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Afghans Look to Sovereign Crypto Bond to Raise $5.8 Billion for Economy

Afghanistan is planning to jumpstart its ailing economy with a blockchain-based sovereign crypto bond. The announcement to attempt a cryptocurrency solution to three decades of economic turmoil came at a meeting of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington recently.

According to the Central Bank of Afghanistan’s governor Khalil Sediq, the target figure is USD 5.8 billion in order to support the country’s critical mining, energy, and agriculture sectors, and with 25% of the country’s population currently unemployed and living under the poverty, critical measures are being assessed.

Afghanistan, as the of the world’s largest suppliers of lithium, could utilize Bitcoin with metals futures in bond form, according to the Afghan delegation, although IMF president Christine Lagarde believes such a bond will need thorough testing before it can be sold on markets.

Bitcoin has gained popularity in Afghanistan and its thought that cryptocurrency could find real leverage in the county if local money-sellers, called sarafis, were to start trading in digital currency. Afghans are generally untrusting of financial institutions and turn to sarafis, who deal with numerous fiat currencies across Afghanistan.

It appears that Afghanistan is not the only nation, considering some kind of a sovereign Bitcoin bond, as both Tunisia and Uzbekistan, both also represented by delegates at the Spring IMF and World bank forum, have also expressed interest in similar solutions.

Uzbek Ambassador to the United States Javlon Vakhabov sees an Uzbek bitcoin bond being linked to the country’s cotton futures market, much along the lines of Afghanistan’s plan for lithium futures. Uzbekistan has recently legalized crypto trading in the country and has announced some initial regulations for both trading and mining. The new decree, “On measures to organize the activities of crypto-exchanges in Uzbekistan”, states any company providing for the purchasing of or sale of crypto assets on a platform will be recognized as a legal exchange.

 

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Brexit, Binance and Bitcoin: A New Era for Crypto in the UK?

Brexit, Binance and Bitcoin: A New Era for Crypto in the UK?

With the clock ticking on Britain’s much-debated exit from membership of the EU and all that means if a decision is finally agreed by September, where will this leave the UK in European Crypto Space? In a position of strength, or cut-off from its legislative support on the other side of the channel?

Well, no man is an island according to English metaphysical poet John Donne, but at this moment in time, it appears that the UK is digging its own hole in the sand as each week passes towards the latest agreed date of departure, when Great Britain and Northern Ireland hopefully get its rules back from the longtime European partners; the leaver’s much heralded and acclaimed  “taking back control.”

Does this even matter when it comes to cryptocurrency trading? In the UK the banks are aware of it, the Bank of England is monitoring it, and the man on the street pretty much knows about it. Bitcoin continues to be classified as private money, with VAT applied and also subject to capital gains tax, where profits and losses are involved.

However-and Britain has illustrated with great clarity to a dumbfounded Europe with its Brexit machinations-it is often slow to make decisions and enforce regulations; in fact, the UK now risks falling behind its European partners regarding cryptocurrency regulations unless it acts with more clarity and decisiveness, and guess who has taken up the leading role in this regard? The French…that must hurt.

Yes, the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) did release a recent update of its progress which is currently in the hands of the specially selected Cryptoassets Taskforce.  However, a series of final guidelines or policy guidelines are still awaited from the FSA after the release of this consultation paper as far as regulatory dynamics go. With France now happy to lead Europe on a regulatory charge, Britain could be left counting its fingers after Brexit.

There are those in the UK however who like what they see in terms of crypto’s future after Brexit. Mike Romanov chief executive of Digital Securities Exchange (DSX) feels it can continue its dominance in the financial markets and crypto could come under the UK rather than EU legislative control. Others see an opportunity too, with a dent left in the Euro cryptocurrency market as Britain goes into its own crypto shell, out of reach from the EU’s legislative grasp, opening the door for new smaller players outside of the EU to leap in and plug some holes.

This is the Bitcoin bull’s stance, Britain hopes for friendlier digital currency regulations than it has at present. Another consideration is what might happen to the price of BTC with the impact of a final departure or possible vote to remain (the usual suspects) this year. There is a general feeling that it is simply the Brexit debate which is pinning the economy down and any kind of departure from this pain will be a release for both traditional and digital financial markets. According to the Bank of England, the economy has been shedding about £800M every week since they made the verdict in 2016.

There is one man who is just happy at what he sees, and if it continues, well then long may it do so. Enter Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao who, having now set up in Jersey is in the right place at the right time; well located for Europeans and Brits alike, whatever the outcome. With the existing offshore legal and regulatory framework for cryptocurrency, it is made to measure, given that there is now more than just a hint that Brits could turn to cryptocurrency come the predicted economic fallout given a no deal Brexit this year, and for this event, Zhao sees himself in the front line.

When it comes to crypto, the front line is always the place to be.

