Category Archives: US

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Trump’s Head Lawmaker Under Fire for Bitcoin Time Travel Role

Acting US attorney general Matthew G Whitaker, appointed to replace the outgoing Jess Sessions fired by President Trump this month, is already under the microscope due to his association with Time Travel X, a “theoretical time travel commodity tied directly to the price of Bitcoin”.

Time Travel X was a product of World Patent Marketing, which was shut down in 2017 and fined USD 26 million after an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anti-competitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly.

The company is now being investigated by the FBI and Whittaker is being examined himself for any connections he had with the company. The crypto-related product Time Travel X is one of many inventions marketed by World Patent Marketing which has been identified as a scam. It never actually got off the ground but was launched as “a technology, an investment vehicle and a community of users”.

World Patent Marketing Asserted that time travel could be “possible, perhaps within the next decade” and attempted to raise funds in order to use Bitcoin for time-travel research carried out by one of Whitaker’s fellow board members, promising users might “relive moments from your past” or “visit your future”.

The products marketed by World Patent Marketing are thought to have fooled its inventor clients with bogus patent contracts, and subsequently defrauded consumers out of millions of dollars. The Wall St Journal has suggested that Whittaker was paid USD 9,375 for a position on the company’s advisory board, monies that he hasn’t returned despite legal proceedings against the company. The Washington Post claims that Whittaker even spurned an October 2017 subpoena from the FTC asking for any personal records relating to his time as an adviser for the company.

The Washington Post has cited a Justice Department (DoJ) statement reading that “acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has said he was not aware of any fraudulent activity. Any stories suggesting otherwise are false”.

 

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Ohio Congressman Tells SEC Hands Off Crypto

Ohio Congressman and cryptocurrency advocate Warren Davidson is to go ahead with his plans to introduce a bill which will effectively eliminate the SEC’s jurisdiction over the industry.

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.

The Bill will need to penetrate President Trump’s home guard in the House of Representatives and as yet Davison hasn’t named his co-sponsors. If passed, the bill would effectively create a situation where securities law would not be relevant to ICO as cryptocurrencies would be classified as products rather than securities.

Davidson is hoping for a bipartisan approach to getting the bill through, although the new Democratic majority is thought to have little effect in limiting the SEC’s regulations as they apply to cryptocurrencies. The Examiner commented:

“…[unlikely that the] incoming Democratic majority will get joyfully on board with any form, of crypto deregulation strategy, though the Congressional Blockchain Caucus has historically featured a bipartisan membership.”

Craig Phillips, the senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, stated publicly on Monday that the department would be releasing its latest position on cryptocurrencies in the near future.

It has been noted that despite Davidson’s push for change within the SEC to combat its punitive stance on cryptocurrencies, startups have taken their own approach to sidestep rules through VC funding or raising by raising funds privately. Over the next few months, the SEC has several pending cases against cryptocurrency exchanges and ICOs.

CNN claims that this regulatory uncertainty could result in a decline in investor confidence, a fact which  Congressman Davidson and his supporters in Washington are fully aware of.

 

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Xerox Lands Blockchain Patent for Document Track Edits

Xerox, the company behind the invention of photo estate, has won the patent for a new blockchain-based auditing system for electronic files on November 13. The patent was awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The new DLT-based system that was originally tabled with the USPTO for approval back in August 2017. According to the filing, the patent envisioned a blockchain-based recording of revisions on any kind of documents in a computer. The recording would allow any third party to see what changes have been made during the authoring of any content. Due to the decentralized nature of a DLT system, the resulting documenting system cannot be tampered with when it comes to how edits were made.

Xerox explained the technology by describing a system of blockchain nodes that can essentially approve or disapprove each change made in a document. The series of nodes will allow the users to be alerted whenever a node disagrees with a document because it differs from a verified previous version.

