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Leading Businesses Urge Biden Administration to Adopt Ambitious Vehicle Tailpipe Emissions Standards

A group of leading global businesses issued an open letter today to the Biden administration to support robust vehicle standards, including a target to achieve 100% sales of new light-duty vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions ideally by 2030.

The letter was issued by key members of the Climate Group’s electric vehicle-focused EV100 initiative, including Siemens, HP, IKEA, and Lyft, ahead of an expected announcement of new vehicle standards by the Biden administration in the next few weeks, in the lead-up to COP26.

According to the letter, an ambitious emission standard will help make EV’s the new normal in the U.S., with benefits of the transition including job creation, improved public health, and a revitalized economy.

The companies also highlighted that:

“Strong vehicle standards will send a strong market signal that the US is committed to emissions reduction and is intent on restoring global automotive leadership. These standards, when paired with the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. In 2020 alone, the clean vehicles industry in the US created more than 270,000 jobs, and, as projections indicate, the US can create 2 million jobs by 2035 with the right regulatory support from our nation’s leaders.’’

Similar standards have been introduced in other countries. In the UK last year, PM Boris Johnson announced that the country will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by the end of the decade. Several vehicle manufacturers are also striving towards similar goals, including automotive giant General Motors’s recent announcement of an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035. 

Paul Augustine, Senior Manager of Sustainability at Lyft, said:

“When we announced our 100% EVs by 2030 commitment, we said that meeting our goal will require the collective action of industry, government, and nonprofit organizations to overcome the barriers currently preventing wide-scale electrification, including vehicle availability and affordability. Federal vehicle standards will drive automotive industry innovation to solve both of those problems and in turn, help us encourage drivers on our platform to make the switch to EVs.”

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Bitcoin holds $34K as Bloomberg likens $30K support to $4K in 2020 BTC price crash

Bitcoin (BTC) maintained $34,000 support on Wednesday as a rebound from six-month lows showed surprising resilience.BTC/USD 1-hour candle chart (Bitstamp). Source: TradingViewBitcoin bulls see 2020 similaritiesData from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView showed BTC/USD stabilizing on Wednesday after a day of unnerving volatility.At the time of writing, Bitcoin was approaching $34,500 on the back of daily gains, which topped 15%.While the latest price action did not convince everyone that the bottom was in, it frames the dip to $28,600 as a capitulation event on the back of negative news from China similar to the $30,000 flash crash in May. For Mike McGlone, senior market strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, there was little reason to reassess a long-term bullish view on Bitcoin. He argued that $30,000 was just like $4,000 after the 60% price crash of March 2020 — a “line in the sand.”“Selling Bitcoin around good support & similar dips below most means as about $30K this year hasn’t ended well, and if the key question this time around is whether it’s different, we see a more-enduring bull market,” he explained.BTC/USD $30,000 vs. $4,000 comparison. Source: Mike McGlone/TwitterWyckoff signals spook tradersAmong the more cautious voices, meanwhile, was popular trader Rekt Capital, who on Wednesday was keenly eyeing the potential for Bitcoin to fulfill a negative Wyckoff pattern to exit to the downside.“In sum, if BTC loses this current downtrend wedging structure… BTC will breakdown into Phase E of Wyckoff Distribution,” he warned. “If $BTC breaks out from here and rejects harshly from the red area above… Phase E could also lie ahead.”Bitcoin negative Wyckoff forecast chart. Source: Rekt Capital/TwitterChina’s crackdown on mining, the main impetus for current price weakness, has divided commentators.Related: Chinese Bitcoin miners ‘not even in the mood to drink anymore’In an interview with mainstream media, Saifedean Ammous, author of The Bitcoin Standard and its sequel, The Fiat Standard, argued that miners forced to relocate from China were selling BTC that they otherwise would have held, creating additional price pressure.He added that the coins involved may well have been hodled for a long period, increasing the bearish mood as monitors picked up movements of coins that had not moved for a noticeable length of time.

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Bitmain reportedly suspends Bitcoin miner orders amid booming secondhand supply

Chinese mining giant Bitmain is reportedly scrambling to respond to market conditions amid a major crackdown on crypto mining activity by local authorities.According to a Wednesday report by Chinese news agency Sina Finance, Bitmain has halted global spot sales for its new Bitcoin (BTC) mining devices in order to avoid losses by customers amid massive selling on the secondary market.By postponing the sales, Bitmain intends to help miners exiting the industry get better prices for mining equipment and protect the firm from further price declines over the longer term, Bloomberg reported. A Bitmain spokesperson said that the company will continue supporting future delivery of devices used to mine smaller altcoins. The representative did not elaborate on when Bitmain expects to resume global spot delivery.Arthur Li, founder of Bitmain-backed mining startup Sai Technology, highlighted massive selling pressure for top-tier Bitmain miners in the secondhand market. Some of the flagship miner devices from Bitmain and rival Whatsminer are now sold at around 150 yuan ($23) for each terahash per second, down from 600 yuan ($93) in April, when Bitcoin hit an all-time high above $64,000.Related: Bitcoin hash rate hits 8-month low as Chinese miners power downA sharp decline in ASIC Bitcoin miner prices comes in line with a major price drop of Nvidia GPUs that are often used for cryptocurrency mining. As previously reported, some graphics card prices in China dropped as much as two-thirds on domestic e-commerce websites in June.Bitmain is reportedly considering a move overseas. According to Chinese journalist Colin Wu, the firm announced a full relocation abroad on Tuesday. 

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LEGO Unveils Bricks Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles

LEGO Group unveiled today its first prototype bricks made from recycled plastic. The new brick was produced using PET plastic from discarded bottles, sourced from suppliers in the U.S.

According to LEGO, the development of the recycled plastic brick marks the latest step on the company’s journey to make its products from sustainable materials. In December 2020, the company announced a series of climate-focused sustainability commitments, including initiatives to invest in sustainable materials research to reduce the carbon footprint of products and packaging.

Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group, Tim Brooks said:

“We are super excited about this breakthrough. The biggest challenge on our sustainability journey is rethinking and innovating new materials that are as durable, strong and high quality as our existing bricks – and fit with LEGO elements made over the past 60 years. With this prototype we’re able to showcase the progress we’re making.”

According to LEGO Group, the company currently has a team of over 150 people working to find sustainable solutions for its products, and the company has tested over 250 variations of PET materials, along with other plastic formulations. The company stated that it will continue testing and developing the PET formulation of the new prototype brick, and then assess whether to move to the pilot production phase. It expects this phase of testing to take at least a year.

The company said that on average, a one-litre plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for ten 2 x 4 LEGO bricks.

Brooks added:

“We know kids care about the environment and want us to make our products more sustainable. Even though it will be a while before they will be able to play with bricks made from recycled plastic, we want to let kids know we’re working on it and bring them along on the journey with us. Experimentation and failing is an important part of learning and innovation. Just as kids build, unbuild and rebuild with LEGO bricks at home, we’re doing the same in our lab.”

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Hodlers see opportunity in Bitcoin price crash, CoinShares exec says

The downward trend in Bitcoin’s (BTC) price following its April all-time high might be worrying for first-time investors. Still, CoinShares chief strategy officer Meltem Demirors believes that most of the long-time holders are not selling, and this is a correction to weed out panic sellers. Speaking to CNBC, Demirors underscored that Bitcoin is here to stay, and after 200 days of crypto market expansion, it’s normal to have a price drop. “You can’t have a number go up forever,” she added, stating:“What we’re seeing is a correction, a contraction, and a lot of what is getting shaken out is what we call the paper hands, the weak hands.”“Paper hands” is a popular market term to describe an investor who can’t endure high financial risk and starts selling as soon as the asset price begins to drop. It’s the opposite of “diamond hands,” which simply means a pressure-resistant holder.Reminding that the crypto market, excluding Bitcoin, is up 200% for the year, Demirors said that Bitcoin has always been a volatile asset class. “I’m not going anywhere even if we go to $20,000. Last March, we were at $3,000 for Bitcoin,” she said, adding that “we have to keep the context in mind.”She said that many retail investors who didn’t do their research are selling, while long-term holders continue to wait. “If we look at on-chain activity, wallets that have been holding for a long time have actually been using this opportunity to accumulate,” she added.Glassnode data confirms Demirors’ point. According to its data, Bitcoin addresses that do not sell the coins they accumulate have increased their holdings since April’s all-time highs.Related: Bitcoin drops below $30K to 6-month lows: Watch these next price support levelsDemirors said that she expects to see consolidation at the current price level with the uncertainty at the macro scale. “There’s a lot of uncertainty around policies. There’s also a lot of negative headlines,” she reasoned.Meanwhile, Bitcoin is heading for its worst quarter since the start of the 2018 bear trend, according to crypto data aggregator Skew. Data shows that Bitcoin is down nearly 46% for the quarter, the weakest quarter since Q1 2018.

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Blackstone Appoints Devin Glenn as Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Alternative investment manager Blackstone announced the appointment of Devin Glenn as Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). In her new role, Glenn will implement policies and initiatives aimed at the creation of a more diverse and inclusive work environment at Blackstone and its portfolio companies.  

Paige Ross, Global Head of Human Resources, said:

“We’ve long been committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at the firm. In recent years, we’ve expanded our recruiting pipeline, introduced new programs to increase engagement and retention of employees and set goals for more diverse boards. I’m thrilled to welcome Devin to the firm as we continue to push ourselves to be a leader in this area.”

Prior to joining Blackstone, Glenn held various positions related her current position: She spent 15 years at global law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, most recently serving as Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, with responsibility for increasing awareness of the firm’s global diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, executed recruiting, retention and client development initiatives. She also launched a diversity pipeline program for high-potential first-year law students.

Blackstone’s workplace diversity practice is targeting at least one-third diverse representation on portfolio company boards for new control investments in the U.S. and Europe. The company is also running multiple early-pipeline programs to educate students about the firm and create more opportunities. With the launch of Career Pathways program, the company is committing to creating employment opportunities at its portfolio companies for people from underserved communities. In addition, Blackstone recently announced a $40 million investment to expand from 30 to 75 campuses in the next five years, focusing on universities with diverse populations.

Glenn said:

“I look forward to helping Blackstone continue to integrate DEI principles into the workplace culture and the various talent and business functions, and also ensure that we leverage its expansive platform to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the industries and communities it serves. The firmwide commitment has impressed me and I’m excited about what we can accomplish in the coming months and years.”

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Subprime Lender OneMain Taps Minority, Women-Owned Dealers for First High Yield Social Bond Deal

Nonprime-focused installment lender OneMain Financial announced today the closing of a $750 million social bond, with proceeds targeting financial inclusion initiatives for credit-disadvantaged communities around the U.S. According to joint bookrunner Siebert Williams Shank, the offering marks the first ever social bond from a high-yield issuer.

According to OneMain, the offering will support the company’s efforts to provide responsible loans to credit-insecure and credit-at-risk communities. The new bond was issued under OneMain’s recently released Social Bond Framework, outlining eligible use of proceeds, the process for loan evaluation and selection, management of proceeds and reporting obligations. According to the framework, at least 75% of the loans being funded by the social bonds will be to women or minority borrowers.

OneMain Chairman and CEO Doug Shulman, said:

“OneMain’s first Social Bond is an important milestone in our mission to improve the financial well-being of hardworking Americans. This bond is a testament to our commitment to financial inclusion and reinforces the work we are already doing to provide underrepresented communities with access to safe, affordable credit. We will continue to build our business around serving our customers responsibly, empowering them financially and making a positive social impact on our communities.”

OneMain’s broker dealer network for the issue included service-disabled veteran-owned Academy Securities, Inc., woman-owned R. Seelaus & Co., LLC, Hispanic-owned Samuel A. Ramirez & Company, Inc., and woman- and minority-owned Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC.

Siebert Williams Shank CEO and President Suzanne Shank said:

“As the only investment bank certified as both women-owned and minority owned, we value the commitment OneMain has made to diversity. OneMain first gave Siebert Williams Shank a bond underwriting mandate in 2016 and has been a significant contributor to our continued growth. We are honored to be selected for this ground-breaking framework. OneMain’s focus on financial literacy aligns with our longstanding commitment to fostering educational opportunities and mentorship programs nationally.”

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MetLife Commits to $500 Million Impact Investments with Focus on Climate, Social and Racial Equity

Insurance and financial services company MetLife announced today a new commitment to originate $500 million in new impact investments by 2030. According to the company, 25% of the commitment will be allocated to addressing climate change, while investments will also focus on promoting the financial health of underserved people, which includes advancing racial and gender equity in low-income and ethnically diverse communities.

MetLife President and CEO Michel Khalaf, said:

“As a global insurer and purpose-driven company, we strive to create a more confident and sustainable future for all of our stakeholders. Building on our 153-year legacy of creating financial security, we are strengthening our commitments to the environment and climate, equity and inclusivity, health and well-being, and economic growth for disadvantaged communities.”

The impact investment pledge was made along with the release of MetLife’s annual Sustainability Report, highlighting the company’s progress in its ESG efforts and initiatives. The report outlines some of MetLife’s recent investments, which include an equity commitment with racial equity and bias reduction training-focused investor Illumen Capital, as well as a commitment to Incusiv Southern Equity Fund to invest capital in credit unions serving low-income and racially and ethnically diverse communities.

Today’s announcement follows a recent commitment by the company to originate $20 billion in new green investments through MetLife Investment Management (MIM) by 2030.

MetLife Chief Sustainability Officer Jon Richter, said:

“We believe sustainability must be central to our business strategy and a guiding force behind every aspect of our operations. The full scope of our people, products and services, investments, and community efforts help us serve as a force for good in the world.”

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Bloomberg and MSCI Launch Suite of Emerging Markets Fixed Income ESG Indices

Business and financial markets information service provider Bloomberg, and investment decisions support tools and services company MSCI Inc announced today the launch of the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI Emerging Markets ESG Index Suite. Available through the Bloomberg Terminal, the 10 new indices incorporate ESG and SRI considerations in hard and local currency emerging market fixed income indices.

According to the companies, the new indices aim to meet growing investor demand for ESG solutions.

Chris Hackel, Index Product Manager at Bloomberg, said

“Investor demand for ESG considerations continues to grow, and we are consistently working to expand Bloomberg’s offerings to meet these requirements as ESG factors are increasingly incorporated into investors’ workflows. We’re excited to continue working with MSCI to evolve our joint ESG index solutions and expand to emerging market bonds.”

The new index family, available in global, pan-euro and USD versions, includes the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI EM ESG Weighted Indices, which utilize MSCI ESG Ratings to tilt issuer market weights; the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI EM SRI Indices, employing screens for issuers deriving substantial revenue from areas including alcohol, gambling, tobacco, nuclear power, controversial weapons and GMOs, and; the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI EM Sustainability Indices that use EM debt benchmarks including debt issued from sovereign, quasi-sovereign, and corporate EM issuers with BB and above ESG ratings.

 Eric Moen, Head of ESG Product at MSCI, added:

“We have seen accelerating demand from investors to expand ESG Indexes and data solutions across asset classes and markets. This newly launched Emerging Markets fixed income index family extends the breadth of coverage of ESG fixed income indexes and provides institutional investors with additional options for indexed funds and for benchmarking performance.  We are pleased to work with our partners at Bloomberg to continue to strengthen our joint ESG index suite.”

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Goldman Sachs reportedly started trading on JPMorgan’s repo blockchain

After six months of eyeing JPMorgan Chase’s custom blockchain service for repo markets, Goldman Sachs has started trading on the platform. Mathew McDermott, global head of digital assets for Goldman Sachs’ global markets division, confirmed the first transaction dated June 17 in an interview, Bloomberg reported. In the trade, Goldman Sachs swapped a tokenized version of a United States Treasury bond for JPM Coin, JPMorgan’s dollar-pegged stablecoin. JPMorgan started its private blockchain service to drive efficiency in repo agreements last year. The platform uses JPM Coin to swap digitized United States Treasury bonds. Goldman Sachs was one of the first financial institutions to notice the platform. Last year, McDermott mentioned the efficiency of JPMorgan’s blockchain-based repo-market service, saying that “enterprise blockchain can address a real-world problem in the financial system.”As a trillion-dollar market, repurchase or “repo” agreements are short-term lending arrangements for dealers in government bonds. An overnight repo allows dealers to sell government bonds to investors and repurchase them the next day at a slightly higher price.Related: Goldman Sachs to offer Bitcoin futures tradingCalling the trade a pivotal moment for the digitization of transactional activity, McDermott highlighted that, unlike the traditional repo market, the precise timing of the transaction could be logged thanks to blockchain technology. Smart contracts on the blockchain enable the collateral and cash to interchange simultaneously and immediately, and this is a big step up for the repo market, according to McDermott:“We pay interest per the minute. We firmly think this will change the nature of the intraday marketplace.”JPMorgan Chase first announced the launch of its own stablecoin back in early 2019, with an initial focus on international settlements by major corporations. First trades started in December, and since then, JPM Coin has been embraced by transnational corporations for around-the-clock cross-border payments.The bank established its version of the Ethereum blockchain, Onyx, which is now processing more than $1 billion worth of transactions daily.

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Developing drones to address pandemic-related challenges in Scandinavia

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic spurred an immediate need to develop new, innovative systems in supply chains and infrastructure. And for three Norwegian graduate students enrolled in the MIT Professional Education Advanced Study Program (ASP), spring 2020 was the moment when technology, innovation, and preparation met opportunity. Lars Erik Matsson Fagernæs, Bernhard Paus Græsdal, […]

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Ohio Adds New Rules to Govern the Controversial Delta-8

The regulatory body currently overseeing Ohio’s medical marijuana program has now instituted new rules governing the use of Delta-8 THC, the popular, yet controversial, compound that has been known to yield similar effects to regular weed.The rules, via the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, are intended to provide “guidance to licensees regarding the production, distribution and sale of medical marijuana products containing Delta-8 THC,” the agency said.The new rules, which take effect immediately, include a requirement licensee notification of “the use of Delta-8 THC must include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that describes the process and methods with which Delta-8 THC will be used in compliance” with the state law.The rules also address THC dosage, saying that “total THC content—combination of Delta-9 THC and any other THC isomer or analog—of the manufactured product shall not exceed 70 percent.”In addition, “Delta-8 THC’ must be fully incorporated on the package and label for patient awareness,” the agency said, and abbreviations “such as ‘Delta-8’ or ‘D8,’” are not permitted.”Licensees “must maintain all supply chain records relevant to ingredients used in medical marijuana production, including records of purchases and/or production of Delta-8 THC, CBD, or any other ingredient used in the production of medical marijuana, subject to” Ohio law, according to the agency, adding that “cultivators, processors, and testing laboratories are required to test for Delta-8 THC and any other Department directed THC isomers and analogs and report the results to the Department’s inventory tracking system.”“The MMCP’s key priority is product safety, and it continues to monitor Delta-8 THC and other THC isomer developments and reserves the right to prohibit product ingredients. The MMCP will continue to provide additional guidance as necessary,” the agency said in its notice.As local television station News 5 Cleveland noted in a broadcast, the “rule changes do not have any direct impact on Delta-8 THC sales outside Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.”The station reported that the new rules “got early pushback because they don’t address products that have already been sent to dispensaries and appear to make some changes that normally require a longer rule-changing process,” and noted that a spokesperson for the Medical Marijuan Control Program said that the agency will provide additional guidance in the future.This compound has gained considerable popularity in the last year due to its similarity to marijuana—and, crucially, the fact that it is legal to buy.The latter has prompted several states to impose rules and regulations on the compound, if not ban the compound altogether.Delta-8 Across the CountryThat’s what the state of New York did last month, making cannabinoid and cannabinol products made through isomerization—the process through which Delta-8 is produced––illegal. The move frustrated CBD business owners in New York who had capitalized on the popularity of Delta-8.“There is no way I can keep it going in New York,” said Yardly Burgess, owner of Empire CBD. “Delta-8 is what helped my business grow.”State regulators in Washington, where recreational marijuana use is legal, have also grappled with how to handle Delta-8 THC products sold in licensed cannabis dispensaries. The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board has said that it intends to regulate such products sold in those licensed dispensaries. As detailed in a helpful High Times primer last summer, Delta-8 THC is “a unique chemical compound located within the cannabis plant that delivers remarkable benefits and the psychotropic effects that enthusiasts have been craving,” defined as “an isomer of CBD and a derivative of hemp and CBD and is completely legal if the final product contains less than 0.3 perrcent Delta-9 THC.”

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A unique collaboration with US Special Operations Command

When General Richard D. Clarke, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), visited MIT in fall 2019, he had artificial intelligence on the mind. As the commander of a military organization tasked with advancing U.S. policy objectives as well as predicting and mitigating future security threats, he knew that the acceleration and proliferation of […]

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Connecticut Officially Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

After years of flirting with marijuana legalization, the state of Connecticut is finally ready to make it official.Today, the state’s governor Ned Lamont signed legislation that legalized recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older. The new law will officially take effect on July 1. However, retail sales aren’t expected to begin until 2022.Lamont added his signature to a bill that finally cleared the necessary legislative hurdles last week.Lawmakers in the state Senate last Thursday approved legislation that would legalize recreational pot use for adults. The vote marked the second time that members of the state Senate passed a legalization measure. Last week, another bill was approved in the chamber before it was amended in the state House and returned to the Senate.The bill passed the state Senate on Thursday by a vote of 16 to 11, according to local television station NBC Connecticut. The outcome sent the legislation to the desk of Lamont, a Democrat who has made no secret of his support for marijuana legalization.But state legislators have spent weeks ironing out the legislation. NBC Connecticut reported that “House members on Wednesday stripped an amendment the Senate previously added to the cannabis legalization bill that ensured that an ‘equity applicant’ for marijuana industry licenses, who would receive preferential status, could include people living in certain geographic areas who were previously arrested or convicted for the sale, use, manufacture or cultivation of cannabis.”The provision would have “also applied to individuals whose parent, spouse or child was arrested or convicted of the same charges. Lamont opposed such a provision, even threatening to veto the bill if it was included.“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement, as quoted by NBC Connecticut.He continued, “That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont said.The governor also shared that legalization will ultimately be a benefit to Connecticut residents, because revenue from marijuana sales will go to recovery and prevention services. He told residents that the bill will ensure public safety, protect children and those in the community who are most vulnerable.Legalization Comes to Connecticut After Years of TryingLamont has advocated legalization in Connecticut for years. In 2019, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed a cross-state legalization policy, but that effort never really materialized, and earlier this year New York charted its own path by ending prohibition in the state.In February, Lamont stressed the importance of forging ahead given the action being taken by Connecticut’s neighbors.“Now our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont said in his “State of the State” address. “Massachusetts dispensaries are advertising extensively here in Connecticut. And, rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”“Half the tax revenues should be allocated to PILOT payments, in addition to a three percent local excise tax option. And importantly, my proposed legislation authorizes the automated erasure of criminal records for those with marijuana-related drug possession, convictions, and charges,” Lamont added at the time.

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Bitcoin price clings to $32K as on-chain metrics hint at further downside

Cryptocurrency investors awoke to another round of price declines on June 22 after the price of Bitcoin (BTC) dropped to a 6-month low at $28,805. The dip below the crucial $30,000 level might appear to be a prime buying opportunity but data shows that institutional investors are continuing their longest selling streak since February 2018.Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView shows the June 21 dip below $32,000 and recovery above $33,000 was just a precursor to Tuesday’s move which saw BTC hammered at the start of the trading day, reaching a low of $28,805 before bouncing back to $32,000 at the time of writing.BTC/USDT 1-day chart. Source: TradingViewEther (ETH)  also took a hit, dropping by 15% to a low of $1,700 after bulls failed to hold the $1,900 level. Unless a significant source of momentum emerges to help the market stage a turnaround, the current trend continues to be negative as evidenced by bears dominating Bitcoin’s $2.5 billion options expiry on June 25.Warning signs provided by the dataWhile the price action on June 21 may have come as a surprise to many, numerous indicators hinted at the decreasing momentum and possibility of the price dropping further.According to data from Glassnode, the number of active addresses on both Bitcoin and Ethereum have declined significantly from their highs in May, with active BTC addresses falling by 24% while active Ethereum addresses fell by 30%. Number of active addresses on Bitcoin vs. Ethereum. Source: GlassnodeThe drop in activity on the networks has led to an even more dramatic decline in the USD value settled on-chain, with the amount settled falling by 63% to $18.3 billion per day on Bitcoin and by 68% to $5 billion per day on Ethereum. Bitcoin vs. Ethereum total transfer volume (USD). Source: GlassnodeDeclines in activity and value transacted on the networks can be interpreted as a drop in enthusiasm in general as investors who bought at the highs in April and May must now decide if they want to sell at a loss to avoid further the potential for further downside or hold with the hope that the market will eventually turn around. China crackdown leads to panicAnother major source of the market downturn which has been building for weeks is China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency mining operations in the country. This has led to a substantial drop in the record hashrate to levels last seen in September 2020. Bitcoin mean hash rate. Source: GlassnodeWhile the closing of a large number of Chinese mining farms and the resulting decline in hashrate is a negative development in the short term, Delphi Digital has taken the stance that “in the mid to long term, this should be viewed as healthy for the Bitcoin network as hash rate concentration risk is significantly reduced.”According to Delphi Digital, the hash rate concentration in Chinese-based mining pools has been declining since China began its crackdown on mining, allowing smaller pools to grow “their share from 30.81% to 37.96% over the last 30 days.”Bitcoin hashrate mix. Source: Delphi DigitalIn addition to the clampdown on mining, China has also reiterated that banks should not be supporting crypto-focused over-the-counter businesses, which led to “panic among Chinese miners and investors,” leading to a significant decline in the supply of BTC held in miner addresses.Bitcoin miner’s net position change over time. Source: Delphi DigitalWith China unlikely to change its current course of action regarding cryptocurrencies anytime soon, investor uncertainty and choppy price action are likely to continue in the short term. The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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Powers On… El Salvador is the unlikely leader for sovereign adoption of Bitcoin as national currency

Powers On… is a monthly opinion column from Marc Powers, who spent much of his 40-year legal career working with complex securities-related cases in the United States after a stint with the SEC. He is now an adjunct professor at Florida International University College of Law, where he teaches a course on “Blockchain, Crypto and Regulatory Considerations.”While attending the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami two weeks ago, several things struck me as interesting and significant. While many others have already reported on the conference, my focus will be on a handful of comments or events that I believe are important for the cryptocurrency and blockchain space.First, the conference was full of churchlike believers, or those curious about crypto and Bitcoin (BTC). Miami Mayor Francis Suarez kicked off the festivities in grand fashion, noting that Miami was the first United States city to place the 2008 Bitcoin white paper on its government’s website. As a transplanted New Yorker who now calls Miami home and teaches blockchain law to law students there, this made me proud.When the emcee asked how many in the audience had been to this particular Bitcoin conference in prior years, many hands of the 12,000-strong crowd went up. These attendees were long-term holders, developers, investors and entrepreneurs. And they had a strong Libertarian slant, as evidenced in the warmly received keynote speech by Ron Paul, a former senator from Texas, who said that “authoritarians” were running our government and the Federal Reserve and taking our liberties and rights away. Wow! I did not realize Paul had become so radicalized, or had already been so.MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor said that Bitcoin is the life force of the world. Draper Fisher Jurvetson founder Tim Draper commented that Bitcoin represented “freedom and trust.” I love the Winklevosses, who used the metaphor that “Bitcoin is software to gold’s hardware,” and delighted the crowd by proclaiming that the U.S. dollar is the “biggest shitcoin of them all.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey rationalized that the “internet needs a native currency.”Noteworthy, too, is who was not in attendance: the “suits” and “nonbelievers,” so to speak. The financial intermediaries, capitalists and their minions who will be marginalized or eliminated were the true promise and primary purpose of blockchain realized, according to Satoshi Nakamoto. Those absent included the traditional commercial and merchant banks, the venture capital and private equity firms, the traditional investment banks and hedge funds, and the companies and professionals such as law firms and accounting firms helping them play catch up — or helping them figure out a way to “own” the blockchain and thus the consumers and public, through permissioned blockchains.For me, I found this quite refreshing. It felt like the exciting programs I attended in 2018, during a time when these same absent players were calling Bitcoin a hoax or fraud, and were gleeful at its price collapse that year. While not all those from 2018 understood what the rules of the road might be to create mass adoption, or the best path, there was sincerity, grand camaraderie and a passion for the efforts and speakers — understanding that there is a large unbanked part of the world that could benefit economically and politically from this untethered financial system BTC can create. They were those who realized rampant inflation was insidiously and stealthily devaluing the assets of citizens. As the co-founder and CEO of Paxos, Charles Cascarilla, said at Bitcoin 2021, Bitcoin is not just a good idea but a legitimate idea for an alternative financial system.Crypto is legitimateAlso interesting to me is the lack of discussion today about the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies as an investment both at the conference and elsewhere. Back in the day, I remember sitting on a panel advocating for blockchain and crypto, with a fellow panelist, an ex-Goldman dude, dismissing crypto by saying he would only accept equity or notes for any investment in a blockchain startup.Remember when the nonbelievers and others praying for BTC’s demise noted that owning a cryptocurrency was fools’ play, as the coin did not provide you as an investor with shareholder-like dividend rights, rights to any profits of the startup or ecosystem, or governance rights? It is astounding how that concern has almost evaporated from conversations about crypto, now that there is a market capitalization of around $1.2 trillion and the trading of cryptocurrency futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange parent company Intercontinental Exchange. Maybe DeFi gets some of the credit for that, as it allows investors to earn “interest” by loaning and staking their coins, and some credit also goes to the growing popularity of proof-of-stake, rather than proof-of-work.El SalvadorHowever, the showstopper was not Tony Hawk, nor the woman who appeared to be screaming at Dorsey from the first row about Twitter’s privacy policies. It was the young president of the Republic of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who hails from the most densely populated country in Central America. He appeared via a video broadcast toward the end of the conference. Since 2001, El Salvador has abandoned its own fiat currency, the colón, and adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency.At the conference, Bukele announced that the country would adopt Bitcoin as a second native fiat currency, on par with the U.S. dollar. A few days later, the legislature there passed a new law doing just that. In Miami, he explained that this adoption “will generate jobs and will help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy.” (It is reported that about 70% of the adult population in El Salvador does not have a bank account or credit card.)The law reportedly requires, not just allows, all merchants to accept BTC for goods and services in commercial transactions, with an exception only for those businesses that lack the technology to do so. It also eliminates any capital gains tax on the exchange of BTC for transactions, to provide more stability to the digital asset. Finally, a development bank will be created to hold $150 million in BTC in order to allow merchants the ability to instantly convert BTC to U.S. dollars. Double wow!Related: Adopting the Bitcoin standard? El Salvador writes itself into history booksToday, we have many countries and municipalities experimenting with use cases for blockchain outside of the financial promise, including for supply chain providence and recording of real estate transactions. Examples include Sweden, the country of Georgia, the United Arab Emirates — and with the help of the International Monetary Fund, others include Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. But no country has ever put assets developed by computer code on par with the U.S. dollar!It will be interesting to see how the rest of the sovereign states react to this. I am already reading about studies from economists claiming that El Salvador’s economy will collapse from this legislation. And the IMF is posturing. Let’s see which country will be next to do the same. I predict there will be many in the next few years, allowing for this dual system to coexist in these countries. It is something I have been predicting would occur since 2018.This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.Marc Powers is currently an adjunct professor at Florida International University College of Law, where he is teaching “Blockchain, Crypto and Regulatory Considerations” and “Fintech Law.” He recently retired from practicing at an Am Law 100 law firm, where he built both its national securities litigation and regulatory enforcement practice team and its hedge fund industry practice. Marc started his legal career in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. During his 40 years in law, he was involved in representations including the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, a recent presidential pardon and the Martha Stewart insider trading trial.The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph nor Florida International University College of Law or its affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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Target Focuses on Sustainable Brands, Environment and Equity with New Strategy

Target announced today the launch of “Target Forward,” its new sustainability strategy aimed at creating an equitable and regenerative future with its guests, partners and communities.

Brian Cornell, Target Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer, said:

“We know sustainability is tied to business resiliency and growth, and that our size and scale can drive change that is good for all. Target Forward influences every corner of our business, deepens our collaboration with our partners, and builds on our past efforts to ensure a better future for generations to come.”

Target Forward is focused on three main pillars, including designing and elevating sustainable brands, using innovation to eliminate waste, and accelerating opportunities and equity. 

Key brand goals under the new program include becoming the market leader for creating and curating inclusive, sustainable brands and experiences by 2030, designing 100% of its owned brand products to be made from regenerative, recycled, or sourced materials by 2040.

On the environmental front, Target is committed to becoming a net zero enterprise, including zero waste to landfill in its U.S. operations and net zero emissions across both its operations and supply chain, across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2030.

The company also aims to build a team that equitably reflects the communities it serves, beginning with its commitment to increase Black team member representation across the company by 20% by 2023, and will pursue efforts along with the Target Foundation to become more deeply engrained in its communities.

Amanda Nusz, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, said:

“We want our guests to turn to Target first when they think about sustainability. We know that the only way to make that possible is by putting both people and the planet at the center of our efforts, as we co-create with our guests, our partners, and the communities we serve.”

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Nestlé Enhances Supply Chain Sustainability Efforts with Forest Positive Strategy

Global food and beverage company Nestlé announced today the adoption of a new forest positive strategy, aimed at restoring forests and helping them thrive. According to the company, the new approach will also contribute to efforts to promote sustainable livelihoods and the respect of human rights, as well as to the company’s commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

According to Magdi Batato, EVP, Head of Operations at Nestlé, the forest positive strategy is key to regenerating Earth’s water systems, soil health and carbon storage. Batato said:

“To meet the world’s food needs in 2050, agricultural production will have to increase by around half versus 2013 levels. It is more important than ever to protect natural ecosystems as we meet this challenge and to restore forests for the future.”

With the launch of the new strategy, Nestlé aims to go beyond its current forest protection initiatives, which include goals to eliminate deforestation in its palm oil, sugar, soy, meat and pulp and paper supply chains by 2022, and in its coffee and cocoa supply chains by 2025.

As part of its forest protection and restoration efforts, Nestlé plans to ramp its utilization of satellite monitoring services. Nestlé has been using data from satellite-based service Starling to monitor deforestation in its palm oil supply chain, later adding its pulp and paper and cocoa supply chains. The company now plans to expand its use of satellite data to carry out a risk assessment in the regions where it sources its ingredients, starting with the Americas and then globally, in order to take action on sourcing its key raw materials sustainably.

Laurent Freixe, EVP, CEO of Zone Americas, Nestlé, said:

“The use of satellite imagery has helped us on our journey to stop deforestation. We will now expand the use of this technology to monitor the sourcing of coffee and cocoa—two important ingredients for our much-loved products.”

In addition to its increased use of satellite data, Nestlé’s forest positive approach will extend to its supplier relations, with the company aiming to reward suppliers for their environmental efforts by buying bigger quantities, contracting with them long term, co-investing in programs that promote forest conservation and restoration, or by paying a premium for their products.

Batato added:

“Forest positive is only achievable if we work hand-in-hand with farmers and local communities, industry partners and governments to form wider solutions across local, regional and global levels. The benefits are numerous: more resilient communities and livelihoods, more sustainable food systems, and a healthier planet.”

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Maine Lawmakers Vote to Decriminalize All Drugs

State lawmakers in Maine passed a bill last week to decriminalize possession of all drugs. The measure, LD 967, was passed by the Maine House of Representatives on Thursday with a vote of 77 to 62 and was later cleared by the state Senate, according to media reports.Under the measure, criminal penalties would be dropped for simple possession of scheduled drugs including heroin, cocaine and prescription medications. Instead, those guilty of such offenses would be subject to a fine of $100 or be required to submit to an assessment for treatment of substance use disorder.Maine’s voters legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2016, and legal recreational sales of marijuana began in the state last year. Possession of other regulated drugs is subject to a range of criminal charges and penalties from misdemeanors for most prescription drugs and felonies for possession of heroin and cocaine.The bill was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Anne Perry earlier this year. Lawmakers will continue working on the bill to reconcile differences in the legislation, including criminal charges for subsequent possession offenses contained in the Senate’s version of the bill.“We do need to treat this disorder and law enforcement will be a part of it, but law enforcement is not the gateway to recovery,” Perry said on the House floor last week. “It’s a gateway to isolation and suicide.”Maine Follows Oregon’s LeadLD 967 was modeled after an initiative passed by Oregon voters last year, which decriminalized all drugs for personal use. The approach is favored by advocates for criminal justice reform and harm reduction, who champion treating illegal drug use as a public health matter rather than a criminal offense.“For over 20 years, in my work as a nurse practitioner and living in a community that has been devastated by drug overdoses, I have seen firsthand how treating drugs like a crime has created suffering that spans the generations,” Perry said at a press conference on the bill earlier this year. “I’ve seen so many people lost to the criminal justice system instead of getting the health care that they need so desperately.”“We cannot continue to wage a ‘War on Drugs’ that has not worked,” she added.State Rep. Charlotte Warren, also a Democrat, said that several doctors who specialize in substance use disorder appeared at a legislative hearing earlier this year, testifying that the condition is treatable and preventable but incarceration is not an effective remedy. Instead, they called for treatment over punishment.“Eleven Mainers a week are dying to overdose,” Warren told reporters. “Substance use disorder is a disease. And a symptom of the disease is possessing the substance. That’s why the House voted to no longer criminalize possession. We need to treat the disease in order to save lives. What we are doing is not working. We want to save lives.”Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, law enforcement groups, and Republican lawmakers all oppose LD 967, leaving final passage of the bill uncertain. Opponents of the bill cite its lack of possession limits and criminal charges for repeat offenders for their refusal to support the proposal.“These people need help and law enforcement is the best social worker to help these people,” said Rep. Gary Drinkwater.Drug Trafficking Reform Also Passed in MaineAlso last week, lawmakers in Maine passed LD 1675, a bill to reform the state’s harsh drug trafficking statute and eliminate the disparity in punishment for possession of crack and powder cocaine. The bill was passed in the House on Tuesday and survived a 20 to 15 vote in the Senate the following day. The measure now heads to Mills’ office for her consideration.“This bill would restore integrity, honesty, and clarity to our drug laws,” state Sen. Craig Hickman said after the vote, noting that someone who possesses two or more grams of heroin or fentanyl can be charged with drug trafficking without evidence of intent to sell. “This bill will curb a government that has gotten too comfortable playing fast and loose with the English language, a government that redefines ordinary words to curb the freedom of ordinary people.”

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