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Bitcoin Mining Latest in Paraguayan Mega Dams’ Checkered History

A remote area of Paraguay close to the borders of Brazil and Argentina is developing its own crypto mining sub- culture thanks to the world’s largest dam.

Itapúa Hydroelectric Dam is the largest operational hydroelectric energy producer in the world, with an installed generation capacity of 14GW. Its guarded by armed patrols and situated on the outskirts of Ciudad del Este, a Paraguayan border town which has become a hotbed for smuggling, cartels and drugs. The town of 300,000 has gained a reputation as being part of Paraguay’s lawless wild west.

However, it has a new community and it is growing rapidly. The CPUs have come to town.

Where there’s a dam, there’s sure to be power and a growing group of crypto miners isn’t wasting the opportunity. In an industry which has virtually sprung up overnight, an estimated 20,000 units are now generating Bitcoin and Ether.

Neighboring Brazil sells its energy at five times the price of its poorer cousin, which makes Paraguay an attractive proposition for would-be miners. A fact that hasn’t been wasted on many, according to Gregorio Bareiro, who has seen his air conditioning business rocket since the CPUs came to town. “Some people have become multimillionaires,” he says.

Bariero now provides miners with cooling systems and rents out 750 computers of his own, mainly to Brazilians, Europeans and North Americans. He now hires a dozen staff and has his own plans for installing mines in portable trailers. He sees the potential in Ciudad del Este for lifting the struggling economy, if it were approached on a grand scale. “Paraguay today is the only place where there’s abundant energy,” he pointed out. “We can become the center of global Bitcoin mining.”

The newly-established entrepreneur-cum-air-conditioning-salesman feels that if Itaipú’s power were used to reduce energy prices, the Chinese owners of the 150,000 units might be lured to Paraguay. “In ten years, it would generate enough money to pay Paraguay’s external debt,” he suggested. “With our resources, we ought to have electric helicopters, drones for transporting goods…”

Cristine Folch of Duke University sees data centers powered by clean energy enticing the likes of like Google, Apple and Facebook putting “Paraguay on the edge of the technological frontier”.

The dam certainly has the potential to change lives for the better, one that has already been missed due to politics and corruption. Miguel Carter, a Paraguayan development expert explains that by negotiating a fairer price for its energy, Paraguay could fund its hospitals, schools and railways – all in dire need of upgrading.

Carter saw the potential for a better world lost when Brazil beat Paraguay to the signing of the 1973 Itaipú treaty which lost Paraguay a potential USD 57.7 billion in income. Also in October of this year, it was confirmed that Brazil’s military regime murdered its ambassador to Paraguay in 1979 to prevent the revelation of billions of dollars in kickbacks during the construction of the dam.

“When I saw the numbers I burst into tears,” Carter said. “I know of so many stories of Paraguayans going to hospital and losing their loved ones… there would have been lives saved, kids with a decent education. You could have had a different country.”

Similarly, another study group is calling for energy created from the dam currently sold overseas to be redirected back into the Paraguayan economy with the potential to create 2 million jobs, quadrupling GDP.

It appears that the new spate of crypto mining is the latest in Itapúa’s colorful history. It remains to be seen in whose hands this wealth of resources finally ends and if it contributes to simply creating more wealthy individuals or a wealthy national economy.

 

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Leaving Silicon Valley for Blockchain

In a recent duo of interviews conducted by Forbes, two ex-Silicon Valley engineers shared why they left their ‘dream jobs’ to pursue a future in blockchain as a growing number of workers do the same.

Startups are eager to hook employees from the big-name Silicon Valley tech companies to boost their industry standing and tempt investors. This, combined with a growing amount of interest in the blockchain space since the 2017 Bitcoin boom, will only increase the trend towards blockchain companies.

Maximilian Wang, an ex-Facebook engineer turned blockchain CEO

It was in 2017 when Wang first heard about blockchain. As an engineer with Facebook Inc., he tried telling his colleagues about the technology but most of them apparently dismissed it as a scam. It became a passion for him to studiously examine blockchain whitepapers in his own time. He learned whatever he could teach himself, so when the right project came along, he would be prepared for it.

