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Friday, December 6, 2019

Japanese Financial Giant SBI Holdings Considers Paying Dividends in XRP

Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings is considering to pay shareholder dividends in the form of XRP tokens, following the same practice by its subsidiary MorningStar.

After MorningStar started offering its shareholders dividends in XRP earlier this year, SBI CEO Yoshitaka Kitao revealed that the company is now considering to follow suit, Cointelegraph Japan reported on Dec. 5.

SBI would launch the program during the fiscal year ending in March 2020, with Kitao further stating that it is opt-in.

MorningStar’s XRP dividends grew SBI's crypto business

MorningStar Japan, an independent financial investment research firm, first revealed its plans to incorporate XRP-based dividends in August 2019. At the time, the company said that it will offer 30 XRP to its shareholders if they hold a minimum of 100 shares by Sept. 30.

The launch of XRP dividends on MorningStar resulted in a growing number of daily applications for SBI's cryptocurrency exchange, SBI VC Trade, Kitao reportedly stated.

SBI and Ripple have been major partners so far

The two firms have worked closely in the past, with SBI Holdings an active partner of Ripple via their joint venture SBI Ripple Asia, which was formed to promote XRP usage in Asian financial markets in 2016.

In a financial report released in late October 2019, SBI emphasized the increasing importance of Ripple’s technology in its remittance division SBI Remit as well as the development of Ripple’s xCurrent-based remittances.

Earlier in April, Kitao was appointed as an executive of Ripple Labs where he will “further promote blockchain and digital asset utilization at financial institutions in Japan and Asia, and strive to develop financial services with high customer benefit.”

Steven Mnuchin Does Not Expect US to Issue Digital Dollar in Next 5 Years

United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that he and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell do not anticipate the development of a national digital currency in the country.

Mnuchin delivered his comments during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, Bloomberg reported on Dec. 5. “Chair Powell and I have discussed this — we both agree that in the near future, in the next five years, we see no need for the Fed to issue a digital currency,” Mnuchin said.

The Treasury secretary’s statement came in response to a question about Facebook’s yet-to-be-released Libra stablecoin. Mnuchin further said that he has no objection to Libra, as long as it is fully compliant with bank secrecy and Anti-Money Laundering regulations, so that “In no way can this be used for terrorist financing.” 

Regulators' critical stance towards crypto

The Federal Reserve sent a letter to U.S. Representatives French Hill and Bill Fosters in mid-November, in which the agency revealed that it is not currently developing a central bank digital currency (CBDC), but it has assessed and continues to evaluate the costs and benefits of such an initiative.

Powell said in the letter that, prior to issuing a CBDC, the Federal Reserve has to address a number of legal questions, including monetary and payments policies, financial stability, supervision and operational issues, and their vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

On Dec. 4, a panel of senior financial regulators in the United States headed by Mnuchin warned the public about the purported risks of stablecoins and cryptocurrencies. The regulators stated:

“If a stablecoin became widely adopted as a means of payment or store of value, disruptions to the stablecoin system could affect the wider economy. Financial regulators should review existing and planned digital asset arrangements and their risks, as appropriate.”

Ripple Files Final Motion to Dismiss Class-Action Securities Lawsuit

Ripple has filed a motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit alleging that it held an unregistered securities sale of its XRP tokens.

In court documents filed on Dec. 4, Ripple argues that the plaintiffs’ case is contradictory and “self-defeating.” Alongside a reiteration of previous arguments, the company now also claims that, even if XRP were a security, the statute of repose had passed before the lawsuit was brought to court.

Ripple says that XRP is not a security, but even if it were...

In what is reportedly Ripple’s last attempt to get the case thrown out before the scheduled hearing date in mid-January, the company reiterates its belief that XRP is not a security.

However, this latest filing adds the argument that, even if XRP were a security, then the plaintiff’s claim would not be admissible, because the statute of repose only allows claims to be made within three years of the security being offered to the public.

Ripple sold XRP to the general public in coin offerings from 2013–2015, while the case was only brought to court in 2018, when lead plaintiff Bradley Sostack alleged that Ripple misled investors and sold XRP in violation of federal law.

Furthermore, the filing claims that Sostack has been unable to show that he actually purchased XRP from the defendants or through an initial coin offering. Sostack allegedly bought his XRP from an unknown third party through an exchange in January 2018. 

Will we find out whether XRP is a security?

The class-action lawsuit has been a constant back-and-forth between the plaintiffs and Ripple. As reported in August, the suit gained traction this summer when Sostack appealed to SEC guidelines.

Ripple subsequently moved to dismiss the case in September, stating that the court need not resolve whether XRP is a security. At the time, crypto-focused lawyer Jake Chervinsky said:

“They make twelve separate arguments for dismissal of the plaintiff's claims. Not a single one squarely addresses whether XRP is an unregistered security.”

The XRP price seems to be unaffected by the news, trading up 1.62% at $0.221, according to Coin360.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Circle to Charge Fees on US-Based Poloniex Traders’ Crypto After Dec. 16

Circle, the parent company of cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex, says it could charge United States users fees and even confiscate users’ entire balances if they do not remove their funds.

In a blog post on Dec. 3, Circle warned that U.S. traders have no option but to stop using Poloniex, a policy adopted in preparation for the platform forming its own separate entity.

Funds must be taken from accounts by Dec. 16. If a user fails to do so, fees may apply, which in theory can total the entire account balance. The blog post stated:

“There are two fees Poloniex US customers who do not withdraw their assets may be subject to: a monthly service fee while a user continues to have assets stored on the platform, and a one-time dormancy fee when an account becomes dormant per the terms of the applicable regulations. Unclaimed assets may be sent to state governments, consistent with applicable regulations.”

Circle added that users would lose access to their Poloniex accounts, and that it would convert unclaimed tokens into its native stablecoin, USD Coin (USDC). “Poloniex US customers will NEVER be charged more than their total account balance,” the blog post concluded.

Focus on competitiveness

As reported, Poloniex confirmed it would spin out from Circle in October, to trade under the new name of Polo Digital Assets. The move, executives explained at the time, aims to increase Poloniex’s competitiveness on the international market. Circle originally acquired the exchange for $400 million in early 2018.

