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Congo’s Child Cobalt Miners Can Be Saved by Blockchain Initiatives

Cobalt mining involving children in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be heavily reduced by applying blockchain solutions to the problem.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation. A project is set to be launched this year using blockchain in order to provide manufacturers of devices, such as iPhones, genuine information that guarantees that cobalt in their lithium-ion batteries is not mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mining sites and many of them being worked by children.

Congo holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and the demand for the main mineral component of lithium-ion batteries is set to surge as electric cars proliferate. According to Reuters, in 2016, Congo mined 54% of the total 123,000 tons of cobalt produced worldwide. Also, automaker Volkswagen is trying to secure long-term cobalt supplies to sustain their own electric car production, but need verification that no child labor has been involved in the production.

The proliferation in the use of lithium-ion has led to the increased volume demands. As a part of the deal, Volkswagen has made a move to demand guarantees that no children have been involved in the production process. Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda are planning to switch to solid-state batteries for their electric cars. These factors alone may reduce the volumes required worldwide.

Blockchain will offer much-increased supply chain transparency until a solution to finding an alternative source to cobalt can be found by phone companies and car manufacturers. Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett said, “You have to be wary of technological solutions to problems that are also political and economic, but blockchain may help. We’re not against it.”

Amnesty International is currently exploring the possibility of implementing blockchain technology to address the problem of child labor by enabling consumers to choose a mine to make their purchase. Illegal mines would have no registration and thereby easily identifiable through blockchain.

German carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE) has recently joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, a programme established under a Chinese industry body to tackle risks in the cobalt supply chain arising from artisanal mining. The initiative, set up in 2016 includes Apple, Sony, and Volvo and was established by the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters.

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Coinbase Maintains Optimism Despite Recent Popularity Slide

Crypto exchange giant Coinbase is reported to have recorded a decline in popularity over the past month, according to Ethereum World News.

The downturn in business correlates to a decline in app downloads since the recent fall in the global cryptocurrency market, where prices have suffered a 70% drop over the past six months.

The result is that short-term speculators are looking elsewhere for business and app downloaders have bypassed the Coinbase app, which at its peak was a go-to item in Apple and Google Play apps stores. According to Quartz, Coinbase app downloads have reached their lowest level in the US since last April when Bitcoin was selling at USD 1,250. At one point last year, Coinbase was one of Apple’s most downloaded apps.

Other statistics indicate that the Coinbase online platform has experienced a similar downturn with monthly visits to the site dropping from 126 million in January to 28 million in June with its other platform GDAX losing a further 5% than the parent company.

Despite Coinbase’s recent declining fortunes, the company is continuing its expansion, bringing new products to the market and recently opening an office in Portland, Oregon which has plans to hire over 100 employees.

Coinbase is an “open financial system that is not controlled by a central power”, maintains Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong who clearly remains upbeat and optimistic. His recent Tweet explained that he sees such slides as simply part of the overall crypto landscape:

“The crypto industry is like no other I’ve seen – lots of up and down cycles (reaching a new plateau each time). There have been 3 or 4 of these now. It can be scary the first time you see it, but to us who have been in the industry for many years, it feels like old news.”

However, another exchange giant, Binance, has seen its fortunes turn out to be quite a different story, with its user base going from strength to strength, experiencing a massive five times expansion since the beginning of the year, and is predicted to bring in USD 1 billion by December.


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Union Square Ventures to Tap Into Potential Trillion-Dollar Crypto Future

The New York-based venture capital firm, Union Square Ventures has announced new investments, including US exchange Coinbase, writes CNBC.

In a week when a competing venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, announced its first-ever fund dedicated to crypto companies, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, Albert Wenger has said his company won’t take the same route, stating, “We see a lot of upside to keeping it under the same roof.”

Although the company has no plans to create a separate fund as some of its VC competitors have, it sees big profits in the future:

“Investors are rationally pouring a lot of money into this sector because I think people are seeing the winning blockchain here might be worth a trillion, or a couple of trillion dollars,” Wenger said. “It’s not at all crazy to think that.”

Wenger says that he sees the real profits being generated from putting resources into supporting applications rather than the apps themselves, agreeing with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak that early investors in similar ventures may beat the risk of another bubble burst, this time blockchain style. Wenger admits that many projects are doomed to failure but the odd one if it is successful, can be huge.

Wenger referred to scams and failed ICOs, which have amounted to over 1,000 this year does the industry little good:

“You’ve had a series of ICOs where investors have purchased at steep discounts — the second it starts trading those investors cash out, they make a handsome return, and someone else is left to hold the bag,” he said adding that interesting projects are succeeding on far fewer funds.

