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How authoritarian regimes hunt their opponents abroad

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The murder of Jamal Khashoggi made Saudi Arabia a 'pariah', according to the US
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The world’s authoritarian regimes are persecuting their opponents living abroad more vigorously than ever before and some get away with murder, literally.

A blatant example of the impunity some governments enjoy is Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose country US President Joe Biden labelled a “pariah” over the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  

Yet in June, Saudi made up with Turkey — where the murder happened — and Biden decided to include the kingdom on a tour of the Middle East.

Experts say transnational repression of opposition figures is nothing new, but since digital technologies have allowed dissidents to needle authoritarian regimes from across borders more easily, they have stoked the wrath of strongmen like rarely before.

“The threat perception of dictators or these repressive regimes has increased,” said Marcus Michaelson, a researcher on authoritarianism at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels.

According to US watchdog Freedom House, there were at least 735 direct, physical incidents of transnational repression between 2014 and 2021, carried out by 36 governments, notably those of China, Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Rwanda. 

Four regimes joined the list in 2021, including Belarus, which diverted an aircraft to arrest an opposition figure.

– ‘Harassment to murder’ –

Spectacular acts like the poisoning of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018, or the killing in 2019 in Berlin of Georgian Chechen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili — attributed to Russia — get the world’s attention, but much of the repression happens under the radar.

“The range of tactics goes from harassment to murder,” said Katia Roux at Amnesty International France.

Turkish journalist Can Dundar, who runs a website and a radio station aimed at Turkey and the Turkish diaspora from exile in Germany, has become a target for the secret apparatus of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

“In the first year we found a Turkish camera crew (…) recording our office and giving all the details of our office, including our address and our daily work schedule, at what time we are there, at what time we are getting out etc, and showing it as the ‘headquarters of the traitors’ making plans against Turkey,” he told AFP.

Turkish intelligence “is very active, especially in Germany and France,” he said, recalling the attack by three men on a Turkish journalist in Berlin in July 2021 who warned him to stop writing about certain topics.

Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who fled to France after a kidnapping attempt he blamed on his home country’s security services, said he still didn’t actually feel safe in exile, only “safer”.

In 2020 a Pakistani intelligence officer told Siddiqui’s parents that “if Taha thinks he’s safe in Paris, he is mistaken. We can reach anyone anywhere”.

The threat came the same year as the suspicious deaths of a Pakistani journalist in Sweden, and of a Pakistani human rights activist in Canada, and a year before a British court convicted a man for the contract killing of a Pakistani blogger in Dutch exile.

“They have made me paranoid, suspicious, scared, even in exile,” said Siddiqui, who has opened “The Dissident Club” in Paris, a bar dedicated to discussion, exhibitions and screenings.

Digital technologies give repressive regimes a whole new toolkit to sidestep the political cost or diplomatic risk that can come with physical action against dissidents, with “almost no consequences”, said Michaelson.

They have a “commercial market for surveillance technologies” at their disposal, such as the Israeli-made spy software Pegasus, which are cost-effective, he said.

“So they don’t need to invest a lot of manpower or send agents to spy on dissidents abroad,” he said.

A telling example is Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour, a friend of Khashoggi, and exiled in Turkey.

Citizen Lab, a body for research into technology, human rights and security, said it found two sets of spyware on Nour’s mobile phone — Pegasus and Predator — operated by two different governments. 

– ‘You have to stop’ –

Calling spying “a form or organised crime”, Nour said he always thought of his phone as “a radio that anybody can listen to”.

Amnesty International has identified 11 government clients for Pegasus which allows “the surveillance of anybody in a completely invisible and untraceable way”, said Roux.

Activists in China defending the rights of the Uyghur minority, against which western countries say China is committing “genocide”, often find that digital threats precede physical violence, said Michaelson.

Meiirbek Sailanbek, a member of China’s Kazakh community, said he uninstalled all Chinese apps from his phone when he moved to neighbouring Kazakhstan, and deleted the numbers of his brother and sister who still live in Xinjiang, the Uyghur autonomous region in northwest China.

When the Kazakhstan authorities arrested the head of the Atajurt NGO — which Sailanbek had joined writing social posts under a pseudonym — he fled the country, settling in Paris.

