Tag Archives: U.S.

Key U.S. senator calls self-driving legislation a 'long shot'
December 13, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A landmark U.S. bill that would speed adoption of self-driving cars is now “a long shot” to pass before the current Congress adjourns in the coming weeks, a key Republican senator behind the legislation said.

FILE PHOTO – An AutonomouStuff Automated Research Development Vehicle drives on the race track during a self-racing cars event at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California, U.S., April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Many automaker lobbyists and congressional aides say the bill would face even tougher odds in 2019 when Democrats and Republicans will share control of Congress.

Some Democrats and safety advocates say the bill does not do enough to ensure the safety of self-driving cars and threatens the ability of states to oversee autonomous vehicles. Supporters of autonomous vehicles, who say they can save lives, believe the bill is needed to speed their adoption and overcome regulatory barriers that were written for human-driven vehicles.

“It’s a long shot but we have successfully knocked down a lot of the barriers,” Senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee, said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office late Tuesday. “It seems like every time we clear one they put another one up.”

Thune and other senators are trying to clear objections from some remaining Democratic senators. One issue that has emerged in recent days is whether automakers would agree to a five- to seven-year sunset clause that would require Congress to revisit self-driving car laws in the 2020s.

Staff for Thune and Democratic Senator Gary Peters earlier this month circulated a draft of a revised bill aimed at breaking a legislative stalemate. Peters said in a statement Wednesday he was “focused on finding areas of agreement with our colleagues and getting a bill signed into law before we adjourn at the end of the year.”

Thune said negotiations have been taking place in recent days with staff for a handful of Democratic senators who have raised some safety concerns. “If we can demonstrate that we have the votes to pass something here, we can get the House on board,” Thune said.

He added that while the measure was still “alive. it’s not real alive.”

The pair have been working for more than a year to try to win approval of the bill by the Senate.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing major automakers said Wednesday, “Without legislation from Congress, lots of important work that would benefit Americans slows down… We will keep pushing for legislation to pass.”

The Republican-led U.S. House unanimously approved a measure in September 2017, but it has been stalled in the Senate for over a year. A Senate bill would allow automakers to each sell up to 80,000 self-driving vehicles annually within three years if they could demonstrate they are as safe as current vehicles.

General Motors Co in January filed a petition with U.S. regulators seeking an exemption to use vehicles without steering wheels as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019 but has receive no decision.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit launched a limited commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona earlier this month.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Exclusive: Trump says he could intervene in U.S. case against Huawei CFO
December 12, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada Dec. 1 and has been accused by the United States of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

When asked if he would intervene with the Justice Department in her case, Trump said in an interview with Reuters: “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.”

“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said.

A Canadian court on Tuesday granted Meng bail while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the United States, a move that could help placate Chinese officials angered by her arrest.

Trump also said the White House has spoken with the Justice Department about the case, as well as Chinese officials.

“They have not called me yet. They are talking to my people. But they have not called me yet,” he said when asked if he has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Rigby

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Russia says detention of China's Huawei CFO shows U.S. arrogance
December 7, 2018 12:01 pm|Comments (0)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives for a news conference on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Milan, Italy, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

MILAN (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that the detention of Chinese technology giant Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada was an example of “arrogant” U.S. policy abroad.

Speaking at a news conference in Milan, Lavrov said the detention showed how Washington imposes its laws beyond its jurisdiction.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, 46, who is also the daughter of the company founder, was arrested on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The arrest, revealed by Canadian authorities late on Wednesday, was part of a U.S. investigation into an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, people familiar with the probe told Reuters.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; writing by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Peter Graff

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U.S. asks allies to avoid Huawei's equipment: WSJ
November 23, 2018 12:38 am|Comments (0)

FILE PHOTO: Journalists follow the presentation of a Huawei smartphone ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, Germany, September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

(Reuters) – The U.S. government is trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in allied countries to avoid telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

U.S. officials have reached out to their government counterparts and telecom executives in friendly countries where Huawei equipment is already in wide use about what they see as cybersecurity risks, according to the WSJ report on.wsj.com/2KpHKgr, which cited unnamed people familiar with the situation.

Huawei has come under scrutiny in the United States recently.

Intelligence agency leaders and others have said they are concerned that Huawei and other Chinese companies may be beholden to the Chinese government or ruling Communist Party, raising the risk of espionage.

Washington has been considering increasing financial aid for telecommunications development in countries that shun Chinese-made equipment, the WSJ reported.

One of the government’s concerns is based on the use of Chinese telecom equipment in countries that host U.S. military bases, such as Germany, Italy and Japan, the report added.

