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Under The Radar – 15 October

By UnSpash

This week, we discuss:

  1. Pentagon Tech Chief Quits

  2. Housing – Millions of Private Renters Suffering

  3. Chilean President Threatened with Impeachment

Pentagon Tech Chief quits – claims US cybersecurity is too weak

What Happened?

The Pentagon’s first software chief, Nicolas Chaillan, has left his position, citing frustrations over the US’s lack of preparedness for internet warfare. He stated cybersecurity was at a ‘kindergarten level’ in the States, adding it is ‘no match’ for China. 

What does it mean?

The resignation of Chaillan once again draws attention to the prominence of cybersecurity and internet warfare after allegations of foreign interference during the 2016 US Presidential election saw the issue receive global attention. According to Chaillan, however, not enough is being done to improve defence software ahead of the likelihood of further such cyberattacks in the years to come. In an interview with the Financial Times, Chaillan called America’s decision to spend three times as much as China on defence and cybersecurity investment ‘useless’, on the grounds of the funds being misallocated. In stark contrast, it appears China’s hopes of being the leading AI superpower by 2030 may well become reality. Ethics also play an important role: whereas Google allegedly refuses to work with the Pentagon on moral grounds – their contribution to AI development would mean having to work on refining the accuracy of drone attacks – China’s tech firms and AI experts have no such concern. Whilst the US has not yet lost the cybersecurity war, Chaillan’s resignation is no doubt one of alarming concern to those who recognise the growing influence of China in every facet of geopolitics. At this rate, the price to pay – for a country desperately trying to reestablish its credibility as a world leader – may well be a considerable one.

Housing – millions of private renters suffering

What happened? Housing charity Shelter has revealed that poor housing standards are harming the health of one in five renters in England. Their polling of private renters suggests that approximately 1.9m households could be suffering physical and mental problems as a result of their housing situation.

What does this mean? As those suffering from the poor conditions of privately rented accommodation know all too well, housing is inextricably linked to health outcomes. A lack of enforced standards and a willingness to exploit tenants through uncontrolled rents is now commonplace in the private rental sector.  With waiting lists for affordable housing set to double to as many as 2.1m households next year, the impact of the pandemic on house-building will only compound this. One in ten of those in the queue for affordable housing have already been waiting for over five years, with many of them likely living in the private rented homes currently causing physical and mental harm to occupants. Even prior to the pandemic, the UK was failing miserably to provide good-quality, affordable housing required to meet rising demand. This is a damning policy failure – a low-income household typically saves £37 a week renting in social housing compared to the private rental sector, whilst benefitting from a secure tenancy agreement. Not insignificant in the midst of a cost of living crisis.  Whatever the merits of social housing, and irrespective of an exploitative and unregulated private rented market, until the government is willing to build the supply homes required this is the new normal in modern Britain.

Chilean president threatened with impeachment

What happened?

Following new details from the Pandora Papers’ leak, Chilean opposition lawmakers have moved to launch impeachment proceedings against President Sebastián Piñera over questions relating to a 2010 deal involving the sale of a mining company. What does it mean?

The official impeachment proceedings follows on from the country’s public prosecutor stating that they were investigating potential bribery and corruption charges, as well as tax violations related to the sale.  The sale had previously been examined and dismissed by courts in 2017. However, last week’s Pandora Papers’ leak stirred up controversy by suggesting that the deal, which involved a firm tied to Piñera’s family, benefitted from his position as President. The deal was conditional on the location the mining project was due to be developed not being declared an environmental protection zone, or being transformed into a national reserve. At the time of the sale, Piñera was in his first year in office. One of the opposition figures driving the impeachment proceedings has said that the President has “openly infringed the Constitution” and risks “seriously compromising the honour of the nation”.   The controversy comes just ahead of Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 21. Whilst Piñera is not standing as a candidate, the allegations are likely to cast a shadow over the campaign.

This week’s must reads

  1. ‘The Tories’ plan to ‘level up’ Britain can’t be taken seriously. Here’s why’ by Aditya Chakrabortty for The Guardian

  2. ‘It’s a make or break winter for Kwasi Kwarteng’ by Iain Martin for The Times

  3. ‘The legacy of Covid: A much bigger state’ by James Forsyth for The Spectator

  4. ‘The net-zero crusade is futile without China’ for The Telegraph

Chart of the Week

Wealth of Premier League Club’s Ownership


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