Last week, Poloniex relaunched a decentralized exchange (DEX), Poloni DEX, having acquired it as TRX Market, the largest DEX on blockchain network Tron.

Saxo Bank’s Outrageous Prediction 2020: Asia Launches DLT-Based Asset

Major Danish bank Saxo Bank has predicted that Asia will launch its own blockchain-based digital asset in its new report of smashing predictions for 2020.

The latest edition of “Outrageous Predictions” by Saxo Bank also forecasts that President Donald Trump will likely lose the 2020 elections, while Hungary will leave the European Union. The report was issued on Dec. 3, according to a tweet by the bank.

Saxo Bank claims that Asia will launch a new reserve asset in order to “confront a deepening trade rivalry and vulnerabilities from rising US threats to weaponise the US dollar and its control of global finances.”

Chinese renminbi will be "heavily prominent" 

Specifically, the bank predicts that the new asset, called the Asian Drawing Right, or ADR, will be issued by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The new digital asset will be “driven by blockchain technology” and based on regional central bank reserves, while its backing will be a basket of global currencies and gold.

While Chinese renminbi is forecasted to be “heavily prominent” in the ADR’s combination of currencies, the U.S. dollar is weighted at below 20%, according to Saxo Bank’s prediction. Total backing for the coin will be worth $2, making the ADR “the world’s largest currency unit,” according to the bank.

According to the forecast, the move is “clearly” aimed at reducing the impact of the U.S. dollar in regional trade and local economies. Blockchain technology will be implemented in order to provide stability of the money supply and tracking transactions in the ADR, Saxo Bank stated.

Saxo Bank is known for its crypto predictions

Saxo Bank’s Asian digital currency prediction for 2020 is not the first forecast by the bank associated with blockchain technology. In fact, the bank has made multiple predictions about the major cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC) and other crypto markets to date.

In mid-April 2018, Saxo Bank predicted that cryptos will see a major bull market in Q2 2018. However, after a short bull trend in April, crypto markets saw a major bearish move throughout the second quarter.

In 2016, when Bitcoin was trading between $450 and $950, Saxo Bank predicted that Bitcoin will hit $2,100 in 2017. Eventually, Bitcoin hit its all-time high of $20,000 at the end of that year.

Japan: MUFG Bank Denies Reports It is Developing New Digital Currency

MUFG Bank, the largest bank in Japan and the world’s fifth-largest bank, has denied reports that it plans to launch a digital currency in Japan next year.

In a statement on Dec. 4, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Bank (MUFG) said it had not decided whether a recent business partnership would ultimately form a digital currency entity.

MUFG: digital currency claims unofficial

Previously, various local English-language media outlets including Japan Times had reported that MUFG was eyeing a release date in the first half of 2020 for an as-yet-unnamed digital currency.

“These reports are not based on any announcement made by MUFG Bank,” the statement read. MUFG added, “It is true that we have concluded the joint venture agreement for an establishment of a new company. No other decision has been made in this regard at this time.”

Digital currency products flood Japanese market

The offering would reportedly let users make payments via smartphone using QR codes, with the digital currency account linked to a bank account.

According to Japan Times, which cited “informed sources,” MUFG would hold a minority stake in the company behind the token. 51% would be owned by its partner, human resources services provider Recruit Holdings.

A growing number of banks are attempting to front-run demand for such payments, with schemes such as Mizuho Bank’s J-Coin Pay gaining considerable attention locally.

Such a move would not be MUGF’s first venture into the digital currency sphere. As Cointelegraph reported, last year, the bank unveiled an in-house digital currency project under the name “MUFG Coin.”

In February, meanwhile, a separate partnership with content delivery network Akamai aimed to debut a blockchain payment network, dubbed Global Open Network, in the first half of 2020.

Andreas Antonopoulos Slams Intuit After Payments Block for Crypto Use

American financial software company Intuit has apparently limited the account of one of the cryptocurrency industry’s best-known figures, Andreas Antonopoulos.

In a series of tweets on Dec. 4, Antonopoulos stated that Intuit had prevented him from accepting credit card payments via its accounting services due to his use of cryptocurrency.

According to Antonopoulos, who undertakes regular international tours as a speaker and educator on Bitcoin (BTC) and associated topics, the company even requested he stop referencing cryptocurrency on his official website. Commenting on the events, he appeared to refuse to comply:

“Intuit Merchant Services @intuit just told me that I can't be using crypto if I accept credit cards for my invoices. They asked me to remove crypto from my site. I instead elected to remove Intuit and their credit card services from my life.”

Continuing, he added that Intuit had “disabled” the option for him to accept credit card payments for his activities.

Antonopoulos is a fierce critic of traditional finance, often explaining to audiences how banks stand to lose to Bitcoin and new standards of individual financial sovereignty. He tweeted today, “The banking cartel doesn't want competition or risk. They prefer monopolies, kleptocracy and captured regulators.”

Banks force Bitcoin bans

As reported, certain payment entities continue to adopt a seemingly random policy on cryptocurrency clients. This week, a Danish court ruled in favor of Nordea Bank continuing to prevent its employees from holding cryptocurrency, triggering accusations of hypocrisy from online commentators.

Nordea’s stance echoes those previously adopted by other banks, including Dutch institution Rabobank. The latter denied service to cryptocurrency businesses, having faced criminal proceedings over fiat money laundering.

Last month, adult entertainment website Pornhub found payments to its 100,000 web models disrupted after PayPal suddenly refused to service the business. The website began a deal with cryptocurrency project Verge (XVG) last year.

In an ironic twist, U.S. lender Bank of America subsequently closed the account of a former senior PayPal executive.

Ethereum’s Proposed Hard Fork ‘Muir Glacier’ Would Delay Impending Ice Age

Ethereum developers have proposed a hard fork, named Muir Glacier, that should address the impending Ice Age, which could cause a significant slowdown on the Ethereum mainnet.

