Republicans in Congress are working on a new bill that will introduce new sanctions against the nation of Iran. The bill is designed to put “maximum financial pressure” on Iran and put an end to its plans for a national crypto asset.

Known as the “Blocking Iranian Illicit Finance Act,” the document was introduced by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. According to Cruz, Obama’s “disastrous” nuclear deal with Iran gave the Iranian government billion dollars which he alleges they used for illicit purposes.

Will Iran Lose Its Access to Crypto?

In a statement, he says:

“The Obama Iran nuclear deal gifted the Ayatollahs with hundreds of billions of dollars and reconnected them to the global financial system, which they used to launder even more money and fund even more terrorism. Undoing that damage requires imposing maximum pressure against the Iranian regime. Effectively disconnecting Iran from the global financial system, which this bill does, is a necessary next step.”

Congressman Gallagher offered similar sentiment when describing the bill’s abilities and purpose, stating:

“Withdrawing from the JCPOA was only the first step in ratcheting up pressure on the Iranian regime. We now have an important window to impose maximum economic pressure and degrade the Iranian regime’s ability to export violence across the region. [The bill’s] message is clear: Iran must pay a steep price for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior, and the United States will never tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The United States exited its nuclear deal with Iran last May, approximately three years since it first came to fruition under President Obama. The U.S. has since worked to impose further economic sanctions on Iran to potentially prevent the government from abusing international monetary systems. To avoid these sanctions, Iran has mentioned that it was looking into producing its own national cryptocurrency.

Two Countries Hit with Financial Restrictions

Last November, Russia – also facing sanctions from the U.S. – signed a deal with Iran’s blockchain lab to potentially build a counter-actor to the international payment system SWIFT, used by banks worldwide. Earlier in the month, SWIFT announced that it was cutting off the service to varying banks throughout Iran. An official statement read:

“In keeping with our mission of supporting the resilience and integrity of the global financial system as a global and neutral service provider, SWIFT is suspending certain Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system. This step, while regrettable, has been taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system.”

Are you for or against the bill? Post your comments below.

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Oásis Supermercados, a supermarket chain store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has made it known that it now accepts payment in the form of bitcoin cash (BCH), Litecoin(LTC), and bitcoin core (BTC). By doing this, it has joined the growing list of businesses in Brazil which now receives payments in the form of digital currency.

Oasis Supermercados Start to Accept Cryptos

Oasis Supermercados has announced that, since 18th of December 2018, its customers can now make payment for products using Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Bitcoin. Once a customer selects which crypto to pay through, the system receives the digital coins and converts them to its equivalent in FIAT using a crypto payments processor called Coinwise. After three days, the payment processor will send Brazilian reals to the supermarket.

In Brazil, the acceptance of cryptocurrencies as payment for services rendered is now becoming a norm. However, this move by the supermarket a very important one.

A co-manager of the store, Douglas Andrade disclosed that Thiago, who is also his brother and co-manager developed the notion of accepting virtual currency at the supermarket after seeing a video on the subject and taking a further step of consulting a cryptocurrency brokage firm for more enlightenment.

He explained further that cryptocurrency purchase is similar to paying using credit cards, in a statement which reads:

“The client says which cryptocurrency he wants to pay, the operator types in reals and the system immediately converts to that crypto. Then just get the QR code and you’re done,”.

Training of Employees

The supermarket chain which consists of 2 stores with 90 employees out of which 20 are cash operators has a yearly turnover of up to $6.45 million (25 million reals). All the workers have received lessons on how to manage cryptocurrency purchases.

So far, no virtual currency payment have been completed since the payment method got launched, the public has however shown significant interest.

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Having launched GiveCrypto.org earlier this year to make direct cryptocurrency transfers to people living in poverty, Brian Armstrong — CEO of US crypto exchange giant Coinbase — has now promised to give a huge chunk of his fortune away to charitable causes.

“This year, I started my first philanthropic effort, GiveCrypto.org, which makes direct cash transfers to people living in poverty. I’m excited about the potential for this organization to help people, but I’m still early on my journey of discovering how to have the most impact via philanthropy.”

Per a report on CNBC, Armstrong signed the Giving Pledge, becoming the first cryptocurrency entrepreneur to pledge to donate the majority of his wealth for the greater good.

The Giving Pledge is a campaign started in 2010 by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which seeks to encourage the world’s wealthiest to use their fortune to help make the world a better place. According to a Wealth-X report published on Business Insider, the total value of pledges made to the charity could be worth as much as $600 billion by 2022.

He joins other billionaires including Tesla’s Elon Musk, businessman Michael Bloomberg, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom have dedicated the majority of their wealth to giving back. Zuckerberg, who joined the pledge when it was launched, promised to give away 99% of his Facebook shares during his lifetime.

