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Foxconn Steers Clear of Trump’s $30 Billion Investment Claim

Foxconn Technology Group is not saying whether it plans to invest $30 billion in the United States, as President Donald Trump claimed he was told by the company’s leader “off the record.”

Trump announced to a group of small business leaders at the White House on Tuesday that Foxconn CEO Terry Gou told him privately that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer was going to invest $30 billion in the U.S. The company signed a deal with Wisconsin last week to build a $10 billion display panel manufacturing plant and Trump did not specify where the additional spending would be.

Foxconn reiterated in a statement Wednesday that the Wisconsin plant “will be the first of a series of facilities we will be building in several states.” It did not address Trump’s statement about the total investment amount or Trump’s claims that Gou told it to him in confidence.

“We have not yet announced our investment plans for other sites,” Foxconn said in the statement. “We will provide an update as soon as we have finalized those plans.”

Gou previously said that Foxconn was considering locating in seven states before Trump announced last week that a massive liquid crystal display monitors plant would be going to Wisconsin. Other states that Foxconn said it was looking at were Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Foxconn is the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, with factories across mainland China. It’s best known for making iPhones and other Apple devices but its long list of customers includes Sony Corp., Dell Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd.

The new plant in Wisconsin, which is scheduled to open in 2020 with 3,000 employees, will construct liquid crystal display monitors used in televisions and computers. It would bring Foxconn closer to its biggest market and be the first LCD monitor factory located outside of Asia.

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a $3 billion incentive package that must be passed by the end of September as part of the deal with Foxconn. A public hearing on the proposal was scheduled for Thursday, just six days after a draft of the plan was released and eight days after news of the state’s deal with Foxconn broke.

Republicans who control the Legislature are split on how quickly to pass the bill, with state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying there are too many unanswered questions about the tax breaks that must be addressed before a vote. Some Democrats and others have questioned whether the incentives are too much, while also raising concerns about the proposed waiving of state environmental permit requirements and other regulations to speed up construction.

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Trump Administration Planning Trade Action Against China

The Trump administration is considering whether to initiate an action that could lead to the United States imposing tariffs and other trade restrictions on Chinese imports.

U.S. news outlets say President Donald Trump will direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin an investigation of China’s trade practices under a section of the 1974 Trade Act. The section is aimed at protecting U.S. industries from unfair trade practices of foreign countries.  

Administration officials say a formal announcement could be made within the next several days.

President Trump and members of his economic team have long accused China of engaging in trade practices that have harmed American businesses, from excess steel imports to theft of intellectual properties.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accused China, as well as Europe, of subsidizing their exports through such means as “grants, low-cost loans, energy subsidies, special value-added tax refunds” and other means.   

Despite its complaints, the Trump administration had emphasized cooperation with Beijing during its first six months in office. But bilateral trade talks last month failed to end with an agreement, and the administration has become increasingly frustrated with China’s apparent reluctance to pressure North Korea to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

 

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Qatar Files WTO Complaint Against Trade Boycott

Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, the director of Qatar’s WTO office, Ali Alwaleed al-Thani, told Reuters.

By formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

“We’ve given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result,” al-Thani said.

“We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute.”

The boycotting states cut ties with Qatar — a major global gas supplier and host to the biggest U.S. military base in the Middle East — on June 5, accusing it of financing militant groups in Syria, and allying with Iran, their regional foe. Doha denies these allegations.

The boycotting countries have previously told the WTO that they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar, using a controversial and almost unprecedented exemption allowed under the WTO rules.

They said on Sunday they were ready for talks to tackle the dispute, the worst rift between Gulf Arab states in years, if Doha showed willingness to deal with their demands.

The text of Qatar’s WTO complaint cites “coercive attempts at economic isolation” and spells out how they are impeding Qatar’s rights in the trade in goods, trade in services and intellectual property.

The complaints against Saudi Arabia and the UAE run to eight pages each, while the document on Bahrain is six pages.

No reaction

There was no immediate reaction from the three to Qatar’s complaint, which is likely to be circulated at the WTO later this week.

The disputed trade restrictions include bans on trade through Qatar’s ports and travel by Qatari citizens, blockages of Qatari digital services and websites, closure of maritime borders and prohibition of flights operated by Qatari aircraft.

The complaint does not put a value on the trade boycott, and al-Thani declined to estimate how much Qatar could seek in sanctions if the litigation ever reached that stage, which can take two to five years or longer in the WTO system.

“We remain hopeful that the consultations could bear fruit in resolving this,” he said.

The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott. Although it has also cut travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar, Egypt did not expel Qatari citizens or ask Egyptians to leave Qatar.

Al-Thani declined to explain why Egypt was not included.

“Obviously all options are available. But we have not raised a consultation request with Egypt yet,” he said.

In its WTO case, Qatar would also draw attention to the impact the boycott was having on other WTO members, he added.

Many trade diplomats say that using national security as a defense risks weakening the WTO by removing a taboo that could enable countries to escape international trade obligations.

Al-Thani said governments had wide discretion to invoke the national security defense but it had to be subject to oversight: “If it is self-regulating, that is a danger to the entire multilateral trading system itself. And we believe the WTO will take that into consideration.”

Aviation group

Qatar also raised the boycott at a meeting of the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Monday, al-Thani said.

In comments to Qatar-based Al Jazeera television later Monday, Qatar’s transport and information minister said the boycotting countries had discriminated against Doha in violation of an international agreement guaranteeing overflights.

“These countries have used this right arbitrarily and imposed it on aircraft registered only in the \state of Qatar,” Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti said.

Qatar in June asked Montreal-based ICAO to resolve the conflict, using a dispute resolution mechanism in the Chicago Convention, a 1944 treaty that created the agency and set basic rules for international aviation.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said Sunday that they would allow Qatari planes to use air corridors in emergencies.

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Deputy PM: Luxembourg’s Space Mining Mission Begins Tuesday

When Luxembourg’s new law governing space mining comes into force on Tuesday, the country will already be working to make the science-fiction-sounding mission a reality, the deputy prime minister said.

The legislation will make Luxembourg the first country in Europe to offer a legal framework to ensure that private operators can be confident about their rights over resources they extract in space.

The law is based on the premise that space resources are capable of being owned by individuals and private companies and establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

“When I launched the initiative a year ago, people thought I was mad,” Etienne Schneider told Reuters.

“But for us, we see it as a business that has return on investment in the short-term, the medium-term, and the long-term,” said Schneider, who is also Luxembourg’s economy minister.

Luxembourg in June 2016 set aside 200 million euros ($229 million) to fund initiatives aimed at bringing back rare minerals from space.

While that goal is at least 15 years off, new technologies are already creating markets that space mining could supply, said Schneider.

He said firms could soon make carrying materials to refuel or repair satellites economically feasible or supply raw materials to the 3-D printers now being tested on the International Space Station.

Lifting each kilogram of mass from Earth to orbit costs between 10,000 and 15,000 euros ($11,000 to $18,000), according to Schneider, but firms could cut these costs by recycling the debris of old satellites and rocket parts floating in space.

The small European country, best known for its fund management and private banking sector, will on Tuesday begin the work of making such deals, with the security of a legal framework in place, said Schneider.

Luxembourg has already managed to attract significant interest from pioneers in the field such as U.S. operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, and aims to attract research and development projects to set up there.

A similar package of laws was introduced in the United States in 2015 but only applies to companies majority owned by Americans, while Luxembourg’s laws will only require the company to have an office in the country.

“I am already in discussions with fund owners for more than 1 billion euros which they want to dedicate to space exploration over here in Luxembourg,” Schneider said. “In 10 years, I’m quite sure that the official language in space will be Luxembourgish.”