”The hardest part was not when you saw an opportunity to make money and you needed to figure out how to get that opportunity… What made it hard was that after seeing everything happened in the world outside, at the end of the day, you still had to come back to reality and try your best to focus on your work [at Facebook],” Wang told Forbes.

Eventually, the right project did come along for him: Bgogo, a digital asset exchange that claims to be the first of its kind with a supernode listing authority. Wang wants to take it right to the top, with ambitions to make it the JPMorgan Chase of the blockchain world.

Qi Zhou left Facebook and Google to develop his own blockchain

Zhou was inspired by Google’s own Bigtable data storage system and saw a way that the underlying technology of sharding could also be done with blockchain.

”When I see an opportunity there, why can’t I go after it,” he told Forbes. Zhou’s project QuarkChain is a  high-capacity peer-to-peer transactional system.

Will blockchain meet Silicon Valley?

As blockchain becomes more far-reaching, it becomes inevitable that its share of the space in the valley will increase. However, it is likely that Google and Facebook will continue to lose engineers such as Zhou and Wang because the foundations of their corporations are so far opposed to the decentralized ideology behind blockchain.

 

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Fake News Site Promotes Crypto Startup with New Zealand PM’s Images

The image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been used as a tool for promoting a crypto start-up via a fake news site.

A local media source reported that sponsored stories had been posted on Facebook using the New Zealand PM’s image with article titles such as “This is where the future lies”, and “New Investment plan for Kiwis”. The former title related to a fake article claiming that the NZ treasury had purchased Bitcoin Revolution, a supposed Bitcoin firm.

It is not an unusual occurrence to have fake news sites use Ardern for promotions, according to a government spokeswoman at the Prime Minister’s office, claiming that the numbers of such occurrences are so frequent they’ve become almost impossible to track. She said:

“We aren’t able to manually or digitally monitor the increasing volume of fake news that fraudulently uses images of the Prime Minister.”

In August, an MP attacked the Prime Minister using a well-known fake news website to make her point, Tweeting an article challenging Ardern to denounce French child abuse laws. The PM showed her dismay at the time that politicians in positions of responsibility were using such sites to air their concerns publicly, arguing:

“We need politicians to make sure that we maintain a standard, that we don’t disseminate misinformation.”

This kind of fake media spin, which uses celebrities to supposedly endorse startups or investment opportunities has also been used to promote a number of cryptocurrency scams in the UK in 2018. British Billionaire and TV personality Alan Sugar recently joined an ever-expanding list of wealthy entrepreneurs whose names have been used in the promotion of cryptocurrency scams.

The New Zealand PM joins a growing list of those being targeted including Bill Gates, Richard Branston, Deborah Meaden and money saving expert Martin Lewis, who is currently pursuing his battle with Facebook in the High Court.

Ardern’s office has reportedly contacted Facebook and asked for the posts removed. The PM said earlier this year that she would expect any of her ministers using fake news sites to post stories to take them down.

 

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Facebook Needs to Expand New Blockchain Team

Facebook is continuing to expand its recently formed blockchain team under its head, ex-Coinbase director David Marcus.

A team of high profile players from the IT and blockchain/crypto environment is taking shape and with the latest position coming available, Facebook will be searching for some big shoes to fit the role. The latest position on the team is for a Global Brand Development Lead, as described in its rather vague job description:

“Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don’t have now – that could be things like equitable financial services, it could be new ways to save, it could be new ways to share information.”

Facebook mentions that its internal startup is “exploring lots of areas of interest across all facets of blockchain technology”, which appears to be leaving the door ajar for those that feel they might have the attributes to add to the social media’ giants blockchain aspirations at some stage in the future.

With David Marcus the former head of the Facebook messenger app, under whose guidance, its user base exploded to over 1 billion people, and Evan Chang as Blockchain Engineering Director, the company is clearly planning to stake a claim in the industry.

