Biden’s Marijuana Reforms Are Long Overdue but Will Have Just a Modest Impact

Joe Biden

The marijuana reforms that President Joe Biden announced today follow through on some of the promises that he made during his campaign, but they will have a limited practical impact. His blanket pardon for low-level marijuana offenders, while long overdue, will affect a tiny percentage of people with federal drug records. Without new legislation, marijuana use will remain a crime under federal law, as will growing and selling marijuana. And while rescheduling marijuana will make medical research easier, it will not make cannabis legally available to patients unless and until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves specific products as safe and effective.

“I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period,” Biden said during a November 2019 presidential debate. “And I think…anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out….Everybody gets out, record expunged.” He later qualified that broad language, suggesting his concern was limited to marijuana users charged with simple possession, who are rarely prosecuted under federal law. Today’s announcement fits that narrower focus.

Biden said he is pardoning “all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” He said the blanket pardon would help “thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession” and “who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.” While “white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates,” he noted, “Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

Biden’s concern about the ancillary penalties associated with marijuana convictions and the racially disproportionate impact of the war on weed are welcome. So is his willingness to use his plenary clemency powers to address those problems. But nearly all low-level marijuana cases are prosecuted under state law, and his pardons will have no impact on those. Biden urged governors to “pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses,” which would have a much broader effect but depends on their discretion.

To put the impact of Biden’s pardon in perspective, about 400,000 people are currently incarcerated for drug offenses in the United States, including about 67,000 federal prisoners. During the last two decades, police typically made between 1.5 million and 1.9 million drug arrests every year. In recent years, marijuana arrests have accounted for more than a third of the total, and the vast majority of those cases (92 percent in 2019) involved possession rather than cultivation or trafficking.

Although Biden said “we should decriminalize marijuana,” he does not have the authority to do that on his own. Despite his pardon, simple marijuana possession is still punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail under the Controlled Substances Act. Growing or selling marijuana are still federal felonies, which creates an untenable conflict with state laws that allow medical or recreational use. Cannabis consumers who own guns likewise are still subject to stiff prison sentences—a policy the Biden administration is defending in court.

Biden, who has long opposed efforts to repeal federal marijuana prohibition, made it clear today that he does not favor eliminating criminal penalties for growing or selling pot. His pardon announcement says “no language herein shall be construed to pardon any person for any other offense, including possession of other controlled substances, whether committed prior, subsequent, or contemporaneous to the pardoned offense of simple possession of marijuana.”

The moral logic of Biden’s distinction between simple possession and other marijuana offenses is hard to follow. He says using marijuana should not be treated as a crime. If so, how can helping people use marijuana justify sending anyone to prison? And why should people convicted of assisting cannabis consumption be saddled with felony records for the rest of their lives?

Biden did say “it makes no sense” to “classify marijuana at the same level as heroin.” Both drugs are included in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category supposedly reserved for substances with a high abuse potential that have no accepted medical use and cannot be used safely even under a doctor’s supervision. Biden noted that even fentanyl, black-market versions of which are implicated in two-thirds of drug-related deaths, is less strictly regulated than marijuana, because the federal government recognizes that it has legitimate medical applications.

Biden said he has asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to “initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.” That administrative process is apt to take a while, and its consequences are uncertain.

Removing marijuana from Schedule I would require changing the criteria that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) historically has applied in determining whether marijuana has a “currently accepted medical use.” The DEA has long demanded the sort of evidence that would be required to win FDA approval for a new drug. The DEA’s critics, meanwhile, have long complained that keeping marijuana in Schedule I makes it harder to conduct the research necessary to satisfy that requirement.

Rescheduling marijuana would eliminate the research barriers that are unique to Schedule I. But by itself, it would not make cannabis available as a prescription drug, which would require FDA approval of a specific application. So far, the FDA has approved synthetic THC as an anti-nausea medication and cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy. Except for the latter, it has never approved a cannabis-derived medicine.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said today. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.” Given the narrow reach of the policies he just announced, which leave marijuana prohibition untouched, do not allow even medical use, and keep marijuana growers and distributors in prison, his reforms represent only a modest step in that direction.

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Washington Gave $28M To Chinese Entities For Joint Research Since 2015: Report

Washington Gave $28M To Chinese Entities For Joint Research Since 2015: Report

Authored by Rita Li via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Recently released findings show U.S. government agencies sent over $28 million in taxpayers’ dollars “directly to Chinese entities” for joint research over a five-year period ending 2021.

A technician works at a DNA tech lab in Beijing on Aug. 22, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

From fiscal years 2015 through 2021, “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], NIH [National Institutes of Health], and DOD [Department of Defense] provided 22 awards totaling $28.9 million directly to Chinese entities including universities and other research institutions,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said on Sept. 29 following a trove of analyses.

Researchers found the federal funding focused on “multiple scientific disciplines,” aiding Chinese entities in conducting research on “disease surveillance, vaccination studies, and the development of new drugs,” as well as “alternative technologies to propel vehicles such as drones.”