Huawei did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reporting by Bhanu Pratap in Bengaluru, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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China's ties with Taiwan chip firms under scrutiny as U.S. trade war heats up
November 7, 2018 12:03 am|Comments (0)

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Washington’s decision to cut off U.S. supplies to a Chinese chip-maker spotlights mounting tensions over China’s drive to be a global player in computer chips and the ways in which Taiwan companies are helping it get there.

FILE PHOTO: Men walk past a signboard of chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) in Hsinchu, Taiwan January 10, 2006. REUTERS/Richard Chung/File Photo

Shut out of major global semiconductor deals in recent years, China has been quietly strengthening cooperation with Taiwan chip firms by encouraging the transfer of chip-making expertise into the mainland.

Taiwan chip giant United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) (2303.TW) last week halted research and development activities with its Chinese state-backed partner Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd, following the U.S. move.

Taiwan firms such as UMC have helped supply China with a steady pipeline of chip expertise in exchange for access to the fast-growing chip market there.   

China has faced a shortage of integrated circuit (IC) chips for years. In 2017, it imported $ 270 billion worth of semiconductors, more than its imports of crude oil.  

At least 10 joint ventures or technology partnerships have been set up in the last few years between Chinese and Taiwanese firms, according to industry experts, luring Taiwanese talent with hefty salaries and generous perks.

“Such companies will need to also take care to ensure no patent or IP infringement is involved as the U.S. has export control means to restrict support of critical technology,” said Randy Abrams, an analyst at Credit Suisse in Taipei.

Among the most valuable cross-strait partnerships for China would be ones that strengthen its foundry services and memory chip production. Those two sectors require much-needed help from overseas firms due to the complexity of the manufacturing technologies and intense capital requirements, analysts have said.

TRADE TENSIONS

But the technology transfer between China and self-ruled Taiwan has raised concerns amid the Sino-U.S. trade war and escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

China has aggressively used “market-distorting subsidies” and “forced technology transfers” to capture traditional and emerging technology industries, Brent Christensen, the director of America’s de facto embassy in Taipei, told a business gathering in late September.

“These actions are harming the United States’ economy, Taiwan’s economy, and other economies.”

Taiwan is one of the largest exporters of IC globally and many worry the island could lose a key economic engine to its political foe.

Taiwan’s government views the island’s chipmakers’ cooperation with China cautiously and has implemented policies to ensure Taiwan’s most advanced technology is not transferred.

“When businesses go to the mainland to invest in wafer production, they must accept controls including one that requires the manufacturing technology to be a generation behind,” the economics ministry’s industrial development bureau said in a statement to Reuters.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CONCERNS

Cooperation between UMC and Fujian Jinhua came under scrutiny last month, when the U.S. government put the Chinese company on a list of entities that cannot buy components, software and technology goods from U.S. firms amid allegations it stole intellectual property from U.S.-based Micron Technology. Fujian Jinhua denied the allegations.

Fujian Jinhua now faces big challenges to reach commercial high volume production as expected in 2020, industry observers say.

Last week, both UMC and Fujian Jinhua, which was only founded in 2016, were charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Micron in a U.S. Justice Department indictment.

“Taiwanese tech companies need to carefully re-evaluate their positions and supply chain arrangements as the tension between the two super powers escalates,” Bernstein analyst Mark Li said.

While China will need at least six years before it can catch up in chip manufacturing, according to some estimates, the scale of its chip-making abilities is already seen as a threat in other parts of the chip supply chain.

Barely 2-1/2 years after breaking ground on a 12-inch wafer plant in China, Nexchip, a joint venture between the Chinese city of Hefei and Taiwan DRAM maker Powerchip, started producing 8,000 wafers a month. Wafers are thin pieces of material, usually consisting of silicon, used to make semiconductor chips.

Nexchip’s main goal is to produce liquid crystal display driver ICs for flat-panel makers.

Using Powerchip’s resources and Taiwanese talent, which make up a quarter of its 1,200 employees, Nexchip is helping reduce China’s reliance on foreign chip suppliers.

With an aim to become “the world’s No.1 chipmaker for display drivers,” Nexchip plans to build three more 12-inch wafer plants and ramp up its monthly production to 20,000 wafers by 2019, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

After visiting Nexchip late last year, researchers from Taiwan’s chip hub, Hsinchu Science Park, said progress at the Hefei plant was a “breakthrough”.

“This will likely increase Taiwan firms’ needs to invest in the China market, and it will be a test for the (Taiwan) government’s industrial policy.”