According to Xerox, this patent has extensive application in the audit of many electronic records that are prone to tampering including medial and financial ones, tax returns and even educational documents like degrees, diplomas and certificates. The filing also singles out criminal investigation and that photos and DNA tests can thus be protected from future tampering with such a system in place.

This is not the first foray of Xerox into DLT-based technologies. Back in 2016, the company filed a patent for creating a time-stamped protocol for data such as pictures of copies of documents. This tech would have made data incorruptible including crucial pieces that are submitted in court as evidence in criminal prosecution and defense.

Tech companies are racing to get more and more blockchain patents. According to stats from this September, IBM had filed the most blockchain patents in the world.

 

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IBM Blockchain Pursues Open Research, Security

Hot on the blockchain patenting trail, IBM’s latest patent, this time coming out of its Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, appears to signal a new pursuit of “open scientific research”.

First filed in December 2017, the patent for “Blockchain for Open Scientific Research” claims that blockchain can aid the process of scientific research by tracking research and development projects across institutional borders while offering “a tamper-resistant log of scientific research”. The patent filing outlined the work of IBM inventors Jae-wook Ahn, Maria Chang, Patrick Watson, and Ravindranath Kokku:

“The blockchain system can form a blockchain representing a research project, wherein the blockchain comprises a first block of research data and a second block of analysis data representing a log of an analysis performed on the research data. Summary blocks and correction blocks can also be added to the blockchain representing the post analysis of the research results.”

The patent clarifies the fact that “currently, there are limited platforms that allow for sharing information about scientific research and showing transparent data collection and analysis steps”, although IBM is clearly not alone in applying DLT in the general science sector.

However, as has been demonstrated by heightened levels of research in IBMs labs over the course of the past 12 months, the company has become one of the major drivers of blockchain patents in the field. Another example of its impact on blockchain development and its practical applications, which again focuses on security, is its recent collaboration with data storage solutions company Seagate.

The IBM/Seagate project is aimed at enabling manufacturers and users of hard drives to ensure their authentication via a multi-layered security protection to data storage provenance. An immutable record of a product’s life from manufacturing to decommissioning is guaranteed by utilizing both blockchain and advanced cryptographic product identification technology, according to Seagate. Mark Re, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Seagate, explained:

“By combining Seagate’s innovations in product security with IBM’s blockchain expertise, we want to prove that we can help reduce the incidence of product counterfeiting in the future.”

 

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Blockchain Birds Are Coming This Thanksgiving, Complete With ID

This Thanksgiving, 600,000 turkeys in the US are being delivered with a difference, as blockchain technology lends a hand.

Americans eat an estimated six billion pounds of turkey meat each year according to the US National Turkey Federation. Thanks to the Honeysuckle White Traceability Program, some of the 45 million Turkeys eaten this Thanksgiving, and a further 22 million consumed over the festive season, will be delivered as fully traceable birds from pen to oven, courtesy of DLT.

The company responsible is Cargill, one of the nation’s biggest suppliers of turkeys, based in Minnesota and founded in 1865. This year, the company has decided to go hi-tech and utilize blockchain in order to trace its birds from 70 contracted individual family turkey farms in Missouri and Texas.

The new blockchain traceability program will track around 600,000 Honeysuckle white hens which will eventually find their way into major stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, and Amazon. To promote the programme, a TV ad will explain the process of tracking the turkeys. Cargill’s Debra Bauler explained:

“Each Honeysuckle White turkey will have an identification code, which can be entered into a website that will guide the consumer to the specific farm that raised that exact turkey… And from a technology perspective, it represents the complete digitalization of the supply chain. We feel that both are long-term competitive advantages for our product.”

The idea is to link consumers to the farmers that raised the birds in an attempt to set a precedent for the future in terms of supply chain transparency and supplier product accountability. Fox Business Network commentator suggests that using blockchain solutions for supply chain management in this way may well become the industry norm:

“The average consumer of tomorrow will come to expect that they have full access to where the wheat in their bread was grown, what were the conditions of the cow that provided the milk in their ice cream, and who picked the grapes in their glass of Pinot. The Honeysuckle White traceability program is a watershed moment in the retail food industry.”