Other roles that need filling as part of Facebook’s blockchain push include a Head of Global Community & Media Director, Head of Brand, Product Marketing Lead, Head of Business Development & Partnerships, Strategic Planning & Operations Lead, Software Engineer, and finally a Software Engineering Manager to be based in Tel Aviv.

Marcus originally intended to create “a small group to explore how to best leverage blockchain for Facebook”, when he made his plans known in May of this year, but Facebook is a big company and the positions advertised demonstrate just how technically unequipped it is for the intended job in hand.

 

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Breaking News: Google Announces Partial Lift of Crypto Ads Ban

In breaking news, Google has announced that it plans to allow some platforms to advertise on its platform, breaking its blanket ban on cryptocurrency advertising introduced in June 2018.

The latest news released on Tuesday 25 September suggests that the new policy will become effective in October which will allow registered crypto companies to advertise on its Google Adwords platform.

The initial June ban was introduced according to Google to “protect” customers, including advertising for ICO, crypto wallets, exchanges, and cryptocurrency trading advice. As of today, all of these ads still remain under the ban. At the time of the ban, a Google spokesman commented that:

“We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution.”

The most recent announcement from Google has suggested that certain ads by registered cryptocurrency exchanges will be allowed from October providing that they specifically target US and Japanese audiences. The statement from Google explains:

“Advertisers will need to be certified with Google for the specific country in which their ads will serve. Advertisers will be able to apply for certification once the policy launches in October.”

The newly updated policy is not restricted to any particular country, providing that the ads run in the US and Japan and advertisers apply for certification to run ads in those countries. It is uncertain whether Google’s partial lifting of the crypto advertising ban was influenced by Facebook who also reversed a ban on advertising for pre-approved crypto exchanges and companies after banning ads earlier this year.

Today’s announcement by Google clarified the new guidelines for advertising:

“The Google Ads policy on Financial products and services will be updated in October 2018 to allow regulated cryptocurrency exchanges to advertise in the United States and Japan. Advertisers will need to be certified with Google for the specific country in which their ads will serve. Advertisers will be able to apply for certification once the policy launches in October.”

 

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PwC: 84% of Companies Active in Blockchain but More Trust Needed

A new report out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) illustrates the degree to which companies are now seeing blockchain as an essential business tool.

The report shows that out of companies surveyed, 84% were actively involved in blockchain technology in some way. The PwC 2018 Global Blockchain Survey included 600 company executives for 15 different regions.

Everyone is talking about blockchain, and no one wants to be left behind,” reported PwC, adding, “In reality, companies confront trust issues at nearly every turn… As with any emerging technology, challenges and doubts exist around blockchain’s reliability, speed, security and scalability.”

Some 45% of executives said that trust was the only issue that might prevent it moving forward, along with regulatory uncertainty, and compliance and intellectual property concerns. Other research from Cowan suggests that it make take up to six years for acceptance and widespread adoption.

Bloomberg read the PwC figures from a completely different perspective, suggesting that “most companies aren’t diving into blockchain”, pointing out that out of the 600 companies surveyed, “only 15% of them have a live project and only 10% are piloting blockchain’s use”.

Bloomberg suggests that the reason that many companies haven’t leapt in wholeheartedly and adopted blockchain is down to the cost of replacing current systems. Plus companies need to be convinced that there are significant advantages over their existing systems which at this stage is difficult to prove. Graine Mcnamara of PwC explained:

“It’s a little bit stunning how stagnant it is. A lot of people took a few steps and are pausing before the bridge. They might be having a hard time articulating the ROI.”

What must be a considerable selling point to companies is the fact that major players such as Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Deloitte, JPMorgan and HSBC all have blockchain initiatives either in progress or planned for the future. It is likely that as these initiatives prove their worth the industry will take a more active interest. The interest shown by Facebook this year is likely to add to this impetus.

 

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Facebook Puts Down Stellar Partnership Rumors

Amid the blockchain and cryptocurrency rumors surrounding social media giant Facebook, the company has now denied being in talks with cryptocurrency firm Stellar.

