Biden addresses the economy and pushes for further spending. | #computerhacking | #hacking



President Biden delivers remarks on his administration’s economic agenda and is expected to address issues related to inflation.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

President Biden appeared late Monday morning at the White House to deliver remarks and press Congress to act on both halves of his economic agenda, claiming momentum from an uptick in job growth over the course of his administration and pushing back on Republican critiques of his multi-trillion-dollar spending plans.

White House officials said Mr. Biden would use the speech to champion the nearly $600 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement he struck with Democratic and Republican centrists in the Senate last month. The deal is in jeopardy after Republicans balked at a key revenue source included in the initial deal: stepped-up enforcement efforts at the I.R.S. to catch tax cheats.

White House officials and Senate negotiators — including 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans — are working to salvage it by substituting a new revenue source.

“We are still negotiating,” the lead Republican negotiator, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “In fact, last night, I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House. And, later today, we will be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who have come together to put this bill into a track that’s very unusual for Washington.”

Mr. Biden will also use his speech to push for a second facet of his agenda, which Democrats are planning to pursue without Republican support: a $3.5 trillion plan, achieved through the budget reconciliation process, that bypasses a Senate filibuster.

That plan contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda that is not included in the bipartisan bill, like expanding educational access, building more affordable and energy-efficient housing, incentivizing low-carbon energy through tax credits and a wide range of other social programs meant to invest in workers.

Mr. Portman and other Republicans have ramped up criticism of that spending in recent days, claiming it will stoke more inflation for an economy that is already experiencing rapid price growth. Mr. Biden is expected to push back on those critiques in his speech. His economic team has said repeatedly that inflation increases today are largely a product of the Covid-19 pandemic and will fade in the months or years to come.

Administration officials also say the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan will dampen price pressures by freeing up Americans to work more — through subsidized child care, national paid leave and other measures — and improving the efficiency of the economy.

Zach Montague contributed reporting.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, left, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, right, are part of the bipartisan group working to finish an infrastructure deal.
Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Lawmakers scrambling to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure bill are facing new obstacles, with key Senate Republicans warning that they would not move forward with a planned test vote this week on an unfinished bill and negotiators jettisoning a crucial proposal to help pay for it.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said on Sunday that lawmakers axed a provision to toughen tax enforcement at the I.R.S., which had been under discussion as a crucial source of financing for the plan, which would devote nearly $600 billion to roads, bridges, broadband and other physical infrastructure.

“We don’t have a product yet, and we won’t have a product until we can finish negotiations properly,” Mr. Portman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

His comments indicated a thorny road ahead for senators who have been toiling to translate a deal they struck with President Biden into legislative text ahead of a vote that the top Senate Democrat has said could come as early as Wednesday.

Anti-tax conservatives led by Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, had lobbied Republicans against giving billions of dollars to the I.R.S. to help beef up tax enforcement, warning that it would give the agency too much power. With that provision no longer under consideration, lawmakers will have to continue searching for alternatives to finance the sprawling bill.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, announced last week that he intends to hold a preliminary vote as early as midweek on the plan, an attempt to ratchet up pressure for Republicans and Democrats to seal their agreement. Republicans have chafed at the vote, calling it an arbitrary deadline.

“How can I vote for a cloture when the bill isn’t written?” Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Unless you want program failure, unless Senator Schumer doesn’t want this to happen, you need a little bit more time to get it right.”

The bipartisan group continued negotiations over the weekend, wrestling over how to structure and finance the measure. They are still short of the support needed to push the measure past the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster and take it up. Doing so would require the votes of all 50 Democrats and independents, and 10 Republicans.

At the same time, Democrats are working to iron out the details of a far more expansive $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that includes expansions of child care, education and programs to address climate change. That proposal, which Mr. Schumer directed Democrats to agree on by this Wednesday, would unlock use of the fast-track reconciliation process, allowing the party to pass a sweeping economic package without Republican votes.

Voting rights activists rallied on Saturday in Washington.
Credit…Alex Wong/Getty Images

ATLANTA — Senate Democrats took their campaign for far-reaching federal voting rights legislation on the road to Georgia on Monday, convening a rare hearing in a state at the center of a national fight over elections.

At a field hearing in Atlanta, state lawmakers and voters decried the restrictive new voting law signed this spring by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, as an attempt to disenfranchise Black and young voters and consolidate Republicans’ tenuous grip on power.