Participating farmers have been highly motivated by the programme and suggest that projects such as this will equip consumers with another way of looking at the production of the food which arrives on their tables. Participating farmer Sharon Albertson, who’s been supplying Cargill with turkeys for over 20 years, maintains, “Now, consumers can see how hard we work and all the effort and care that goes into getting that bird to the Thanksgiving Day table.”

French supermarket chain Carrefour recently introduced blockchain technology into a data system allowing shoppers in Auvergne, Southern France, to get a full detailed history of chickens on sale in their stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

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Belarus Turns up the Heat on Crypto as Business on Fire in Minsk

Belarus is alive and well in the world of cryptocurrency as high tech and crypto companies choose the former Soviet Republic as the new place to do business in the region.

The Belarus Hi-Tech park in Minsk is fast becoming a fintech center with 388 companies now registered as conducting business there. Much of the new interest in fintech in the country has been put down to Belarus President Lukashenko’s Decree №8 signed in December of 2017 called “On the Development of the Digital Economy” which has attracted new business to Belarus firmly set as its main aim.

Now that Belarus has legalized cryptocurrency trading for residents, many related businesses have been attracted to the park despite the majority of companies working in the IT and software sectors. Blockchain company Aetsoft, which provided services to ICOs and exchanges since 2014, is one of such businesses dealing with clients in the US, Germany, and Denmark. Another company, Biggico, whose international team has built an advertising platform for crypto projects, was established by Belarusian and Latvian entrepreneurs.

Other companies now operating out of Belarus, currently developing cloud-based crypto mining facilities include Pm Pool and Smartpool. Another company, Aiscom offers cryptocurrency payment solutions to exchanges, wallet providers and ICO projects.

The country has no intention of being left behind in the region. As reported by local news outlet Korea JoongAng Daily, the deputy foreign minister and ambassador of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas told reporters that the European nation is open to investment into Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies; this includes blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Belarus recently expressed interest in strengthening economic and business ties during a recent working visit to Seoul, particularity in the fields of fintech and blockchain technology. Diplomats from Belarus are keen to extend the cooperation between the two counties to promote new projects in the country.

Although the Hi-Tech park currently lacks cryptocurrency exchanges, what has been called “the first Belarusian cryptocurrency exchange” launched by crypto platform Crexby, is ironically based in New York City rather than its natural home of Minsk. The platform was started by Belarusian immigrants living in the US.

The main reason behind a lack of exchanges operating out of Belarus has been put down to the government’s lukewarm attitude toward digital currency, combined with local financial institutions’ reluctance to support cryptocurrency transactions and work with exchanges. More government clarity regarding cryptocurrency has been called for by both cryptocurrency exchanges and companies selling related products.

 

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North America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 2-8 Nov 2018

North America

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here, we present to you all the latest blockchain and cryptocurrency news, continent by continent and country by country.

USA

Politician Tries to set Record Straight on Cryptocurrency Donations: US politician Brian Forde has tried to clarify misconceptions against cryptocurrency campaign donations in the country including lack of transparency.

Brian Forde has served previously as Senior Tech Advisor to President Obama and he was the one who educated the president about the new industry. He was also one of the first US politicians to collect cryptocurrency campaign donations during his run for the House of Representatives. He received reportedly $300,000 in donations through Bitcoin alone.

He clarified in an article that the misconceptions regarding cryptocurrency donations are false including the allegation that they cannot be traced. Forde cleared that cryptocurrencies have the same process as their fiat alternatives when it comes to campaign donations.

SEC Shuts down 12 ICOs in One Year: The Securities and Exchange Commission has shut down a dozen ICOs in one year alone, according to its official report at the end of the current fiscal year.

According to the federal regulator, these banned ICOs raised more than $68 million before they were finally shut down. Overall, the SEC confiscated, fined more than $3.945 billion during the same period overall from all violators.

