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Thursday Briefing: U.S. Targets TikTok

WorldAsiaThursday Briefing: U.S. Targets TikTok

The House of Representatives passed a bill meant to force ByteDance, the Chinese internet company, to sell TikTok within six months to a buyer that satisfies the U.S. government — or face a ban in the country. The vote was the latest development in a cold war between the U.S. and China over the control of valuable technology.

U.S. officials have expressed concerns that TikTok’s Chinese ownership poses a national security risk. Many are worried that Beijing could demand Americans’ personal data from ByteDance and that, under Chinese law, ByteDance would have to comply. They also worry that China could use TikTok’s powerful algorithm to feed its users political propaganda.

TikTok — which 170 million Americans use — has said that it has gone to great lengths to protect U.S. user data. China condemned the push and rejected concerns that TikTok was a danger to the U.S.

But few buyers could afford even the U.S. portion of TikTok, which could be worth $50 billion. Those that could may face antitrust issues, or China could block the sale. If ByteDance cannot or refuses to sell TikTok, it would be unlawful for app stores and web hosting companies to distribute or update the app in the U.S.

What’s next: The bill faces a tough road in the Senate. President Biden has said he would sign it should it pass both houses of Congress.

Israel allowed aid trucks into Gaza through a route that had not been used for aid delivery since the war began.

The convoy, six trucks carrying food for 25,000 people, went directly into northern Gaza, where the humanitarian crisis is particularly dire. But in a sign that the aid will provide only limited relief, the U.N. World Food Program called for “deliveries every day” and “entry points directly into the north.”

The move came as global pressure mounts on Israel to let more aid into Gaza. The head of UNRWA, the U.N. aid agency for Palestinians, said that some aid was turned around this week because it had medical scissors. Israel said he was lying. UNRWA also said that Israel struck an aid warehouse in Rafah, killing at least one worker. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Long dependent on Europe for trade, Russia is forging new routes that will allow it to skirt Western restrictions and expand ties with countries that would still do business with it, despite the war in Ukraine.

A southern route to reach India — where Russia’s trade has surged to more than four times as much as what it was in 2021 — and countries in the Persian Gulf, has become a focus. It would rely on a planned railway through Iran, for which Russia has agreed to loan the country $1.4 billion.

What’s next: The new link is expected to be completed in 2028, and the resulting “North-South Transport Corridor” would be out of reach of Western sanctions.

Amedeo Capelli, an Italian sculptor, makes tiny, whimsical hand-operated automatons: Shrimp play instruments, or mice pirates carry swords. “The best part of my work,” Capelli, 31, said, “is to see a piece of wood that comes to life.”

Lives lived: Olga Murray rescued thousands of Nepalese girls and young women from bonded slavery and fed hungry children. She died at 98.

  • Fashion: Older women have become more common on the runway.

  • Oddity: A shiny monolith was found in Wales. Similar mysterious objects were placed around the world in 2020.

In the American civil rights movement, the idea of being “colorblind” was used to challenge discriminatory laws and policies. Leaders believed that achieving colorblindness required race-conscious policies to help Black people overcome disadvantages stemming from slavery.

But the idea and language of “colorblindness” was hijacked, my colleague Nikole Hannah-Jones argues in an essay. Conservatives have co-opted the language of “colorblindness,” she writes, stalling or reversing racial progress — as seen in last year’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmative action in college admissions was not constitutional, and the ensuing assault on race-conscious programs.

“The Supreme Court has helped constitutionalize a colorblindness that leaves racial disparities intact while striking down efforts to ameliorate them,” she argues in a guide to the basic points of her essay.

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