According to the article’s author, Bitcoin “can be a valuable financial tool as a censorship-resistant medium of exchange.”
Alejandro Machado, a cryptocurrency researcher at the Open Money Initiative, reportedly said that the fee on a wire transfer from the United States to Venezuela can be as high as 56 percent.
To circumvent such conditions, Venezuelans have reportedly turned to cryptocurrency, receiving Bitcoin from their relatives abroad. The main alternative is to wire money to Colombia, withdraw and bring cash to Venezuela, which according to the article, “can take far longer, cost more, and be far more dangerous than the Bitcoin option.”
Times suggests that Bitcoin is a good way to protect oneself from fiat currencyinflation. Venezuela is prime example of that, with the inflation of their native currency projected to top 1 million percent. But there are also other similar examples, like Zimbabwe, where former president Robert Mugabe “printed endless amounts of cash.” But the author points out:
“His successors can’t print more Bitcoin.”
Bitcoin is also, according to the article, a tool to evade mass surveillance in places like China. That being said, as Cointelegraph reported in March, according to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, Bitcoin isn’t optimal for avoiding government coercion, and he believes that the world needs a better option.
Times also points out the advantage given by the inability of governments to censor transactions or freeze Bitcoin wallets. In fact, Cointelegraph reported in April that WikiLeaks’ Coinbase account has been suspended due to a term of service violation.
Still, nobody can prevent WikiLeaks from using cryptocurrency wallets where the organization controls the private keys. In fact, WikiLeaks is still accepting cryptocurrency donations and also added support for Snowden’s favorite crypto Zcash in August 2017.
An American bitcoin trader has been arrested in the Philippines for allegedly killing his girlfriend and dumping her body in a river.
Well-known bitcoin trader and Californian native Troy Woody Jr. was arrested together with Brooklyn native Mir Islam over the murder of Tomi Michelle Masters, according to the Daily Mail. The two are accused of suffocating Tomi, who hailed from Indiana, with a plastic bag before stuffing her body in a box and dumping it in Manila’s Pasig River.
Tragic End of Vacation
CCTV footage that has been released shows the two men loading a huge box into the back of a ride operated by Asian taxi-hailing service and Uber-competitor Grab. While the two have confessed to dumping the body in the river, they both accuse the other of the murder, per the head superintendent of Mandaluyong City Police Custodial Facility, Igmedio Bernaldez:
We have yet to establish the motive. The three were here on vacation. If you ask the boyfriend, he will point to his friend as the killer. But if you ask the other suspect, he will say it was his friend who killed her. They are being questioned and the home they were staying at is being searched for evidence.
The suspicious behavior of the two was reported to the police by the cab driver. When the police searched the river, they found Tomi’s body which was wound in duct tape and covered in scratches. A post-mortem indicated that she died of suffocation, according to police. Troy and Tomi had been sharing an apartment in Manila after they moved to the Philippines from California.
According to friends, Tomi and Troy had a falling out earlier this month, and this emanated from Tomi’s desire to return to Indiana where she originally was from. Per Tomi’s father, Shawn Masters, Islam was of the view that if Tomi left for Indiana, Troy would follow her and consequently disrupt their ventures:
Islam needed TJ — he was the brains behind whatever it was they were doing.
‘Early Crypto Investor’
After their arrest, the two men indicated that they were both chief executive officers of Delaware-registered cryptocurrency trading firm known as Luxr LLC. On Twitter where he has more than 17,000 followers, Troy’s profile simply reads “Early Crypto Investor.” Troy’s following on Instagram is many times larger at 250,000, and in both accounts, he has documented a taste for luxuries including Swiss watches, Christian Louboutin shoes, and Dom Perignon champagne.
One of the cryptocurrency trades that Troy celebrated last year was buying Litecoin at US$50 and selling it at US$80 managing to turn a profit of US$24,000 in 11 days.
Besides trading bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Troy is also believed to be a core member of online mischief-making group UGNazi alongside Islam. Two years ago Islam received a 12-month prison sentence for crimes that included swatting (calling police with false information in order for SWAT teams to raid homes of particular targets), cyber-stalking, and exposing the privileged personal data of his victims online.
A Taiwanese man suspected of stealing electricity worth over $3 million to mine Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) has been arrested, according to a report from local news channel EBC Dongsen News Dec. 26.
The suspect, whose surname has been given as Yang, has been accused of allegedly stealing the electricity to successfully mine cryptocurrencies worth over 100 million yuan (around $14.5 million). Yang is purported to have used a minimum of 17 various business premises to open toy shops or internet cafes there as a facade for his alleged crypto mining activities.