The release of its 38-page report (pdf) follows a January request from House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They asked GAO to review federal funds provided to China or entities controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for collaborative research, and U.S. contributions to multilateral institutions.

Stefanik described such funding as “troubling.”

“China’s deception and stonewalling of the truth behind the origins of COVID-19 has led to millions of senseless deaths and trillions of dollars in economic destruction across the globe,” the congresswoman said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

The three agencies awarded a total of 13 Chinese entities for joint publications, information sharing, and workshops, while 84 percent of the direct funding went to the University of Hong Kong, Peking University, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the Chinese CDC.

Receiving almost $5 million from the NIH and the CDC over the past years, the Chinese CDC had been suppressing information about the outbreak domestically and snubbed U.S. offers of assistance, despite how any health data would have been crucial to formulate a more effective COVID-19 containment strategy and minimize the disease’s global spread.

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment walk on a street in a neighborhood during a COVID-19 lockdown in the Jing’an district in Shanghai on April 8, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

“Even more frightening,” Stefanik continued, “we still have no idea how much total money has been sent to China due to lax reporting requirements. Make no mistake, the Chinese Communist Party’s deception throughout the pandemic confirmed that China is not a reliable partner.”

Read more here…

Tyler Durden
Thu, 10/06/2022 – 17:40

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Democrat-Led Texas Border Town Busses Migrants To New York

Democrat-Led Texas Border Town Busses Migrants To New York

While the media has fixated on Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial one-way bus ticket program for migrants to sanctuary cities like New York City and Chicago, there has been little press about one Democrat-led border city doing the same. 

Source: Daily Mail

El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, uses Abbott’s bus strategy as the surge of migrants crossing the southern border has sent the region into crisis. The federal government’s failure, i.e., the Biden administration, left Leeser with no other option as an influx of illegals stained his city’s finances.

At least 7,000 migrants have been bussed from El Paso to New York City since late August and 1,800 to Chicago, Reuters reported. However, Leeser’s bussing has garnered less media attention than Abbott’s, who is seeking reelection in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Perhaps the bias in the liberal mainstream press is very obvious. 

Reuters makes clear El Paso’s bussing of migrants to sanctionary cities is entirely different than Abbott’s as the media outlet interviewed New York City mayoral spokesperson Kate Smart who said Leeser’s staff informs New York when a bus is en route rather than surprised migrant busloads from the governor. 

And, of course, that’s the spin — but in the end, a busload of migrants is still a busload of migrants, no matter what political affiliation. 

Reuters also made sure to include a quote from Lesser, who said his migrant busloads to cities in the US are “completely different.” And why is that, the mayor explained: we “treat people with respect.”… Really? 

If it’s Abbott or Leeser, migrants are still being wrangled up like cattle and stuffed into buses. Even though Leeser’s bus program has gained little attention, there’s undoubtedly a biased press that paints Abbot’s bussing as evil. 

Tyler Durden
Thu, 10/06/2022 – 17:20

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The Assassination Of Equibit

The Assassination Of Equibit


Originally published on August 29, 2022 here. It continues to be updated as events progress.

My name is Chris Horlacher. From 2015 to 2019 I ran a federally recognized and subsidized scientific research and development company out of Toronto called Equibit Group. After finally reaching a multimillion dollar valuation through years of work, and with eager customers lining up to use our technology, our company was quite suddenly and inexplicably shattered.

Critical portions of our company’s work and research were stolen or destroyed, attempts were made to frame us for securities fraud, and my wife and I were harassed by the Canadian government for nearly 2 years.

This is our story:

With the invention of cryptocurrency after the shakeup of the 2008 worldwide financial crisis, Equibit saw an opportunity to greatly simplify securities trading and reduce users reliance on the large financial institutions who’d been a major point of failure in 2008 and who, from investors perspective, presented an enormous risk to their assets. Our team invested in the creation of the world’s first decentralized, blockchain-based, securities registration and communications system. This technology was, and still is, absolutely cutting edge. Our wallet could even perform cross-chain atomic swaps without ever leaving the application, a technological feat that has still never been replicated.

Had Equibit continued, it would have reduced costs and errors associated with settlements and investor communications. In plain English, this would have quickly replaced traditional financial sector methods for trading securities by being vastly more efficient and by cutting out several layers of middlemen. We were poised to completely disrupt the securities transfer agent and custodian sector, an industry which costs investors and issuers over $10 billion per year, processing quadrillions of dollars worth of transactions annually. As a long term industry insider, most recently as CFO of the Canadian-based arm of an international securities broker-dealer, I knew very well the enormous amount of waste involved in this dark corner of the industry. With our extensive credentials and the success of our technological development, private equity groups couldn’t wait to use our platform, and those who interestedly met with us collectively managed trillions of dollars.