But Kazakhstan’s authorities identified him, and since then the Chinese government is threatening his brother and sister with prison if he continues his activism.

“Meiirbek, your sister and brother are in danger, you have to stop,” said a message forwarded to him by his mother.

Sailanbek faces arrest if he returns to China or Kazakhstan, but he considers Turkey, Pakistan, Arab nations and Russia to be off-limits too because he believes they would give in to Chinese pressure to hand him over.

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Are the days of ‘Big Tech’ on their way out?

“These are cost-cutting measures, but if you talk to people in tech, they’re sort of emotional, cultural resets as well,” explains tech reporter Peter Kafka in podcast.

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Silicon Valley is having a bit of a rough go lately.

Layoffs at some of the biggest tech companies — 10,000 at Amazon and 11,000 at Meta for starters — have hit the sector hard, and there’s an air of downsizing all around. This means that in addition to letting staff go, even all those perks that many startups and long-established companies alike have used to lure top tech talent — think offices with stocked fridges, gyms, and shuttle services — have been reined in. 

A recent episode of Vox’s podcast Today, Explained dove into what’s happening in the tech world, speaking to Peter Kafka, a tech reporter at Recode

Here are three highlights from the conversation:

On the current landscape as an “existential shift”

I think most people who are working in tech have only been there during boom times. The last real deflation in tech was all the way back in 2000, 2001. There’s almost no one working in tech now who was around for that. So if you’ve been working in tech, you’ve only known things going up and to the right. You got paid a lot. There were always companies who wanted to hire you away from the company you were at, so you got paid even more. You knew that you could leave Facebook or Google and go to a startup, and if that startup didn’t work, maybe it would get bought by Facebook or Google.

And all of that comes to a record-scratch stop this year.

On the lack of growth in the sector

Yes. There’s a bigger story that goes back a couple of decades. These tech companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple all had crazy, crazy, crazy growth. They were selling tons of ads. They were selling tons of iPhones. They reflected a big change in the way the world used technology. They were at the front of that. They got rewarded for that.

But those companies aren’t growing at the same rate anymore. Many of them are pretty old now — or their main product is pretty old. The iPhone is 15 years old. Google’s main search ad business is 20 years old. YouTube is 15 years old, more or less.

On the “fable and myth” of Silicon Valley

Yeah. I don’t want to be pollyannaish about this because people are losing jobs. And people are going to have a harder time paying rent or mortgages or feeding their families. But it’s part real and part fable of Silicon Valley to have this creative destruction where old things get taken down. New, cool things get built in their place. It’s part of the fable and myth of Silicon Valley that has a great deal of truth to it as well. 

And so there’s lots of folks saying, “All right, we’re going to go make something new. By the way, we made a bunch of money in the last couple of years, the last 10 years. We can afford to not be working at a Big Tech company for a while. Let’s go cast around for a new idea.”

Read the interview transcript or listen to the episode

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Jobs where you’re most likely to be single at 40

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Can an occupation influence your marital status? Stacker analyzed Census Bureau data to find jobs where you're most likely to be single at 40.
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Ever felt like your job was holding you back from meeting that special someone? You may be right.

To determine jobs where you’re most likely to be single at 40, Stacker analyzed data from the 2021 American Community Survey, powered by the Census Bureau. The percentage of never-married respondents was calculated by dividing the number of respondents who had never been married by the total respondents for a given occupation; this metric ranks the list.

Similarly, the percentage of single respondents was calculated by dividing the sum of the respondents who reported they were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated into the total respondents for a given occupation. Inevitably, there is overlap between those who said they were never married and those who are considered “single.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these occupations are in the service industry, likely because employees in the service industry work long hours, evenings, and weekends and may not have time outside of work to find a partner. However, some blue-collar jobs also made the list.

The reality is that more people than ever are choosing to remain single longer, regardless of occupation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the marriage rate fell from 8.2 marriages per 1,000 people in 2000 to 5.1 marriages per 1,000 people in 2020. People delay marriage for numerous, wide-ranging reasons, from feeling unprepared financially to not wanting to settle down.

Meanwhile, the number of unpartnered people continues to grow. The Pew Research Center found in 2019 that nearly 1 in 3 adults between 40-54 were unpartnered, compared to 1990 (almost 1 in 4).

