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Facebook to create 500 jobs in new London engineering centre

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Facebook will create 500 new tech jobs in London by the end of 2019, including 100 roles in artificial intelligence, with many working on systems to detect and remove malicious content, fake accounts and harmful behaviour, it said on Wednesday. 

The social media giant said it will employ more than 3,000 people in the capital by the end of the year across three sites, including its new engineering centre in Soho, central London.

“These hundreds of new jobs demonstrate not only our commitment to the UK but also our determination to proactively detect and remove malicious content,” Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at a London Tech Week event. 

Facebook said London was its biggest engineering centre outside the United States, with 1,800 people employed in technology and engineering by the end of the year.

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China’s inflation may rise above target due to rising pork prices, swine fever

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A hired hand feeds a sow which recently gave birth to a new litter at the Grand Canal Pig Farm in Jiaxing, in China’s Zhejiang province.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

China’s efforts to halt the spread of African swine fever among its pig population are “ineffective,” according to research firm Capital Economics. That’s set to cause its inflation to shoot up above its target for the first time in nearly a decade next year, it said.

The Chinese government’s measures to contain the fallout from the disease will only have a “marginal impact,” its Senior China Economist Julian Evans-Pritchard wrote in a Thursday note.

Intervention by China’s government to halt the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) and mitigate its impact on pork prices is proving ineffective. Inflation will next year rise above the government’s target for the first time in nearly a decade as a result.

The swine fever outbreak, detected last year, has hit the world’s largest pork producer hard, in a country where the meat is also a staple. In July, analysts at Dutch bank Rabobank predicted that China’s pig supply was down by about 40% — from a year ago —and estimated that China’s pig herd could shrink by half by end 2019, as compared to last year.

That shortage has caused pork prices to soar. In August, prices of pork were up 46.7% year-on-year, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

“Intervention by China’s government to halt the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) and mitigate its impact on pork prices is proving ineffective,” Evans-Pritchard wrote in the note. “Inflation will next year rise above the government’s target for the first time in nearly a decade as a result.”

Evans-Pritchard predicted that, by early 2020, prices could increase over 80% as compared to the same period last year.

That will weigh on China’s consumer price index. Inflation could average 3.5% and peak over 4% next year, he estimated. That’s over the 3.0% annual average inflation target set by China’s central bank.

In March, China’s consumer prices rose 2.3% in August due to rising food prices — a six-month high.

In 2018, full-year inflation increased 2.1% — below Beijing’s target of 3.0%.

China’s measures won’t work

China said last week it would issue subsidies of up to five million yuan ($700,000) — in the latest measure to boost pork production.

Those subsidies would go towards the construction of large-scale pig farms. Authorities also said they would support large farms that needed to be relocated for environmental reasons, and improve and expand waste treatment facilities.

“We should ensure pork supply by all means … and strictly rein in market speculation, actively boost production of alternative meat products and increase frozen pork reserves,” China’s vice-premier Hu Chunhua said in late August, according to state-owned Xinhua News Agency.

A butcher chops pork at a market in Shanghai, China on May 30, 2013.

Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images

But, in the short run, China’s efforts to control the swine fever outbreak won’t help much, noted Capital Economics, though they will boost production capacity in the medium term.

“The recent step up in subsidies to consumers and farmers remains too small to alter the big picture. The strategic pork reserve could be deployed more aggressively but would quickly be depleted as it contains just three to four days’ worth of supply,” Evans-Pritchard wrote. “And since China produces and consumes over half the world’s pork, it can’t rely on overseas supply, at least not without pushing up prices everywhere.”

Pork is the most consumed meat among Chinese consumers. In 2018, pork accounted for nearly 64% of meat consumption in the country.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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Ric Ocasek, The Cars’ lead singer, found dead

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Ric Ocasek at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on June 10, 2019 in New York City, United States.

Jim Spellman | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Ric Ocasek, famed front man for The Cars rock band, has been found dead in a Manhattan apartment.

The New York City police department said officers responding to a 911 call found the 75-year-old Ocasek at about 4 p.m. on Sunday. They said there was no sign of foul play and that the medical examiner was to determine a cause of death.

The Cars chart-topping hits in the late 1970s and 1980s included “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up” and “Drive.” The band was inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In May of 2018, model and actress Paulina Porizkova announced on social media that she and Ocasek had separated after 28 years of marriage. The pair first met while filming the music video for “Drive.”