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Trump to Travel to Promote Tax Overhaul Legislation

President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for not doing enough to help pass health care legislation, will do more traveling to try to drum up support for tax legislation, a senior White House aide said on Monday.

Specifically, Trump could travel to some Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin that he won during the 2016 presidential campaign but are still represented by Democrats in Congress.

“In terms of travel, I think you will see him out there more … in the states where we need votes,” said Marc Short, the White House’s legislative liaison.

The Republican effort to repeal Obamacare failed in the Senate last week, leaving party leaders looking ahead to try to tackle an overhaul of the tax code. But it has also left many questioning how taxes will be different, especially if Trump, who suffers from low national approval ratings, does not become more actively involved in pushing for the bill.

Short said that unlike the health care, which he called more complicated, the White House has been working to build support for tax reform among national groups aligned with their ideology.

His remarks came at a tax panel discussion sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by Republican donors Charles and David Koch that organizes supporters across the country to contact their members of Congress in favor of conservative legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speaking on the same panel, echoed his remarks.

“The message is [tax reform] may not be perfect for everything you want, but it’s going to be really really good for the economy and better than what we have,” Mnuchin said.

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Crocodile Industry Hopes to Boost Australia Aboriginal Communities

The crocodile industry in Australia’s Northern Territory, a new report says, is worth more than four times the previous estimate of US $80 million. Officials hope the findings will give poorer aboriginal communities the chance to develop crocodile farming industries.

The saltwater creature is the world’s largest reptile. In Australia, they were once hunted to the brink of extinction, mainly for their skins, which were used to make durable leather goods and clothes.

They have been a protected species since the early 1970s, and their numbers in Australia’s tropical north have soared.

Economic opportunities

The Northern Territory regional government now sees economic opportunities for indigenous communities, where officials want to see an expansion of crocodile egg collection programs.

The eggs would help to stock crocodile farms owned by aboriginal groups, or traditional owners of land, which would supply reptile skins to big fashion houses including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, as well as supplying crocodile meat.

“We are looking at direct investments into rangers to make sure that we see on country a growth in the crocodile industry, so the harvesting of eggs, the growing of the crocodile locally and remotely, which is a very important and valuable use of traditional country done by traditional owners,” said Michael Gunner, the Northern Territory’s chief minister.

Hunting for sport?

An independent Australian MP, Bob Katter, has said that as crocodile numbers increase, so does the threat to people. He believes big game trophy hunters should be allowed to shoot them for sport. Katter has argued that crocodile safaris would boost the incomes of indigenous communities.

While the Northern Territory government supports crocodile safaris, the final decision rests with Australia’s federal government, which has refused to allow them. Conservationists have insisted that the shooting of iconic animals for profit in Australia is abhorrent and should never be allowed.

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Mainstream Model 3 Could Make or Break Tesla Dreams

For Tesla, everything is riding on the Model 3.

The electric car company’s newest vehicle was delivered to its first 30 customers, all Tesla employees, Friday evening. Its $35,000 starting price, half the cost of Tesla’s previous models, and range of up to 310 miles (498 km) could bring hundreds of thousands of customers into the automaker’s fold, taking it from a niche luxury brand to the mainstream. Around 500,000 people worldwide have reserved a Model 3.

Those higher sales could finally make Tesla profitable and accelerate its plans for future products like SUVs and pickups.

Or the Model 3 could dash Tesla’s dreams.

Much could go wrong

Potential customers could lose faith if Tesla doesn’t meet its aggressive production schedule, or if the cars have quality problems that strain Tesla’s small service network. 

The compact Model 3 may not entice a global market that’s increasingly shifting to SUVs, including all-electric SUVs from Audi and others going on sale soon. And a fully loaded Model 3 with 310 miles of range costs a hefty $59,500; the base model goes 220 miles (322 km) on a charge.

