Daily Archives: December 1, 2018

North America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23-29 November 2018

North America

North America

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news, continent by continent and country by country.

United States

Federal Reserve Bank Blames Bitcoin Futures Markets for BTC Price Decline: The Federal Reserve has officially blamed the launch of Bitcoin Futures Market for the recent decline in Bitcoin’s price according to a letter published on its website.

According to the online publication, Bitcoin Futures launch on December 17 last year converted the biggest bitcoin bull into a bearish situation. The Fed also goes on to make comparisons with falls in other assets’ prices after the launch of futures markets including the mortgage industry whose uptick was neutralised by the launch of mortgage securities. The dollar issuer then goes on to say that the Bitcoin could have kept rising past $20,000 if the futures had not been launched.

Federal Government Places Sanctions on Bitcoin Addresses: The United States has issued sanctions against several Bitcoin addresses as a first in the country. According to the government, the addresses were set up by two Iranians to help a ransomware scheme.

The sanctions were issued by the United States Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control. People in the US and partnering entities are now banned from sending BTC to these addresses.

Lettuce Outbreak Results in FDA Seeking Blockchain Solution: A recent lettuce E. Coli break has resulted in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to seek a blockchain-based solution for food tracking in a supply chain. 

According to Dr. Scott Gottlieb in a CNBC interview, the FDA had requested that a food safety expert formerly of Walmart to act as a food and veterinary medicine supply commissioner. Dr. Gottlieb continued on and said that the new addition will help the administration to introduce new tools for tracking food, with blockchain being looked at as a viable solution.

Court Overturns Security Designation of ICO by SEC: In one of the first ruling of its kind, a judge of the Southern District of California has declared that the security classification by SEC on an ICO was not justified. 

ICO Blockvest had been walking a tightrope when it came to security designation from the SEC, but never explicitly broke the rules according to the judgment. While the decision is unique and first-of-its-kind, the ICO is still not exonerated as other charges remain on the project.

USD Tether Restarts Direct USD Redemption: USDT is slowly returning back to its best as the stablecoin company has announced that the direct redemption of the silverback is set to be re-enabled after months of issues that even affected the price of USDT against USD in the open market.

Tether currently is the top stablecoin in the market with over $1.8 billion market cap and it is ranked seventh on cryptocurrency market cap tables.

Mexico

Blockchain Association Formed With Consensys as First Member: The Central American country has seen the formation of the first blockchain association with ConsenSys starting the rostrum as the founding member.

According to Forbes Mexico, the new association has members who represent the fintech facet of the industry. Several local exchanges and hedge funds have found a seat on the table including Bitso, Volabit, Lvna Capital, etc in addition to ConsensSys.

Canada

Air Canada Partnering to Develop Blockchain Travel Solutions: Air Canada, the national flag carrier of the country is now partnering with a blockchain firm for developing a distribution system based on Blockchain technology.

Winding Tree, the partnering DLT company has created an open source blockchain marketplace where agents can arrange flights at their own commission rates.

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23-29 November 2018

Asia

Asia and Australia

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest in cryptocurrency-related news, continent by continent and country by country.

China

Chinese Investors wants Government to Regulate Fintech Markets: President of a major Chinese financial investment company is of the opinion that China should regulate the fintech market since the uncontrolled check is leading to many subpar platforms being launched which would ultimately prove to be disastrous for the country’s industry.

Vince Zhang of Phoenix Finance was speaking on CNBC’s East Tech West when he made the suggestion. He was worried that the industry was at “a very big risk” without proper management and control. “A lot of companies are not [there] in terms of their business plan, in terms of their risk management process, in terms of their overall management… A lot of these corporate control mechanisms are not in place.”

South Korea

Government Announces Plans for Blockchain E-Voting System: The South Korean government has announced its plans to test blockchain technology for an e-voting system. The National Election Commission will oversee the trials with the help of the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT. The trials will be run by Seoul National University’s own Blockchain Society in conjunction with the Korea Internet and Security Agency.

Electronic voting using decentralized ledger technology such as blockchain is gathering interest and momentum in recent months.

Philippines

Manila Residents Pay in ETH for a Local Beach Cleanup: Manila residents have paid in ETH for cleaning up one of the dirtiest plastic-filled beaches in the city. The burgeoning population of the Philippines and lack of recycling culture has resulted in a lot of problems for the local beachgoers, so much that the public paid for a cleanup drive on the beach with ETH.

The cleanup was carried out by ConsenSys, a blockchain solution company founded by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin. He said:

“In Manila, participants will be paid in ETH for spending a few hours cleaning up one of the most heavily polluted beaches in the world. Bounties Network and ConsenSys Impact are proving a new model where people fund causes directly without intermediaries.”

