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US Congressman to Introduce New Positive Blockchain Bills

A US congressman is planning is to introduce three pro-blockchain and cryptocurrency bills to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer is presenting the bills entitled “Resolution Supporting Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology,” the “Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act,” and the “Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Forked Assets Act.”

The congressman is one of the stong pro-crypto voices in Washington amongst a group of politicians trying to forward the interests of the burgeoning technology. Emmer was quick to commend the SEC recently when they clarified the fact that Ether was not a security.

Another congressman Warren Davidson, the representative for Ohio is also pushing for sensible cryptocurrency and blockchain technology regulations. He recently invited 32 prominent representatives of the cryptocurrency industry to Washington in order to discuss future ICO legislation. Davidson sits on The United States House Committee on Financial Services, which is responsible for overseeing the entire financial services industry, including the securities, insurance, banking, and housing industries.

Emmer’s three bills would require the government to restrict fines against investors reporting “forked” assets until the IRS has established clear rules for cryptocurrencies. As Emmer suggests, the law must be clear before taxpayers can even begin to comply with it. The congressman has been keen to clarify all legal ramifications connected with blockchain and cryptocurrency so that the industry has clear guidelines in which to operate. Emmer commented:

“The United States should prioritize accelerating the development of blockchain technology and create an environment that enables the American private sector to lead on innovation and further growth, which is why I am introducing these bills.”

Emmer is now co-chair of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, an industry platform working with the government on matters related to blockchain and cryptocurrency, whilst deploying a ‘hands-off regulatory approach’ in the hope that the technology can evolve in the same way that the internet did – on its own.

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North America Cryptocurrency News Roundup 14-20 September 2018

Welcome to another weekly blockchain and cryptocurrency news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest news continent by continent and country by country. Next up is North America.

USA

SEC delays Bitcoin ETFs despite vocal public support: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is once again stalling another Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

The ETF in question was from VanEck SolidX and while the move wasn’t surprising, it was established that the SEC will be delaying all ETFs till 2019. The move took place despite over 1400 comments and public letters submitted to the SEC for the VanEck ETF alone, with almost all of them in favor of it.

While the SEC did acknowledge the favorable comments, it issued all of them to submit a 21-day writing assignment before questioning the manipulation of the Bitcoin markets.

Members of Congress for clear crypto tax rules: A few lawmakers of the US Congress have called for a clear set of rules for crypto taxation and reached out to the federal tax collection agency, the IRS.

The letter from representatives David Schweikert, Darin LaHood, Lynn Jenkins, Brad Wenstrup, and Kevin Brady, who is the chairman of the committee on Ways and Means seeks the much-needed clarification and guidance for taxpayers who are involved in cryptocurrencies.

The IRS is yet to comment on the matter.

Report points out improvement areas for cryptocurrency exchanges: The New York Attorney General’s office published a report that outlined some improvement areas for cryptocurrency exchanges in the state.

While New York has one of the toughest exchange laws in place, several exchanges have operational permits but big names like Bitfinex, Tidex and HBUS are still not approved by the State Department of Financial Services.

The report claims that some exchanges have failed to implement standard consumer protection mechanisms including adequate security measures and market surveillance protocols. The exchanges not in compliance are likely to be taken to court and fined.

University launches the first major crypto program in the US: The New York University has launched the first major program for blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the country.

The program offered by the Stern School of Business will include groundwork as well as specialized courses to help understand the legal and business implications for the new market. While the university had already been offering blockchain programs before, this remains the first full-fledged blockchain major in the country.

Oregon pushing for Blockchain State Plan: North-West State Oregon is going ahead with plans for blockchain state project through the state legislature. 

The Oregon Blockchain Venture Studio based in the state capital of Portland has been set up with an aim to gather companies and organizations in education, business , and technology. Blockchain technology is of course the most disruptive technology in recent times and the state is looking to land more and more blockchain and cryptocurrency projects.

Canada

Government okays 30th ETF provider: While the US is clamping down hard on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), Canada just allowed the 30th ETF operator in the country with the launch of two new ETFs based on global warming technologies.