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu and Yimou Lee in Taipei

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Exclusive: Russian high tech project flounders after U.S. sanctions
October 17, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions targeting Russia’s nascent high tech industry have caused a Russian microchip company significant financial woes and delayed the launch of an initiative meant to produce substitutes for Western products, the firm’s owner said.

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

President Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to develop Russia’s domestic tech industry to make it less dependent on Western equipment. But Moscow’s efforts to manufacture Russian microchips and other high tech products have been thwarted by U.S. sanctions against a string of Russian tech companies.

Angstrem-T, which makes semi-conductors, has accumulated significant debts and is set to be taken over by state development bank VEB after failing to reimburse an 815-million-euro ($ 944.75 million) loan dating back to 2008, said Leonid Reiman, chairman of the company’s board of directors.

Reiman, Russia’s former minister of communications and information technologies, said the company’s inability to reimburse its debt was in part tied to U.S. restrictions on the import of dual-use technologies and its addition to U.S. Treasury sanctions in 2016.

The U.S. moves were prompted by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. It has imposed further sanctions against Russia since 2016 over other issues.

Prior to the sanctions Angstrem-T purchased most of its equipment from U.S. multinational firm Advanced Micro Devices and bought a license from IBM to produce chips.

The company is heavily reliant on U.S. products, but the sanctions now bar it from doing business with U.S. firms.

“Although we initially received the (U.S.) State Department’s consent for this project and the delivery of the technology here, the sanctions caused the deadlines for its completion to be drawn out,” Reiman told Reuters.

“The factory is working, the products are being produced, but the question of procurement remains.”

FILE PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a plant of Russian microchip company Angstrem-T in Zelenograd near Moscow, Russia August 3, 2016. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

VEB, which Reiman said could become the majority owner of Angstrem-T by the end of the year, declined to comment.

IMPORT SUBSTITUTION

When Angstrem-T began producing its first chips in 2016 after nearly a decade of false starts and delays, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev depicted the initiative as a way Russia could surmount already existing U.S. sanctions.

“It’s good that we are starting to produce these ourselves,” Medvedev said at the factory’s opening, a month before Angstrem-T itself was targeted by the U.S. sanctions. “It’s a question of import substitution.”

Reiman would not disclose the magnitude of Angstrem-T’s debt. According to a Russian database that aggregates company data, the firm had 87.4 billion roubles ($ 1.34 billion) in debt last year. During the same period it recorded revenues of 101 million roubles.

A source in the field of microelectronics in Russia said the sanctions and repeated delays in the project had caused Angstrem-T’s products to become outdated.

The market for the 90 and 130-nanometre microchips it produces has significantly shrunk in recent years, according to the source.

A draft Russian government roadmap for the development of the microchip industry seen by Reuters says that once VEB’s takeover is complete, Angstrem-T should shift its production to the more modern 28-nanometre chips.

Such chips are used in products made by companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony.

The ministry has for several years lobbied for Russia to build a modern microchip plant, but to no avail.

Reporting by Maria Kolomychenko; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Gareth Jones

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Pentagon slow to protect weapon systems from cyber threats: U.S. agency
October 10, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon has been slow to protect major weapon systems from cyber attacks and routinely found critical vulnerabilities that hackers could potentially exploit in those systems, a federal government report said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a watchdog unit of Congress, said in a 50-page report that the Pentagon found “mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities in systems” under development.

“Using relatively simple tools and techniques, testers were able to take control of systems and largely operate undetected, due in part to basic issues such as poor password management and unencrypted communications,” the report said.

Some program officials told GAO that the weapon systems were secure and discounted some test results as “unrealistic.”

While the Pentagon plans to spend about $ 1.66 trillion to develop major weapon systems, the report found, it had only recently taken steps to improve cyber security.

Cyber security has been receiving increasing attention among U.S military and intelligence officials.

Last week, Western countries issued coordinated denunciations of Russia for running what they described as a global hacking campaign, targeting institutions from sports anti-doping bodies to a nuclear power company and the chemical weapons watchdog.

In some of the strongest language aimed at Moscow since the Cold War, Britain said Russia had become a “pariah state.”

The United States said Moscow must be made to pay the price for its actions. Their allies around the world issued stark assessments of what they described as a campaign of hacking by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

“Due to this lack of focus on weapon systems cybersecurity,

(Department of Defense) likely has an entire generation of systems that were designed and built without adequately considering cybersecurity,” the report said.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by David Gregorio

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China's ZTE posts 1.1 billion first-half loss on impact from U.S. supplier ban
August 30, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

HONG KONG (Reuters) – ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) (0763.HK) reported a first-half net loss of 7.8 billion yuan ($ 1.1 billion) on Thursday, weighed down by a ban on U.S. firms selling parts to the Chinese telecom equipment maker that forced it to cease operations for three months.

