US Broadens Investment Ban, Moves To Fund R&D In Tech Race With China

US Broadens Investment Ban, Moves To Fund R&D In Tech Race With China

Just as President Joe Biden hasn’t abandoned all of his predecessor’s policies on oil and gas, recent actions show that he is also continuing former President Donald Trump’s skeptical stance when it comes to China.

After extending some of Trump’s investment restrictions on Chinese companies, Biden also gave support to bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate that would increase U.S. investment in cutting-edge technology in order to out-compete the world’s most populous nation.

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act cobbled together several pieces of legislation moving through the Senate, including the Endless Frontier Act, which would expand the National Science Foundation to advance research and development into 10 technological focus areas, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced energy and quantum computing.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak to reporters during a news conference following a policy luncheon meeting with fellow Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Schumer and the Democratic Senators took questions form reporters about the Endless Frontier Act, which aims to counter Chinas global economic ambitions as a headliner. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off,” Biden said after the bill’s passage on June 8. “As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind.  America must maintain its position as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth.”

The bipartisan legislation, which featured lead sponsorship by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young, passed the Senate 62-38.

“Americans have always looked towards the frontier and forward to new horizons. This bill, this moment, it’s not only about beating the Chinese Communist Party; the Endless Frontier Act is about using their challenge to become a better version of ourselves through investment in innovation,” Young said in a statement. 

While the House of Representatives must now act before the legislation becomes law, Biden was able to unilaterally move to further restrict Chinese companies in the U.S. With an eye on persecuted minority communities within China, Biden’s administration added the list of companies which are prohibited from American investment, expanding restrictions on the Communist nation that Trump ushered in shortly before leaving office.

Army officers salute the Chinese national flag in front of the Monument in Memory of the Victorious Crossing of the Yangtze River, during a ceremony on April 23, 2008 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. The occupation of the Nanjing by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on April 23,1949 marked the end of the Kuomintang regime. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Through an executive order issued on June 3, Biden’s administration expanded the list of companies to 59, all of which have ties to China’s military. Several of the companies added to the list were tied to surveillance technology that the Biden administration believes is used to monitor minority populations within the country.

“I find that the use of Chinese surveillance technology outside the [Peoples Republic of China] and the development or use of Chinese surveillance technology to facilitate repression or serious human rights abuse, constitute unusual and extraordinary threats, which have their source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Biden wrote in a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate president.

The ban will take effect on Aug. 2, but investors will have one year to fully divest their holdings. The blacklist includes several prominent Chinese companies, across a variety of sectors. Smartphone maker Huawei, which has been working to break into the U.S. market, is on the list, as is Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China’s largest chipmaker. The roster also includes one of the country’s largest energy companies, China National Offshore Oil Corp.

International human rights observers have already warned that China may be using leading-edge surveillance technology to conduct mass surveillance on religious and ethnic minorities. In a September 2020 report, Amnesty International cited three European Union companies selling surveillance technology, such as facial recognition software, to China at the risk of it being used to monitor the activities of the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups throughout the country.

A display for facial recognition and artificial intelligence is seen on monitors at Huawei’s Bantian campus on April 26, 2019 in Shenzhen, China.(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

“Biometric surveillance tools, including facial recognition software, are among the most invasive digital surveillance technologies that enable governments to identify and track individuals in public spaces or single them out based on their physiological or behavioral characteristics,” the international human rights group said in its report. “These technologies pose a clear threat to the rights to privacy, freedom of assembly, speech, religion and non-discrimination.”

When Trump issued the original order in November 2020 banning investment in these specific Chinese companies, his administration argued that, since several of these companies are publicly traded, American investors could unwittingly be funding China’s military and intelligence services through investments like 401ks, where fund managers direct where funds are placed.

Trump’s action served “to protect American investors from unintentionally providing capital that goes to enhancing the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army and People’s Republic of China intelligence services, which routinely target American citizens and businesses through cyber operations, and directly threaten the critical infrastructure, economy, and military of America and its allies and partners around the world,” then-National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien said at the time the order was implemented.

(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Bryan Wilkes)

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US Government Is Open, But Flag Day Provides Plenty To Celebrate

US Government Is Open, But Flag Day Provides Plenty To Celebrate

Heavily Guarded Nation's Capital Hosts Presidential InaugurationbrWASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: American flags decorate the Field of Flags at the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol early morning ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today's inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Sandwiched between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Flag Day isn’t officially a federal holiday. But presidents routinely issue proclamations every June 14 calling for the display of the U.S. flag, even as the government stays open and the flag itself acquires new layers of meaning.