Limits on the $7,500 U.S. tax credit for electric cars could also hurt demand. Once an automaker sells 200,000 electric cars in the U.S., the credit phases out. Tesla has sold more than 126,000 vehicles since 2008, according to estimates by WardsAuto, so not everyone who buys a Model 3 will be eligible.

“There are more reasons to think that it won’t be successful than it will,” says Karl Brauer, the executive publisher for Cox Automotive, which owns Autotrader and other car buying sites.

Always part of Tesla plans

The Model 3 has long been part of Palo Alto, California-based Tesla’s plans. In 2006, three years after the company was founded, CEO Elon Musk said Tesla would eventually build “affordably priced family cars” after establishing itself with high-end vehicles like the Model S, which starts at $69,500. This will be the first time many Tesla workers will be able to afford a Tesla.

“It was never our goal to make expensive cars. We wanted to make a car everyone could buy,” Musk said Friday. “If you’re trying to make a difference in the world, you also need to make cars people can afford.”

Tesla started taking reservations for the Model 3 in March 2016. Musk said more than 500,000 people have put down a $1,000 deposit for the car. People ordering a car now likely won’t get it until late 2018. Cars will go first to employees and customers on the West Coast; overseas deliveries start late next year, and right-hand drive versions come in 2019.

Challenges to deliver

But carmaking has proved a challenge to Musk. Both the Model S and the Model X SUV were delayed and then plagued with pesky problems, like doors that don’t work and blank screens in their high-tech dashboards.

Tesla’s luxury car owners might overlook those problems because they liked the thrill of being early adopters. But mainstream buyers will be less forgiving.

“This will be their primary vehicle, so they will have high expectations of quality and durability and expect everything to work every time,” said Sam Abuelsamid, a senior researcher with Navigant Research.

The Model 3 was designed to be much simpler and cheaper to make than Tesla’s previous vehicles. It has one dashboard screen, not two, and no fancy door handles. It’s made primarily of steel, not aluminum. It has no instrument panel; the speed limit and other information normally there can be found on the center screen. It doesn’t even have a key fob; drivers can open and lock the car with a smartphone or a credit cardlike key.

‘Manufacturing hell’

Still, Musk said he’s expecting “at least six months of manufacturing hell” as the Model 3 ramps up to full production. Musk wants to be making 20,000 Model 3s per month by December at the carmaker’s Fremont factory.

Musk aims to make 500,000 vehicles next year, a number that could help Tesla finally make money. The company has only had two profitable quarters since it went public in 2010. But even at that pace, Tesla will remain a small player. Toyota Motor Corp. made more than 10 million vehicles last year.

Abuelsamid said even if it doesn’t meet its ambitious targets, Tesla has done more than anyone to promote electric vehicles.

“A decade ago they were a little more than golf carts. Now all of a sudden, EVs are real, practical vehicles that can be used for anything,” he said.

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Mexico City Floating Farms, Chefs Team Up to Save Tradition

At dawn in Xochimilco, home to Mexico City’s famed floating gardens, farmers in muddied rain boots squat among rows of beets as a group of chefs arrive to sample sweet fennel and the pungent herb known as epazote.

 

By dinnertime some of those greens will be on plates at an elegant bistro 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the north, stewed with black beans in a $60 prix-fixe menu for well-heeled diners.

 

Call it floating-farm-to-table: A growing number of the capital’s most in-demand restaurants are incorporating produce grown at the gardens, or chinampas, using ancient cultivation techniques pioneered hundreds of years ago in the pre-Columbian era.

 

While sourcing local ingredients has become fashionable for many top chefs around the globe, it takes on additional significance in Xochimilco, where a project linking chinampa farmers with high-end eateries aims to breathe life and a bit of modernity into a fading and threatened tradition.

 

“People sometimes think [farm-to-table] is a trend,” said Eduardo Garcia, owner and head chef of Maximo Bistrot in the stylish Roma Norte district. “It’s not a trend. It’s something that we humans have always done and we need to keep doing it, we need to return to it.”