FILE PHOTO: The company name of ZTE is seen outside the ZTE R&D building in Shenzhen, China April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The result compared with the 7 billion to 9 billion yuan net loss estimate disclosed last month, and the 2.3 billion yuan profit booked in the same period a year earlier.

Operating revenue in the first half fell 27.0 percent to 39.4 billion yuan.

In June, the network equipment and smartphone maker paid the United States $ 1.4 billion in penalties in a deal to have the supplier ban lifted. The ban, imposed in April in relation to sanction violations, crippled ZTE and became a source of friction in Sino-U.S. trade talks.

($ 1 = 6.8300 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Edmund Blair

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U.S. regulator stands by decision to block Winklevoss bitcoin ETF
July 27, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday stood by a decision blocking an exchange-traded fund that would have tracked bitcoin, citing concerns about market manipulation.

Brothers Cameron (L) and Tyler Winklevoss talk to each other as they attend a New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) virtual currency hearing in the Manhattan borough of New York January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The securities regulator found “unpersuasive” arguments that the bitcoin ETF proposed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin brothers who founded crypto exchange Gemini Trust Co LLC, would be sufficiently protected from manipulation, it said in a 92-page analysis bit.ly/2K3GoWG posted on its website.

“Regulated bitcoin-related markets are in the early stages of their development,” the SEC said, saying that it “cannot…conclude that bitcoin markets are uniquely resistant to manipulation.”

But the agency did not completely shut the door to such products coming to market once the bitcoin market has matured, offering some hope for at least five other bitcoin ETF proposals that are still pending before the regulator.

Bitcoin BTC=BTSP turned negative after the SEC’s ruling, and last traded down 2.9 percent.

The virtual currency can be used to move money around the world quickly and with relative anonymity, without the need for a central authority, such as a bank or government. A fund holding the currency could attract more investors and push its price higher.

The SEC said there was not enough evidence that efforts to thwart manipulation of the ETF’s price or that of the underlying bitcoin market would be successful.

The SEC had blocked the Winklevoss ETF from coming to market in March 2017, but then faced an appeal from CBOE Holdings Inc’s (CBOE.O) Bats exchange, which applied to list the ETF.

The parties can appeal the SEC’s decision in federal court.

CBOE and Gemini did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Winklevoss twins are best known for their feud with Facebook Inc (FB.O) founder Mark Zuckerberg over whether he stole the idea for what became the world’s most popular social networking website from them. The former Olympic rowers ultimately settled their legal dispute, which was dramatized in the 2010 film “The Social Network.”

The SEC’s decision to block the ETF was voted for 3-1 by its sitting commissioners, with Republican commissioner Hester Peirce voting against. In a statement, Peirce said she believed the product met the legal standard.

“More institutional participation would ameliorate many of the Commission’s concerns with the bitcoin market that underlie its disapproval order,” she said, adding that the ruling “sends a strong signal that innovation is unwelcome in our markets.”

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York and Michelle Price in Washington; additional reporting by Anna Irrera in New York; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Leslie Adler

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U.S. tech enforcer says will read 'closely' EU statement on Google
July 18, 2018 6:56 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated Alphabet’s Google in the past for abuse of web dominance, said on Wednesday he would take a close look at Europe’s recent decision to fine the company 4.34 billion euros ($ 5 billion).

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a news conference on Google in Brussels, Belgium, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Speaking at a hearing in Capitol Hill, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said he had spoken on Tuesday with EU antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager.

“We’re going to read what the EU put out very closely,” Simons told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

In addition to the fine, equal to about two weeks’ revenue, EU antitrust regulators ordered Google to stop using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals. The U.S. tech company said it would appeal.

Asked about the dominance of Google and Apple in the smartphone market, Simons said: “There is the two of them so they compete pretty heavily against each other.”

He added that markets dominated by few companies are where antitrust enforcers often expect to find “problematic conduct.”

The FTC had previously investigated Google for abusing its huge market share in web search, but ended the probe in early 2013 with a mild reprimand.

Also at the hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers from both political parties pressed the five agency commissioners to do more to stop robocallers and to ensure better security for sensitive data.

To tackle these and other issues, the commissioners – three Republicans and two Democrats – said the agency needed more resources and more authority, specifically the ability to create rules relatively quickly.

Simons and others also called for legislation to give the FTC the authority to seek civil penalties in the case of a data breach.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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