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Julian Assange Arrest Provokes Surge of Bitcoin Donations

Julian Assange

Just hours following the arrest of WikiLeak’s founder Julian Assange, the whistleblower site received over 50 fresh Bitcoin donations.

47-year-old Australian Assange was arrested yesterday at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the South American country had offered him diplomatic protection in 2012; protection which was recently withdrawn allowing for his arrest. The Wikileaks co-founder entered the embassy over six years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case which was subsequently dropped. Assange’s next hurdle is to answer US federal conspiracy charges that he leaked US government secrets.

The US Justice Department began investigating the Assange website in 2010. In 2017, after the US banking embargo against WikiLeaks, its leader, Julian Assange, publicly thanked the US government for forcing his organization into relying on Bitcoin donations, reportedly giving WikiLeaks a 50,000% return:

“My deepest thanks to the US government, Senator McCain, and Senator Lieberman for pushing Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, AmEx, Moneybookers, et al, into erecting an illegal banking blockade against WikiLeaks starting in 2010. It caused us to invest in Bitcoin with > 50,000% returns.”

In the few hours following Mr. Assange arrest yesterday receipts to the WikiLeaks account totaled 0.617 BTC, or more than USD 5,000; taking into account pending transactions, that sum increased to 1.365 BTC, or nearly USD 6,900. The wallet has reportedly received nearly 3 BTC since 20 February. Both WikiLeak’s Coinbase and Paypal accounts had previously been suspended.

The 50 plus donations made to the account yesterday represented more than a quarter of the 176 transactions the account received since its first transaction in February of this year.

 

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‘Regulatory Refugee’ Blames SEC for Crypto Winter

'Regulatory Refugee' Blames SEC for Crypto Winter

Pillar founder David Siegel has targeted much of the blame on the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the flagging performance of the cryptocurrency sector over the past year.

Siegel dubs himself the world’s first web designer, is the author of five books on the web and business, and has started 23 companies, including Studio Verso based in London, one of the world’s first digital agencies. He calls himself a “regulatory refugee from the United States”, a fairly clear indication on his views on US government regulation.

His frustration comes from the way in which he perceives that innovation in the industry has been largely stifled by both the SEC and what he calls the government’s “self-fulfilling prophecy… that crypto would be bad for investors”, in turn making it “very bad for investors”.

Innovation is the key to industry’s success, Siegel urges, but sees the SEC stifling it through a lack of support for new entrepreneurs and developers coming through. He sees the US becoming left behind as other nations become willing to take on talent which struggles to find a place there To illustrate this, he argues that he can get far more achieved in the UK and Europe than he can in the US.

Siegel found his own way of dealing regulatory hurdles by not listing on exchanges and sees the industry as a whole gaining in strength, despite ICO fundraising fast becoming a thing of the past, with the proviso that the SEC change their approach to open source projects and cryptocurrency regulating. Regarding his company’s future, he has a positive note:

“We’re finally hitting our stride. We’ve launched several new features in the past few weeks, we are getting strong attention from the Ethereum and open-source blockchain communities, and we are collaborating with more industry players. We’re starting to realize the dream of our ICO, so it’s very exciting. I think we’ll be one of the few ICO projects that becomes part of the blockchain ecosystem.”

The SEC is set to launch its second public forum on cryptocurrency and blockchain on 31 May.

 

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EU Parliament Member Praises Euro Stance on Blockchain, Digital Assets

EU Parliament Member Praises Euro Stance on Blockchain, Digital Assets

Eva Kaili, a member of the European Parliament, the body which exercises the legislative function of the EU, has been speaking out about cryptocurrency and the progressive stance of EU member states towards it.

Speaking at a Ripple event in London recently, Kaili, a former television news presenter who represents the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, was telling her audience how blockchain technology’s disruption of various sectors was beginning to be understood by many EU member states.

She was highlighting the contrast between the industry now and how it was a few years ago in the early stages of its development,  indicating that this was gradually leading to a more positive reaction from EU banks and financial institutions, primarily due to recent regulation.

