Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Common used-car scam

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Very interesting. I also have seen this. Wonder how common it is. This is another place where I want a good government: an email to the state attorney general and Bob’s your uncle, if the state is well run and not corrupt (which is not nearly so common as you might think).

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2017 at 5:43 pm

A pharma company that spent $500,000 trying to keep pot illegal just got DEA approval for synthetic marijuana

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:sigh: One grows tired of this stuff. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that was one of the chief financial backers of the opposition to marijuana legalization in Arizona last year, received preliminary approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration this week for Syndros, a synthetic marijuana drug.

Insys gave $500,000 last summer to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, the group opposing marijuana legalization in Arizona. The donation amounted to roughly 10 percent of all money raised by the group in an ultimately successful campaign against legalization. Insys was the only pharmaceutical company known to be giving money to oppose legalization last year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance records.

Syndros is a synthetic formulation of THC, the main psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. It was approved by the FDA last summer to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients. The DEA approval places Syndros and its generic formulations in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, indicating a “high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, morphine, and many prescription painkillers.

Whole-plant marijuana remains in Schedule I of the CSA, an even stricter regulatory category that designates a lack of medically-accepted use in addition to a high abuse potential.

Insys has been active marijuana policy for several years. In 2011 it wrote to the DEA to express opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally-derived THC, citing  “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”

Last year it petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, another compound in the cannabis plant. The company is currently developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy.

“It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” a spokesman for Arizona’s marijuana legalization campaign said of Insys last year. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2017 at 10:37 am

Posted in Business, Drug laws

The Senate just voted to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy

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When the GOP takes over, the protection of the public starts rapidly to erode. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:

Senate lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal a historic set of rules aimed at protecting consumers’ online data from their own Internet providers, in a move that could make it easier for broadband companies to sell and share their customers’ usage information for advertising purposes.

The rules, which prohibit providers from abusing the data they gather on their customers as they browse the Web on cellphones and computers, were approved last year over objections from Republicans who argued the regulations went too far.

U.S. senators voted by a 50-48 margin to approve a joint resolution from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would  prevent the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules from going into effect. The resolution also would bar the FCC from ever enacting similar consumer protections.  It now heads to the House.

Industry groups welcomed the vote.

“Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers,” said NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, a trade group representing major cable providers. [That seems to me to be the usual approach of companies who want to do something the public will dislike: they simply lie about what they’re doing because there is no penalty at all for lying, as President Trump repeatedly demonstrates. I do not believe the NCTA for one single second. – LG] “We support this step toward reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.” [No, they look forward to selling to anyone who will pay, everthing they can learn about you from monitoring your internet activity 24/7, which they can easily do through software: building detailed dossiers for each customer, selling the information for as much as they can get. And it’s profitable, because it can’t be a one-time purchase: the data are continually updated, so what you bought a few months ago is badly dated. – LG]

Consumer and privacy groups condemned the resolution.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Senate voted today to sacrifice the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major Internet companies, including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon,” said Neema Singh Giuliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agency’s rules are being debated as Internet providers — no longer satisfied with simply offering Web access — race to become online advertising giants as large as Google and Facebook. To deliver consumers from one website to another, Internet providers must see and understand which online destinations their customers wish to visit, whether that’s Netflix, WebMD or PornHub.

With that data, Internet providers would like to sell targeted advertising or even share that information with third-party marketers. But the FCC’s regulations place certain limits on the type of data Internet providers can share and under what circumstances. Under the rules, consumers may forbid their providers from sharing what the FCC deems “sensitive” information, such as app usage history and mobile location data.

Opponents of the regulation argue the FCC’s definition of sensitive information is far too broad and that it creates an imbalance between what’s expected of Internet providers and what’s allowed for Web companies such as Google. Separately from Congress, critics of the measure have petitioned the FCC to reconsider letting the rules go into effect, and the agency’s new Republican leadership has partly complied. In February, President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, put a hold on a slice of the rules that would have forced Internet providers to better safeguard their customer data from hackers. [And that is quite revealing, don’t you think? The companies can’t be arsed to protect your data from hackers—and note that once this change (allowing ISPs to sell everything they can learn about you), there will be a LOT of your data on line, ripe for hackers. Of course, the ISPs don’t want to have to protect that data: it’s a big pain to try to keep it safe, and if it’s stolen, they really don’t suffer at all: the data will be renewed, but in the meantime, the hacker(s) and whoever they share the data with will know an awful lot about you. No biggie for the ISP, though; the apologies and promises to be made following a big loss of private customer data have already been written. No wonder they don’t want a law that will force them actually to protect the data. – LG]

The congressional resolution could make any further action by the FCC to review the rules unnecessary; Flake’s measure aims to nullify the FCC’s privacy rules altogether. Republicans argue that even if the FCC’s power to make rules on Internet privacy is curtailed, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission could still hold Internet providers accountable for future privacy abuses.

But Democrats say that preemptive rules are necessary to protect consumers before their information gets out against their will.

“At a time when our personal data is more vulnerable than ever, it’s baffling that Senate Republicans would eliminate the few privacy protections Americans have today,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top liberal on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Pallone added in a statement Thursday that he hoped his House Republican colleagues “will exercise better judgment” when it becomes their turn to vote on the resolution. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2017 at 1:28 pm

Mr. Trump Goes After Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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The GOP has never, so far as I know, shown the slightest interest in protecting consumers. The GOP is to protect and assist corporations (thus the gutting of the EPA, which is certainly going to harm the public but will be a boon to corporate profits). The editors of the NY Times write:

Shortly after Inauguration Day, the Trump camp indicated it had no immediate plan to fire Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose term runs until July 2018. The administration’s restraint was a welcome contrast to congressional Republicans’ unrelenting efforts to weaken the bureau, including calls to get rid of Mr. Cordray, an effective leader, on the ground that he had become a dictator.

Last week, however, the administration signaled it wanted to fire Mr. Cordray. Specifically, the Justice Department weighed in on a pending case in federal court that will decide how much power a president has to fire the bureau’s director. In its filing, the Justice Department has asserted that the director should be removable at the president’s will. That stance is consistent with an earlier 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but it is inconsistent with the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that created the bureau in 2010 and that says the director can be fired only for cause, defined as “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance.”

None of those criteria remotely describe Mr. Cordray’s work or the consumer bureau he helped to build. In the past five years, the bureau’s investigations and enforcement actions against banks and other lenders have returned nearly $12 billion to homeowners, students, servicemen and servicewomen, car buyers, credit card holders and other borrowers who were subject to abusive, deceptive or predatory practices. The bureau is now working on ways to regulate payday lending, where loans often end up impoverishing borrowers.

Mr. Cordray and the bureau have been doing what President Trump pledged to do in the campaign: protecting Americans from a system that has “robbed our working class.” So why would he want to fire Mr. Cordray? For one, Mr. Trump, despite his populist claims, has promised to dismantle the Dodd-Frank law, with the consumer bureau arguably the law’s most visible accomplishment. Second, the move may be part of a bigger power play.

Mr. Cordray is not the only agency head with statutory protections from removal at will by the president. The heads of the Office of Special Counsel, the Social Security Administration, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Reserve, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other agencies are also shielded. Such protection is intended to insulate independent agencies from political interference.

But even if the full appeals court, which is hearing the case, rules that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2017 at 12:18 pm

Trump’s ‘big, beautiful wall’ will require him to take big swaths of other people’s land

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Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:

The order has been issued for the immediate construction of a Mexico border wall. The specs have been outlined: 30 feet high and “aesthetically pleasing.” The next thing on President Trump’s to-do list for building his “big, beautiful wall”: Hire more lawyers  for a long and expensive battle over private land.

The wall will cost a lot more — politically and economically — than Trump has publicly acknowledged. To build the wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border — and fulfill a key campaign promise — Trump will need to wield the power of government to forcibly take private properties, including those belonging to his supporters.

Much of the border, especially in Texas, snakes through farms, ranches, orchards, golf courses, and other private property dating back to centuries-old Spanish land grants. As a signpost to the troubles ahead, the government has still not finished the process from the last such undertaking a decade ago.

“It’s going to be time consuming and costly,” said Tony Martinez, an attorney who is mayor of the border town of Brownsville, Tex. “From a political perspective, you have a lot of rich landowners who were his supporters.”

Trump, in his recent budget proposal, is calling for the addition of 20 Justice Department attorneys to “pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the southwest border.” The Justice Department would not expand upon the details. Of the department’s 11,000 attorneys, fewer than 20 currently work in land acquisition. Trump’s budget would double that.

The battle has been fought before. The last wave of eminent domain cases over southern border properties dates back to the 2006 Secure Fence Act authorizing President George W. Bush to erect 700 miles of fencing.

Of the roughly 400 condemnation cases stemming from that era, about 90 remain open a decade later, according to the Justice Department. Nearly all are in the Rio Grande Valley in southwest Texas.

The U.S. government has already spent $78 million compensating private landowners for 600 tracts of property for the construction of the existing pedestrian and vehicle fence, according to Customs and Border Protection. The agency estimates that it will spend another $21 million in real estate expenses associated with the remaining condemnation cases — not including approximately $4 million in Justice Department litigation costs. . .

Continue reading.

And the wall is totally not needed: illegal immigration across the southern border is today negligible. OTOH, severe cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard budget to build the wall will indeed damage our national security.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2017 at 12:05 pm

Good news: Former Lobbyist With For-Profit Colleges Quits Education Department

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UPDATE: It’s not so clear-cut after all. Jennifer Rubin explains.

Annie Waldman reports for ProPublica:

A former lobbyist for an association of for-profit colleges resigned last Friday from the Department of Education, where he had worked for about a month.

As ProPublica reported last week, the Trump administration had hired Taylor Hansen to join the department’s “beachhead” team, a group of temporary hires who do not require approval from the U.S. Senate for their appointments.

On the day Hansen resigned, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, citing ProPublica’s reporting and requesting more information on Hansen’s role.

“Mr. Hansen’s recent employment history clearly calls into question his impartiality in dealing with higher education issues at the Department of Education, and raises alarming conflicts of interest concerns,” she wrote.

Jim Bradshaw, an education department spokesman, told ProPublica in an email that the department was “grateful for [Hansen’s] contributions.”

“He served ably and without conflict and decided his service had run its course,” said Bradshaw. Hansen did not immediately respond to ProPublica’s request for comment. Bloomberg first reported Hansen’s departure.

Hansen isn’t the only hire from the for-profit college industry to join the Education Department via the beachhead team. The New York Times reported that Robert S. Eitel, a former compliance officer at for-profit college operator Bridgepoint Education Inc., is working at the department. Eitel, a former deputy general counsel at the Education Department from 2006 to 2009, has been a critic of federal regulations on for-profit colleges.

Warren also criticized Eitel’s hiring in her letter to DeVos. She noted that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last September ordered Bridgepoint, Eitel’s former employer, to refund $23.5 million to students whom it had deceived into taking out loans that cost more than advertised. Bridgepoint is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the attorneys general of New York, North Carolina, California and Massachusetts, Warren wrote.

Until July 2016, Hansen worked as a registered lobbyist for the nation’s largest trade group of for-profit colleges, Career Education Colleges and Universities, or CECU. He lobbied to weaken a regulation known as “gainful employment,” which permits the education department to rescind federal funding from schools whose students fail to earn enough to repay their debts. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 March 2017 at 2:51 pm

Rapid meme evolution re: diversity

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I blogged this article by Liza Mundi in the Atlantic, “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” I highly recommend that you read it, and I looked at it from a meme’s-eye view. Roughly, Silicon Valley and high-tech companies in general have the meme of “disruptive change” because when there is such a shift, there is much money to be made. So they have more or less worked out a template that has worked for “disruptive change,” since they want to minimize risks. That is, spot the unexploited advantage, and exploit the hell out of it, bringing in all the tools of managing/unleashing disruptive change: e.g., transparency, regular statistical measures, definition of success, etc. Now they see the practical advantage of a diverse workforce (spelled out in “How to Break Up the Silicon Valley Boys’ Club“) that are measurable. (From that link: “And study after study has shown that greater diversity leads to better outcomes, more innovative solutions, less groupthink, better stock performance and G.D.P. growth.”)

So here they go with disruptive change toward greater diversity and inclusivity: because it’s profitable (always the acid test).

So they are driven by the disruptive change memeplex to (in effect) construct and new memeplex (meme-engineering, in fact) by systematically bringing about a cooperative diverse culture. The companies that succeed at that will (based on the measures mentioned in the article) succeed in the marketplace.

What’s interesting is that it’s happening so rapidly. The broad acceptance of gay marriage seemed to an outside observer to go quite quickly, though I can imagine many couples finding that it took way too long. But it’s pretty much here within, what? a decade?

Now while this new memeplexes are being created (and here I’m thinking about the cooperative and very diverse workplace, there are many who live in regions being left behind in meme evolution. They are not part of the process, so the new meme has little hold on them. These are the people who still won’t accept gay marriage, who don’t want trans people using restrooms appropriate to their gender (and for that there’s a well-tested solution that everyone accepts: gender-neutral restrooms, as on a plane), etc. These things are too new, it happened too quick, and they are not part of the meme.

It’s going to be worse with the effective diverse workplace (EDW): this impacts their employability. If they can’t accept diversity, tomorrow’s workplace is apt to be jarring, at least at the most successful companies. It’s another divide like access to digital technology and media.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 March 2017 at 2:19 pm

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