Friday, January 29, 2010

Hacking dissidents just a red herring

Much has focused on hacking of Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents, but the breaches go far beyond this which have serious repercussions for foreign firms. In its original statement Google said several companies had also been targeted. And as further revelations are revealed it seems clear someone was after more than information belonging to a few political dissidents. According to industry sources at least 34 companies, including Adobe, Symantec, Yahoo and Dow Chemical, were attacked, the Daily News reports.

The Guardian also reports that three oil companies, ExxonMobil, Marathon and ConocoPhillips, have also been targeted by hackers trying to glean information. The origins of the oil company hackers are not known, but the newspaper said that at least some of the information was sent to computers in China.

George Kurtz, McAfee's Chief Technology Officer, has described the situation brought about by Google's announcement as "a watershed moment in cyber security". International cyber espionage has now become the concern of mainstream business. Investigations have revealed that as many as 30 Fortune 500 companies have suffered cyber attacks reported as coming from China in recent days. While it is hard to prove a link to the Chinese government, it is hard to believe that a large-scale and very sophisticated campaign could be launched without official blessing from within a country that is still heavily monitored. The targets of the attacks would also be consistent with Chinese government interests.

The attacks appear to have been made possible partly from previously undiscovered vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. This caused the German government, followed by the French government, to suggest their citizens to change to an alternative browser. While Google may may have been happy to see the blame put squarely on Microsoft, one has to remember that it was Google's system that was hacked and that security breaches occurred in that system. 

Google's Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, said that the hackers had accessed the 'traffic data' of the hacked accounts (sender, recipient, title, etc.) rather than the body of the messages. This appears to indicate hackers used the intercept mechanisms put in place by Google to facilitate 'legal intercept' requests from western governments, including the US government. This also raises a strong possibility that the breach became possible through inside help. IT security professionals have long warned of the danger of the 'internal threat' from employees. McAfee's investigations have revealed that this attack started when the hackers attacked friends of key Google employees, and transferred malware through social networking connections between the friends and the employees into Google's infrastructure. Google had previously said that it was investigating some of its Chinese employees, and has linked any decision to withdraw from China partly to the outcome of this process.

Cyber-attacks on governments and defence contractors have been happening for years, in increasing volume. Now businesses in all regions have to defend against industrial espionage. Apart from improving cyber defences, fundamental strategies need to be re-examined relating to IT sourcing. Security needs to be considered in outsourcing decisions, particularly if the allegations are true when outsourcing to China. Similarly, security should be considered in IT software and hardware sourcing decisions. Decisions must not be made solely on the basis of cost [business world].

The hacking attempts has resulted business groups relaying their concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top U.S. officials. Many say they are "increasingly alarmed" by China's moves to keep out foreign high-tech companies and have urged a firm response by the United States. "For several years, the Chinese government has been implementing indigenous innovation policies aimed at carving out markets for national champions and increasing the locally owned and developed intellectual property of innovative products," business groups said, according to Washington-based newsletter, The Nelson Report. "We are increasingly alarmed by the means China is using to achieve these goals," the groups said. They urged the Obama administration to make the issue a top priority and work with the US business community and like-minded foreign governments to develop a "strong, fully coordinated response to the Chinese government." [Reuters]

China for its part has effectively denied involvement in any hacking attempts and said it is just as much a victim of such attacks itself. But there is a growing lack of trust. With memories of Rio Tinto executive Hu Stern and two colleagues arrested on what many see as trumped up charges of bribery and industrial espionage, some are beginning to see China as being an uneven playing field when it comes to doing business. In the blogosphere and twittersphere at least, there are an increasing number of comments which indicate a growing sense of unease about doing business with China. As a comment on one blog suggests, industrial espionage is key to China's goal of building its economy: "My husband's company does business with China, and from what he understands, China only allows a company to trade with them until they figure out how to rip off whatever it is you're selling so that they can produce a cheaper version. At that point, they're done with your product. It looks like they're trying to rip off Google's program."

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama - State of Union address in full

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address at Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., US
Wednesday 27/01/2010 21:00 ET [14:00 GMT 28/01/2010]

THE PRESIDENT: Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They've done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they've done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -– that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people. 

Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -– immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades –- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college. 

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana; Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -– asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now. 

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope -– what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life. 

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting businesses and going back to school. They're coaching Little League and helping their neighbors. One woman wrote to me and said, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged." 

It's because of this spirit -– this great decency and great strength -– that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight. (Applause.) Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. (Applause.) 
And tonight, tonight I'd like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise. 

It begins with our economy. 

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it -- (applause.) I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal. (Laughter.) 

But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -– I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost. 

So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we've recovered most of the money we spent on the banks. (Applause.) Most but not all.

To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. (Applause.) Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need. (Applause.)

Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed. 

That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. (Applause.) We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. (Applause.)

I thought I'd get some applause on that one. (Laughter and applause.)

As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime. (Applause.)

Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. (Applause.) Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. (Applause.) And we're on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. (Applause.) That's right -– the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill. (Applause.) Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it. Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act. Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created. Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all. 

There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again. 

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight. (Applause.) 

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. (Applause.) But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers. 

We should start where most new jobs do –- in small businesses, companies that begin when -- (applause) -- companies that begin when an entrepreneur -- when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small businessowners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small businessowners across the country, even those that are making a profit.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. (Applause.) I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit 
-– one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. (Applause.) While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment. (Applause.) 

Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. (Applause.) From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. (Applause.) There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services, and information. (Applause.) 

We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities -- (applause) -- and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. (Applause.) And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. (Applause.) As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. (Applause.)  They will. (Applause.) People are out of work. They're hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay. (Applause.)

But the truth is, these steps won't make up for the seven million jobs that we've lost over the last two years. The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years. 

We can't afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from the last decade –- what some call the "lost decade" -– where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation. 

From the day I took office, I've been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious; such an effort would be too contentious. I've been told that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for a while. 

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? (Applause.)

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America. (Applause.) 

As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks. I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy. 

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. (Applause.) We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy. 

Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. (Applause.) And the lobbyists are trying to kill it. But we cannot let them win this fight. (Applause.) And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right. We've got to get it right. (Applause.)

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history -– (applause) -- an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investments in clean energy -– in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.) It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. (Applause.) And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. (Applause.)

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. (Applause.) And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. (Applause.) 

I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. (Applause.)

Third, we need to export more of our goods. (Applause.) Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. (Applause.) So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. (Applause.) To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. (Applause.)