President Joseph R. Biden declared on Friday that Monday would be Flag Day again, and called on Americans to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. More than a century ago, in 1916, Woodrow Wilson picked the date to commemorate a moment in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress paused writing the Articles of Confederation to approve the first American flag design.

They called for 13 red and white stripes and the same number of stars, “white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Today Americans wave a 50-star flag but the stripes remain untouched, pointing back to the colonists who rebelled against the British crown. Before the Declaration of Independence, each colony flew its own flag.

It took Congress until 1949 to officially approve Flag Day with a bill that Harry Truman signed into law.

 In 1949 the Atlantic Treaty was signed by President of the United States of America Harry S Truman. That year he also signed Flag Day into law. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American University history professor Allan Lichtman told Zenger News that the holiday’s importance is tied to the emergence of a common nation in the middle of the Revolutionary War. “This was kind of the first recognition, symbolically, through a flag, that there was now a United States of America, and not just individual states,” Lichtman said.

The flag has been an inescapable symbol of that unity at critical moments in American history, beginning in the War of 1812 when Francis Scott Key saw it flying, in tatters, over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. The fort had endured a night-long British onslaught that Key watched helplessly from a ship carrying a truce mission.

We know the poem he wrote aboard that ship, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” as the lyrics to America’s national anthem.

The U.S. flag is the centerpiece of one of the most reproduced photos in history, Joe Rosenthal’s image of U.S. Marines raising it atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, was rejected for military service because of his poor eyesight. He won the Pulitzer Prize for capturing what few Americans know was the second flag hoisted atop the mountain on Feb. 23, 1945, during just the fifth day of a month-long battle.

“To get that flag up there, America’s fighting men had to die on that island and on other islands and off the shores and in the air,” Rosenthal would write in 1955. “What difference does it make who took the picture? I took it, but the Marines took Iwo Jima.”

The American flag flies above the US Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, with the Washington Monument in the distance on January 15, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The Austrian-born sculptor Felix de Weldon was an active-duty American sailor when he made a three-dimensional version of Rosenthal’s picture in clay. It would take nine years to turn that into the 100-ton Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. De Weldon’s 2,000 completed works include a bust of John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Library and one of Elvis Presley at Graceland.

The American flag’s importance transcended military power during the Civil Rights Movement, as African-American protesters carried it along the length of a five-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and James Baldwin walked alongside it, even as the battle flag of the Confederacy competed for attention in some places.

And as the world watched Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969, America boasted its technological victory over the Soviet Union with a flag that Apollo 11 astronauts brought with them to plant in the lunar dust, untroubled by gravity.

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Poses For A Photograph Beside The Deployed Flag Of The United States. The Lunar Module Is On The Left. Man’s First Landing On The Moon Occurred Today At 4:17 P.M. July 20, 1969. (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)

Burning the flag during the Vietnam War made it a political football. A 1968 federal law banned its desecration, but the Supreme Court struck it down two decades later as a violation of free-speech rights.

Politics has continued to follow the Stars and Stripes. A “thin blue line” version, in black and white with a single blue stripe, briefly served as a counter-protest in support of police officers after deadly shootings in 2016. Nike in 2019 abruptly stopped selling a shoe that included an embroidered Betsy Ross flag, the version featuring 13 stars in a circle, because former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick claimed it was a symbol of a racist, slave-holding era.

Commentators flooded Twitter with images of three giant Betsy Ross flags hung from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol as Barack Obama took his presidential oath in 2009, and again in 2013.

MartinLutherKing Jr. leading the Great Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. (Magnum Photos)

Lichtman said the American flag should not be a source of division.

“It is not supposed to represent any faction, certainly not any political faction of the country,” he told Zenger. “It is supposed to represent the unity of the country, which would include all peoples.”

(Edited by David Martosko, Kristen Butler and Claire Swift)

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Pipelines A Pipe Dream? Keystone XL Cancellation Is A Story Of Transition

Pipelines A Pipe Dream? Keystone XL Cancellation Is A Story Of Transition

A decision to abandon the Keystone XL oil pipeline leaves Canada with an export problem, analysts said, but it may be a broader sign of an inevitable energy transition and evolution.

In one of his first acts since taking office, President Joe Biden rescinded a permit for the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline, a long-planned artery that would take Canadian and North Dakota crude oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast for export.

Six months later, pipeline developer TC Energy said it was abandoning the project and dissolving its multi-billion-dollar partnership with the provincial government in Alberta, which became a major investor in the project last year.