Coin Capital Investment Management Co. Ltd announced its license and that effectively made it the 30th such ETF in the Great White North. Canada is warming up to the idea of cryptocurrencies and the government is adoptiong a favourable stance towards the new currencies.

Mexico

Government puts Central Bank in charge of cryptocurrency rules: The government of Mexico has announced that it is delegating the power to its Central bank and it will get to choose which cryptocurrency companies are legitimate.

The National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) is now in charge of the process. All of the pending cases of exchange and other cryptocurrency related initiatives will be handed over to the bank.

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New York Report Points to Improvement Areas for Crypto Exchanges

The New York Attorney General’s office published a report this week that investigates the practices of cryptocurrency exchanges in the state.

It was undertaken on the basis of protecting and informing residents, with evidence conclusively pointing to areas that exchanges need to improve in order to ”ensure the fairness, integrity, and security of their exchanges”.

The ten exchanges that chose to participate in the Attorney General’s report include Bitfinex, bitFlyer USA, Bitstamp, Bittrex, Coinbase, Gemini, itBit, Poloniex, HBUS and Tidex. Of these platforms, just Bitfinex, Tidex and HBUS are not regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The report claims that some exchanges have failed to implement standard investor and consumer protections; this including adequate security measures as well as market surveillance protocols.

One aspect of this pointed to is an apparent lack of measures to impede ”abusive trading activity”. While the report acknowledges some exchanges have steps to implement safeguards and ”police the fairness of their platforms”, this cannot be said for all of those that participated in the study. The lack of market surveillance capabilities such as those found in traditional trading venues is said to restrict their capabilities of identifying and putting a stop to suspicious trading patterns.

Despite these criticisms, the Attorney General’s office is not looking to shut down or restrict any of their operations. Rather, the report has been conducted to help educate New York-based customers, and encourage the cryptocurrency marketplace to review its own flaws in order to preserve the integrity of transactions.

Should exchanges choose to ignore the advice and not adjust policies of their own accord, in the future the Attorney General’s office may well take legal action against the exchanges.

”As the sector matures, the OAG expects responsible trading platforms – in coordination with consumer advocates, regulators, and law enforcement – to expand the transparency, security, fairness, and accountability of their businesses,” it reads.

 

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Colorado Resort Breaks New Ground with Real Estate Security Tokens

A resort in Aspen Colorado has launched Ethereum-based tokens to encourage investor interest.

St Regis Aspen Resort has followed up on its August announcement of an intention to offer shares in the business through blockchain tokens. The tokens will replace the traditional idea of paper certificates of equity in the property. The resort is using Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding platform, to launch the offering.

The prestigious St Regis hotel set at the base of Aspen Mountain has rooms at USD 3,500  a week, offering its guests shops, spas and treatment rooms, beauty therapies and a private butler service. Most guests stay to access skiing at a range of slopes nearby including Snowmass, Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk.

Slava Rubin, co-founder of Indiegogo, explained the thinking behind such projects:

“From the beginning ten years ago, we always looked at democratizing access to capital and allowing people to get more involved in these opportunities and today we are talking about our expansion into security token offerings.”

The tokens, called Aspen Coins, have been offered through Templum Markets, a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and will be treated as security tokens for the purpose of the sale. The sale price has been set at USD 1 each with a minimum investment of USD 10,000, with a total offering of USD 18 million which closed on 14 September.

The resort claims to be one of the first major real estate ventures in the US to launch into the world of blockchain. Stephane De Baets, St Regis owner, sees such ventures as game-changing in the hospitality industry:

“We’ve lined up a substantial pipeline of global properties to bring to market subsequent to the first offering. A lot of people don’t want to sit on depreciating fiat cash in a bank account… high-profile trophy asset is something you can be emotionally connected to and build a little bit of your savings portfolio on.”

This hasn’t been Indiegogo’s first foray into cryptocurrency, as at the end of last year the company launched a fan-based football league ICO which fell short of its target, only raising USD 5.3 million. The company’s CEO sees this as a far more investable enterprise, commenting:

“Having a clear asset like the St Regis Aspen is the beginning of signaling a shift in how people think about tokenization and investing in blockchains and crypto.”