In the future, citizens will be able to use a Dapp to receive rewards in ETH for work like this.

Malaysia

Government to Release Crypto Regulation by Q1 2019: The Malaysian government is considering to release cryptocurrency regulations in the country by early 2019, according to a local news piece quoting the country’s finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

According to Lim:

“It is not that we wish to obstruct (cryptocurrency) as we are keeping an open mind. But it is still subject to existing laws.”

Malaysian cryptocurrency issuers will also now be required to get central bank approval before trading in the sector according to Eng.

Hong Kong

Port Operator Joins IBM Blockchain Shipping Platform: Second largest container port in Hong Kong has joined Maersk and IBM’s TradeLens blockchain shipping project. Modern Terminals, the said port was the latest to join the blockchain shipping project that has seen other partners join from around the world.

TradeLens is one of the most notable platforms launched in the blockchain shipping sector. It has more than 230 docks and 20 operators present around the world from Europe, North America to now Asia Pacific region including PSA Singapore, Port of Bilbao, PortConnect and Port of Philadelphia.

Australia

Aussies Relying Less on Cash: The Reserve Bank of Australia’s Governor has admitted that Aussies have dramatically reduced their reliance on cash thus making way for digital cash. Contactless payments now amount to as much as 60% of all electronic transactions in the continent.

According to Governor Philip Lowe:

“For some decades, people have been speculating that we might one day go cashless – that we would no longer be using banknotes for regular payments and that almost all payments would be electronic…”

While the RBA is skeptical about Bitcoin, the admission is seen as positive news by the Australian crypto community as the rising cashless transactions can become the gateway for future crypto adoption.

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Europe: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23-29 November 2018

Europe

Europe

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest cryptocurrency related news, continent by continent and country by country.

Norway

Government Ends Mining Subsidy: The Scandinavian country has left the local crypto mining industry in shock after its government announced it will be ending all forms of utility subsidies to the energy-hungry farms. The removal of the subsidy means an increase of a whopping 35 times.

Following the ruling, the subsidies will be lifted from January next year, leaving little time for mining companies to prepare themselves to face the full brunt of their energy consumption. Understandably, the news has not gone down well with the local crypto mining industry.

Switzerland

Court Orders Closure of Mining Farm: The Cantonal Court of Zug ordered crypto mining firm Envion AG to shut down after it found the firm’s ICO to be unauthorized.

The dispute between its two partners saw them landing in court, battling out who was right. In the proceedings, the court found the platform in violations of rules and regulations and ordered it to shut down operations and the platform to be liquidated.

United Kingdom

FCA Adds to Suspicious Crypto Businesses List: Local British news outlet, Telegraph reported that UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has nearly doubled its list of suspicious cryptocurrency based businesses, who might be operating without proper approval. FCA was forced to give out the information after The Telegraph used a Freedom of Information request. The number of investigations stands at 50, up from 25 in May this year.

The clampdown on cryptocurrency businesses is a double tactic, with UK’s government pondering over drafting regulations for the industry. Telegraph also reported that an accountant within FCA suggested that the high number of investigations could be a result of the recent falling prices of tokens in the market.

Ireland

Blockchain Revolution Stalled by Insufficient Human Resource: Ireland is one of the leading countries when it comes to promoting blockchain education. However, a survey by PR firm Wachsman indicates that nearly 75% of Irish people are not willing to go into the blockchain industry.

CEO David Wachsman said, People in Ireland don’t know yet how transformative a technology blockchain is and that it’s such a wide-ranging technology,” suggesting that people believe the risks involved are too great and outweigh the potential the technology has.

Belarus

Government Establishes Cryptocurrency Regulations in the Country: According to High Technology Park documents, a special economic zone in Belarus has established regulations for cryptocurrency operations in the country. The documents are 5 in number, covering topics such as ICOs, crypto exchanges, internal control roles and rules for crypto platform operators.

The set of these documents form “a complete legal regulation of cryptocurrency in Belarus” which is enforced in conjunction with the National Bank, Financial Monitoring Department, international experts, and other bodies.

Malta

Maltese Exchange to Partner with the English Premier League: Malta’s leading Bitcoin exchange OKEx announced it was partnering with England’s Premier League. Through this partnership, the platform aims to raise awareness about cryptocurrencies among football fans and increase OKEx’s profile.

The partnership will allow OKEx to advertise its platform at the biggest games between high profile football teams.