The report claims Yang hired electricians to rewire the premises in such a way as to evade electricity metering and detection of the stolen power. State-owned utility provider the Taiwan Power Company is reported to have first noticed irregularities in the power supply, prompting a police investigation. In addition to Yang, a suspected accomplice has also been reportedly identified.
Wang Zhicheng, deputy head of the fourth brigade of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, is quoted by EBC Dongsen News as saying that:
“The [suspects] recruited electricians who managed to break into the sealed meters in order to add in private lines to use electricity for free before that usage reaches the meters.”
Suspected power theft to fuel crypto mining operations is not unprecedented; this October, a man in China’s northern Shanxi province was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for allegedly stealing power from a train station to fuel his Bitcoin mining operations.
Also in China — this time in the country’s Anhui province — a separate suspect was arrested for attempting to steal electricity to fund his reportedly “unprofitable” mining operations.
In a bid to raise awareness about the crypto industry’s energy consumption, the Institute of Human Obsolescence, a Dutch organization focused on data ownership, explored the energy usage of Bitcoin and found that 44,000 would need to provide their body energy for a month in order to mine a single Bitcoin, Motherboard reported on January 3, 2017.
The most popular cryptocurrency on the market today, both by market cap and trading volume, has frequently been dubbed the future of finance and is often regarded as the most revolutionary invention of the century. However, Bitcoin does come with its own set of shortcomings, with the least mentioned being its energy consumption.
Back in 2017, before the sudden spike in popularity, a single Bitcoin transaction required as much energy as ten households use in a week. According to a Motherboardreport, the Bitcoin network used more energy than the entire country of Bulgaria during 2016.
The troubling ecological footprint Bitcoin has already left on the environment has prompted companies to search for alternative means of energy to stay profitable. One company, however, went to the extreme and tested out whether it would be viable to harvest energy from the human body to power mining.
A Dutch organization called the Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO) decided to take advantage of the human body heat and transform it into pure energy.
The Human Body Is a Battery, Just Not an Efficient One
According to Motherboard, an adult human body generates approximately 100 watts of power while at rest, with around 80 percent of it being wasted as excess body heat. IoHO’s experiment tried to capture some of that energy by using wearable thermoelectric generators, which were used to power the computers mining cryptocurrency.
The experiment started back in 2015 when 37 volunteers contributed 212 hours of mining time to generate a total of 127.2 watts of power. On average, each of the volunteers contributed about 0.6 watts/hour of energy, which means that IoHO collected less than 1 percent of the body heat generated by its volunteers.
Manuel Beltrán, an artist and founder of IoHO, told the publication that the energy generated in the experiment wasn’t used to mine Bitcoin.
“We exclusively mined altcoins, and some of them have risen over 46,000 percent in value. What in the beginning was just small cents now became substantial amounts of money,” Beltrán said. It would take nearly 4,600 people lying still during an entire year to produce 1.2 Bitcoin, with each person earning less than $1 or their year-long endeavor at current Bitcoin prices.
However, Motherboard decided to explore a much different scenario – one where the thermoelectric generators would be much more efficient and able to collect almost all of the heat generated by the human body. In this scenario, there would have to be 44,000 people providing their body energy every second of every day for an entire month to mine a single Bitcoin.
Scrypt-based crypto asset Flash is releasing a new “human ATM” functionality in regions of Africa and South America that have seen their national fiat currencies fall victim to inflation. The function will provide peer-to-peer trading in countries like Venezuela that have little to no access to traditional banking services and must instead rely on cryptocurrencies to provide for their people.
Human ATM is available through Flash’s mobile wallet. In addition, Flash offers applications that allow customers to house multiple cryptocurrencies from bitcoin and Litecoin to Dash and Ethereum. At press time, as many as 800 different merchants throughout Africa will adopt Flash in the coming months, according to the company’s marketing director James Hinton.
Providing Crypto to Everyone Who Needs It
The human ATM feature allows customers to load maps of individuals offering in-person trades via their mobile phones. People can purchase or sell their cryptocurrencies in person, then have the units transferred to phone-specific wallets. The service will allegedly give all users in countries like Venezuela 24-7 access to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.
At the time of writing, Flash is supported by several small cryptocurrency exchanges, though it has garnered the attention of larger ventures like the Einstein Exchange in Canada. The currency also boasts over 600,000 active addresses around the world.
Flash was built with the unbanked in mind, though other applications offer similar features. As Flash allows one to keep multiple forms of crypto, Coindex allows users to keep track of their full crypto portfolios. The platform provides mobile users with a dashboard that combines all their wallets into one space, so they can see the progress of their crypto investments and better understand their financial gains. Users can also pre-select specific coins they’re potentially interested in to see how their prices are performing.
