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Abortion case could end — or add to — streak of liberal wins at Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court delivered surprising wins to liberals this week in a pair of blockbuster decisions that forbade businesses from firing workers base on their sexual orientation or gender identity and halted the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era DACA program, which shields the young migrants known as “Dreamers.”

But those on the left still see potential danger ahead. In the coming days, the top court is expected to hand down a decision in a high-profile abortion dispute that could provide signals about how the panel, which counts two appointees of President Donald Trump in its conservative majority, will treat reproductive rights in the years to come.

“Kind of feels like we’re being softened up for the blow, huh?” Sasha Samberg-Champion, a liberal civil rights lawyer and former Justice Department attorney, wrote in a representative post on Twitter on Thursday, after the DACA decision was released. 

“Progressives must keep their guard up,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a Supreme Court activist group, said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, the decisions have unsettled those on the right, who have criticized even the Republican-appointed justices for their votes. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called it the “most disappointing week at #SCOTUS in years.”

The fight over abortion has animated clashes over the Supreme Court for decades, and continues to be a battleground in the 2020 presidential race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

The case, June Medical Services v. Russo, No. 18-1323, concerns a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. A federal district court found that it would limit Louisiana, a state of nearly five million people, to just one doctor providing abortions.

June Medical Services was the subject of outsized political attention even before the top court handed down its opinions in the LGBT worker and DACA cases.

As a result of those decisions, though, the case has gained even more weight as a loose barometer of the court’s conservatism during a high-stakes election year in which Trump has sought to make both abortion and his right-leaning court picks major elements of his campaign. 

The case is the first abortion case to be argued at the court since Trump’s nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the bench. As a candidate, Trump pledged to nominate justices who would “automatically” overturn the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. 

Among the reasons that the case has caused so much alarm among reproductive rights activists is that the law in question is nearly identical to a Texas abortion measure that the Supreme Court struck down just four years ago.

The fact that the court agreed to hear a case involving a law so similar to the one it struck down in 2016 suggests that the court, with its new conservative majority, could be ready to pare back abortion precedents set when the top court was more liberal.

It’s quite possible, though, that the court hands another win to liberals.

During oral arguments in March, Chief Justice John Roberts signaled that he was open to striking down the law, though such questions are not always predictive of how a justice will vote. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh provided few clues about their thinking at the time. In an unusual move, Gorsuch asked no questions at all.

A decision in the case will likely be handed down by the end of June, though it could be delayed as a result of precautions taken in response to Covid-19. 

The unpredictability of the high court showcases the difficulty of Trump’s efforts to make his Supreme Court nominees a campaign talking point. While Trump often boasts of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh at speeches and campaign rallies, his tone was far more sour this week.

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter shortly after the DACA decision was released on Thursday. 

“The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Census, and others, tell you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court,” he wrote in another. “If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!”

To some extent, Trump’s attacks on the court are in line with his tangles, dating back years, against Roberts, an establishment Republican who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush. 

Carrie Severino, who leads the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, an influential activist organization, said in an interview that decisions like the DACA decision, written by Roberts, “are part of the reason that we have President Trump.”

“The chief justice has created a real pattern of being complicit in efforts to weaponize the court as a tool against the Trump administration,” Severino said. 

Complicating Trump’s maneuvering, however, is the role played by his own justices in the legal defeats.

While both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were in the minority in the DACA dispute, Gorsuch was the author of the court’s Monday decision applying Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act to LGBT workers. The vote in that case was 6-3, with Roberts joining Gorsuch and the court’s liberals, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

In the sanctuary case the president appeared to cite, the administration failed to garner even four votes to have the court review the administration’s challenge to a California law limiting state and local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Likewise, it only would have taken four votes for the court to agree to hear any of 10 Second Amendment cases that the court rejected on Monday, in a move that disappointed gun-rights activists. Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the most conservative judges on the top court, dissented from his colleagues’ decision not to hear one of the cases. 

While the vote tallies were not published in those disputes, it would not have required Roberts or any of the court’s liberals to vote to take them up in the court’s next term.

Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University and the co-host of the Supreme Court podcast Strict Scrutiny, called Trump’s messaging around the Supreme Court “a little idiosyncratic and perhaps incoherent.”

“There is at once some dissatisfaction that his conservative majority isn’t acting in the way he wants, but also a realization that judges helped get him elected,” she said. 

Of the most recent week at the Supreme Court, Murray pointed out that the legal issues at play in June Medical Services are distinct from those that were argued in the LGBT rights and DACA cases.

