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Advertisements Cam shares thoughts, images, questions and even a few giggles five days a week. Cam has always wanted to be a radio announcer, and now, with Voicemaker software, his words are read in broadcast quality. Cam lives with cerebral palsy.

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Crypto rules to make Europe a global leader as prices plunge

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By Kelvin Chan in London

LONDON (AP) — Europe has moved to lead the world in regulating the freewheeling cryptocurrency industry at a time when prices have plunged, wiping out fortunes, fueling skepticism and sparking calls for tighter scrutiny.

European Union negotiators hammered out the final details for a provisional agreement late Thursday on a sweeping package of crypto regulations for the bloc’s 27 nations, known as Markets in Crypto Assets, or MiCA.

“In the Wild West of the crypto-world, MiCA will be a global standard setter,” the lead EU lawmaker negotiating the rules, Stefan Berger, said in a news release. The EU’s crypto rules “will ensure a harmonized market, provide legal certainty for crypto-asset issuers, guarantee a level playing field for service providers and ensure high standards for consumer protection.”

Like the EU’s trendsetting data privacy policy, which became the de facto global standard, and its recent landmark law targeting harmful content on digital platforms, the crypto regulations are expected to be highly influential worldwide.

The EU rules are “really the first comprehensive piece of crypto regulation in the world,” said Patrick Hansen, crypto venture adviser at Presight Capital, a venture capital fund.

“I think there will be a lot of jurisdictions that will look closely into how the EU has dealt with it since the EU is first here,” Hansen said.

He expected authorities in other places, especially smaller countries that don’t have the resources to draw up their own rules from scratch, to adopt ones similar to the EU’s, though “they might change a few details.”

Under the Markets in Crypto Assets regulations, exchanges, brokers and other crypto companies face strict rules aimed at protecting consumers.

Companies issuing or trading crypto assets such as stablecoins — which are usually tied to the dollar or a commodity like gold that make them less volatile than normal cryptocurrencies — face tough transparency requirements requiring them to provide detailed information on the risks, costs and charges that consumers face.

The rules will help novice crypto investors avoid falling victim to frauds and scams that regulators have warned are widespread in the industry.

“That’s a huge benefit in this space, especially for someone who has absolutely no idea where to go to or who to seek out or where to put my money into,” said Jackson Mueller, director of policy and government affairs at Securrency, a blockchain infrastructure company.

Providers of bitcoin-related services would fall under the regulations, but not bitcoin itself, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency that has lost more than 70% of its value from its November peak.

To address concerns about the carbon footprint left by bitcoin mining, which guzzles massive amounts of electricity for “proof of work” computer processing to record and secure transactions, crypto companies will have to disclose their energy use and prominently display information online about their environmental and climate impact.

Negotiators exempted NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which have boomed over the past year. The EU said that unlike cryptocurrencies, the digital assets, which can represent artwork, sports memorabilia or anything else that can be digitized, are unique and sold at a fixed price. But it left room to reclassify them later as a crypto asset under MiCA or as a financial instrument.

The European rules are aimed at maintaining financial stability — a growing concern for regulators amid a string of recent crypto-related crashes. For example, the stablecoin TerraUSD imploded last month, erasing an estimated $40 billion in investor funds with little or no accountability.

The meltdowns have spurred calls for regulation, with other major jurisdictions still drawing up their strategies. In the U.S., President Joe Biden issued an executive order in March on government oversight of cryptocurrency, including studying the impact on financial stability and national security.

Last month, California became the first state to formally begin examining how to broadly adapt to cryptocurrency, with plans to work with the federal government on crafting regulations.

The U.K. also has unveiled plans to regulate some cryptocurrencies.

A few European countries, like Germany, already have basic crypto regulations. One of the EU’s goals is bringing rules in line across the bloc, so that a crypto company licensed in one country would be able to offer services in other member states.

The EU rules, which would still need final approval and are expected to take effect by 2024, include measures to prevent market manipulation, money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal activities.

The EU also provisionally agreed Wednesday on new rules subjecting cryptocurrency transfers to the same money-laundering rules as traditional banking transfers.

When a crypto asset changes hands, information on both the source and the beneficiary would have to be stored on both sides of the transfer, according to the new rules. Crypto companies would have to hand this information over to authorities investigating criminal activity such as money laundering or terrorist financing.

The EU institutions are working out the technical details before the crypto tracing rules receive final approval.