Lastly, the application also informs users of any forthcoming or ongoing initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Connecting Crypto to the World
In a related story, Flash has also announced a recent partnership with Crowdforce, based in the African nation of Seychelles.
Crowdforce provides cryptocurrency-based payment options to over 8,000 separate vendors, meaning all registered companies have the option of providing Flashcoin payments to their employees.
Is the human ATM a feature you would use? Why or why not? Post your comments below.
Despite market capitalisation dropping to a low point since Q4 2018, the number of crypto ATMs globally has been on a steady rise. Coin ATM Radar released a statement which further confirmed that there has been a massive increase in interest of cryptos.
209 New Crypto ATMs Worldwide
According to the statement, 209 new ATMs were installed across the world in November alone. This is despite the fall in the value of Bitcoin. It further revealed information on the close down of 68 previously opened kiosks which brings the total number of tellers to 141. This indicates a positive sign for the industry and investors looking for reasons to stay invested in various virtual currency in the next year.
It is important to note that, although teller kiosks do not have the same storage status as institutional investments, neither are they approved by the Exchange Traded Fund or by major advertisement channels like Facebook, they still serve as an indication of which direction crypto adoption is heading towards.
For some crypto enthusiast, the fall in value and price of virtual currency indicates a not so bright future for the industry and innovation of the technology created while for others, it is just “an indistinct background of broader adoption of a transaction using virtual currency and Bitcoin.”
2,243 Crypto ATMs Operational Within the U.S
With 2,243 crypto ATMs operational within the U.S alone, and many more being available globally, it is quite obvious that more people are now getting involved with cryptos.
Data compiled by Coin ATM Radar showed that there was a 59 percent increase in the number of accepted altcoins by crypto ATMs’ by November.
Also, with over 13 million users, the popular U.S. based cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase has been able to make a major impact in increasing crypto exposure for casual investors by adding more altcoins to its meagre selection over the last month.
Bitcoin users’ ability to send transactions through outer space has just been given a boost.
Blockchain technology firm Blockstream announced Monday that it has expanded its satellite service to the Asia-Pacific region. It’s also added support for lightning network transactions, allowing users to pay for its service using the “layer 2” scaling solution.
The company first launched Blockstream Satellite in August 2017, which lets bitcoin users transfer bitcoin through leased satellites. Initially, users in Africa, Europe and the Americas were able to utilize the system. At the time, CEO Adam Back said the service was aimed at individuals with limited internet access or who otherwise face issues accessing bitcoin.
In the months since launch, response to the service has been positive, he told CoinDesk Monday.
“There are third-party developers that have taken an interest to build local infrastructure using the satellite service, for example connecting it with mesh networks to make bitcoin more accessible in emerging markets,” Back said, regarding applications using the service.
The addition of an API integrating the lightning network apparently came after users expressed interest in sending bitcoin-related data.
“Lightning adds privacy due to its use of onion routing, and off-chain netting; and lightning better supports micropayments that are lower transaction cost, faster and more scalable. These are advantages for retail and web API use-cases generally, and help make the satellite data API service efficient and connect in with other bitcoin-related infrastructure.”
Back was unable to share any user statistics, due to the fact that Blockstream Satellite uses passive receiver technology.
To use the service, users need a small satellite dish – TV satellite receivers work fine – that’s connected by USB to a personal computer or a piece of dedicated computer hardware such as a Raspberry Pi. Free, open-source software, such as GNU Radio, can be used for managing the connection.
“Recipients can receive bitcoin data without their [internet service provider] being able to see the transactions,” Back explained.
The service itself has demonstrated “excellent” up-time, and the network includes redundancies to ensure reliability.
“The system is designed to auto-recover from a 24-hour outage in user equipment, by continuous retransmission of recent data as well as live data,” he said.
On Sunday, major mainstream media outlets reported that a crypto millionaire sprayed more than $12 million worth of cash in one of Hong Kong’s poorer neighborhoods.
Speaking to CCN, Leonhard Weese, the president of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong, confirmed that Wong Ching Kit, a 24-year-old man who was arrested almost immediately after causing a frenzy in a busy Hong Kong city, is not a Bitcoin millionaire and that the individual built wealth by operating a well-known ponzi scheme in the region.
“He’s not a Bitcoin Millionaire. He is running a pyramid-like scheme well known in the community. Disappointed this is getting so much uncritical attention,” Weese said.
According to past reports from local publications, Wong has been allegedly operating a large pyramid scheme guaranteeing a return of more than four-fold of initial return. He was also arrested and proven guilty of stealing mobile phones in 2012, when he was working as a swimming instructor at Kowloon Park in Hong Kong.
