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Anti-Bitcoin Ads Target Former Obama Advisor

Brian Forde is under attack by his opposition for accepting donations in Bitcoin.

While the Federal Election Commission (FEC) gave Bitcoin donations the greenlight in a ruling back in 2014, this hasn’t stopped Dave Min from using it as the foundation of an anti-ad campaign.

Min is a rival Democrat, also competing for a seat in the House of Representatives in the upcoming 2018 elections.

The ad campaign features a headshot of the Democrat layered on top of a malicious looking background with lines of code and a hacker. The ad claims that Forde’s donors are “Bitcoin speculators that oppose cracking down on drug deals and human trafficking”.

In response, the crypto candidate told Motherboard:

“These comments about my supporters are sensationalist, wildly inaccurate, and in line with my opponent’s lack of understanding of the technology… If they were speculating, they wouldn’t have donated to my campaign in Bitcoin. They didn’t HODL, they donated to my campaign in Bitcoin because they believe in the technology.”

Misunderstanding of the technology, especially in the political sector, is part of the reason why he’s running for office.

Forde continued, discussing that even the United Nations is using Bitcoin to help solve human trafficking in Moldova. One of the poorest countries, in Europe, the UN has put Moldova on their watch list of countries not doing enough to fight human trafficking.

The project being referenced is a blockchain-based system for paperless identification documents. The project would use biometric data and prevent traffickers from smuggling children with fake documents.

“We need more rational scientists and technologists in Congress armed with evidence-based policymaking, not politicians making irrational decisions based on their emotions,” said Forde.

Forde was previously a technology advisor for the Obama administration and before that director of digital currency for MIT Media Lab. Dubbed “The Crypto Candidate”, his received Bitcoin donations make up around a quarter of overall funds raised.

 

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London Mosque Takes Crypto Stance, Accepts Ethereum for Donations

The first mosque for Turkish Cypriots in the UK, the Masjid Ramadan, has decided to accept Ethereum in order to carry out essential repairs, reports London’s Hackney Gazette.

Leaders at the mosque have made the decision to accept the cryptocurrency as part of Muslim observance of Zakah, the annual donation made by all of that faith, requiring that adherents donate 2.5% of their current wealth.

The Hackney mosque hopes to raise at least GBP 10,000 in Ether donations over Ramadan. Erik Guney, the board of trustees’ chairman, said that he hopes that the project can bring attention to the Muslim world that the community needs support:

“I’ve grown up around here and I have watched the community grow and the challenges it’s faced with – it’s a struggle, with housing, food, the cost of funerals and government changes, he said, going on to point out that the wealthy can make a significant contribution.

“We are trying to appeal to a wider audience with the new money. It’s big in the Islamic world, and we have set up a platform for wealthier Muslims outside our community to support and donate to our mosque,” he added.

Founder of blockchain startup Combo Innovation Gurmit Singh has become the mosque’s crypto advisor, outlining how best the funds can be received, stored and sold.

Until recently, there had been concerns among Muslims whether the selling of cryptocurrency was permissible under Sharia Law and if it was possible for Islamic financial firms to invest in cryptocurrencies alongside the rest of the world. At a recent conference in Bahrain, leading Islamic scholars decided that Bitcoin and other digital currencies fell into the category of ribawa. This means that cryptocurrency must be exchanged in equal measure, and with immediate transfer of possession, to avoid breaking Sharia Law.

This argument is key to any decision that might be taken in the future regarding the permissibility of virtual currencies in the Muslim world, as the buying and selling of Bitcoin could be viewed as a type of usury due to its huge profit and loss margins.

It appears that this law is being observed by the mosque, as donations will be transferred straight from the mosque website to the bank’s cryptocurrency hard wallet, which will be visible for all to see. The donation will then be traded for sterling through a currency exchange like LocalBitcoins UK.

“If Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s population, hold just 1% of Bitcoins – or GBP 1.04bn – then GBP 26 million in Zakat contributions is due,” said Singh.

Zayd al Khair, a religious advisor at Masjid Ramadan, has been monitoring discussions and debates by Muslim scholars from all over the world:

“Bitcoin is a new phenomenon so scholars are divided,” he said. “Some have taken a practical approach and others have embraced it fully, and we have decided to take their position.”

