Entries in Technology (5)


Russia Denies Link to Alleged Agent Busted in the US

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin has denied any links to companies recently blacklisted by the U.S. for their alleged involvement in a complex scheme to smuggle sensitive technology from America to the Russian military and intelligence agencies.

"None of them supplied anything to us," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin told reporters Friday, according to Russia's RIA Novosti.

"This latest row -- thank the Americans -- is a slap in the face for those in Russia who think that foreigners will help us," he added, going on to say that Russia is committed to making its own advanced technology.

Federal officials announced Wednesday they had arrested Soviet-born Alexander Fishenko, who was accused of working in the U.S. as an agent of the Russian government and being at the center of a Russian "military procurement ring." The ring allegedly worked for years to trick U.S. customs agents into believing his company was shipping harmless goods -- like traffic light parts -- to Russia, rather than advanced microelectronics that could be used in military applications including radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems or detonation triggers. The ring also allegedly provided microchips to a specialized electronics laboratory run by the FSB, Russia's powerful intelligence agency and successor to the KGB.

In addition to Fishenko, 10 other suspects working in the U.S. and in Russia were indicted for their alleged role in the scheme and 165 companies and people were added to the Department of Commerce's "Entity List," where they will face licensing restrictions for allegedly "facilitating" Fishenko's operation.

"As alleged in the indictment, the defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a Department of Justice release Wednesday. "But U.S. law enforcement detected, disrupted and dismantled the defendants' work."

Documents provided by the DOJ allege that Fishenko was the link between the Houston-based Arc Electronics, Inc., which he founded in 1998, and Apex Systems, L.L.C., of which he is a part owner, based in Moscow. To get the microelectronics from the U.S. and into the hands of Russian spies or military officers, Arc allegedly used other corporations as intermediaries and provided false information about what the parts were and where they were going.

At one point the firm went as far as claiming it was a "traffic light manufacturer," even though the company doesn't manufacture anything, the DOJ said in a release. In another instance, a suspect in the ring ordered a Russia-based company to make sure documents showed that maritime parts were for a fishing boat rather than for "anti-submarine ones." "Then we'll be able to start working," the suspect said, according to court documents.

In late 2011, the DOJ said several of the defendants tried to cover their tracks by destroying documents and deleting any references to the Russian military in emails.

"In this day and time, the ability of foreign countries to illegally acquire sensitive and sophisticated U.S. technology poses a significant threat to both the economic and national security of our nation," Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Morris said. "While some countries may leverage our technology for financial gain, many countries hostile to the United States will seek to improve their defense capabilities and to modernize their weapons systems at the expense of U.S. taxpayers."

The charges come as U.S.-Russian relations dipped to a recent low after the Russian government expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development, accusing it of meddling in Russia's internal affairs. Russia has also voiced its displeasure with a set of human rights sanctions being pushed by Congress that would slap visa bans and asset freezes on several Russian officials allegedly tied to the death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who died in police custody in 2009.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that the "re-set" in relations between Moscow and Washington, which the Obama administration proposed shortly after taking office in 2009, could not last forever.

"If we talk about the 'reset,' it is clear that, using computer terminology, it cannot last forever. Otherwise it would not be a 'reset' but a program failure," Lavrov told Kommersant newspaper in an interview.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Infamous Colombian City Gets Giant Outdoor Escalator

EschCollection/The Image Bank(MEDELLIN, Colombia) -- For generations residents of Comuna 13, a hillside neighborhood in the Colombian city of Medellin, have had to climb the equivalent of roughly 28 flights of stairs a day just to get home from the center of the city.

But they will no longer have to take the exhausting 35-minute hike up the hillside thanks to a massive, outdoor escalator constructed by the Colombian government. According to Colombian officials, the $6.7 million escalator will shorten the trip to only 6 minutes, a fact which is not lost on the grateful residents of Comuna 13.

Planners hope that the escalator will help reinvigorate and reinvent the community, which is most associated with deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar and his cocaine smuggling operation, the Medellin Cartel.  Escobar enjoyed tremendous popularity among Medellin residents due to his tendency to spread his drug fortune among the populace, giving large sums to help members of the community and ensure their loyalty. Escobar was killed in the city during a 1993 shootout with Colombian police.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toyota Unveils Futuristic Smartphone Concept Car

Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The brand new Toyota Fun-Vii is designed to look and feel like a “smartphone on wheels.” The freshly revealed model, which stands for Vehicle interactive Internet, has a number of features allowing users to customize the car’s appearance and connect to the web while driving.

“A car must appeal to our emotions. If it’s not fun, it’s not a car,” Toyota president Akio Yoyoda said.

At just over 13 feet long and almost six feet wide, the model is slim, and its sleek body panels can change to display the user’s favorite photos, text messages, or other media.

In Toyota’s presentation, which took place at a Toyota amusement-park facility, the futuristic car recognized and greeted its driver. And once inside, the driver operated the car without lifting a finger -- relying on speech-controlled directions instead.

The Fun-Vii was revealed just ahead of the Tokyo Auto Show, scheduled for this weekend. But Toyota doesn’t plan to put the model on road any time soon; the company said the Fun-Vii will remain a futuristic concept car for now.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


China on Verge of Unseating U.S. as World's Largest Manufacturer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BEIJING) – China is on the verge of taking a title the United States has held for 110 years: the world's largest manufacturer.

When China surpasses the U.S. in manufacturing later this year, it will be the latest sector in which China has challenged U.S. dominance, fueling its increasingly assertive attitude in dealing with the U.S.

An example of China's determination to be taken as an equal, it brazenly tested its first known stealth fighter while Defense Secretary Robert Gates was visiting last week, and China's generals have said they want to double the military budget.

"I think we're going to see a China that's going to spread its wings more, a China that is not going to be contained or pushed around," Beijing-based analyst and professor Russell Leigh Moses told ABC News.

China's President Hu struck a more diplomatic tone after arriving in the United States Tuesday to meet with President Obama.

The delegation announced $45 billion worth' of deals to purchase U.S. exports, including a $19-billion deal with Boeing to purchase 200 planes. The other deals are in a wide variety of export sectors and include everything from agricultural products and telecommunication equipment to engineering machinery and auto parts. The White House said the deals will support 235,000 U.S. jobs.
Despite those potentially lucrative deals for U.S. companies, the booming Chinese economy continues to expand into frontiers dominated by the United States. It is designing civilian aircrafts, building its own space station and trying to match U.S. nuclear technology with 25 new nuclear plants.

While state and municipal governments in the U.S. struggle with massive deficits, China is designing vast infrastructure upgrades. It will begin construction this year on more than 50 airports, 23,000 miles of highway and 19,000 miles of railway lines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Canada Most Internet-Addicted Country, Eh?

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(TORONTO) – Canadians spend more time on the Web than any other country, according to a new report.

The ComScore report says that around 68 percent of Canadians surf the Web regularly and spend an average of 42 hours online each month. It also doesn’t hurt that 51 percent of the population -- around 17 million -- have Facebook accounts.

France and Britain came in second with 62 percent. Germany followed with 60 percent while Americans trailed slightly behind at 59 percent.

Italy was among the least Internet-crazed country, with just 36 percent of the population using the Web regularly.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio