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The next generation of wireless networks is slowly rolling out. Here’s what to expect

The development of ridesharing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, was made possible by 4G. With 5G, ridesharing cars could one day navigate themselves — no human driver required.

Self-driving cars are just one of the many potential applications of 5G, the next generation wireless network that is steadily being rolled out across the United States, and in other countries around the world.

Companies are racing to have the fastest or largest 5G networks. And countries are competing to be the first to deploy fully functional, nationwide 5G, because of the many revolutionary innovations experts anticipate will be built on top of it.

But wireless customers are going to have to wait a while to see any of the major benefits 5G could one day bring. That’s because a lot goes into the network to enable new technologies, including smart cities, remote surgeries and automated factories.

The three major differences between 4G and 5G are faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower “latency,” or lag time in communications between devices and servers. But those perks are going to require building out a lot of new infrastructure and billions of dollars in annual investments.

Speed

Speed is one of the most highly anticipated elements of the next generation network.

5G is expected to be nearly 100 times faster than 4G. With speeds like that, you could download a two-hour film in fewer than 10 seconds, a task that takes about seven minutes on 4G (no more panicking while trying to download your in-flight entertainment on the tarmac before the plane takes off).

Rapid speeds have obvious consumer applications, including movie streaming and app downloads, but they’ll also be important in many other settings. Manufacturing experts talk about the possibility of putting video cameras throughout a factory, and very quickly gathering and analyzing massive amounts of footage to monitor product quality in real-time.

Those speeds are possible because most 5G networks are built on super-high-frequency airwaves, also known as high-band spectrum. The higher frequencies can transmit much more data, much faster than on 4G.

But signals traveling on high-band spectrum can’t travel very far and have a hard time getting through walls, windows, lampposts and other hard surfaces. That’s not very convenient when we want the tiny computers we carry around everywhere to continue working as we walk out of the subway station, down the street and into the office.

In order to compensate for those challenges, wireless carriers building high-band 5G networks are installing tons of small cell sites (about the size of pizza boxes) to light poles, walls or towers, often in relatively small proximity to one another. For that reason, most carriers are deploying 5G city by city — for the network to work, the city has to be full of those small cells.

It’s also probable that many buildings will get their own 5G cell sites to ensure the network functions inside.

Capacity

We’ve all experienced that frustrating moment when you’re in a relatively small area with a bunch of people — a concert, sports stadium or the airport during holiday travel season — and you see the “spinning wheel of death” while trying to open a webpage or play an Instagram video.

Too many devices trying to use the network in one place can cause congestion. The network infrastructure just can’t cope with mass numbers of devices, leading to slower data speeds and longer lag time for downloads.

5G is expected to solve that issue — and then some. The next generation network is expected to have significantly more capacity than 4G. That will mean not only a better connection for everyone’s phones, so you can more easily brag on social media about being at the big game. It will make it possible to connect many, many more devices to the network.

Experts compare the 5G network to a new-and-improved freeway with more lanes for more cars to drive on. This element of the update could create increased bandwidth for the “internet of things” era, filled with connected toothbrushes, kitchen appliances, street lamps and more.

Latency

A small but significant difference exists between speed and latency, which is the time it takes for devices to communicate with each other or with the server that’s sending them information.

Speed is the amount of time it takes for your phone to download the contents of a webpage. Latency is the time between when you send a text to a friend’s phone and when their phone registers that it has received a new message. Although latency is measured in milliseconds, all those milliseconds add up when sending and receiving huge packets of information for something as complex as video — or self-driving car data.

Latency is already low with 4G, but 5G will make it virtually zero.

That will be good for such new innovations as remote real-time gaming — helping people in various parts of the world using wireless internet-connected devices play one game and all be on exactly the same page at the same time.

It will be essential for other technologies, such as self-driving cars, which will need to send signals about their environment over the internet to a computer in the cloud, have the computer analyze the situation and return signals to the car telling it how to respond. To ensure the safety of self-driving vehicles (and their passengers), that communication needs to be instantaneous.

The X-factor: Reliability

Here’s the thing: The massive speeds and capacity and low latency of 5G relies on high-band spectrum. But high-band spectrum, with its small coverage areas, isn’t very reliable.

Even in cities where carriers say they have deployed 5G, it can be hard to stay connected to the network.

It’s probable that for quite a while, even after 5G-enabled devices become more widely adopted, people will use a mix of 4G and 5G. When you’re close to a 5G tower, your device will connect and access the superfast speeds. When you’re not, your device will revert back to running on 4G.

Other strategies for building out 5G provide greater reliability.

T-Mobile (TMUS) said last month it achieved a nationwide 5G network because, rather than using high-band spectrum, T-Mobile used mostly lower frequency airwaves to build its network. Those signals cover much wider areas and are better at traveling through walls and trees, but “low-band spectrum” doesn’t provide the dramatic benefits we think of when we think of 5G.

For now, T-Mobile’s 5G network provides, on average, a 20% increase in download speeds compared to 4G LTE, according to a company spokesperson. That’s a stark difference from the 100 times-faster-than-4G speeds on high frequency 5G networks.

Eventually, both lower and higher frequency 5G will cover much of the country and we’ll get the best of both worlds.

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Congressional Hearing Exposes Marijuana Research Limitations Imposed By Federal Law

At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, federal regulators recognized that valuable research into marijuana is being inhibited cannabis’s current legal status and described previously unreported steps they’re taking to resolve the issue.

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held the meeting to discuss six cannabis reform proposals, including two that would federally legalize marijuana. Most of the hearing involved lawmakers pressing witnesses from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the obstacles to marijuana studies that those officials claim are needed before pursuing broader policy reform.

Conversation was more limited when it came to legalization bills such as Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was approved by his panel last year. That said, formerly anti-reform Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) did lead a powerful discussion about the failures of prohibition and the need to deschedule cannabis.

Kennedy announced that panel leadership has agreed to hold a second hearing featuring the voices of people negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition, which he said “has failed.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said in his opening statement that “while state laws and public perception around cannabis and its derivatives have evolved over the years, much of the federal framework that regulates cannabis has stayed the same.”

Today the @EnergyCommerce Health Subcommittee is holding a legislative hearing on cannabis policies for the new decade including proposals to decriminalize marijuana and increase important research on cannabis, hemp and CBD. pic.twitter.com/uL8lkmmXdj

— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) January 15, 2020

Watch the hearing, titled “Cannabis Policy For the New Decade,” below:

After being repeatedly asked about the limited supply of research-grade cannabis and the lack of chemical diversity in those plants cultivated at the nation’s only federally authorized manufacturer, DEA Senior Policy Advisor Matthew Strait said the agency is aware of the issue and is actively developing regulations to address the problem by licensing additional growers.

“We actually have a draft regulation in place,” he said, adding that it’s currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and that regulators have a call scheduled for Thursday to discuss the proposed rule.

“We know that we have to probably do notice and comment rulemaking to implement regulations on two matters: one is how we’re going to evaluate all of our pending applications and two what additional types of regulations might need to be in place in order to impose on those that would grow,” he said. “That regulation is in draft form. I can’t talk too much about it, but rest assured, we have submitted to OMB, it’s been drafted and tomorrow some of us will be getting on a call to talk through it.”

DEA, FDA and NIDA witnesses all agreed under questioning that the current supply of cannabis for study purposes is inadequate and that researchers should be able to access a wider range of marijuana products.

Kennedy, who recently became a cosponsor of the MORE Act, followed up on his opening remarks with a brief statement on his personal evolution on the issue and frustration over policies inhibiting research.

“Meanwhile, millions of Americans—mostly black and brown—have been locked up for non-violent drug offenses. Meanwhile, desperate parents are forced to turn to a black market with no concern for patient safety to get their children the relief that they need. Meanwhile our cities and states are trying, and at times stumbling, to put in place thoughtful and thorough regulatory frameworks with zero support from federal partners. And meanwhile, a brand new corporate industry is rising up, rife with predictable economic injustices that spring up whenever government fails to regulate. Prohibition has clearly failed and America isn’t waiting for its government anymore.”

He then asked NIDA Director Nora Volkow and FDA Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs Douglas Throckmorton whether removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) would make it easier for researchers to obtain and study it. Both said that the policy change would in fact simply research, though Volkow said it “may have unintended negative consequences.”

FDA and NIDA said their agencies would not be impacted if marijuana was descheduled, and DEA’s Strait acknowledged that his agency would because of its responsibility to enforce the CSA.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said researchers are “are in a catch-22” under the current regulatory scheme because they “can’t conduct research until they show cannabis has a medical use, but they can’t demonstrate cannabis has a medical use until they can conduct research.”

“It doesn’t make sense—at least to me,” she said.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) said that the “United States Congress made a mistake, and every Congress since has not had honest hearings and honest dialogue and has not allowed—truly allowed—the researchers in this great country to do the true research that needs to be done for us to properly categorize cannabis in this country.”