In an Ethereum improvement proposal at the end of November, Ethereum developer James Hancock wrote that the proposed Ethereum Muir Glacier hard fork would push back the mechanism, known as Ice Age.

Ice Age is unnecessarily complex and confusing

Ethereum’s Ice Age, also known as Difficulty Bomb, refers to the increasing hashing difficulty in the mining algorithm used to reward miners with Ether (ETH) on its blockchain. This piece of coding artificially slows down the production of blocks on Ethereum’s blockchain and therefore functions as a deterrent for miners who might choose to continue with proof of work (PoW) even after Ethereum has transitioned to proof of stake (PoS).

However, according to Hancock the existing implementation of Ice Age is unnecessarily complex and confusing to communicate to the community. He adds that any updates to the design should be able to model the effect on the network in a straightforward way that is easy to predict when it occurs. Currently, Hancock does not believe this is the case.

Hancock further points out that Ethereum’s upcoming hard fork would push back the mechanism “as far as is reasonable,” to give developers the time to decide whether to update Ice Age so that its behavior becomes predictable or to remove it entirely. He added:

“This fork would give us time to address the community to understand their priorities better as far as the intentions of the Ice Age, and give time for proposals for better mechanisms to achieve those goals.”

ETH block propagation at least twice as fast

In November, blockchain advisory and product development firm Akomba Labs conducted a test on the Ethereum network that showed it could make block propagation at least twice as fast. Test findings showed that the average block propagation performance dropped from 360 milliseconds without running BloXroute's Blockchain Distribution Network to 172 milliseconds with it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Plaintiffs in Tether-Bitcoin Price Manipulation Case Will Not Drop Complaint

The plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit accusing the Tether (USDT)-affiliated crypto exchange Bitfinex of Bitcoin (BTC) price manipulation have declined to amend their complaint.

According to a court filing dated Dec. 2, the plaintiffs declined to make amendments to their complaint as a study conducted by John Griffin and Amin Shams “still concludes that USDT was being used to manipulate Bitcoin prices.” Moreover, they state that the findings connect the manipulation to a single entity.

Last year, Griffin and Shams of the University of Texas published a paper, alleging that Tether partially caused Bitcoin’s historic high of $20,000 in 2017. The paper stated:

“Less than 1% of hours with such heavy Tether transactions are associated with 50% of the meteoric rise in Bitcoin and 64% of other top cryptocurrencies.”

The study claimed that “one large player on Bitfinex uses [USDT] to purchase large amounts of Bitcoin when prices are falling and following the printing of [USDT].” The plaintiffs further added that “Bitfinex executives either knew of the scheme or were aiding it.”

Bitfinex’s response to the single entity allegations

In November, Bitfinex issued a response to the paper, denying its findings and even accusing the authors of unethical motivations. The exchange said, “To obtain publication, Griffin and Shams have released a weakened yet equally flawed version of their prior article. The revised paper is a watered-down and embarrassing walk-back of its predecessor.”

Blockchain education platform Longhash released research that it claims debunks the single-whale theory of the 2017 price surge. According to Longhash, the metric measures how much Bitcoin could be bought with the entire Tether supply at any given time, pointing out that the higher the ratio, the more likely it is for Tether to potentially manipulate the markets. The researchers said:

“This suggests that even if Tether were indeed manipulating the market, its ability to do so actually is strongest when the Bitcoin price falls. This contradicts the claim that Tether issuance drove the 2017 bull market. The supply of Tether actually failed to keep up during the height of the bull market.”

Binance Acquires Decentralized App Information Startup DappReview

Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance acquired decentralized app (DApp) information startup DappReview, according to a press release on Dec. 2.

Per the release, DappReview’s platform provides its visitors with data analytics, user insights and information for over 3,900 DApps on 13 public blockchains.

DappReview founder Vincent Niu explained that the company also provides support for DApp developers in fundraising, product development and marketing. When asked by Cointelegraph whether he believes the acquisition by a crypto company could damage the platform’s independence, he said:

“DappReview provides accurate data analysis, users insight and market trends by aggregating the on-chain data, which is transparent to everyone. So our reports and views will not be affected by who we are. The data talks.”

Per the release, DappReview will maintain its independence in technical development and operations as well, while Binance will offer support in non-technical fields such as marketing and business development.

Niu also explained that the acquisition will provide his company with the resources to grow faster and that the firm’s next objective is to land more DApp data-integration partnerships with blockchain protocols and developers. He did not disclose the price of the acquisition.

While many hope that DApps will drive blockchain technology’s mass adoption, the market has not yet seen a decentralized application to reach mainstream use. As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of October, a new study has shown that DApp transaction volumes and user activity slumped in the third quarter of 2019.

Binance scoops up blockchain firms

Binance has made a number of acquisitions in the blockchain and crypto space in recent months. In September, the exchange acquired JEX — a crypto-asset trading platform that offers spot and derivatives trading services — while just a few weeks ago it bought the well-known Indian crypto exchange WazirX.

The major exchange made its first public acquisition last year when it bought Trust Wallet with a reported mixture of fiat money, Binance stocks, and its native cryptocurrency Binance Coin (BNB).

Juventus Soccer Club Releases Blockchain Token for Fan Voting

Italian professional soccer club Juventus has released its own token to enable fans to participate in voting and polling.

Following a year-long development, Juventus’ branded token is now available on, a tokenized fan-voting platform for sports, according to a Dec. 2 announcement.

The token’s initial price is 2 euros ($2.22) per token, while a limited amount of free tokens will be available through the augmented reality feature of the app, "Token Hunt."

Fans who hold the token will be able to vote in a range of club-related decisions, the first of which will determine the club’s song for when it scores a goal. 

Sports embracing the crypto world

Initially, the club planned to release the token in the first quarter of 2019. The decision to develop a branded token followed a similar initiative by Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). PSG’s partnership with also allows fans to vote and also confers VIP status and/or rewards to holders.

Sport teams around the world have actively embraced branded tokens to improve interaction with their fans. In mid-October, the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball team partnered with CryptoKaiju to launch crypto-collectibles backed by non-fungible tokens.