Xochimilco, on the far southern edge of Mexico City, is best-known as the “Mexican Venice” for its canals and brightly colored boats where locals and tourists can while away a weekend day listening to mariachi music and sipping cold beers.

 

It has also been a breadbasket for the Valley of Mexico since before the Aztec Empire, when farmers first created the “floating” islands bound to the shallow canal beds through layers of sediment and willow roots.

 

There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world, and Xochimilco is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

 

But that World Heritage status and Xochimilco itself are threatened by the pollution and encroaching urbanization that plague the rest of the sprawling metropolis.

 

Enter Yolcan, a business that specializes in placing traditionally farmed Xochimilco produce in Mexico City’s most acclaimed restaurants Those include places like Gabriela Camara’s seafood joint Contramar and Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, which is perhaps the country’s most famous restaurant and regularly makes lists of the world’s best.

 

Yolcan has been around since 2011, but it’s only in the last year that business has really taken off with the number of restaurant partners increasing by a third during that period to 22. Last month five of them teamed up with Yolcan for dinner to benefit chinampa preservation.

The company directly manages its own farmland and also partners with local families to help distribute their goods, lending a much-needed hand as an intermediary.

 

“The thing about the chinampa farmer is that he does not have the time to track down a market or a person to promote his product,” said David Jimenez, who works a plot in the San Gregorio area of Xochimilco. “Working the chinampas is very demanding.”

 

All told Yolcan’s operation covers about 15 acres (6 hectares) and churns out some 2.5 tons of produce per month. Due to the high salinity of the soil drawn from canal beds, the straw-covered chinampa plots are particularly fertile ground for root vegetables and hearty greens like kale and chard.

Diners reserve weeks in advance for a coveted table at Maximo Bistrot, one of three restaurants Garcia runs. Meticulously prepared plates of chinampa-grown roasted yellow carrots with asparagus puree arrive at the table, accompanied by sea bass with green mole sauce and wine pairings in tall glasses.

Garcia estimated he gets about two-thirds of his ingredients from Yolcan or other organic farms nearby. He was born in a rural part of Guanajuato state where his family raised corn and largely ate what they grew, so sourcing local is second-nature.

 

“I think all of the world’s restaurants should make it a goal to use these alternative ingredients,” Garcia said, stirring a pot of beans flavored with the aromatic epazote herb. “Even though it’s a little more expensive, a little more difficult to find.”

 

Chinampa produce generally sells for 15 to 100 percent more than comparable goods at the enormous Central de Abasto, the go-to wholesale market for nearly all of Mexico City’s chefs that is so monolithic its competition sets prices across the country.

 

But chefs who buy from Yolcan are happy to pay a premium knowing they’re getting vegetables free of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and also supporting a centuries-old tradition.

 

Diners at Maximo Bistrot also said they enjoyed their meal, especially the burrata with chinampa-grown heirloom tomatoes. One couple said they are willing to pay the prices of these high-end eateries in order to have the best produce.

 

“We’ve eaten in 26 countries around the world, and for the price and quality, this was awesome,” said Kristin Kearin, a 35-year-old masseuse from United States. “I honestly think that using small producers is going to come back.”

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US Treasury’s Mnuchin Extends Debt Limit Measure for Two Months

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday said he would extend for two more months one of the extraordinary cash management measures that the Treasury is using to stave off a debt-limit default.

Mnuchin said in a letter to House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan that he would continue to withhold investments from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, until Sept. 29.

The Treasury’s previous “debt issuance suspension period” for the federal employee pension fund was due to expire on Friday.

Mnuchin had to take the step because Congress has not passed an extension or increase in the federal debt limit, and the Treasury needs to withhold funds from the pension fund in order to preserve its borrowing capacity. It has taken several similar measures since the last extension of the debt limit expired in March at just under $20 trillion.

