Tag: President Obama

US Swipes at China for Hacking Allegations

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The U.S. has taken its first real swipe at China following accusations that the Beijing government is behind a widespread and systemic hacking campaign targeting U.S. businesses.

Buried in a spending bill signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday is a provision that effectively bars much of the federal government from buying information technology made by companies linked to the Chinese government.

It’s unclear what impact the legislation will have, or whether it will turn out to be a symbolic gesture. The provision only affects certain non-defense government agency budgets between now and Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. It also allows for exceptions if an agency head determines that buying the technology is “in the national interest of the United States.”

Still, the rule could upset U.S. allies whose businesses rely on Chinese manufacturers for parts and pave the way for broader, more permanent changes in how the U.S. government buys technology.

“This is a change of direction,” said Stuart Baker, a former senior official at the Homeland Security Department now with the legal firm Steptoe and Johnson in Washington. “My guess is we’re going to keep going in this direction for a while.”

In March, the U.S. computer security firm Mandiant released details on what it said was an aggressive hacking campaign on American businesses by a Chinese military unit. Since then, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has used high-level meetings with Beijing officials to press the matter. Beijing has denied the allegations.

Congressional leaders have promised to push comprehensive legislation that would make it easier for industry to share threat data with the government. But those efforts have been bogged down amid concerns that too much of U.S. citizens’ private information could end up in the hands of the federal government.

As Congress and privacy advocates debate a way ahead, lawmakers tucked “section 516” into the latest budget resolution, which enables the government to pay for day-to day operations for the rest of the fiscal year. The provision specifically prohibits the Commerce and Justice departments, NASA and the National Science Foundation from buying an information technology system that is “produced, manufactured or assembled” by any entity that is “owned, operated or subsidized” by the People’s Republic of China.

The agencies can only acquire the technology if, in consulting with the FBI, they determine that there is no risk of “cyberespionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of the system,” according to the legislation.

The move might sound like a no-brainer. If U.S. industry and intelligence officials are right, and China is stealing America’s corporate secrets at a breathtaking pace, why reward Beijing with lucrative U.S. contracts? Furthermore, why install technical equipment that could potentially give China a secret backdoor into federal systems?

But a blanket prohibition on technology made by the Chinese government may be easier said than done. Information systems are often a complicated assembly of parts manufactured by different companies around the globe. And investigating where each part came from, and if that part is made by a company that could have ties to the Chinese government could be difficult.

Depending on how the Obama administration interprets the law, Baker said it could cause problems for the U.S. with the World Trade Organization, whose members include U.S. allies like Germany and Britain that might rely on Chinese technology to build computers or handsets.

But in the end, Baker says it could make the U.S. government safer and wiser.

“We do have to worry about buying equipment from companies that may not have our best interests at heart,” he said.

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Follow Anne Flaherty on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AnneKFlaherty.

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Source: http://news.yahoo.com/us-swipes-china-hacking-allegations-193407762.html

U.S. Demands China Block Cyberattacks and Agree to Rules

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Reposted from The New York Times

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Mark Landler and David Sanger  |  March 11, 2013  |  The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The White House demanded Monday that the Chinese government stop the widespread theft of data from American computer networks and agree to “acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.”

The demand, made in a speech by President Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, was the first public confrontation with China over cyberespionage and came two days after its foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, rejected a growing body of evidence that his country’s military was involved in cyberattacks on American corporations and some government agencies.

The White House, Mr. Donilon said, is seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish global standards.

“Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyberintrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” Mr. Donilon said in a wide-ranging address to the Asia Society in New York.

“The international community,” he added, “cannot tolerate such activity from any country.”

In Beijing, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, did not directly say whether the government is willing to negotiate over the proposals spelled out by Mr. Donilon. But at a daily news briefing Tuesday she repeated the government’s position that it opposes Internet attacks and wants “constructive dialogue” with the United States and other countries about cybersecurity issues.

Until now, the White House has steered clear of mentioning China by name when discussing cybercrime, though Mr. Obama and other officials have raised it privately with Chinese counterparts. In his State of the Union address, he said, “We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.”

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Made in America, Again

Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. is politically savvy and can make economic sense.

Offshore labor: A worker in a Foxconn factory assembles consumer electronics for U.S. markets.

At a dinner for Silicon Valley big shots in February 2011, President Obama asked Steve Jobs what it would take to manufacture the iPhone in the United States. Apple’s founder and CEO is said to have responded directly: “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

In December, Apple reversed course, saying it planned to assemble a line of Mac computers in the U.S. With that, Apple joined a wave of companies that say manufacturing in this country makes sense again. Companies that say they’ve brought back jobs include General Electric, Michigan Ladder, and Wham-O, which in 2010 hired eight people to make Frisbees in Los Angeles instead of China. An MIT study in 2012 found that 14 percent of companies intend to move some manufacturing back home.