According to her, another reason for blockchain not being resigned to becoming just another clever idea was the growing mainstream acceptance of the technology by leaders across the world. The stance by these over the past five years has changed noticeably as more and more digital currencies reach acceptance and blockchain becomes a feature of many huge institutions’ business plans.

A major focus of many of these institutions has centered around remittances and cross border payments, which have been clearly improved through blockchain technology. One example being Ripple, the hosts of the event, who maintain that their cross-border payments are becoming both quicker and cheaper as new tech is developed.

MEP Kaili has long been a blockchain and crypto advocate in the European Parliament. In November, she spoke exclusively to Bitcoin News about the Parliament’s release of EUR 700 million for startup projects promising “great solutions” with blockchain.

 

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Germany’s #2 Stock Exchange Launches Bison Crypto Trading App

Germanys No. 2 Stock Exchange Lunches Crypto Trading App, Bison

The second largest stock exchange in Germany has announced the official launch of its new cryptocurrency trading platform called Bison.

Börse Stuttgart Group enlisted developers from its digital ventures subsidiary FinTech Sowa Labs to create the exchange, citing its goal as an attempt to make cryptocurrency trading easy for investors that are used to traditional marketplaces.

In this initial launch, the smartphone application allows zero-fee trading of Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, offering a custodial service and escrow system from an additional subsidiary group, Blocknox.

Bison was first announced in May 2018. Its ambitious target launch date of fall 2018 was missed by months.

Users will need a German checking account to access Bison services, which for right now, will only be accessible from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. CET. Stuttgart Börse shared ambitions of opening up access to European countries towards the end of the year.

Other major stock exchanges have also shared ambitions of launching simal platforms; both the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the New York Stock Exchange have plans in motion to develop their own products. The London  Stock Exchange Group is aiding Hong Kong officials to develop their own digit asset exchange.

 

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UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

It’s a familiar story, but it still hurts for those who have had the same experience as investor Peter McCormack who lost $1 million in the recent bear market. But he has faith.

McCormack claims that he got himself too “caught up in the hype’ during the buoyant and heady cryptocurrency market in 2017. The ex-London advertising agency manager decided that after losing his job in 2016 he’d try investing GBP 5000 (USD 6,400) in Bitcoin.

By the spring of 2017 his modest BTC investment with some extra purchases swelled to $300,000 and like many other investors at this time decided that he was in for the long ride. What happened next in the market is history, of course.

By the end of the year, his portfolio was worth GBP 1.2 million but crashed in January of 2018 wiping out his investments, having traveled and splurged money on dining out, travel, and extravagant family gifts, meanwhile dipping into his BTC throughout 2017.

“I wish I had taken everything out before the bubble burst, I have earned money in the past through hard work and enjoyed it more,” he reflected, adding “Much of my spending was quite frivolous.”

Today McCormack still podcasts and is surprisingly upbeat about Bitcoin, but warns others to be more careful with their money than he was. To him, cryptocurrency remains a “force for good” despite his up and down relationship with the market, particularly, in some undeveloped or war-torn countries where bitcoin and other digital currencies are empowering communities and minorities, he argues.

 

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Switzerland to Adapt Existing Laws to Accommodate Blockchain

Switzerland to Adapt Existing Laws to Accommodate Blockchain

Contemplating a separate blockchain legislature are out of the question for the Swiss as the Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said Switzerland will instead adapt the current legal framework to account for blockchain technology.

Maurer said during the Infrachain blockchain conference in Bern that there won’t be a special blockchain law, instead, the current legal framework will be tweaked to adapt to the new technology and its derivatives. This will involve an adaption to six different laws starting with the “laws of obligations and ending with bankruptcy law”. The whole process should be completed in the coming year.

