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The Lede, Jan. 17. Net Neutrality, Blockchain and Can Government Keep Data Safe?

Good morning. Gonna float like a butterfly today, and knock out all the stuff I got to do. Today would have been Muhammad Ali’s 76th birthday. He was born Jan. 17, 1942 in my hometown of Louisville, Ky.

The Lede

By David Royse

So I’m listening to this song this morning

Today is Wednesday.

Yesterday, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, 22 state attorneys general from around the country asked a federal court to block the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal the net neutrality rules that prevented internet providers from treating some legal internet content differently than other legal internet content.

That’s The Lede story below in business.

In Florida, a bill was filed a few days ago that would make blockchain ledgers and smart contracts legally-binding methods of data storage as long as they don’t break any other laws or regulations.

Also today, there’s a story that’s big in the world of cybersecurity, but hasn’t gotten a lot of mainstream attention here in the United States – but is an interesting addition to the debate over how much governments should be allowed to collect and keep Big Data on us.

In this case, it’s not the underlying issue (and arguably the tougher issue) of the Big Brother-ness potential of it that’s at issue, but the question of whether governments can adequately protect the data they have. It comes from India, which has an (interesting in itself) effort for a national ID program that uses a lot of virtual data. But a newspaper there was able to show it’s subject to compromise. What does it say about what we should allow governments to collect and keep? What the story doesn’t get into – an issue for another story, perhaps – is it too late? Do government agencies already have a lot of our personal data anyway?

First those three stories. Then keep reading for more today on what could be a big story in the cannabis world, involving banking, alarming news about the opioid crisis, and there’s an app that will pay you in cryptocurrency for working out.

AGs Sue to Block Net Neutrality Rollback

FCC Sign

Schneiderman and AG’s in 21 other states plus D.C. filed suit in federal court in Washington on Tuesday, seeking to reverse a vote by the FCC late last year that did away with the former net neutrality requirement. Before it was repealed, that rule essentially said that broadband companies had to treat all web content the same in terms of consumers’ access to the content. Internet providers couldn’t, under the rule, charge customers more for visiting more popular websites, for example, or make deals with certain content providers to make their websites available at higher speeds.

One of the failings of much of the reporting on this issue, I think, is that it seems embedded with the automatic assumption that the net neutrality rules were good. And maybe they were. But I think the media – particularly on the television side – haven’t put a ton of effort into explaining fairly the arguments of the companies that wanted the rules dropped. I’ve included a couple of those arguments in the story. It’s fair to say, however, that the general public seems to be against the decision made last year by the FCC, and would like to see the internet regulated by the government as utilities are.

Here’s the story

Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. Senate say they have 50 votes  to restore the net neutrality requirement. They do not, so far, have a Republican on board. If they could find one more vote they’d be able to get something done. Bloomberg reports that Democrats think the issue could be a winning one in this year’s midterm election.


The bill, filed by Rep.James Grant, filed late last week and referred to several committees, says a “record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is in an electronic form and is an electronic record.” The measure also would make it clear that a signature recorded through a blockchain qualifies as a valid electronic signature. Arizona has already passed similar legislation. Here’s a bit more on this from Coindesk.


We have a patchwork identity system in this country, with each state issuing a driver’s license, and passports optional. Americans have always been suspicious of any requirement that they “carry papers.” The governments, state and federal, have plenty of data on us because of those licenses and passports, but it’s basic stuff that we give out to all kinds of others, too – address, date of birth, etc. Aadhaar

India had the idea nearly a decade ago of creating a national identity system that uses biometric information, such as fingerprints, and eye scans. It was mean mainly as a way to reduce fraud, and streamline paying of government benefits. But since it’s introduction, just as driver licenses have in the U.S., it’s become basically required, because banks now use it to verify identity before opening an account or cashing a check, some merchants use it before approving a large purchase. There are, of course some privacy concerns (though an Indian court has ruled that Indians do have a protected right to privacy).

But now, there’s an additional concern about the security of the data as well, after a newspaper was able to show the information could be hacked.

That, of course, leads to the broader question of whether governments could ever keep massive amounts of data about us safe – one that for now, remains unanswered.

Here’s the story, from LegalTech News, about India’s system, called Aadhaar, being breached

Tech News Worth Watching

Let’s go once lightly around the country for some tech news, this morning



Today, at least 45 start-ups are working on chips that can power tasks like speech and self-driving cars, and at least five of them have raised more than $100 million from investors.

And in strange but true healthcare tech news,



In healthcare news this morning:

From NPR
Accidental deaths in the United States rose significantly in 2016, becoming the third-leading cause of fatalities for the first time in more than a century – a trend fueled by the steep rise in opioid overdoses, the National Safety Council reports.

And from Kaiser Health News, a good story about plans for a Janesville, Wisc. cornfield, that could soon give birth to a plant that makes an important tool in fighting cancer.
Nuclear medicine imaging, a staple of American health care since the 1970s, runs almost entirely on molybdenum-99, a radioisotope produced by nuclear fission of enriched uranium that decays so rapidly it becomes worthless within days. There aren’t any plants making it in the United States. That may be about to change.


VA Won’t Study Effect of Marijuana on Vets

Washington Post: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it will not conduct research into whether medical marijuana could help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, as veterans groups are pushing for the use of the drug as an alternative to opioids and anti-depressants..

If you’re interested in this topic – here’s an interesting read – a VA publication looking at the up-to-now research on it. VA review of the benefits and harms of Cannabis on Chronic Pain and PTSD published in August (the VA reviewing what others have found in this one, not doing its own research)

And from NPR – VA providers are not permitted to refer veterans to state-approved medical marijuana programs, since the drug is illegal under federal law, with no accepted medical use.

More marijuana news today:

If it gets traction, this one could be really big news for the cannabis industry. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and other state attorneys general want Congress to support legislation that would open the banking system to the medical or recreational marijuana business in states where those industries are legal.
READ it in the Baltimore Sun

Several 2018 gubernatorial candidates around the country will support legalizing cannabis
READ it at Forbes

That’s about it for today.

I didn’t find out about the death of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan until after The Lede went out on Monday. The BBC: Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan died suddenly at age 46.

So we’ll go out with this

Have a good Wednesday.

About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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