 

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Tech Journalists Leave New York Radio for Blockchain Podcast

Two broadcasters in New York have parted company with public radio to create their own podcast promoting blockchain.

“Zig Zag” is now the main focus of WNYC broadcasters Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant; a podcast now entering its second season which focuses on blockchain and what it can do for journalism.

WNYC is the trademark, and a set of call letters shared by a pair of non-profit, non-commercial, public radio stations located in New York City and owned by New York Public Radio, a non-profit organization that did business as WNYC RADIO until March 2013

At WNYC, Zomorodi hosted and Poyant produced a tech podcast called “Note to Self” but now they’ve moved on to form a partnership with Civil Media, a new company built on blockchain technology.

Civil has been gaining a name for itself in the world of journalism over the past year. The concept is a unique development in media, utilizing blockchain to allow both readers and journalists to combine to fund topics of interest to them or the public. Supported by CVL tokens, yet to be released, all participants will gain a speculative stake which increases in value as the company expands.

ZigZag is an original concept in the sense the podcast will follow the participants lives as they attempt to build their new careers promoting the blockchain space. This includes reporting on the challenges they encounter as they attempt to manage the project in tandem with their busy lives as working mothers.

The first season of 12 episodes was designed as an introduction to the non-initiated, requiring Zomoridi to explain to listeners about the concept of DLT and how it functions. She explained:

“If I, as a tech journalist, roll my eyes when I hear about blockchain, somebody is not doing a good job explaining this stuff… That’s where the opportunity is — for two women, two moms, who are going out on their own, who have to understand blockchain. There’s your entryway to a podcast.”

The two journalists left WNYC earlier this year after the station had cut ties with the male hosts who had departed after accusations of harassment by station employees. Apart from wanting to work on their own, they said that they had been further motivated by the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment.

Zomorodi says she often records on the fly and has a refreshing approach despite often feeling her new life is a challenge. She says, “It’s a juggle, and it’s exhausting.” In the second episode of the show, she explained DLT using a “Schoolhouse Rock”-style jingle sung by the musician and podcaster Martin Zaltz Austwick.

 

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Oregon Pushes Ahead with “Blockchain State” Plan

With many states in the US beginning to push various blockchain projects through state legislature, Oregon state in the country’s Northwest has also made a claim to the “blockchain state” handle.

The Oregon Blockchain Venture Studio in Portland has been set up to further this aim, with a number of companies and organizations from the fields of education, business, and technology linking their know-how to push the new tech in the state.

The aim is to specifically target 20 to 30 companies in the state over three years, hosted by digital agency R/GA, while forming a partnership with two state universities, Intel and sports giant Nike. The Venture Studio will also benefit from a USD 250,000 commitment through Business Oregon and the Oregon Growth Board.

The main idea of a studio is to give local companies opportunities similar to those that venture capital might offer. Jeff Gaus of Oregon Blockchain Venture Partners suggests that the “Oregon ethos exactly maps to what is required for blockchain to work”, adding that the state could become “what Pittsburgh is to steel or Detroit is to autos or Seattle to manned flight”.

Selected investors in the studio will contribute USD 3 million a year, each receiving investment capital of USD 100,000. Potential investment dollars will also be available from studio partners.

Although other US states are pushing their own blockchain plans to elevate their profile around the nation, Business Oregon spokesman Nathan Buehler claims that no state has really staked its claim as yet. He feels that Oregon is well placed through its established hardware and software industry to “establish an advantage” over other states.

Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has recently signed off on a law in that state that will employ a blockchain working group, in order to further study the technology and how it can be utilized in state legislation. It is reported that the governor’s intentions are to make Connecticut “a leader in blockchain technology”.

It appears as though the United States is undergoing radical changes at institutional and governmental levels; in late July, blockchain technology in public sector projects also received a guidebook from a US-based IT industry trade association called CompTIA.

 

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Coinbase Goes on Wall Street Hiring Spree as Part of Global Expansion

Coinbase has cut the ribbon for its new New York office with plans to expand the staff profile to 150 employees over the next 12 months.

