Good morning. We’re covering U.S. accusations that China hacked Microsoft, ‘Freedom Day’ in England and the systemic failures that led to a train crash in Taiwan.
The U.S. accused China of hacking Microsoft
The formal accusation follows a March cyberattack that targeted Microsoft email systems used by many of the world’s largest companies, governments and military contractors. For the first time, the U.S. also accused China of paying criminal groups to conduct large-scale hackings, including ransomware attacks.
A broad group of allies, including all NATO members, joined the Biden administration’s condemnation. Most E.U. countries have been reluctant to publicly criticize China, a major trading partner.
Despite the U.S. broadside, the announcement lacked sanctions similar to ones that the White House imposed on Russia in April, when it blamed the country for the extensive SolarWinds attack that affected U.S. government agencies and more than 100 companies.
Context: The U.S. began naming and shaming China for an onslaught of online espionage nearly a decade ago, the bulk of it conducted using low-level phishing emails against American companies for intellectual property theft. These recent attacks reveal that China has now transformed into a far more sophisticated and mature digital adversary.
More business tensions: U.S. Democratic senators announced a plan to tax iron, steel and other imports from countries without ambitious climate laws, like China.
In other China news:
The would-be microchip giant Tsinghua Unigroup is facing bankruptcy, a setback in China’s quest for semiconductor self-reliance.
Beijing is using the guise of antitrust to bring powerful tech companies into line with its priorities, our columnist writes.
‘Freedom Day’ in England
The country relaxed nearly all restrictions on Monday, as nightclubs threw open doors and people embraced on crowded dance floors. After 16 months of one of the longest, most stringent lockdowns in the world, Britons could have just about any sort of social gathering.
But “Freedom Day,” as the long-desired and long-delayed milestone has been labeled in the British media, is fraught.
The nation is reporting nearly 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day, levels seen near the country’s January peak. But with more than half the population fully vaccinated — and even higher rates among older and more vulnerable people — hospitalizations and deaths are a fraction of earlier waves.
Still, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to isolate, after a National Health Services app informed them that they had a close contact who tested positive. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson watched the festivities from isolation: He got “pinged” after the health secretary tested positive.
Data: More than 500,000 people were pinged in the first week of July. The “pingdemic” has caused staff shortages in workplaces, and most employers are keeping a return to office voluntary. On Monday morning, travel on the London Underground was 38 percent of normal demand.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Behind the Taiwan train crash
One April morning, the Taroko Express No. 408 collided with a truck that had tumbled down a hill, which was being shored up to prevent debris from falling on the track. Forty-nine people were killed and more than 200 were injured.
At first it seemed like a freak accident. The truck got stuck going around a sharp turn on a sand-packed road. A contractor used a cloth strap and an excavator to try to free it, but it tumbled down when the strap broke. Prosecutors accused the contractor, Lee Yi-hsiang, and others of negligent homicide.
But a Times investigation found that systemic failures at the government agency that runs the train system, the Taiwan Railways Administration, contributed to the disaster.
Contractors like Lee were mismanaged, maintenance problems festered and officials missed or ignored safety warnings for years — creating conditions that contributed to the crash. Earlier this year, a worker warned the agency about the risk of heavy equipment maneuvering around that same turn.
Data: Since 2012, the agency’s trains have experienced 316 major incidents, including collisions and derailments, according to a review by The Times. The accidents have killed 437 people.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
What’s in a name sign?
Shortly after the 2020 presidential election, five women teamed up to assign Vice President-elect Kamala Harris a name sign — the equivalent of a person’s name in American Sign Language.
The women — Ebony Gooden, Kavita Pipalia, Smita Kothari, Candace Jones and Arlene Ngalle-Paryani — are members of the “capital D Deaf community,” a term some deaf people use to indicate they embrace deafness as a cultural identity and communicate primarily through ASL.
Through social media, people submitted suggestions and put the entries to a vote. The result: A name sign that draws inspiration from the sign for “lotus flower” — the translation of “Kamala” in Sanskrit — and the number three, highlighting Harris’s trifecta as the first Black, Indian and female vice president.
“Name signs given to political leaders are usually created by white men, but for this one we wanted to not only represent women, but diversity — Black women, Indian women,” Kothari said. Read more about it, and see videos of the signs. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
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What to Cook
Ken Hom’s spicy Sichuan noodles are easy to put together on a weeknight, yet loaded with complex flavors and textures.