Keep reading to discover the jobs where you’re most likely to be single at 40.

You may also like: 50 most physical jobs in America

Two cooks in commercial kitchen

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#30. Cooks

– Percent never married: 56.96%
– Percent single: 70.45%

Person carrying drinks to table

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#29. Food servers, nonrestaurant

– Percent never married: 57.27%
– Percent single: 70.38%

Bartender mixing drink

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#28. Bartenders

– Percent never married: 57.5%
– Percent single: 73.1%

Tour guide leading hike

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#27. Tour And travel guides

– Percent never married: 58.19%
– Percent single: 66.59%

Air transportation attendant

Olena Yakobchuk // Shutterstock

#26. Transportation service attendants

– Percent never married: 58.91%
– Percent single: 69.92%

You may also like: Jobs with the lowest divorce rates

Person washing vechile

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#25. Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

– Percent never married: 59.14%
– Percent single: 71.05%

Parking attendant in lot

Yevhen H // Shutterstock

#24. Parking attendants

– Percent never married: 59.37%
– Percent single: 70.06%

Person working in shipping room

Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

#23. Stockers and order fillers

– Percent never married: 60.3%
– Percent single: 71.93%

Two people holding dog in veterinary office

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#22. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

– Percent never married: 60.84%
– Percent single: 67.19%

Person buying movie tickets

Tyler Olson // Shutterstock

#21. Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

– Percent never married: 61.38%
– Percent single: 73.53%

You may also like: Former jobs of every Supreme Court justice

Telemarketer speaking with client

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#20. Telemarketers

– Percent never married: 61.45%
– Percent single: 74.78%

Construction worker carrying ladder

ephyr_p // Shutterstock

#19. Helpers, construction trades

– Percent never married: 62.48%
– Percent single: 70.51%

Person chopping vegetables

DenisProduction.com // Shutterstock

#18. Food preparation workers

– Percent never married: 62.52%
– Percent single: 75.17%

Soliders stand and salue

Bumble Dee // Shutterstock

#17. Military-enlisted tactical operations and air/weapons specialists and crew Members

– Percent never married: 62.8%
– Percent single: 67.08%

Person preparing hamburgers

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#16. Food preparation and serving-related workers, all other

– Percent never married: 63.76%
– Percent single: 70.03%

You may also like: The unemployment rate the year you turned 16

Cashier working grocery checkout

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#15. Cashiers

– Percent never married: 65.88%
– Percent single: 78.08%

Recreation coach speaking with kids team

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#14. Recreation workers

– Percent never married: 66.2%
– Percent single: 75.92%

Woman cleaning tables

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#13. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers

– Percent never married: 66.83%
– Percent single: 77.07%

Man installing photovoltaic panels

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#12. Solar photovoltaic installers

– Percent never married: 67.%
– Percent single: 76.26%

Tutor assisting student

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#11. Tutors

– Percent never married: 67.04%
– Percent single: 72.93%

You may also like: Richest women in America

Person filling out job application form

Mangostar // Shutterstock

#10. Unemployed, with no work experience in at the last 5 years or more

– Percent never married: 68.88%
– Percent single: 79.78%

Note: This refers to those unemployed with no work experience in the last five years or earlier or those who never worked

Close up waitress taking order

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#9. Waiters And waitresses

– Percent never married: 69.95%
– Percent single: 79.64%

Dancers rehearsing at bar

Evgeniy Kalinovskiy // Shutterstock

#8. Dancers And choreographers

– Percent never married: 70.63%
– Percent single: 78.34%

Dishwasher cleaning in commercial kitchen

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#7. Dishwashers

– Percent never married: 70.95%
– Percent single: 81.66%

Man adjusting stage light

Oleksandr Nagaiets // Shutterstock

#6. Other entertainment attendants and related workers

– Percent never married: 71.16%
– Percent single: 79.38%

You may also like: 5 ways to take the stress out of traveling for work

Umpire on sports field

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#5. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

– Percent never married: 71.62%
– Percent single: 77.28%

Students gathered in dorm kitchen

FXQuadro // Shutterstock

#4. Residential advisors

– Percent never married: 80.53%
– Percent single: 87.76%

Man working in food truck

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#3. Fast food and counter workers

– Percent never married: 82.68%
– Percent single: 87.63%

Baristas in coffee shop

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#2. Hosts And hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop

– Percent never married: 83.88%
– Percent single: 89.06%

Prison attendant

Bigflick // Shutterstock

Protective service workers

– Percent never married: 90.1%
– Percent single: 92.13%

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WeaveSphere: 5 conference highlights

The WeaveSphere tech conference wove together ideas about AI, FinTech, STEM education, innovation in Canada, and more.