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The Balance Is Shifting, but Only 20% of Those in Tech-Related Fields Are Female

New York Blockchain Week is back on 10-17 May, although it doesn’t seem like almost a year since the Lambos cruised down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, yet again the lack of female reps from the Blockchain industry highlights the fintech’s gender imbalance.

The second of such events hosted by CoinDesk and the New York City Economic Development Corporation is expecting industry stakeholder’s from over 100 countries to meet and collaborate in what has now become the de facto annual industry summit.

Industry big names such as Caitlin Long and Donna Redel will be speaking at the annual celebration of blockchain, but it would be nice to see other women pushing blockchain forward in attendance. Women at the top have long viewed diversity as the blockchain industry’s fundamental, but this doesn’t always stretch to big events such as these.

IBM’s blockchain sisters Bridget van Kralingen, Marie Wieck and Ginni Rometty showed what they could achieve in 2018.  Amber Baldet, once of JPMorgan, left Wall Street to develop her own software by founding Clovyr and get startups on the road to using blockchain technology more effectively. These are all voices the industry needs to tap into at the big events.

In 2018, Blockchain Women Ireland (BWI) was founded in the Irish Republic to further advance awareness of the blockchain sector in the country in an attempt to address the current figures which illustrate that still, only 20% of those in tech-related fields are female.

New York Blockchain Week speaker Caitlin Long is another who followed the Wall Street Exodus to blockchain, co-founding the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition which has been responsible for pushing innovative blockchain legislation forward in the state. She explains:

“The developments in Wyoming over the past year have been so positive for both the industry and Wyoming. We are paving the way for how to provide clarity to blockchain developers about what’s legal and what’s not.”

Speaker Donna Rede; professor at Fordham Law and leading advocate for the financial literacy of women runs courses in crypto and blockchain, is another leading from the top. The once chair at COMEX and one-time Managing Director and Board member at the World Economic Forum says her focus is now on educating future leaders in blockchain technology.

A recent UK government report revealed that salary imbalance between the genders when it comes to business is still slow to change. Although one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK — a hugely improved figure — many of the companies run by women are also half the size of those with male directorship. The report goes on to indicate that accelerating female recruitment into the business over the next year could add an extra USD 25 billion to the UK economy alone.

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Breaking Down the Latest Ethereum Developments

Breaking Down the Latest Ethereum Developments

Ethereum’s core development team is constantly working to improve and make changes to the native blockchain on which the #2 cryptocurrency is built. This can be observed via the on-chain data available, including the popularity of the native smart contracts.

However, as the bulk of the cryptocurrency market enjoys a period of bullish growth, Ethereum is struggling to entice miners to the network due to break-even prices.

What the on-chain dates can tell us

  • Like Bitcoin, active Ethereum addresses (those engaged in transactions within the last 24 hours) have experienced an upturn after 9 months or so of steady decline; this change has coincided with the rise of both cryptocurrencies’ prices.
  • Decentralized finance, or DeFi, has proved to be the second biggest use case so far for Ethereum, private fundraising being the first. Growth in the area of DeFi has been at a lull for the last month or so after demonstrating impressive growth rates since September last year, potentially showing it has reached a temporary structural ceiling.
  • The aggregate number of smart contract interactions have been on the rise since February, coming close to the all-time highest levels, seen in April 2018. Because the number of new ICOs have been at such low levels for over a year now, it can be assumed that the rising smart contract use demonstrates a strengthening of trust in their utility. Stability in Gas cost also implies the network is moving closer to network capacity.

The Ethereum hash rate negative trend

Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is a Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency, but unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum’s hash rate has failed to pick up since the favorable market turn. Current market prices have meant Ethereum mining is still unprofitable for many, showing the network has failed to meet equilibrium yet. Compared to Bitcoin, the inflation rate of Ethereum remains high.

The fact that Ethereum will be moving to a Proof-of-Stake system in the near future may also be influencing the lack of miners on the network, although the date of this implementation has already been pushed back once this year.

Ethereum price fluctuations

While Ethereum may not be as bullish right now as Bitcoin or many of the altcoins it has pulled up with it, in the last few days ETH has shown a strong rebound hitting USD 174 before settling around USD 166. Against the USD, Etherum surpassed key levels at USD 169/ USD 179, showing indicators that a climb past USD 180 is viable.

Ethereum is currently +1.25%, trading at USD 173.22; at its peak price in January 2018, Ethereum was trading at USD 1345.07. In December last year, it fell as low as USD 84.00 – a level not experienced since May 2017.

 

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Russia Adopts Law to Divorce Runet from Internet

Russia Adopts Law to Divorce Runet from Internet

The Russian segment of the internet, called Runet, is about to be cordoned off from the rest of the world, with a new law recently adopted by the State Duma to protect online Russia from external threats and transform it into a “sovereign” space.