“As a result of that, we have millions of individuals in this country who have been subjected to incarceration and a criminal record that otherwise they would have a much more productive and better life and that as a society, we would be much better off, including the taxpayers, if we were to actually get this right,” he said.

There were several exchanges throughout the hearing—which was requested by four Republican members last month—where lawmakers opposed to comprehensive reform argued that cannabis is a gateway drug and that legalization represents a public health threat.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) brought cookies in plastic baggies and distributed them to members. He then pointed to an image of a THC-infused cookie that looks similar that are available in Oregon.

“Each of you, by the way, has a cookie in front of you. I have a pizza stand opening in an hour out in the hallway,” he quipped. “Now don’t worry, I didn’t get that carried away. You can actually eat these. The question is, how do you know if your child stumbled upon it?”

Americans are consuming more cannabis & policy decisions on this substance have been made in a virtual information vacuum. States that have legalized marijuana, like OR, have done so with far less info than they have on legal substances that are easily abused, such as alcohol.

— Rep. Greg Walden (@repgregwalden) January 15, 2020

The congressman went on to say that descheduling marijuana “is a step too far and is something I cannot support.”

But there were other members who shared anecdotes about the consequences of prohibition, particularly on patients who stand to benefit from medical cannabis.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), for example, recalled that in the 1980s, he knew friends who would smuggle cannabis into a hospital for a man suffering from cancer and who wanted to improve his quality of life to spend time with his son. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) said her late husband, former Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) experienced “great pain” and was told that cannabis might treat it, but he declined in part because of its status as a federally illicit substance.

Several other lawmakers, including Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Barbara Lee (D-CA), highlighted the hearing and remarked on its significance.

It’s past time to end cannabis criminalization and repair the damage the racist and failed War on Drugs has done to communities of color across the country. Thanks @EnergyCommerce for holding today’s important hearing to modernize our federal cannabis policies! #MarijuanaJustice https://t.co/9uLRi86obs

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) January 15, 2020

Today, the @EnergyCommerce Subcommittee on Health is holding its FIRST EVER legislative hearing regarding federal cannabis policies.

If you are unable to attend this historic hearing in person, you can tune in here: https://t.co/HkUeiAqfEs #CannabisNews pic.twitter.com/PCGnERfwEB

— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) January 15, 2020

“Today, my [Energy Commerce] colleagues are holding a hearing on legislation to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs and allow for more research on the uses, impacts, and health benefits of cannabis,” Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) said. “Looking forward to their discussion on these bills!”

Including H.R. 3884, the MORE Act. This bill would decriminalize marijuana, expunge the criminal records of individuals with cannabis-related offenses, and establish a sales tax on marijuana to create a fund helping these individuals to advance their careers and education.

— Mike Doyle (@USRepMikeDoyle) January 15, 2020

Watch below as my @EnergyCommerce committee holds a hearing on legislation to remove marijuana from the list of schedule 1 drugs and allow research on the health benefits of cannabis. https://t.co/1CTgo5RTY2

— Rep. Kurt Schrader (@RepSchrader) January 15, 2020

“After years of working to advance cannabis reform in Congress, this critical hearing is an important milestone where another major congressional committee focused time and attention on our movement,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who spoke to Marijuana Moment on Tuesday about his expectations for the hearing, said in a press release. “It was important to hear a number of senior members of Congress affirming the change that is taking place at the state level and affirming the contradictions that are created by the federal government being out of step and out of touch.”

With today’s @EnergyCommerce hearing, another major cmte has focused time & attention on our movement to bring federal cannabis policy into the 21st century & end the failed war on drugs. This was an encouraging step on our blueprint to legalize cannabis, but we need more action.

— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) January 15, 2020

Pro-legalization group NORML also submitted written testimony for the hearing, stating that as “evident by the title of this hearing, our federal marijuana policies are stuck in the past.”

“It is time for Congress to amend them in a manner that comports with our current political and cultural reality,” the organization said. “For some 50 years, the cannabis plant has been improperly categorized and criminalized by federal law. It is time to re‐examine and amend this longstanding failed policy.”

Ahead of the hearing, a coalition of cannabis reform groups—including the National Cannabis Industry Association, Cannabis Trade Federation and Minority Cannabis Business Association—sent a letter to subcommittee leadership ahead of the meeting, encouraging members to take action on the various pieces of legislation.

BREAKING: Cannabis industry groups send letter urging descheduling and federal regulation to increase research improve public safety and address harms caused by prohibition.