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.  (Applause.) But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. (Applause.) And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia. (Applause.)

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people. (Applause.)

Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. (Applause.) And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential. 

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. (Applause.) 

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. (Applause.) Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. (Applause.) And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. (Applause.) 

And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -– (applause) -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem. 

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on middle-class families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving access to every worker a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment –- their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. 

This year, we will step up refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. (Applause.) And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform. (Applause.) Yes, we do. (Applause.)

Now, let's clear a few things up. (Laughter.) I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics. (Laughter.) I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; families –- even those with insurance -– who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

After nearly a century of trying -- Democratic administrations, Republican administrations -- we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. 

And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. (Applause.) Thank you. She gets embarrassed. (Laughter.)

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -– the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress –- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades. (Applause.)

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"

But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber. (Applause.)

So, as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. (Applause.) Let me know. Let me know. (Applause.) I'm eager to see it. 

Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. (Applause.)  Let's get it done. Let's get it done. (Applause.)

Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing. So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. 

At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

Now -- just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.

I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. (Applause.) So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. (Applause.) Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. (Applause.) 

We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it. (Applause.) 

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we'll still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. (Applause.) This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. 

Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. (Applause.) And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s. (Applause.) 

Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree -- which is why this freeze won't take effect until next year -- (laughter) -- when the economy is stronger. That's how budgeting works. (Laughter and applause.) But understand –- understand if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery -– all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes. 

From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument -– that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is that's what we did for eight years. (Applause.) That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense. (Laughter.) A novel concept.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust -– deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue -- to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve. (Applause.)

That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why -– for the first time in history –- my administration posts on our White House visitors online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. 

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. (Applause.) Democrats and Republicans. You've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. (Applause.) Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent. (Applause.)

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another. Now, I'm not naïve. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony -- (laughter) -- and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they've been taking place for over 200 years. They're the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of -- (applause) -- I'm speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.) 

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it's sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. 

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. (Applause.) And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. (Applause.) Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. (Applause.) So let's show the American people that we can do it together. (Applause.)

This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait. (Laughter.)

Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I'm not interested in re-litigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future -- for America and for the world. (Applause.)

That's the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we've renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We've made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security and swifter action on our intelligence. We've prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008.

And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. (Applause.) We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans -- men and women alike. (Applause.) We're joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. (Applause.) We will support the Iraqi government -- we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. (Applause.) 

Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world –- they have to know that we -- that they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. (Applause.) That's why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades -- last year. (Applause.) That's why we're building a 21st century VA. And that's why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families. (Applause.)

Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people -– the threat of nuclear weapons. I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. (Applause.) And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C. behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. (Applause.)

Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions –- sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That's why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise. (Applause.)

That's the leadership that we are providing –- engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We're working through the G20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We're working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We're helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease -– a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That's why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. (Applause.) That's why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.) Always. (Applause.)

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we're all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else. 

We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. (Applause.) We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. (Applause.) This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. (Applause.) It's the right thing to do. (Applause.) 

We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -– so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. (Applause.) And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -– to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation. (Applause.)

In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America -- values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. These aren't Republican values or Democratic values that they're living by; business values or labor values. They're American values. 

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -– our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government –- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. 

No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment. 

I campaigned on the promise of change –- change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change –- or that I can deliver it. 

But remember this –- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation. 

But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going -– what keeps me fighting -– is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on. 

It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "…are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."

It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti. 

And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go someplace they've never been and pull people they've never known from the rubble, prompting chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!" when another life was saved. 

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. (Applause.) Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. []

Obama focuses on economy

There were big cheers as Michelle Obama entered Capitol Hill wearing a dark purple dress and a pearl necklace. Even as President Obama arrived he was met with loud applause. But there is little enthusiasm from the Republican camp. Throughout much of the nearly 80 minute address, many Republicans remained seated. Much of his speech focused on the economy. Obama said that his administration had "acted immediately and aggressively " to tackle the economic problems. "The worst of the recession has passed," Obama said, but he conceded there were many Americans still out of work. "This recession compounded problems for American families," he said. While the worst was over, Obama said, "we face big and difficult challenges" but added, "I have never been more hopeful about America than I do tonight."

He tried to gather bipartisan support as he talked about measures he implemented to tackle the recession. "We all hated the bank bail out," he said, "I hated it, you hated it. It was as popular as a root canal. But without it more homes would have been lost." 

"Markets are now stabilised and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks," Obama said. But he said not all that money had been recovered and "proposed a fee on the biggest banks." While acknowledging it may not be popular, Obama insisted, "If these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again then they can afford to pay a modest fee." Serious financial reform was still needed however, the president said.

The American president went on to talk about how his policies had helped America. "We cut taxes for small businesses," Obama said. As a result "millions of Americans have more money to spend on necessities," he said, "because of steps we made, two million Americans are working who would otherwise be unemployed." 

He insisted that after two years of recession the economy is growing again. But he said he would continue to focus on the economy and unemployed. "Jobs should be the focus of 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight," Obama said. He proposed small business tax credits, an eradication of capital gains tax on small business and tax incentives for all large businesses. In a move to bring more industry home he also suggested giving tax breaks to "companies that give jobs to people right here in America and not to those that ship business overseas." 

"I do not accept second place for the United States of America," Obama said. And the health of Americans was still a top priority. "we still need health insurance reform" he said. "I didn't take on health care because it would be good politics, I took it on because of stories I'd heard," the president said. "By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."

As well as helping to protecting Americans' health, the security of the nation also remained important. But his comments on the War on Terror were more an afterthought. "Some of the unity after 9/11 has dissipated," he said while saying he did not want to point any blame. He said his administration would "do what it takes to defend our nation" from the continuing threat of terrorism. "There are difficult days ahead but we will succeed," he said. There was too a continuing threat of nuclear weapons. He said he would further commit himself to reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and help secure nuclear materials around the world so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. One country singled out was Iran which he said would "face growing consequences" if it continued in its nuclear ambitions. In addition Obama said he would lay a foundation to counter threats of bio-terrorism at home and disease abroad.

Afghanistan also remained a top priority and his defended his continued commitment to deploying troops in the region. He also said he make good on his promise of pulling all troops from Iraq by August this year. He called on greater respect for those in America's armed forces and better support for military families.

Obama wrapped up his speech with a rallying call. "America must always stand on the side of human dignity and freedom... We won't quit, God bless America," he said.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bill Gates enters the Google fray

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has entered the fray of the continuing battle being fought between Internet giant Google and China's censors. In an interview on Monday with ABC television in the US, Gates called the row a "complex issue" and said that companies have to make a choice over obeying local laws or not entering a specific market.

