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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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Google CEO’s 11-Year-Old Mines Ether at Home

It seems like Google’s boss has a son with secret designs on the crypto world after telling his dad that he was mining Ether at home.

It appears that Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s 11-year-old son has his father’s entrepreneurial gene. Speaking at the New York Times DealBook conference last week he let slip that his son used the family computer to mine crypto. He commented:

“Last week I was at dinner with my son, and I was talking about something about Bitcoin, and my son clarified what I was talking about was Ethereum, which is slightly different,” Pichai said. “He’s 11 years old. And he told me he’s mining it.”

It seems that Google top brass have the mining bug after company co-founder Sergey Brin’s admission earlier this year that he was also mining Ethereum with his son at home. It seems that the kids are pretty up to date on the latest cryptocurrency tech details too, as Pichai admitted he had been corrected by his son when they were chatting about Bitcoin recently. Brin revealed:

“A year or two ago, my son insisted that we needed to get a gaming PC…I told him, ‘OK, if we get a gaming PC, we have to mine cryptocurrency.’ So we set up an Ethereum miner on there, and we’ve made a few pennies, a few dollars since.”

The Google boss was discussing his views on screen time for children in relation to a recent New York Times article about Silicon Valley technicians’ families and tech addiction among children. It appears that the computer his son was mining on was actually built by his dad.

“I’m like every other parent I guess,” Pichai said. “I do test a lot of gadgets at home, so I have vulnerabilities in terms of how my kids get access to stuff.”

Pichai said that he had to teach his son some important details about how the financial system worked, “I realized he understood Ethereum better than how paper money works …I had to talk to him about the banking system, the importance of it. It was a good conversation.”

The interview came on the same day that thousands of Google employees around the globe protested against Google’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against female employees with a simultaneous walk out. Pichai admitted ‘We didn’t always get it right.’

 

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Blockchain Google Searches Overtake Cryptocurrency

Following trends of recent hype in the technology, the word blockchain has surpassed the number of Google searches than cryptocurrency since September this year.

While Google Trends show that Bitcoin is still around ten times a more popular search term than either of the above, blockchain interest has overtaken the generic term of cryptocurrency for the second time since 2017, the first instance being in July this year.

What this means

A study from Yale University earlier this year found that “investor attention” was one of the two most significant indicators for the future price of Bitcoin. An increase in Google search results particularly was found to be a strong predictor for the cryptocurrency’s future price in the following weeks. Ripple and Ethereum showed similar trends in line with Google searches, although with different timelines.

Extrapolating these results onto blockchain, this spike in searches may indicate an increase in investor or developer interest.

However, Google Trends does not offer an exact figure for the number of times the word is looked up, it only shows the relative popularity. Even if it did, simply being Googled a number of times cannot provide any steadfast data regarding its popularity, but it can show us what most people are being drawn to at a particular time.

Crypto Google trends

Between August 2017 and August 2018, the number of times Bitcoin was Googled surpassed both pop icon Taylor Swift and even the stock market.

In December 2017, Bitcoin’s value reached nearly USD 20,000 and the term was searched for up to 25% more times than US President Donald Trump. As Bitcoin News reported, during times of a stock market slump, the number of times it is Googled increases, whereas Bitcoin sees an increase when there is a bull market.

 

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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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New Google Ad Takes Dig at Power-Hungry Crypto

Google hardly improved its relationship with the crypto community after its earlier ban on advertising this year, despite a recent partial climbdown but now, the media giant seems to have shown its true colors in advertising of its own.

The initial June ban was introduced according to Google to “protect” customers, including advertising for ICO, crypto wallets, exchanges, and cryptocurrency trading advice. 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.”

Google has clearly got a problem with crypto, as its latest piece of advertising clearly telegraphs. An ad for its new Call Screen phone service, designed to allow people to interact with callers before picking up, has one character asking another if he’s “going to live that (crypto) lie?”.

The ad refers to one character’s overblown electricity bill with the provider suggesting “cryptocurrency mining [takes] a lot of energy,” a clear reference to an ongoing argument that claims that the crypto industry is draining energy due to its high power requirement; an argument which is equally disputed by some experts.

This week Google also put another spanner in the works with Berkshire Hathaway chief executive Warren Buffett, JP Morgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon and Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga all being listed on the site as “CEOs of bitcoin”. It’s a well-known fact in the crypto community, that far from being connected with crypto, the three have all spoken out against Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in the past and rarely express positive views about the industry as a whole. Google’s response to the error came quickly:

“Entities in the Knowledge Graph and associations between them are automatically generated based on available information on the web… It’s not always perfect, and when we’re made aware of incorrect associations, we work to fix the error.”

