The Brutal Logic to Israel’s Actions in Gaza | China Has Thousands of Navalnys, Hidden from the Public | How Germany’s Most Wanted Criminal Hid in Plain Sight, and more

In Britain, Shockwaves from Israel-Hamas War Are Jolting Domestic Politics  (Mark Landler, New York Times)
Inside Britain’s Parliament, lawmakers jeered, booed, and stormed out of the House of Commons to protest the speaker’s handling of a vote calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Outside, a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators projected the slogan, “From the river to the sea,” on to the facade of Big Ben, drawing denunciations from those who view it as a rallying cry for the eradication of Israel.
The chaotic scenes in London last week captured how Israel’s war in Gaza is reverberating far beyond the Middle East. From the United States to Europe, the brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants and Israel’s devastating response has inflamed passions, upended politics, and heightened tensions within Muslim and Jewish communities.
The fights are not only over intractable questions of war, peace, and moral justice. In Britain, political parties and the public are not actually that divided over how to respond to Gaza; a solid majority back a cease-fire. Instead, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also become a cudgel for opponents to brandish against each other.
The governing Conservative Party seized on anti-Israel comments made by a Labour Party parliamentary candidate to accuse Labour of failing to stamp out a legacy of anti-Semitism in its ranks. Labour pointed to disparaging comments by a Tory lawmaker about London’s Muslim mayor as evidence of simmering Islamophobia among Conservatives.

Russia Attacked Ukraine’s Power Grid at Least 66 Times to ‘Freeze It into Submission’  (Vittoria Elliott, Wired)
Last week marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that has been marked by multiple reports that Russia may have committed war crimes by indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. During the first winter of the conflict, Russia pursued a strategy that US secretary of state Antony Blinken described as trying to “freeze [Ukraine] into submission” by attacking its power infrastructure, shutting citizens off from heat and electricity.
Now, using satellite imagery and open source information, a new report from the Conflict Observatory, a US-government-backed initiative between Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, PlanetScape AI, and the mapping software Esri, offers a clearer picture of the scale of this strategy. Between October 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023, researchers found more than 200 instances of damage to the country’s power infrastructure, amounting to more than $8 billion in estimated destruction. Of the 223 instances identified in the report, researchers were able to confirm 66 of them with high confidence, meaning they were able to cross-reference the damage across multiple trustworthy sources and data points.

Biden Calls Chinese Electric Vehicles a Security Threat  (Jim Tankersley, New York Times)
President Biden took steps on Thursday toward blocking internet-connected Chinese cars and trucks from entry to the American auto market, including electric vehicles, saying they posed risks to national security because their operating systems could send sensitive information to Beijing.
The immediate action was the opening of a Commerce Department investigation into security threats, which could lead to new regulations or restrictions on Chinese vehicles.
But administration officials made clear it was the first step in what could be a wide range of policy responses meant to stop low-cost Chinese electric vehicles — either manufactured in China or assembled by Chinese companies in countries like Mexico — from flooding the U.S. market and potentially driving domestic automakers out of business.
China has rapidly scaled up its production of electric vehicles in recent years, setting it on a collision course with Mr. Biden’s industrial policy efforts that seek to help American automakers dominate that market at home and abroad. Some of its smaller cars sell for less than $11,000 each — significantly less than a comparable American-made electric vehicle.

The UK’s GPS Tagging of Migrants Has Been Ruled Illegal  (Morgan Meaker, Wired)
The way the UK government has been tagging migrants with GPS trackers is illegal, the country’s privacy regulator ruled on Friday, in a rebuke to officials who have been experimenting with migrant-surveillance tech in both the UK and the US.
As part of an 18-month pilot that concluded in December, the UK interior ministry, known as the Home Office, forced up to 600 people who arrived in the country without permission to wear ankle tags that continuously tracked their locations. However, that pilot broke UK data protection law because it did not properly assess the privacy intrusion of GPS tracking or give migrants clear information about the data that was being collected, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today. The ruling means the Home Office has 28 days to update its policies around GPS tracking.
Friday’s decision also means the ICO could fine the Home Office up to £17.5 million ($22 million) or 4 percent of its turnover—whichever is higher—if it resumes tagging people who arrive on the UK south coast in small boats from Europe. In 2023, over 29,000 people arrived using this often perilous route. Earlier this week, French rescue services said one person had died and two were missing after attempting to cross the English Channel, the stretch of water that separates England and France.

5 Convicts Familiar with Navalny’s Prison Confirm Hellish Conditions  (Ekaterina Bodyagina and Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times)
Locked in an Arctic prison, Aleksei A. Navalny is likely to have spent his final days in some of the most inhumane conditions within Russia’s extensive penitentiary system, according to five men who have served sentences in the same penal colony as the Russian opposition leader.
The men described in phone interviews unbearable cold, repulsive food, unsanitary conditions and beatings in Penal Colony No. 3 of the remote Yamalo-Nenets region, where Mr. Navalny arrived in December to serve out the remainder of his 19-year prison sentence. The former inmates said the conditions were especially brutal in the solitary cells where Mr. Navalny is believed to have been confined on the day he was pronounced dead.
But what made the prison, known as IK-3 or the Troika, dreaded even by Russia’s hardened inmates was the exceptional psychological pressure and loneliness, they said. It was a system devised to break the human spirit, by making survival depend on total and unconditional obedience to the will of guards.
“It was complete and utter annihilation,” said a former inmate named Konstantin, who spent time in the prison’s solitary confinement cells. “When I think about it, I still break into cold sweat,” he said, adding that he has struggled with mental illness since his release.