But, she said, “one thing you might glean from this week is that the chief justice remains very much an institutional steward of the court and its legacy.”

In that sense, it is possible that Roberts’ shepherding of the court’s reputation could play some role in all three cases.

“He might be concerned with the perception that the court is in the pocket of the Trump administration,” Murray said. 

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/21/supreme-court-abortion-case-could-end-or-add-to-liberal-win-streak.html

AI

Amazon Wants a Leader For Its Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Unit

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Amazon seems determined to maintain its reputation as an innovative company and is looking to experiment with cryptocurrencies through a digital currency payment and blockchain unit.

According to an announcement posted on Thursday, Amazon is looking for a blockchain specialist to lead its Digital Currency and Blockchain strategy.

The Payments Acceptance & Experience team is seeking an experienced product leader to develop Amazon’s Digital Currency and Blockchain strategy and product roadmap … You will work closely with teams across Amazon, including AWS, to develop the roadmap, including the customer experience, technical strategy and capabilities as well as the launch strategy.

What Amazon is Looking For

The expert must have at least an MBA or equivalent degree, 10+ years of business or technology experience, team management skills, understanding of data and metrics, and good communication skills.

The corporation did not disclose any salary offer. The person must be based on or willing to move to Seattle, Washington.

Amazon seems to be convinced of the need to innovate in the field of payments and finance. The cryptocurrency and blockchain development team is a sign of the company’s interest in exploring these emerging technologies to offer better financial products.


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According to an email shared by Business Insider, Amazon’s team confirmed its interest in exploring an approach to the world of cryptocurrencies. Still, they did not specify whether it would be through the development of a proprietary currency or through the acceptance of cryptocurrencies as a means of payment:

“We’re inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space and are exploring what this could look like on Amazon … We believe the future will be built on new technologies that enable modern, fast, and inexpensive payments, and hope to bring that future to Amazon customers as soon as possible.”

An Old Relationship With Crypto

Amazon’s interest in the world of cryptocurrencies isn’t new. Back in 2017, it purchased, at least preemptively, a number of domains linking its brand to cryptocurrencies, including amazoncryptocurrency.com, amazoncryptocurrencies.com, and even amazonethereum.com.

However, at the time, Patrick Gauthier told CNBC that the e-commerce giant did not have much interest in cryptocurrencies and had no plans to support crypto payments.

In fact, the Pay With Moon plugin that allowed payments on Amazon with Bitcoin through Lightning Network had to change its business model to instead allow its users to purchase virtual credit cards instead of paying directly on Amazon’s site.

Also, as Cryptopotato reported in February this year, Amazon launched a job offer for a new payments system involving “Digital and Emerging Payments (DEP),” although they did not mention a direct relationship with Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency either.

This time, however, Amazon seems more willing to go public with its casual relationship with cryptos.

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Source: https://coingenius.news/amazon-wants-a-leader-for-its-digital-currency-and-blockchain-product-unit-38/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amazon-wants-a-leader-for-its-digital-currency-and-blockchain-product-unit-38

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Blockchain Startups Raised over $4 Billion in VC Funding in Q2 2021

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Most blockchain-based startups have seen funding from venture backers, despite the current cryptocurrency market downturn, recording over $4 billion in Q2 alone.

This massive venture capital backing is in keeping with the established trend of VC funding for blockchain firms as investors look to be part of the new wave of disruption associated with decentralized finance.

VC Backers Continue to Dole Out Funding for Blockchain Startups

According to CNBC on Thursday (July 22, 2021), venture capital investors seem not to worry about the volatile nature associated with the crypto market, especially with the current slump in market prices. Bitcoin, which reached an all-time high )ATH) of over $63,000 back in April, is trading within the $33,000 range, losing over 50% of its ATH. Ether price has also suffered a slump after getting to over $4,000 in May.

Meanwhile, data from CB Insights, an analytics firm, revealed that the total funds received by different blockchain companies are $4.38 billion. The figure signals a more than 50% increase from Q1 2021, and almost a ninefold growth compared to Q2 2020.

In May, major fintech company Circle received $440 million from VC backers, making it the largest venture capital funding in a blockchain company. Meanwhile, Circle is planning to go public through an alliance with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Concord Acquisition Corp. The merger, if successful, will put Circle’s valuation at $4.5 billion.


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Ledger, a cryptocurrency hardware wallet, raised the second-biggest round in Q1 2021 with $380 million. According to an interview with CNBC in December 2020, the company’s CEO Pascal Gauthier noted that the cryptocurrency market was gradually maturing, with institutional investors showing interest in the emerging industry.