 

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Brave Pursues Legal Action Against Google for User Privacy Breach

Brave, a first of its kind internet browser powered by blockchain technology, is taking international legal action against Google for systematically breaching user privacy on a large scale. Google’s actions are probably in violation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law, so Brave’s actions against Google could lead to an investigation and heavy fines from the European Data Protection Board.

Brave has filed complaints against Google in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer at Brave, says, “There is a massive and systematic data breach at the heart of the behavioral advertising industry. Despite the two-year lead-in period before the GDPR, adtech companies have failed to comply.”

Allegedly, Google collects personal data about a user and their internet behavior, and broadcasts it to dozens if not hundreds of data firms. Selling personal data is big business for Google, particularly using this data for its Adsense and Adwords products to display ads targeted at specific users. The online ad industry has grown to USD 273 billion this year, with Google being the biggest online ad service.

Research shows that this goes beyond ads. Google supposedly collects data on political ideology, sexuality, and ethnicity, and distributes this to data firms who are willing to pay for it. Essentially, Google is wiretapping the internet usage of the world and selling the data for profit. It has been speculated that this data goes to governments and is used for criminal investigations.

Brave was specifically designed to improve the privacy of internet users, as well as launching a completely new ad model where publishers and users are paid with a cryptocurrency called BAT. This eliminates the middleman in the online ad business. Middlemen such as Google take most of the profits for online ads, leaving only a small fraction for publishers.

Since Brave is actively trying to protect user privacy, it makes sense that it noticed Google’s data collection activities. Google has been compromising the privacy of the Brave browser, defeating its purpose.

If Brave is successful with the legal action, Google could be fined up to 4% of their yearly revenue, which is billions of dollars, and it would lead to a beneficial reduction of data collection by the internet giant and other internet firms. However, Google can afford the most powerful lobbyists and lawyers in the world, and some foresee that any fight against it won’t be easy.

 

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Asia on Fire with 50% Rise in Crypto and Blockchain Jobs Since 2017

The Asian blockchain jobs and employment market is booming with a 50% increase in industry roles since 2017.

UK-based specialist professional recruitment consultancy Robert Walters reports that startups and established corporations in Asia are on a recruitment drive, with many crypto industry positions now becoming more appealing to those from more conventional sectors.

Stalling cryptocurrency prices on the trading market hasn’t deterred Asian would be professionals seeking a change in direction in their careers, adding crypto exchanges and blockchain projects to their usual lists of possible employers such as IBM, Google and Amazon. Julian Hosp, co-founder of Singapore-based crypto wallet and card start-up TenX observed:

“We hardly ever hire from inside of crypto because most people inside of crypto are very inexperienced. You have very, very few people who are experienced who get into the crypto industry.”

John Mullaly, director of financial services at Robert Walters in Hong Kong agrees, suggesting that many blockchain enthusiasts lack the skills necessary to join the industry. Hosp suggests that employment interest comes in waves according to the ebb and flow of crypto prices:

“If crypto is doing well, if people are making money in crypto, we get huge inbound from people because they feel like, “I need to jump on this wave…”And then when you see crypto going down — then we see that immediately the demand of people, they’re like, “Oh no, this is a dying industry, I shouldn’t go in there.” So it’s completely emotional.”

The Asian job seeker interest was at its peak during the second half of 20017 in accordance with Bitcoin’s then rocketing price, dropping off as the flagship digital currency’s price fell in 2018. Despite this, data has shown that the interest in industry positions is still trending upwards.

As well as potential employees jumping from more conventional sectors, employers are often facilitating this, says  Justin Chow, Asia head of business development at Cumberland — the cryptocurrency division of trader DRW. Chow suggests that his company viewed hiring at its cryptocurrency division no different from hiring across all asset classes.

Indeed, Upwork, an American worldwide employment-related search engine states that:

The situation in Asia seems to mirror the US in that Bitcoin [job search] trends are much more volatile (and related to price volatility) and resulting media coverage while blockchain and cryptocurrency searches have seen a more consistent upwards trajectory.”

 

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Bitcoin Googled More Than Taylor Swift, Stock Market, Donald Trump

Whether Bitcoin is celebrated by everybody or not, one thing is for sure: people can not stop talking about it. Between August 2017 and today, the number of times Bitcoin was Googled surpassed both pop icon Taylor Swift, and even the stock market.

In December 2017, when the value of Bitcoin reached nearly USD 20,000, it was searched for up to 25% more times than US President Donald Trump. Not to forget this was the month that Trump announced Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, the Senate passed his significant tax reform legislation, and he sent out a series of Tweets condemning his own Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Tickets for Swift’s 2018 stadium tour went on sale on 13 December, but Bitcoin was pulling in around 70% more Google traffic than the pop star.