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China hack on Australia parliament kept secret to protect trade: Report

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Chinese supporters rally outside Parliament House during the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay through Canberra, Australia on April 24, 2008.

Torsten Blackwood | AFP | Getty Images

Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May, five people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Australia’s cyber intelligence agency — the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) — concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation told Reuters.

The five sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. Reuters has not reviewed the classified report.

The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report.

In response to questions posed by Reuters, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office declined to comment on the attack, the report’s findings or whether Australia had privately raised the hack with China. The ASD also declined to comment.

China’s Foreign Ministry denied involvement in any sort of hacking attacks and said the internet was full of theories that were hard to trace.

“When investigating and determining the nature of online incidents there must be full proof of the facts, otherwise it’s just creating rumours and smearing others, pinning labels on people indiscriminately. We would like to stress that China is also a victim of internet attacks,” the Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“China hopes that Australia can meet China halfway, and do more to benefit mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries.”

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, dominating the purchase of Australian iron ore, coal and agricultural goods, buying more than one-third of the country’s total exports and sending more than a million tourists and students there each year.

Australian authorities felt there was a “very real prospect of damaging the economy” if it were to publicly accuse China over the attack, one of the people said.

Unhindered access

Australia in February revealed hackers had breached the network of the Australian national parliament. Morrison said at the time that the attack was “sophisticated” and probably carried out by a foreign government. He did not name any government suspected of being involved.

When the hack was discovered, Australian lawmakers and their staff were told by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate to urgently change their passwords, according to a parliamentary statement at the time.

The ASD investigation quickly established that the hackers had also accessed the networks of the ruling Liberal party, its coalition partner the rural-based Nationals, and the opposition Labor party, two of the sources said.

The Labor Party did not respond to a request for comment. One person close to the party said it was informed of the findings, without providing details.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Invictus Games opening ceremony on October 20, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

Samir Hussein | WireImage | Getty Images

The timing of the attack, three months ahead of Australia’s election, and coming after the cyber-attack on the U.S. Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, had raised concerns of election interference, but there was no indication that information gathered by the hackers was used in any way, one of the sources said.

Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition defied polls to narrowly win the May election, a result Morrison described as a “miracle.”

The attack on the political parties gave the perpetrators access to policy papers on topics such as tax and foreign policy, and private email correspondence between lawmakers, their staff and other citizens, two sources said.

Independent members of parliament and other political parties were not affected, one of those sources said.

Australian investigators found the attacker used code and techniques known to have been used by China in the past, according to the two sources.

Australian intelligence also determined that the country’s political parties were a target of Beijing spying, they added, without specifying any other incidents.

The people declined to specify how the attackers breached network security and said it was unclear when the attack had begun or how long the hackers had access to the networks.

The attackers used sophisticated techniques to try to conceal their access and their identity, one of the people said, without providing details.

The findings were also shared with at least two allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, said four people familiar with the investigation.

The UK sent a small team of cyber experts to Canberra to help investigate the attack, three of those people said.

The United States and the United Kingdom both declined to comment.

China ties

Australia has in recent years intensified efforts to address China’s growing influence in Australia, policies that have seen trade with China suffer.

For instance, in 2017, Canberra banned political donations from overseas and required lobbyists to register any links to foreign governments. A year later, the ASD led Australia’s risk assessment of new 5G technology, which prompted Canberra to effectively ban Chinese telecoms firm Huawei from its nascent 5G network.

While some U.S. officials and diplomats have welcomed such steps by Australia and praise the countries’ strong intelligence relationship, others have been frustrated by Australia’s reluctance to more publicly confront China, according to two U.S. diplomatic sources.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bids farewell to officials in Sydney International Airport in Australia on August 4, 2019.

Jonathan Ernst | AFP | Getty Images

On a visit to Sydney last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered thinly veiled criticism of Australia’s approach after Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Canberra would make decisions towards China in based on “our national interest”.

Pompeo said countries could not separate trade and economic issues from national security.

“You can sell your soul for a pile of soybeans, or you can protect your people,” he told reporters at a joint appearance with Payne in Sydney.

Morrison’s office declined to comment on whether the United States had expressed any frustration at Australia for not publicly challenging China over the attack. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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