In December 2016, as part of our legal preparation for launching the Equibit platform, we engaged a law firm to investigate Equibit and prepare an analysis regarding EQB’s, our blockchain’s native cryptocurrency, potential status as a security. After extensive investigation into the details of Equibit, lawyers from Davies, Ward, Philips & Vineberg, the top securities law firm in the country, arrived at the conclusion that Equibit’s cryptocurrency was not a security under the Pacific Coin test, basically the same thing as the US Howey test. We then sought the perspective of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) on the Equibit technology we had developed thus far. In order to continue moving forward, we voluntarily requested a determination from OSC as to whether they thought Equibit’s native cryptocurrency (EQB) was a security. I was encouraged by the OSC Launchpad leader, Pat Chaukos, to “keep going” with our work. Similarly, OSC Launchpad attorney Amy Tsai referred us back to our own counsel for any questions about securities law. As our attorneys had advised us that EQB would not be considered a security under the law, we moved forward and began a sale of pre-mined EQB’s, which is the traditional method of funding new protocol development.

Beginning in early 2017, we suddenly experienced a full-scale assault by the OSC. After starting a sale of pre-mined EQBs (“Equibits”), we were dragged into OSC offices and interrogated based solely on an “anonymous” tip (i.e., from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service). Ignoring all previous discussion and determinations, OSC proceeded unilaterally with a quasi-enforcement procedure (and later, an actual enforcement procedure complete with secret gag orders) to stop sales of EQB. We fully complied with them, of course, and continued to communicate with OSC in support of our project – including sending them the nine page expert opinion from Davies, Ward, Philips & Vineberg. After some prodding, the OSC ultimately acknowledged to us that they had never even bothered to read any of our offering documents before acting. Even after receiving the expert opinion, which they took months before acknowledging, they simply dismissed it without explanation or reasoning. This was despite overwhelming support for our assessment across the international regulatory community.

Though incredibly hostile toward us, the meetings did eventually conclude with OSC telling us – on the record – to go ahead and complete our sale of the pre-mined EQB’s. Regardless, from that point onward the OSC’s behavior towards the company, my wife and myself became crude, deceitful, and malicious. All my interactions with OSC are documented in detail in an internal company memo originally published in early 2018 and continuously updated with ongoing details until the end of 2019.

It is now well known amongst lawyers across Ontario that Launchpad has been engaged in a systematic entrapment scheme, devastating every company that has come through their doors. They are single-handedly responsible for the dearth of quality companies in the crypto industry throughout Canada – a country that has had every opportunity to emerge as a global leader in the cryptocurrency space. Not only have they stood firmly in the way of legitimate developers, but the OSC stood idly by and did nothing while well-known frauds like BitConnect were being reported to them. To their credit, they eventually did issue a warning to investors some three months after the BitConnect ponzi-scheme had already collapsed.

In mid-2018 our lead developer suddenly disappeared for two weeks. When he returned, he informed us that he’d been hauled down to CSIS’s offices and interrogated for hours by two agents that he refused to identify to us. According to him, CSIS was intimately aware of internal, non-public details regarding Equibit’s technology, and induced him to reveal additional details regarding the company by leveraging his desire to become a Canadian citizen (he was a Russian immigrant). After revealing this to us, he said he had been granted Canadian citizenship and stunningly requested a promotion to the company’s “inner circle”. Then, just days later, he inexplicably resigned from Equibit, deleted the sole copy of Equibit’s most recent code, and ceased all communications with us.

As you can imagine, not only was this devastating to the project, it had a deeply chilling effect on the entire team. However, we were determined to press on. Without the ability to continue in Canada, my wife and I picked up everything and moved to Switzerland to try to save the company. We were welcomed with open arms by the Swiss, and Equibit received a “no-action” letter from their securities regulator – essentially a written confirmation that we were free to operate as planned without registration or oversight by them. They agreed that EQB was not a security, and affirmed that Equibit’s activities were not of a nature requiring reporting to or oversight by financial regulators, confirming we could continue unabated with the sale in order to fund and finalize development of the protocol. Unfortunately, after several hundred thousand dollars in costs dealing with OSC, the loss of critical portions of our code, and with the sudden collapse of crypto markets in late 2018, Equibit had become impossible to salvage.

Around this same time, while attending World Crypto Con in November 2018, my wife was attacked and drugged by two men who were witnessed (and thankfully prevented from) attempting to kidnap her. I have positively identified the two men as Australian nationals Rev Nissan, a so-called “crypto influencer” who posts a lot of “not investment advice” shilling – and profiting from – high risk crypto investments, and Azzam Elterekmani, who Rev introduced as his “cousin”. I suspect they may have been acting as Australian agents for the Five Eyes network (which only gained the pretense of oversight in 2017), as they routinely drug and even rape their targets.

We also personally know of at least two additional people who were drugged at the same conference, and it stands to reason that World Crypto Con 2018 was a hotbed of espionage activity. It was shortly after this incident that I also experienced a SIM-swap attack – which is a sophisticated, targeted attack used to intercept someone’s phone calls and messages. Fortunately, I had already taken measures to protect myself against these kinds of attacks (never, ever use SMS-based 2 factor authentication!) and so the damage was very limited. This attack was followed on July 3, 2021 by an attempt to steal my time-based one-time-password tokens out of Authy, a service that stores these encrypted tokens on their servers. Again, and fortunately, I do not actually use the Authy service and only registered for it. So, no damages were suffered.