As part of the company’s expansion plans, the current staff of 20 have been acquired from the New York Stock Exchange, Barclays, and Citigroup, which indicates the level of seriousness on its part in infiltrating the banking system. Adam White, general manager of Coinbase Institutional, explained the staffing direction the exchange was embarking on:

“We have to create a bridge between financial services and technology,” he added, “In order to do that, we need to pull from some of the best and brightest minds that have worked their whole careers in other kinds of traditional financial firms.”

With an expansion into the Irish Republic and now NYC, crypto exchange giant Coinbase is clearly on a push to amplify its influence around the globe. In its push to raise its corporate and institutional investor client base, the office is following the NYSE with its new staffing profile. According to Christine Sandler, the company’s head of institutional sales, its focus on institutional investors should sit comfortably with its retail investment trade. She commented:

“We want to partner with appropriate institutions to help the whole ecosystem grow.” She further said, “It’s not ‘institutional or retail,’ because a lot of these institutions will be distributors.”

White argues that they had expected an exodus of institutional investors when the market corrected but claims, “It was exactly the opposite.” White sees Coinbase as having the capability to “light up more countries and more fiat rails” with a new office in Tokyo planned and a move into South America. White further said: “we’re committed to not being a U.S. company.”

Coinbase has also joined a new Washington-based lobby group called the Blockchain Association who intend to convince governmental bodies to give the crypto space some well-needed regulatory leeway in a bid to foster innovation.

Along with Coinbase other leaders in the sector include Circle, Protocol Labs, and other crypto investment firms, like Polychain Capital and Digital Currency Group,

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TV Drama Features Crypto, Still the Elephant in the Room?

Another TV staple added some extra exposure to cryptocurrency. Britain’s longest running TV drama Coronation Street, added a scenario fitting a recent script.

The soap, Coronation Street, is one of the world’s oldest show running on British TV since 1960 and has a run of 9,500 episodes since its creation. The show is watched nightly by over 8 million viewers in the UK and many more around Europe.

The plots, always set in a working-class neighborhood in Manchester, deal with the daily struggles of loves and lives of those living in one street. The current plot in question focused on a local Ryan Conner, an ex-drug user with a serious gambling problem. He remembers a £50 investment he once made in a cryptocurrency called “Whipcoin” (fictional), only to discover that his investment is now worth £250 million.

Of course, he’s forgotten his password, but eventually, upon locating the coins, he finds that the information he was given about the coin was wrong. Although, his investment in Whipcoin had indeed been worth £250 million when the price of the coin peaked. It had since then plummetted in value to practically zero.

Channels such as Bitcoin News continue to bring the latest in cryptocurrency to the public, but the sector still needs greater mainstream media exposures. Although, this is happening slowly with exposure on popular mainstream television such as The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, House of Cards, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Silicon Valley, Family Guy, and Parks and Recreation.

The Big Screen is slow to integrate scripts with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency as a theme, but there are a few in the pipeline such as “Crypto,” starring Kurt Russell in the lead role. The film, already in post-production, is reportedly a crime-based thriller following in the footsteps of films such as Wall Street, Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short which focussed on the economic crisis of 2008.

Such films about the financial sector are becoming increasingly popular and tend to get good box office ratings as a result. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street quickly became the prolific filmmaker’s top-grossing film at the worldwide box office shortly after its release.

Publisher Little Brown is to release a biography about crypto twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss called “Bitcoin Billionaires”. The book, which is to be published both in the UK and US next year, has been bought by Richard Beswick, Little Brown’s publishing director.

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Poll Reveals Millennial’s Rush to Crypto Still Male Dominated

The latest cryptocurrency poll has indicated that millennial women are still lagging behind in adoption of cryptocurrency.

A new survey conducted in the US with 3000 millennials, was published on September 12, 2018, by crypto finance company Circle. It revealed that currently, men invest in cryptocurrency at twice the rate of women within the millennial age bracket.

In terms of investment, 71 percent of millennials say that they have kept their investment in crypto below $1000, of which 42 percent invested under $500 and 29 percent invested between $500–$1,000. The bigger spenders or at least those investing more than $1000 represented 29 percent of the poll. 17 percent of men are planning to purchase crypto against 8 percent of women.

The gender gap which has always existed in terms of crypto investments appears not to have narrowed greatly in the US if the results of this survey give a fair indication of who’s investing between the sexes. In the UK, which has become a major crypto hub, particularly for millennials, things have improved significantly over the past year according to a recent London Blockchange poll.

Their poll conducted earlier this year showed that the number of women showing interest in investing in cryptocurrencies has gone from 6 percent to 13 percent over the last six months; almost twice the amount revealed in the US poll. A significant result of that survey revealed that women were far less likely to stress over cryptocurrency, keeping a cool head when making their crypto investments. This inference was drawn from the new Circle poll which suggested that 42 percent of millennial men were “aggressive investors” as opposed to 27 percent of women.

The figures from the Blockchange poll suggested that women in the millennials group are responsible for the increased percentage of women participants in the space, as millennials remain the dominant group worldwide in cryptocurrency investment. Another survey revealed that this group viewed Bitcoin as more trustworthy than big banks.

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North America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 7th to 13th September 2018

North America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Mexico

Government to tighten Bitcoin regulation through central bank-issued payments: The Bank of Mexico is tightening up Bitcoin regulations by releasing a circular that says Bitcoin exchanges and other businesses dealing in cryptocurrencies will have to require a government permit to do so.

The circular was published in the government’s official daily channel and shows that the country is working to tighten trading laws in the country in an effort to stop any misuse of the digital currencies.

Canada

Canada home to first Bitcoin-linked mutual fund trust: Canadian investors are going to get a taste of something new as a company called First Block Capital Ltd was allowed by the government regulators to operate as a mutual fund trust.

The move means that Canadians can now save their money in Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) that is essentially a tax-free savings account in the country. This will boost the application of crypto and let people save money in the form of cryptocurrencies for retirement.

USA

Crypto industry starts lobbying group in Washington: A new lobbying group has been established by the Blockchain Association of the USA to represent entrepreneurs and investors in the sector and lobby for the right response from the government.

The group will also assist the government in implementing crypto specific laws including Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) measures.

Department of Defense building to become crypto mining facility: A Nevada-based building of the US Department of Defense is being taken over and converted into a cryptocurrency mining facility by a private mining company.

The Wuhan General Group of China has used the opportunity to use the vacated building and install a total of 1,300 mining rigs in the building. With competition tough around the world, companies are finding it difficult to locate suitable buildings for cryptocurrency mining operations because they take a lot of space and need a former factory floor for installation of equipment.

SEC stops only Bitcoin ETN operating in US: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stopped the trading of the only Bitcoin Exchange Traded Note (ETN) being offered in the country. The ETN in question had only been trading in the country since mid-August.

The banned ETN is named Bitcoin Tracker One and according to the SEC, there is a lack of consistent, accurate information about the ETN that confuses investors. While the statement from the SEC says that the ETN has been banned only till 20 September, its overall attitude probably means that the ETN will be banned for a long time.

New York approves Gemini stablecoin: A New York State regulator has allowed two-dollar linked digital tokens including one belonging to the Winklevoss twins’ exchange Gemini.

The Winklevoss brothers made big money settlements with Mark Zuckerberg during their infamous trial in which they accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea. They also jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon early on and profited a lot from it.

While the twins have been trying to get ETFs legalized for some time, they are also experimenting with stablecoins, digital coins linked to recognized assets such as the US dollar that gives them stability.

Marshall Islands

IMF puts pressure on government after plans for a national crypto: The tiny Pacific nation of Marshall Islands’ plans to shift to a national cryptocurrency have suffered a setback after the IMF warned against the idea and suggested that the banks will refuse to work with it if the government goes ahead with its plans.

The new token being considered by the tiny island nation was called Sovereign and could have displaced the US dollar as the national currency in the near future. But, the IMF which heavily relies on the current fiat system for survival has come out and warned the country against doing so.

 

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