SEC to Issue Simplified Crypto Guidelines: The SEC is working on clarifying when and how cryptocurrencies and ICOs can be regarded as securities by the regulator and treated as such according to a recent speech by Director of Corporate Finance.

Willian Hinman, the director said on record that the SEC was working to release new regulations in plain English to help new startups looking to offer their tokens in the market. The overall attitude despite these simplifications will remain hawkish.

Crypto-favorable Candidates Elected in US Gubernatorial Elections: According to the results of the mid-term elections of this week, five pro-crypto governors have been elected in the country. Three are newly elected governors while two pro-crypto ones have been re-elected.

The five governors are given extremely high ranking by the Digital Asset Trade Association that assigns rankings to politicians regarding their crypto-friendliness.

Bank of America Gets Tamper-proof DLT Patent: Bank of America, the country’s second-largest bank has secured a blockchain patent that can provide a useful barrier against hacking attempts on banking networks.

The patent reportedly prevents tampering by having redundant keys which can be removed from a tampered device for good.

Cryptocurrency Pioneer Says He Will Run Only for Promoting Cryptocurrencies: Famed cryptocurrency pioneer John McAfee has said that his run for the 2020 presidential elections is solely meant for the promotion of cryptocurrencies in the country.

McAfee will reportedly campaign from the Libertarian platform like in the 2016 elections. However, he has now come out and said that the only reason he is doing this is to promote cryptocurrencies in the country.

Canada

First Bitcoin-backed Loan Service Launched for Businesses and Consumers: A financial company named Ledn Inc has become the first organization to offer fiat loans in exchange for Bitcoin as collateral.

The move was founded by a Bitcoin investor Mauricio Di Bartolomeo who aims to fill the market gap for Canadians who are invested in cryptocurrencies but can’t obtain loans because of various reasons.

Marshall Islands

President in Hot Water over National Cryptocurrency Launch: The President of Marshall Islands Hilda Heine is in trouble after promoting the idea of a national cryptocurrency in the tiny Pacific nation. She will now have to face a vote of no confidence in the country’s legislature on 12 November 2018.

The current currency of the islands is USD despite the country gaining independence from the mainland forty years ago. President Heine incurred the wrath of IMF and the USA after her move to start the island’s own national cryptocurrency. Now she is facing backlash and possible impeachment in the parliament. If she wins this battle, she will launch the Sovereign (SOV) as early as next year.

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Nakamoto’s Colleague, Donor of BTC 15,678 Says Bitcoin’s Survival ”No Question”

Jeff Garzik, a close colleague of Satoshi Nakamoto, said that although Bitcoin may not have reached its original goal of being used as a private currency, there is ”no question” of its survival.

Garzik, who until 2014 was the third largest contributor to Bitcoin’s code, was responsible for giving away a developer’s bounty to encourage more workers onto the software in the early days of the currency, around seven years ago. He donated  15,678 bitcoins of his own funds, valued at over USD 100 million in today’s prices.

When Bloomberg probed him asking if he regretted this decision, the answer was clear: ”It was a question whether this thing would survive at all. And there’s no question of that today.”

While Garzik is proud of the strides Bitcoin has made, he admits that it has not become the private money he and Nakamoto had envisioned; recent analysis even suggests that its use in commerce is decreasing. The early days, Garzik says, were aimed at getting Bitcoin accepted by merchants, but now trends show it’s been treated more like an asset such as gold.

The software developer happily accepts this outcome, however, saying “It is an organism, it’s something that evolves,” calling its store-of-value ability an ”[unquestionable] success.”

In 2016 disputes between miners and developers over how to scale the network promoted Garzik to give up coding for Bitcoin, moving on to work on projects including cryptocurrency payment solution BitPay and blockchain enterprise service Bloq Inc.

Who is the real Nakamoto?