The idea is known as “reshoring.” Although Chinese wages are a fraction of U.S. labor costs, rising shipping rates, quality problems, and the intangible costs of being far from headquarters all add up. That’s why some companies have begun to rethink the manufacturing equation.

MIT Technology Review interviewed Harry Moser, head of the Chicago-basedReshoring Initiative, about the trend. Moser, a former industry executive whose family has been involved in American manufacturing for a century, says he grew up “experiencing the glory of U.S. manufacturing.” He created the initiative to help companies compare the real costs of manufacturing at home and abroad, and to track the experiences of those who are returning.

Why are people talking about reshoring all of a sudden?

It’s actually been happening over the last few years. The obvious answer is that Chinese wages are doubling every four years. The consultants who five years ago were helping people offshore are now helping them inshore. And then you have President Obama making a big deal over how to reduce imports and start making stuff again.

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Obama blocks Chinese company from owning Oregon wind farm

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Citing national security risks, President Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects in northern Oregon near a Navy base where the U.S. military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions.

It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president has blocked such a foreign business deal.

Obama’s decision was likely to be another irritant in the increasingly tense economic relationship between the U.S. and China. It also comes against an election-year backdrop of intense criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who accuses Obama of not being tough enough with China.

In his decision, Obama ordered Ralls Corp., a company owned by Chinese nationals, to divest its interest in the wind farms it purchased earlier this year near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore.

The case reached the president’s desk after the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, known as CFIUS, determined there was no way to address the national security risks posed by the Chinese company’s purchases. Only the president has final authority to prohibit a transaction.

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A Label That Has Regained Its Luster

From left, John Kieselhorst, Dave Schiff and Scott Prindle, founders of Made.
Photo:Benjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

REMEMBER the Chrysler K-car? Dave Schiff, a founder of Made Collection, a new flash-sale site that sells only American-made goods, hopes not.

When he was coming of age in the early ’80s, the phrase “Buy American” was epitomized by Chrysler’s boxy, style-challenged sedan, marketed as a star-spangled rebuke to the sleek imports of the day. In Mr. Schiff’s view, you bought one to satisfy a patriotic duty, not a sense of style. “ ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ came with baggage,” he said.

Times have changed. Even as the “Made in the U.S.A.” label has grown scarce, thanks to the offshore manufacturing in apparel and other industries, it has acquired cachet as a signifier of old-school craftsmanship, even luxury.

The movement has come far enough that Mr. Schiff, a former advertising executive from Miami, believed the time was right to start a Gilt-like shopping site for the Americana set, selling items like shuttle-loom jeans, lace baby dolls and a 19th-century-style baseball made of leather sourced from a Chicago tannery.

“The old ‘Buy American’ is get something lousy and pay more,” said Mr. Schiff, 45. Now “it’s a premium product.”

Style bloggers were among the early adopters. “ ‘Made in U.S.A.’ has gone through a rebranding of sorts,” said Michael Williams, whose popular men’s style blog, A Continuous Lean, has become an online clubhouse for devotees of American-made heritage labels like Red Wing Shoes and Filson.

But the embrace of domestic goods has also moved beyond scruffy D.J. types in Brooklyn who plunk down $275 for a pair of hand-sewn dungarees sewn from Cone denim from the company’s White Oak plant in North Carolina. The adherents now include “urban creatives, high-net-worth individuals, locavores, liberals, conservatives,” said Mr. Williams, who also represents some of these heritage brands as a marketing consultant.

In other words, Americana chic has gone mainstream. Just visit the nearest mall. Club Monaco unveiled a Made in the USA collection last year, in collaboration with Mr. Williams. J. Crew cashes in on Americana chic by selling domestically manufactured Alden shoes, Levi’s Vintage Clothing jeans and Billykirk leather goods. Joseph Abboud’s home page trumpets its collections as “Made in the New America.”

The newfound pride also extends to American cities and smaller communities. Made in Brooklyn is a phenomenon so self-aware, there are stores like By Brooklyn that specialize in products made in the borough. Similarly, an old shoe-polish brand called Shinola has recently been revived to make upscale watches, bicycles and other crafted goods in Detroit and is being promoted as “Made in Detroit.”

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White House Response to U.S. Drought of 2012

 

President Barack Obama meets with the White House Rural Council to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2012. Among those attending with the President were, from left, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Throughout much of the country, communities are struggling with one of the worst droughts to strike the U.S. in decades. The lack of rain and high temperatures have done considerable damage to crops — particularly those in the Midwest.

Today, President Obama met with the White House Rural Council to discuss the steps being taken to help farmers, ranchers, and small businesses wrestling with this crisis.

As part of that response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that it will provide millions of dollars in assistance to restore livestock lands affected by the drought. The USDA will spend $16 million on technical and financial assistance for those whose crops or herds have suffered.

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