Interestingly, when the stock market experiences a slump, the number of times it is Googled increases, whereas Bitcoin sees an increase when there is a bull market. This perhaps indicates it is the younger generation losing interest in crypto when there does not appear to be big gains to be had, whereas the older generation that is more heavily invested in stocks for the long-term keeps a closer eye on their investments when they appear to be depreciating.

As well as this, for the majority of people consuming just mainstream media, the extremities of the market are only covered; while it may not be so intriguing to investigate what is being portrayed as a failing market on the verge of collapse, a 10% investment increase in 24 hours is far more interesting.

What can we take from this data?

While Bitcoin simply being Googled more times doesn’t provide any steadfast data regarding its popularity or give us any indication of a change in market price, there is no denying that the concept has entered and intrigued the general population. And that counts for a lot.

What the trends indicate is that there is still a ways to go in turning around the conversation to keep people confident in the market despite the inevitable downward trends.

Just keep in mind, last year Bitcoin was googled more than the US president for around a month. That is progress right there.

 

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New Survey Shows Crypto Growth: 31% Wouldn’t Mind Some Wages in Bitcoin

Yet another Google survey is out and this one, commissioned by British Tech Company Sage, has revealed that many employees wouldn’t object to having part of their salary paid in Bitcoin.

In fact, as many as 31% would be happy to have at least some portion of their earnings paid in the flagship cryptocurrency according to the figures. Of the 1,000 respondents, 37% said that they would go for between 1-20% in digital pay and the rest in fiat.

This latest survey conducted by Sage was meant to monitor responses to employees current pay trends and preferences. Sage develops solutions for business and pays salaries as an outsourced paymaster through Sage Pay. The suggestion is that the survey although conducted by a UK company wasn’t limited to a particular region or country due to the way it was administered online.

Darren Francis, who commissioned the survey commented: “It’s interesting that more people were leaning towards the “all-in” option; having their sole or dominant income paid to them in cryptocurrency.”

As Francis pointed out the majority took the “most or all” scenario rather the lower percentage of earnings in crypto by 15% to 11%, the latter saying that they would like just between 61-80% of their salary in Bitcoin or similar.

Another factor turned up by the survey’s questions was that women were far less likely to go for the crypto pay option than men, perhaps reflecting their interest in the subject as a whole. However, as reported by Bitcoin News, recent figures show that the gender disparity has significantly changed of late with far more women adopting some kind of cryptocurrency as part of an investment portfolio in 2018 than previously.

The survey revealed that 25% of women were open to the idea of some part of their salary being paid in cryptocurrency, whereas 75% of males would subscribe to the new pay scheme.

In terms of an age demographic, there was little difference in acceptance of crypto pay between the lower age groupings such as 25-34 and 35 -44, but beyond that, and edging towards retirement, the figures reportedly dropped off, with far last interest in this form of payment being shown by older employees.

Sage used Google Surveys in order to collect the data which relies on a network of content sites including YouTube and the Readers Digest. Respondents visit the survey site and participate in exchange for content.

 

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South Africa Proposes VAT Exempt Bitcoin Trades Under New Tax Changes

New regulations under discussion as part of reviewing South Africa’s Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB) suggest that Bitcoin trades may become exempt from value-added tax (VAT)

The South African government has already begun to examine how to address cryptocurrency as part of the economy due to its rising popularity in the country. The South African Revenue Service’s (SARS) most recent announcement on April 6, concerning cryptocurrency investment or trading this year stipulated that taxpayers must declare their profits or losses arising from any cryptocurrency transactions along with their annual end of year earnings.

“The onus is on taxpayers to declare all cryptocurrency-related taxable income in the tax year. Failure to do so could result in interest and penalties.”

However, the new rules if legislated would make crypto trades exempt from VAT, due to proposals to actually change the definition of digital assets and applicability of VAT in order to clarify and simplify returns for taxpayers. A senior tax consultant from Mazars, Tertius Troost, tried to explain:

“The clarification of the VAT treatment will be well received, especially on the basis that the issue, acquisition, collection, buying or selling or transfer of ownership of any cryptocurrency will be included under the definition of financial services in terms of section 2 of the VAT Act.”

The tax consultant goes on to explain that mining may well not be included in the new tax rules for VAT, but suggests that is the only good news, as some cryptocurrency will not be able to offset losses in the normal way as they fall into an area of taxation which is known as “suspect trades” so losses would be held over only to be used against potential future profits earned from cryptocurrency trading.

However despite this, should the tax law be changed, there will at least be no VAT levied on the acquisition of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, nor on their disposal through sales or purchases.

Interest in the market is continuing to grow in the region, as illustrated recently by Google’s worldwide bitcoin-related searches which showed the highest concentration to be currently in South Africa. For public investor convenience, the growing trend has resulted in more Bitcoin ATMs becoming available as trade volumes continue to show improvement across the country.

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