Russia

Significant Increase in the Sale of Second Hand Mining Rigs: As the crypto market tumbled, Russia has seen an increase in the sale of second-hand mining rigs. Youla, an online Russian marketplace, reported a 25% increase in the sale of used rigs during the Bitcoin price double-dip.

A large number of miners in Russia are amateur ones, having smaller mining rig setups connected to mining pools, collectively solving block equations and distributing the profits. With tumbling prices, small miners would have faced issues continuing operations that are energy intensive and are yielding little profits.

Russia, in another news, is partnering up with India for cooperation in different fields including blockchain development. The joint statement read “both sides agreed to explore joint working arrangements and pilot projects in healthcare, proposed setting up of a single-window clearance.”

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Enter the Lamborghini Raffle for 0.00057 BTC While Helping Charity

Enter the Lamborghini Raffle for 0.00057 BTC While Helping Charity

Dunstan Low is giving people the chance to win a Lamborghini for just EUR 2, around BTC 0.00057, by taking part in his raffle. Not only that, the winner will be able to donate 2% of the funds raised to a local charity of their choice.

Yes, the Lamborghini is a nod to every cryptocurrency investor’s infamous dream. ”It’s a lighthearted way to get started,” Low told Bitcoin News, saying it’s important for him to establish trust with cryptocurrency users before he tackles more difficult issues through his raffles, which he certainly intends to.

”There are a lot of house raffles with more difficult stories and unfortunate circumstances that I want to help in the future, but feel that we need to establish trust in the first instance,” he said.

Why offer a crypto payment option?

Participants can enter the raffle using Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ripple among other cryptocurrency options. After following the digital currency revolution for several years, the idea of taking power away from institutions and giving it back to the people very much appealed to Low.

”I’m actively involved in developing a few business models that build on the raffle concept more like a decentralized method of crowdfunding that focuses on the social role and circular economies. At this point, the raffle model shares ideas with these broader and more ethos based works whilst providing a fun and new opportunity for people,” he explained.

Given this framing, a cryptocurrency raffle is Low’s ideal scenario. While there are plans to add fiat payment support, he would prefer to avoid traditional models and existing banking infrastructure as much as he can.

The website enlists payment gateway Coingate to facilitate transactions, which Low says has proven easy compared with standard payment providers.  He noted ”I would highly recommend the option, it’s just so revolutionary and gives you a fuzzy feeling when a payment arrives and it hasn’t touched a bank.”

Participants can also check the website for details on how to enter the raffle for free by post.

Provably fair, how?

Several questions have been raised over how it can be proven to be a completely fair raffle. The draw of Low’s last raffle (detailed below) was conducted by a Google random number generator on a random journalist phone, with the button pressed by a solicitor while around 30 journalists filmed the moment.

”We are currently looking at how to translate this into a provably fair draw using the blockchain, my developer is looking at the requirements and if we can make this happen. If not, we are happy at this point to use a solicitor or Gambling commission approved vendor, but blockchain is much more exciting and independent, so research is underway.”

Crypto charity

Low’s perspective is that cryptocurrency could be a great way to reduce costs and create transparency in the charity sector, generally benefiting any good causes.

But more than that he believes cryptocurrency can provide much more robust and scalable solutions to solve broader problems in terms of social wellbeing, healthcare, housing, income, and innovation. ”I honestly believe that new economies can and will be built on the utility of cryptocurrencies with social ROI and crowdfunding as a core part of the model for democracy and economic growth,” he said.

The winner gets to choose the charity this time around, but Low has plans to bypass charities in future ventures, donating instead directly to communities that help promote redevelopment and growth.
Look out for more raffles from Low in the future, as he hopes to make them a regular occurrence. He told Bitcoin News: ”Hopefully we can start small and build up to holding regular raffles with a broad range of prizes from small items up to private islands, every Bitcoiner needs one with their Lambo! But seriously, we hope to scale up and reduce our overhead and create a new method to help as many good causes as possible and to eventually build outwards into potentially more interesting and nuanced models.”
As he puts it, raffles are a good way to attract people to donate for good causes that may not be on their radar in a way that direct charity donations can not, even if people are just participating because they want the Lambo.

How it all started

In 2017 bankruptcy fears and the refusal for a new mortgage led Low to raffle off his home at GBP 2 a ticket. Maybe not the first option for most, Low devised the plan while faced with around GBP 4000 in monthly expenses with no income, and to top it off a GBP 250 per month mortgage payment increase when he requested a better deal from the bank.

Low and his wife spent at least two years struggling to sell their house, even at one point listing the sale in Bitcoin to attract more buyers. ”I was lucky enough not to be divorced by my understanding wife” he joked.