With the failure of the company all but assured, in mid-February 2019 we decided to move from Switzerland back home to Canada. Upon our arrival, we were singled out and searched by airport customs. Despite being some of the only actual Canadian citizens on this flight, we were the only people out of an entire plane load of mostly non-Canadians to receive this enhanced screening. It was obvious that we had been flagged by Canadian authorities for unknown reasons. At the end of a thorough but ultimately fruitless search, the embarrassed customs agent proclaimed “Not everyone is as honest as you.”

I spent the next few months winding up the company, paying our vendors and severance to employees, and doing my best to mitigate any more losses. We had been destroyed by our own government for the “crime” of trying to do something innovative and positive. It took many months to heal from my depression and get back on my feet, and in 2020 and 2021 I filed several lawsuits against CSIS and the perpetrators of this travesty. I knew I would be surveilled and attacked again, so I created a trap for them within my home network (a honeypot named “Equibit-DEV”) to test my theory. Immediately after filing my lawsuits, someone began breaking into my home network and hit the honeypot I had set up for them several times. They also tried hacking my contact lists to figure out who I was talking to. Just so you know, your Bell and Roger’s gateways are back doors for the government to snoop on your entire network. That’s why they insist you use them instead of your own router.

It’s worth mentioning that, on Edward Snowden’s recommendation, I reached out to Citizen Lab, a group of IT security specialists holding themselves out as aid for activists and journalists targeted by corrupt states, via email with my situation and asked for their help. Though my email was forwarded multiple times internally, and I have the DMARC reports and read receipts to prove it, I received no response nor even an acknowledgment of my email. One by one I reached out to their entire team and received the same wall of silence. The Canada-based Citizen Labs wanted nothing to do with a Canadian citizen targeted by Canada’s government.

I also served ATIP requests on CSIS for everything they had on me and my company, which were, tellingly, refused on national security grounds. When I complained to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC first attempted to elicit privileged information from my case against CSIS and then simply dismissed my complaint with no consideration given to its actual substance.

In the meantime the CSIS saboteur I had charged, Sergei Sachkov, defaulted on his obligation to file a statement of defense – meaning that, legally, they have admitted to the truth of all my allegations. The government similarly defaulted on filing its defense, but eventually filed, nearly a year after it was due, an entirely inappropriate two-page denial of any knowledge of the events I alleged. So much for the right to a speedy and fair trial in Canada.

At the end of 2018, as my company was crumbling, CSIS director David Vigneault had the nerve to unironically deliver a speech to the Economic Club of Canada warning their members about industrial espionage. He also said “accountability is at the center of everything we do”, which strikes me as utterly hypocritical coming from the head of an organization that is exempted from key sections of the Criminal Code, been caught repeatedly lying to judges in order to obtain warrants, destroying evidence a court ordered them to produce, destroying a file on Pierre Trudeau that was about to fall into public hands, engaging in illegal data collection and retention, and is generally known as a cesspool of racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. Most recently they have even been implicated in a case of child trafficking involving three girls, two of whom are now dead. The third is being held in a Syrian rape camp and her three children (ostensibly all from rape) are also now all dead.

Even though CSIS’s own terrorist reporting system provides no indication that cryptocurrencies are being used by terrorists, which is confirmed by a 33-year CIA veteran’s detailed analysis as well as my own ATIP requests on that matter, the people at CSIS, OSC, and other agencies within the Canadian government still proceed under the assumption that cryptocurrency developers are de-facto criminals who must be stopped at all costs. They would love nothing more than for you to believe it is something put forth only by misfits and miscreants. My own resume says differently.

I believe CSIS intended to turn Equibit Group into another debacle used to scare the public away from cryptocurrencies – something they are terrified of. The intelligence community is heavily reliant on financial surveillance and, in return for government protection of the industry (cartelization, bailouts, and direct subsidies), requires financial institutions to act essentially as an arm of the government in data collection, enforcement, and suppression.

The acts described above are the subject of two active lawsuits, together covering over $140 million in damages, which have been filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (File #: CV-20-00645492-0000 and CV-21-00654929-0000). One of the key defendants, former Equibit employee Christian Saucier, is still at large and we have been unable to locate him even after employing the services of professional investigators. The investigators are unanimously of the opinion that he is being concealed by powerful interests.

Despite my best efforts to get ANY attention on these events, all media and political actors have consistently refused to look at anything related to this case. For example, Pierre Poilievre recently expressed views that he was favorable towards the cryptocurrency industry, claiming he wants to make Canada the “blockchain capital of the world”. This is a lie. Pierre’s office is aware of my situation and has told me in writing that they will say nothing and do nothing. Equibit could have been one of the premier blockchain companies in Canada, even the world. But Pierre and other establishment fixtures will do nothing for us – nor, ultimately, for anyone else in our industry. It is up to us alone to ensure the rest of the world knows what happened, what is happening, and what will continue to happen if we don’t make a change.