Wenger admits to personally holding Bitcoin and his company has invested over the year watching its value drop by 60%. As for the future of the market, he feels investing in only one currency would be a mistake:

“The stuff that actually works will float to the top,” he said. “It might take a while, but time will tell.”

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Blockchain Startups Refusing to Fail in the First Few Years Will Make History

Many CEOs and cryptocurrency experts are suggesting that many startups will fail but those remaining have the potential to be huge successes thanks to the blockchain, writes Business Insider.

References to the dotcom bubble have been made too many times for it to be an original view but pundits from within the industry continue to predict that cryptocurrencies have the potential to change/rewrite the rules of financial markets.

eToro CEO,Yoni Assia’s view that 95% of startups are going to end up badly is shared by many in the industry, suggesting that ‘Selling crypto now is like selling Apple in 2001’ he goes on to suggest that it’s the survivors who will reap the benefits and changed the face of the market, in the same way as the internet transformed people’s lives by becoming a feature of everyone’s lives.

Statistics show that more than 1,000 cryptocurrency startups worldwide have raised over $10 billion over the last two years to build significant market changing software projects. Over $9 billion has been raised through ICOs since the start of the year, according to consultancy Autonomous NEXT.

These views were shared by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin recently, suggesting the current situation is similar to the nineties’ dot-com bubble, which ended badly for many companies, but left the survivors thriving. Assia argues:

“If you’re into this technology, you’re like, why hasn’t everybody moved on to this technology? It’s an endless opportunity to move things on to the blockchain. You have an insane amount of very smart people who are envisioning this future and trying to build products for it.”

IOTA creator Dominik Schiener also shares the view suggesting that out of 1400 recent projects he expects less than 10 to make it. With former JPMorgan trader Danny Masters, it could be an even smaller figure: suggesting that no more than 5% percent of ICOs are worth backing.

Many pundits and crypto experts see digital currency’s underlying technology blockchain as the factor that will be the most transformational aspect of the predicted crypto boom, some going as far as to suggest it will “remake society.” A recent Forbes article suggested that in a study of 4,800 professionals from around the world, 66% of people believe that innovation will be the biggest factor influencing economic growth over the next 30 years, and one of the most promising of these developments was blockchain.

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Apple Bows to Public Pressure over Crypto-Unfriendly Apps

Apple has made a number of store revisions in order to loosen its guidelines for crypto apps, reports A group known as the Developers Union had recently made requests to Apple to allow every app on the platform to free trials before July 2019, among suggestions for other improvements.

The union is an unofficial body which says that its aim is to “bring developers and supporters together for better App Stores for all”. It currently only has 400 members but hopes to stretch its membership to 20,000 this month according to The Register.

It appears that the IT multinational has been listening given its recent announcements, also noting how its apps are currently:

“Changing the world, enriching people’s lives, and enabling developers to innovate like never before. As a result, the App Store has grown into an ecosystem for millions of developers and more than a billion users.”

Telegram backer and self-proclaimed “global entrepreneur” Pavel Durov has blamed a lack of updates to his app on Apple “not siding with us” in the ongoing furore in Russia over the crypto-chat platform. He was forced to apologize to his customers due to features of the latest iOS 11.4 not working, alleging that Apple had prevented updates to Telegram. He has also blamed Apple for Telegram being unable to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation due to the alleged block on updates.

Apple’s latest announcement regarding cryptocurrency states: “Apps may facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, provided they are offered by the exchange itself. Cryptocurrency Apps may not offer currency for completing tasks, such as downloading other Apps, encouraging other users to download, posting to social networks, etc.”

This is a significant move from Apple’s position five years ago when the IT giant reportedly asked companies to remove cryptos from their apps. Regarding ICOs, Apple says that apps must facilitate transactions from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants and other approved financial institutions.

Apple specifies that apps can’t mine for cryptos “unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining)”.


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Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Prefers Bitcoin Over All Other Currencies

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is exuberant about Bitcoin and hopes that it will become the single global currency. He states that Bitcoin goes along with his personal ideology of mathematics, purity, and science. He likes how Bitcoin is not controlled by any individual or organization, instead it is decentralized and controlled by mathematics. He sees Bitcoin as a naturally evolving force of nature.

He said all this during an interview by CNBC on 4 June 2018 at the Money 20/20 conference in Amsterdam, an event where the financial tech, payments, and financial services industry experts came together to discuss the future of money.

