STLR Link Roundup – March 24, 2017

Blog Follow-Up – SEC Rejects Bitcoin ETF

Recently STLR published a blog post about the SEC’s forthcoming decision on whether to approve a necessary rule change to allow public trading of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. On March 10, the SEC rejected the rule change. The SEC cited concerns about the lack of regulation of the Bitcoin market and the lack of a “surveillance-sharing agreement” which could help weed out fraud or manipulation. The value of bitcoins against the US Dollar dropped precipitously on the news. The BATS Exchange, which had proposed listing the Winklevoss ETF, has formally filed an appeal.

In addition to the blog post above, readers looking for more background on Bitcoin are encouraged to read the excellent article on Bitcoin regulation published in this journal in 2014.

Healthcare Debate and the Future of Healthcare.gov

On March 24, House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew the “American Health Care Act” from the house floor. The bill was promoted by President Trump and Congressional Republicans as a means to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, or “ObamaCare.” One of the side effects of the bill may have been the shutdown of the online marketplace at healthcare.gov, where residents of thirty-nine states currently can purchase health insurance. The site experienced tremendous technical difficulties in the first few months of operation, leading to considerable criticism. More recently, the site was at the center of a controversy about the Trump Administration’s decision to pull television advertisements for the site in the last few weeks of the 2017 enrollment period. With the defeat of the bill, the online exchanges at healthcare.gov stay in place for now, but without the backing of the administration nor the Congress, the future efficacy of the online exchanges is uncertain.

TSA Bars Large Electronic Devices on Flights 

Earlier this week the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that passengers on direct flights from ten specific airports to the United States could not carry on electronic devices larger than a cell phone. The ten airports are all located in Muslim-majority countries. The announcement comes within weeks of President Trump’s latest executive order restricting immigration from certain other Muslim-majority countries.

Concerns that have been raised about the TSA directive include potential discriminatory motivations, possible risk to the electronic devices themselves, and potential danger from the transport of lithium batteries in the cargo hold. Despite the criticism, others argue that the ban is necessary to protect travelers from explosive devices.

Legal Personhood Granted to Three Rivers

In the last week, rivers in India and New Zealand gained the status of legal persons. In India, the highest court in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India recognized the legal personhood of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers to confront pollution. Meanwhile, a new law passed in New Zealand granted similar rights to the Whanganui River to protect the river for the benefit of the local native population.

A similar concept of legal personhood for nature exists in the United States. In a 2015 article, Dinah Shelton of the George Washington University Law School, links the public trust doctrine employed in the United States to legal personhood for nature. She also noted that in 2010 the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first in the US to declare nature a legal person. The city’s goal was to limit fracking for natural gas.

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