 

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Crypto Funded Solar Energy Comes to Moldova

An initiative by the South African solar power marketplace, Sun Exchange will soon allow people to buy solar cells using digital currency, reports Reuters.

Under the plan, buyers of solar cells will be able to pay using the solar energy blockchain startup — ElectriCChain’s own currency SolarCoin, bitcoin or euros. They can then lease the cells to the Technical University of Moldova, one of the country’s largest universities.

Moldova, bordered by Romania and Ukraine in Eastern Europe, has seen its energy prices rise by more than a half in the past five years. The initiative will attempt to power the university with the cryptocurrency funded solar energy in the hope that it could be replicated elsewhere if successful.

As Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, lack of finance has been an obstacle, often with a wait of 10 to 15 years for companies to get returns on investment. Program manager with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Dumitru Vasilescu, wants to “help buildings go green overnight,” but to do so will require finding new sources of finance.

“Moldova currently has over 10,000 square meters of unused rooftop space on public buildings that could be potentially used for such efforts,” said Vasilescu, going on to predict that the university itself would receive a full 1 megawatt of energy installed in the summer as a result of the crowdfunding. Cell owners will receive SolarCoins, as soon as the university produces energy, earning interest of about 4 percent on their investment.

Darius Nassiry, a senior research associate at the Overseas Development Institute — a British think tank, sees crypto funded energy mainly occurring in underdeveloped or developing countries. Also, cryptocurrency-funded renewable energy could reduce Moldova’s dependence on energy imports such as oil and gas from Russia, Vasilescu suggested.

Kevin Treco, an associate director at the Carbon Trust, an environmental consultancy, sees blockchain-based technologies significantly changing the energy use in countries striving to decentralize power and boost renewable sources.

“They have faster-growing energy needs… and a more accommodating legal and regulatory environment towards such innovations,” he said

UNDP’s Vasilescu suggested that if such crypto-funded schemes were successful, they could revolutionize renewable energy markets in Eastern Europe and Asia.

 

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Image: Pixabay

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IBM, Global System set Blockchain Developers Humanitarian Aid Challenge

Global tech giant IBM, through a partnership with anti-poverty campaign movement Global Citizen, is challenging blockchain developers to create a donation tracking program, reports Fortune.

IBM’s aim for the project is to encourage philanthropy by tracking the path of donations, from where the money originated to what it was spent on, and who finally received the funds. It is not the first of such projects promoting support for underdeveloped nations and struggling communities. The Multinational recently launched a pilot blockchain-based project to support small businesses throughout Africa with a Kenyan logistics company.

The two-month competition called “Challenge Accepted” was inspired by the United Nations’ Envision 2030 initiative, which aims to improve the lives of impoverished and at-risk people. It is s open for all comers starting on May 15 and will offer rewards to participating developers, including tickets to the Global Citizen music festival in New York in September.

Simon Moss, a co-founder of Global Citizen, suggests that the technology has the potential to change the face of humanitarian aid, claiming that blockchain can provide the much-needed transparency to donations provided for humanitarian aid:

“Blockchain can provide clarity on not only who is donating, but how money and supplies flow through organizations that provide aid – such as tracking a gallon of water purchased by an organization to the location where it was delivered,” he wrote.

Blockchain solutions to these types of donations have a clear benefit in the light of numerous recent scandals connected with humanitarian overseas aid. The most recent media focus on allegations of 26 claims of sexual misconduct against Oxfam workers in Haiti is a case in point. Potential donors are often concerned about the final destination of their donation. Also, fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and bushfires.

Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme have also been proactive using blockchain to record transactions.  IBM project manager Kathryn Harrison commented that IBM is looking to become involved in projects that can make some social impact, involving the company in, “opportunities to use this technology in areas that we can do some pretty substantial social good.”

As for the project, IBM has a fairly open requirement for the “Challenge Accepted” competition: “We’re focused on so many different types of use cases. We look at food safety, we look at microfinance, we look things like the environment and carbon credits and energy savings,” Harrison explained.

There’s been a significant rise in recent years in charities which are now supported by cryptocurrency donations. Some of these have joined a growing establishment of charities accepting Bitcoin donations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, WikiLeaks, Antiwar.com, Watsi, Water Project, Code to Inspire, Bitgive and Epic Change.

Charities trialing Bitcoin donations are on the rise. More familiar High Street names include such well-known organizations as the Red Cross and Save the Children.

