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Bitcoin-Hating Banker Thinks He Can Be Elected President

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In today’s edition of The Daily we cover stories about Shapeshift shutting down its decentralized portfolio platform Prism, the bitcoin-hating CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, thinking he can be elected US President, an exchange expanding to 20 more states, and further censorship of bitcoin-related accounts on Chinese social media.

Shapeshift, which recently announced a shift to a mandatory membership model, is now also shutting down its decentralized portfolio platform, Prism. When it was launched last year, Prism promised the ability to secure a basket of cryptocurrencies without exposure to third party risk, meaning without leaving your funds on an exchange. It also featured some social trading capabilities, like displaying public performance leaderboards so users could learn from top traders and copy their portfolios.

Shapeshift didn’t indicate that the move is related to its recent change of model, instead stating it has been done to focus on developing its core product line. “With the work we’ve done over these past 18 months, it’s become clear to us that there is actually a different (and likely superior) product to be built with this underlying technology. It requires more than a pivot: a reimagining of the product itself…These reasons combined have led us to the conclusion that we should sunset the current Prism product, both in order to focus on our core platform, and to clear the pallet for a potential reimagining of what this technology can do later on.”

The Daily: Shapeshift Shuts Down Prism, Jamie Dimon Thinks He Can Be Elected PresidentJamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase and former director of the New York Fed, seemingly loves to stir up controversy in a way that will grant him maximum publicity before quickly retreating. After attacking bitcoin as a fraud and regretting it, he has now said he can be elected President of the United States – and then almost immediately took it back. Apparently the Wall Street banker thinks he can beat current president Donald Trump because “I’m as tough as he is, I’m smarter than he is.”

It would have been both entertaining and enlightening to discover just how much the American public love bankers in this ultimate popularity contest, but Dimon took his words back as soon as they were made public, proving he is neither as tough nor as smart as he imagines. “I should not have said it. I’m not running for president. Proves I wouldn’t make a good politician.”

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Huobi Japan Opens Fully Licensed Exchange

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Japan

Huobi Group is proud to announce that, thanks to its merger with BitTrade, Huobi Japan has relaunched itself as a fully regulated exchange under Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA).

“This is an important milestone for us,” said Leon Li, Huobi Group Founder and CEO. “Firstly, because the Japanese market is a very important one to us and, secondly, because working with regulators is a longstanding priority for Huobi Group. We’re proud to say that Huobi Japan now has one of the first 17 licenses issued under the FSA’s ground-breaking regulatory regime.”

“We are extremely pleased to once again be offering our services to the Japanese trading public,” said Huobi Japan CEO Haiteng Chen. “We’re looking to continue to grow our presence here while offering top-notch digital asset trading services in Japan.”

Huobi Japan currently offers Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and Monacoin (MONA) – all with the stability and safety that Huobi is well known for. In addition to 24/7 customer service by email and a dedicated and highly qualified team ensuring its operation and security around the clock, the Huobi Japan exchange features specialized distributed architecture, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack countermeasures system, and A+ ranked SSL certification (the highest available).

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Bitcoin Whales Resurfacing May Mean Rough Seas Are Ahead for Traders

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The Wall Street

Overlooked amid a resumption of digital-asset market volatility is a resurgence of activity by anonymous owners of long-dormant Bitcoin accounts that suggests more dramatic price swings lie ahead. Starting in October, a large number of holders who hadn’t touched their Bitcoins for between six months and more than 2-1/2 years began moving their coins, according to analytics provider Flipside Crypto. The trend has continued since the start of the new year, with so-called digital wallets that have been active in the last 30 days now holding about 60 percent of the circulating supply, the Boston-based firm found.

“It’s definitely a big shift,” Eric Stone, head of data science at Flipside, said in an interview. “There’s more potential than usual for price swings.”

The supply of active Bitcoins has risen 40 percent since last summer, according Stone. Similar wallet activity preceded large price swings in 2015 and 2017. Two years ago, the uptick foreshadowed the surge that took the coin’s price to a record high of almost $20,000 toward the end of the year. Bitcoin has since slumped to around $3,650.

The concentration of ownership is what makes the activity so potentially market moving. Often referred to in the industry as whales, about 1,000 addresses control 85 percent of all Bitcoins, and include many early investors that have remained relatively inactive during the stratospheric price surge and collapse of the past two years.

“We’ve definitely seen that many long-time holders of Bitcoin are becoming active,” said David Balter, chief executive officer of Flipside.

“The fact that those wallets have been recently active leads us to believe they could soon be active again,” Stone said. “Put another way: We have no reason to expect them to remain stagnant for another 2-plus years.”

