver was the famous actor and singer who had become The Fiddler on the Roof’s emblematic Teyve for all time after starring in Hollywood’s celebrated blockbuster adaptation only two years earlier. You are Chaim Topol!
After that there must have been some talk but I recall none of it except for Topol’s very matter-of fact remark that he could not sing on a stage while Israel was fighting a hard war.
The low-slung Plymouth could not drive far enough into Sinai to the Bir Gafgafa airstrip where I was to find the battalion, but when dropped off I found a ride in a half-track full of cheerful old timers who were so congenial that I simply stayed with them all the way to the Fayid air base. When Topol died, I expected to find some mention in the obituaries of his abandonment of the Fiddler to do his part for the war, but found none.