Armstrong runs Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchange whose valuation was recently placed at $8 billion after the completion of its last investment round. According to Forbes, Armstrong is worth $1.3 billion as a co-founder. The recent downturn in the market, which saw trading volumes drop on most trading platforms, will see Armstrong’s net worth dip, but he still can’t be far off the $900 million to the $1 billion range.

“Once a certain level of wealth is reached, there is little additional utility from spending more on yourself. One’s ambition begins to move outwards. I’ve always admired founders and leaders whose ambition to improve the world supersedes any goal related to personal wealth,” Armstrong explained on the Giving Pledge website.

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A team that includes representatives from the Bank of Israel has issued a formal request for information about Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), published on its website Dec. 18.

The request — the goal of which is, as per the title, the “Regulatory Coordination of Virtual Assets”— states that “the regulators of the Israeli financial system believe that there is room to renew and strengthen cooperation and coordination among all regulators and the public” regarding DLT.

Besides the country’s central bank, the team reportedly includes representatives from the country’s Securities Authority, the Ministries of Finance and Justice, the Tax Authority, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority and various other local regulatory bodies.

The document asks for information pertaining to barriers to the development of the local DLT industry. The text inquires explicitly about problems encountered by local DLT companies, fundraisers, investors and consumers dealing with virtual assets as examples.

Moreover, the request inquires about the risks inherent in the use of virtual assets and the opportunities of DLT in the finance industry. Lastly, the statement also asks how DLT can help address issues regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and terrorism financing.

As per the statement, interested parties are invited to submit relevant information until Dec. 31, 2018.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of November, an Israeli study group exploring digital currency options has recommended that the country’s central bank not issue its own cryptocurrency.

At the beginning of December, Ehud Barak, a former Israeli Prime Minister, compared digital currencies to Ponzi schemes. He reportedly stated that “he would never invest” in crypto as “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies [are] a Ponzi scheme.”

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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.

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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.

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A major business school in South Korea is now offering a master’s degree in cryptocurrency. Crypto MBA is a one-and-a-half-year program that covers topics such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, smart contracts, crypto funds, Dapp planning, game theory, and how to write persuasive whitepapers. Meanwhile, the government is working on follow-up crypto regulations.

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Moves Crypto Hearing, Community Calls for Positive Regulations

Crypto MBA

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramSeoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies, often known as Assist, announced on Friday that it is now offering a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The new course is “a master’s degree program in blockchain, cryptoeconomics and token economy courses from technological, cryptoeconomic and business strategic perspectives,” the school described.

Claiming that it has “launched the world’s first crypto MBA course for a business graduate school,” Assist wrote:

The mission of Assist business school’s Crypto MBA program is to remedy the lack of academic research and systematic education currently available in the industry, despite a high level of social interest in the blockchain and cryptocurrency.

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramThe professional graduate school has been offering master’s degrees and doctorate degrees in business administration since 2004. Its website claims that the school “has been evaluated as the no. 1 graduate school for business administration,” noting that large corporations such as LG Electronics, KT, Doosan Infracore, and Korea Electric Power Corporation continuously use its courses.

Crypto Curriculum and Regulation

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramAccording to Friday’s announcement, “The curriculum includes Bitcoin, Ethereum, smart contract, cryptology, EOS, deep learning and system dynamics mechanisms. The cryptoeconomics curriculum consists of digital currency studies, microeconomics, macroeconomics, behavioral economics and theory on currency finance, game theory and mechanism design.” In addition, students will learn about “management mechanisms, strategic statistics, digital financial accounting, digital marketing strategies, crypto funds, Dapp planning and writing strategy for the persuasive whitepaper.”

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramThe South Korean government is currently working on additional crypto regulatory measures following the implementation of the real-name system in January. Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have been banned domestically since September last year. However, a number of lawmakers have introduced several bills to regulate them.

Recently, a fintech startup filed a complaint with the country’s constitutional court alleging that the government’s ICO ban is unconstitutional.

Crypto Classes on the Rise

While Assist offers an actual MBA degree in crypto, a growing number of business schools worldwide have added crypto classes including Stanford Graduate School of Business, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Mcdonough School of Business. Cnbc previously reported that these top schools “are expanding classes in digital currency and blockchain to keep up with demand from students and their future employers.”

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramStanford’s business school, ranked number one globally by the Financial Times this year, added a course called “Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies.” The school’s website describes, “The course covers all aspects of cryptocurrencies, including distributed consensus, blockchains, smart contracts and applications. We will focus in detail on Bitcoin and Ethereum as case studies.”

Wharton, ranked number one by Forbes, added a class in the fall called “Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology,” while Georgetown offers an elective that teaches topics such as the history and evolution of fintech, blockchain technology, and their applications.