About a year ago, in a fintech round-table discussion involving the minister and other financial and scientific stakeholders, attendees agreed upon the urgency of attention to the development of blockchain and initial coin offerings (ICO). This led to setting up a committee to determine the necessary actions to be taken towards the development and adoption of the new enterprise.

Blockchain interest in the country has taken up a rather interesting turn with jurisdictions such as London, Singapore and Shanghai identified as “tough competitors”. However, countries like Liechtenstein are ahead of the Swiss in terms of blockchain-related legislature with a bill already in motion will be passed in 2019.

Blockchain developments (standardization) and regulation are currently being considered simultaneously in Switzerland to effectively groom the industry. With FINMA proposing a structural operational model for financial institutions to work against the volatility of the market on one hand. Switzerland’s State Secretary Joerg Gasser has opined that standards are now more important than regulation since according to him, fintech has moved beyond the “hype-cycle”. On the horizon, more utility use for blockchain enterprise seems to be developing as well.

 

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Blockchain Already Outstrips Internet Development, Says Expert

The UK’s Daily Telegraph reminds readers of where blockchain development is at this point by drawing a comparison to 1994 and the development of the internet to illustrate just exactly how fast it is becoming a part of everyday life.

It points out the disruptive nature of blockchain and the speed at which funds can be now sent anywhere in the world with complete security and how it will get faster and even more efficient. In terms of development, blockchain has already outpaced the development of the internet.

In 1994, the opening of the world’s first internet café in London — the Cafe Cyberia near Tottenham Court Rd in the heart of the city, heralded in the age of the net and mass adoption. Blockchain experts agree that this is about where the development of the technology is right now.

The blockchain’s ability to let anyone send digital value to anyone else around the world in a secure, efficient and affordable manner promises to have the same disruptive impact the internet has had on our world over the past 25 years.

In the blink of an eye, cryptocurrencies including the likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP are on the cusp of becoming household names. A vast number of sectors across all jurisdictions are already seeing witnessing the foundation that gave birth to these digital currencies become more significant.

Whether it be the financial sector, IT, research and development, supply chain, travel, commerce, defense, local and federal government administration, and even space travel, there is no sector where blockchain technology is not at least being considered. So much so, in fact, universities and educational establishments around the world, along with many of the world’s major banking systems, are knocking at its door.

It’s therefore hard to reconcile this rapid adoption with the fact that cryptocurrencies were only launched a few years ago. Given the rapidity of this development, compared to that of the internet it’s hardly surprising when prominent pundits and experts in the burgeoning industry make declarations, such as venture capital investor and cryptocurrency commentator Tim Draper. Earlier this year, he declared that Bitcoin could be bigger than the internet:

“It’s bigger than the Iron Age, the Renaissance. It’s bigger than the Industrial Revolution. This affects the entire world and it’s going to be affected in a faster and more prevalent way than you ever imagined.”

Draper pointed out that eventually no one would be interested in holding cryptocurrency, arguing that “in five years you are going to try to go buy coffee with fiat currency and they are going to laugh at you because you’re not using crypto.”

The predictions are that, just as the internet created the email, which even now has become the “Wells Fargo Stagecoach” equivalent in terms of sending information, given the development of online chat and messaging apps, blockchain will spawn a vast array of alternative uses so far not even considered.

In only 10 years of existence, blockchain is at the level that the internet was about 35 years later, this suggests that the world is in for a fast and exciting ride on the blockchain trail.

 

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Coinjar Sees Bright Future for Stablecoins

The CEO of Australian Bitcoin Exchange Coinjar maintains that stablecoins are due to become a major investor attraction.

Asher Tan has left Melbourne-based Coinjar co-founder Ryan Zhou in charge of Australian operations and taken up residence in London’s Canary Wharf. He clearly has a good view of London’s crypto horizon from his 39th-floor workspace on the banks of the Thames. He likes what he sees.

The interesting thing right now, what’s on everyone’s lips, is what you call a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a coin pegged to a currency, usually the US dollar. It’s a craze right now,” Tan says. “It helps you transfer money around the crypto ecosystem at a stable rate. But there’s a whole lot of applications or use-cases that could come out of it.”