“There is much talk about not being able to give food and water to voters on line, but the actual law is much more abhorrent than that,” said Representative Billy Mitchell, the chairman of the Georgia House Democratic caucus. “What I am most concerned about — and hope you come up with a solution for — is cheating umpires that these laws are creating.”

But the hearing’s real aim is to sway a debate more than 500 miles away in Washington, where Democrats are trying to revive a stalled elections overhaul in the Senate to make it easier to vote and offset many of the changes Republicans have pushed through in states like Georgia.

“If you just stay in Washington and get doused down and gridlocked out by our archaic procedures in the Senate, you lose sight of what you are fighting for,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said in an interview.

An initial attempt by Democrats to debate their overhaul, the For the People Act, failed in the Senate last month in the face of unified Republican opposition. Now Democrats are trying to retool, but it is unclear if their chances of success will improve as long as key moderate senators refuse to alter the Senate’s filibuster rule, which in effect gives Republicans veto power over their agenda.

The hearing at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights here is the first time in two decades the Rules Committee has convened outside the Capitol. Ms. Klobuchar has said additional field hearings will follow.

Testifying in front of black-and-white photos of the civil rights movement, Sally Harrell, a Democratic state senator from suburban Atlanta, detailed a rushed scramble by Republicans to draft and pass the state’s new law, S.B. 202, without input from Democrats on the public. “In the nine years, I have served in the Georgia General Assembly, I had never seen such blatant disregard for the legislative process,” she said.

Helen Butler, the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and a former county election official, told senators that she and another Black official had been removed from the county elections board at the beginning of the month after the new law gave Republicans the power to appoint its members.

The changes, she said, “raised the specter that the goal would be to nullify the lawful vote of Georgia voters when the majority party is not satisfied with the outcome of the election, thereby achieving an outcome the former president was not able to in 2020.”

And José Segarra, a former Air Force pilot in Warner Robins, described waiting in the state’s notoriously long voting lines last November as he sought to cast his ballot. Other voters who had to report for work or could not stand for hours in the elements simply had to leave without voting, he said.

“Senators, this is wrong. It should not take so long to vote,” he said.

Republicans on the Rules Committee, who have fought to stymie Democrats’ election overhaul in the Senate, did not attend the hearing. Nor did they invite any Republicans from the state to defend the law.

“This silly stunt is based on the same lie as all the Democrats’ phony hysteria from Georgia to Texas to Washington, D.C., and beyond — their efforts to pretend that moderate, mainstream state voting laws with more generous early voting provisions than blue states like New York are some kind of evil assault on our democracy,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said in a statement.

A Microsoft office in Beijing. The Biden administration has accused China of breaching the company’s email systems, which are used around the world.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

The Biden administration on Monday formally accused the Chinese government of breaching Microsoft email systems used by many of the world’s largest companies, governments and military contractors, according to a senior administration official. The United States is also set to organize a broad group of allies, including all NATO members, to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the United States was expected to accuse China for the first time of paying criminal groups to conduct large-scale hackings, including ransomware attacks to extort companies for millions of dollars. Microsoft had pointed to hackers linked to the Chinese Ministry of State Security for exploiting holes in the company’s email systems in March; the U.S. announcement will offer details about the methods that were used, and it is the first suggestion that the Chinese government hired criminal groups to work on its behalf.

Condemnation from NATO and the European Union is unusual, because most of their member countries have been deeply reluctant to publicly criticize China, a major trading partner. But even Germany, whose companies were hit hard by the hacking of Microsoft Exchange — email systems that companies maintain on their own, rather than putting them in the cloud — cited the Chinese government for its work.

Despite the broadside, the announcement will lack concrete punitive steps against the Chinese government such as sanctions similar to ones that the White House imposed on Russia in April, when it blamed the country for the extensive SolarWinds attack that affected U.S. government agencies and more than 100 companies.

Nicholas Kristof interviewing Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior Houthi official, in 2018 in Sana, the capital of Yemen.
Credit…Mohammed Huwais/AFP-Services, for The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof, the award-winning columnist for The New York Times, is considering a bid for governor of Oregon.

Mr. Kristof, who grew up on a farm in Yamhill, about 25 miles west of Portland, said in a statement that friends were trying to recruit him into the race to replace Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat who is prevented from running for re-election by term limits. Last month, he decided to take a leave from The Times to consider the possibility of a political campaign.

Any bid for governor would most likely be difficult for an outsider, even one with local roots and a national media platform. At least six candidates are considering entering the race, including the state treasurer, the speaker of the state’s House of Representatives, the state attorney general and a top union leader. News of Mr. Kristof’s potential candidacy was earlier reported by The Willamette Week.