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Virtual Currencies To Go Down as ‘Load of Nonsense,” Says ECB’s Hansson

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Crypto currencies will probably die as a “complete load of nonsense,” according to European Central Bank policy maker Ardo Hansson.

“The bubble has already started to collapse and maybe we should just see how far this collapse goes, and what is left when we’ve reached a new kind of equilibrium,” the Estonian central-bank governor told a conference in the Latvian capital of Riga. “I think we will come back a few years from now and say how could we ever have gotten into this situation where we believed this kind of a fairy-tale story.”

Still, Hansson warned that authorities may need to focus on investor-protection aspects “if grandmothers start investing in that,” and highlighted concerns that crypto currencies can be used for illegal activities. Financial-stability issues may arise if links between virtual assets and the regulated financial sector are starting to increase, he added.

While Hansson has voiced similar views earlier, the country’s financial watchdog warned recently that it views companies providing services linked to crypto assets as a new source of money-laundering risks. The nation’s police issued almost 500 licenses to crypto-currency exchange providers in a year, and more than 440 licenses to companies offering a wallet service. A frontrunner in digital services, Estonia is still reeling following the $235 billion dirty-money scandal that has engulfed the country’s branch of Danske Bank A/S.

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Bitcoin Mining Chip Maker Canaan Considers U.S. IPO

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Crypto Wallet

Canaan Inc., China’s second-biggest maker of Bitcoin mining hardware, is considering listing in the U.S. after shelving plans for a Hong Kong initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Chinese company, which was earlier targeting to raise about $1 billion, is discussing the possibility of selling shares in New York as soon as the first half, according to the people. Deliberations are at an early stage, and there’s no certainty they will lead to a transaction, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Bitcoin has fallen 79 percent from its record high in December 2017, making it more difficult for cryptocurrency companies to attract stock-market investors and less profitable for miners to generate new coins. Bitmain Technologies Holding Co., the largest maker of specialized mining chips for the industry, and smaller rival Ebang International Holdings Inc. also filed for Hong Kong IPOs last year.

Beijing-based Canaan, founded in 2013, sells computer equipment under the “Avalon” brand with fast customized chips that win digital coins by solving complex math problems. It reported 1.31 billion yuan ($191 million) of revenue in 2017, according to a Hong Kong exchange filing in May.

Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and CMB International Capital Ltd. were joint sponsors of Canaan’s proposed Hong Kong listing, the filing shows.

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Paytomat Adds Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) to Supported Currencies

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Bitcoin Diamond

Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) will be the newest addition to Paytomat’s point-of-sale (POS), wallet, and settlement system (including both crypto-to-crypto and crypto-to-fiat settlements). This follows the November 2018 announcement of BCD & Paytomat’s collaboration to release the BCD Pay Wallet for iOS and Android, due for release in January 2019.

Paytomat has a rapidly growing user base across Europe, with presence in countries such as GeorgiaItalySpain and the Netherlands, in addition to its native Ukraine. BCD and Paytomat’s partnership will help to increase BCD’s accessibility and usability in many areas of the world, making this an important milestone for BCD’s path to mass-market adoption.

Known for its fast transactions, low fees, high security, and affordable coin prices, BCD is designed to make everyday transactions practical. Now that Paytomat has added BCD to its ready-to-install cryptocurrency point-of-sale system, any e-commerce or brick-and-mortar business can also accept BCD as payment with minimal effort and initial investment.

Furthering its mission of adoption, BCD is also being added to the Paytomat Wallet, a convenient multi-coin tool that allows for storage and management of assets all in one secure app. Customers can now hold BCD and other crypto assets all in one place and make instant payments at their selected stores, while receiving current fiat value updates for each crypto.

BCD and Paytomat share a goal of bridging the gap between retail and cryptocurrency. With the practicality of BCD and convenience of Paytomat’s suite of technologies, accepting cryptocurrency payments is quickly becoming a reality for a large number of traditional and e-commerce merchants around the world.

In 2019, BCD aims to continue establishing partnerships with leading cryptocurrency organizations to increase brand awareness and encourage adoption.

About Bitcoin Diamond (BCD)

Bitcoin Diamond is a Bitcoin fork that was created to solve the slow transaction confirmations and high threshold requirements of Bitcoin. Through BCD Pay, business owners are able to offer their products to a global market without needing to absorb expensive fees from international payments. Furthermore, with BCD Pay, business owners do not have to worry about costly chargebacks from indecisive or fraudulent customers.

Earlier this year, BCD debuted BCD Bazaar, an international marketplace that gives customers access to a wide range of products from across the world by accepting payments in Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) or Bitcoin (BTC).

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Irish Government Gives Green Light to Anti-money Laundering Bill

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Irish Government

Irish Government has approved tougher laws to tackle money laundering, including the use of cryptocurrencies in funding terrorism. The main purpose of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2019 is to give effect to the fifth EU money laundering directive and strengthen existing legislation.

The proposed law includes restrictions on the use of “virtual currencies for terrorist financing and limiting the use of pre-paid cards” and improves safeguards for financial transactions to and from “high-risk third countries”.

If the Bill passes, banks and other financial institutions will be required to carry out stricter due diligence before taking on new clients. Credit and financial institutions will also be prevented from creating anonymous safe deposit boxes.

The Bill also gives new powers to the Garda and the Criminal Assets Bureau to access bank records when investigating money laundering.

“The reality is that money laundering is a crime that helps serious criminals and terrorists to function, destroying lives in the process,” Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said in a statement on Thursday.

“Criminals seek to exploit the EU’s open borders and EU-wide measures are vital for that reason. Ireland strongly supports the provisions in the fifth EU money laundering directive. ‘’

The Minister said the Government is building “a very robust legal framework and further developing vital expertise within An Garda Síochána.

“My message to criminals is clear: those engaging in corruption or money laundering in Ireland will not get away with their crimes.”

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Crypto’s 2019 Goal: Technology People Can Use

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“Few tangible uses for Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology have emerged,” according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article published Jan. 1.

According to WSJ, in 2017 actual crypto development “took a back seat to getting rich.” The article also states that “at the beginning of 2018, the question was whether Bitcoin could live up to the hype of 2017’s manic rally,” and at the end of 2018 the answer was “no.”

Andy Bromberg — the founder of Coinlist — a platform for running regulatory-compliant token sales, explained that the next step for crypto was figuring out “how we can turn this technology into products for people to use.” However, according to the article:

“Bitcoin and the hundreds of other digital currencies that have popped up over the years are still largely usable only by developers.”

Developing apps for the Ethereum (ETH) platform is much less intuitive than for other non-blockchain platforms, according to the WSJ. For Ethereum, there are no developer kits which are currently available to build an app for iOS or Android, so “building a similar app for the Ethereum platform involves developing an entire suite of tools to connect the app to the platform itself.”

Still, WSJ admits that new institutional investors could get into the space when Bakkt will be launched by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the operator of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

The article states that “despite the entry of some established Wall Street players, scammers abound.” This idea is in line with the declarations of Jed McCaleb — Stellar’s co-founder — who recently said that “ninety percent of these projects [that aren’t Stellar, Ethereum (ETH) or Bitcoin] are B.S.”

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South African Government Tackling Crytocurrency Challenge

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South African

The South African government has established a crypto assets regulatory working group to investigate all aspects of cryptocurrencies and related blockchain concepts.

This is with a view to developing a cohesive governmental response to cryptocurrencies and a unified intergovernmental regulatory framework, finance minister Tito Mboweni said in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels.

The minister said the working group includes representatives from the Financial Intelligence Centre, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the SA Revenue Service (Sars).

“It is anticipated that, following broad industry comment and participation, the crypto assets regulatory working group will be ready to release a final research paper on the subject during the course of 2019,” Mboweni said.

He noted that Sars is unable to accurately trace the number of declarations pertaining to capital profits on cryptocurrencies as the existing income tax return forms do not make provision for taxpayers to specifically declare capital profits regarding cryptocurrency trades.

“However, work is under way within Sars to consider the amendment of the tax forms for the 2019 tax season in order to cater for the description of other assets (which will include cryptocurrencies) by means of a specific description field on the form.

“Taxpayers who have made some form of declarations regarding cryptocurrency trades have captured such trade as a form of ‘other trade income’ or ‘other trade loss’, and have made reference to a description of digital/crypto currency trading (e.g. Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin (LTC), Ethereum (ETH), Zcash (ZEC) to name a few).”

Sars applies normal income tax rules to cryptocurrencies.

The Taxation Laws Amendment Bill of 2018 included proposed amendments to the treatment of cryptocurrencies for income tax and VAT purposes.

Mboweni said these amendments would ensure that losses on cryptocurrencies may only be offset against profits from cryptocurrencies (otherwise known as ring-fencing). He said the amendments would also clarify that cryptocurrencies cannot be classed as personal-use assets for capital gains tax purposes and would treat cryptocurrencies as financial services for VAT purposes.

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Hackers Pocketed $878,000 from Cryptocurrency Bug Bounties in 2018

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Cryptocurrency Bounties

While hardcore cryptocurrency enthusiasts often tout blockchain for its heightened security, the technology is not perfect – and there are often tons of vulnerabilities in the code. Indeed, blockchain companies have received at least 3,000 vulnerability reports in 2018 alone.

According to stats from breach disclosure platform HackerOne, blockchain companies awarded $878,504 in bug bounties to hackers this year. The data was compiled in mid-December. By contrast, the total sum of bug bounties awarded by August was $600,000.

With $534,500 awarded, EOS creator Block.one accounts for more than 60 percent of all bounties handed out in 2018.

Here is the top three all-time chart when it comes to bug bounty rewards (please note this includes bounties from before 2018):

  • Block.one – $534,500
  • Coinbase – $290,381
  • TRON – $76,200

While cryptocurrency exchange desk Coinbase comes in second (with $290,381 in bug bounties), it’s been running a disclosure program since 2014. Block.one launched its disclosure program for EOS at the end of May. Shortly after that, one single hacker claimed $120,000 in bug bounties from Block.one in less than a week.

“Nearly 4 percent of all bounties awarded on HackerOne in 2018 were from blockchain and cryptocurrency companies,” a HackerOne spokesperson told Hard Fork.

Still, it seems blockchain companies remunerate hackers slightly better than other industries on HackerOne.

“The average bounty for all blockchain companies in 2018 was $1490, that is higher than the Q4 platform average of around $900.” the spokesperson added. “One of the top paid crypto hackers earned 7X the median software engineer salary in their country respectively.”

The blockchain bug problem is bigger than it seems

HackerOne told Hard Fork there are currently 64 blockchain companies on its platform at present. For context, there are more than 2,000 various cryptocurrency companies out there. This means the real number of vulnerabilities is likely significantly higher.

Just keep in mind that researchers found crippling vulnerabilities in both Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash this year – the former of which is blockchain‘s oldest and most well-established protocol out there. Earlier this year, reports suggested there were more than 34,000 vulnerable smart contracts in Ethereum-based projects alone.

Due to its immutability aspects, the severity of vulnerabilities on the blockchain is much more serious than in other centralized technologies, since there is no way of reversing transactions (unless we’re talking about EOS or other systems with built-in backdoors).

So if you were thinking about betting on blockchain to keep your funds safe, you might want to measure the risk.

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Why Bitcoin Matters for Freedom

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Venezuelan

In the border city of Cúcuta, Venezuelan refugees stream into Colombia, searching for food to feed their families. Years of high inflation, projected to top 1 million percent, has turned bolivares into scrap paper. More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014, and 5,500 exit for good each day. According to the United Nations, the exodus is “on the scale of Syria” and is now one of the world’s worst refugee crises. As Venezuelans escape, they leave with close to nothing, desperate and vulnerable.

Because they live under authoritarianism, Venezuelans have no way to reform the policies that have destroyed their economy. They can’t hold their rulers accountable through free and fair elections or campaign for change without fear of reprisal. As they stand in hours-long lines for rationed groceries and medicine and watch their life savings disappear, it can seem like there are no options.

But innovation happens at the edge. Today, Venezuelans are adopting and experimenting with Bitcoin to evade hyperinflation and strict financial controls. Speculation, fraud, and greed in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry have overshadowed the real, liberating potential of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention. For people living under authoritarian governments, Bitcoin can be a valuable financial tool as a censorship-resistant medium of exchange.

Take, for example, remittances. After ravaging the domestic economy, the Venezuelan regime is now taking a cut of money coming in from abroad. New laws force Venezuelans to go through local banks for foreign transactions, and require banks to disclose information on how individuals get and use their money. According to Alejandro Machado, a cryptocurrency researcher at the Open Money Initiative, a wire transfer from the United States can now encounter a fee as high as 56% as it passes from dollars to bolivares in a process that can last several weeks. Most recently, Venezuelan banks have, under pressure from the government, even prevented clients using foreign IP addresses from accessing their online accounts.

To circumvent this bureaucracy, some Venezuelans have started to receive bitcoin from their relatives abroad. It’s now possible to send a text message to your family asking for bitcoin, and receive it minutes later for a tiny fee. Government censorship isn’t possible, as bitcoin isn’t routed through a bank or third party and instead arrives into your phone wallet in a peer-to-peer way. Then you can, moments later, sell your new bitcoin into fiat through a local Craigslist-style exchange, or load it onto a flash drive (or even memorize a recovery phrase) and escape Venezuela with complete control over your savings. A popular alternative – have your family wire money to a bank in Colombia, walk across the border to withdraw, then walk back to Venezuela with cash in hand – can take far longer, cost more, and be far more dangerous than the Bitcoin option.

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