In 2017, local publications linked Wong to the so-called “London gold trading scams” that encouraged female brokers to intentionally approach individuals to invest a chunk of capital in gold and ran away with the capital.
In July of last year, Hong Kong’s Commercial Crime Bureau chief inspector Marina Yin Hiu-yu said:
“The girls claimed to be successful investment consultants. They also displayed a posh lifestyle on social media by showing off deluxe cars and watches. Some victims hadn’t even met the so-called financial stars before they agreed to open accounts, signed documents to authorise brokers to trade on their behalf and passed the account password to the girls.”
At the time, many investors suspected Wong to be involved in the London gold trading scams among other pyramid schemes in the area.
Recently, Wong has been promoting a cryptocurrency mining computer that costs more than $3,000, a price that is substantially higher than all of the products in the global mining sector.
“The young man has given media interviews under various monikers, promoting investment products, including a HK$27,500 computer he claimed could be used for cryptocurrency mining. Company search reports showed Wong owns a company called Coin’s Group. The firm was initially called Oscar Holding Group in 2017 but the name was changed on July 3 this year.”
However, most of the funds Wong has obtained over the years are suspected to have come from various scams he allegedly participated in.
Not Related to Bitcoin in Any Way
Based on previous scandals involving Wong that have been extensively covered by local publications throughout the past five years, it is evident that the funds he distributed on December 16, which some reports claimed were worth around $300,000, not $12 million, were not generated by his investments in Bitcoin nor his business in the cryptocurrency sector.
As Leonhard Weese said:
“Hong Kong media has covered his scams much more in-depth in the past. Why suddenly the goldfish memory?”
In a turn of phrase, Peter Thiel recently drew up a convenient political framework for how to think of the last decade’s most-hyped technologies. In a conversation with Reid Hoffman at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal described cryptocurrencies as libertarian and artificial intelligence as the communist.
A few moments later, Hoffman, the creator of LinkedIn, matched with the following: Crypto is anarchy, and AI is the rule of law. But before breaking down the validity of these catchy platitudes, it should be noted that both founders are clear descendants of May’s line of thinking.
May envisioned an extreme degree of freedom, as expressed in his large collection of firearms, admiration for the works of Ayn Rand, and a political philosophy which was reduced to the phrase: “Keep your hands off of my stuff.”
More importantly, he believed that all of this could be achieved via advancements in cryptography, coupled with networked computing.
Recent examples of this include the way in which Venezuelans and Zimbabweans are escaping massive inflation in their country via cryptocurrencies. In nations where the value of a local currency is weighed by the wheelbarrow rather than counted by the bill, a deflationary monetary device such as bitcoin is readily sponsored by impoverished citizens.
Enthused by their inability to thwart the use of cryptocurrencies, the South American country eventually launched their cryptocurrency to navigate recent American legislation.
In a string of deterrents, President Trump barred American companies in May 2018 from purchasing Venezuela’s debt by adding new penalties to interested buyers. The block arrived following the “choreographed” election of Maduro’s second term and concerns over multiple “avenues of corruption” within the country’s political elite. Mike Pence rationalized the decision by saying that “the United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues.”
Following the rise of the Petro, the state’s oil-backed digital currency, is akin to following ascending geopolitical Russian dolls. Venezuelan citizens are using bitcoin as an escape from Maduro’s inflationary policies, while Maduro is using the same technology to escape recent sanctions from the United States.
Both Russia and Iran have also been quarantined by similar American regulations and are inspired to create an equivalent native cryptocurrency. The consideration of a crypto-Rouble and Rial, respectively, means that the fiscal weaponry at the disposal of Trump is far less effective in getting these countries to bend. Herein lies the cypherpunk dream: A world in which governments compete less often with one another and more often with technologies that empower the individual.
China: Blockchain, not Bitcoin
At the opposite end of this, according to Thiel at least, is communism. Specifically, the Chinese Communist Party. Not only has the practical use of cryptocurrencies been almost entirely snuffed out, but China has also been experimenting with the fruits of artificial intelligence and their benefit to a massive surveillance state.
A report from 2015 indicated that a “video surveillance system had covered 100 percent of [Beijing]” which will contribute to the government’s techno-Orwellian “social credit” system in which citizens are given ratings based on behavior.
Interestingly, blockchain technology, that which backs cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, will likely play a significant role in this mass supervision. President Xi Jinping hopes to use distributed ledgers to impose even greater control on the country through greater visibility of his nation’s financial activity. A centralized, digitized, and likely private blockchain that only allows a handful of participants to adjust information therein means that surveillance becomes even more granular to even fewer people in power.