Mr. Kristof, 62, is known for his coverage of human rights abuses and women’s rights, winning Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting on the Tiananmen Square protests in China and on genocide in Darfur.

Last year, he published a book, “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, that explored stories of poverty, addiction and inequality through the stories of several of his childhood schoolmates.

He became more involved in managing his family farm two years ago, when he returned to the state with Ms. WuDunn, to transition its business from growing cherries to cider apples and wine grapes.

“Although Nick has not made up his mind about whether to pursue a political candidacy, we agreed he’d go on leave from The Times, in accordance with Times standards, after he brought this possibility to our attention last month,” said Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for the newspaper.

Mr. Kristof said in his statement that he was interested in hearing what Oregonians thought about his possible bid.

“I have friends trying to convince me that here in Oregon, we need new leadership from outside the broken political system,” he said. “All I know for sure is that we need someone with leadership and vision so that folks from all over the state can come together to get us back on track.”

 At its peak in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, the prison on a U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay held about 675 men.
Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The Biden administration on Monday transferred its first detainee out of Guantánamo Bay, repatriating a Moroccan man who had been recommended for discharge from the wartime prison starting in 2016 but nevertheless remained there during the Trump years.

The transfer of the man, Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was the first sign of a renewed effort under President Biden to winnow the population of prisoners by sending them to other countries that promise to ensure the men remain under security measures. Mr. Nasser was never charged with a crime.

The transfer process, which was pursued by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, had atrophied under Donald J. Trump. With Mr. Nasser’s departure, there are now 39 prisoners at Guantánamo, 11 of whom have been charged with war crimes. At its peak in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, the prison complex at the U.S. naval base there held about 675 men.

The remaining 28 prisoners who have not been charged during the nearly two decades they have been in custody are held as Mr. Nasser had been — as indefinite law-of-war detainees in the armed conflict against Al Qaeda. Of those, 10 have been recommended for transfer with security arrangements by a federal parole-like panel.

The Biden White House, while supporting the goal of closing the prison, has adopted a low-key approach in that effort. Mr. Obama made it a signature policy, ordering that the prison be closed during his first year in office — and failed in the face of intense opposition from Congress. Mr. Biden and his aides have sought to avoid igniting the same kind of backlash by working quietly to begin reducing the prison population again.

The Justice Department on Monday accused three Chinese state security officials of coordinating a vast hacking campaign to steal sensitive and secret information from government entities, universities and corporations around the world, including research related to autonomous vehicles, genetic-sequencing technology and infectious diseases like the Ebola virus.

The announcement came as the White House formally accused the Chinese government of breaching Microsoft email systems and paying criminal groups to extort companies for millions of dollars in ransomware attacks, showing that the Biden administration was determined to aggressively confront Beijing.

In an indictment that had been sealed since May, the Justice Department accused officers in a provincial foreign intelligence bureau, the Hainan Province Ministry of State Security, of creating a sham information security company that they used as a front for a sprawling hacking operation.

The officers, Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin and Zhu Yunmin, used the front company to manage a group of computer hackers and linguists who hacked into computer systems around the world to benefit China and hide Beijing’s role in the thefts, according to the indictment. One of the hackers, Wu Shurong, was accused of creating malware that was used to break into foreign computer systems.

From 2011 to 2018, the Chinese intelligence officers targeted companies, universities and government agencies in the United States, Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to court documents. The allegations underscore China’s willingness to flagrantly disregard a 2015 agreement with the United States to refrain from computer-enabled theft of information for commercial gain.

“The breadth and duration of China’s hacking campaigns, including these efforts targeting a dozen countries across sectors ranging from health care and biomedical research to aviation and defense, remind us that no country or industry is safe,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement.

Staff and professors at Chinese universities aided the operation by identifying and recruiting hackers and linguists, according to the indictment. Personnel at one university ran the company’s payroll and benefits.

The intelligence officers are accused of targeting aviation, defense, education, government, health care, biopharmaceutical and maritime industries.

Some of the thefts were identified in charges brought during the Trump administration against hackers associated with China’s main intelligence service.

While it is unlikely that all of the defendants will be tried in a U.S. court, national security officials have long said that it is important to publicly charge Chinese officials with wrongdoing as part of a broader effort to hold Beijing to account.

Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, questioned tariffs that the Trump administration placed on $360 billion of Chinese imports.
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has cast doubt on the merits of the trade agreement between the United States and China, arguing that it has failed to address the most pressing disputes between the world’s two largest economies and warning that the tariffs that remain in place have harmed American consumers.

