All posts in “trump”

Trump told Apple CEO Tim Cook that the U.S. would not levy tariffs on iPhones

Trump and Tim Cook: BFFs?
Trump and Tim Cook: BFFs?

Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There’s a big question mark over how President Trump’s trade war with China will impact iPhone lovers. And things just got even murkier.

President Trump continued to escalate his trade war with China on Monday when he threatened to levy tariffs on an additional $200 million worth of Chinese goods — which in turn prompted retaliatory threats from China. That should have Apple very worried, considering that iPhones depend on importing and exporting in both directions. 

But apparently, President Trump recently reassured Apple CEO Tim Cook and told him not to worry. An anonymous source told the New York Times that Trump told Cook that the tariffs would not apply to iPhones. Phew!

Well that settles that! Right? Ehh, not quite.

In typical Trump administration fashion, one of Trump’s top trade advisers refuted that claim in the press. Peter Navarro told CNBC Tuesday that he knew of no such exemption for iPhones.

Apple both exports iPhone parts made in the US into China, and imports iPhones assembled in China to the US. A trade war means it could have to pay a lot of extra cash to both governments, which could make iPhones even more expensive.

Cook has been putting in a lot of face time with both Chinese and American leaders of late, according to a report from the New York Times. Cook and Trump met in April where they reportedly discussed economic growth and trade. Cook has tried to convince President Trump that a trade war would undermine all the good work Cook said that Trump did with his tax cuts (Cook has been open about keeping some Apple profits outside of the US in order to avoid steep taxes).

So will Apple bear the brunt of Trump’s trade war? According to Trump, no. Which means we still have no idea. 92bf b8ff%2fthumb%2f00001

Senate outright rejects Trump’s trade deal to save ZTE

Who needs a China-America trade war when we've got a war over ZTE and sanctions brewing within our own government?!
Who needs a China-America trade war when we’ve got a war over ZTE and sanctions brewing within our own government?!

Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After the Trump administration reached a trade agreement with ZTE barely a week ago, the US-ZTE drama seemed done and over with. But now, thanks to a new provision from Congress, it’s poised to become even messier.

On Monday evening, the Senate put the kibosh on Trump’s deal to throw the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE a lifeline. A bipartisan provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) says that all penalties imposed on ZTE must stay in place, despite any executive action. The NDAA passed 85-10.

ZTE stopped operations in May after the U.S. issued a seven year export ban on American parts for the company, which the company needed to make its products. The US issued the ban because ZTE failed to comply with the terms of an initial punishment for violating US trade sanctions by selling telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. 

But most recently, President Trump directed the Commerce Department to strike a new deal with ZTE, that he said would save Chinese jobs. 

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that deal earlier in June, which came with steep penalties, but ultimately saved the company. Trump’s attitude toward ZTE and the deal prompted confusion and anger from both democrats and republicans.

Some of the loudest criticism came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Those two senators are responsible for spearheading the NDAA provision, along with Democratic senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

The bill also includes a section that prevents the Secretary of Defense from purchasing any equipment or doing any business with ZTE, and Huawei. The bill states that it’s in response to ZTE’s sanctions violations, as well as CIA, FBI, and NSA advisement that using the phones might be a security risk — cuz, uh, China could be using them to spy on the US.

The NDAA already passed the House of Representatives, in a previous version that did not contain the ZTE provision. Now, according to Ars Technica, a conference committee will have to meet to reconcile the two versions before it can go to President Trump for his signature.

And boy, that’s when things will get interesting. Trump’s conciliatory stance toward ZTE shocked many considering that the company’s initial offense came from violating trade sanctions with North Korea and Iran. Trump has talked a big game about dealings with these countries and the need for shows of American strength. Indeed, shortly before he tweeted support for ZTE, Trump scuttled the Iran nuclear deal, and instead imposed harsher sanctions.

There was also some head scratching at the fact that three days after Trump threw his weight behind the ZTE issue, a new development deal closed between a Chinese company and the Trump corporation, which Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump still run.

But Trump has also blustered about the need for a strong military. So if he vetoes the defense spending bill because of a ZTE provision, that move could be seen as prioritizing a personal favor to the Chinese government above national defense — and above any actual conviction about using sanctions to impose US will around the world. 

Furthermore, Trump has been ratcheting up his threats of imposing harsh tariffs on China for months. Tuesday, he escalated that, leading the two countries further to the cliff of a trade war. Why ZTE holds a special exemption for Trump’s ire is still unclear. 

ZTE is becoming a flashpoint where issues of trade, defense, and Trump’s rocky relationship with Congress all converge. And knowing how our tantrum-prone president responds to challenges of his power, the saga isn’t likely to end any time soon. 615e 3c18%2fthumb%2f00001

Of course ex-Cambridge Analytica staffers are working on Trump’s 2020 campaign

Former Cambridge Analytica (CA) employees are working on Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, according to a new report from the Associated Press (AP). 