Stablecoins are seen by some as a safe hedge against the volatility of conventional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Currently, they are underutilized apart from traders using them to guard their positions during bear markets. The most topical of these were introduced after the Winklevoss twins were knocked back by the SEC after their last ETF submission was turned down, only to hit the market with the stablecoin Gemini. The brothers also have their eyes firmly set on the London market as their next potential stablecoin project.

Japanese banks favor a stablecoin method which involves simply storing an equivalent amount of dollars and offering a tokenized version of that amount. Tan suggests that until now, the custody model has certainly been easier than more complex decentralized ways of maintaining a peg but tech startups are now looking for a better more effective and innovative model.

“How do you keep a peg? These are things that usually only a central bank would have thought about five years ago, and now you’ve got tech start-ups looking at economics, and how can you peg a currency to a token. It’s fascinating,” says Tan.

Tan sees dollar digitalization by exchanges at some point in the future as a faites accompli and he is now considering how stablecoins would fit into his future plans for Coinjar, arguing that Europe is the ideal base from which to operate:

“If you go regional in Asia there’s that fragmentation – all the different regulators, the cross-border challenge. Europe is a well-regulated environment, like Australia… We don’t want to create a product and then find out that the regulator is taking an unfriendly approach.”

 

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Ready Steady Go: On Your Marks for the Stablecoin Steeple Chase

With Japanese regulators confirming that stablecoins do not fit the definition of cryptocurrencies outlined in the country’s Payment Services Act, the stablecoin chase seems well and truly on in that country and, so it appears, everywhere else.

As Bitcoin News reported yesterday, according to the FSA, firms issuing stablecoins in Japan need not register for licenses, though they may need to register for issuing payment instruments. Significantly, this clarification of the FSA’s 2017 guidelines means that large stablecoin transactions, up to JPY 1 million (around USD 9,000) can be made unhindered by the same guidelines which apply to other transactions.

A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency pegged against something of widely-accepted value such as a state currency, typically the US dollar, giving it price-stable characteristics. It is seen by some as a safe hedge against the volatility of conventional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Currently, they are underutilized apart from traders using them to guard their positions during bear markets.

What is the current state of play in the apparent rush towards stablecoins? There seems to be no stopping the charge as the London Block Exchange (LBX) announced its plans to launch the LBXPeg, a stablecoin backed by the UK pound recently.

LBX has stated the current stablecoin market needs disruption due to many firms’ lack of transparency, commenting that “many available stablecoin offerings are inadequate for the needs of businesses, traders and consumers” and citing “opaque management structures, distribution schedules, and auditing processes”.

Nick Tomaino, founder of @1confirmation, calls stablecoins “the holy grail of cryptocurrency”, suggesting that coins such as Bitcoin were too prone to volatility. Tomaino suggests that the US dollar is a fiat working example of stability. The dollar falls down as a stablecoin, primarily because it lacks user control being dependent on the Federal Reserve and the US banking system.

The Winkevoss Twin would clearly agree with Tomiano’s “holy grail” epithet, given their recent success with the New York regulator. The Gemini Dollar, launched by the Winklevoss twins, will allow users a one-to-one exchange on the US dollar on the Ethereum blockchain.

A Hong Kong-based blockchain investment firm is also planning to launch a new stablecoin backed by the Japanese yen. The company, Grandshores Technology Group, will launch the funding round in late 2018 or early 2019. Grandshore feels that the stablecoins will have mileage on release. It argues:

“We believe cryptocurrency traders and exchanges will be potential takers of these stablecoins… We are entering the next stage of blockchain evolution, a stage which is akin to when computer operating system was transiting from MS-DOS to MS-Windows.”

Australia company Bill Trade, which launches its own coin next year, sees stablecoins as solving “one of the principal issues that may drive investors seeking steady returns and merchants that currently accept traditional currency away from digital currencies: volatility”.

