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It couldn’t have gone less to plan. On Sunday the prime minister was hoping to enjoy some reflected glory of England’s success.

Boris Johnson was looking forward to having drinks with the European champions in Downing Street. But rather than football coming home, it’s questions about him and his party over racism that have arrived on his doorstep.

Worse, his well-documented lukewarm response to the England team’s taking of the knee has been magnified by the racist abuse of black players that followed Sunday’s final.

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PM and Starmer clash over racism

Unflattering comparisons have been made between the leadership of the England football team and that of the country.

England players who knelt before games to protest against racism were booed by some England fans. At the time both the prime minister and home secretary refused to condemn the booing and Priti Patel dismissed taking the knee as “gesture politics”.

England player Tyrone Mings accused her of “stoking the fire” and Tory MPs such as Johnny Mercer and Steve Baker have warned their party they are on the wrong side of social change.

Albie Amankona, a co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism, For Equality, wrote to all Conservative MPs urging more understanding about what it means to take the knee.

More on Boris Johnson

He told me: “It’s regrettable that the booing was not condemned from the beginning. It would have been excellent if more of our leaders had taken more of a stand in the way that we saw Gareth Southgate take a stand… And I’d like to see more leadership like Gareth’s, coming from all sides of politics.”

The Tory party has the most ethnically diverse cabinet in British history, and there’s no doubt that many of them including Priti Patel, have experienced racism – but ever since the Black Lives Matter movement erupted after the murder of George Floyd in America many in the party struggled with it.

England's Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips take a knee before the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Sunday June 6, 2021
England’s Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips take a knee before the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Sunday June 6, 2021

Conservatives were opposed to some of the movement’s more left-wing messages such as defunding the police or taking down statues, such as the one of imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College in Oxford.

While people of all walks of life might take the knee for a host of reasons, what got lost is that fundamentally it is a symbol of anti-racism. As no politician in Westminster is pro-racism – there’s no argument over whether it’s right or not to boo the England team for trying to face it down.

It would have been the simplest thing to state that no one should boo the English team for sending out an anti-racist message. But that’s not what Boris Johnson nor Priti Patel chose to do.

That alongside an MP refusing to watch the matches because of the pre-match ritual, and another messaging colleagues that Marcus Rashford should have spent more time focusing on football rather than campaigning to feed poor children, all added to the series of missteps.

There’s an argument that the Tories, even now, know what they are doing – sending subliminal messages to their supporters that “gesture politics” and political correctness has gone too far, and they are fighting the war against woke.

But even “woke” is becoming a Westminster bubble issue. The red wall conservative-minded swing voters who put Johnson in power are more liberal than many think. And, with the England team taking the knee it’s helped dispel fears that it is all part of a socialist plot.

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Starmer questions PM’s stance on racism

As one man in a workman’s pub in Manchester put it. “Either taking the knee works or it doesn’t work – but either way it doesn’t do anyone any harm.”

During PMQs today the prime minister was ridiculed by the leader of the opposition as a man who wears his football top over his shirt and tie.

And attacked him with the line “Boris Johnson’s Conservatives would rather condemn Marcus Rashford for feeding hungry children than those who boo England players for taking the knee.”

Johnson said he was taking action to force social media platforms to get hate off their sites. He also said that the party had made it “absolutely clear that no-one should boo the England team.” This statement would have been absolutely clearer still if he’d added “for taking the knee.” But he didn’t.

It was bad enough when the government had to U-turn over Rashford’s free school meal campaign – even more careless to stumble into an argument that appears to pit them against the entire England football team over racism.

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Lawmakers’ fear and doubt drives proposed crypto regulations in US




Lawmakers’ fear and doubt drives proposed crypto regulations in US

Real bipartisan legislative efforts are rare in Washington, DC, these days, but Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Roger Marshall have managed to come together to co-sponsor a bill focused on crypto crime. 

According to the senators, the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2023 aims to close loopholes in the nation’s Anti-Money Laundering rules. The bill would amend the Bank Secrecy Act and would designate a diverse range of digital asset providers as financial institutions. 

The Bank Secrecy Act establishes program, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for national banks, federal savings associations, federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. Digital asset providers would be required to adhere to many of the same regulations as traditional banks.

Warren introduced the legislation to the United States Senate on July 27, 2023, on behalf of herself and Senators Joe Manchin, Roger Marshall and Lindsey Graham. The bill was then referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. It hasn’t been voted on by the entire Senate or sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. Nor has President Biden signed it, and it is not a matter of law at this time. 

The legislation would add several types of cryptocurrency providers to U.S. regulators’ list of financial institutions. These include unhosted wallet providers, digital asset miners and validators or other nodes that validate third-party transactions, miner extractable value searchers, other validators or network participants with control over network protocols, or just about anyone else who facilitates or provides services related to exchange, sale, custody or lending of digital assets.