He expects the price of Bitcoin to continue going up since Bitcoin has a limited supply according to a mathematical formula, unlike fiat currency like the USD which can be printed at will, and also since demand for Bitcoins will be going up long term. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey said Bitcoin would become the single global currency, and while Steve Wozniak doesn’t agree with that, he hopes it will come true.

Wozniak is a technology pioneer, having designed and developed the Apple I in 1976 as well as the Apple II in 1977, which are the first widely used personal computers in history. Without him, Apple computers would have never existed, so some feel it is perhaps appropriate to consider him the true founder of Apple.

Wozniak purchased Bitcoin for experimentation purposes when its price was USD 700 and watched as it went all the way up to USD 20,000. He never wanted to be a Bitcoin investor, so he sold all but one Bitcoin, and is keeping it so he can keep experimenting. He also has 2 Ether, and says he sees lots of potential for Ethereum since it is a platform and platforms tend to grow since there are lots of people developing applications on it.

He believes only Bitcoin is pure digital gold since it is fully decentralized and mathematically correct, and that other cryptocurrencies stray from this purity in their attempts to have a business model.


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New Apple Virus Hijacking Computers to Mine Monero

A new computer virus which infects Apple Mac OS computers and hijacks their processing power to mine the Monero cryptocurrency has been discovered by Malwarebytes Labs.

This is the latest in a series of cryptocurrency miner viruses that have been infecting Mac OS computers including Pwnet, CpuMeaner, and CreativeUpdate. These viruses slow down computers since they use up a lot of processing power and they cause the computer to consume much more electricity than normal, affecting processor lifespan.

Additionally, computers tend to get quite hot when using all of their processing power to mine cryptocurrency, causing the fan to blow at full power all the time as it struggles to keep computers cool enough to operate. Sustained overheating can damage computers.

Indeed, the new virus which mines Monero was discovered because users noticed their computer fans whirring abnormally due to an open process called mshelper which was found to consume all processing power. Mshelper is based off the open-source Monero mining software XMRig. Essentially, this software cryptographically hashes transactions and organizes them into blocks to maintain and secure the Monero network.

There have been many instances of viruses hijacking computers to mine cryptocurrency. A famous example was the Smominru botnet which infected 526,000 computers at its peak and generated millions of USD worth of Monero.

Monero is popular for the stealthy features of its CryptoNote protocol. With Monero, other than the sender and receiver, it is virtually impossible for anyone else to know the destination address for a transaction, unlike Bitcoin which has a public ledger that makes tracing transactions simple. This makes Monero ideal for illegal cryptocurrency mining programs like mshelper and the Smominru botnet, since the illegal proceeds generated from them are extremely difficult to trace.

It is important to run regular virus scans with trustworthy software since that will identify and remove these sort of viruses if they are known. Of course, sometimes viruses are brand new and not even known by anti-virus software developers, so it is important to also keep an eye on the processes running on computers.

Users are recommended to research processes that use high amounts of processing power. If the process cannot be identified, is non-essential and was not intentionally downloaded, it is likely to be malicious software.


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Apple, Twitter Founders Upbeat on Future of Bitcoin and Blockchain

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, appearing at the WeAreDevelopers World Congress in Vienna on Wednesday, told the assembled audience that he saw both blockchain and cryptocurrencies reaching their future full potential in just a decade, according to Cointelegraph.

Wozniak’s speech at the IT conference, Europe’s largest of its kind attracting roughly 8,000 visitors from 70 countries, opened the event, where he was attending to present his views on how blockchain was shaping the future of the technology sector. On this occasion, he focused his attention on the advancement of blockchain in his address with a less flamboyant approach, unlike his comments at the October Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas last year, when he referred to Bitcoin as “better” and more “stable” than gold.

Referred to by the Apple co-founder as “the next major IT revolution that is about to happen”, Wozniak suggested that within the decade, decentralized technology would need to be adopted more widely and not simply limited to cryptocurrency, but applied to a diversity of sectors. However, he did point out that DLT had an advantage over fiat currencies due to the limitation on how many Bitcoins could exist, given that the US dollar could simply be printed, describing Bitcoin as more “genuine and real”.

Another major IT player, Jack Dorsey, was speaking at another gathering, the Consensus conference in New York, on the same day. The founder of Twitter and CEO of Square expressed a view there that he was positive that, in the future, the “internet is going to have a native currency”, hoping that it would be Bitcoin. He said that a common digital currency used by everyone would be the future, although until then people would continue to use various digital and traditional currencies to pay for goods and services, Fortune reports.

Like Wozniak, Dorsey has long been a supporter of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. His company Square allows for Bitcoin transactions, and buys and sells the digital currency.


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