Mnuchin urged lawmakers this week to act on the borrowing limit before their August recess, but his request fell on deaf ears. The House of Representatives is on recess until Sept. 5.

Mnuchin and fiscal watchdog groups have estimated that the Treasury will fully exhaust its remaining borrowing capacity in October, raising the risk that the United States cannot meet all of its payment obligations with incoming tax revenue.

The Treasury is required by law to make the pension fund whole, including interest, when the debt limit is increased.

In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday, Mnuchin said that Congress’ budgeting process, including the role the debt limit plays, “needs to be looked at.”

“I’m all for [that] there should be very strong controls of spending money. But once we’ve agreed to spend the money, we should make sure that the government can pay for it,” Mnuchin said.

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More Cyber Attacks, More Job Security for Hackers

The surge in far-flung and destructive cyber attacks is not good for national security, but for an increasing number of hackers and researchers, it is great for job security.

The new reality is on display in Las Vegas this week at the annual Black Hat and Def Con security conferences, which now have a booming side business in recruiting.

“Hosting big parties has enabled us to meet more talent in the community, helping fill key positions and also retain great people,” said Jen Ellis, a vice president with cybersecurity firm Rapid7 Inc., which filled the hip Hakkasan nightclub Wednesday at one of the week’s most popular parties.

More tech, more jobs

Twenty or even 10 years ago, career options for technology tinkerers were mostly limited to security firms, handfuls of jobs inside mainstream companies, and in government agencies.

But as tech has taken over the world, the opportunities in the security field have exploded.

Whole industries that used to have little to do with technology now need protection, including automobiles, medical devices and the ever-expanding Internet of Things, from thermostats and fish tanks to home security devices.

More insurance companies now cover breaches, with premiums reduced for strong security practices. And lawyers are making sure that cloud providers are held responsible if a customer’s data is stolen from them and otherwise pushing to hold tech companies liable for problems, meaning they need security experts too.

1.8 million skilled workers needed

The nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education last month predicted a global shortage of 1.8 million skilled security workers in 2022. The group, which credentials security professionals, said that a third of hiring managers plan to boost their security teams by at least 15 percent.

For hackers who prefer to pick things apart rather than stand guard over them, an enormous number of companies now offer “bug bounties,” or formal rewards, for warnings about vulnerabilities that leave them exposed to criminals or spies.

​New ways to make money

One of the outside firms that handle such programs, HackerOne, said it has paid out $18.8 million since 2014 to fix 50,140 bugs, with about half of that work done in the past year.

Mark Litchfield made it into the firm’s “Hacker Hall of Fame” last year by being the first to pull in more than $500,000 in bounties through the platform, well more than he earned at his last full-time security job, at consulting firm NCC Group.

In the old days, “The only payout was publicity, free press,” Litchfield said. “That was the payoff then. The payoff now is literally to be paid in dollars.”

There are other emerging ways to make money too. Justine Bone’s medical hacking firm, MedSec, took the unprecedented step last year of openly teaming with an investor who was selling shares short, betting that they would lose value.

It was acrimonious, but St Jude Medical ultimately fixed its pacemaker monitors, which could have been hacked, and Bone predicted others will try the same path.

“Us cyber security nerds have spent most of our careers trying to make the world a better place by engaging with companies, finding bugs which companies may or may not repair,” Bone said.

“If we can take our expertise out to customers, media, regulators, nonprofits and think tanks and out to the financial sector, the investors and analysts, we start to help companies understand in terms of their external environment.”

Chris Wysopal, co-founder of code auditor Veracode, bought in April by CA Technologies, said that he was initially skeptical of the MedSec approach but came around to it, in part because it worked. He appeared at Black Hat with Bone.

“Many have written that the software and hardware market is dysfunctional, a lemon market, because buyers don’t know how insecure the products they purchase are,” Wysopal said in an interview. “I’d like to see someone fixing this broken market. Profiting off of that fix seems like the best approach for a capitalism-based economy.”