All these organizations and individuals would be subject to the same regulations currently applied to financial institutions in the United States. The bill does include exceptions for those who use distributed ledger, blockchain technology or similar technologies for internal business purposes. 

Crypto under federal review

If the bill becomes law, within 18 months of its enactment, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would announce that any U.S. person with $10,000 in digital assets or one or more digital assets overseas would have to file a report. Within the same timeframe, the U.S. Treasury would establish controls to mitigate unlawful financial risks associated with digital asset mixers and anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrency. 

North entrance of the U.S. Treasury building, Washington, DC. (Wiki Commons)

Within two years of the bill’s enactment, the Treasury, in consultation with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, will create a risk-focused examination and review process for those digital asset participants newly designated as financial institutions. They would determine if efforts to stop money laundering and to counter crypto-funded terrorism are adequate and if crypto providers and facilitators are compliant with the new rules. Subsequently, within the same time frame, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will consult with the Treasury on exactly the same matters. 

What about my favorite BTC kiosk?

The next part of the bill is focused on digital asset kiosks. Within 18 months of the bill’s passage, FinCEN will require digital asset kiosk (ATM) owners and administrators to submit and update the physical address of their kiosks every 90 days. The kiosk owners will also need to verify the identity of each customer using a valid form of government-issued identification, and they will have to collect the name and physical address of each counterparty to each transaction. 

Within 180 days, FinCEN will issue a report about any digital asset kiosks that haven’t been registered. The report would include an estimate of the number of unregistered kiosks, their locations and an assessment of additional resources that FinCEN might need to be able to investigate them.

Within a year of the enactment of the legislation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency would issue a report identifying recommendations to reduce drug trafficking and money laundering associated with digital asset kiosks. 

Bitcoin ATM in a liquor store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Wikimedia Commons)

Crypto industry impact

Grant Fondo, co-chair of Goodwin’s digital currency and blockchain practice and a former Assistant U.S. attorney, tells Magazine that “the bill is an attempt to pull more players in the digital asset industry within regulatory control, to close gaps in what some in Congress see as not covered under the current regulatory regime.” 

Fondo believes that, if passed, the legislation would have the practical effect of killing decentralized finance in the U.S. by applying an unworkable regime on DeFi protocols. Fondo sees the legislation as imposing a burden on validators and miners and also questions how realistic it would be to impose bank-like requirements on a software company validating blockchain transactions. 

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Hadas Jacobi, an attorney in the Financial Industry Group at Reed Smith who previously worked as a financial enforcement regulator for the State of New York, agrees. According to Jacobi, the act would apply Bank Secrecy Act requirements, depending on the context, to crypto participants that are not financial institutions.

“The act could be read as applicable to programmers and other tech providers who create the framework for financial services operations rather than provide services themselves,” Jacobi says.

Key Bank Secrecy Act /Anti-Money Laundering collaboration mechanisms. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Although Jacobi believes there is a need for legislative clarity in the space, she questions whether the primary intent of the legislation — the crypto sector’s threat to national security — is even relevant. Jacobi says that on-point regulation of cryptocurrency and digital asset services providers is necessary, but digital assets do not threaten national security.

“A general statement that digital assets pose a threat to U.S. national security, however, would be both inaccurate and short-sighted. Bad actors in the digital asset space pose a global threat from both a national security and a financial stability standpoint — but the digital asset industry and its underlying technology do not,” Jacobi says.

What the politicians are saying

In a written statement, Senator Marshall says that the bill addresses U.S. concerns about national security.

“This legislation is a matter of national security. Mastermind hackers from adversarial countries like Iran, Russia, and North Korea are committing cybercrimes against the United States to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars; they must be held accountable. The reforms outlined in our legislation will help us fight back and secure our digital assets by using proven methods that our domestic financial institutions have been complying with for years,” Marshall states.

Marshall says that the legislation would extend Bank Secrecy Act responsibilities to include Know Your Customer requirements for those affected, would address a “major gap” with unhosted digital wallets, would direct FinCEN to issue guidance on financial institutions to mitigate digital asset risks, would strengthen enforcement of BSA compliance, would extend BSA foreign bank account rules to include digital assets and would mitigate illicit finance risks of digital asset ATM’s. 

Warren argues that U.S. authorities have warned that crypto is being used for all types of crimes and for antagonistic nations to avoid U.S. sanctions.

“Rogue nations like Iran, Russia and North Korea have used digital assets to launder stolen funds, evade American and international sanctions, and fund illegal weapons programs,” Warren says.

Suggesting that the act will help to subvert these efforts, Warren focuses her statement on North Korea’s missile program.