With: @CanTradeFed, @MinCannBusAssoc, @FollowNCR, @GlobalCannaComm #CannabisPolicy pic.twitter.com/ZPdEJskzi0

— National Cannabis Industry Association (@NCIAorg) January 14, 2020

“As organizations that collectively represent thousands of state-legal cannabis businesses around the country, ancillary industries, and our communities, we applaud your decision to hold a hearing on cannabis policy so early in the new legislative session,” the groups wrote. “This is a wonderful opportunity to continue the robust and groundbreaking discussion on this issue that took place in Congress last year and we commend your leadership in carrying it over into 2020.”

“As an industry, we understand that many lawmakers have concerns about the impact of the changing legal status of cannabis. We do not take these concerns lightly. These concerns underscore the need to establish a legal federal cannabis framework, as current federal policies can cause and exacerbate these concerns. We welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers and regulators to determine the best paths forward as state and federal cannabis policy evolves.”

In their written testimony, DEA, FDA and NIDA representatives generally described the current state of federal marijuana policy, unsurprisingly without advocating for changes to cannabis’s current criminal status. That said, both DEA and NIDA seemed to at least recognize that existing policies are inhibiting research into the plant and signaled that changes are on the horizon.

Volkow wrote that the growing availability of cannabis products, particularly with high concentrations of THC, “raise serious public health concerns.” At the same time, however, “despite the public health urgency, legal and regulatory barriers continue to present challenges to advancing cannabis research.”

“Obtaining or modifying a Schedule I registration [for researchers to study marijuana] involves significant administrative challenges, and researchers report that obtaining a new registration can take more than a year,” she said. “Adding new substances to an existing registration can also be time consuming.”

“It would be useful to clarify aspects of the [Controlled Substances Act] that have been sources of confusion and administrative burden for the research community,” she said.

Additionally, Volkow acknowledged that the current situation, where the government has only authorized one facility to cultivate cannabis for researchers, “limits the diversity of products and formulations available to researchers and slows the development of cannabis-based medications.”

“Although the University of Mississippi supplies cannabis for clinical trials, it does not have the capacity to manufacture a broad array of cannabis-derived formulations for research or to supply these cannabis products for commercial development,” she said.

Strait wrote that his agency remains committed to expanding the number of federally authorized cannabis manufacturers for research purposes, noting that DEA is reviewing the situation but that ” adjustments to DEA’s policies and procedures may be necessary under applicable U.S. law to be consistent with certain treaty functions.”

“In the near future, DEA intends to propose regulations that would govern persons seeking to become registered with DEA to grow marihuana as bulk manufacturers, consistent with applicable law, taking into account recent changes in the Controlled Substances Act,” he said. “At present, a notice of proposed rulemaking is under review by the Office of Management and Budget.”

Volkow raised another issue, which other federal agencies have previously recognized, noting that “researchers supported by NIDA and other federal agencies are unable to access marketed cannabis products through state marijuana dispensaries.”

“There is a significant gap in our understanding of their impact on health,” she said. “The recent outbreaks of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI), which has been linked to informally-sourced THC-containing vape products, underscores the critical importance of facilitating researcher access to different product sources.”

A NIDA staffer told Marijuana Moment in an email last week that “rigorous research is essential for understanding how the changing cannabis landscape will affect public health, for guiding evidence-based policy, and advancing therapeutics.”

“However, there are significant regulatory challenges to conducting research with marijuana and other Schedule I drugs,” the official said. “NIDA [has] been working with the DEA and FDA on ways to ameliorate these challenges, but there is nothing publicly available to share at this time.”

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China set to post weakest growth in 29 years as trade war bites, investment sputters

China is expected to report on Friday that economic growth slowed to its weakest in nearly three decades in 2019 amid a bruising trade war with the United States, and more stimulus steps are expected this year to help avert sharper slowdown.

While recent data have pointed to some signs of improvement in the ailing manufacturing sector, and a newly-signed Sino-U.S. trade deal has helped lift business confidence, analysts are not sure if the gains can be sustained.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the economy to have grown 6.0 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, unchanged from the previous quarter’s pace, which was the slowest since the first quarter of 1992, the earliest quarterly data on record.

For the whole of 2019, growth is expected to slow from 6.6% in 2018 to 6.1% — the weakest since 1990 — and cool further to 5.9% in 2020, a separate Reuters poll showed, reinforcing views that Beijing will roll out more stimulus measures.