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WeaveSphere
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For three days this November, innovation, collaboration, and a whole lot of big ideas were shared among “Weavers” during the WeaveSphere tech conference in Toronto.

“Today is an opportunity for greater connection between the scientific and tech industry, and academia,” said Marcellus Mindel of IBM Canada, opening the conference. With innovation the event’s core, Mindel added: “let’s define innovation, thinking of it as reframing that implements better outcomes.”

While lots happened over three days, here are five highlights and takeaways from the event:

1. Thought-provoking keynotes had attendees thinking big

Each day of WeaveSphere kicked off with a keynote, where three speakers brought their insightful ideas to attendees.

Gillian Hadfield shared ideas about AI and regulation

On Day 1, Gillian Hadfield, Professor of Law and director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at the University of Toronto, explained where we are today when it comes to regulating artificial intelligence (AI) — and where we need to go next. 

While AI makes machines intelligent, Hadfield argued that it cannot, by definition, produce intelligent behaviour if it isn’t functioning appropriately and ethically. Machine learning is not the same as standard programming, since machines write the rules. As a result, machines can start solving problems in ways we don’t want them to, resulting in regulatory challenges. 

How to solve this? Hadfield presented two solutions:

  1. Establish compensation for harm
  2. Design incentives for meeting good and safe behaviour

Dr. William Barry discussed ethics with an AI co-presenter

On Day 2, professor, AI ethicist, and futurist Dr. William Barry talked about a particular problem: what ethical questions might arise when you program a robot? 

For starters, how do you determine what information to include or not? Where is the appropriate line? 

As a professor, Dr. Barry has been working with robots as teaching assistants in his classroom since 2015, and brought a digital version of Maria Bot (one of his AI assistants) to interact with the audience.

As Dr. Barry explained, he is very strategic when choosing the information from which his assistants learn. 

One place Maria won’t get access to? Twitter, says Dr. Barry, highlighting it’s too much of a risk for an “AI benign” to get access to misinformation. This would distort the ethical perspective that Maria is learning, he said. 

While he has programmed her to weed out and to not learn from toxic content — like racism and misogyny — Dr. Barry does work at exposing his AI beings to a wide range of diverse thought and lived experiences. In the end, how ethical an AI being is, is in the hands of the human controlling what they learn, he argued. As a result, they’ll ultimately be biased as a result of the specific data sets we provide for them. 

Marcel Mitran discussed technology for good

WeaveSphere’s Day 3 keynote took a slight turn away from AI. 

IBM Fellow, IBM Master Inventor, and CTO for Cloud Platform for zSystems and LinuxONE, Marcel Mitran took to the main stage for a keynote on responsible computing. At the heart of his talk was the argument that technologists need to take a step back and look at what’s being done to keep the world safe. 

For example, the opportunity for error and bias in the role of facial recognition in public safety, and the fact that our digital footprints — both on a personal level and for enterprise — have grown significantly even in the last year.

As Mitran explained, responsible computing is a systemic, holistic approach addressing current and future computing challenges like sustainability, ethics, and professionalism. It advances the “quadruple bottom line” of people, planet, prosperity, and participation. 

2. Insightful sessions had attendees thinking deep

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

FinTech, cryptocurrency, AI, digital economies, Canada’s innovation landscape — there was a large cross-section of topics covered across a variety of workshops, paper presentation, and panel discussions. 

Some highlights include:

Chhavi Singh, co-founder of Flyte, asked the question: have you considered using AI to coach your sales staff? Elaborating on the opportunity AI presents to increase sales performance, Singh explained how AI can be used to help understand customer challenges and handle objections and concerns. 

COO of wealth management platform OneVest, Jakob Pizzera, outlined the three phases of FinTech. The first (1.0) was in-house sites for basic online banking. Version 2.0 was the “unbundling” of financial services, and the rise of standalone businesses. The last few years has brought FinTech 3.0, with embedded finance — for example making a purchase through Instagram.