The chase is on.

 

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The Ten Top Cities to Visit With Bitcoin in Your Pocket

Investopedia recently used Coin ATM Radar, coinmap.org and other metrics to calculate the best cities around the globe to visit with Bitcoin.

You don’t have to be in London or New York to use or access your bitcoins.  ATMs are turning up in the most unlikely places, such as the sleepy Devon town of Kingsbridge in the South West of England, where just last month a Bitcoin ATM was set up in the corner of the town’s Tourist Centre.

The Prague subway now has ten new machines spread across its route and the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), has clarified that banks in Germany now have the right to upgrade existing ATMs in the country to facilitate certain cryptocurrencies. With the last ATM count approaching 4000 worldwide, it won’t be too long before one is accessible wherever a traveler finds themselves.

So, until then, for the global traveler, where is the best place to cash out some BTC or buy dinner? The following breakdown includes Investopedia’s top dogs when it comes to accessing or spending your crypto funds. Here are the top ten based on Bitcoin accessibility and usability.

  1. The global base of mega crypto exchange Coinbase is San Francisco, not only home of the street tram and Fisherman’s Wharf, but also home to 177 Bitcoin-accepting merchants and 29 Bitcoin ATMs.
  2. Canada has a reputation for being crypto friendly, having been recently described as further advanced in cryptocurrency policy than its US neighbor. The coastal city of Vancouver boasts of 86 merchants accepting the digital currency as well as 48 Bitcoin ATMs around the city.
  3. Half a million Dutch households own crypto so it is unsurprising that Dutch capital Amsterdam is Bitcoin-friendly to the traveler. There are about 74 merchants around the tiny country, with a population under 800,000, accepting Bitcoin. Although, ATMs are not yet patronized as that of the neighboring cities. Approximately 60% of the households in the Netherlands who invest in cryptocurrencies started doing so in 2017.
  4. Ljubljana, Slovenia with a tiny population of 272,000, Ljubljana has 51 merchants accepting Bitcoin and five ATMs.
  5. Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel’s financial center offers 58 merchants that are more than happy to take BTC and has 4 Bitcoin ATMs. Bitcoin is a fact of life in the country, and the government has acknowledged it as a taxable asset with investors purchasing gold and real estate with the flagship cryptocurrency, cherishing its anonymity.
  6. Along with Malta, Switzerland is Europe’s real crypto mover and shaker. Out of the world’s six biggest initial coin offerings (ICOs) last year, four took place in Switzerland, according to Swiss financial watchdog, Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). In Zurich 64 merchants take Bitcoin and eight ATMs serve a tiny population of 366,000. Bitcoin is now available as payment at 1,357 railway ticket kiosks around the alpine nation.
  7. Tampa, Florida may seem an unlikely place to find a community utilizing cryptocurrency but the city provides as many as 93 merchants accepting BTC. Also, a good scattering of 13 ATMs around the city means that travelers are never far from a source of cash.
  8. Both Venezuela and Argentina are in financial crisis. However traveling in Buenos Aires with Bitcoin is made easy with a huge 130 merchants accepting Bitcoin and 3 ATMs, although the government of Argentina has promised to swell those numbers over the next few years. In fact, with no intention of keeping things small, Argentina plans to become the world’s biggest player with pre-agreements to install 4,000 ATM around the South American country.
  9. New York usually does things big, hence 117 ATMs around the city, meaning that most areas of the city are covered whether up, mid, or downtown. 122 merchants also accept Bitcoin as payment. Wall St. has been making noises about crypto this year, so it shouldn’t be too long before banks update their fiat ATMs in America’s banking metropolis.
  10. The UK was quick to take to cryptocurrency; 88 merchants accepting Bitcoin and 74 ATMs around the busy and culturally diverse capital illustrate this enthusiasm. London made the news recently when a mosque announced that it had successfully reached and exceeded its target of donations over the Ramadan period – in cryptocurrency.

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