Speaking to CNBC, CB Insights senior analyst, Chris Bendtsen :

“At the current rate, blockchain funding will shatter the previous year-end record — more than tripling the total raised back in 2018. Blockchain’s record funding year is being driven by the rising consumer and institutional demand for cryptocurrencies. Despite short-term price volatility, VC firms are still bullish on crypto’s future as a mainstream asset class and blockchain’s potential to make financial markets more efficient, accessible, and secure.”

Institutional Investors Seek Exposure to Crypto Industry

The record inflow of funding for blockchain firms is coming from both traditional VC funds and blockchain-focused funds alike. Some asset managers are even creating blockchain venture arms for both early and late-stage funding of projects in the industry.

As previously reported by CryptoPotato in June, venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz announced the launch of a $2.2 billion cryptocurrency fund. According to the company, the new fund would be distributed across various crypto and blockchain startups.

Blockchain Capital raised $300 million for its Fund V LP back in May, with PayPal, Visa. hedge funds, and others participating in the capital raise.

Meanwhile, the trend is continuing in Q3 2021 with massive funding deals. Recently, major cryptocurrency derivatives platform FTX secured a record $900 million in its Series B funding, causing the company’s valuation to grow to $18 billion.

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Source: https://coingenius.news/blockchain-startups-raised-over-4-billion-in-vc-funding-in-q2-2021-10/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blockchain-startups-raised-over-4-billion-in-vc-funding-in-q2-2021-10

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WhatsApp says NSO spyware was used to attack officials working for US allies

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The NSO Group has denied that its spyware was used to compromise many politicians’ phones, but WhatsApp is telling a different story. The chat giant’s CEO, Will Cathcart, told The Guardian in an interview that governments allegedly used NSO’s Pegasus software to attack senior government officials worldwide in 2019, including high-ranking national security officials who were US allies. The breaches were reportedly part of a larger campaign that compromised 1,400 WhatsApp users in two weeks, prompting a lawsuit.

The reporting on the NSO “matches” with findings from the 2019 attack on WhatsApp, Cathcart said. Human rights activists and journalists were also believed to be victims.

The executive was responding to allegations that governments used Pegasus to hack phones for 37 people, including those of women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Those targets were also on a 2016 list of over 50,000 phone numbers that included activists, journalists and politicians, although it’s not clear that anyone beyond the 37 fell prey to attacks.

NSO has strongly rejected claims about the hacks and the list, insisting that there’s “no factual basis” and that the list was too large to be focused solely on potential Pegasus targets. It also directly challenged Cathcart, asking if the WhatsApp exec had “other alternatives” to its tools that would help thwart “pedophiles, terrorists and criminals” using encrypted software.

Cathcart, however, didn’t buy that explanation — he pointed to the 1,400 people as possible evidence that the number of targets was “very high.” Whatever the truth, it’s safe to say WhatsApp won’t shy away from its lawsuit (or a war of words) any time soon.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/whatsapp-nso-spyware-attack-215334253.html?src=rss

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GM sues Ford over the name of its hands-free driving feature

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Ford might be excited about its BlueCruise hands-free driving tech, but GM is less than thrilled about it. The Detroit Free Press and The Verge report that GM has sued Ford for allegedly violating the trademarks for both its rival Super Cruise feature and its autonomy-focused Cruise company.

GM was holding mediated talks with Ford to reach a “good-faith” arrangement, according to DFP sources. The two sides reportedly didn’t make a deal before a July 24th deadline, however, prompting the lawsuit. A GM spokesperson said the company had “no choice” but to sue Ford after trying to resolve the dispute “amicably.”

Ford’s representative, meanwhile, argued that GM’s lawsuit was “meritless and frivolous.” People understood that “cruise” was short for cruise control, Ford said, and BlueCruise was ultimately the “next evolution” of its Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control feature. The automaker added that GM didn’t seem to have issues with other brands’ naming schemes, such as BMW’s Active Cruise Control and Hyundai’s Smart Cruise Control.

The attention to Ford isn’t surprising. Both companies see hands-free driving as a major selling point for their cars, with full self-driving a long-term goal. It’s also no secret that the two Detroit brands have been fierce rivals for a long time — neither Ford nor GM will want to cede ground, at least not quickly. We wouldn’t be surprised if the lawsuit ends with a settlement, but not before the companies have traded some verbal jabs.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/gm-ford-lawsuit-bluecruise-hands-free-driving-204030777.html?src=rss

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