When his wife found out about the mortgage increase she insisted they hand back keys to the house. While agreeing with her at the time, Low took the next two days to concoct a plan for the raffle in secret, identifying where previous raffles had faced troubles and how they could be avoided. Noting that raffles have often found themselves foul of gambling commission guidelines which are ambiguous enough to easily create delays, legal threats and cast doubt on the operation, Low realized that by offering free entry as an option to participants he would not be subject to the regulations.

”I decided to run with this idea, thinking how great it would be that anyone could afford to enter and therefore anyone had the chance to win the house,” he explained.

After sending a press release to a local news outlet, he was thrilled to receive a response just one hour later telling him they would come to the house to look around. An article was posted on the same day, and GBP 2,000 worth of entry fees for the raffle were collected. ”I was amazed,” he said.

The following day the Daily Mail picked up the story and things really sped up; ”whilst eating our dinner at the local supermarket my phone started to go insane. I logged into analytics and there were thousands of users on the site and money was rolling in at the rate of around GBP 300 a minute. Over the course of that day, we had over GBP 103,000 worth of entries, it was absolutely unexpected.”

Over the next three weeks or so they collected around GBP 375,000 until trouble reappeared.
”Having used PayPal as a payment provider, obviously against their terms of service, the dreaded risk came true: they noticed the raffle and got very cold feet. Six weeks of negotiations later and I managed to persuade PayPal that this was a genuine cause and we were indeed in arrears and would lose our house. They in their goodwill allowed us to run with strict guidelines and restrictions in place, however, by this point, all momentum had been killed.”
 
Taking a step back, Low created postcards reading ”win a house” and unsuccessfully tried handing them out to the disinterested people of Manchester.
 
Luck fell on them, however, in the form of a young reporter striking up a conversation with Low regarding drug use in the city. Sharing with her his postcard, the following story brought in another GBP 400,000: ”fate really helped us that day.”
Fast forward six months and they hit their target, got featured on the BBC One Show, handed the house off to raffle winner Marie Segar, and donated GBP 3 0,000 to St Johns Hospice in Lancaster and GBP 10,000 to NYAS in Birkenhead, both UK based charities.
”So we beat the bank and kickstarted a small raffle revolution, around 50 raffles around the world followed and I have been asked to raffle around 500 million pounds worth of property from portfolios of houses, private islands, castles, and luxury cars,” Low shared.

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SEC Boss Unwavering on the Woes of Crypto Investments

SEC Boss Unwavering On The Woes of Crypto Investments

In an interview with columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin of the Times Talk on 29 November, the Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Jay Clayton has expressed an unyielding stance towards the perceptions of the cryptocurrency markets. Clayton emphasized the lack of safeguards in this emerging market structure – hence his skepticism, however, he was for a balance that involved protecting the interests of investors.

The interview lasted for about an hour, and few minutes into the interview, when Andrew asked Sorkin where he has landed with the whole regulation process, Clayton responded saying:

“There are two rule sets for the securities market, one for the offering and sale of securities, and the other for the trading of securities. Our rules have stood the test of time very well and we should not change them to adapt to technology. Technology ought to be able to fit within our rules”.

Despite his view of the technology as having “promise for adding efficiency to our [capital] marketplace”, he is worried about the investors’ protection aspects of the rules currently governing the capital markets being not readily applicable to the cryptocurrency market.

In explaining the difference between a currency and a commodity, Clayton made it clear that Bitcoin is considered a currency because it’s widely distributed and its distribution was not controlled by a single entity. It’s used as a medium of exchange, and you’re not looking to the efforts of others to increase your return. In the case of a commodity, they generally have a use other than a medium of exchange, which he inferred Bitcoin had none.

A baffling response emerged from Clayton when he was asked in line with Managing Director and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde’s public opinion of cryptocurrencies in the future as being backed by governments and whether current token offerings would then be validated or will be phased out due to a regulated version. Clayton responded, “we’ll see.”

During the discussion, Clayton revealed to Sorkin how the agency had been trying so hard to educate investors on the dangers of investing in the cryptocurrency and similar markets. He essentially maintained that there are risks involved when participating in such investments. Clayton said:

“We tried to get the word out that although the trading looks like the trading you would see on Nasdaq or on the New York Stock Exchange, these markets do not have the same kinds of safeguards for you. We’ve worked for […] seventy years to try to prevent manipulation in those [traditional] markets, to try and prevent people from taking advantage of the small player.”

In the long-term, Clayton’s view on a regulated cryptocurrency market will hinge on the permanent use case, but right now, he perceives this is currently unclear as there are lots of successes and failures as with any new emerging technology.