Germany’s FC Bayern Munich is the latest soccer club to announce blockchain-based merchandise for fans through a partnership with Stryking Entertainment to produce digital collectibles of its players. As reported, more clubs are expected to join Stryking as licensing partners for the system.

Swiss Stock Exchange SIX Lists Physically-Backed Bitcoin ETP

Nasdaq-listed WisdomTree has launched a physically-backed Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP) to be listed on Switzerland's principal stock exchange, SIX Swiss Exchange.

In a news release published on Dec. 3, the asset manager revealed that online Swiss bank Swissquote will serve as a custody partner for the product, which is being listed at a total expense ratio of 0.95% under the WBTC ticker.

Bitcoin “not a passing trend”

Targeted at professional and institutional investors, the ETP provides exposure to Bitcoin without the need to store private keys or have a thorough grasp of blockchain financial infrastructure.

The ETP is physically-backed by Bitcoin, meaning that investors in the product have an entitlement to a determined amount of Bitcoin — yet custody is entrusted to an institutional third-party.

As the news release outlines, the ETP tracks the spot price of Bitcoin, with WisdomTree purchasing Bitcoin and creating smaller sized shares, which can then be traded and redeemed on the SIX exchange.

In a statement, Alexis Marinof, head of Europe for WisdomTree, said the company has “seen enough to believe that digital assets, like Bitcoin, are not a passing trend and can play a role in portfolios.”

WisdomTree claims that bringing cryptocurrencies into the ETP structure could provide centralization of liquidity for the asset class.

Supporting a range of crypto ETPs

As previously reported, SIX listed a pioneering multi-crypto-based exchange-traded product back in November 2018, which tracks five major digital assets.

The exchange has since continued to support a range of crypto financial vehicles, including a new Bitcoin and Ether (ETH) ETP from fintech firm Amun this fall.

SIX has meanwhile been testing blockchain integration for its forthcoming parallel digital asset trading platform, “SDX,” which is expected to launch in Q4 2020.

New Bitcoin Wallet Hides Addresses to Solve ‘Terrible’ User Experience

A new wallet aims to broaden the adoption of Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrencies but making their addresses easier to remember.

The service, dubbed Easypaysy, is the product of Spanish developer José Femenías Cañuelo and launched on Dec. 1. 

Dev: BTC addresses “not for humans”

Cañuelo was irked by the complex nature of Bitcoin addresses, which are random collections of letters and numbers that are all but impossible to memorize.

In the official introduction to Easypaysy, he described Bitcoin’s user experience, or UX, as “terrible.”

“Bitcoin addresses are really not meant for humans. Nobody should be forced to make or receive payments to a crypto-address, much as nobody expects you to navigate the world wide web just by using IP addresses,” the description reads.

The wallet service works by offering three formats of so-called Bitcoin “accounts” for users. These are designed to be more user-friendly identifiers, to which others can send cryptocurrency funds instead of using actual BTC addresses.

Behind the mask, funds are delivered to BTC addresses as in a regular transaction, Cañuelo promising that no address is used more than once. 

Security trumps familiarity

Various services have offered similar solutions over the years, including in 2014 and Ethereum Name Service for Ether (ETH) payments last year.

Nonetheless, commentators appeared taken by Easypaysy with well-known Bitcoin educator and developer Jimmy Song describing the concept as “interesting.”

“I haven't thought through the downsides, but allows for much easier-to-remember IDs than addresses that we use today. From a UI perspective, big win as it's easy to remember and print on business cards,” he summarized in a tweet following the launch.

As reported, wallet security currently forms something of a thornier issue than ease of address sharing. With large numbers of Bitcoin users still trusting third parties to store their funds, a dedicated effort is underway to highlight the risk of not controlling one’s own private keys.

Ethereum-Based Virtual Museum Tokenizes Censored Bitcoin Artwork

Bitcoin artist “Bnoiit.c” has created an Ethereum-based virtual museum “Cryptovoxels” that ensures censored artworks are immutably preserved for an online audience.

In its collection as of Aug. 25 has been a Bitcoin mural by French street artist Pascal “PBOY” Boyart, which was painted over by French authorities earlier this year. 

Revolutionary stirrings

Cryptovoxels’ site tells the story of the subversive mural — a modern-day reworking of Eugène Delacroix’s classic revolutionary painting “La Liberté guidant le peuple” (Liberty Guiding the People).

The mural — created in honor of the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin’s Genesis Block — had recast the rebels who rose up against King Charles X in 1830 as contemporary “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protestors.

Conceived as a street art treasure hunt, it contained a puzzle with a 0.284 BTC bounty, which could be solved entirely only by finding — and being physically in front of — the mural.

It was painted over one month after its creation.

The mural has now been tokenized as a digital collectible — split into 100 ETH-based non-fungible tokens, which can be bought and sold via peer-to-peer digital collectibles marketplace OpenSea.

Users wishing to display their fragment of the mural need to buy ETH-based “land parcels” on Cryptovoxels — just as with artwork, these land parcels can also be bought and traded via OpenSea. 

Art and the blockchain

In 2018, reported on the world’s purportedly first cryptocurrency art auction, in which fractional ownership of Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs was sold via the Maecenas blockchain platform.

Similarly to Boyart, artist Andy Bauch has produced puzzle-like crypto artworks containing abstract codes, which provide hints to retrieving the private keys to wallets containing thousands of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies.

In the spring of this year, blockchain-based art registry startup Artory raised over $7 million in Series A funding round from an early Spotify investor, among others.

Former Charlie Shrem Attorney to Represent Arrested Ethereum Dev

Renowned trial attorney Brian Klein has revealed he will represent Virgil Griffith, the developer recently arrested for participating in a blockchain conference in North Korea.

In a tweet posted on Dec. 3, Klein stated that his client disputes the “untested allegations in the criminal complaint” and had been temporarily released from jail pending his trial.

Klein: Griffith “looks forward to the full story” coming out

Klein — who has previously represented the likes of Charlie Shrem and Erik Voorhees — is a former federal prosecutor who currently works as a criminal and regulatory defense attorney at United States law firm Baker Marquart.