What do you think of the Crypto MBA program? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Facebook is reportedly making a cryptocurrency for users of the messaging service WhatsApp, Bloomberg reports on Dec. 20. The token will purportedly be used for money transfers made within the app, and will focus on the remittances market in India.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg states that Facebook is developing a stablecoin. The sources further stated that the coin will not be released anytime soon, as Facebook is still working on a strategy for custody assets i.e. the asset to which the stablecoin will be tied.

The Indian remittances market is significant. According to data from the World Bank, the country received nearly $69 billion dollars in foreign remittances in 2017, or 2.8 percent of the country’s GDP.

WhatsApp enjoys widespread popularity in India, with over 200 million users in the country. The number of users in rural India doubled last year as data and internet costs in the region declined.

Facebook’s stance on cryptocurrency has changed significantly over the last year. In January 2018, the social media network introduced a crypto ad ban, which it said was designed to prevent “ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices.”

In May, David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s messaging app Messenger, announced the formation of a blockchain exploratory team at Facebook. At the time, Marcus was also a board member at San Francisco-based crypto exchange and wallet service Coinbase.

Marcus then wrote “I’m setting up a small group to explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.” Facebook repealed its blanket ban on crypto ads in late June, while upholding its ban on the promotion of initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In August, Marcus stepped down from Coinbase’s board in order to avoid a perceived conflict of interest. He said “Because of the new group I’m setting up at Facebook around blockchain, I’ve decided it was appropriate for me to resign…”

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A media copyright protection alliance has been established in Beijing to provide copyright protection services using blockchain technology, according to the Chinese state-owned International Finance News on Dec. 19.

The newly established alliance — the “China Financial Media Copyright Protection Alliance” — involves more than 30 major financial media outlets such as International Finance News, Economic Information Daily, China Business News, Beijing Business Daily, and the Daily Economic News, among others.

The alliance aims to provide “reasonable authorization systems, improving authorized transaction mechanisms, strengthening industry copyright self-discipline, and developing copyright cooperation in the industry.” Qi Huisheng, secretary of the former Communist Party group of the China Association of Journalists said:

“Reporters and newspapers should establish copyright awareness, solve common problems in copyright protection through technology and other means, and actively communicate with relevant technical teams to protect original copyright…”

International Finance News reports that the alliance will use blockchain technology “to provide original authentication and copyright protection for original works.” The Alliance aims to use the technology to “embed the unique identifier ‘DNA’ in the article.” So long as the article maintains a 70 percent similarity, whether it is transferred through social media or various websites, the “DNA” can be purportedly traced back to the original:

“…once an infringement is discovered, the technology platform will immediately obtain evidence.”

In June, an association of more than 100 mainstream media outlets established the “Global Media Blockchain Alliance” in Hong Kong, aiming to provide high-quality information about the blockchain industry to the public, and create a “healthy public opinion environment.”

Last month, 54 different Chinese companies covering blockchain technology in finance and trading established the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Dawan District Blockchain Alliance. The new group will purportedly promote innovation and jointly develop blockchain technology within the country.

This post is credited to cointelegraph

There are thousands of pump-and-dump groups on popular messaging apps, a study conducted by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) revealed Dec. 18.

Pump-and-dump is the fraudulent practice of perpetrators encouraging unwitting investors to buy an asset to inflate its price artificially, and then selling it when the price gets high enough.

This practice is not new, Cointelegraph having reported last year about Telegram groups organizing pump-and-dumps. The newly published data, however, “suggest that [the pump-and-dump] phenomenon is widespread and often quite profitable.”

According to an article on the study, published by Bloomberg Dec. 19, the researchers have identified 4,818 pump-and-dump attempts between January and July this year, studying data scraped from messaging platforms Telegram and Discord.

The academics admit that while the pump-and-dump schemes reviewed by them were conducted in a similar manner to those that already took place in the past, “the recent explosion of nearly 2,000 cryptocurrencies in a largely unregulated environment has greatly expanded the scope for abuse.”

The paper notes that “pumping obscure coins (with low volume) is much more profitable than pumping the dominant coins in the ecosystem,” but at the same time “Bitcoin is not immune from the pump-and-dump phenomenon.” The report has managed to identify 76 Bitcoin (BTC) pump-and-dump groups on Telegram and six on Discord.

As Cointelegraph reported this month, two bills addressing crypto market manipulation, dubbed “The Virtual Currency Consumer Protection Act of 2018” and “The U.S. Virtual Currency Market and Regulatory Competitiveness Act of 2018,” compiled in mid-November, are set to go before the United States House of Representatives.

The world’s second-largest stock exchange, NASDAQ, said in November that its market surveillance technology can “stamp out manipulation” in crypto markets. The first NASDAQ’s crypto client who adopted its surveillance system is Gemini, the crypto exchange owned by the Winklevoss twins.

This post is credited to cointelegraph