Policy sources have told Reuters that Beijing plans to set a lower economic growth target of around 6% this year from last year’s 6-6.5%, relying on increased infrastructure spending to ward off a sharper slowdown.

China will release its fourth-quarter and 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) data on Friday (0200 GMT), along with December factory output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment.

Data on Tuesday showed China’s exports rose for the first time in five months in December and by more than expected, with imports also beating estimates, signaling a modest recovery in demand as Beijing and Washington agreed to de-escalate their prolonged trade war.

Underlining the pinch caused by the trade war, growth of China’s exports slowed to just 0.5% last year from a near 10% gain in 2018, reflecting falling U.S. sales.

The United States and China signed a partial trade deal on Wednesday that will roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of U.S. products. But most of the tit-for-tat levies imposed by the two sides over the past 18 months remain in place and a number of thorny issues are unresolved, raising the risk of a renewed flareup in tensions.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

This year is crucial for the ruling Communist Party to fulfill its goal of doubling GDP and incomes in the decade to 2020, and turning China into a “moderately prosperous” nation.

Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, has said that gross domestic product is expected to approach 100 trillion yuan ($14.52 trillion) in 2019, with per capita GDP surpassing $10,000 for the first time.

Growth of about 6% this year could be enough to meet the long-term goal, but policy insiders say Chinese leaders will have to ensure annual expansion of 5%-6% in the next several years to overcome the so-called “middle income trap”, where incomes rise to a certain level then stagnate.

Beijing has been relying on a mix of fiscal and monetary steps to weather the current downturn, cutting taxes and allowing local governments to sell huge amounts of bonds to fund infrastructure projects.

Banks also have been encouraged to lend more, especially to small firms, with new yuan loans hitting a record 16.81 trillion yuan ($2.44 trillion) in 2019. But the economy has been slow to respond, and investment growth has been stuck at record lows.

The central bank has banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR) – the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves – eight times since early 2018, most recently this month, alongside modest cuts in its key lending rate.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect further cuts in RRR and key interest rates this year. But Chinese policymakers have repeatedly said they will avoid unleashing the kind of massive stimulus used in past downturns, which quickly juiced growth rates but left a mountain of debt.

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Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen says it’s OK for the US to add to its $23 trillion debt pile

Former Fed chair Janet Yellen thinks it’s OK if the government adds to its $23 trillion debt load – although there are strings attached.

“Even under current conditions, I think we can afford to increase federal spending or cut taxes to stimulate the economy if there’s a downturn,” said Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chief, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, according to the Washington Post. “Chronic low interest rates create additional fiscal space.”

Yellen said that gives policymakers more room to embark on ambitious spending that could juice the nation’s long-term economic development right now.

“In a world of low real rates, there’s also a strong case for programs to invest in infrastructure, education, research and development, climate change mitigation – namely investments that would elevate potential growth,” Yellen said, according to the Post.

It marks a shift in Yellen’s previous thinking about the national debt and the future budget outlook. In 2017, when the debt stood at $20 trillion and Congress debated the GOP tax cut legislation, she said mounting level of federal  spending “should keep people awake at night.”

The former Fed chair forms part of a growing collection of economists who believe that targeted spending in programs – even if it adds to the debt – may not be so harmful if it spurs growth in the long run, especially in a competitive global economy. However, they do believe that type of deficit-spending should be paid back eventually.

It underscores an evolving view of federal spending as low interest rates make it cheaper to finance government initiatives. Currently, the Fed’s benchmark interest rate stands around 1.75% as it was cut three times last year.

Some criticized the Federal Reserve for hiking rates prematurely in the 2010s after the recession and holding back economic growth.

The deficit in fiscal year 2019 neared $1 trillion, a 26% jump from the year before, swelled by the 2017 Republican tax cuts and rising government spending. The Congressional Budget Office projected last year the deficit will continue growing between 2020 and 2029.

Some progressive economists, such as Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley, have called for additional taxes on the rich to pay for hefty spending programs in healthcare and education.

Both consulted with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in designing their plans for a wealth tax on the most-affluent Americans.

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Starton Therapeutics CEO talks through 2019 achievements and anticipated milestones in 2020

Starton Therapeutics CEO Pedro Lichtinger sat down with Proactive’s Christine Corrado at the Biotech Showcase 2020 in San Francisco. Lichtinger talks about how the New York-based company recently changed its name from ChemioCare, how the company is well capitalized to continue through Q1 to next year, its anticipate IPO, and recent ‘unprecedented results’ out of its in multiple myeloma therapy.

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