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Follow Kelvin Chan on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/chanman.

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Canadian governments OK settlement with Purdue Pharma over opioid addictions

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By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver

A proposed $150-million settlement with Purdue Pharma Canada covering all provinces and territories has been reached for the recovery of health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medication.

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said Wednesday that it’s the largest settlement of a governmental health-care cost claim in Canadian history.

The province launched a proposed class-action lawsuit in 2018 against more than 40 drug companies on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments with the aim of recovering health-care costs for the “wrongful conduct of opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants.”

Eby said the proposed settlement was accepted by governments across Canada and a plan is being worked on to determine how the money will be divided, based on the impact on each province.

“The money will be going to supporting provincial programs to fight the opioid epidemic that we believe Purdue’s actions contributed to through their deceptive marketing,” he said.

Matthew Herder, director of Dalhousie University’s Health Law Institute in Halifax, said the funds could help combat the overdose crisis, but it “all depends on how it’s used.”

“To make sure it actually helps, the people who continue to live the harms of opioid overdose crisis, who have real expertise about how to reduce its ongoing harms — people who use drugs — should be central to the decision making moving forward,” he said in an email.

Dr. Michael Curry, a clinical associate professor in the University of British Columbia’s department of emergency medicine, said he doesn’t think the settlement is large enough help every person who’s been affected by these drugs.

“It is a very small amount of money, especially when you consider that B.C. is probably going to get, proportionately, maybe 12 per cent of the settlement,” he said in an interview.

Over 27,000 people died across the country from toxic street drugs between 2016 and September 2021.

“We took this action to recover health-care costs and to hold opioid companies to account for their part in allegedly engaging in deceptive marketing tactics to increase sales, which led to increased rates of addiction and overdose,” Eby told a news conference.

He said the B.C. government is “committed to aggressively pursuing litigation against the other manufacturers and distributors that put profits before people.”

The cost of the opioid epidemic on provincial health-care systems is “likely in the billions of dollars,” Eby said.

“In the United States, the claims amount to trillions of dollars, and have resulted in the bankruptcy of Purdue’s arm in the United States.”

He said Canada faced the possibility of being grouped into a number of unsecured creditor claims within the U.S. bankruptcy proceeding, where the amount available to the entire group is just $15 million.

The B.C. sanctions allowed Canadian jurisdictions to prevent Purdue from liquidating their Canadian operations to pay American claims, which would have left Canada with nothing after U.S. bankruptcy proceedings, he said.

“So in that respect, this is a remarkable accomplishment for British Columbia and all the provinces in Canada to ensure that Canadians see some proceeds from Purdue’s actions in deceptively marketing.”

In the United States, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by governments, unions, hospitals and other entities in an effort to make drug companies, pharmacies and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.

American businesses, mostly those that sold or made the drugs, have already faced settlements, judgments and civil and criminal penalties totalling more than $47 billion.

British Columbia’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister, Sheila Malcolmson, called the settlement “an important step forward” in the effort to end the province’s toxic drug emergency.

“We know the settlement will not make up for the lives lost, the terrible loss of loved ones in our communities, so our government remains steadfast in its commitment to end the public health emergency,” she said.

Mike Ellis, Alberta’s associate addictions minister, said in a news release the province supports the proposed settlement.

“Like the rest of Canada, Alberta in the midst of an addiction crisis. The roots of the crisis began years ago with the high rate of opioid prescriptions for acute and chronic pain,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring that Alberta’s portion of the settlement will be reinvested into funding more mental health and addiction services.”

Eby said there are many manufacturers, distributors and their consultants that remain named in the litigation.

“And they are on notice by this settlement that we will be pursuing them aggressively.”

Health Canada said the federal government is exploring “all appropriate options to hold companies accountable for (their) role in the overdose crisis if they acted inappropriately in the marketing and distribution of opioids.”

To limit the marketing of opioids directed at health professionals, all opioid advertising material must be vetted by an advertising preclearance agency before it can be used.

“As of June 2019, all promotional materials are required to follow exactly what is in the product monograph. Health Canada is also identifying non-compliant marketing practices and rigorously enforcing the laws as they exist today,” Health Canada said in a written statement.

British Columbia’s application for certification of its class-action lawsuit has been scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court in the fall 2023.

The province said certification could open the door to further settlements to recover health-care costs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

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