WeaveSphere conference chair and R&D specialist Vio Onut answered the question of why we need to care about cyber security. For starters, the potentially very large costs to your organization, and because the massive skills gap of privacy and security experts has created vulnerabilities. 

Digital strategist Matt Everson explored what can go with emerging technologies like Web3 and the metaverse. Everson said developers should just start building and drawing on video game virtual markets as a model. He used popular online game EVE Online as an example of how virtual economy design can be translated to other markets.

Lijia Hou, Blockchain Systems Engineer with Draft Kings, explained that three key problems still exist when it comes to blockchain technology. First, investors want to understand how — in a volatile market — to mitigate risk. Second, developers from the traditional software side need a mindset shift when it comes to decentralization. And finally, the tools of decentralization are used differently, and this is not always evident for those unfamiliar with Web3.

3. There was a LOT of interest in STEM education

As part of WeaveSphere’s Education Day slate of programming, hundreds of high school and university students had the opportunity to workshop real-life problems from both school and work — all under the guidance of IBM’s Design Thinking experts

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

This meeting of next-generation tech talent collaboratively explored Enterprise Design Thinking strategies like As-Is Scenario Mapping, Empathy Mapping, Hills (positioning statements), and Hopes and Fears. This approach to problem-solving works by framing the issue at hand in a human-centric way, centering the end-user in all decision-making. 

For Education Day, the problem at hand was helping fourth-year university students find their first job. 

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

4. There were loads of networking and learning opportunities

One of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to network and learn from fellow attendees.

In the conference’s Innovation Valley section, event sponsors were on-hand to discuss everything from their latest technologies to job opportunities, plus several graduate students were also there to present their research.

Since WeaveSphere is a “meeting of the minds” between tech professionals and students, many undergrads from schools like York University and Mohawk College came to the conference full of questions, ready to absorb everything. 

5. WeaveSphere celebrated top tech talent

A big part of WeaveSphere was a celebration of some of the best tech minds in Canada. 

During a gala evening at the end of Day 2, the 2022 Developer 30 Under 30 and Tech Titans were awarded to the best of the best among young developers and digital transformation leaders in Canada. 

The winners were:

Developer 30 Under 30 winners

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere
  • Alexander Newman
  • Anakha Chellakudam
  • Anthony Langford
  • Arshdeep Saini
  • Aryaman Rastogi
  • Bohdan Senyshyn
  • Charlie Mackie
  • Charmi Chokshi
  • Colin Lee
  • Daniel Marantz
  • Francisco Hodge 
  • Hassan Djirdeh
  • Jerry Fengwei Zhang
  • Julia Paglia
  • Karandeep Bhardwaj
  • Kathryn Kodama
  • Khushbu Patel
  • Lianne Lardizabal
  • Lucas Giancola
  • Mathew Mozaffari
  • Maz Mandi
  • Oleksandr Kostrikov
  • Rishab Kumar
  • Samantha Lauer
  • Sarah Syed
  • Stan Petley
  • Tanmay Bakshi
  • Tim Romanski
  • Xiaole Zeng
  • Yash Kapadia

Tech Titans winners

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere
  • Andrew Dolinski
  • Ashish Agrawal
  • Chhavi Singh
  • Chris Dolinski
  • Dean Skurka
  • Demetrius Tsafaridis
  • Fay Arjomandi
  • Harish Pandian
  • Harpreet Gill
  • Iman Bashir
  • James Stewart
  • Len Covello
  • Manav Gupta
  • Marcel Mitran
  • Michelle Joliat
  • Dr. Mohamad Sawwaf
  • Omar A. Butt
  • Peter Zwicker
  • Ryan McDonald
  • Dr. William Cherniak

Finally, as WeaveSphere came to a close, the Pitch Stadium opened, hearing from a wide variety of startups. 

They came, they pitched, and in the end, Iman Bashir and Nicole Lytle of Craftly.AI, a copywriting assistant that uses AI to generate original content, took home the $50,000 prize to help grow their business.

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

WeaveSphere was a uniquely collaborative, innovation-focused conference filled with engaging workshops, presentations, and networking opportunities.


DX Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. Check out our series of articles from the lead-up to WeaveSphere.

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