In the past I had been interviewed and published by leading media outlets, including American BankerCBCBNNBloombergForbes, and The Globe and Mail, and had spoken before large audiences at countless prominent industry events since 2014. Now no one wants to hear this story, my story. Remember the immortal words of Desmond Tutu,

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

During the darkest moments of this whole experience, I was blessed with two amazing children. I had expected to raise them in a world made better by blockchain, cryptocurrency, and Equibit. Instead I have been given the challenge of explaining to them just what kind of world they actually live in and I can only hope they will have the strength to make it in such an environment. I wish I could tell them to follow their dreams, and that with hard work they will be free to make a lasting contribution to humanity – but look where that got Equibit and all the people who believed in our vision of the future. We live in a world where the successful “innovators” of our time are only in those positions because they were placed there by even more powerful interests who don’t want their boat rocked. Anyone building things that can truly upset the status quo are quickly eliminated, their stories buried, and the world goes on never knowing what could have been.

So I’m asking for your help. Please, forward this story to your email lists. Post it to your forums and blogs. Write about it. If you know where Christian Saucier is, tell me. I am giving this information away freely and if you think you can help, write to me (PGP). If you are in a similar situation, let’s join forces. Make it impossible for the world to ignore what the Trudeau regime and the disgusting Western espionage alliance (Five Eyes) are doing to activists, entrepreneurs, and innovators the world over.

*  *  *

Update 09/01/2022 – Last night, without any warning, Telegram deleted the account and banned the phone number that I had been using to distribute this story for the last few days. The account was registered using a phone number that was not tied to my identity (it was a friend’s number), meaning it was the information itself that prompted the account deletion.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 10/06/2022 – 17:00

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

AMD Tumbles After Catastrophic Preannouncement, Drags Down Chip Sector

AMD Tumbles After Catastrophic Preannouncement, Drags Down Chip Sector

Chip giant Advanced Micro Devices slumped, and dragged peers such as Intel and others lower in after hours trading after the company released preliminary Q3 results which fell were a disaster, some 20% below analyst the company’s own guidance from just two months ago, and sparking fresh concerns about a sputtering market for personal-computer chips which has sent Intel to the lowest level in seven years.

AMD reported that Q3 revenue was about $5.6 billion, which was +29% Y/Y, was far below the average estimate $6.71 billion.

The company said that “preliminary results reflect lower than expected Client segment revenue resulting from reduced processor shipments due to a weaker than expected PC market and significant inventory correction actions across the PC supply chain.”

And in the latest confirmation that the inventory and margin-crushing bullwhip effect is now everywhere and about to unleash a deflationary tsunami (just as we warned back in May), AMD said that non-GAAP gross margin will be approximately 50%, down sharply from the company’s previous guidance of 54% announced just two months ago.

AMD blamed the gross margin shortfall on “lower revenue driven by lower Client processor unit shipments and average selling price (ASP). In addition, the third quarter results are expected to include approximately $160 million of charges primarily for inventory, pricing, and related reserves in the graphics and client businesses.

“The PC market weakened significantly in the quarter,” said AMD Chair and CEO Dr. Lisa Su. “While our product portfolio remains very strong, macroeconomic conditions drove lower than expected PC demand and a significant inventory correction across the PC supply chain. As we navigate the current market conditions, we are pleased with the performance of our Data Center, Embedded, and Gaming segments and the strength of our diversified business model and balance sheet. We remain focused on delivering our leadership product roadmap and look forward to launching our next-generation 5nm data center and graphics products later this quarter.”

AMD stock plunged on the latest dismal report, but has since recovered more than half the drop.

Other names hit by the ugly preannouncement include INTC and NVDA, which will likely be next to preannounce catastrophic Q3 results.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 10/06/2022 – 16:59

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Biden Is Still Seeking Potential Life Sentences for Distributing Weed, Even As He Pardons for Possession

Jonathan Wall and Joe Biden

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is pardoning every U.S. citizen and lawful resident convicted in federal court of simple marijuana possession. That is a very fortunate announcement for the several thousand people convicted at the federal level of simple possession, but it still leaves thousands of other federal cannabis offenders facing draconian sentences for larger quantities.

Consider, for example, that just months ago, Biden’s Department of Justice successfully prosecuted a man named Jonathan Wall and sought 10 years to life in prison for the crime of conspiracy to distribute cannabis. While Biden deserves praise for pardoning people no longer imprisoned, it is important to remember that he is extending that olive branch while insisting that the people who sold them marijuana should be caged for decades.

“It remains deeply disturbing,” Jason Flores-Williams, who represented Wall in court until the conclusion of his trial in May, tells Reason. “While we’re glad that the president is pardoning people for pot possession, really what needs to happen is the decriminalization or total legalization of marijuana so that people like my current clients and people who I’ve represented don’t spend any time of their short precious lives incarcerated in a cage for a plant that I can go buy around the corner.”

Flores-Williams notes that he still represents several people accused of marijuana distribution. The disconnect between possession and distribution got even wider today, as those charged with the latter will continue to face prison terms exceeding those served by defendants convicted of rape, assault, and various types of homicide.