Ms. Yellen’s comments, made in an interview with The New York Times last week, come as the Biden administration is seven months into an extensive review of America’s economic relationship with China, write The Times’s Alan Rappeport and Keith Bradsher. The review must answer the central question of what to do about the deal that former President Donald J. Trump signed in early 2020 that included Chinese commitments to buy American products and reform its trade practices.

Tariffs that remain on $360 billion of Chinese imports are hanging in the balance, and the Biden administration has said little about the deal’s fate. President Biden has not moved to roll back the tariffs, but Ms. Yellen suggested that they were not helping the economy.

“Tariffs are taxes on consumers, in some cases it seems to me what we did hurt American consumers and the type of deal that the prior administration negotiated really didn’t address in many ways the fundamental problems we have with China,” she said.

But reaching any new deal could be hard given rising tensions between the two countries on other issues. The Biden administration warned U.S. businesses in Hong Kong on Friday about the risks of doing business there, including the possibility of electronic surveillance and the surrender of customer data to authorities.

Chinese officials would welcome any unilateral American move to dismantle tariffs, according to two people involved in Chinese policymaking. But China is not willing to halt its broad industrial subsidies in exchange for a tariff deal, they said.

Academic experts in China share the government’s skepticism that any quick deal can be achieved.

“Even if we go back to the negotiating table, it will be tough to reach an agreement,” said George Yu, a trade economist at Renmin University in Beijing.

Members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus outside the U.S. Capitol last week. The caucus did not name those who tested positive, but said all were fully vaccinated.
Credit…Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Five of the nearly 60 Texas Democrats who fled Texas last week in an effort to prevent the passage of a restrictive new voting law have tested positive for the coronavirus in Washington, including two cases announced on Sunday.

The Texas House Democratic Caucus said all five lawmakers were fully vaccinated and were experiencing mild or no symptoms, Reuters reported, citing an emailed statement. It said all caucus members and their staff in Washington were being tested daily.

Two of those who tested positive have identified themselves. State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said he tested positive on Sunday. In a statement, he said he had “extremely mild” symptoms and would quarantine until he tested negative.

Another lawmaker, State Representative Celia Israel, said she tested positive on Saturday.

The first lawmaker to test positive reported it on Friday night. Ms. Israel and another colleague tested positive on Saturday.

The Democratic lawmakers left Texas for Washington on July 12, shortly after the start of a 30-day special session to secure passage of the voting bill. They have vowed to stay in the capital until the special session concludes, denying a quorum to the Republican majority that sponsored the bill.

The proposed law includes restrictions on absentee voting and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting, which are disproportionately used by Democrats. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has threatened to arrest the Democratic lawmakers once they return to the state.

State Representative Gene Wu, one of the Democrats now in Washington, said the positive tests underscored the importance of getting inoculated against the virus, especially as the more contagious Delta variant continues to spread.

“That is the beauty of being vaccinated,” he told MSNBC on Saturday. “Every single person who has tested positive so far have little to no symptoms, which is sort of the point of the vaccine. And if nothing else, we would want this to be a reminder to all Americans, get your stupid shots now. Don’t wait.”

The Covid vaccines in use in the United States have proven to be effective at reducing the risk of severe symptoms or hospitalization, but infections among fully vaccinated individuals, known as breakthrough infections, are not unheard of. It is not yet clear whether the highly transmissible Delta variant circulating across the country increases the likelihood of breakthrough infections.

A Saudi Aramco oil refinery in Saudi Arabia. A deal reached on Sunday by the countries in OPEC Plus could help ease the pressure on gas prices.
Credit…Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Major oil-producing nations have agreed to begin pumping more oil beginning next month, Stanley Reed reports in The New York Times.

The deal, reached on Sunday by the countries in a group known as OPEC Plus, could help ease the pressure on gas prices and inflation as economies around the world recover after pandemic lockdowns.

Gasoline prices in the United States have been steadily rising, and the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States is now $3.17, according to AAA. A year ago, as pandemic lockdowns kept people close to home, gas cost just $2.18 a gallon on average. And the higher gas prices have been adding to inflation, a key measure of which climbed at the fastest pace in 13 years in June.

Under the deal announced on Sunday, OPEC Plus, a group of 23 nations led by Saudi Arabia and including Russia, will increase output each month by 400,000 barrels a day, beginning in August. That will add about 2 percent to the world’s supply by the end of the year. The group accounts for roughly 40 percent of the world’s crude oil.

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