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Cryptocurrency Legislation Completed in Belarus

Cryptocurrency Legislation Completed in Belarus

A document published today by Belarus High-Technologies Park (HTP), reveals that the country has come up with governing rules for operating the cryptocurrency market.

The document was termed as “the second stage of cryptocurrency regulation”, which contained details of the approved regulations for activities with digital tokens. It specified requirements for different businesses looking to venture into the world of cryptocurrencies or initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the country.

Prior to this recent development, another policy was signed last year containing general operational guidelines for the industry. This was filed under the Decree No. 8 ‘On the Development of the Digital Economy’. In this decree, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency exchange operators, mining, smart contracts, blockchains, and tokens were legalized.

In this second phase of the regulation drafting, six reference documents have been drafted up to include the HTP Supervisory Board Decision, requirements for applicants, crypto platform operators, cryptocurrency exchanges, ICO organizers and requirements for internal control rules.

These documents all together now constitute a comprehensive support for cryptocurrency activities in Belarus. It should be noted that “the HTP administration, together with the National Bank, the Financial Monitoring Department of the State Control Committee, international experts and other bodies, compiled and signed all the necessary documents”, as reported by Belarusian news outlet Dev.by.

HTP is an area dedicated to providing special opportunities dedicated to the growth of the IT industry in the country. Popularly termed as the Belarusian Silicon Valley, some of the achievements of the Belarus HTP include exports of 80% of the total production from companies within the area to the North American and the European technology markets. Tech companies thrive in the area due to tax exemption policies favoring them. More so, companies around Belarus don’t need to physically build there before they can operate in the area.

So far, Belarus has shown support for the blockchain and seems to be throwing its weight heavily behind it, as it attracts new businesses because of its cryptocurrency friendliness while extending a hand of invitation to other countries for crypto-related services.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 23rd to 29th November 2018

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

South Africa

New draft tax law could have crypto implication: A South African law firm’s analysis of the recent draft law published by the national treasury regulator could have negative implications for the cryptocurrency sector. 

According to Cox Yeats Attorneys based in Durban, the recent Taxation Laws Amendment Bill will be bad for the digital currency industry. The bill is the first attempt by the government to regulate the cryptocurrency industry which has largely remained unregulated till now. The proposed changes include revisions to the Income Tax Act and Value Added Tax Act.

Nigeria

Union Bank warns against crypto usage: The Union Bank of Nigeria has cautioned the public against using cryptocurrencies and their transactions according to a letter sent to its users on 26 November.

The letter was published at popular Nigerian online community portal Nairaland which has over 55 million users. The community saw a letter being circulated citing the Central Bank of Nigeria saying that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender and cautioning against transacting in them.

According to the bank: “In order to guarantee the security of our customers’ funds, Union Bank will monitor accounts being used for cryptocurrency transactions and may impose restrictions including closure of such accounts.”

While the Union Bank of Nigeria is a commercially run bank with assets worth USD 4.1 billion, it suggests that even the private banking sector is not keen on adopting cryptocurrencies.

Kenya

Central bank digital currency under discussion: A Kenyan author has recently analyzed the case for a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in the country. While the Nigerian currency itself is quite prone to inflation, it pales next to the recent price tank of cryptocurrencies in the market so the topic can be a challenging one for the government.

The analysis points out that even though the creation of CBDCs is usually aimed at fixing the issues with the current system, the idea is invariably tied to the whole concept of cryptocurrencies and how they can ideologically not be manipulated by governments. It observes that a CBDC will probably be open for government manipulation and thus it will lose its original purpose. The Nigerian government is advised to think long and hard before embarking on any attempt to launch one.

Uganda

Government looking to regulate crypto as fake schemes proliferate: The Ugandan government is looking to regulate cryptocurrencies in the country after witnessing a recent increase in crypto-related scams.

Minister of State for Finance Planning David Bahati revealed this week that the government was finalizing a bill on national digital payments that has a focus on cryptocurrencies as well. This bill will be given to the parliament for approval in December.

Specifics regarding the new law are not available at the moment but it is expected that cryptocurrency scams are being singled out in the country.

Israel

Businessman charged with ICO embezzlement: A “cryptopreneur” has reportedly been arrested in Israel on embezzlement charges in connection with his role with two Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and their missing funds.

According to Israeli media outlets, the court case was initiated by 17 affectees of the ICOs and their defunct binary company AnyOption against Moshe Hogeg, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur. According to reports, issues between the coin holders and Hogeg arose after he failed to meet deadlines. Eventually, he was accused of being involved in the funds going missing.

 

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