“Nearly half of North Korea’s missile program, for example, is estimated to be funded by cybercrime and digital assets. In 2022, illicit digital asset transactions totaled at least $20 billion — an all-time high,” Warren writes. 

Manchin asked Democrats and Republicans to come together and vote for the bill. “Our bipartisan legislation would curtail these security risks and require cryptocurrency platforms to abide by the same Anti-Money Laundering rules that banks have to follow. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this common-sense legislation to protect Americans by preventing bad actors from using cryptocurrencies to finance their criminal activities,” Manchin says.  

Fondo doesn’t see how the Anti-Money Laundering Act could minimize risks to national security but does recognize how the bill might address issues associated with anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrency.

Still, he would like to see this legislative effort well thought out before passing the bill. “No one wants terrorists and criminals masking their financial transactions. But conversely, privacy is a rare commodity, so it’s important to properly balance it with national security,” Fondo says. 

Jacobi is concerned that overregulation will lead to redundancy and excessive costs that will drain the industry. She says that the act would direct FinCEN to regulate digital service providers as money transmission businesses, although she believes that they have already been doing that since 2013. Furthermore, she says that most state regulators have been examining and registering them for almost as long. 

“The Act has the potential to upset the balance of the existing U.S. dual state and federal regulatory regime by creating redundancies in the supervision and examination of money transmission businesses, not to mention exposing the digital asset industry to resource-draining, duplicative enforcement actions,” Jacobi says. 

Will the bill become law?

It’s anybody’s guess. The House of Representatives is just getting back on its feet after struggling for weeks to elect a new speaker. 

The U.S. Senate still requires a supermajority vote to approve almost any piece of legislation, and all the while, members of Congress and President Joe Biden are hyper-focused on geopolitical matters like the Israel/Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine. 

Also, most U.S. federal-level politicians are about to enter the 2024 election season, where control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Presidency are all up for grabs. 

Controversial legislation will certainly stall until after the election, but a potentially popular crypto bill might just be palatable to candidates on both sides of the aisle to find its way onto the president’s desk. If the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act were to become law, many cryptocurrency providers would have to learn how to comply with the same regulations as traditional financial institutions. 

Mitch Eiven

Mitch is a writer who covers cryptocurrency, politics, the intersection between the two and a handful of other, unrelated topics. He believes that crypto is the future of finance and feels privileged that he has opportunities to report on it.

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IBM, Meta and others form ‘AI Alliance’ to advance AI development




IBM, Meta and others form ‘AI Alliance’ to advance AI development

In the race for market supremacy among artificial intelligence (AI) firms, a coalition of technology leaders spearheaded by IBM and Meta established the AI Alliance. Rather than competing, these companies aim to collaborate, emphasizing their commitment to fostering transparent innovation and responsible development in artificial intelligence.

In a joint statement, IBM and Meta outlined the AI Alliance’s objectives, emphasizing a commitment to safety, collaboration, diversity, economic opportunity, and universal benefits. The alliance, they noted, encompasses a collective annual research and development investment exceeding $80 billion.

While numerous members endorse open-source development, it’s important to note that adherence to this model is not obligatory for membership. Over 50 tech companies, such as AMD, Dell Technologies, Red Hat, Sony Group, Hugging Face, Stability AI, Oracle, and the Linux Foundation, unite with IBM and Meta in the AI Alliance.

“The progress we continue to witness in AI is a testament to open innovation and collaboration across communities of creators, scientists, academics, and business leaders.”

According to IBM and Meta, the AI Alliance will create a governing board and technical oversight committee focused on advancing AI projects and setting standards and guidelines. The alliance aims to collaborate with governments, non-profits, and non-government organizations (NGOs) operating in the AI sector.

“The AI Alliance brings together researchers, developers, and companies to share tools and knowledge that can help us all make progress whether models are shared openly or not,”

Looking to engage the academic community, the AI Alliance also includes several educational and research institutions, including CERN, NASA, Cleveland Clinic, Cornell University, Dartmouth, Imperial College London, University of California Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Notre Dame, The University of Tokyo, and Yale University.

While Meta has advocated for open-source AI models and responsible development, the company opted to decentralize and streamline AI development by disbanding its responsible AI team in November.

Related: Meta’s AI boss says there’s an ‘AI war’ underway, and Nvidia is ‘supplying the weapons’

Prominent AI developers, including Microsoft, Google, OpenAI (developer of ChatGPT), and Anthropic (Claude AI), are conspicuously missing from the AI Alliance. Instead, they established their own initiative, The Frontier Forum, dedicated to responsible AI in July.

Earlier this year, the Biden Administration engaged in discussions with major AI developers to commit to responsible artificial intelligence development. Signatories included OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Anthropic, Meta, and Inflection. Subsequently, in September, NVIDIA, IBM, Scale AI, Adobe, Palantir, Salesforce, and Stability AI joined the pledge.

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