He has extensive experience with technology cases and chairs the American Bar Association’s blockchain, digital currency and ICO national institute, his staff profile indicates.

As reported, Griffith — a 36-year old American citizen living in Singapore — was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 29 and is being charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or IEEPA.

Griffith had traveled to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to deliver a conference presentation, entitled “Blockchain and Peace,” despite allegedly having been denied permission to do so by the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged Griffith with providing “highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions.”

In his tweet, Klein has welcomed the ruling to release Griffith from jail pending his forthcoming trial, adding that his client “looks forward to his day in court, when the full story can come out.”

Vitalik Buterin pledges his support 

Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin has declared his solidarity with Griffith, stating he believes that “geopolitical open-mindedness is a *virtue*” and that he does not believe Griffith gave the DPRK “any kind of real help in doing anything bad.”

Buterin has supported a petition to release the developer, which has 50 signatures by press time.

Monday, December 2, 2019

SoftBank Releases Debit Cards With Built-In Blockchain Wallet

Japanese holding company SoftBank has introduced a new debit card featuring a built-in cryptocurrency wallet.

According to a press release on Dec. 1, SoftBank developed a debit card featuring a built-in blockchain wallet in collaboration with United States

Crypto storage and further expansion

Consumers can use the integrated blockchain wallet as both cold and hot digital currency storage and check balance-related information in real-time. Currently, the card is available exclusively in Japan, however, SoftBank plans to roll out the product in Southeast Asia, South Korea

In recent months, SoftBank has actively participated in blockchain-related projects, including a number of investments. In November, SoftBank and other industry players participated in a series B financing round of Lagos-headquartered fintech Opay, which raised $120 million.

SoftBank-backed Chinese fintech firm OneConnect filed for an initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company seeks to raise $100 million, eyeing a listing on the Nasdaq Global Market or New York Stock Exchange, if approved.

In October, SoftBank, blockchain platform TBCASoft and technology behemoth IBM announced a collaboration to adopt a cross-carrier telecommunications blockchain payment solution. The partnership aims to allow carriers to use blockchain through the Carrier Blockchain Study Group (CBSG) Consortium — founded by TBCASoft and SoftBank

South African Central Bank to Reportedly Introduce New Crypto Regulations

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) — the country’s central bank — is purportedly going to impose new regulations for the use of digital currencies in a bid to deter users from evading currency controls.

As local business-focused publication Business Report reported on Dec. 2, SARB’s deputy governor, Kuben Naidoo, said that the new rules will be implemented in the first quarter of 2020, following a five-year-long series of consultations on the matter.

Naidoo’s statements followed a decision of FirstRand Bank — one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa — to discontinue providing banking services to digital currency exchanges in late November. FNB reportedly blamed regulatory uncertainty for the move.

The blockchain and crypto communities have already responded to the idea of further controls on cryptocurrency. South African blockchain development community SA Crypto told Business Report:

“The implications of the Sarb clamping down on cryptocurrency use for the purpose of stricter capital controls are far-reaching and alarming.”

Crypto popularity in South Africa

Cryptocurrencies have proved to be popular in South Africa, with 10.7% of the country’s residents owning crypto, which is the highest of any country surveyed. The South African rand’s volatility, which is one of the world’s most volatile currencies, prompted consumers to seek protection for their money.

Cross-border payments are a contributing factor of crypto popularity in the country, especially given how remittances are often sent from countries like South Africa to 15 other countries on the continent in what is known as the Southern African Development Community.

In August, major South African crypto exchange Luno saw an average daily trading volume exceeding 80 million South African rand ($5.4 million). Luno saw a significant surge of new customers, reaching a milestone of three million wallets across 40 countries on its platform.

Marius Reitz, general manager for Africa at Luno, said that this indicated increasing global adoption and reinforces the company’s purpose of “reimagining a financial system where money is cheaper, faster and safer with open and equal access for everyone.”

BRICS’s crypto for united payment system

In the meantime, members of BRICS — including South Africa — discussed the creation of a new cryptocurrency at a recent summit in mid-November. The director-general of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev said at the time:

“An efficiently operating BRICS payment system is capable of stimulating settlements in national currencies and ensuring the stability of settlements and investments between our countries, which form more than 20% of the global influx of foreign direct investment.”

Litecoin-Funded Grin Developer Challenges Mimblewimble’s Privacy Issue

A Grin (GRIN) developer funded by the Litecoin Foundation has suggested a solution for fixing the “Achilles heel of Mimblewimble privacy.”

David Burkett, a developer at Mimblewimble’s (MW) privacy-centric coin Grin, started a thread on monthly updates detailing progress on both Grin’s development and the integration of MW’s privacy-focused technology into Litecoin (LTC). The developer announced the news on Twitter on Dec. 1:

“I'll be posting monthly status updates detailing progress on the LTC MW EB (YAY acronyms). This is geared toward those interested in LTC development, but will also talk a lot about Grin++ changes, so it may be interesting to Grinners as well.”

Burkett challenges the “Achilles heel of Mimblewimble privacy”

In terms of Grin’s progress, the developer has purportedly performed the first-ever pre-broadcast MW CoinJoin that would allegedly make transactions more private by disabling broadcasting before transactions joined others in the CoinJoin block. Burkett noted that this issue is one of the most critical problems associated with MW’s privacy. He wrote:

“The Achilles heel of mimblewimble privacy though, has always been that transactions are broadcast before they’ve had a chance to be joined with other transactions. That means nodes monitoring the network can see the original input-to-output links of most transactions. Sending a transaction directly to a CoinJoin server before broadcasting is one of many different techniques we can use to combat that.”

Some researchers claim that there is no way to fix Mimblewimble’s privacy

The implementation follows a recent report claiming that MW’s privacy is “fundamentally flawed” as a developer managed to track 96% of Grin transactions before they came to CoinJoin, a block that collects all MW’s transactions to ensure their anonymity.

Published by Ivan Bogatyy at blockchain research firm Dragonfly Research, the report claims that there is no way to fix that issue for MW, and the protocol should no longer be considered as a “viable alternative to Zcash or Monero when it comes to privacy.”