“This is not a case about marijuana possession,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anatoly Smolkin said during Wall’s trial. “This is a case about a drug conspiracy to distribute massive amounts of marijuana around the country.” If possession should not be a crime, why are we caging people who help others secure access to cannabis?

These days, many consumers buy cannabis legally, including at the brick-and-mortar stores popping up in cities around the U.S., where it is legal at the state and local levels but still federally prohibited. Wall is no worse a violator of federal law than the cannabis businesses located just a mile or so from the White House in D.C., and no worse a person than the people who Biden now insists should never have been incarcerated in the first place. After his conviction, he now faces a minimum of a decade behind bars.

“He’s trying to adopt the most politically expedient by which this can somehow be done without fully being done,” says Flores-Williams. “Federal prohibition of marijuana has been a mistake from day one. Too many people have suffered, and right now the penalties are so radically diverse and unjust.” As of today, that gap just broadened.

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A California Law Designed To Protect Children’s Digital Privacy Could Lead to Invasive Age Verification

a young girl uses a laptop alone in a dark room

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act was signed last month by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The law requires that online businesses create robust privacy protections for users under 18.

However, critics of the law have raised concerns about its vague language, which leaves unclear what kinds of business might be subject to the law’s constraints and what specific actions companies must take to comply with the law.

For instance, due to the law’s strict age requirements, online businesses may resort to invasive age verification regimes—such as face-scanning or checking government-issued IDs. While digital privacy protections are important, particularly for children, California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act could have unintended consequences in its vague, sweeping attempt to accomplish that end.

The law applies to any “business that provides an online service, product, or feature likely to be accessed by children” and mandates that these businesses act in the “best interests of children.” Tech companies must conduct a rigorous Data Protection Impact Assessment, judging whether their products have the potential to “harm” children. Further, businesses must estimate the age of child users, configure children’s default settings to have a high level of privacy, and provide and enforce privacy policies and other information in child-friendly language. The law also mandates that businesses make it obvious to children when they are being monitored or location-tracked (by a parent, guardian, or any other consumer) and provide accessible means for children or their guardians to report privacy concerns.

Businesses are banned from collecting, using, selling, or sharing children’s personal information—including geolocation—without a “compelling reason” or gathering information estimating the child’s age range in a way that is not “proportionate” to the “risks” of the online service. The law does not clarify what makes a “compelling reason” for collecting information or how businesses should gauge whether their data collection practices are “proportionate” to the apparent “risks” of their product.

Further, the law says businesses are prohibited from using “dark patterns” to encourage children to share unnecessary personal information or take actions that the company should know are detrimental to the child’s mental and physical health.

Finally, the law prevents businesses from using children’s personal information in a way it “knows, or has reason to know, is materially detrimental to the physical health, mental health, or well-being of a child.”

Businesses that flout the law face fines of up to $2,500 per affected child for “negligent” violations and $7,500 for each “intentional” violation. However, the bill also contains a “right to cure,” giving noncompliant companies 90 days to fix their violations and avoid financial penalties.

Critics worry that the vague language of the law leaves businesses with no clear path to compliance. “The requirement that companies consider the ‘best interests’ of children is incredibly difficult to interpret,” TechNet, a tech sector lobbying group, and the Chamber of Commerce wrote to California legislators.

“As currently written, we believe that the standard businesses are asked to consider—’the best interests of children’—is too vague and perhaps incoherent,” wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Legislative Activist Hayley Tsukayama in a letter to Gov. Newsom. “No service provider that operates with any kind of scale can make such decisions for an individual child unless there is a specific case, incident, or set of facts. Any service provider that operates with any kind of scale will face many different groups of children with different vulnerabilities. There will always be reasonable disagreements about what’s ‘best’ in this larger context.”

Further, many critics are concerned that the bill could lead to complex and invasive age verification schemes. “Post-AADC, users will first be required to prove their age before they can visit any new site—even if they just plan to visit for a second, and even if they never plan to return,” wrote Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School, in The Capitol Weekly about the measure. “The actual process of age authentication usually involves either (1) an interrogation of personal details or (2) evaluating the user’s face so that software can estimate the age. Neither process is error-free, and either imposes costs that some businesses can’t afford. More importantly, the authentication process is highly invasive.”

Instagram has already adopted such a scheme. In June, the site announced that if a user attempts to change their birthdate from under 18 to over 18, they will be required to prove their age with a photo of a government ID, a “video selfie,” which will be reviewed by a facial analysis company, or by having three adult mutual followers “vouch” that the person is over 18. Ironically, online businesses could soon enact invasive age-verification requirements to comply with what is supposedly a digital privacy law.

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Sometimes the Conspiracy Theorists Might Have Something of a Point: The Konnech Controversy

[1.] From the N.Y. Times Monday:

At an invitation-only conference in August at a secret location southeast of Phoenix, a group of election deniers unspooled a new conspiracy theory about the 2020 presidential outcome.

Using threadbare evidence, or none at all, the group suggested that a small American election software company, Konnech, had secret ties to the Chinese Communist Party and had given the Chinese government backdoor access to personal data about two million poll workers in the United States, according to online accounts from several people at the conference.