Different countries have different rules on censorship, Gates said, "And so you have got to decide, do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there." He claimed that "Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited," and that was "easy to go around it."

The comments were quickly picked up by Xinhua and other Chinese media who capitalized on the views of the Microsoft chairman. But his comments have also earned him criticism. The Daily Telegraph's Beijing correspondent Peter Foster wrote on his blog, "If Internet censorship in China is really so 'limited,' Mr Gates should ask himself why Google arrived at that decision, and why his own government has risked souring relations with its largest trading partner over the issue?"

Preston Gall at Computer World lambastes Gates. "He's wrong." Gall says on his blog, "The Great Firewall of China is not 'very limited;' if it were limited the Chinese government would not bother to spend the amount of time and money it does enforcing Internet censorship."

Scaling the wall

While it is true that "scaling the wall" using a Virtual Proxy Network (VPN) is relatively simple, the truth is that most people in China don't know how to do it. In addition it costs up to $20 per month on top of the monthly fee paid to a Chinese Internet provider. While many companies may invest in the extra expenses for individuals it is often cost prohibitive. Expats on a long term stay might invest in a VPN, but many foreign experts are employed in state owned companies where there is no choice other than to log onto the same slow, and restricted Internet as everyone else.

China talks of an "open" Internet and even that citizen's have freedom of expression written into the constitution. The reality is laughable. China claims its Internet controls are attempts to block violence and pornography. But this does not tally with the types of blocks in place. The IMDb [International Movie Database] for example is just the lasted in a string of western sites blocked by the censors. Google services are almost all inaccessible including things like Google Health and spreadsheets in Google Docs.

Blocking dissent

Most restrictions imposed are more to do with stopping free discussion and so-called dissent. This is the supposed reasoning behind blocks of Facebook, Twitter, blogger, Wordpress et al. If the blocks fail, and citizens push beyond what is deemed acceptable, then the law comes down very hard. Liu Xiaobo was last month jailed for 11 years in jail for circulating his Charter 08 call for greater democracy. He was jailed for the crime of 'subversion'.

Others have been jailed with help from western companies which has in turn earned them much criticism. Yahoo handed information to Chinese authorities which resulted in the jailing of 3 dissidents. In April 2005, Shi Tao, a journalist working for a Chinese newspaper, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Changsha Intermediate People's Court of Hunan Province, China, for "providing state secrets to foreign entities". The "secrets" were a brief list of censorship orders he sent from a Yahoo! Mail account to the Asia Democracy Forum before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Incident. In December 2003 Li Zhi was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for "inciting subversion". Criticism of Yahoo! intensified in February 2006 when Reporters Without Borders released Chinese court documents stating that Yahoo! had aided Chinese authorities in the case of Li Zhi [Times]. Yahoo was also said to have helped authorities over the arrest and prosecution of Wang Xiaoning who published controversial material online. Such apparent collusion with Chinese has not gone unnoticed, bringing strong criticism from the US congressional panel in 2007.

Google's dichotomy

Google earned criticism when it first set up offices in China. It was seen by many as turning against its mantra "Don't do Evil". Its recent statement over censorship raising issues over human rights have been lauded by many. Bloomberg's David Pauly said only a week ago that Google should be applauded for its comments but must follow through. "It's time someone in the US stopped coddling the Chinese police state. The American government can't, or won't." he said

Today Fox News suggested Google might shut down its search engine within China but maintain research offices. However, Google must tread carefully, not only with its negotiations with Chinese leaders but also with its worldwide users. Maintaining offices in Beijing and compromising with authorities "might be seen as hypocritical, and rightfully so," says Jeff Bertolucci from PC World website. "The company has taken its moral stance. Now it must stand by it," Bertolucci says.

Fighting for scraps

As for Gates, it is clear he is positioning himself for Google's possible departure. While it may win him friends amongst the Chinese press and among the Chinese leadership, it may not win him so many friends back home. The safety of his Internet Explorer browser has already been questioned, and may have had a part to play behind the recent Google hacking attempts. Microsoft's Bing search engine is wallowing way behind Google. Even Baidu, while dominating China, is making little headway outside its borders. 

Yahoo and Bing may hope to clear up if Google clears out. But as long as China's censors don't block Google its search engine will still be available; it will just be hosted outside the PRC. It all comes down to the service. Google's search results are usually better and more relevant, while the others pale in comparison. Just do a search in Google, Bing, Yahoo and Baidu for 'tvnewswatch' to see the difference. Baidu is said to provide better Chinese language based results, but there are still many Chinese speaking fans of Google's search engine and applications. At the end of the day, Microsoft, Yahoo and others will only be fighting over the small scraps left over from Baidu's dominance in the market.

Bloomberg's David Pauly writes, "Google may eventually compromise with China. That would be a shame. Someone in the US has to let the dictatorship know what we stand for. Google slamming the door as it leaves China would be a welcome step."

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

China's Youku remove copyrighted videos

Last Wednesday, 20th January, Youku announced it was to step up its effort in removing material from its site that infringed copyright. Youku described its launch of a Copyright Identification Management Platform as being a "pioneering move in China to promote respect for Intellectual Property". It is a bold move, and whether brought about by the Chinese government or by Youku itself, it should perhaps be applauded. 

Intellectual property is widely breached in China. Hollywood films are often available within days of their release and sell for around 10 RMB [$1.46 /£0.90]. Entire box sets of popular series such as Lost, Taken and the X-Files may sell for no more than 200 RMB [$29 / £18], and that's not just the one season, that would be every episode. Of course there is a large and thirsty market for such material. Government censors allow only a select few foreign films to appear at cinemas, but the public want to see more. For expats and foreigners it can be exciting as they can indulge in entire series that would be cost prohibitive at home. It's also a welcome relief from Chinese television. 

But Hollywood, the BBC and countless other film and programme makers are losing potential revenue. Of course many Chinese could not afford western prices. A single DVD in the UK might sell for around £15 [165 RMB / $24]. Cinema tickets are beyond many people's reach in China, though from the queues seen recently upon the release of Avatar one could be forgiven into believing the wealth gap in China had been eroded. For those who don't have 120 RMB [$17 / £10] to see a cinema release, it won't be long before a street vendor is thrusting a copy into your hands while asking for 5 RMB [$0.73 / £0.45]. 

Those who have Internet access can see many popular programmes on platforms such at Youku and Tudou. There are literally thousands of videos on these video platforms. A search for the 2009 film The Maiden Heist on Tudou quickly brings up the full film. Meanwhile, BBC series' such as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers can easily be located on Youku. 

However in an effort to put itself in a better market position abroad, Youku has decided to delete such material. "As Youku increases the scale of content acquisition and cooperation with its content partners in China and abroad, so increases the need for a more stringent copyright monitoring system built on more advanced technology," the company said in a blog last week. "With the launch of the new platform, Youku radically improves its capability to identify and prevent the upload of infringing video content by Youku users. Through this system, legitimate copyright holders can take full advantage of Youku's value chain, from content to platform to marketing."

And it appears that the plan is beginning to have an effect. Only Fools and Horses, a popular British comedy series, was readily available a week ago, but has now completely disappeared from the video sharing site. Bad news for expats wanting to view a TV favourite, but good news for copyright holders. The company has a long way to go given the large number of such videos on its site. There appears to be no such announcement from Tudou to date, but it's likely they may follow suit. Whether authorities clampdown on counterfeit DVDs remains to be seen however.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Google v China - a war of words

As the row between Google and China enters its second week the political temperature has risen with both the US and China making stronger statements. China has released dozens of statements with the story carefully managed through state owned media outlets. The US meanwhile has been just as noisy with long speeches and accusatory statements coming from Washington. There are also fresh revelations which seem to give more credence to the theory that China was behind the cyber-attacks on Google, something China hotly dispute.

In the first clear statement from China, a spokesman from the Ministry of Information told Xinhua that recent criticisms were an attempt to "denigrate China". While not referring directly to Google or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on Internet Freedom, the spokesperson said, "Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber-attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that." [Guardian]

An article on the Xinhua website said that China was itself victim to cyber-attacks. "China is the biggest victim country of hacking as its Internet has long been facing severe threats of hacker and online virus attacks," the spokesman insisted. According to Xinhua, official data showed more than one million IP addresses were under control by overseas sources and the number of Web sites tampered by hackers exceeded 42,000 last year. The article also cited the Conficker worm virus wich it said had infected 18 million computers per month in 2009, the most in the world, or 30% of the global total infected. According to the Internet Society of China, the number of cyber-attacks from abroad saw a year-on-year increase of 148% in 2008, Xinhua said.

It is interesting that the article particularly refers to Conficker a computer virus that surfaced in 2008 and which some believe may have even originated in China. Im March last year BKIS, a Vietnamese security firm that makes the BKAV antivirus software, said that they had found clues that the virus might have originated in China [CNET]. The firm's conclusion was based on its analysis of the virus' coding. It found that Conficker's code is closely related to that of the notorious Nimda, a virus that wreaked havoc on the Net and e-mail in 2001. At that time, BKIS determined that Nimda was made in China, again based on the firm's own data. Of course the findings alone do not prove that China, or the hacking community within the country were responsible, but there is a growing feeling amongst many in the computer security industry that many threats are indeed originating from within the PRC.

The havoc brought about by such viruses is widespread. Computers in Britain and across Europe as well as the US have been affected. In China too millions have been affected, in many cases by home-grown attacks. In 2003 the BBC reported that a lack of understanding about Internet security as well as a failure to run anti-virus software were the main reasons that people became susceptible. 

Official figures quoted by the Xinhua state news agency showed that about 85% of computers were infected with a computer virus during 2003. At that time there were only 68 million Internet users, a figure that has almost quadrupled in the last 6 years. In 2008 computer virus stats from Rising Anti-Virus showed a significant rise in the number of virus attacks. From Jan-Nov of 2008, their figures showed a 12.16% increase over the same time period the year before. Rising intercepted over nine million new virus samples with 83.4% of the sample comprising of trojans (5,903,695 samples) and back door viruses (1,863,722 samples). The majority of these viruses were used by hackers to steal virtual property. 

Some of the Trojan Horses may be or a greater worry not only to the average computer user, but also the military. An insidious computer virus discovered on digital photo frames in early 2008 was identified as a powerful new Trojan Horse from China that collects passwords for online games, but it has been suggested its designers might have larger targets in mind. The authors of the Trojan Horse are well-funded professionals whose malware has "specific designs to capture something and not leave traces," Grayek, from Computer Associates said at the time. "This would be a nuclear bomb" of malware. By studying how the code was constructed and how it was propagated, Computer Associates traced the Trojan to a specific group in China. While Grayek would not name the group of "well-funded professionals" many speculate it would likely be the Chinese military [SFGate].

Mocmex, as it has been named, recognizes and blocks antivirus protection from more than 100 security vendors, as well as the security and firewall built into Microsoft Windows. It downloads files from remote locations and hides files, which it names randomly, on any PC it infects, making itself very difficult to remove. It spreads by hiding itself on photo frames and any other portable storage device that happens to be plugged into an infected PC.

While protection given by leading security software has generally eradicated the threat posed by these examples, it is clear the attacks are likely to continue. And military analysts are particularly concerned about China and its motives. In November 2008 it was reported that the largest US military base in Afghanistan was hit by a computer virus affecting nearly three quarters of the computers on the base. According to US News it was not the first such cyber-attack, and officials said that earlier incarnations of the virus had exported information such as convoy and troop movements. Officials familiar with the computer attack characterized it as extremely aggressive and said that it originated in China. However, they were unable to determine whether the viruses were part of a covert Chinese government effort or the work of private hackers. US military spokesmen at Bagram declined to comment, citing operational security but privately, US military officials expressed grave concerns. The Chinese "learn a lot from these attacks," said one US military intelligence official. "Like how our logistics and other systems work."

One year later and the USCC released a report outlining China's preparedness for a so-called cyber-war [PDF]. According to another report the PLA [People's Liberation Army] is investing in computer network operations such as network attacks, network defenses, and network exploitation [PDF]. "The PLA sees [computer network operations] as critical to achieving 'electromagnetic dominance' early in a conflict," said the report, adding that China is focused on developing the ability to disrupt battlefield information systems. The DOD also reported that while China is focused on preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, it's also "surveying the strategic landscape beyond Taiwan." 

While China claims it is just as much the victim of virus and computer attacks as other countries, these seem to mostly affect individuals. Around 42,000 Chinese websites were said to have been hacked last year according to China. However, figures released by authorities are often difficult to reconcile or verify. Statements released by officials are verging on double-speak with comments like China having an "open" Internet. Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry claimed that, "China's Internet is open and managed in accordance with law." In addition she claimed China was a country most active in developing the Internet and that Chinese citizens' freedom of speech was protected by the Constitution [Xinhua]. Unless of course it conflicts with government opinion.

In further revelations today, the Financial Times reported that personal friends of employees at Google, Adobe and other companies were targeted by hackers in a string of recently disclosed cyber-attacks raising privacy concerns and pointing to a highly sophisticated operation. The paper said cybersecurity experts analysing the attacks said the hackers spied on individuals and used other sophisticated techniques making them extremely difficult to stop. Whether the attacks were initiated by China and its army of government sponsored hackers is unclear, but it seems more than a coincidence.

McAfee discovered that a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer had been used in the attacks. George Kurtz, chief technology officer at security firm McAfee, said the attackers also used one of the most popular instant messaging programmes to induce victims to click on a link that installed spy software. Another element of the attack code used a formula only published on Chinese language websites, said Joe Stewart, a researcher for security firm SecureWorks. Stewart also found that some of the code had been assembled in 2006, suggesting that the campaign had been not only well organised but enduring [CNET].

Google has been very quiet since its bold statement back on 13th January. China claims not to have spoken to Google about the issues, and Google has only said it is seeking meetings. As regards today's revelations a Google spokesperson said, "We are not going to comment on the specifics of the attack in more detail than we have already done because our investigation is ongoing. We also can't comment on what McAfee may have observed from other affected companies." In the only clear reference as to whether insiders at Google China played a role, the company seemed to confirm it was at least investigating the possibility. "While we continue to investigate this targeted and sophisticated attack, to date we have seen no indication of any insider involvement," the spokesperson said.

The end-game is far from clear. China is unlikely to capitulate and relax its tight grip on the Internet. Google's position remains tenuous. Since the statement two weeks ago there appears to have been no movement on either side. remains up and running, and searches remain as restricted as ever. In this high tech game of poker, other companies are also looking to gain advantage if Google were to follow through. Microsoft's Bill Gates raised eyebrows on ABC's Good Morning America when he said that "Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited." For the most part, users can easily go around the firewall, Gates said [Atlantic]. He also delivered a veiled criticism of Google saying businesses need to decide if they want to "obey the laws of the countries you're in" or "not end up doing business there." Yahoo in the US have meanwhile backed Google's stance, even if it did earn it criticism from Alibaba who hold 61% of Yahoo China [BBC].

The war of words is likely to go on for some time yet. As to whether it will develop into a full blown cyber-war, trade war or worse, only time will tell.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

New milk safety concerns in China

There are new concerns over milk safety in China after melamine-tainted milk products were pulled from shelves of stores in southern China. The move comes a little over a year after hundreds of thousands of children were made ill after consuming contaminated products. Frozen milk products and cartons of milk dating from early 2009 were taken off the shelves after health inspectors tested them and found them positive for the toxic chemical melamine, said Ling Hu, a Guizhou provincial government spokeswoman. Tainted products from three companies, Shandong Zibo Lusaier Dairy, Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food and Laoting Kaida Refrigeration were found in more than a dozen convenience stores around the province.

The latest health scare is all the more concerning as many of the products are ice-creams and popsicles which would likely be consumed by young children. 

Laoting Kaida Refrigeration was among companies named in the original melamine scandal in 2008, when six children died and 300,000 were sickened after drinking baby formula contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer.

Earlier this month, government officials said the Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. had been under a secret investigation for nearly a year before announcing they had been producing melamine-tainted milk.

According to local media reports, the three companies said their products contained melamine because they bought milk powder as a raw material to use in their products. But Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association, said the products likely contained tainted milk recalled after the 2008 scandal but which somehow made its way back into the market. "The companies were just shirking their responsibilities. The companies should have been required to test each and every batch of milk powder they bought," he said. 

Wang said the latest scandal exposed weak government regulation of the market because it involved leftover tainted milk. "The government should be more responsible and avoid bureaucracy. You can't just assume that everything is fine," he said. 

Food and product safety is of great concern to Chinese consumers and amongst expats. In recent days there were reports that fake beer was being sold in Beijing bars. Exported products have also been found to be harmful. An investigation by The Associated Press found 12 of 103 pieces of Chinese-made children's jewelry bought in US stores contained at least 10% cadmium, some contained up 80% and 90%. Cadmium, like lead, can hinder brain development in young children, according to recent research, and also causes cancer. China has not commented on reports of the cadmium problem. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission warned parents to "safely dispose" of any cheaply made jewelry or trinkets, most of which are imported from China [Washington Post / BBC / China Digital Times / People's Daily / New Observer].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Friday, January 22, 2010

Clinton speaks out on Internet freedom

Ten days after Google made an announcement that it may quit China citing increased censorship and cyber-attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a keynote speech in which she backed the Internet search giant's stance and urged others to consider their approach in dealing with oppressive regimes. 

"Increasingly, US companies are making the issue of information freedom a greater consideration in their business decisions. I hope that their competitors and foreign governments will pay close attention to this trend," Clinton said in her address at the Newseum's Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater in Washington DC.

"We feel strongly that principles like information freedom aren't just good policy, they're good business for all involved," she said, "To use market terminology, a publicly-listed company in Tunisia or Vietnam that operates in an environment of censorship will always trade at a discount relative to an identical firm in a free society. If corporate decision makers don't have access to global sources of news and information, investors will have less confidence in their decisions." While not always specifically pointing a finger at China, her criticism was clear directed at the country. "Countries that censor news and information must recognize that, from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech. If businesses in your nation are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably reduce growth," Clinton argued.

The US Secretary of State urged a thorough review of China's censorship policy and an investigation into cyber-attacks said to have targeted Chinese dissidents. "We look to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make this announcement. We also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent," Clinton said. But while acknowledging there had been much progress in China , she warned that China's failing open up more would be a mistake. "The Internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it's great that so many people there are now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century."

Her comments mark the Obama adminstration's first major foray into foreign policy online and come at a delicate time for relations between the US and China. Issues over trade tariffs and rifts over the Copenhagen climate change deal have soured relations between the US and China. Britain and Australia have also been at loggerheads with China over its justice system. Britain was highly critical of the sentencing and execution of Ahmed Shaikh, a convicted drug smuggler who his supporters said was mentally ill. Australia, though a little quieter in its representations, has raised concern over the arrest of Hu Stern, a Rio Tinto executive who has been charged with bribery and awaits trial. 

China argues that it is not for others to interfere with its internal affairs. However, as a part of a global community, it must recognise there are core principles of transparency and openness. In a global market every country should play by the same rules, and while the West may sometimes shy away from its responsibilities at times, for China this is far more common. China's leader often raise the subject of protectionism, but ignore the fact that its censorship of the Internet is in itself a form of protectionism. While its homegrown Internet services are allowed to flourish, foreign competitors are blocked or restricted.

Writing in the Financial Times, Arthur Kroeber, managing director of Dragonomics Research and Advisory, says, "Google's global business is based on open networks, free information flows, and the company's perceived right to manage those flows. That right in turn is a function of Google's credibility and trustworthiness. If Google loses its customers' trust, it has no business – anywhere." His opinion was in line with that expressed by Hillary Clinton as he suggests a failure to open up the Internet will inhibit growth. "as long as a paranoid party insists on controlling what Chinese Internet users can see and read and write, revenues and profits will be far lower than they would be in a free environment," Kroeber says. "Until China creates a society in which the relationship between the government and the governed is based on trust rather than fear, networks will be crimped, information flows throttled, and post-industrial innovation will fail to thrive."

It is clear that with or without censorship, China will make a mark in the 21st century. Its economy will grow and the country will develop. But its failure to recognise basic human rights will gain it many enemies along the way. This will in itself temper its image abroad and may in turn affect trade. The barriers often become narrower as the state becomes more paranoid. China's leaders are increasingly paranoid that free discussion will shake their seats of power and upset the so-called 'harmonious' society it is attempting to build.

Visiting China in November last year, President Obama said he was a "big supporter of non-censorship" and said that "The more freely information flows, the stronger society becomes." The words clearly fell on deaf ears as the Internet restrictions since have become even tighter.

In her closing remarks, Clinton said, "Ultimately, this issue isn't just about information freedom; it's about what kind of world we're going to inhabit. It's about whether we live on a planet with one Internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that unites and benefits us all. Or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors." 

Her speech was not broadcast by any Chinese network and at the time of posting this article there was no story about her address in Chinese media. CNN broadcast the address live both, on the Internet and via CNN International. The BBC and Sky News also covered the event, though it was not broadcast live by the BBC World Service or CNN Radio.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

Clinton on Internet freedom: Full speech

Clinton speaks out on Internet freedom
Hillary Clinton's speech on Internet freedom held January 21st 2010 in the Newseum's Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, Washington DC, USA

Speech in full:

Thank you, Alberto for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to be here at the Newseum. This institution is a monument to some of our most precious freedoms, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to discuss how those freedoms apply to the challenges of the 21st century. I'm also delighted to see so many friends and former colleagues.

This is an important speech on an important subject. But before I begin, I want to speak briefly about Haiti. During the last nine days, the people of Haiti and the people of the world have joined together to deal with a tragedy of staggering proportions. Our hemisphere has seen its share of hardship, but there are few precedents for the situation we're facing in Port-au-Prince.  Communication networks have played a critical role in our response. In the hours after the quake, we worked with partners in the private sector to set up the text "HAITI" campaign so that mobile phone users in the United States could donate to relief efforts via text message.  That initiative has been a showcase for the generosity of the American people and it's raised over $25 million for recovery efforts.

Information networks have also played a critical role on the ground.

The technology community has set up interactive maps to help identify needs and target resources. And on Monday, a seven-year-old girl and two women were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed supermarket by an American search and rescue team after they sent a text message calling for help. These examples are manifestations of a much broader phenomenon.

The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet. When something happens in Haiti or Hunan the rest of us learn about it in real time - from real people. And we can respond in real time as well. Americans eager to help in the aftermath of a disaster and the girl trapped in that supermarket are connected in ways that we weren't a generation ago.  That same principle applies to almost all of humanity. As we sit here today, any of you - or any of our children - can take out tools we carry with us every day and transmit this discussion to billions across the world.

In many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.

During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States' belief in that truth is what brings me here today.

But amid this unprecedented surge in connectivity, we must also recognize that these technologies are not an unmitigated blessing. These tools are also being exploited to undermine human progress and political rights. Just as steel can be used to build hospitals or machine guns and nuclear energy can power a city or destroy it, modern information networks and the technologies they support can be harnessed for good or ill. The same networks that help organize movements for freedom also enable al Qaeda to spew hatred and incite violence against the innocent. And technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.

In the last year, we've seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. One member of this group, Bassem Samir - who is thankfully no longer in prison - is with us today. So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and welfare of much of the world's population.


On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.

This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to the Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.

Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. At the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the trouble of his day.

Years later, one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, worked to have these principles adopted as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have provided a lodestar to every succeeding generation - guiding us, galvanizing us, and enabling us to move forward in the face of uncertainty.

As technology hurtles forward, we must think back to that legacy. We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles. In accepting the Nobel Prize, President Obama spoke about the need to build a world in which peace rests on the "inherent rights and dignity of every individual." And in my speech on human rights at Georgetown I talked about how we must find ways to make human rights a reality. Today, we find an urgent need to protect these freedoms on the digital frontiers of the 21st century.

There are many other networks in the world - some aid in the movement of people or resources; and some facilitate exchanges between individuals

with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that

magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that's why we believe it's critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms.


First among them is the freedom of expression. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, email, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas - and created new targets for censorship.

As I speak to you today, government censors are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. These leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc, and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.

The Berlin Wall symbolized a world divided, and it defined an entire era. Today, remnants of that wall sit inside this museum - where they belong. And the new iconic infrastructure of our age is the internet.

Instead of division, it stands for connection. But even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls.

Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world's networks. They have expunged words, names and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. These actions contravene the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which tells us that all people have the right "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world. Beyond this partition, viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day.

As in the dictatorships of the past, governments are targeting independent thinkers who use these tools. In the demonstrations that followed Iran's presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman's bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government's brutality. We've seen reports that when Iranians living overseas posted online criticism of their nation's leaders, their family members in Iran were singled out for retribution. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening in their country. In speaking out on behalf of their own human rights the Iranian people have inspired the world.

And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.

All societies recognize that free expression has its limits. We do not tolerate those who incite others to violence, such as the agents of al Qaeda who are - at this moment - using the internet to promote the mass murder of innocent people. And hate speech that targets individuals on the basis of their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation is reprehensible. It is an unfortunate fact that these issues are both growing challenges that the international community must confront together. We must also grapple with the issue of anonymous speech. Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property cannot divorce their online actions from their real world identities. But these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes.


The freedom of expression may be the most obvious freedom to face challenges with the spread of new technologies, but it is not alone. The freedom of worship usually involves the rights of individuals to commune - or not commune - with their Creator. And that's one channel of communication that does not rely on technology. But the freedom of worship also speaks to the universal right to come together with those who share your values and vision for humanity. In our history, those gatherings often took place in churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. Today, they may also take place on line.

The internet can help bridge divides between people of different faiths.

As the president said in Cairo, "freedom of religion is central to the ability of people to live together." And as we look for ways to expand dialogue, the internet holds out tremendous promise. We have already begun connecting students in the United States with young people in Muslim communities around the world to discuss global challenges. And we will continue using this tool to foster discussion between individuals in different religious communities.

Some nations, however, have co-opted the internet as a tool to target and silence people of faith. Last year in Saudi Arabia, a man spent months in prison for blogging about Christianity. And a Harvard study found that the Saudi government blocked many web pages about Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam. Countries including Vietnam and China employed similar tactics to restrict access to religious information.

Just as these technologies must not be used to punish peaceful political speech, they must not be used to persecute or silence religious minorities. Prayers will always travel on higher networks. But connection technologies like the internet and social networking sites should enhance individuals' ability to worship as they see fit, come together with people of their own faith, and learn more about the beliefs of others. We must work to advance the freedom of worship online just as we do in other areas of life.


There are, of course, hundreds of millions of people living without the benefits of these technologies. In our world, talent is distributed universally, but opportunity is not. And we know from long experience that promoting social and economic development in countries where people lack access to knowledge, markets, capital, and opportunity can be frustrating, and sometimes futile work. In this context, the internet can serve as a great equalizer. By providing people with access to knowledge and potential markets, networks can create opportunity where none exists.

Over the last year, I've seen this first hand. In Kenya, where farmers have seen their income grow by as much as 30% since they started using mobile banking technology. In Bangladesh, where more than 300,000 people have signed up to learn English on their mobile phones. And in sub-Saharan Africa, where women entrepreneurs use the internet to get access to microcredit loans and connect to global markets. These examples of progress can be replicated in the lives of the billion people at the bottom of the world's economic ladder.  In many cases,

the internet, mobile phones, and other connection technologies can do for economic growth what the green revolution did for agriculture. You can now generate significant yields from very modest inputs. One World Bank study found that in a typical developing country, a 10% increase in the penetration rate for mobile phones led to an almost one percent annual increase in per capita GDP. To put that in perspective, for India, that would translate into almost $10 billion a year.

A connection to global information networks is like an on a ramp to modernity. In the early years of these technologies, many believed they would divide the world between haves and have-nots. That hasn't happened. There are 4 billion cell phones in use today - many are in the hands of market vendors, rickshaw drivers, and others who've historically lacked access to education and opportunity. Information networks have become a great leveler, and we should use them to help lift people out of poverty.


We have every reason to be hopeful about what people can accomplish when they leverage communication networks and connection technologies to achieve progress. But some will use global information networks for darker purposes. Violent extremists, criminal cartels, sexual predators, and authoritarian governments all seek to exploit global networks. Just as terrorists have taken advantage of the openness of our society to carry out their plots, violent extremists use the internet to radicalize and intimidate. As we work to advance these freedoms, we must also work against those who use communication networks as tools of disruption and fear.

Governments and citizens must have confidence that the networks at the core of their national security and economic prosperity are safe and resilient. This is about more than petty hackers who deface websites.

Our ability to bank online, use electronic commerce, and safeguard billions of dollars in intellectual property are all at stake if we cannot rely on the security of information networks.

Disruptions in these systems demand a coordinated response by governments, the private sector, and the international community. We need more tools to help law enforcement agencies cooperate across jurisdictions when criminal hackers and organized crime syndicates attack networks for financial gain. The same is true when social ills such as child pornography and the exploitation of trafficked women and girls migrate online. We applaud efforts such as the Council on Europe's Convention on Cybercrime that facilitate international cooperation in prosecuting such offenses.

We have taken steps as a government, and as a Department, to find diplomatic solutions to strengthen global cyber security. Over a half-dozen different Bureaus have joined together to work on this issue, and two years ago we created an office to coordinate foreign policy in cyberspace. We have worked to address this challenge at the UN and other multilateral forums and put cyber-security on the world's agenda. And President Obama has appointed a new national cyberspace policy coordinator who will help us work even more closely to ensure that our networks stay free, secure, and reliable.

States, terrorists, and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks. Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society, or any other, pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society. Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all. By reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons.


The final freedom I want to address today flows from the four I've already mentioned: the freedom to connect - the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate in the name of progress. Once you're on the internet, you don't need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.

The largest public response to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai was launched by a 13-year-old boy. He used social networks to organize blood drives and a massive interfaith book of condolence. In Colombia, an unemployed engineer brought together more than 12 million people in 190 cities around the world to demonstrate against the FARC terrorist movement. The protests were the largest anti-terrorist demonstrations in history. In the weeks that followed, the FARC saw more demobilizations and desertions than it had during a decade of military action. And in Mexico, a single email from a private citizen who was fed up with drug-related violence snowballed into huge demonstrations in all of the country's 32 states. In Mexico City alone, 150,000 people took to the streets in protest. The internet can help humanity push back against those who promote violence and extremism.

In Iran, Moldova, and many other countries, online organizing has been a critical tool for advancing democracy, and enabling citizens to protest suspicious election results. Even in established democracies like the United States, we've seen the power of these tools to change history. Some of you may still remember the 2008 presidential election...

The freedom to connect to these technologies can help transform societies, but it is also critically important to individuals. I recently heard the story of a doctor who had been trying desperately to diagnose his daughter's rare medical condition. After consulting with two dozen specialists, he still didn't have an answer. He finally identified the condition - and a cure - by using an internet search engine. That's one of the reasons why unfettered access to search engine technology is so important.


The principles I've outlined today will guide our approach to the issue of internet freedom and the use of these technologies. And I want to speak about how we apply them in practice. The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic and technological resources necessary to advance these freedoms. We are a nation made up of immigrants from every country and interests that span the globe. Our foreign policy is premised on the idea that no country stands to benefit more when cooperation among peoples and states increases. And no country shoulders a heavier burden when conflict drives nations apart.

We are well placed to seize the opportunities that come with interconnectivity. And as the birthplace for so many of these technologies, we have a responsibility to see them used for good. To do that, we need to develop our capacity for 21st century statecraft.

Realigning our policies and our priorities won't be easy. But adjusting to new technology rarely is. When the telegraph was introduced, it was a source of great anxiety for many in the diplomatic community, where the prospect of receiving daily instructions from Washington was not entirely welcome. But just as our diplomats eventually mastered the telegraph, I have supreme confidence that the world can harness the potential of these new tools as well.

I'm proud that the State Department is already working in more than 40 countries to help individuals silenced by oppressive governments. We are making this issue a priority in at the United Nations as well, and included internet freedom as a component in the first resolution we introduced after returning to the UN Human Rights Council.

We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their right of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship. We are working globally to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them, in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely. The United States has been assisting in these efforts for some time. Both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is proud to help promote internet freedom.

We need to put these tools in the hands of people around the world who will use them to advance democracy and human rights, fight climate change and epidemics, build global support for President Obama's goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and encourage sustainable economic development. That's why today I'm announcing that over the next year, we will work with partners in industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations to establish a standing effort that will harness the power of connection technologies and apply them to our diplomatic goals. By relying on mobile phones, mapping applications, and other new tools, we can empower citizens and leverage our traditional diplomacy. We can also address deficiencies in the current market for innovation.

Let me give you one example: let's say I want to create a mobile phone application that would allow people to rate government ministries on their responsiveness, efficiency, and level of corruption. The hardware required to make this idea work is already in the hands of billions of potential users. And the software involved would be relatively inexpensive to develop and deploy. If people took advantage of this tool, it would help us target foreign assistance spending, improve lives, and encourage foreign investment in countries with responsible governments - all good things. However, right now, mobile application developers have no financial incentive to pursue that project on their own and the State Department lacks a mechanism to make it happen. This initiative should help resolve that problem, and provide long-term dividends from modest investments in innovation. We're going to work with experts to find the best structure for this venture, and we'll need the talent and resources of technology companies and non-profit organizations in order to get the best results. So for those of you in this room, consider yourselves invited.

In the meantime, there are companies, individuals, and institutions working on ideas and applications that could advance our diplomatic and development objectives. And the State Department will be launching an innovation competition to give this work an immediate boost. We'll be asking Americans to send us their best ideas for applications and technologies that help to break down language barriers, overcome illiteracy, and connect people to the services and information they need. Microsoft, for example, has already developed a prototype for a digital doctor that could help provide medical care in isolated rural communities. We want to see more ideas like that. And we'll work with the winners of the competition and provide grant to help build their ideas to scale.


As we work together with the private sector and foreign governments to deploy the tools of 21st century statecraft, we need to remember our shared responsibility to safeguard the freedoms I've talked about today.

We feel strongly that principles like information freedom aren't just good policy, they're good business for all involved. To use market terminology, a publicly-listed company in Tunisia or Vietnam that operates in an environment of censorship will always trade at a discount relative to an identical firm in a free society. If corporate decision makers don't have access to global sources of news and information, investors will have less confidence in their decisions. Countries that censor news and information must recognize that, from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech. If businesses in your nation are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably reduce growth.

Increasingly, U.S. companies are making the issue of information freedom a greater consideration in their business decisions. I hope that their competitors and foreign governments will pay close attention to this trend.

The most recent example of Google's review of its business operations in China has attracted a great deal of interest. We look to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make this announcement. We also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent. The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it's great that so many people there are now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century. The United States and China have different views on this issue. And we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently.

Ultimately, this issue isn't just about information freedom; it's about what kind of world we're going to inhabit. It's about whether we live on a planet with one internet, one global community, and a common body of knowledge that unites and benefits us all. Or a fragmented planet in which access to information and opportunity is dependent on where you live and the whims of censors.

Information freedom supports the peace and security that provide a foundation for global progress. Historically, asymmetrical access to information is one of the leading causes of interstate conflict. When we face serious disputes or dangerous incidents, it's critical that people on both sides of the problem have access to the same set of facts and opinions.

As it stands, Americans can consider information presented by foreign governments - we do not block their attempts to communicate with people in the United States. But citizens in societies that practice censorship lack exposure to outside views. In North Korea, for example, the government has tried to completely isolate its citizens from outside opinions. This lop-sided access to information increases both the likelihood of conflict and the probability that small disagreements will escalate. I hope responsible governments with an interest in global stability will work to address such imbalances.

For companies, this issue is about more than claiming the moral high ground; it comes down to the trust between firms and their customers. Consumers everywhere want to have confidence that the internet companies they rely on will provide comprehensive search results and act as responsible stewards of their information. Firms that earn that confidence will prosper in a global marketplace. Those who lose it will also lose customers. I hope that refusal to support politically-motivated censorship will become a trademark characteristic of American technology companies. It should be part of our national brand. I'm confident that consumers worldwide will reward firms that respect these principles.

We are reinvigorating the Global Internet Freedom Task Force as a forum for addressing threats to internet freedom around the world, and urging U.S. media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance. The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply the prospect of quick profits.

We're also encouraged by the work that's being done through the Global Network Initiative - a voluntary effort by technology companies who are working with non-governmental organization, academic experts, and social investment funds to respond to government requests for censorship. The Initiative goes beyond mere statements of principle and establishes mechanisms to promote real accountability and transparency. As part of our commitment to support responsible private sector engagement on information freedom, the State Department will be convening a high-level meeting next month co-chaired by Under Secretaries Robert Hormats and Maria Otero to bring together firms that provide network services for talks on internet freedom. We hope to work together to address this challenge.


Pursuing the freedoms I've talked about today is the right thing to do.

But it's also the smart thing to do. By advancing this agenda, we align our principles, our economic goals, and our strategic priorities. We need to create a world in which access to networks and information brings people closer together, and expands our definition of community.

Given the magnitude of the challenges we're facing, we need people around the world to pool their knowledge and creativity to help rebuild the global economy, protect our environment, defeat violent extremism, and build a future in which every human being can realize their God-given potential.

Let me close by asking you to remember the little girl who was pulled from the rubble on Monday in Port-au-Prince. She is alive, was reunited with her family, and will have the opportunity to help rebuild her nation because these networks took a voice that was buried and spread it to the world. No nation, group, or individual should stay buried in the rubble of oppression. We cannot stand by while people are separated from our human family by walls of censorship. And we cannot be silent about these issues simply because we cannot hear their cries. Let us recommit ourselves to this cause. Let us make these technologies a force for real progress the world over. And let us go forward together to champion these freedoms.

further reading and links: BBC / CNNWashington Post / WSJ / Newseum