Litecoin Foundation is funding Burkett’s efforts to integrate Grin’s privacy

Alongside Grin’s developments, the developer confirmed that the Litecoin Foundation will be funding his efforts to implement the MW extension block as well as to continue his work on Grin. Litecoin creator Charlie Lee announced the initiative on Oct. 30.

Burkett also noted that he has been working with Lee and Bitcoin researcher Andrew Yang (not the presidential candidate) for several months to design a Mimblewimble extension block to enable confidential transactions on Litecoin. As such, the authors published two draft Litecoin Improvement Proposals using the MW protocol on Oct. 22.

In mid-November, Grin received an anonymous 50 Bitcoin (BTC) donation to its General Fund, sparking a rumor that the donation was related to Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Binance Crypto Exchange Adds Four Trading Pairs for Russian Ruble

Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance listed four Russian ruble trading pairs, according to an announcement on Dec. 2.

The first trading pairs featuring the ruble include Binance Coin (BNB), Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH) and XRP. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao commented on the development in a tweet sent the same day.

Binance’s addition of trading pairs follows the introduction of ruble trading on the platform in late October when Zhao announced that users could then deposit and withdraw fiat funds in rubles.

Zhao has previously lauded Russia’s position as an important jurisdiction for the crypto and blockchain industries, recognizing the wealth of computer science talent in Russia, and going so far as calling President Vladimir Putin the most influential person in the blockchain industry. 

New additions

Rubble support and trading pairs are the latest in a series of new features and assets added to the platform over the last few months. In November alone, Binance added support for the Turkish lira and also became the first exchange to add the Fiat Gateway developed by stablecoin operator Paxos.

In late October, the exchange also launched support for the Nigerian naira. According to Coinmarketcap, over the last 24 hours, the currency has seen a little over $43,000 in trading volume against Bitcoin, and nearly $25,000 against stablecoin Binance USD (BUSD).

Fierce competition

Meanwhile, competitor cryptocurrency trading platforms to Binance are also expanding their scope of operations. As Cointelegraph reported in mid-November, Bitcoin futures trading on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE)’s Bakkt platform will expand to include a cash-settled option.

In mid-November, crypto exchange OKEx launched Bitcoin futures contracts that are margined with the Tether (USDT) stablecoin.

Halving Will Be ‘Non-Event’ for BTC Price: Morgan Creek Digital Exec

Bitcoin’s (BTC) 2020 block reward halving continues to generate mixed opinions regarding price performance, as one analyst suggests its impact will be next to nothing.

In a tweet on Dec. 1, Jason Williams, co-founder at digital asset fund Morgan Creek Digital, said that unlike many others, he believed markets would not move as a result of the halving next May.

Williams: BTC halving will be “non-event”

“Bitcoin halving in May 2020 won’t do anything to the price. It will be a non-event,” he summarized.

Bitcoin’s block reward halving will reduce the amount of BTC paid to miners for each block from 12.5 BTC to 6.25 BTC. As Cointelegraph reported, the event is broadly expected to become a catalyst for a bull market.

Analysts diverge over when the reaction might take place — opinions range from several months before the halving to several months after it.

At the same time, as statistician Willy Woo noted two weeks previously, Bitcoin’s current position marks a sharp contrast to the bullish setup to its previous two halvings. 2020, he concluded, will be a “unique” first for Bitcoin.

Others, such as mining giant Bitmain’s CEO Jihan Wu, share Williams’ lack of excitement. Cointelegraph also released an alternative outlook for Bitcoin over the halving.

Rumors abound over “unique” halving

The multitude of factors that could potentially influence the halving’s effect has even led to disagreements within the same small group of market participants.

Anthony Pompliano, a fellow Morgan Creek Digital co-founder well-known for his Bitcoin advocacy, previously implied that at $7,200, BTC/USD has yet to benefit from the halving.

“The Bitcoin halving is not priced in,” he tweeted on Nov. 10. At the time, BTC/USD traded at around $8,750 — 20% higher than at press time.

According to a historically accurate Bitcoin price model, meanwhile, the long-term impact on the halving is all but assured. By 2022, the Stock-to-Flow tool predicts, BTC/USD should have jumped to over $100,000.

The model’s creator, PlanB, doubled down on the figure in October while acknowledging that its accuracy may not last beyond the next few halving events.

P2P Bitcoin Marketplace Paxful Set to Surpass LocalBitcoins in Volume

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Bitcoin (BTC) marketplace Paxful recently hit an all-time-high in weekly traded volume.

As of Dec. 2, CoinDance data reveals that for the week of Nov. 23, Paxful saw close to $30 million in P2P Bitcoin trades continuing a consistent upward trend since the platform’s inception.

Weekly Paxful Volume (Global), 2015-present. Source: CoinDance

Paxful trumps LocalBitcoins’ trend

Paxful is a P2P over-the-counter platform that connects users offering to buy and sell Bitcoin using gift cards, Paypal, domestic bank transfers and other payment methods.

As a decentralized and non-custodial service, Paxful reportedly sees Bitcoin trades denominated in 70 different national fiat currencies and has seen $20-25 million in trades (weekly) throughout much of 2019.

While Paxful has reported a consistent uptrend since 2015, data from — a veteran name in the P2P crypto trading space — has seen a shakier arc with peak volumes largely reported during the winter 2017 cryptocurrency bull run.

Weekly LocalBitcoins Volume (Global), 2013-present. Source: CoinDance

Despite this, LocalBitcoins’ volume remained broadly in the $40-60 million (weekly) range for much of 2018-2019, although the last few months have seen a downturn with consistently sub-$40 million levels throughout October and November.

As noted, one of Paxful’s niche markets is the exchange of retail-branded gift cards for Bitcoin: the platform’s site reveals that Amazon gift cards are currently the most popular, followed by eBay, Steam and iTunes.

LocalBitcoins’ challengers

As reported, LocalBitcoins has seen its market share challenged as rival LocalCryptos — formerly LocalEthereum — announced it was set to add Bitcoin support alongside Ether (ETH).