Keystone XL has been considered a vital conduit to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where refineries there are configured for Canada’s heavy crude oil. (Selim Arda Eryilmaz/Unsplash)

“We invested in Keystone XL because of the long-term economic benefits it would have provided Albertans and Canadians,” Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said. “However, terminating our relationship with TC Energy’s project is in the best interest of Albertans under current conditions.”

The pipeline has long been the target of opposition from environmentalists. TC Energy in the past was forced to find a new pathway to the Gulf Coast amid concerns about the pipeline’s potential impact on a North Dakota aquifer. And the pipeline has been blocked twice — by former President Barack Obama and now by President Biden. But former President Donald Trump signed off the pipeline just a few days after assuming the presidency in 2017.

While Keystone XL is dead, several other pipelines potentially face the same fate. An Enbridge pipeline, Line 5, is the target of opposition in Michigan, which is mulling legislative action to shut it down. The Dakota Access pipeline, carrying oil from the Bakken shale field in North Dakota, is a scapegoat for the environmental community.

Patrick DeHaan, the lead petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said from Chicago that, without pipelines, oil suppliers may turn to rail instead, which is not necessarily a safe alternative. In 2013, 47 people were killed in Ontario when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the town of Lac-Megantic.

“I don’t think many people really understand the reliance we have on pipelines for providing the products the market demands,” he said.

For the U.S. oil and gas industry, the American Petroleum Institute said it was unfortunate that “political obstructionism” led to the death of the project.

More miles of unused pipe, prepared for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, sit in a lot on October 14, 2014 outside Gascoyne, North Dakota. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

“Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport the oil, natural gas and their products that schools, hospitals, factories and emergency vehicles use every day,” Robin Rorick, the institute’s vice president of midstream and industry operations, told Zenger News.

Even U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm — who was sworn into office in February — has said that pipelines are preferred for the transportation of fossil fuels. And a recent survey from polling firm co/efficient found that among some 2,700 respondents, 60 percent said they felt pipelines were the safest and best way to transport energy products.

For the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the decision to scrap the project is an obvious disappointment, not only for energy matters, but for the economy as well.

“Canada must continue to develop greater market access for our resources,” producers President and CEO Tim McMillan said in response to emailed questions.

The United States relies more on Canadian oil than any other country in the world, and much of that is refined into petroleum products like gasoline. Without that, the United States would be forced to look to overseas producers, undermining energy security.


For the week ending June 4, the U.S. government reported that Canada exported about 3.97 million barrels of oil per day. The second-largest exporter for the week, Mexico, sent only 423,000 barrels daily to the United States. Russia, one of the top U.S. adversaries, accounted for about 256,000 barrels daily of all the oil imported into the country last week.

Denton Cinquegrana, the chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said Canada clearly has an export problem given the dwindling options to expand its market reach, as McMillan said. Yet, even without Keystone XL, Canadian exports to the United States were close to a record last week.

With Keystone XL, exports could easily eclipse 4 million barrels.

“But how much would be going on Keystone XL to the Gulf Coast, loaded on a ship and going elsewhere?”  Cinquegrana wondered. “We’ll never know the answer to that hypothetical question.”

TC Energy, meanwhile, added that it was exploring the alternatives, saying it had “$7 billion of projects under development, and numerous additional initiatives aligned with its risk preferences and return criteria across its business lines and geographies.”

DeHaan at GasBuddy said it may be easier just to retrofit lines that are already running. Pipeline company Enbridge is looking to replace portions of pipelines that currently reach the United States and could increase the capacity of the lines at the same time. That, DeHaan said, would be a far easier alternative to building new ones.

“No new refineries were built in 40-plus years, but existing ones all expanded and modernized,” he said. “Expect pipelines to do the same — far less red tape.”

That could provide an opening for a cleaner future as oil and gas companies rely on existing infrastructure. Some so-called energy supermajors are changing their tune, too. In 2018, Norwegian energy company Statoil changed its name to Equinor, saying it wanted to remove “oil” from its moniker. This year, with a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, French supermajor Total rebranded as TotalEnergie to align with the transition underway in the energy sector.

With Keystone XL off the table, TC Energy said it too was focusing on a cleaner future, as did the Canadian oil and gas lobby.

“Canada’s natural gas and oil industry has an important role to play in providing lower-emissions energy and is committed to ongoing innovation to improve environmental outcomes,” McMillan said.

With a long history of opposition and support, the Keystone XL pipeline story, it seems, is one of evolution.

(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Bryan Wilkes)

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