In the ensuing weeks, the conspiracy theory grew as it shot around the internet. To believers, the claims showed how China had gained near complete control of America’s elections. Some shared LinkedIn pages for Konnech employees who have Chinese backgrounds and sent threatening emails to the company and its chief executive, who was born in China….

Unlike other election technology companies targeted by election deniers, Konnech, a company based in Michigan with 21 employees in the United States and six in Australia, has nothing to do with collecting, counting or reporting ballots in American elections. Instead, it helps clients like Los Angeles County and Allen County, Ind., with basic election logistics, such as scheduling poll workers.

Konnech said none of the accusations were true. It said that all the data for its American customers were stored on servers in the United States and that it had no ties to the Chinese government….

[2.] From the L.A. County D.A. Tuesday:

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today that an executive with a Michigan-based company responsible for the software used in managing Los Angeles County election poll workers has been arrested as part of an investigation into the possible theft of personal identifying information of those workers….

District Attorney investigators found that in contradiction to the contract, information was stored on servers in the People’s Republic of China.

And more:

Continue reading “Sometimes the Conspiracy Theorists Might Have Something of a Point: The Konnech Controversy”

California A.G. Says Anaheim NIMBYs Can’t Block Women’s Group Home

aerial photo of Anaheim, California

California’s state government is coming to the aid of an Anaheim-based nonprofit whose plan to open a group home for formerly homeless women was shot down by the city at the behest of NIMBY neighbors.

It’s a case that tests the power of California housing officials to set limits on localities’ ability to say no to new housing. Should the state prevail, Anaheim could have to permit far more housing than just group homes.

On Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) filed an application to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Grandma’s House of Hope against Anaheim in Orange County Superior Court earlier this year. That lawsuit challenged the city’s refusal to issue House of Hope a conditional use permit to establish a 15-person group home serving formerly homeless women with mental health disabilities.

“The support and assistance that transitional housing providers like Grandma’s House of Hope deliver are essential in addressing California’s homelessness crisis and the shortage of housing for people with disabilities,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez in a press release. “Cities and counties across the state will be held accountable for attempts to evade fair housing and anti-discrimination laws.”

For close to two years now, House of Hope has been locked in a contentious battle with Anaheim city officials and neighborhood opponents over its proposed group home.

Its original plan was to host up to 21 women at an 8-bedroom house in a single-family neighborhood on West Street near Anaheim’s downtown. They’d receive therapy and other services from seven House of Hope staff members, several of whom would be on-call 24/7 to respond to emergencies. The plan would be to move these women into permanent housing within 18 months.

It’s something House of Hope has succeeded with at its other group homes, including some in Anaheim. The nonprofit reports a 65 percent success rate at placing program participants in permanent housing within 9 to 18 months and has partnered with the Orange County government on various programs over the years.

But their proposal for an additional Anaheim group home proved controversial with a vocal set of nearby residents. They argued their neighborhood was already “oversaturated” with group homes and that adding another one would threaten public safety, strain sewer infrastructure, and overtask emergency services.

At an August 2021 Planning Commission meeting, 36 residents showed up to argue against granting House of Hope the conditional use permit it needed for the group home.

Despite a recommendation from city staff to approve the group home, the commission voted unanimously against the nonprofit’s application. Their findings stated that the house would threaten public health and safety.

A similar scene occurred at an October public hearing before the Anaheim City Council.

At the hearing, House of Hope founder Je’net Kreitner tried to allay fears that a new group home would become a burden on the neighborhood. She said that House of Hope had agreed to reduce the number of people staying at the home from 21 to 16. Far from just picking people up off the street, she stressed that residents would only be placed in the group home after extensive screening and consenting to psychiatric treatment.

During the hearing, Kreitner held up a phonebook-thick binder that contained House of Hope’s contract with the Orange County Health authorities outlining its transitional housing program and “good neighbor” policy as evidence that hers wasn’t a fly-by-night operation.

“Our case managers are dedicated to following this by the letter,” Kreiter said at that meeting. Anaheim had a growing homeless population that needed to be addressed, she said, adding, “we are trying to do that for you.”

This did little to mollify opponents at the city council hearing. They complained that the neighborhood was already oversaturated with “lucrative” businesses like House of Hope. Speakers expressed fears that the formerly homeless women staying at the nonprofit’s group house might wander around the neighborhood at night, create traffic through excessive GrubHub orders, and put undue strain on water and sewer infrastructure.

Those arguments proved convincing for the city council, which also voted unanimously to reject House of Hope’s application.

All out of administrative options, the group sued the city in January 2022.

In the background of House of Hope’s struggle to open its shelter has been a slow-burning dispute between Anaheim and state housing officials about the city’s general treatment of transitional housing.

Back in 2013, HCD told Anaheim that its permitting requirements for transitional housing violate a state law requiring local governments to treat transitional housing the same as residential housing in the same district. Since Anaheim doesn’t require conditional use permits for single-family homes, the department said it couldn’t require them for transitional housing within single-family homes.