LocalBitcoins has also come under criticism for its move to register as an official virtual currency provider with regulators in its home country of Finland, alienating users who hope to transact pseudonymously.

Centralized exchange alternatives and tokenized gift cards

As Cointelegraph reported in July, major centralized American cryptocurrency wallet and exchange Coinbase has also entered the crypto gift card market, allowing customers in certain countries to exchange coins for brand e-certificates.

In August, Japan’s largest gift card platform Amaten revealed it would start issuing tokenized gift cards in partnership with blockchain network provider Aelf.

Vertcoin 51% Attack ‘Motive Uncertain’ as Hackers Lose up to $4,000

Unknown hackers have attempted to launch a second 51% attack on Vertcoin (VTC) but ended up paying for the privilege out of their own pockets.

As Vertcoin’s lead maintainer James Lovejoy revealed in a report on the attack on Dec. 2, a malicious entity targeted cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex in order to manipulate the Vertcoin blockchain.

Hackers paid at least $440 to attack VTC

Vertcoin forked off from Bitcoin (BTC) in 2014 and experienced a major attack in December last year, during which hackers stole funds worth $100,000.

This time, however, it appears the exploit was much less successful.

“Based on the market prices during the attack's preparation and the difficulty of the blocks the attacker produced, we estimate the attacker spent between 0.5-1 BTC to perform the attack,” Lovejoy explained.

As a result, the hackers appear to have come out with a net loss of between 0.06 BTC ($440) and 0.56 BTC ($4,100):

“The total value of the block rewards the attack received is 13825 VTC (~0.44 BTC). Given the attack was likely not profitable to perform based solely on block rewards, the motivation for the attack is not certain.”

Fighting for scraps

Bittrex is VTC’s main trading venue. After noticing suspicious activity, Lovejoy requested the exchange halt VTC pairs, which appeared to limit the attack’s success.

“Given the reorg was just deeper than 600 blocks (Bittrex's confirmation requirement for VTC), it is possible that Bittrex was the original target, but the double-spend portion attack was aborted due to Bittrex disabling their wallet before the fork could be released,” he added.

VTC/USD has fallen around 7% to $0.23 in the past 24 hours, but the move is broadly insignificant within the context of 2019 highs of $0.61 seen in June.

As Cointelegraph reported, Bitcoin remains much more immune to 51% attacks thanks to its provably decentralized structure and unrivaled hash rate.

As well-known pundit Andreas Antonopoulos previously noted, with Bitcoin, such an attack would cost around $1 billion for a 10-minute offensive, something which in itself is all but impossible to achieve.

‘Hodlers Are Insane’ — 64% of Bitcoin Supply Has Not Moved Since 2018

Over 60% of the total Bitcoin (BTC) in circulation has not left its wallet in more than a year, highlighting demand among investors.

That was the conclusion of analyst Rhythm, who uploaded statistics about Bitcoin network activity on Dec. 2. 

BTC investors shun risk and short-term gains

Of the roughly 18.08 million Bitcoins which have been mined, 11.58 million — or 64% of the supply — has stayed in the same wallet since 2018.

The figure is striking as during that time, BTC/USD expanded from $3,100 last December to 2019 highs of $13,800 just six months later.

Subsequently, markets reversed downward, shaving 52% off the highs to reach local lows of $6,500 on Nov. 25.

“Hodlers of last resort are insane,” Rhythm summarized.

According to the data, the amount of dormant BTC as a percentage of the total supply has sharply increased in recent years. The trend has remained intact during both bull markets and bear markets, signaling a desire among investors to save rather than spend regardless of profitability. 

Hard money mentality

Such a trait fits Bitcoin’s characteristics as hard money: a currency with a fixed supply and emission schedule which no central authority can manipulate.

As  recently noted, the cryptocurrency’s proponents have long drawn the distinction between its characteristics and those of “easy money” such as fiat currency.

A currency, which can have its supply manipulated fits an economic system that incentivizes spending and borrowing while discouraging saving. As Saifedean Ammous summarized in his popular book, “The Bitcoin Standard,” consumers feel the urge to spend money sooner, as it loses its value in the long-term due to government and central bank interference.

Bitcoiners, by contrast, continue to exhibit a so-called “low time preference” economically — saving for the future, understanding that it is more profitable to do so than purchase as much as possible as soon as possible.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Bitcoin Price Retests $7.3K as Analyst Eyes New Bullish Futures ‘Gap’

Bitcoin (BTC) fell back towards support at the $7,250-$7,300 level on Dec. 1 after its latest sudden uptick began to fizzle overnight.

Cryptocurrency market daily overview. Source: Coin360
Futures gap incoming if lower levels stay

Data from Coin360 showed the largest cryptocurrency shedding almost 30% of its gains from earlier in the week, dropping from local highs of $7,790 to around $7,300 at press time.

The downside equated to 24-hour losses of 6% for Bitcoin, which began showing signs it would test support strength at $7,000.

Previously, BTC/USD hit multi-month lows of $6,500 before rebounding almost $1,300 within a matter of days.

At press-time levels, the pair was trading at exactly the same level as last Sunday.

Bitcoin seven-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Now, analysts were looking for factors that could influence short-term momentum up or down. In particular, Cointelegraph contributor Michaël van de Poppe eyed a likely “gap” in Bitcoin futures markets.

As  reported, Bitcoin price tends to “fill” points in its price which fall between where one futures trading session ends and another begins.

After Sunday’s drop, a new gap will likely have opened up, van de Poppe said, as CME’s contracts finished Friday trading at $7,805. This would thus propel BTC/USD back towards $8,000. Last week, a gap at $7,200 was likewise swiftly filled.

“Good part of this drop; another CME gap is created to the upside,” van de Poppe commented in a fresh Twitter update.

Continuing, he added the potential for Bitcoin likely lay between $6,900 and $8,000:

“I'd be interested to see whether we can break $7,400 up here. If we can, then we might be able to go to $8,000 after all. If not, I'm aiming at $6,900-7,000 for some longs.”

Futures analysis delivered mixed results this week after CME’s monthly contracts settled on Friday. Data suggested that Bitcoin would likely gain following the payouts, but so far, an opposing price trajectory has characterized markets.

