IEOs Give Small Altcoin Exchange a Second Lease on Life

Now that the era of initial coin offerings appears to be over permanently, startups flock to other ways of securing funding. Initial Exchange Offerings, or IEOs, have become the hottest trend in this regard. 

When an exchange gets involved in a token sale, they put their own reputation on the line. 

IEOs are a Boon for Smaller Exchanges

If the token issuer does not appear genuine, the exchange in question has to deal with a lot of repercussions. 

Despite this risk factor, a lot of cryptocurrency exchanges have begun engaging in IEOs recently.

Current statistics provided by CryptoDiffer seem to indicate IEOs is a very prominent business. 

So much even that the top exchanges may soon face strong competition from smaller platforms. 

Binance helped raised over $46m in funding for IEOs so far. This is a rather significant amount, albeit one would expect as much from the biggest crypto trading platform in the world today.

Other noteworthy exchanges making the top 5 include OKEx, Bittrex, Huobi Global, and Gate.io. 

That latter platform is somewhat surprising, as it has never been an overly popular altcoin exchange.

According to these statistics, smaller exchanges are stepping up their game. When IEOs are organized, they can bring in a lot of new customers for these trading platforms.

DeversiFi, Bibox, and BitMax are just a few examples of the success of Initial Exchange Offerings. 

All platforms helped raise between $2m and $10m in funding to date. 

Any exchange willing to take the risk will seemingly do well to get in on IEOs while they are still hot. 

At this time, it remains unclear as to how long this business model will remain relevant in this ever-changing industry.

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Vietnamese Crypto Exchange VinDAX has Been Hacked

Over the past 11 years, numerous cryptocurrency exchanges have been hacked. The total amount of funds stolen because of these incidents has become astronomical.

Even in 2019, that trend is not slowing down. VinDAX, a Vietnamese trading platform, has fallen victim to a cyber attack. 

VinDAX Confirms the Theft of Funds

It is believed that nearly two dozen digital assets were affected during this security incident. That in itself is worrisome, primarily because the company hasn’t disclosed which those assets are.

VinDAX is a company primarily providing the trading of stocks. In recent years, they also ventured into the world of crypto-assets.

The majority of trading pairs on the platform are all small tokens with a nearly non-existent market cap. 

Some of those tokens are also sold via an IEO organized on the VinDAX platform itself.

Early estimates indicate the criminals could have obtained as much as $500,000 in crypto assets.

Given how low the market cap of some of those assets might be, it seems unlikely that figure is 100% accurate.

It is not the first time a cryptocurrency exchange is hacked in 2019 either. The total tally now sits at seven “major” incidents which were effectively reported to the public.

There is always a chance a trading platform suffers from a breach and does not disclose it at that time. 

As such, there may be more of these stories before the year 2019 comes to a close. 

This story serves as another warning for cryptocurrency enthusiasts. 

If they do not store funds in a compatible wallet fully under their control, there is always a chance the money will be lost at some point. 

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Financial Inequality Makes a Green Diet Impossible for 20% of the Earth’s Population

Whereas climate scientists want more people to eat greener, that vision might not be viable. The cheapest way of living on a green diet is still too expensive for 20% of the world’s population. 

It is well-known how most humans are actively contributing to the climate change problems through their eating habits. 

A Green Diet Isn’t Always Viable

Doing something about this issue is not necessarily straightforward.

The easier option is to switch to a “green” diet of sorts. It would involve eating more fruits and vegetables. 

Plant-based foods and replacements are also high on the agenda of climate scientists.

As the number of different food types increases, one could expect this change to occur naturally. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the most logical outcome. 

Putting any scientific concerns aside, there is another crucial factor to take into account. 

The cost of a green diet is simply too high for one-fifth of the Earth’s population. In the end, it always comes down to money in one way or another. 

As fruits and vegetables make up most of the food budget, the problem becomes apparent fairly quickly. A green diet requires the most expensive ingredients worldwide. 

It is believed that fruit and veg take up 31% of the average household budget. Although that is a promising figure in its own right, it also causes a lot of financial strain for low-income families. 

That doesn’t mean the green diet isn’t viable in the long run. 

If the wealth of low-income countries were to increase, so would the number of people eating green. On paper, at least, as things are the exact opposite in the real world. 

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MIT’s Puppy-Sized Robotic Dogs Enjoy Playing With Leaves

One would not expect a pack of robotic dogs to play in piles of leaves. That situation is slightly different as far as MIT is concerned.

The renowned university has awed and shocked the world with its robotic dogs in recent years. A new video was shared earlier this week, depicting the “training” of nine puppies. 

Robotic Dogs Remain Oddly Cute

This unit is known as the Mini Cheetah. It is lightweight and modular. It is also one of the few robotic dogs capable of performing a backflip without any real problems.

Currently, the bots are deployed for a variety of purposes. Their main appeal is potentially addressing problems that require both flexibility and more robustness. 

Thanks to their modular design, scientists can swap parts of the robots as they see fit. Mini Cheetahs are not fragile, but not dangerous for the end user either. 

Despite their physical prowess, the Mini Cheetah is not as smart as a real dog. In fact, it has very little intelligence at this time, despite the video potentially depicting otherwise.

Other than their mobility, the unit can’t do much without human intervention. They are all controlled by humans who decide where the units go and how they respond to the environment.

That doesn’t mean the Mini Cheetah won’t continue to evolve and learn. It is still in the very early days of research and development, after all.

According to MIT, these robotic dogs are perfect for surveying work. Not having to put human lives in danger is always a favorable course of action. 

Eventually, they might end up delivering parcels or even patrol the perimeter of an event as extra security guards. 

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RippleNet Spans Over 300 Customers Across Six Continents

RippleNet continues to grow and expand. In a new blog post, Ripple confirms there are now over 300 customers making use of this technology. 

Ripple is not a traditional cryptocurrency company. Their focus lies in the financial sector. Underpinning products, such as RippleNet and On-demand Liquidity, cater to traditional financial service providers.

RippleNet Trucks Along Nicely

According to the company, RippleNet continues to gain traction. So much even that it now spans over 300 customers worldwide.

Additionally, there is a tenfold increase in yearly transactions over this network. That in itself confirms the potential of this service has gained a lot more recognition. 

The commercialization of On-Demand Liquidity plays a crucial role This service leverages XRP as a currency to facilitate cross-border payments. 

Notable partners making use of RippleNet and ODL include MoneyGram, FlashFX, and Interbank Peru. All of these service providers have incorporated RippleNet into their products and services.

As RippleNet continues to grow, so does the associated ecosystem. Payment corridors leveraging XRP now exist in Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, and soon Brazil.

As the customer base now spans clients across six continents, it is evident RippleNet has been a success. Primarily banks have taken a recent interest in what this technology has to offer.

Further advancing the growth is paramount. Ripple eyes expansion of ODL into APAC, EMA, and LATAM regions throughout 2020 and beyond.

As financial transactions become cheaper for operators, the customers will benefit in the long run. 

Lower costs achieved through RippleNet or ODL need to be passed on to individual consumers sooner rather than later. 

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Just Under Half of all Stellar Lumens are Gone Forever

There has been some excitement regarding Stellar Lumens. The Stellar Development Foundation confirmed it has removed a fair amount of lumens from the circulating supply. 