Just a rumor

On Friday, 10 July, Business Insider published a report claiming that David Marcus, former PayPal executive who leads Facebook’s blockchain team, had met with Stellar to discuss potential uses.

According to the report, the unnamed Stellar source claimed it would “make sense for Facebook to record payment transactions on a distributed ledger like Stellar”. The source added, “They’d be taking the rug out from under the banks… They can add a bank more quickly than a bank could build a social network.”

However, it didn’t take particularly long for the explosive rumor to reach Facebook, prompting a swift response. Speaking with financial outlet Cheddar, a spokesperson said, “We are not engaged in any discussions with Stellar, and we are not considering building on their technology.”

Market response

The crypto markets responded appropriately during the period of this report, while Stellar’s cryptocurrency called Lumens jumped up approximately 10% on the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance.

The Stellar discussion alone is not the only factor to consider in the Facebook rumor mill; a day later it was reported again by Business Insider, that David Marcus had announced his departure from the Coinbase board.

Speaking with CoinDesk, Marcus explained, “Because of the new group I’m setting up at Facebook around blockchain.” A Coinbase representative also told CoinDesk that Marcus had resigned to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest”.

Developments

In early May, the social media giant announced the founding of its blockchain technology research team, the sole purpose of which is to research the potential uses of blockchain technology on Facebook.

It was again in the spotlight in mid-May, after another anonymous source had made claims that Facebook was indeed considering the creation of its own cryptocurrency.

However, at that time of reporting, Marcus denied those claims on the basis of cryptocurrency payments being “very expensive” and “super slow”, though he does mull the prospect of maybe doing something after Facebook had explored blockchain technology enough.

Moving into early July, Facebook announced the creation of a Director of Engineering Blockchain position, appointing its in-house head of Programmable Languages & Runtimes, Evan Chang to the newly established position. Cheng has also advised projects and startups like ChainLink and Zilliqa.

Then in a partial U-turn, Facebook announced that it would be allowing for Coinbase advertisements to run on the website and Instagram. The timely move came a few short months after Facebook, among others including Google, banned cryptocurrency advertisements on its websites.

The global blockchain and cryptocurrency communities will be watching Facebook very closely it dips its toe in blockchain; however, it is unlikely this will be the last of the whisperings to emerge and be dispelled.

 

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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency?

Leading social media site Facebook, which has billions of users, may be on the path to launch its own cryptocurrency, indicates the recent tidings.

Earlier this year, Facebook created a blockchain research team led by David Marcus, with a goal of leveraging blockchain technology, and possibly cryptocurrency, across its social network platform. David Marcus is well known for taking Facebook Messenger from a relatively small app to one of the most widely used chat apps in the world. Also, David Marcus has deep ties in the cryptocurrency world, he was on the Coinbase Board of Directors. Coinbase is the largest and most popular cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the United States.

Now David Marcus has stepped down from the Coinbase Board of Directors. One astute Twitter commenter, Gagan Jain, said “This is like Eric Schmidt stepping down from Apple’s board prior to Android’s launch”. Indeed, stepping down from Coinbase’s Board of Directors ensures no conflict of interest if Facebook launches their own cryptocurrency. Now Coinbase can add Facebook’s cryptocurrency when it launches, massively increasing the spread of Facebook’s cryptocurrency.

Further, according to anonymous sources, Facebook’s blockchain research team has met with Stellar to discuss about forking the Stellar blockchain to create the Facebook cryptocurrency, similar to how the Kik messaging app forked Stellar to create the Kin crypto tokens. These anonymous sources say Facebook’s blockchain research team has also met with other cryptocurrency projects.

Stellar would be the best choice for a social cryptocurrency, since Stellar has extremely low fees, far less than 0.1 penny per transaction, allowing for micropayments. Stellar is highly scalable, so Lumen or any cryptocurrency based on Stellar can handle tremendous amounts of transactions without a significant rise in fees. Therefore, Stellar based cryptocurrencies are excellent for micropayments, which is preferred on social media. People can send each other 1 penny of FacebookCoin, or whatever it will be called, without losing any to fees.

Due to the huge user base of Facebook, numbering over 1 billion, a Facebook cryptocurrency would become extremely popular and has the potential to become one of the top cryptocurrencies quickly. Perhaps the social media giant has finally decided to launch a cryptocurrency after its stock market cap declined USD 100 billion in one night recently, motivating them to try and make money in any way possible rather than ignore cryptocurrency. Launching a Facebook cryptocurrency would easily and quickly bring billions of dollars of profits to Facebook, something they need after the large hit to their stock.

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Ukraine Election Trials Have Begun on NEM Blockchain

A Ukraine election official shared in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the commission’s experiments with the NEM blockchain voting trial for use in the country’s elections have gone live successfully.

The head of the country’s voter registry at the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, Oleksandr Stelmakh, commended the immutability of hosting elections on the blockchain, as well as the improved security benefits of the decentrally-hosted data. The social media post notes that the commission was continuing a series of trials that apply blockchain technology to electoral voting.

He noted that the test run utilized these properties in saving the responses to the ballots, as well as the voters’ personal information. The test vote used 28 nodes with the NEM blockchain.

A link to the timestamped NEM blockchain transactions was also shared in the post with a disclaimer that the pilot had been held in a test environment with trial coins that were donated by the NEM foundation in Ukraine.

To install blockchain voting in each Ukrainian police station, Stelmakh estimated it would cost USD 1,227 per unit, a price he sees as more than reasonable to assure the sanctity of elections is protected.

Crypto in Ukraine

Last month, the Ukraine National Securities and Stock Market Commission announced plans to further regulate the cryptocurrency industry. The commission responsible for minimizing risks in the financial sector has not endorsed legislation to legalize cryptocurrency in Ukraine, despite an increase of activity in the sector.

An internal legislative debate is reportedly taking place to codify laws around blockchain, and the storage and trade of cryptocurrencies.

In June, a government agency announced that it had no plans to regulate crypto mining. Miners, however, have been said to be keeping a low profile on their operations due to the unpredictability of the government’s reaction to cryptocurrency, with some speculating they may become subject to fines or confiscation of their mining equipment.

 

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Ripple Matches Madonna’s Malawi Fundraiser Dollar for Dollar

Singer Madonna is to launch an online fundraiser with Ripple to raise funds for her Raising Malawi Foundation.

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone, the singer is better known simply as Madonna, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Referred to as the “Queen of Pop” since the 1980s, she has gone on to become a star of both stage and film as well as numerous pop videos.

In 2012, Madonna launched a partnership between Raising Malawi and the global nonprofit buildOn. In July 2018, she traveled to Northeast Kasungu Province to officially open the four newest primary schools. In total, Raising Malawi has built 14 schools in rural Malawi, according to her fundraising website. As a part of the partnership, Raising Malawi and buildOn have educated community members about the importance of girls’ education, and as result, all schools have gender parity.

She has timed the fundraiser to coincide with her 60th birthday and says that Ripple will match every dollar donated to her website. The program will run until the end of August. Madonna announced the fundraiser on her site:

“I want to come together with my friends, fans and supporters to change the lives of Malawian children and let them know they are nurtured, protected and loved. Through their generous commitment to this organization, Ripple will match each dollar donated to this campaign.”

Ripple CEO David Schwartz confirmed the crypto company’s fundraiser matching commitment later on Twitter.

“From July 30 through August 31, @Ripple will match all public donations in support of the cause …” https://t.co/LEkzcIaux2

— David Schwartz (@JoelKatz) July 30, 2018

Facebook is also involved in the fundraiser for Madonna’s Malawi children through its “charitable giving tools” which charges no fees with 100% going directly to the charity. On Facebook, Madonna stated:

“I have an unwavering commitment to providing vulnerable children with a loving home. For my birthday, I can think of no better gift than connecting my global family with this beautiful country and the children who need our help most. Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare.”

 

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