 

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Websites Hit by Latest Wave of Cryptojacking

The website ‘Bad Packets Report’ has released a list of some 300 sites that have been compromised by “cryptojacking”, including Chinese hardware maker Lenevo.

Coindesk reports that the site’s security adviser, Troy Mursch, wrote last week that the compromised sites had been infected by hackers installing a browser mining software which exploited an outdated version of Drupal, a content management system (CMS). The two vulnerabilities, CVE-2018-7600 and CVE-2018-7602, have left numerous websites vulnerable to hacks if they did not receive immediate updates.

Incidents of cryptojacking are currently on the rise, defined as the secret use of one’s computing device to mine cryptocurrency. The hacking used to occur when the victim unknowingly installed a program on their computer which secretly mined cryptocurrency. Now, hackers are infecting websites with software that utilizes the victim’s computer power to mine cryptocurrency on the attackers’ behalf.

The list published by Mursch includes government and university portals as well as private companies, but is not the first of such alerts. After a previous release by cyber-security firm Imperva, warning that Drupal sites were being hacked by ‘Kitty’, an in-browser cryptocurrency miner containing a file named ‘me0w.js.’, it became clear that these sites were at risk.

Mursch explained why mining malware is currently rife:

“This is because Coinhive and other cryptojacking services (malware) are simply done with JavaScript. Every modern browser and device can run JavaScript, so as such, everybody can mine cryptocurrency and unfortunately Coinhive has been used and abused time and time again. [In] this particular case, Drupal users need to update [as soon as possible].”

Not all Coinhive users are malicious, as Bitcoin News reported recently. UNICEF recently launched a project called ‘The Hope page’  in support of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which used the crypto mining service to fund its project. In this case, users gave permission to UNICEF to mine the coin monero using donors’ computer power.

 

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Wisconsin Seeks Approval for Bitcoin Campaign Donations

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission has asked the state Legislator to decide on allowing campaign contributions to be made in digital currency, reports Associated Press (AP).

The Washington Times reports that the chairmen of Senate and Assembly elections committees have been asked to “provide clarity to candidates and committees as to whether they may accept contributions of cryptocurrency.” On Friday the commission’s administrator requested that the chairman of Senate and Assembly elections to address the issue which has been in the pipeline for some time.

Wisconsin Libertarian Party Chairman Phil Anderson at an early meeting on Tuesday also asked to allow bitcoin donations, citing the increasing popularity of virtual currencies. A barrier until now has been bitcoin’s fluctuating value making it difficult for campaigns, bound by limits on how much money they can accept from individual donors.

BTCManager reports that US states are still skeptical in allowing digital currency as campaign contributions. Anderson’s suggestion of in-kind conversions of bitcoin at the point of receipt is already being adopted by legislators in both Washington D.C. and Montana. Kansas has rejected the proposal, and California legislators have advised against it.

In March of this year a Republican party runner from Missouri, Austin Petersen, received 24 bitcoins in his campaign, making it the largest single amount received by a candidate in cryptocurrency. It’s suggested that his age played a part, at 37 being more accepting and less distrusting of new technology. He commented:

“As someone who strongly believes in deregulating money, it was a natural fit for me to accept Bitcoin for my campaign and I’m more than delighted to be the US record holder for the largest donation to a candidate in US history.”

The situation can be different overseas; in Russia for example, Alexei Navalny, who ran against Vladimir Putin prior to his reelection, is reported to have received $6 million donations to his campaign in bitcoin.

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Image source: Pixabay (Tom Bark, CC0 License)

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Legal Pathway for ICOs Sought by US Regulators

According to Robert Jackson, a commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a solution is needed to facilitate the launching of ICOs within current US securities law.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday, Jackson voiced current SEC concerns regarding the need to address ICO fraud, but suggested a legal method for raising cryptocurrency funds might be possible:

“Investors are having a hard time telling the difference between investments and fraud. Down the road, I think we will be thinking about ways to make those investments work consistent with our securities laws.”

There have been other positive voices coming from the SEC in the last few weeks. Recently, Republican Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer at an SEC Division of Corporation Finance meeting suggested that much of the furor over crypto fraud was exaggerated. He argued that regulators assumptions that decentralized networks were only used for fraud and crime, bore parallels to early explorers’ assumptions about Earth.

The US has no desire to follow in China’s footsteps by banning ICOs, but among regulatory bodies such as the SEC, there are clearly ongoing concerns over the protection of consumers, given events of the past few years.

“If you want to know what our markets would look like with no securities regulation, what it would look like if the SEC didn’t do its job? The answer is the ICO market,” Jackson said.

Although the SEC considers most ICOs as securities, and despite several warnings being issued to crypto startups for non-compliance with current rules, there is more than a suggestion of pragmatism in dealing with the issue.

Last month, SEC division head William Hinman suggested that the SEC was “meeting with participants that have these ideas of a token that shouldn’t be regulated as a security” and said that he was working with them on how they should be structured. He pointed out that the US wanted to be pragmatic in support of new technology.

In March, the SEC announced that crypto exchanges which provide ICO token trading solutions had to register with the regulator.

image source https://pixabay.com/en/startup-wall-painter-house-painter-2850272/  geralt

 

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“Hope” for Children in Need with New Aussie UNICEF Mining Donations

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced a program which has been designed to use donors’ computers to raise fiat currency through cryptocurrency mining.

The website, the nucleus of the new project, is called “The Hope Page“, and is able to mine the cryptocurrency Monero using donors’ computer processing power through Coinhive, a crypto-mining service. This is the second time that UNICEF has used cryptocurrency to fund its overseas projects. In February, it launched a similar program to support children in Syria, affected by the lengthy civil war in that country, using donors’ computers to mine Ether.

The donated funds will go to the UNICEF Australia‘s current mission in Bangladesh established due to the Rohingya crisis, providing humanitarian relief for both children and their mothers and ensuring that they receive life-saving supplies such as safe drinking water, food, and vaccines. Some families, having escaped the military-led violence in neighboring Myanmar, are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh awaiting placement.

UNICEF’s director of fundraising and communications Jennifer Tierney explained, “We wanted to leverage new emerging technologies to raise awareness about current humanitarian crises and raise new funds to support children caught up in them.”

She suggests that donating is simply as easy as opening a page. The Hope Page instructions clarify this for donors:

“The longer you stay on the page and the more processor power you donate, the more algorithms get solved, which earns cryptocurrency.”

However, visitors to the page are warned that cryptocurrency mining may incur further costs apart from the added domestic energy consumption.  Donating may lead to higher energy bills and visitors to the site are informed that they have the option to donate cash or make credit card donations prior to authorizing mining.

At press time, over 3,600 people were donating to the programme using the cryptocurrency mining process.

image source: https://pixabay.com/en/girl-asylum-politically-policy-982119/ – geralt

 

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Blockchain Helps the Homeless in Texas Capital

Texas capital city Austin is piloting a blockchain platform that attempts to address the problem of identity management for its homeless population.

The pilot program plans to address issues such as unemployment, lack of medical services and government financial support for the city’s 2,000 homeless, who often can’t access these essentials due to proof of identity issues. A census taken earlier this year shows that several thousand more of the population are at various stages of transition, which could well equate to 7,000 homeless.

The project is financed through the Mayors Challenge Program sponsored by the charity Bloomberg Philanthropies.  Austin was one of 35 cities across the US to be awarded pilot grants, and the top city from that group will ultimately be awarded USD 5 million for making the most significant social impact.

The main purpose of the project is to ensure that homeless citizens’ identities and personal records are securely stored, while at the same time permitting facilitators to access the information.

The city’s chief innovation officer, Kerry O’Connor argues that the needs of the homeless often don’t gel with the facilities they interact with, which is the problem that the program wants to address.

“People who are experiencing homelessness have their own needs, they don’t really care about our needs,” said O’Connor, who pointed out that these things might be “access to a birth certificate, or a social security number, or a rental history”.

O’Connor argues that a blockchain-backed ID system will allow those in need to easily obtain the services they need to get back on their feet. The program will allow homeless service providers to verify information using cell phones and also facilitate the storage of medical records of the city’s homeless population, allowing medical professionals access to relevant patient history.

Austin’s recent rapid economic growth has attracted professionals from hubs like San Francisco. The cost to the city has been a rise in house prices which has increased the homeless rate.

There are currently other US cities experimenting with blockchain programs to improve social conditions for its citizen, such as Berkeley California and Lafayette, Louisiana, which both have programs either in operation or scheduled for implementation.

 

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