A Bitcoin.com report says that taxpayers and end users will foot the bill for Russia’s “Great Firewall”, and that this will likely affect online businesses including crypto platforms.

The lower house of the Russian parliament has this week adopted a final reading of a draft known as the ‘Digital Economy National Program’. Although the next legislative step is approval that is still required from the upper house – the Federation Council – before proceeding to the President for his signature, Duma’s decisive support points to a strong political will for this to pass and become law.

Once it does get implemented, the system will mean that local internet traffic will have to pass through state-controlled routers to ensure they only can visit sites that are permitted. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) will also be granted absolute power, able to close down internet providers. Just recently, it had already forced VPN providers in the country to get on board with a censorship program, prompting TorGuard to close its operations in Russia.

 

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CFTC Commissioner Says Sheer Pace of Fintech Has Stalled Bakkt Type Approvals

CFTC Commissioner Says Sheer Pace of Fintech Has Stalled Bakkt Type Approvals

CFTC Commissioner Christopher Giancarlo believes that the current period of innovation makes it challenging to approve proposals like Bakkt.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is an independent agency of the US government created in 1974, that regulates futures and options markets.

Bakkt had promised prospective clients it would request permission from the CFTC to provide the first Bitcoin futures that would be physically deliverable daily, as well as storing clients Bitcoin in a physical warehouse on their behalf. The CFTC suggested that Bakkt registers as a trust company to circumnavigate stalling compliancy issues.

With the news that the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the owners of the New York Stock Exchange, is now attempting to facilitate the launch of its delayed Bakkt platform by obtaining a New York cryptocurrency license, the complications that new crypto projects face are a sign of the times according to Giancarlo, who clarified the difficulties:

“The first is that we live in a period of exponential technological change. That is, the sheer speed of innovation has increased exponentially, both in terms of production of new models and products and their subsequent public adoption.”

Giancarlo makes it clear that the pace of change within the industry means that regulators simply can’t catch up with new innovations without what he calls “heightened technological literacy across leaders in business and government.”

However, he points out that cryptocurrency innovation could have saved the 2008 global financial crisis, commenting, “Today I want to take stock of the current state of blockchain technology and renew a focus on how it can impact – and improve – our markets,” adding:

“But imagine what a difference it would have made a decade ago on the eve of the financial crisis if regulators had access to the real-time trading ledgers of large Wall Street banks, rather than trying to assemble piecemeal data to recreate complex, individual trading portfolios.”

 

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John McAfee Claims $1 Million Bitcoin Prediction Based on Math

John McAfee Claims  Million Bitcoin Prediction Based on Math

John McAfee’s explanation for his USD 1 million Bitcoin price by the end of 2020 is all down to mathematics, according to the high flying tech mogul.

A recent McAfee Tweet offering to the market suggested that it would be “mathematically impossible” that one BTC will be less than USD 1 million “by the end of 2020”.

A brave claim worth investigating. Assuming Bitcoin remains around it current price for the next 24 hours, a good place to start from, now sitting at USD 5,277, it needs launch on a head-spinning lift off increasing by 20,000% in order to reach McAfee’s 2020 USD 1 million target. The leap in 2017, regarded by many as highly unexpected and unrepeatable saw a 20-times leap in the value of the flagship coin before it just as rapidly crashed to earth in 2018.

It is worth noting McAfee’s last big prediction of USD 500,000 by the end of 2020 made in 2017 is still current, so he does have the advantage of a fallback position should he wish to hedge his bets as the end of next year approaches, assuming Bitcoin is flying into the stratosphere.

McAfee’s math told him that his early prediction priced Bitcoin at USD 5,000 by the end of 2017, and it to be fair it had already doubled that by December to USD 10,000. A simple annual doubling up process, however, would not have taken Bitcoin to his original USD 500,000 prediction by the end of 2020; in fact, a mathematical total based on doubling would be closer to USD 80,000, but still no mean feat, and great for those BTC holders buying in 2017. McAfee was clearly hoping for a 20-times annual leap over the span over four years to get to his mammoth target.

Wences Casares, CEO of Xapo and a director at PayPal, is going for Bitcoin reaching USD 1 million in the next 7 to 10 years, but still gives McAfee’s claims a hint of a chance. Casares uses his own equation by multiplying the total of Bitcoin Hodlers with USD 7,000 and given there are 3 billion owners globally, then the currency could be worth USD 1 million with a fixed BTC supply of 20 million units.

No stranger to controversy, McAfee’s latest media offering has suggested that he is not ready to release the identity of Bitcoin’s founder yet, but has revealed:

“It is NOT the CIA nor any agency of any world government. It IS a collection of people, but the white paper was written by one man, who currently resides in the US.”

 

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Mueller Report Makes Bitcoin Link to Russian Interference in 2016 US Election

The much-anticipated Mueller Report on interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election claims that Russian intelligence used Bitcoin to secure computer infrastructure for hacking purposes.

The ‘Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election’ suggested that there is evidence that Russia attempted to smooth the path for Donald Trump by using hacking to target Hilary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, although no collusion by the current president was proven. The report stated:

“…cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials [were] damaging to the Clinton Campaign,” adding “The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.”

The report accuses the GRU of hacking into computer hardware used by Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), leading to email leaks damaging to Clinton’s campaign. One of two military units of the GRU allegedly ran “a bitcoin mining operation to secure bitcoins used to purchase computer infrastructure used in hacking operations“, according to details in the report.

The report indicates that a Russian IT unit stored the Bitcoins on UK cryptocurrency cloud mining service and exchange CEX.io and used mined Bitcoins to purchase the domain name “dcleaks.com” on April 19, 2016. The Russian agents were successful in bypassing the UK based exchange’s strict strict KYC/AML policy, common to all cryptocurrency exchanges.

In January 2018 U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that such activity was a concern commenting at the time that cryptocurrency agencies, not unlike conventional banking, had tight KYC regulations. Clearly, this is an area that will come under scrutiny following the Mueller report revelations.

 

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Big Corporates Investing in Blockchain with Wait ‘N See Approach

Big Corporates Investing in Blockchain with Wait 'N See Approach

PitchBook data recently compiled for Reuters shows that both corporate funding and venture capital investments are still behind blockchain tech, although trust in cryptocurrency has still yet to become a feature of large company investment.

Corporate investment in Bitcoin is seen very much like the Holy Grail of the cryptocurrency industry, and to date, the big money is aimed at blockchain technology, although the application for the tech is not as widespread as some advocates would suggest.

However, the future is looking bright with this new data illustrating just how much corporates have softened towards the crypto market, despite avoiding the actual cryptocurrencies themselves. Funds heading in the direction of crypto and blockchain startups are now to the tune of USD 850 million this year to April, and some of this interest has come from high tech companies.

The Catch 22 continues for Bitcoin though, as large companies wait to see if Bitcoin can break through to gain wider adoption despite its fall in value. For many, the perception is that it is only corporate acceptance that can give the market impetus to drive crypto forward to new levels moving forward.

Despite the usual hype, blockchain still needs to find some more sectors in which to operate so that it can be accepted as a viable solution in industry, according to Richard Hay, UK head of fintech at law firm Linklaters, who calls for far more blockchain innovation:

“There are two dynamics at play… We can get something up and running and achieve cost savings, and also look longer term at ways of deploying the technology in more transformative ways.”

Pitchbook data to April also shows that some cooperate investment has been directed at crypto mining gear and exchanges, including the four biggest VC-backed firms by valuation, but Anton Ruddenklau, global co-head of fintech at KPMG feels that although companies are “really enamored” with tokenization, “they are investing as a technological hedge as much as anything”.

One potential crypto industry driver, Bakkt, has already run into problems before its launch. The highly-anticipated cryptocurrency platform has run into trouble with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) over its custody plans for clients’ Bitcoin, after raising USD 180 million last year from investors including M12, Microsoft’s venture capital arm.

 

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Accra and The Hague Universities Combine to Promote Blockchain in Ghana

Accra and The Hague Universities Combine to Promote Blockchain in Ghana

A partnership between a Ghanaian University and the Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS) in the Netherlands has been forged with a view to accommodating a student exchange programme and further promote blockchain in the African nation.

The Accra Technical University (ATU) wants to accelerate it graduate programme in order to provide the industry with the necessary skills to fill its requirements, including advancing blockchain technology in the country.

A seminar organized by the two universities entitled ‘The Power of Blockchain’ took place in Accra this week in which the way forward was discussed. Dr Ernest Winful, the Dean of International Programmes at ATU, told the press that blockchain technology was becoming vital to conducting business in Ghana and therefore students needed new skills in order to embrace tech opportunities in the industry. He pointed out:

“The blockchain is coming like how the internet came and it is important to join the train to avoid any inconvenience it may cause by the blockchain technology in the future.”

An important feature of the collaboration between the universities will be an exchange programme allowing students in both Africa and Europe to learn at both education institutions; an essential inclusion for Ghanaian students due to Africa currently lagging behind Europe, Asia and the Americas in blockchain technology.

From the Dutch side, Rene Dondjio, a Lecturer at the THUAS, said that lecturers from the university situated in the Hague would travel to Ghana making three monthly trips to Accra to train students at ATU, also pointing out that blockchain was becoming a life-changing technology for many at both an individual and business level.

ATU pointed out that it was important that Africa didn’t get left behind as new technologies such as blockchain leaped forward elsewhere around the globe.

 

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