After working so closely with the notorious, anonymous Nakamoto, Garzik believes he has a good idea who the real man is. “My personal theory is that it’s Floridian Dave Kleiman,” he told Bloomberg, saying Kleiman’s work matches Nakamoto’s style of coding as they both exhibit exceptional, but notably self-taught, skill.

Kleiman is a former Florida sheriff officer turned computer forensics expert who passed away in 2013.

His estate is currently involved in a lawsuit with Craig Wright over Wright’s claim to be the real Nakamoto, with representatives of Kleiman alleging he stole both intellectual property and billions of dollars in Bitcoin from him.

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Inclusion of Pro-Blockchain Gibraltar Minister in DC Panel Positive Sign for US Regulation

The Gibraltar Minister for Commerce, Albert Isola, has urged the DC Fintech Week panel to ”collectively strive towards fintech excellence” while sharing his views on regulatory competition in the blockchain industry. The inclusion of a well-known pro-blockchain speaker on the mainstream panel discussion is a promising indicator for the future of the technology in the US, as Isola shared ideas of regulation surrounding the nascent industry.

Visiting upon invitation, Isola discussed his experiences and ideas regarding regulatory competition, including that relevant to his expertise in blockchain. The minister participated in a panel discussion at the second annual DC Fintech Week entitled ‘Making or Taking Innovation?, Regulatory Competition and the Race for Fintech Dominance’, with an audience comprising of academics, lawmakers, policymakers and regulators.

Isola said that his participation gave Gibraltar a chance to prove its ambitions on the global stage as a leader in shaping blockchain regulation, adding, ”As ever, Gibraltar continues to punch above its weight, and is fast becoming an assertive voice in an increasingly noisy space.”

The panel was joined by a number of experts from the fintech and cybersecurity sectors, including Peter Kerstens, Co-Chair of European Commission Fintech Taskforce, and Sharon Yang, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Financial Markets at the US Treasury.

The Gibraltan minister frequently acts as a spokesman for the country’s progressive blockchain and cryptocurrency policies, participating in conferences globally to share the concepts that have fostered the industries internally. Gibraltar remains in competition with its fellow European nation of Malta to gain status as the most crypto-friendly country in the region.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has been a critic of the cryptocurrency industry, with the US generally failing to be recognized as a hospitable nation for blockchain start-ups.

 

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US Midterms Elect More Crypto-Friendly Governors

The recent US midterm elections saw a wave of unexpected results for both parties but also resulted in the election of three pro-crypto governors while two kept their job.

According to a powerful digital lobbying group Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA), these three new governor-elects and two incumbents are ranked very high in its crypto-friendly rankings.

The organization sent detailed surveys to most of the gubernatorial candidates running in these elections. The responses were used to calculate their friendliness or hostility towards the idea of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

These advocates now include Jared Polis, the new governor of Colorado, Gavin Newsom of California and Mark Gordon of Wyoming, as well as two incumbents, Gina Raimondo and Greg Abbott from Rhode Island and Texas respectively.

Polis has particularly been vocal regarding his support for the space and was a part of the congressional caucus of the US House of Representatives. His support is not just limited to cryptocurrencies as he has also called for improving digital voter protection using blockchain technology and has called for digitization of government records through blockchain to make them more transparent.

Newsom of California has also been a proponent of the technology for some time and said he was fascinated by it as early as 2014. He favors pro-blockchain policies to attract investments and developers to his state which is already home to the tech hub Silicon Valley.

While the Texas governor hasn’t been vocal in his support towards cryptocurrencies, he has accepted campaign donations in Bitcoin. Rhode Island Governor Raimondo is also supportive of the industry and is asking to legalize cryptocurrency business transactions.

Wyoming Governor Gordon is the most blockchain-friendly politician of the bunch as he has stated his support for cryptocurrency businesses and seeks to exempt blockchain businesses from state money transmitter regulations as well as from sales tax. Gordon is especially opposed to the idea of difficult-to-obtain exchange licenses like BitLicense in New York.

 

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