Because of course they are — it was a winning strategy, after all.

Under a new company called Data Propria, former CA-employees are reportedly planning to employ the psychographic microtargeting techniques that CA used in the 2016 presidential election and Brexit campaigns. Those are the same tactics that so inflamed the public and prompted the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed the extent of CA’s data collection from ill-gotten Facebook data, and the data’s use in influencing global politics.

At least four former CA employees now work for Data Propria, which the AP describes as a voter and consumer targeting data firm. Those employees include CA’s former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, its former chief data scientist, and a British national who some say illegally worked on the US election.

But that’s not all.

Data Propria’s parent company is a firm called Cloud Commerce, which is partially owned by a man named Brad Parscale — who is President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager. Super!

The way that the AP learned about the partnership is truly glorious. Apparently, in a public place, AP reporters overheard Oczkowski talking about how he and Parscale were working on President Trump’s re-election campaign. That’s where the reporters learned that the techniques would resemble those used in the 2016 election. 

The AP also confirmed through a source who wished to remain anonymous that Data Propria’s Trump campaign work was already underway.

When asked about Data Propria’s affiliation with the Trump campaign, Oczkowski said that Data Propria did not even have any intentions of seeking out political clients. Yes, for a data firm weathering a public reckoning with how companies use personal data and targeted advertising to influence politics, that would probably be the right tack to take.

But unfortunately for Data Propria’s PR representatives, when the AP told Oczkowski that they’d learned of the campaign directly from his own mouth, he partially conceded. He said that, ok, Data Propria was working on the Republican National Committee’s midterm election efforts. But that, according to the AP, “whatever he’d said about the 2020 campaign would have been speculative.” 

Parscale also confirmed that he had helped Data Propria secure the RNC contract. But that he was not focused on Trump’s re-election yet.

Cambridge Analytica officially closed up shop in May after dealing with months of fallout. In March, The Guardian and the New York Times learned that Cambridge Analytica, a British data and consulting firm, was using the data of more than 50 million people without their knowledge to influence British and American politics. 

CA received the data by buying it from researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who used a Facebook quiz to gain access to the profile information of all the test takers’ friends. Facebook later said that the number of Facebook users affected — thanks to 250,000 people taking the original quiz — was actually 87 million

Buying and selling Facebook data goes against Facebook’s policies. However, at the time that Kogan deployed and created the quiz, Facebook allowed collecting the data of app users’ connections. Facebook reversed that policy in 2014.

Facebook first learned of CA’s activities in 2015, but did not notify users — which was a huge point of criticism lawmakers across the world levied at Mark Zuckerberg when he appeared before US congress and the Members of the European Parliament. Instead, it simply asked CA to destroy the data. Which, of course, it did not do.

Voter profiling, and big data in recent years, has been par for the course in electioneering. It’s no surprise that the Trump campaign and republican party would once again look to it for 2018, and 2020. In fact, any politician, democrat or republican, that uses targeted ads on social media engages with that tactic in some way. 

However, the CA data revelations became a scandalous flashpoint because they showed that illegally gotten data, employed by foreign nationals on behalf of the Trump campaign and Republican party, may have contributed to the election of the leader of the free world. CA’s tactics have also come under fire, because their use of psychographic targeting is seen as emotionally manipulative rather than persuasive.

Many data consulting firms exist, and social media advertising will almost certainly continue to play a part in elections. But the employees of Cambridge Analytica proved themselves eager to make the emotions and behavior of voters pliable. And the fact that they failed to destroy their sketchily obtained data, even after Facebook instructed them to do so, has shown that the people behind the firm were comfortable bending the rules and acquiring data by any means.

And now, we know, these same people still have Trump’s back. 2020 here we come.

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Not everyone is so hot about this free USB fan handed to journalists at Trump-Kim summit

Press nabbed a weird freebie while covering the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore.
Press nabbed a weird freebie while covering the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore.

Image: Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images

While the world’s eyes watch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un meet in Singapore, journalists have seemingly been treated rather well while covering the event. 

But caution has been advised over one tiny freebie.

Not only have the 3,000 journalists been well-fed during the summit, they’ve also received a goody bag. Inside the bag there’s a bottle of water, a handheld fan featuring Jong-Un’s face, and a Sentosa guidebook. Pretty standard.

However, also enclosed was a blue, innocent-looking mini USB fan, a nod to Singapore’s searing temperatures. Not so hot about it was the information security community. 

“Do not plug this in. Do not keep it,” tweeted journalist Barton Gellman, who led coverage on the U.S. National Security Agency after receiving top secret documents from Edward Snowden.