The city committed to bringing its transitional housing regulations in line with state law as part of its 2014 Housing Element—a periodic report that cities must produce outlining how they’ll meet state-established housing production goals.

But that never ended up happening. Indeed, while House of Hope’s doomed permit application was winding through the approval process, the Anaheim Planning Commission endorsed piling even more regulations on transitional housing.

Over the past two years, HCD has also been warning Anaheim in technical assistance letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings that its treatment of House of Hope specifically was illegal and could provoke more serious state intervention.

Anaheim continued to blow off these warnings, however. At most, the city said it would commit to changing its transitional housing regulations as part of its 2023 Housing Element.

Its patience exhausted, HCD, along with Bonta, asked the court earlier this week to let it join House of Hope’s lawsuit against Anaheim.

Its lengthy petition repeats complaints that Anaheim is violating state law designed to streamline the approval of transitional housing. By committing to and then failing to remove illegal regulations on transitional housing in its Housing Element, the city is also in violation of the state’s Housing Element laws, argues the state. Their application also claims that by shooting down a group home for mentally disabled women specifically, Anaheim is violating state anti-discrimination and fair housing laws.

The state is asking the court to prevent Anaheim from requiring conditional use permits for the House of Hope project or similar projects.

It’s also asking the court to declare the city’s 2014 Housing Element “not substantially” compliant with state Housing Element law.

That could open the door to even more sweeping state remedies.

Cities without substantially compliant housing elements can lose access to some state funding. The state’s “builder’s remedy” also prevents cities without compliant housing elements from using their zoning codes to deny housing projects with a certain amount of below-market-rate housing.

If the court declares Anaheim’s housing element out of compliance, a developer could theoretically build a project of unlimited density anywhere in the city.

California, for all its housing woes, has many laws on the books intended to boost housing production and put some outer limits on cities’ ability to shoot down new development. Until recently, those laws have largely gone unenforced.

That’s starting to change, as the fight over the House of Hope shelter illustrates.

Both HCD and the State Attorney General’s office have created new units dedicated to enforcing state housing laws. Increasingly, they’re using whatever tools those laws give them to override local regulations and get housing built.

In August, the two departments launched an unprecedented audit of NIMBY capital San Francisco’s housing policies and practices with the explicit intent of uncovering violations of state housing law.

The message is clear: shooting down individual projects for specious reasons or keeping blatantly illegal regulations on the books isn’t going to fly anymore.

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China’s Zero-COVID Madness Hammers ‘Golden Week’ For Tourism, Shopping

China’s Zero-COVID Madness Hammers ‘Golden Week’ For Tourism, Shopping

Though China is in the midst of a week-long national holiday to mark the anniversary of the country’s founding, President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policies are once again hammering the long-suffering population — and the faltering economy.    

The week of Oct. 1 to 7 is one of two so-called “Golden Weeks” on the Chinese calendar where both tourism and shopping typically surge. Unfortunately, this year the week is also in proximity to the national congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which begins on Oct. 16.

That twice-a-decade event holds great significance, and is expected to bring the appointment of Xi to an unprecedented third term as the party’s general secretary. In anticipation of the national congress, authorities are going all-out to prevent a major uptick in Covid-19 transmission that could embarrass Xi.  

“Xi’s legacy and the legitimacy of the CCP are bound to the success of the zero-Covid campaign,” the Brookings Institution’s Diana Fu told AFP

Reporting from the Financial Times provides a window into the resulting madness.

For example, the Xinjiang region reported 91 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday — out of a population of some 25 million people. Many of those cases were asymptomatic.

Nonetheless, Xinjiang’s Vice Chairman Liu Sushe declared he would “strengthen the control of cross-regional personnel and insist that people do not leave the region unless it is necessary.” Authorities cancelled nearly all airline flights and all long-distance train and bus service to other provinces.

In the Xishuangbanna region near Laos and Myanmar, authorities ordered thousands of travelers to quarantine in their hotels after Tuesday saw 27 Covid-19 cases in the region that’s home to 1.1 million people. 

Travelers at the Xishuangbanna airport were confronted by shotgun-wielding police in head-to-foot protective attire. Video circulating on social media purportedly show tense situations as tourists vent their frustration over being blocked from their vacations or barred from returning home.   

The country’s zero-Covid authoritarianism reaches right out through the phones of Chinese citizens, reports the Financial Times

Many Beijing residents who dared to travel outside the capital this week have received dreaded health code “pop-ups” on their mobile phones that will make it difficult if not impossible to return home in coming days.

Meanwhile, on the island destination of Sanya, every person was ordered to take a PCR test under threat of being assigned a “health code” that would bar them from public places, planes and trains.   

Wary of such scenarios, many Chinese have opted to choose nearby camping excursions over more ambitious getaways. Some campgrounds are fully booked despite having doubled their tent capacity, reports  Nikkei Asia. Many victims of China’s quarantines are no doubt wishing they’d made such humbler plans for their “Golden Week.” 

Tyler Durden
Thu, 10/06/2022 – 16:40

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden