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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft confirms it has halted PAC donations
by Usama Jawad
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a private body that funds political campaigns via donations. Under U.S. laws, a PAC cannot give more than $5,000 to a candidate committee per election, and the amount is funded purely based on voluntary donations. Most Fortune 500 companies have a PAC which typically donates money to campaigns which support their interests.
One such company is Microsoft, whose PAC came under the magnifying glass following the attack on the Capitol earlier this month. As a result, the firm has now publicly confirmed that it has suspended PAC donations until it completes its assessment of the situation. The matter was first internally discussed a few weeks ago, but has now been made public.
In an employee meeting on January 21, Microsoft president Brad Smith highlighted that although 80% of the donations had gone to members of Congress who voted to uphold the Electoral College, 20% of its PAC donations in the last four years went to Congress members who voted against the certification of Electoral College votes.
Consequently, there have been some internal discussions at Microsoft as to whether it should pause PAC donations to these Congress members and take stricter action against "members who led that effort or who fed disinformation, in our view, to the American public". Now, the firm has confirmed that it is suspending PAC donations until at least February 15, saying that:
It remains to be seen what "consequences" Microsoft has in mind for Congress members who voted against the Electoral College, but we'll learn more in a few weeks. It is also important to note that other big tech organizations such as Google and Facebook have also paused PAC donations for now in light of the Capitol siege.
The U.S. government has revoked more Huawei licenses
by João Carrasqueira
Huawei seems to be getting in even more trouble with the United States government. According to a report by Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter, the Department of Commerce has issued notices indicating that the administration intends to reject a number of applications for American companies to be allowed to deal with Huawei. On top of that, some existing licenses have been revoked, including Intel's.
The United States government, particularly under the Trump administration, has been harsh on Chinese companies, and Huawei has been the most notable target of its restrictions. The smartphone manufacturer was added to the country's entity list back in 2019, restricting its ability to conduct business with American companies. That's why, since then, we've seen Huawei phones ship without Google services, while the company tries to push its own ecosystem of apps.
American companies can still apply to obtain licenses to work with Huawei, which allowed some laptops to still run Windows or have Intel processors, for example. However, the latest restriction would put even more of a hamper on Huawei's business. Aside from Intel, memory chip manufacturer Kioxia (formerly Toshiba Memory Solutions) is also said to have had its license revoked. Some sources claim that up to eight licenses for four companies have been terminated.
In a last-ditch effort to save at least part of its business, Huawei recently sold off its Honor sub-division to a Chinese consortium, which should save it from all the restrictions imposed by the government. Honor recently announced an Intel-based variant of its MagicBook Pro laptop at CES, which should still be happening since the company has been separated from Huawei.
Around the world, some countries have followed the U.S. in their efforts to curb Huawei technology, removing its products from 5G networks. However, others, such as Brazil, are still welcoming the company to build out their infrastructure.
More recently, the Trump administration appears to be doubling down on its efforts to restrict Chinese companies since the November 3 election. In December, a number of companies were added to its entity list, including SMIC and DJI, and more recently, transactions with eight Chinese apps were banned in the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take office this week, and it remains to be seen whether the new administration will signal a new stance from the U.S. towards China.
Brazilian government allows Huawei to take part in 5G auction
by Paul Hill
Reuters, citing the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, has said that Brazil is likely to allow Huawei to participate in the 5G auction that’s set to take place in June. The Bolsonaro government of Brazil has been looking for ways to exclude the Chinese company from the country’s networks, following the lead of the United States, but between Trump’s upcoming departure from the White House and the cost of excluding Huawei, Jair Bolsonaro is being forced to backtrack on his plans.
The Brazilian newspaper had cited government and industry sources to back up claims that Brazil will allow Huawei into the 5G network auctions later this year. It said that with China being Brazil’s biggest trade partner and Huawei being more cost-competitive, Bolsonaro has faced resistance to banning the Chinese firm from industry and members of his government including Vice President Hamilton Mourao.
VP Mourao told the newspaper that any company that takes part in the auction will be subject to the country’s data protection laws and must respect Brazil’s sovereignty. One of the arguments put forth by the current U.S. administration is that Huawei has links to the Communist Party of China and therefore data won’t be safe if Huawei is allowed into 5G networks.
While Trump’s departure may have saved Huawei’s prospects in Brazil, it has come too late for the company in other countries like Poland and the United Kingdom which have already moved to ban Huawei from their 5G networks and remove it where it has already been installed.
Source: Estadao (Portuguese) via Reuters
U.S. government puts Xiaomi and eight other Chinese companies under investment ban
by Rajesh Pandey
The U.S. Department of Defense has put Xiaomi and eight other Chinese firms on an investment blacklist that prevents American investors from investing in these companies. All existing American investors will also have to divest their holdings in the backlisted firms by November 11, 2021. Huawei is already a part of this blacklist.
Xiaomi is China's second-largest and the world's third-biggest smartphone maker. Notably, Qualcomm Ventures, the venture capital arm of Qualcomm, has invested in Xiaomi. If the decision is not overturned, the San Diego-based chipmaker might have to divest its holdings in Xiaomi by November.
The U.S. government alleges that the nine banned Chinese companies have ties to or are controlled by the Chinese military. In addition to Xiaomi, the list also includes Comac, a plane maker that planned on setting up a factory in the U.S. to compete against Boeing and Airbus.
Do note that this ban from the Trump administration is different from the 'Entity List' on which the U.S. Department of Commerce had put Huawei. That list prevents U.S. companies from providing their technology and services to Chinese companies.
It is possible that once the Biden administration takes office from January 20 that the decision will be overturned but it remains to be seen what will manifest.
Japan agrees to provide important Lunar Gateway components
by Paul Hill
NASA and the Government of Japan have come to an agreement over the Lunar Gateway that will see the east Asian nation provide capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab). The I-Hab is a key component of the modular space station as it includes life support capabilities and additional space where astronauts can live and work during Artemis missions.
According to the American space agency, JAXA’s planned contributions include I-Hab’s environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control and imagery components. Once developed, these parts will be integrated into the I-Hab module by the European Space Agency (ESA) which shows just how much of an international effort this new space station is.
Under a previous agreement between JAXA and Northrop Grumman, Japan will supply the batteries that’ll be used in Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Output (HALO) – the area of the station where astronauts will go first once arriving at Gateway. Japan has also decided to take a look at its HTV-X cargo resupply craft to see whether it can adapt it for use in Gateway logistics resupply missions.
Commenting on today’s partnership, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Dan Hartman said:
The Lunar Gateway, which is set to orbit the Moon, will begin launching in January 2024. Initially, the Power and Propulsion Element and the HALO modules will be launched and eventually will be joined many other modules. The I-Hab, which Japan is developing components for under today’s agreement is set for launch in 2026.