The Stellar Development Foundation works on making XLM a new payments standard. To do so, they control a large portion of the total supply. Those funds are to be used for different purposes, including giveaways. 

Major Stellar Lumens Supply Changes

Earlier this week, the SDF confirmed the available supply of Stellar Lumens has been reduced. This new allocation has shifted the balance of power quite significantly.

Prior to this development, the SDF held 17 billion XLM in its operations fund. That figure has now decreased to 12 billion lumens. 

By burning these tokens, they are sent to an address no one has control over. The 5 billion XLM in question will never be used by anyone ever again. 

It sends a strong message to the community, despite there still being 100 billion lumens in existence today. 

In addition to burning the tokens, the Stellar World Giveaway program has also been ended. Additionally, the Partner Giveaway program is no longer available either.

Both projects have seemingly run their course. Considering how 68 billion XLM was set aside for both ventures, questions arose as to how the funds were to be used.

The decision was made to burn 50 billion of those tokens as well. As such, there are 50 billion XLM still available today.

Of those 50 billion, 40% is out in the world. The remainder will be distributed among the SDF Operations wallet, giveaway programs, and partnership programs. 

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Gathering Solar Energy in Space is the Next Frontier

Gathering solar energy down here on earth is a difficult process. Despite technological improvements, a more streamlined solution needs to be developed. 

Beaming solar energy down from space has suddenly become a hot topic. That is the result of a new project by the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A DIfferent Take on Solar Energy

On paper, this concept is not unique. It has been conceived five decades ago, yet never put into action. That situation may come to change sooner rather than later.

The Air Force Research laboratory is building a system to collect solar energy in space. Once collected, it is turned into radio frequencies that can be captured on earth. 

Considering who is building this, it is evident that this venture will serve military purposes first and foremost. Supplying forward operational bases with electricity is one of the options being explored. 

Ultimately, the system would become a constellation of solar panels, roughly 10,000 square meters in size. 

The unit would be capable of capturing all of the solar energy necessary and beam it down on-demand. 

Despite the initial focus on military purposes, the technology can be commercialized later on. Providing electricity to remote communities around the world is something worth looking into. 

When crunching the numbers, this space-bound approach appears viable. 

Spacecraft collecting solar energy would be up to eight times as efficient as regular installations on Earth. It would also completely bypass weather conditions on our planet.

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Germany Needs one Million Charging Stations for Electric Cars by 2030

Electric cars continue to make their mark on a global scale. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expects a big boom in this regard. 

To prevent any potential problems, she aims to have at least one million charging stations across the country by 2030.

Electric Cars Need Charging Stations 

All over the world, consumers show an increasing interest in electric cars. While they remain relatively expensive, the costs can be offset when taking gas costs out of the equation. 

As the demand for such vehicles increases, a new problem can arise in quick succession.

All of these electric cars need to be charged. This is achieved by offering charging stations throughout the world. 

New initiatives will be launched to ensure everyone can charge safely and without delays.

In Germany, that effort comes in the form of one million charging stations. Chancellor Angela Merkel expects to realize this goal by 2030.

Germany as a country can’t pull off such a milestone on its own. it will need the help of the electric car industry to make this venture successful.  Currently, the European country is home to just over 20,000 charging points for electric cars. 

Increasing that figure fifty-fold will require a lot of time, money, and effort. The first goal to reach is having 100,000 charging points across Germany by 2021. 

This news is another confirmation as to how governments look to end the hegemony of fuel-based cars in the near future. 

That is not an easy task, as it could result in job losses throughout the world. Building an electric car requires fewer employees compared to their traditional counterparts. 

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UK Officials Introduce Streamlined Cryptocurrency Taxation Guidelines

The current legal status of Bitcoin is difficult to gauge in the United Kingdom. A new taxation guidance update shows there is still some confusion to be cleared up. At this time, cryptocurrencies are neither currencies nor securities. 

Governments around the world always try to derive taxes from revenue streams. This applies to income tax, corporate tax, and so forth. All of these models have been in place for several decades, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Cryptocurrency Taxation in the UK

When it comes to Bitcoin and altcoins, that situation is a bit different. Depending on one’s country of residence, the legal status and taxation of cryptocurrencies can be very different.

In the United Kingdom, a bit of an unusual development has taken place. Due to a new decree issued by the HRMC, cryptocurrencies are neither currencies nor securities. The latter part of this ruling is positive, yet it comes as somewhat of a surprise.

Consumers and businesses still need to keep track of the market value of their cryptocurrency portfolio at all times. However, the proceeds are exempt from stamp tax. 

There is one crucial exception: tokens used in debit transactions. Those transfers are still subject to stamp tax as per the official UK guidelines. 

For users who were confused regarding airdrop and hard forked coin proceeds, this new guideline clears up a lot of mysteries.

On the other hand, it may require consumers and businesses to put a bit more effort into properly tracking transactions and associated market values. 

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SBI Holdings has big Plans for RippleNet and XRP in Asia

Improving the current financial infrastructure is direly needed. SBI Holdings, an entity from Japan, aims to do so by utilizing Ripple’s XRP. Their goal is to focus on remittance corridors between Japan and South-East Asia through SBI Remit. 

SBI Holdings has been keen on XRP for some time now. It even created a dedicated venture called SBI Ripple Asia. This venture encompasses SBI personnel, Ripple, and a consortium of several dozen Asian banks.

Another Step Forward for Ripple and XRP

In a new report, the group confirms it will push for broader adoption of XRP. This will be done through Ripple’s On-Demand Liquidity project. In fact, SBI Ripple Asia hopes to use up to 50% of RippleNet’s liquidity in the near future.

Implementing this new approach can be crucial for specific payment corridors. The remittance streams between Japan and South-East Asia are of great interest in this regard. 

In a separate announcement, SBI confirms it will expand the mobile money transfer app. That application also makes use of Ripple’s technology to allow for peer-to-peer money transfers. It is also possible to pay wages through this app, for those who desire to explore this option. 

All of this news appears significant for Ripple and XRP. Asa has been a crucial market for the company in 2018 and beyond. As this expansion rolls out, the liquidity of this network will be put through its paces. 

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Ponzi Scheme Artist Aziz Com Mirza has Been Arrested in Dubai

The cryptocurrency industry has seen many nefarious individuals. Aziz Com Mirza falls into this category. The self-professed serial entrepreneur has been arrested in Dubai for creating a fictitious cryptocurrency, among other things.

The cryptocurrency industry spans many thousands of projects. Not all of these ventures are worthwhile or even legitimate. The Leverage Programme, which apparently aimed to bring financial freedom to the masses, is one of the many illegitimate ventures. 

Aziz Com Mirza Scams Thousands

Originally created by Aziz Com Mirza and his brother, the project quickly drew negative attention. Interested parties had to cough up a minimum of 5,000 GBP to participate. 

Despite this steep barrier to entry, roughly 300 users took the bait in the early stages.

The project continued to generate a buzz, allowing another 1,200 investors to contribute their money. In exchange for their investments, they were promised “financial freedom within one year”. 

It is believed this nefarious project raised as much as 4 million GBP. It was active between early 2017 and 2019. Most of the funds were sluiced to a bank account owned by another brother or Aziz Com Mirza. 

Further investigation reveals this is not the first Ponzi Scheme created by this individual. Other ventures, including Habibi Coin and International Success Group, also turned into major scams within the first year. 

Earlier this week, Aziz Com Mirza was arrested in Dubai and charged with fraud. His lifestyle of showcasing expensive cars and luxurious travel has attracted all kinds of attention. 

His facade of a multi-million dollar entrepreneur has now been shattered permanently. 

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New Update Confirms Cryptopia Users Never had Individual Wallets

It has been a while since a new Cryptopia update was provided. The exchange ran into foul weather several months ago. Most of its users still await the refund of their outstanding cryptocurrency balances.

The future of the Cryptopia company remains very uncertain. Ever since the platform ran into trouble, few people expected it to ever return. That may not necessarily be the case after all.

The Lengthy Cryptopia Reconciliation Process

Grant Thornton, the legal team working on behalf of the exchange, posted a new update. In this message, they confirm further progress toward preserving crypto-asset holdings has been made. Handling the restitution process remains a dicey situation first and foremost. 

Cryptopia customers did not have individual wallets on this exchange. As such, determining individual ownership is complicated, even under the best of circumstances. All assets held by the company were pooled in wallets. 

With over 900,000 customers awaiting reconciliation, there is still plenty of work ahead. Over 500 different crypto-assets were active on the platform. There are records containing millions of transactions the firm has to sift through.

Regarding the assets stolen during the exchange’s hack, very little information has come to light. The recovery effort has been slow going, but Grant Thornton isn’t giving up. They are looking for ways to trace and freeze stolen assets. It appears one or more blockchain analysis firms will be involved in this process moving forward.

To recover some of the missing funds, the sale of surplus equipment is underway. Numerous desks, computers, and furniture have been sold by auction. It is a standard measure in liquidating processes. Further information will be provided by the law firm in the weeks and months ahead. 

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Fake Ripple Livestreams on YouTube net Criminals Plenty of XRP

Cryptocurrency scammers are exploring new ventures. For some, the focus has seemingly shifted to YouTube. This new method of attack has proven to be rather lucrative so far.

A lot of harm can be done by creating fake video content. Whereas the recent Litecoin YouTube scam got some attention, it appears this is not the first iteration of fake crypto news. In previous weeks, criminals have primarily targeted holders of Ripple’s XRP

Criminals Defraud XRP Holders

The approach is relatively straightforward. Someone – or a group of individuals – creates new channels on the video streaming platform. Their approach is to host live streams that do not even really exist. By playing into the “live” angle, they then try to persuade viewers to send XRP to an address specified below the video.

Users who send XRP to those addresses will lose their money. The people responsible for the video content have no intention of sending the funds back. Nor are there any airdrops or giveaways taking place. 

While most users would not fall for these cheap tactics, there are a lot of newcomers in the industry. As such, these fake live streams can become very lucrative for criminals. It is believed that some of them are making tens of thousands of dollars per stream. 

The big question is why nothing is done about it. Neither YouTube nor Google seems inclined to take these streams and channels offline. That type of behavior will only allow these scams to thrive. 

As the criminals now expand their focus on other cryptocurrencies, this method will only become more popular. Setting up a fake YouTube live stream takes little to no effort. The potential earnings from doing so can be astronomical. A very problematic situation ensues. 

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Travala Expands its Crypto-based Hotel Booking Service by Integrating XLM Payments

Unlocking real-world use cases for cryptocurrencies, tokens, and digital assets remains one of the more pressing problems. Eleven years since the creation of Bitcoin, this digital form of money is still not used as a cash or card replacement. Travala aims to solve this problem, as they now enabled XLM support to book hotels globally. 

Stellar Moves Beyond Banking

For those who are familiar with Stellar and their native XLM asset, it has become fairly obvious that this is not a traditional cryptocurrency, It is a different type of asset that seems well-suited to disrupt the financial sector as people know it today. Primarily banks, brokers, and other traditional financial service providers can reap the benefit from what Stellar is trying to achieve. Even so, the XLM asset is still traded against most cryptocurrencies, making it of some appeal to companies experimenting in this space.

That being said, the average cryptocurrency user doesn’t have that many options to spend XLM as they would use Bitcoin. It has not gained any major traction on platforms, as very few payment providers actively support it. Most of these processors focus on Bitcoin, and sometimes Bitcoin Cash. Anything beyond those currencies is often left alone, only resulting in more struggles for alternative currencies looking to gain traction. 

Travala Tries a Different Approach

Over the past year or so, hotel booking service provider Travala has tried to take cryptocurrencies and digital assets into the mainstream. Although these efforts have been hit or miss, the company is not giving up on its mission just yet. Instead, the team doubles down on integrating support for other currencies and assets in an effort to cater to as many enthusiasts as possible. Integrating Stellar’s XLM is an interesting example in that regard, although it also makes some sense. 

Travala is currently serving customers in 230 countries. Anyone looking for a hotel can spend any of the supported currencies and assets to pay for accommodations. The company feels XLM is a potentially powerful payment method that can boost travel-related services to a whole new level. Stellar has built an open network to store and move money, thus adding the native asset to a platform processing payments on a daily basis is a logical outcome. In terms of achieving broader cryptocurrency adoption, giving users more choices is never a bad idea. 

A Positive Sign for the Industry

Whether one agrees with what Stellar does or not, it is evident that this is a good move for the cryptocurrency industry as a whole. When more people learn how commonly used certain currencies and assets really are, they may show an increasing interest in them.  In the long run, everyone will benefit from this increase in exposure, as this industry direly needs more positive attention. 

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The Ethereum Name Service Receives Support From Major Cryptocurrency Wallets

Ever since the Ethereum Name Service launched, many people wondered if it would ever gain any real traction. Several months down the line it has become apparent that there is plenty of enthusiasm regarding this project. Several dozen wallet providers have signed up for this feature, which goes to show the ENS is poised to make a bigger impact sooner or later. 

Wallet Providers Like ENS

It is uncanny how so many different cryptocurrency wallet service providers decided to join the Ethereum Name Service Initiative all of a sudden. Just a few weeks ago, there were 15 different entities that supported the project’s multi-coin approach. That list includes prominent names such as TrustWallet and Coinbase Wallet, among others. However, that was only the beginning, as the list has now grown to 35 different wallet solutions incorporating ENS in one way or another. 

Among those 35 service providers are no less than 28 entities that aim to support the multi-coin feature. This is quite significant, as it shows there is a strong desire to bridge the gap between different cryptocurrencies and blockchains in one way or another. The other service providers are Ethereum-only wallets at this time, but they also play a growing role of importance. As all parties agree to use ENS as a cryptocurrency wallet naming standard, no one can deny this project appears to be heading in the right direction. 

The Purpose of an ENS Name

To most cryptocurrency enthusiasts, it might make little sense to utilize the Ethereum Name Service. While .ETH names are of potentially great value, they are not necessarily as commonly used in the real world. While the creation of a name – or even selling it – is a piece of cake, finding a use for this new extension has been a problematic effort. A decentralized naming project is great on paper, but if no one uses it, there is little point. The original use case of letting people name their Ethereum addresses hasn’t been overly successful, but there are other use cases for ENS as well. 

Ever since multi-coin support was introduced, the opportunities have increased exponentially. Users on any of the supported networks can create names for their addresses. They can also store any of the supported currencies in their ENS records. For example, it becomes possible to create one ENS “nickname” to receive a multitude of cryptocurrencies. That in itself might be the stepping stone this industry needs to become more mainstream-friendly. 

Small Steps in the Right Direction

All of these developments confirm there is not only an interest in the Ethereum Name Service, but its potential is also increasing. For the time being, it is something for enthusiasts and technology aficionados, but that situation could change for the better. With Opera – and soon Brave as well – enabling native support for .ETH addresses, this technology may become a lot more commonly used than it is today. Small steps like these should not be overlooked, as they may pave the way for bigger and better things to come. 

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MoneyGram Wants Ripple to Expand its Payment Corridors More Quickly

Numerous remittance providers are experimenting with new technologies and payment corridors. This is part of the reason why Ripple and XRP have become so successful in recent years. MoneyGram, Ripple’s “biggest” partner in this venture, is now looking to leverage the company’s On-Demand Liquidity in the Philippines and Mexico.

xRapid is no More

Albeit most people might not have heard the news, Ripple’s xRapid does not exist anymore. Or at least, not under that old name. The company decided to rebrand its service and technology stack to On-Demand Liquidity. It makes a lot of sense, as the service effectively provides partners with on-demand liquidity for their specific business needs. Given how Ripple is currently working with a few money remittance providers, the new name is also a clever marketing ploy.

Ever since the name change, it appears Ripple has worked hard behind the scenes to roll out this functionality. As of right now, it is accessible in both Mexico and the Philippines, two regions where money transfers play an increasing role of importance. Any technology that can provide users with cheaper and faster transactions will be of great interest. It now appears MoneyGram is looking to boost the use of XRP in this regard, which can have all kinds of consequences for all parties involved. 

Expanding to new Corridors

For the time being, it appears Ripple will continue to push On-Demand Liquidity into other regions as well. So much even that MoneyGram CEO Alexander Holes has inquired as to how long that specific process would take. It is a good sign if their biggest remittance partner wants to push the pace, albeit it is not always too easy to bring this service to other corridors. On-Demand Liquidity is certainly coming to new markets, albeit it remains unclear which countries are on the list at this time. 

The biggest problem regarding this expansion plan is the current financial regulation in potential target markets. Governments in some countries are less open-minded regarding these new solutions, especially if an asset like XRP is involved. Without a proper dialog between Ripple and the regulators, new corridors will not be added anytime soon. Launching  a service ahead of schedule and running into regulatory problems later on is something any service provider aims to avoid first and foremost. 

The Future of XRP

As the partnership between Ripple and Moneygram continues to bloom, the focus will now shift to incorporating XRP in a more prominent role. How that will be achieved, is anyone’s guess at this point. The use of XRP for cross-border payments seems sensible on paper, as it has been tested successfully on numerous occasions. How that would affect the price of this native asset, is difficult to predict. Many people would expect a price increase, but that won’t necessarily be the logical outcome. 

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Litecoin Hashrate Decreases by Over 50% Since This Year’s Block Reward Halving

A lot of information can be garnered from looking at any cryptocurrency’s network hashrate. In the case of Bitcoin, the opinions regarding this matter have been well-documented over the past few years. Litecoin, on the other hand, has noted a very significant drop in mining power over the past few months. It appears the recent block reward halving hasn’t had the effect most people had hoped for or gambled on. 

Where are the Litecoin Miners Going?

When the Litecoin block reward was halved successfully, traders and enthusiasts expected big changes. Not only would the price increase, but they also expected to see the miners stick around for a significant amount of time. Despite those initial hopes and expectations three months ago, things have turned out very differently. Both the Litecoin price and the altcoin’s mining power have decreased in spectacular fashion.  So much even that one could argue a worrisome situation has been established. 

As far as the Litecoin mining power is concerned, the most recent dropoff cannot be ignored. Despite reaching a peak of roughly 520 terahash per second in July of 2019, the network’s mining power now dropped to just under 200 Terahash per second. More importantly, the hashrate continues to drop at an alarming rate, which makes things only more worrisome. It appears the current price and block reward makes it impossible for miners to make a profit unless very specific conditions apply.

Turning the Ship Around?

It is rather apparent the current situation doesn’t look too promising for Litecoin. This massive decline in hashrate can be caused by many different events. Other cryptocurrencies may prove to be more profitable to mine, for example. Another reason is how the previous hash rate spike was triggered by a company or group of individuals, and they have now pointed it elsewhere. After all, the current hashrate is still on par with the levels attained throughout February of 2019. 

One thing is fairly obvious: mining Litecoin isn’t as popular as it had been just a few months ago. This is a clear example as to how a block reward halving isn’t always a happy event. Although there was initial excitement – for obvious reasons – things have certainly quieted down ever since. There is a genuine chance things will turn around again in the future, albeit that may primarily depend on the Litecoin price moving forward. Right now, things are not looking too promising in that department, but these markets are unpredictable at all times. 

Can it Happen to Bitcoin too?

This current situation has sparked an interesting debate on Reddit. Many people wonder if Bitcoin’s block reward halving of 2020 could see a similar reduction in hashrate accordingly. Many people expect the Bitcoin value to soar after the halving, but a lot of people had high hopes for Litecoin’s value in this regard as well. History may very well repeat itself with the world’s leading cryptocurrency, yet it is still too early to draw any real conclusions. 

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Americans Continue to Favor the $100 Bill as a Store of Value

For numerous years now, governments around the world have tried to reduce or eliminate the use of cash. Most of those efforts have been in vain, as consumers enjoy the feeling of having their own money at their disposal. Even in the United States, cash remains quite popular. Particularly the $100 bill is of great value to the average American on the street. 

Not Accepting Cash is a Mistake

Over the past few years, numerous companies – primarily restaurants, bars, and grocery stores – have tried to get consumers to pay with cards or mobile applications. Using cash is, as a business owner, both cumbersome and risky. Criminals will target locations still handling large amounts of cash. Even if they don’t, the store owner needs to store the funds safely and arrange transportation to and from the bank on a regular schedule. 

To counter those problems, the United States has seen a surge in mobile and digital payments. Credit and bank cards have become a lot more popular and widely accepted. Even mobile solutions, such as Apple Pay, continue to make inroads across the nation. One would expect this situation to push consumers away from cash, yet it appears that is not the case. In fact, the opposite may be coming true. 

Physical Currency is Alive

The countries that have been pushing hard to become cashless now note a strong increase in physical cash popularity. the United States is of particular interest in this regard. Americans want to continue using physical cash for a wide variety of reasons. This is despite one in three claiming they can go without using cash payments for a week or longer. This resurgence of physical currency shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise either, given the current financial circumstances around the globe.

The United States is just one of three crucial regions where cash has become more popular again. The same applies to most areas in Europe and even Japan, the home of the digital transaction.  Contrary to what everyone might expect, consumers are not demanding more cash to pay for goods or services. Instead, the paper currency is looked at as a store of value

Get Your $100 Bills

Considering how cash is a store of value for most, Americans turn to larger denomination bills first and foremost. This explains the demand for $100 bills, which are rather inconvenient to use in the real world. The $100 bill has been the most widely circulated form of US currency since 2017. That makes it more common than the $1 bill. 

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Vitalik Buterin’s Hard Fork Poll Confirms a Blockchain Bailout Isn’t Acceptable Anymore

Hard forks are a pretty common occurrence in the cryptocurrency industry. More often than not, it is the only viable and secure way of introducing core changes to a protocol or introduce specific features. Vitalik Buterin recently conducted a Twitter poll to determine if users would approve of another DAO-style fork if push came to shove It is evident that that is far from the case.

No More DAO Bailouts

It is interesting to see how cryptocurrency enthusiasts can have different opinions. The recent Twitter poll by Vitlaik Buterin illustrates this scenario very clearly. He wonders if a DAO-style bailout would be acceptable in a specific scenario That scenario would envision a popular smart contract wallet getting hacked. The fork would then be used to revert all chain activity following this security incident. 

Although reverting the transactions would ensure user funds are safe, it also creates a much bigger problem. Reverting on-chain transactions for financial reasons makes the blockchain in question mutable. Ethereum already had one such intervention, which resulted in the creation of Ethereum Classic. That should be enough of a warning sign to not pursue such an option again in the future. Interestingly enough not everyone seems to think along the same lines.

The Value of ETH Funds

One intriguing aspect regarding this poll is how the “funds threshold” to warrant an actual intervention by the Ethereum developers. Some people feel it is a viable course of action when under 1 million Ether is at stake of being dumped on exchanges by hackers. Others see a proper threshold in the 10 million to 100 million Ether range. It is not difficult to see where this sentiment comes from. In the cryptocurrency world, a loss of funds is, by default, irreversible. That is far from a fun situation for victims of such incidents. 

At the same time, over 60% of the voters are confident an intervention by developers is never warranted, regardless of how much money is at stake. If there is one thing people learned from the DAO bailout, it is how the community will remain divided for quite some time to come. The last thing one needs is a third iteration of Ethereum being created. That said, this is merely a hypothetical scenario. Or that is what everyone assumes, at least. 

The Reputation of Hard Forks

It is evident that discussions like these continue to trigger a lot of negative responses. In most cases, hard forks are perfectly safe to execute and will not cause any major controversy. It seems as if Ethereum has given the concept of hard forks a bad name of sorts, although most of the negative sentiment associated with the DAO bailout has calmed down by now. Cryptocurrencies are designed to be used over an immutable ledger. Anyone attempting to interfere with that aspect will face a fair bit of backlash. 

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Bitfinex Claims it is a Victim of Crypto Capital’s Illicit Business Practices

Over the years, there have been numerous allegations of wrongdoings by the Bitfinex exchange. None of those claims have ever been proven. In a recent announcement, the company claims it too fell victim to the business practices by Crypto Capital. A somewhat surprising turn of events, albeit it would explain a few things. 

The Crypto Capital Problem

Numerous companies have come and gone in the cryptocurrency world over the years Some of those which disappeared have been charged with fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering, among other things. The latest company to be put in this category is Crypto Capital. Its President was arrested in Poland this week and is suspected of laundering money over a span of multiple years.

Although most people might not know this company by name, it had fingers in many pies. Their main business model revolves around providing financial services to cryptocurrency exchanges. Their list of clients spans Bitfinex, Binance, Kraken, and many others. Crypto Capital’s bank accounts were seized earlier, effectively freezing $350m worth of funds.  For now, the investigation is still ongoing until further notice. 

The Bitfinex “Victim Angle”

Given how Crypto Capital and Bitfinex have worked together, it is evident there will be plenty of interest as to how this business relationship worked exactly. The exchange’s parent company claims Crypto Capital is responsible for the $850m worth of customer funds the company “misplaced” a while ago. As a result of that loss, the company was forced to create a new token and raise additional funds that way. All affected users were eventually repaid in full, yet many questions linger as to what went on exactly. 

In its statement, Bitfinex also claims they are a victim of fraud and aims to collaborate with the proper authorities in this regard. There is a genuine concern as to how CC may have laundered drug cartel money through Bitfinex’s platform. If that can effectively be proven, things do not look good for either party. Bitfinex claims these statements are false, albeit the investigation will yield the final verdict. It also appears the company will continue to pursue any customer funds still controlled by Crypto Capital or its President Ivan Manuel Molina Lee. 

A Positive Development Overall

When looking at the bigger picture, it is good to see the criminals active in the cryptocurrency being brought to charges. If Crypto Capital was effectively involved in nefarious activity, they will need to pay the price for doing so in one way or another. The same goes for any other company they worked with that willingly aided them in achieving their goal. As far as Bitfinex is concerned, the recent revelations may provide a lot more clarity as to what happened behind the scenes of this company in recent years. 

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An Increase in Bakkt Bitcoin Futures Volume Isn’t a Good Thing

Many different factors can influence the future value of Bitcoin. Given the current circumstances, it seems rather unlikely that any major uptrend will materialize. The Bakkt Bitcoin futures are seemingly becoming more popular, but it seems plausible to assume that popularity will only trigger more bearish pressure in the foreseeable future. 

Bakkt is on the Move

Many people still have high expectations for Bitcoin futures, even though they may very well be the bane of the cryptocurrency industry. Bakkt is the latest platform to provide exposure to these trading vehicles, yet it seems the overall excitement isn’t there yet. In recent weeks, the company has noted a steady increase in overall volume, albeit there is still a very long way to go. 

Based on the Bakkt Volume Bot account on Twitter, it is evident that something is up with these contracts. A new all-time high was reached this past Wednesday, with 640 contracts being traded. A very strong increase compared to just 85 contracts on Tuesday, albeit no one knows for sure why this increase materialized out of the blue. Nor is it unclear if this trend will continue, as today’s volume is already on the decline again.

Futures Aren’t Beneficial

Despite what most people may want to believe, bitcoin futures contracts haven’t been beneficial to the industry in the slightest. In fact, there has been significantly more volatility since they were first introduced by CBOE and CME. As more providers jump on this bandwagon, it won’t be surprising to see the Bitcoin price decline even further as the year trucks along. Mainstream investors favor betting against Bitcoin, and so far, their strategy seems to be working.

Keeping that train of thought in mind, one almost ha to hope Bakkt doesn’t generate more trading volume than it does today. Although its product is very different from CBOE and CME, the short-term bearish effect will probably remain the same. The year 2019 will not end on a high as far as the Bitcoin price is concerned. There is far too much bearish pressure to sustain any higher price level, and it is not impossible to think the $7,500 level won’t hold either. This is not something to look forward to but the warning signs are clearly visible at this time. 

What Needs to Happen

It is safe to say Bitcoin was never designed to be a tool for institutional traders to play around with. Instead, it is a cryptocurrency for the people, which still has the potential to revolutionize global payments as society knows it today. With these price fluctuations, that is very unlikely to happen anytime soon. It is difficult to determine what needs to happen to turn the situation around again, as the introduction of Bitcoin futures may have caused irreparable damage. 

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Google Researchers Deem Quantum Supremacy to be Within Their Grasp

Quantum computing is a hot topic among technology enthusiasts and cryptocurrency developers. This new era of technology can change many facets of life in very quick succession. Until now, it was assumed most aspects of quantum computing only existed in theoretical form. That is no longer the case, as quantum supremacy is inching closer every day. 

Scientists Score a Breakthrough

A lot of research and development goes into building a potential quantum computer. These machines are different from the supercomputers which are found in most major nations. A quantum computer would, in theory, be capable of solving problems that a classical computer cannot. Finding such problems is not the difficult part, yet solving them has eluded society for quite some time now. That is, until earlier this week, when researchers claimed they got one step closer to attaining quantum supremacy. 

The Google researchers indicated they have achieved the first quantum computing operation. Their self-built computer, which goes by the name of Sycamore, can conduct one specific task in 200 seconds. Although traditional computers can complete this very same task, it would take roughly 10,000 years to effectively do so. The speed difference between both approaches is noteworthy, as it highlights the potential of quantum supremacy, according to the researchers. 

Initial Criticism Refuted

It did not take long for other researchers to try and discredit the findings by Google’s researchers. A team of IBM researchers claimed the discovery isn’t as noteworthy or profound as Google makes it out to be. However, those claims have seemingly been refuted ever since the findings were published in the journal Nature, which details the findings and how it works under the hood. Even so, there are a lot of questions as to how these findings will be validated in the future. There do not appear to be any use cases for this discovery as of right now.

Under the hood, this “new task” to test the quantum supremacy system is to generate random numbers. That in itself doesn’t tell much, but it marks an important milestone for any current and future quantum computing research. From here on out, the researchers aim to build a more versatile system capable of conducting different operations for multiple fields of research. There is some excitement regarding future valuable applications, albeit it may take a while until they are unlocked properly.  Options to explore including designing new materials, reducing the carbon emission, and making medicine more effective. 

A Threat to Cryptocurrency?

For several years now, there have been concerns as to how quantum computing could potentially affect blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. While some of those concerns may seem unfounded, it seems that it is no longer the case. This first step toward quantum supremacy should not be taken lightly, even if future research takes many more years. 

Image(s): Shutterstock.com

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Opera Browser Will Integrate TRON Into its Cryptocurrency Wallet

Getting as many people to experience cryptocurrencies remains one of the key hurdles to overcome. This can only be achieved through collaboration and an open-minded business approach. The Opera Browser developers have decided to integrate support for TRON. This could expose up to 350 million users to this altcoin and its dApp ecosystem. 

Opera Browser Likes Cryptocurrency

It’s not the first time the Opera Browser will expose its users to the world of cryptocurrencies. This is the first mainstream browser to incorporate cryptocurrency wallet support for everyone. It initially supported Bitcoin and Ethereum, which remain the two biggest cryptocurrencies based on their market cap. It seemed as if that list would not be expanded upon, yet the developers have something else in mind entirely. 

The addition of TRON makes sense, up to a certain extent. It is a popular altcoin with an ecosystem that can rival – or potentially even surpass – that of currencies with a higher market cap. Especially its dApps are of great interest, albeit that technology can also be found within Ethereum. As such, it will be interesting to see how these projects shape up when they can both be accessed through the same browser. A little rivalry has never hurt anyone, especially in this particular industry.

The Benefits of TRON

In the official press release, the Opera Browser team has confirmed it was pleased with the improvements and benefits TRON brings to the table. Particularly the fast and cheap transactions, as well as the focus on dApps are major selling points. Justin Sun added how he considers Opera to be one of the most important software companies in the world. Both projects share similarities regarding their focus on privacy, security, and dynamic capabilities. 

It also appears this integration can be beneficial to the BitTorrent project. As Justin Sun owns BitTorrent as well, it is evident there will be some sort of synergy between all of these different entities. What this means exactly for BitTorrent, is rather unclear at this time. With a user base of roughly 350 million consumers across 120 countries, there are many different opportunities and possibilities to explore. 

Price Pump Seems Plausible

Announcements like these used to have a big impact on cryptocurrency prices. Following this announcement, it seems plausible to expect a price increase for either TRON, BitTorrent Token, or potentially both. At the same time, it mainly depends on Bitcoin’s momentum, as the world’s leading cryptocurrency dictates the pace for everything else. TRON is no exception in this regard. 

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Culprits can Cripple the Lightning Network for Just $2,000, Researchers Claim

Any new form of technology is prone to bugs and hacks. That situation is no different in the cryptocurrency industry today. The Lightning Network, a layer-two scaling solution for cheaper and faster payments, can be subjected to an attack. That attack can effectively halt lightning payments, which is far from an ideal situation. 

What is Going on?

Researchers have confirmed there is a possible Lightning Network attack vector. Albeit the research claims this only applies to Bitcoin, it may exist in a slightly altered form for Ltiecoin or other cryptocurrencies implementing this technology as well. The attack is an effective denial-of-service disruption that can slow down lightning payments. In the worst case scenario, it could even completely halt lightning network payments altogether.

In the latter case, this would not just apply to one or a few payment channels. The attack, if well-executed, could shut down the entire Lightning network for that specific cryptocurrency without any problems. It is somewhat normal to expect bugs when dealing with technology still in beta testing, but this is a worrisome development regardless. It is unclear if such an attack has been executed in the real world, although the researchers seem inclined to think that is not the case as of right now. 

Easy to Execute

According to the research paper, pulling off this denial-of-service attack wouldn’t take too much effort either. A culprit would need to open a handful of lightning channels to key points in the infrastructure – preferably by offering zero-fee guarantees – and never relaying any payment that comes in. Not only would this cripple the LN throughput as a whole, but it can also make people distrust the entire cryptocurrency concept. Since this technology is designed to be decentralized, having one party that disrupts the whole thing is unacceptable. One also has to wonder why the creators of LN technology never foresaw such a potential exploit in the first place.

Hundreds of network nodes are competing for traction, each of which aims to provide the lowest fees possible. If someone were to come in and provide zero fees, it is still up to individual users and their applications to recognize this option as valid. That being said, if users were to collude and spin up hundreds of these payment channels with no fees, things could get out of hand fairly quickly. It is a problem that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. 

Repeatable Attack is Problematic

Under the current circumstances, nothing prevents a user – or a group of individuals – from crippling the Lightning Network for either Bitcoin or Litecoin. What is even more worrisome is how attackers can repeat this attack over and over again until the entire network grinds to a halt. Controlling 100% of the network’s payments should be virtually impossible, but it can still cause issues for up to 75% of all payments taking place. It is not the cheapest way of attacking a cryptocurrency network – the estimated cost is $2,000 for virtually no financial return – although it may become a “viable” option for culprits if lightning technology is used more commonly. 

Image(s): Shutterstock.com

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Counter Network, the first P2P exchange to integrate UD

Counter Network has completed the integration for Unstoppable Domains, a simple and easy way to acquire uncensorable blockchain domain names. Through this integration, Counter Network aims to provide a better service and increase convenience for all of our users.

Unstoppable Domains (unstoppabledomains.com) is a San Francisco-based company building secure decentralised domains on blockchains. Blockchain domains from Unstoppable Domains provide an array of benefits to users, including:

  • Payments – Blockchain domains replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name. Users can connect all of their crypto addresses to one .zil domain. 
  • Uncensorable Websites – Other companies and governments cannot control the content you show on your website.
  • Alternate Root – Not part of or governed by ICANN.
  • No Custodian – Blockchain domains are stored by the owner in their wallet. No 3rd party can move or seize them.
  • No Renewals – Pay once and it’s yours, forever!
  • Transfer: Blockchain domains do not require an escrow agent to securely exchange the domain or funds. This transfer can happen in minutes, from anywhere in the world.

The integration of Unstoppable Domains will add a domain wallet address lookup function to Counter Network’s wallet engine and a domain purchase page that will enable users to purchase a domain with any digital asset supported on Counter Network.

Figure 1: Counter Network’s updated withdrawal screen with Unstoppable Domain’s domain resolution functionality.

Figure 2: Search and purchase domain names screen 

Apart from that, users can then bind their ‘.zil’ domain to their wallet address of choice to fully utilise its capabilities and eventually be able to route the domains to websites. 

As a technology-driven company, Counter Network’s integration of Unstoppable Domains shows the importance of creating breakthroughs in the traditional industry for the future development of cryptocurrency as a whole. As Counter Network’s first partnership product integration, we will continue providing our users with improved services and support.

Counter Network will be introducing domain purchases with Unstoppable Domains thereafter.

If you have any further questions, do pop by at Unstoppable Domains’ Telegram Group at https://t.me/unstoppabledomains

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IP2PGlobal Filling up the Void in Crypto Financing Markets

Upcoming Shariah-compliant P2P financing platform aims to be the first to introduce unsecured crypto loan products.

One important feature seems to be missing in the ever-expanding crypto credit market, there are still no unsecured crypto loan products. This is primarily due to the issue of enforcement in the event of loan default. Whereas secured loans collateralized by cryptocurrencies can be documented and enforced solely through smart contracts, it is a totally different proposition when it comes to unsecured loans.      

“Since smart contracts are not recognised as a valid legal agreement in many countries, in order to  provide unsecured loan products, we have to fall back to the traditional practice of documenting the loan transaction as a promissory note or lending agreement,” 

“Only by doing this can the amount be collected legally by licensed debt collection agency from  loan defaulters,” said Mr. Rashdan Ibrahim, CEO of iP2P Global Ltd.      

Therefore under the iP2PGlobal platform all unsecured loan transacted through the platform will be documented under an e-loan agreement which have to electronically signed by the borrower and lenders. 

The upcoming iP2PGlobal Platform will also be the first Shariah compliant peer-to-peer crypto lending platform, to achieve this the company has partnered with Salihin Shariah Advisory a registered Shariah Adviser with the Malaysian Securities Commission, and with AbleAce Raakin, an award-winning licensed commodity murabahah broker that will facilitates all unsecured lending transactions on the platform.

“The positioning as a Shariah compliant platform is meant to appeal to the global Muslims population of more than 2 billion, and to the large number of unbanked  adult population since coincidentally a large number of these unbanked population are from Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria, or countries with large Muslim minorities such as China and India,”

“As has been demonstrated in China and Indonesia, countries with large unbanked population is ripe for fintech and even cryptocurrency businesses to grow and prosper, contrary to conventional beliefs these unbanked population are actually more receptive to new technology and new medium of exchange,” according to Rashdan.     

All the lending and borrowing activities on the iP2PGlobal Platform will be transacted in stablecoins. The management has identified TUSD and PAXOS as the two stablecoins that will be used as the platform’s medium of exchange.

“The use of stablecoins as our platform’s medium of exchange is logical since both lenders and borrowers will not be affected by crypto price volatility, it is also inline with our unsecured crypto loan products which actually targets and encourage borrowers to use their loan proceeds for real world uses as compared to usage just in the crypto world.” 

THE TWQ TOKEN 

The TWQ Token is the platform’s native token, borrowers will have to stake a certain amount of TWQ Tokens when applying for personal financing on the iP2PGlobal platform. The TWQ token is reusable and will be returned to the borrower on successful loan repayment.  

The TWQ Token is a pure utility token and does or will not provide any other rights and functions to its holders. 

Rashdan said the amount of TWQ Token to be staked is based on a fixed percentage on the loan amount applied. 

“Therefore if the price of TWQ token increases a smaller amount of tokens are require to be staked, and vice versa if the price of TWQ token decreases. If the loan auction is not successful the staked TWQ token will also be returned to the loan applicant,” he said.  

INITIAL EXCHANGE OFFERING ON EXMARKETS

iP2PGlobal’s IEO on Exmarkets starts on November 18th and will consist of three separate rounds, each offering a different price and bonus structure. TWQ tokens can be subscribed by using Ethereum or Bitcoin.

Round I: November 18th – 24th | TWQ Price: $0.10 | 20% bonus on purchases;

Round II: November 30th – December 6th | TWQ Price: $0.10 | 10% bonus on purchases;

Round III: December 12th – 18th | TWQ Price: $0.10 | 5% bonus on purchases;

“One of the main reason why we chose Exmarkets was it’s past records in undertaking numerous and diverse IEO projects. We were also attracted to Exmarkets geographical reach with users in Europe, Middle East and South Asia, which is in line with our target markets.” commented Rashdan. 

For more information on TWQ Token’s IEO, visit https://exmarkets.com/launchpad/twq-btc

ABOUT IP2P GLOBAL LTD

iP2P Global Ltd is a fintech-blockchain company that was first established in 2015. The company owns iP2PMoney, a P2P fiat lending platform and iP2PGO App, an escrow P2P crypto/fiat Marketplace. The company also provides P2P and Blockchain enterprise solutions to corporates and government. 

For more information on iP2PGlobal and TWQ Token, visit https://ip2pglobal.io

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is Turkey the Next Frontier for Cryptocurrency Exchanges?

Turkey is making a lot of media headlines for a wide variety of reasons. Political turmoil in the country has caused the Turkish Lira to decline in value at a rapid pace. Despite this seemingly unappealing market, Huobi is looking to introduce a Lira fiat gateway in the coming weeks. 

Huobi Wants to Expand

It is healthy for any cryptocurrency service provider to continue to expand whenever possible. Whether it is by offering services to new regions or by attracting new users through creative ventures, there is still a lot of work ahead. It will take years, if not decades, until cryptocurrency becomes mainstream in any notable fashion. Onboarding more users by making these markets more accessible is still the biggest problem service providers need to solve in the years ahead. 

For Huobi, the plan of action is relatively straightforward. They want to bring cryptocurrencies to regions where the national currency is struggling a bit. Turkey is as good a market as any to target in this regard. Its national Lira currency has seen significant declines compared to other fiat currencies. That makes it a prime target, as many residents may be looking for other financial assets that could hold their value better. A bit of an odd sentiment, given how volatile cryptocurrencies are these days. 

Turkey is Regulating Cryptocurrencies

Given all of the political tension in Turkey throughout most of the year, one would almost forget there are other decisions to be made as well. One interesting aspect is how the government seemingly leans toward regulating cryptocurrencies in a manner that would allow the industry to thrive. The framework has not been finalized yet, but the early signs show some promise.

This move by the Turkish government is not entirely surprising. Recent studies have confirmed plenty of residents in this country already own – or have owned – some sort of cryptocurrency. That goes to show this can be a very prominent region for cryptocurrency adoption, even if just as a speculative tool. For Huobi, it is seemingly a market of interest. They have also allegedly partnered with a Turkish bank partner, albeit no further information has been specified. It remains unclear if other exchanges and trading platforms follow this train of thought at this time. 

A Positive end of 2019?

Despite some initial market moves, it seems the cryptocurrency industry won’t end 2019 on a high note. Most of the damage caused by the bearish trend of 2018 is still visible today. Even Bitcoin is unable to maintain a five-digit value under the current circumstances, which goes to show the industry is still in a semi-bearish status right now. The expansion of Huobi to Turkey may help move things along a bit, but it will not necessarily be sufficient to turn the ship around. 

Image(s): Shutterstock.com

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Antarctica’s Glaciers Still Disburse Nuclear Radioactive Material After 60 Years

Our planet’s geology can tell tales of what happened in the past. Rock formations confirm our planet looked very different thousands of years ago. The glaciers in Antarctica also tell their own tale. A new study confirms they still release radioactive material from nuclear weapons tests conducted in the 1950s. After nearly 60 years, that process shows no signs of slowing down.

Below Antarctica’s Glaciers

During the Cold War, there have been numerous nuclear weapons tests all over the world. In most cases, they have been conducted in remote areas where no humans or animals would be impacted directly. The testing that took place in Antarctica has made its mark on the local population, both humanoid and animal. The glaciers of the frozen region are still releasing radioactive chlorine-36 after nearly sixty years. This material is the byproduct of extensive nuclear testing affecting this region so many years ago. 

It is important to note how chlorine-36 is a naturally forming radioactive isotope. Its presence in Antarctica is not surprising when looking at it from that angle. Two main methods for producing this isotope exist today. It can be formed when argon gas reacts with cosmic rays in the planet’s atmosphere. Another approach is to have it produced during nuclear explosions as neutrons interact with chlorine in saltwater. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States conducted numerous nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific region. As a result of those supervised tests, a large amount of chlorine-36 was produced. While the isotopes successfully reached the stratosphere, the material then traveled to all corners of the globe. Some of the material ended up in Antarctica, where it is still present today. 

Scientists originally expected this radioactive material to slowly fade away as the ice sheets of Antarctica melted and formed again. That is clearly not the case. In fact, Antarctica continues to release this radioactive material into the atmosphere. Further research has confirmed that there is still a noticeable amount of manmade chlorine-36 present in the ice sheets today. 

These findings are significant for multiple reasons. Chlorine-36 is often used to date ice and objects embedded in ice. Now that the earlier findings and assumptions regarding the dissipation of this material have been proven incorrect, further study should provide more accurate ice dating techniques. Secondly, this new information can provide new insights as to how the planet’s climate has evolved over time. For humans and animals in the Antarctic region, this material should not have any threatening consequences at this time. 

Even though the findings have not identified an immediate threat they should not be ignored. The most intriguing aspect is how the material is spreading from both the surface of the snowpacks, as well as their depths. The mobility of chlorine-36 has been vastly underestimated, by the look of things. To further analyze these finds, scientists will drill for an ancient ice core in the Vostok region of Antarctica. Information obtained from that procedure could help explain how this manmade nuclear material has built up in snowpacks all over the world. 

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Fake Russian Tor Browser Wants Your Bitcoin and QIWI Funds

Seeking online privacy is both easy and difficult in this day and age. It is almost impossible to do so without utilizing a third-party solution. For some, that solution is a VPN, whereas others use the Tor Browser. It now seems a malicious version of this browser is making the rounds, with the sole purpose of stealing Bitcoin balances.

The Success of the Tor Browser

It is evident that using the internet opens up consumers to all kinds of data harvesting, snooping, spam, and advertising. Not everyone wants to be part of those schemes, which often forces users to find alternatives. Using the Tor Browser has become very popular in this regard, primarily because it provides the tools and services users are effectively looking for. it is also a free piece of software, which further contributes to its popularity. 

One could argue the Tor browser is primarily used to access the darknet. While that is one of its core functionalities, it is not the main purpose for most users. Some statistics indicate this project is used by over 2 million users on a rather regular basis. That number only represents those who connect directly to the network without going through a node first. As such, the actual user base is probably a lot larger.

The Fake Version

Not too many people would be surprised to learn that there are many different iterations of the Tor Browser. Every version that is not distributed by the official developers poses a potential security risk. One of the Russian versions of this browser contains at least one Trojan Horse, which is designed to steal users’ Bitcoin balances. Bitcoin is still the primary cryptocurrency sued on the darknet, either for legitimate or illicit purposes. 

Security researchers at ESET discovered the malicious version earlier this week. It appears the people responsible for this malicious version aim to target Russian darknet users first and foremost. More specifically, they want to affect users visiting the most popular darknet markets in Russia today. The software is gaining popularity because users are tricked into believing their version is outdated. Once users click on the link they will download the version with the Trojan Horse automatically. 

Not a big Success yet

Despite this widespread campaign in Russia, it appears the criminals behind this project haven’t seen much success just yet. Sources claim just under 4.8 Bitcoin has been stolen to date, although that number will undoubtedly increase in the weeks to come. The criminals also aim to steal from QIWI users. For those unaware, QIWI is a very popular Russian digital payment provider. 

Image(s): Shutterstock.com

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USDC Beats Tether in Gaining Mainstream Adoption

The growing popularity of stablecoins is slowly causing a major shift to occur. The first of these assets has now found a use outside of the cryptocurrency industry as well. The USDC stablecoin will now be accepted for tax payments in Bermuda. Although this is still a niche use case, it goes to show some governments are a lot more open-minded toward cryptocurrencies and digital assets. 

USD Coin Gains Traction

When Circle and Coinbase decided to join forces to launch the CENTRE Consortium, a lot of questions were raised. Those questions only amplified when it became apparent this new entity would launch a brand new stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar. So far, none of these offerings have been able to keep up with Tether’s USDT. That particular asset remains the most popular across cryptocurrency exchanges. However, it has little to no use cases outside of this industry, which is something to keep in mind at all times.

It now appears USD Coin, or USDC as it is commonly referred to, has a leg up over Tether. In fact, it is the first major stablecoin to be used for tax payments in any country. Although Bermuda is not a region that will get a lot of people excited right away, this news should not be ignored whatsoever. It shows cryptocurrencies and digital assets are making their way into the mainstream, even if it is through rather niche ventures first and foremost.

Tax Payments With USDC

According to a statement by Circle, the government of Bermuda has agreed to let its citizens pay taxes with the USDC stablecoin. In doing so, they have become the first government to accept this stablecoin as a payment method for taxes and other government services. This decision is part of the country’s approach to supporting US Dollar-backed stablecoins on the market today and in the future. 

More specifically, one could go as far as stating how Bermuda is paving the way for broader cryptocurrency and digital asset adoption. It is certainly true that the country has become a prominent place for experiments with these types of money. Although there is no indication everyone will start paying their taxes with this stablecoin, it will provide a lot of viable information as to how the citizens feel about dealing with these assets. Additionally, it is another validation of how Circle received its Class F License as part of Bermuda’s Digital Assets Business Act. This could hint at other stablecoins receiving a similar treatment in the months and years to come.

Efficiency is Crucial

For Circle and Coinbase, this is further validation of the work both companies put into this venture to date. Albeit a lot of cryptocurrency users tend to overlook USDC, there is an issuance of over $1bn to date. It pales in comparison to how USDT is perceived in the cryptocurrency industry, but that asset is also rather limited to this industry alone. Considering how USDC has only been around for a little over a year, it is evident that this project is getting a lot of positive attention all over the world. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves further in the months and years to come.

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