China Has Thousands of Navalnys, Hidden From the Public  (Li Yuan, New York Times)
After watching “Navalny,” the documentary about the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, a Chinese businesswoman messaged me, “Ren Zhiqiang is China’s Navalny.” She was talking about the retired real estate tycoon who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for criticizing China’s leader, Xi Jinping.
After Mr. Navalny’s tragic death this month, a young dissident living in Germany posted on X, “Teacher Li is closest to the Chinese version of Navalny.” He was referring to the rebel influencer known as Teacher Li, who used social media to share information about protests in China and who now fears for his life.
There are others: Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in government custody in 2017, and Xu Zhiyong, the legal scholar who is serving 14 years in prison on charges of subversion.
The sad fact is that there’s no Chinese equivalent of Mr. Navalny because there’s no opposition party in China, and therefore no opposition leader.

China Wants to Weaken, Not Replace, the U.S. in the Middle East  (Yun Sun, Foreign Policy)
Since the war in Gaza broke out, China’s role in the region has raised many questions. Only a year ago, China impressed the world when it successfully brokered the Saudi-Iran peace deal. That success inflated hopes that China, lacking the historical entanglements of other great powers, could somehow magically chart a new and effective course to de-escalation and conflict resolution in the Middle East.
China has not delivered that success. China does have a vision and desire for an alternative security architecture in the Middle East and has elaborated on its plan since 2018. Instead of replacing the United States as a security guarantor, which China doesn’t want to do and doesn’t have the resources or ability to do, China’s vision for the future stability of Middle East is aimed at creating a new system that would displace U.S. dominance without replacing. The effectiveness of such a framework is questionable, but that is not China’s prime concern. China wants to demolish the U.S.-led security architecture, but not necessarily to build a new structure with Beijing on top.
For the last few decades, China has enjoyed the security provided and maintained by the United States in the Middle East. Chinese analysts dispute that China has been freeriding, not only because they see economic engagement as an avenue for stabilization, but also because they see U.S. policy as a source of instability. But with 53 percent of its crude oil imports coming from the region, China has an intrinsic interest in maintaining the regional peace and stability so oil production and transportation will not be disrupted. There is a clear Chinese recognition that China does not have the resources to get into the weeds of the conflicts, their origins, and their potential solutions. Nor does China want to. China has long positioned itself as a customer and a client of Middle Eastern oil, a role that is believed to give China much power but without the burden for China to provide peace.
But China does have alternative visions for the regional security architecture. In 2018, President Xi Jinping made a formal proposal to “forge a new Middle East security architecture that is common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable.” In an ideal world, the security arrangement China says it wants in the region would be based on the accommodation of security concerns of all countries, consisting of political and security dialogues, led and managed by regional countries and abiding by U.N. charters. When Xi formally introduced the concept of his Global Security Initiative—China’s grand vision for the international security system and governance—the “new security architecture in the Middle East” was quickly absorbed into it.

How Germany’s Most Wanted Criminal Hid in Plain Sight  (Erika Solomon and Christopher F. Schuetze, New York Times)
It took authorities more than 30 years to hunt down one of Germany’s most wanted fugitives. For Michael Colborne, an investigative journalist running old photographs through a facial recognition service, it took about 30 minutes.
At the request of a German podcasting duo, he’d been asked to search for matches to the decades-old wanted photographs of Daniela Klette, a member of the leftist militant group Red Army Faction, Germany’s most infamous postwar terrorist group, originally known as the Baader-Meinhof gang.
Instead, the facial recognition software he used lighted upon a woman called Claudia Ivone. In one image, she posed with her local capoeira troupe as they waved their arms exuberantly. Another showed her in a white headdress, tossing flower petals with an Afro-Brazilian society at a local street festival.
He had stumbled on an alias Ms. Klette had used for years, as she hid in plain sight in the German capital.
It is still unclear whether Mr. Colborne’s findings for the podcast, Legion, whose latest season on Ms. Klette was released in December on Germany’s public broadcaster ARD, actually led to Ms. Klette being discovered by police. The police say they found her thanks to a tip in November, around the same time Mr. Colborne, 42, and Legion were doing their research.
Nonetheless, it raised an awkward prospect: That a fugitive who had eluded German police since Mr. Colborne, a Canadian journalist who works for the investigative website Bellingcat, was in junior high school, was identified with relative ease using two publicly available programs, PimEyes and AWS Rekognition.
“Somebody like me, who does not speak German, who does not know much beyond the basic background of Daniela Klette — Why was I able to find such a lead in like literally 30 minutes?” he said. “There are hundreds of German far-right extremists with warrants for their arrest. If I can find somebody who’s been on the run for 30 years, why can’t German authorities find some of these other wanted people?”

Chinese Space, Nuclear Development Is ‘Breathtakingly Fast,’ DOD Officials Warn  (Patrick Tucker, Defense One)
China’s advancements in space technology—and its nuclear triad—are proceeding with incredible speed, while Russia remains an unpredictable and dangerous threat, top officials from U.S. Strategic Command and Space Command told lawmakers Thursday. 
What “China and Russia are doing, particularly building with their counterspace weapons, they’re moving breathtakingly fast,” Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of U.S. Space Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. 
U.S. forces rely heavily on space assets. China and Russia know that, and it’s becoming a growing vulnerability, Whiting said. 
“Our forces today are optimized for a benign space environment. The systems were either built or the requirements were largely laid down during a time when we didn’t face the threats we now see. So now we really have to focus on making sure we have the systems to protect and defend our existing architectures, even as we make our current architecture more resilient, and that we have the systems to protect the joint force from the space-enabling capabilities.”