To put the enthusiasm behind such a move into perspective, China alone filed 226 of the 406 international blockchain-related patents filed in 2017. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) make up 68 of those patents leading commentators to speculate on the idea of a “Central Bank Digital Currency” soon to come.
Finally, and converse to the sliver of information that a crypto transaction needs, an AI-powered blockchain would demand vast amounts of data to operate, learn, and develop actionable conclusions. From this, Thiel’s curt headline-happy one-liner is fitting and easy to digest.
What’s Left to Do?
Within these frank boundaries, however, are some finer details that qualify myriad other political facades. Entrepreneurs, developers, and founders are all scrambling to shed the radical, freedom-fighting aesthetics of Bitcoin in favor of more packaged and manageable projects. With institutional investment on the tip of everyone’s tongue and a crushing bear market, this comes as no surprise.
For May, however, the game of crypto is zero-sum. He opined that the rise of these kinds of technologies was either going to lead to a Leviathan or an “anarchic-type system.” The current obsession with the financialization of cryptocurrencies and price slumps points to the former.
In an October 2018 interview with CoinDesk, May explained his distaste for the changing ideological landscape of the crypto space. He even went as far as saying Satoshi Nakamoto “would barf” at the thought of crypto today and that “all the noise about ‘governance,’ ‘regulation’ and ‘blockchain’ will effectively create a surveillance state, a dossier society.”
This distinction is key to understanding the value proposition of cryptocurrencies. For May, the question was never blockchain or bitcoin, but rather freedom or oppression. From this, groups like Paralenis Polis, the host of the annual Hacker’s Congress in Prague, are developing a much broader agenda based on the advancement of cryptography:
“The aim of the Institute of Cryptoanarchy is to make available tools for unlimited dissemination of information on the Internet and encouraging a parallel decentralized economy, crypto-currencies and other conditions for the development of a free society in the 21st century. The main motive for us is the belief that censorship is not a phenomenon only in ‘the distant dictatorial world.’”
While this vision, at current, does include the long-term survival of Bitcoin, May would likely discard the innovation as soon as it no longer served the idea that “two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other” without the interference of a government.
And in an age where these intimate freedoms are always under threat, paying close attention to dissolving mechanisms of exploitation rather than hopping on the next hype cycle is far more valuable.
A Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) spokesperson has called Bitmain’s alleged hesitation around a purported initial public offering (IPO) “rumors,” in an email to Cointelegraph Dec. 17. When asked for verification and details on the crypto mining firm’s IPO status, the spokesperson responded that “HKEX does not comment on rumors.”
Blockchain and crypto media had previously reported that the exchange was “hesitant” to host its IPO because of market conditions surrounding the overall crypto mining business. Anonymous sources have reportedly claimed that “the exchange is very hesitant to actually approve these Bitcoin (BTC) mining companies because the industry is so volatile. There’s a real risk that they could just not exist anymore in a year or two.”
The slump in crypto markets that followed 2017’s record highs has been difficult to bear for many crypto mining firms. Some have reportedly begun selling off mining equipment that reached its “shutdown price” by the kilogram. Citing market conditions, Bitmain has closed its Israel-based development center and dismissed local employees.
The potential Bitmain IPO has been the subject of some controversy and confusion over the course of the past few months. Several companies that were purported to be investors in the firm’s pre-IPO have stated that they are not involved.
As Cointelegraph reported in September, Singapore-based firm Temasek was alleged to have committed $560 million dollars to Bitmain’s IPO. Temasek said in an official statement:
“We’ve seen commentary about an IPO involving a cryptocurrency company, Bitmain. Temasek is not an investor in Bitmain, and has never had discussions with, or an investment in Bitmain. News reports about our involvement in their IPO are false.”
In August, Henry Yu, a Hong Kong lawyer and legal expert, told Cointelegraph that a Bitmain investor deck in Chinese used vague and misleading wording when listing investors ahead of its rumored IPO. In the Bitmain pre-IPO investor deck acquired by Cointelegraph, DST Global is listed as an investor, with claims that the investment was “recently completed.”
DST Global confirmed to Cointelegraph that it “has never invested in Bitmain.” The largest Uber shareholder, SoftBank, has also denied its alleged involvement in the offering.
In November news broke that Bitmain is facing a $5 million class-action lawsuit for allegedly mining cryptocurrency for its own benefit on its customers’ devices. Gor Gevorkyan, the lead plaintiff, suggested that the lengthy “initialization” process of the ASICs sold by Bitmain has the hardware mining at full power at users’ expense.