The risk is the device could be a covert method of installing malware onto the computers of journalists covering the summit. 

Twitter was abound with messages imploring journalists to not use the fan.

“It certainly can be a security risk,” Matthew Warren, professor of cyber security at Australia’s Deakin University, explained to Mashable.

“The idea of the USB is a way of connecting devices to computers, and either exchanging data or drawing power for operations. The problem is, there’s been a number of examples where USB devices can be hijacked and malicious code can be put on them.”

“There’s been a number of examples where USB devices can be hijacked and malicious code can be put on them.”

Security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell demonstrated malware they had developed, called BadUSB, at the Black Hat Conference back in 2014. 

The malware is installed in the firmware of the USB drive, and not in its flash memory storage, which makes it undetectable. It also means other USB peripherals, like fans, can also be used to covertly carry attack code.

Once plugged in, the malware can “completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic,” WIRED noted at the time.

“Security hasn’t been built in to these USB devices,” Warren added. “I certainly wouldn’t be putting [the fan] in my machine.”

Of course, it could be very well and true that the USB fan is just a USB fan. We’ll just have to see about that. 50e4 5afa%2fthumb%2f00001

Welp, the U.S. is already ending its ZTE sanctions. Here’s how it happened

China's ZTE and the US Department of Commerce have reached an agreement.
China’s ZTE and the US Department of Commerce have reached an agreement.

Image: Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

Well folks, it’s been one weird ride. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday that the U.S. is ending the sanctions it imposed on Chinese handset maker ZTE only two months ago.

The U.S. imposed the sanctions in the first place because ZTE had failed to comply with an original round of punishment for doing business with Iran and North Korea, and then misled the commerce department about their actions…but more on that later.

The U.S. had revoked export privileges, meaning that ZTE couldn’t get parts manufactured in the U.S. that it needed to make its handsets. That caused the business to end its operations.

Now, in exchange for reinstating U.S. exports, ZTE will pay a $1 billion fine. It also has to change its board within 30 days, and the U.S. will embed a compliance team of its choosing inside ZTE. 

ZTE will also give the U.S. an additional $400 million as insurance for compliance; if ZTE makes good on its promises, it will get that money back. So that serves as incentive to actually make the changes this time. 

But U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle are still flummoxed by the decision to throw ZTE a bone.

If all this seems like a whirlwind of weirdness, that’s because…it is. Here’s how we got here.

March 2017: The fight begins

The U.S. discovers that ZTE has been doing business with Iran and North Korea. This violates a trade agreement — the U.S. doesn’t want foreign companies that we do business with selling products that contain US-manufactured components to our enemies.

So, the U.S. Department of Commerce punishes ZTE. ZTE pays a fine of nearly $2 billion. It also promises to issue formal reprimands to its board, and revoke their bonuses. Burn.

February 2018: China is maybe spying on us, U.S. throws shade

The U.S. intelligence community issues a statement that they do not recommend U.S. citizens use ZTE or Huawei phones. The two Chinese companies failed to convince U.S. officials that they weren’t using their hardware to spy on U.S. citizens.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments (…) to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

This does not have to do with this trade issue specifically, but tensions heightened.

April 2018: ZTE gets greedy, U.S. gets mad

The U.S. discovers that ZTE never issued those reprimand letters. And that ZTE board members still got their bonuses. Gasp!

ZTE relies on several components manufactured in the U.S. for their handsets, and the U.S. knows it. So the U.S. imposes sanctions to hit them where it hurts. It revokes export privileges, meaning that ZTE won’t have access to the parts that it needs to manufacture its products. 

May 2018: The sanctions are crippling

ZTE stops operations because it runs out of the crucial U.S. parts it needs.

May 2018: Trump gets involved

Trump tweets his support for ZTE, and insists he is working towards a deal to get ZTE back in business, and reinstate lost Chinese jobs. 

The world is extremely confused. It’s not clear why Trump wants to support Chinese jobs, given his past posturing against the country. Nor why he is ready to forgive a company for doing business with North Korea and Iran — especially having just imposed new sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, three days after the tweet, a Chinese developer announces the completion of a deal to build a new theme park with Trump brand licensing.

June 2018: Sayonara sanctions!

This takes us to the present. Secretary Ross traveled to Beijing for high-level trade talks during the first weekend of June. Days later, he announces the lifting of sanctions, and the new financial penalties. The fine is significant — ZTE’s annual revenue is 108 billion in Chinese Yuan, which comes out to about 17 billion U.S. dollars. So a $1 billion fine is about six percent of its annual revenue.

The deal is said to be part of a larger renegotiation of Chinese and American trade relations.

Whew, so now, ZTE can continue making its nonsense phones. 615e 3c18%2fthumb%2f00001