Overall sentiment among futures traders nonetheless remains bullish, with competitor Bakkt seeing record daily volumes for its own monthly contracts last week.
Altcoins lose ground to BTC

Altcoin markets meanwhile saw a disappointing 24 hours, with many major cryptocurrencies shedding around 5%.

Ether (ETH), the largest altcoin by market cap, fell 4.2% to $147, while others fared worse. Litecoin (LTC), for example, was down 6.1%.

Ether seven-day price chart. Source: Coin360

The overall cryptocurrency market cap was $198.7 billion, with Bitcoin’s share at 66.6%

Microsoft to Turn 1980s Gamebook Series Into Blockchain Card Game

Microsoft, major game developer Eidos and gamebook firm Fabled Lands are jointly developing a blockchain card game based on a 1980s best-selling gamebook.

According to a press release published on Dec. 1, the new card game will be based on the 1980s best-selling book called “The Way of the Tiger,” written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith.

The game’s title will be “Arena of Death” and its players will fight in fantasy-themed card battles with features from the original gamebook series.

Ensuring card ownership

Thomson is also Fabled Lands’ chief executive officer and decided to use blockchain technology because he believes it suits what he is trying to achieve better than a traditional videogame. He said:

“We were going to relaunch the series into a computer game format but this new technology (blockchain), just made more sense. Imagine playing Magic the Gathering but knowing if you owned a card, it really does belong to you. Or if we say there are only 100 editions of an item or skill, you know there really are only 100 editions.”

The company plans to use non-fungible tokens (NFT) on the Vechain blockchain — which has been associated with enterprises and supply-chain management — to ensure ownership of in-game assets.

Vechain will allow creating cards and in-game items “without having to deal with all the crypto stuff,” says Thomson.

In-game blockchain tokens gaining popularity

The tokenization of in-game assets appears to be a growing trend. As Cointelegraph reported in late November, Blockchain game F1 Delta Time — licensed by the world-renowned racing series Formula 1 — held an auction of F1 car-branded NFTs.

Elsewhere, the Ethereum (ETH) based trading card game Gods Unchained has far outstripped CryptoKitties by volume after a censorship scandal involving game-developer Blizzard, reaching almost half of a million NFT transfers per day.

Trump Isn’t Sold on Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler Becoming US Senator

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is expected to appoint Kelly Loeffler, CEO of institutional Bitcoin (BTC) futures platform Bakkt, for a United States Senate seat next week.

Atlanta’s local news outlet AJC reported on Nov. 29 that Kemp plans to choose Loeffler in a bid to expand the appeal of the Republican party to women. If nominated, Bakkt’s CEO will become just the second woman to serve in the United States Senate from Georgia.

Furthermore, Loeffler could also finance GOP activities with her personal fortune, which the outlet suggests could break fundraising records. 

Bakkt CEO backs Trump

In an apparent effort to try to obtain Republican approval, Loeffler said that she wants to strengthen the border, shut down drug and human trafficking, lower healthcare costs and protect the national interests of the U.S. She added:

“If chosen, I will stand with President Trump, Senator David Perdue, and you to Keep America Great.”

The seat is currently occupied by Johnny Isakson, who will leave the Senate at year’s end because of health problems. Unspecified Republican Party officials allegedly told the outlet that Kemp is expected to publicly announce Loeffler’s appointment at a press conference next week.

But President not a fan of Loeffler

Various party leaders, including President Donald Trump, reportedly pressed to choose U.S. representative Doug Collins instead. Republican leaders have pushed for the appointment of Collins given his strong support for Trump, gun rights and anti-abortion efforts.

The President and many among his followers are not sold on Loeffler viewing her as too moderate. The outlet also reported that Kemp met with the President and Loeffler last week to try to obtain Trump’s approval of his pick for the Senate seat but to no avail.

Meanwhile, institutional interest in Bitcoin is seemingly increasing with Bakkt having set another new daily volume record trading $42.5M in Bitcoin futures contracts on Nov. 28.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Canadian Investment Firm 3iQ Files Prospectus for Bitcoin Fund

Canadian investment fund manager 3iQ hopes to attract Canadian retail investors with its regulated, publicly-traded Bitcoin (BTC) fund.

In a press release on Nov. 28, 3iQ announced that it had filed a preliminary prospectus for its close-end Bitcoin fund, which is expected to be available on the Toronto Stock Exchange later this year. 3iQ chief executive Fred Pye told Cointelegraph:

“We expect to list on the Toronto Stock Exchange in late December or early January. As a part of our next steps, we’re hoping to get Canada’s big banks on board. We’re hoping that two or three of Canada’s biggest banks, specifically ones that want to lead in fintech space, will join the syndicate group.”

The Toronto-based company revealed that 3iQ filed the prospectus for the Bitcoin fund in relation to an initial public offering of Class A and Class F units at $10 each.

Pye, who previously worked as senior VP at Fidelity Investments Canada,added that retail investors have been showing a great deal of enthusiasm for 3iQ’s Bitcoin fund, as the investments will also be eligible for Canadian registered retirement savings plans and tax-free savings accounts.

3iQ appealed a negative ruling by Canada’s markets regulator
In February, the Ontario Securities Commission ruled against 3iQ’s proposal to launch its regulated Bitcoin fund. However, the firm appealed the decision and ultimately won approval from Canada’s markets regulator to launch its BTC fund. Pye said at the time:

“Over the past three years, we have worked actively with the OSC’s Investment Funds and Structured Products Branch to create an investment fund that we hope will allow retail investors the benefits of investing in Bitcoin through a regulated, listed fund.”

Canadian blockchain industry salaries are among the highest in the country

In October, a report from the Canadian Digital Chamber of Commerce showed that the average annual blockchain salary in Canada is more than $98,000, making blockchain careers among the highest-paying in the country. The report also claims that Canada is well-positioned to become a global leader in the blockchain industry.

However, the ecosystem continues to face major challenges that include funding, lack of a regulatory environment, insufficient public education and little to no cooperation from banks and auditing services.
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